China’s expansionist plan picked apart as key differences with pre-WW2 Japan exposed

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Saturday marks 75 years since VJ Day – Victory over Japan – which in effect brought World War 2 to an end. It came after the imperial power surrendered following the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki a week earlier. US President Harry S Truman broke the news at the time that the Japanese government had agreed to comply in full with the Potsdam declaration which demanded the unconditional surrender of Japan, on Wednesday August 15, 1945.

Not only did it mark an end to the war, but also Japan’s colonial expansionist intentions.

The country had since the Thirties been engaged in a policy of invasion of its near territories, with its sights set on countries in its near regions and the Pacific.

Many have drawn direct parallels with Imperial Japan’s policies to those of present-day China.

Beijing currently appears to be intent on exerting its influence and control on its neighbouring regions, for example, Tibet, Taiwan and, more recently, Hong Kong.

The autonomous region was essentially brought under the mainland’s control in June after China broke the One Country, Two Systems framework meant to expire in 2047.

Along with this is Beijing’s increasing presence in Tibet – another area meant to be autonomous – where China claims the region as its own, going as far as to force Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, into exile.

The most commonly drawn link is with Imperial Japan’s invasion and conquering of Manchuria, a region of Northeast Asia which includes some islands, in 1931; and China’s current ambitions to secure Taiwan, an island nation just off the coast of the mainland that claims independence.

From the outside, the likeness between the two seems uncanny.

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However, many experts argue to the contrary, warning that any juxtaposition could be overtly damaging.

One person who argues this is Sean King, senior vice-president of Park Strategies in New York and an affiliated scholar at University of Notre Dame’s Liu Institute, who told that unlike Imperial Japan, “China doesn’t have any plans on world domination”.

Instead, he explained: “China definitely wants to control its immediate area.

“In the old post-soviet days we would have called this ‘near abroad’: the South China Sea, Tibet, Taiwan – that area.


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“Whether you consider it a part of China or not the surrounding area and general vicinity, I think China has issues in controlling that and they also want to shape and control how the world talks about them.

“So this would be how people speak about Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong.

“You see this through economic coercion, threats, withholding of exports, contracts, tourists, and you see this through various state media posts around the world and the way embassies and consulates influence local discussion about China.

“China isn’t hell bent on world domination but I definitely think they want to control their immediate vicinity and shape and control how people talk about them in all corners of the world.”

The most glaring difference is in the fact that, correct or not, China appears to be pursuing regions it deems as being historically part of the mainland, while Imperial Japan intended to command and conquer lands that were not a part of it.

From 1894, Japan built an extensive empire that included Taiwan, Korea, Manchuria, and parts of northern China.

The Japanese government at the time regarded this area as a political and economic necessity which allowed it significant leverage on the world stage.

It enabled the power to contest foreign states from attempting to strangle it by blocking its access to raw materials and crucial sea-lanes.

The empire came to an end in 1947 after the modern constitution of Japan was written, including its continued state of pacifism.

Then, in 1960, the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the US and Japan was signed, committing the former to defend the latter.

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