Baylor College Medical School

110 5. Conflicting Forces in Japan

110 5. The Japanese economy grew during World War , based on the export of goods to the Allies and increased production. At this time, Japan also expanded its influence throughout East Asia and sought further rights in China. Additionally, Japan gained control of some former German possessions in China after the war. Hirohito became emperor of Japan in 1926, and during his reign, the country experienced both success and tragedy.

In the 1920s, the Japanese government moved toward greater democracy. All adult men gained the right to vote, regardless of social class. DESPITE GREATER DEMOCRATIC FREEDOMS, HOWEVER, THE ZABASTSU, A GROUP OF POWERFUL BUSINESS LEADERS, MANIPULATED POLITICIANS. By donating to political parties, the Zabatsu were able to push for policies that favored their interests.

Peasants and factory workers did not share in the nation's prosperity. Young Japanese rejected tradition and family authority. There was tension between the government and the military. The Great Depression fed the discontent of the military and the extreme nationalists, or ultranationalists. They resented Western limits on the expansion of Japan's empire. As the economic crisis worsened the ultranationalists set their sights on Manchuria in northern China. In 1931, a group of Japanese army officers set explosives to blow up railroad tracks in Manchuria. They blamed it on the Chinese and used it as an excuse to invade. Without consulting government leaders, the military conquered Manchuria. Politicians objected to the army's actions, but the people sided with the military. When the League of Nations condemned the invasion, Japan withdrew from the organization.

Militarists and ultranationalists increased their power in the 1930s. Extremists killed some politicians and business leaders who opposed most democratic freedoms. Japan planned to take advantage of China's civil war and conquer the country. In 1939, however, WOrld War II broke out in Europe. The fighting quickly spread to Asia. Earlier, Japan had formed an alliance with Germany and Italy. In september 1940, Japan's leaders signed the Tripartite Pact linking the three nations. Together, the three nations formed the Axis Powers.


5. What effect did the Great Depression have on Japanese politics?

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The Great Depression fed the discontent of the military and the extreme nationalists. With great unemployment people attacked the status quo calling for extreme policies like military rule.