Motives for Imperialism
Five Motives for Imperialism
Various motives prompt empires to seek to expand their rule over other countries or territories. These include economic, exploratory, ethnocentric, political, and religious motives.
Economic: Imperial governments, and/or private companies under those governments, sought ways to maximize profits. Economic expansion demanded cheap labor, access to or control of markets to sell or buy products, and natural resources such as precious metals and land; governments have met these demands by hook (tribute) or by crook (plunder). After the advent of the Industrial Revolution, dependent colonies often provided to European factories and markets the raw materials they needed to manufacture products. Imperial merchants often established trading posts and warehouses, created transportation infrastructure, and sought control over strategic choke points, such as the Suez Canal in Egypt (which allows boats to cut thousands of miles of travel time between Asia and Europe). Imperial powers often competed with each over for the best potential resources, markets, and trade.
Exploratory: Imperial nations or their citizens wanted to explore territory that was, to them, unknown. Sometimes they did this for the purpose of medical or scientific research. At other times, they did it for the sense of adventure. Invariably, imperial explorers sought to discover, map, and claim territory before their imperial competition did, partly for national and personal glory and partly to serve the imperialist goal of expansion.
Ethnocentric: Imperial nations sometimes believed that their cultural values or beliefs were superior to other nations or groups. Imperial conquest, they believed, would bring successful culture to inferior people. In the late 19th century, for example, European powers clung to the racist belief that inferior races should be conquered in order to “civilize” them. The Europeans acted on their ethnocentrism, the belief that one race or nation is superior to others.
Political: Patriotism and growing imperial power spurred countries to compete with others for supremacy. It’s a matter of national pride, prestige and security. Empires sought strategic territory to ensure access for their navies and armies around the world. The empire must be defended and, better yet, expanded. Political motives were often triggered as responses to perceived threats to the security or prestige of the imperial power or its citizens abroad.
Religious: During imperial expansion, religious people sometimes set out to convert new members of their religion and, thus, their empire. Christian missionaries from Europe, for example, established churches in conquered territories during the nineteenth century. In doing so, they also spread Western cultural values. Typically, missionaries spread the imperial nation’s language through educational and religious interactions, although some missionaries helped to preserve indigenous languages. British missionaries led the charge to stop the slave trade in the nineteenth century, while others, such as French missionaries in Vietnam during the same time period, clamored for their country to take over a nation.
Primary Source Images
Directions: Examine this gallery of twelve primary source images of maps, advertisements, sketches, and photographs. Which imperial motives do you see represented in each image? Which motive is represented most often in these images? Why might that motive be represented more often?
Japanese Imperial Policy in China from 1894-1945
The Japanese emerged from self-imposed peaceful isolation to a colonizing country. The isolation had lasted for over two hundred and fifty years. Later on, the country’s leaders started a policy of aggressive boundary expansion. The Japanese learnt the art of colonization from European countries such as France, Germany Britain and Italy. The European Countries established colonies in Africa, North America and Asia. Russia and United States also embarked on a policy of acquiring territories in Asia.
Imperialism means direct or indirect control of a country by another country. The sole aim of imperialism is to acquire resources from the controlled country. Therefore, it means that the main reason Japan dominated China was simply to increase her capital and investment in china. During this period, Japan had incurred a massive loss due to a persistent war with China and Russia. This forced her to borrow large sums of money from United States and Britain to meet her expenses. She also needed the cash to expand her industrial Activities. Due to her continuous borrowing of capital, Japan incurred a large debt of over one thousand nine hundred and seventy million Japanese Yen. This forced Japan to acquire colonies such as China in order to plunge on her natural resources and offset her dept (Allen 42).
Secondly, Japan had a number of private firms that dealt in Banking and Industrial sector. The firms had made a lot of profits and wanted to invest in foreign countries. The firms felt that the Japanese market was too small for them. This forced Japan to acquire China in order to expand her market abroad.
Lastly, the theory of nationalism gives the best reason as to why Japan established imperialism in China. Japan deep concern for her security, Japans culture and national philosophy and finally her emulation of European countries in colonizing other countries influenced her to conquer China (Lipman).
The goodwill between China and Japan signaled by trade treaty did not last for long. Japans desire to be an economical giant plus her vast army, encouraged her to acquire territory within Asia. Trouble with China started when Japan sent a military expedition to Taiwan. This was followed by subsequent expeditions in Okinawa and Korea. China and Japan had interests in Korea. When the Japanese annexed Korea, China was not pleased by it. This led to a declaration of war on 1 August 1894. Japan superior army crushed the Chinese forces within a short time. The Japanese army proceeded to occupy Dairen and Port Arthur. Both were key Chinese territory (Hsu 342).
Japanese Brutal Authoritarian Control of China
Regardless of cooperation and equality enshrined in Japanese foreign policies, her imperial rule was characterized by brutality, repression, dictatorship and never upheld the principles of Pan-Asian. Such inequality is well demonstrated by the system of colonial administration and education systems. The Japanese established schools in China and forced the Chinese to learn Japanese and adopt their culture. They also prohibited the Chinese from using their local language and learning their indigenous education.
The brutal authoritarian control of China manifested in; factories, lack of education, forced labor and raping of Chinese women. In his article, Beasley says that Japanese imperial policy was built around industrialization dominated by a few foreign firms whose goals were to exploit natural resources, cheap energy, and the market. They further states that the Japanese never made any effort to improve the educations of the local population, improved their welfare nor created job opportunities. Beasley, in the article Japanese Imperialism 1894-1945, the Japanese always despised the Chinese. They saw them as backward people who needed civilization. The Japanese soldiers killed a thousand of Chinese civilians. They also established a puppet government in China. They hoped to use the puppet regimes in their quest of exploiting natural resources. However, their brutality against the Chinese created the spirit of Nationalism among the local population.
In 1942, Japanese soldiers battled the British, Americans, and Dutch in China. They inflicted a humiliating defeat on those Western powers. This created fear among several Chinese. They saw Japan as invincible country that could not be defeated in war. Japanese victory over British brought her support of Chinese and Asian nationalists. This was accelerated by Japan propaganda of Asia for Asians. Many Chinese saw Japan as the savior of Asia from western colonization.
Japan integrated China into East Asian New Order; it later on renamed the order as Greater East Asia. In practical, Japan served as an industrial center of Greater East Asia. Japan absorbed export from the organization and in return offered her manufactured goods to it. The Japanese used the organization to get raw material for her industries and also as a market for her manufactured goods.
The Spirit of Nationalism in China
Japan also sent her own population to china to serve as technicians in her industries. The Chinese were expected to bow down to any Japanese that passed by regardless of their age or gender. The best food, schools and the food was preserved for the Japanese. The Chinese were also banned from feeding on rice. The Chinese were expected to feed on millet. The surplus rice was exported to Japan. They viewed Chinese as illiterate people who had no industrial education. They also transmitted all they profit to Japan leaving nothing to develop China. The result of this was inflation, massive unemployment and growing discontent among the Chinese. The Japanese resorted to forced labor, to make the Japanese civilians work in her industries. The brutality of Japanese officials discouraged the Chinese from working for them.
As the spirit of nationalism gained ground in Asia, Japan was forced to grant independence to some of her colonies such as Philippines and Burma. This forced China to demand a total withdrawal of Japan from her territory. Due to rising spirit of Nationalism in China, Japan was forced to surrender some of her trading rights with China. However, Japan was unable to do so and embarked on policy of market monopolization.
The desire by Japan to have a total control over china made her construct railway lines and roads. Example is the South Manchurian Rail and road. It was mainly used for transporting raw material from Manchurian and north China to Japan. The Japanese also established state run industries in china. Those Industries were used to process perishable goods that could not reach Japan on time. As a result of the Japanese occupation in China, several Western countries were forced to intervene. The league of Nation also condemned Japans occupation of Manchuria. This encouraged the Chinese army to resist the Japanese imperialist’s activity in her territory.
The Chinese people also boycotted the Japanese goods. This was after Japan conquered the Chinese army stationed in Manchuria. The Chinese felt that the only way to defeat the Japanese was by limiting its trade monopoly of the region. The boycott dealt the Japanese a mighty blow for she was not able to meet the cost of her military expansion.
Japan occupation of China also had a positive impact on Chinese army. The Chinese ability to withstand frontal confrontation with Japan encouraged her to establish a strong army that can easily defeat the Japanese. By the end of 1944, Chinese army was at its weakest point. The communist government had all along avoided direct confrontation with Japan. The unfortunate decline of Nationalistic army led to Nationalistic incompetence. This led to reorganization of Chinese government and subsequent reestablishment of her military. The Nationalist in China also came together to Teach the Chinese people on the importance of Nationalism. The Spirit of Nationalism Encouraged the Chinese army to face the Japanese army without fear. The new government in China kept the Military well fed and stopped massive famine. So it is true to argue that Japanese invasion of China generated spirit of Nationalism that would later on have a positive impact on the Chinese Nation.
One of the evils that the Japanese committed against the Chinese people was the Nanking massacre. Following the capture of Chinese capital in 1937, the Japanese became overwhelmed by the number of prisoners they held. They also felt that some of the China soldiers were hiding in the villages. The prompted the Japanese army to start a man haunt for the deserters. The search for food and Chinese soldiers led to murder, torture and abuse of many Chinese civilians. It is believed that, over three hundred thousand civilians were massacred by the Japanese army. Between twenty thousand and eighty thousand women were raped. Others were taken to military to be enslaved as prostitutes. Finally, thousands of Chinese citizens were displaced by the war. Some of them had also to give up their lands, which the Japanese used for large scale farming. This created a high percentage of refugees in China.
The prolonged war between Japanese and Chinese increased Chinese expenses. This led her to increase her taxes in order to meet the war expenses. As a result, the Chinese people were forced to overwork themselves in order to meet the new taxes. Most of the Chinese were also forced to migrate to the rural areas to evade the war. This increased the spirit of communism in rural areas because the Chinese practiced it without any fear. It is a known fact that Japan invasion of China rejuvenated the Communist Party. The party then embarked on a policy of mobilizing the country against the Japanese.
China Communist Party and Civil War in China
Japan occupation of China influenced the political atmosphere in china. The Chinese felt they needed a strong military leader who can declare war on Japan. As a result, there was militarization of Chinese population, which was ready to fight for their freedom. The CCP (China Communist Party) also gained more ground as Chinese saw it as the only strong party to wage a war against the Japanese. However, the allies played a leading role in ensuring Japan was defeated. The American government increased funds and troops in China. The American soldiers helped the Chinese in defeating the Imperialists (Shai).
Japan also played a crucial role in dividing China. Japan knew her survival depended on a divided country. As a result, Japan instigated conflict between the Nationalist party and the Chinas Communist Party. The result of this was a civil war between the Chinese. Japan took advantage of the civil war and increased her imperialist occupation of China. The Japanese also waged a propaganda war between the Chinese and other neighboring countries like Malaysia. This resulted into tensions between the Chinese and her neighbors.
In conclusion, it will be terribly wrong to argue that the Japanese intend to liberate Asia from Western powers. This is evident by exploitation of resources and brutality that characterized their regime.
- Allen, G.C. 1981. A Short Economic History of Modern Japan. 4th ed. London: Macmillan.
- Lipman , Jonathan N. “Journey Through Japan," in 2003. Web. October 4, 2007. 11.12.2012. http://aboutjapan.japansociety.org/content.cfm/imperial_japan_1894-1945
- Hsu, The Rise of Modern China, 342. Web. 11.12.2012 http://www.stimson.org/images/uploads/research-pdfs/burnspdf.pdf
- Beasley, W.G. Japanese Imperialism 1894-1945. Web. 11.12.2012 http://constantineintokyo.com/2010/03/14/w-g-beasleys-japanese-imperialism/
- Shai, Aron, Origins of the War in the East: Web. 11.12.2012 http://www.mconway.net/page1/page15/files/The%20China-Japan%20War%201931-45.pdf
Custom Reasons for Japan's Imperialism Essay
- Mesoamerican History
- Aztec History
- Defeat of the Aztecs
- The Franks