Japanese World War II Economics: Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere (GEACPS)

Japanese World War II economics
Figure 1.--The Japanese in an effort to sell their new role to Asian nationalists, called thrir empire the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (GEACPS). It was projected as an area of shared prosperity once the Europeans were ousted. In practice it was an area of inensive Japanese exploitation in which millions died of starvation and millions more suffred severe deprivation. The same occurred within the NAZI empire in Europe. There were, however, differences. The Germans made very limited pretenses of dealing with nationalist groups. In addition, the Germans pursued the Hunger Plan in which part of the goal was to kill millions as a matter of policy. The deaths in the Japanese GEACPS werre more a matter of Japanese incompetence and indifference, not an important policy objective. Here two Malayan survivors of Japaneseforced labor on Borneo arebein treated at an australian treatment center on Balikpapan. It is difficult to understand what the Japanese thought what kind of work could be obtained from indicuals like these.

The resource-poor Japanese had for years focused on China as a source of raw materials and market fot its indistrial output. They also enviously looked at the resources of siberia and the establishment of the Soviet Union created ideological reasons for seizing Siberia--fueling the Strike North Faction. The outbreak of World War II escalated forces in Japan seeking to expand the Empire, but undercut the influence of the Strike North faction. The NAZI-Soviet Non-Agression Pact shocked the Japanese. The NAZIs had not consulted with the Japanese and the Strike North faction was preised on a alliance with Germany. At the same time the cost of the war in China created a desire for greater access to resources--especially petroleum. The United States was increasing pressure on the Japanese to en its aggression in China and American was Japan's principal source of petroleum. As a result, the War brought on the increasing influence of the Strike South Faction with the aim of the Southern Resource Zone (SRZ). The SRZe of large petroleum resouces, but the enticement was not just petroleum. The SRZ also offered various critical mineral resources: rubber, tin, nickel, bauxite (aluminum) and minerals. And not only minerals were involved. The SRZ was a major source of food. Rice was the most important, but not the only food resoure. Southeast Asian produced nearly 70 percent pf the rice involved in international trade. And the Japanese were phenomenally successful, seizing the SRO largely undamaged within only a few months and with minimal losses (December 1941-April 1942). The Japanese in an effort to sell their new role to Asian nationalists, called thrir empire the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (GEACPS). This was actually a much more of an old-fashioned empire than the Europeans had installed. Economically the British had for the most part permitted free trade. The GEACPS streaching from Manchuria south to Burma and New Guinea, included Korea, Formosa, China, Indochina, Thailand, Malaya, the Philippines and the DEI. It involved both territorial and trade hegemony. The progressive sounding name was a cover for for brutal imperialism and exploitive trade policies. The Japanese seized resources without comprnation to the local economies. The result was famine. The most severe was in the DEI where over millions Indonesians perished during the Japanese occupation. There was a total breakdown in the rule of law. The result in the DEI. The overall goal was to modernize the region on a Japanese model, such as the one pursued in both Formosa and Korea. Nationalist leaders primarily focused on European colonialists cooperated to varying degrees with the Japanese. This was particularly true of Sukarno in the DEI and Aung San in Burma. The Brutal Japanese rule, especially the requisitioning of supplies and the conscripting of labor made the Japanese very unpopular. Promises of indepedence of course never materialized. Nationalists for the most part fully understood the real nature of the GEACPS before the end of the War.

Strike South Fashion

The Japanese War in China brought on the increasing influence of the Strike South Faction with the aim of seizing the Southern Resource Zone (SRZ). While the Strike North Faction was initially the preminent Arny faction, a series of shocking events after Japan's invasion of China led to the victory of thec Strike South Faction within the Imperial Army. The Japanese were shicked at the very vocal American reaction to their war in China. This was of some consequence, not because of the moral outrage, but the fact that Japan was very dependant on America for raw materials, espoecially oil. The American Moral Embargo (July 1938) was thus a very real threat. Next came the NAZI-Soviet Non-Agression Pact (August 1939). NAZI Germany was Japan's principal ally against the Soviet Union which the Strike North Faction wanted to attack. NAZI diplomats had not consulted with the Japanese before signing the pact. This led to the Japanese questiining the value of the Anti-Comintern Pact and their German ally. Perhaps the most important development was an undeclared and poorly reported border war with the Sovirt Union (August 1939). The Red Army routed the Japanese along the Khalka River. This seems to have significantly reduced the Imperial Army's enthusism for invading the Soviet Union. The result was the Strike South Faction emerging as the dominat group in the Imperial Army.

The Southern Resource Zone (SRZ)

The Japanese leadership saw the ourbreak of war in Europe (Septmber 1939(\) as offering an opportunity for resolving the war in China. The Strike South Faction saw as the Germans achieved sp[ectacular victorie the opportunity to seize Southeast Asian from the European colonial powers. This included British (Malaya, Borneo, and Burma), French (Indo-China), and Dutch (Dutch East Indies) colonies in Southeast Asia. The Japanese called Southeast Asia as the Southern Resource Zone (SRZ). The American-controlled Philippines was not an essential part of the SRZ. Its geograohic posituiin astride the sea lanes betwee the SRZ and the Home Islands meant that it could not be allowed to remain in American hands. Australia was eventually added to the Japanese concept of the SRZ as well as Pacific islands neded to build a hard defensive shell around the SRZ, a shell that would prove too hard for the United States to crack. Seizure of the the SRZ would not only cut off Nationlist China from Western aid, but also provide the Japanese military the resources it needed to complete the conquest of China. Japan would no longer be dependent on American resources. The SRZ offered large petroleum resouces, but the enticement was not just petroleum. The SRZ also offered various critical mineral resources: rubber, tin, nickel, bauxite (aluminum) and minerals. And not only minerals were involved. The SRZ was a major source of food. Rice was the most important, but not the only food resoure. Southeast Asian produced nearly 70 percent pf the rice involved in international trade. [Kratoska, p.9.]

Japanese Offensive (December 1941-May 1942)

And the Japanese were phenomenally successful, seizing the SRO largely undamaged within only a few months and with minimal losses (December 1941-May 1942). With the American fleet imobilized at Pear Harbor, the Japanese were able to sweep through the Southwest Pacific and Southeast Asia. Guam was quickly taken. Resistance at Wake sland suprised the Japanese, but after the initial assault was repulsed, a second assault took the island. MacArthur's defense of the Philippines was compromised when most of his planes were destroyed on the fround at Clarke Field. General MacArthur commanded the most important American military force west of Pearl. His handlong of the defense of the Philippines wasdisapponting at best, bordering on incompetence. He failed to strike back at the Japanese in the hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor by bombing Jpanese bases in Formosa. He also allowed much of the available aircraft to be destroyed on the ground. [Schom] The horror of the Batan Death March created an impage of the Japanese military in the American mind that fueled a hatred for the Japanese. [Schom] Hong Kong quickly fell. The Japanese also seized the oil-rich Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia). Allied naval forces fought a series of engagements to stop the Japanese, but could not match the powerful Japanese naval forces. Animitz and Halsey tried to distract the Japanese with hit an run carrier raids. The Japanese moved south from IndoChina, seizing Malayia and then the bastion at Singapore. The Repulse and Prince of Wales are lost in the defense of Singapore. Then they moved west through Thailand and defeating the British in Burma. Within a few months the Japanese had carved out the huge empire with enormous resources that they had long coveted. The Japanese then targeted New Guinea in preparation for a move south to Australia. All that remained to stop them were four American carriers.

Japanese Propaganda

Japan employed a range of themes in its World War II propaganda. They included: 1) Military prowess, 2) European racism, 3) a criticism of European colonialism, 4) explotive capitalism. Their propaganda did not prove very effecive, especially as the military campaigns faltered after the American naval victory at Midway. And a combination of rapaciosness and incompetence resulted in a collapse of the eonomies of the Southern Resource Zone they seized, including terrible famines causing the death of millions. The one area in which they achieved some success was in attracting support from nationalist leaders who were focused on driving out the Europeans. Many did not understand that the Japanese offers of indepependence were mere propaganda ploys. The Japanese also attacked the Americans and British as plutocrats. The initial Japanese offensive after Pearl Harbor was impressive. Some began to see the Japanese as unstopable. Most had thought that the European presence was too intrenched to challenge. America was the only country preparing the colonial people for independemnce. The Japanese success showed European nationalists how vulnerable the Europeans were. And except in the Phillipines an Vietnam, they were not about to challenge the Japanese. The Japanese military victories ended at Midway (June 19major 42). This was not yet apparent to the conquered people of the princial Southern Rsource Zone (SRZ) colonies. The colonies (Burma, the DEI, Indo-china, and Malaya) remgained firmly under Japanese control. Racism was another factor. Euroean racism was especially resented. The Japanese presented themselves as fellow Asians. Irt soon became apparentt hat Japanese racism was every bit as stronglty felt, if not more so than European racism. Some in the West were beginning to question racism, this was not the case in Japan. The Japanese in an effort to sell their new role to Asian nationalists, called thrir empire the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (GEACPS). This was a propaganda concept to gain the support of subject peoples in European Asian colonies. The slogan coined by the Japanese was 'Asia for the Asians'. The propaganda image promoted by the Japanese was a grouping of independent Asian nations liberated from Western influences. The attackson Britishand Americans capitlists/pltocrates ws absurd given that the country , but nothing could be more descriptive of Japan, dominated by the zaibatsu and rural landlords.

Extent

The GEACPS streaching from Manchuria south to Burma and New Guinea, included Korea, Formosa, China, Indochina, Thailand, Malaya, the Philippines, and the DEI.

Concept

The actual Japanese concept for the GEACPS was very diffeent than the propaganda was very different from the image they promoted, including two basic concepts. One was the racial and cultural superiority of the Japanese people and two obtaining access to the resources of the region, especially the petroleum of the Dutch East Indies. And as it function in the areas conquered, the Japanese established puppet governments with the primary purpose of exploiting local resources for the Japanese war effort. The concept originated with General Hachiro Arita, while serving as foreign minister. The Japabese plans were first enunciated by Foreign Minister Matsuoka Yosuke (August 1, 1940). It was a concept long discussed by strategic thinkers in Japan. Influential Japanese educator Fukuzawa Yukichi described his concept of "Japan's Mission in Asia" (1882) justifying Japanese imperialism and the "manifest destiny" of Japan to be the leading Asia nation. Secret socities such as the Black Dragon Society and Kita Ikki proved influential, especially among military leaders. The idea of a righteous war to expel Europeans from Asia achieved increasing currency. The concept was, however, essentially Japan displacing the Europeans and not freeing the Asians. As Japanese Word War II conquests unfolded, they were not infrequently met as liberators in the European colonies they conquered. Local populations, however, soon experienced the brutality of Japanese occupiers and enthusism for the Japanese quickly declined. The Asian colonies occupied by the Japanese soon found out the difference between Japanese propaganda and actual plans. Japanese oaccupation and military leaders proved more haughty and and more brutal than the former European colonial officials. Just how Australia and New Zealand fit into Japanese plans is unclear. Some Japanese theorists argued that the Europeans should be ousted from Australia and New Zealand. The Pacific War launched at Pearl Harbor, however, was a war launched with limited goals. Just what those goals were, however, are not entirely clear and I am not sure the Japanese militarists who launched the War clearly defined them. And thee seem to have been differences among Japanese officials. The overall goal for some was to modernize the region on a Japanese model, such as the one pursued in both Formosa and Korea. Other weee intent to seize as much as possible to support the war effort with little or no concrn about the local population. The progressive sounding name was, however, a cover for for brutal imperialism and exploitive trade policies pursued. The GEACPS was actually a much more of an old-fashioned empire than the Europeans had installed. Economically the British had for the most part permitted free trade. It involved both territorial and trade hegemony. The Japanese seized resources without compensation to the local economies.

Occupation Policies

The Japanese in the territories territories during the early phase of its imperial expansion (Taiwan 1894 and Korea 1909) were subjected to a Japanization policy. These countries were not so much occupied as sujected to a fundamental reordering of culture. Some attention was given to education, but instruction was in the Japasnese language. This apparenly was also the plan in Manchuria (Manchukuo), but included colonization by immigrant families. The territories seized in the Pacific War were military occupations. It is unclear what Japan's long-term plans for the new Empire were. Occupation policies depended in part on the political orientation of the population. The Japanese were especiallu severe with the Westerners they found in the occupied territories and the Chinese. There were Chinese comminities in many large cities in the Burma, Dutch East Indies, Indo-China, Malaya, Philippines, and Thailand. The Civilians from Allied countries, which happenedto be the colonial powes, were interned in near genocidal conditions. The Japanese also did not trust the Chinese. Singapore had alargely ethnic Chinese population. The most deadly action was the Sook Ching Massacre. While there were differences among the many mostly European countries occupied, the Japanese pursued some consistent policies. First all considerations were secondary to the war effort, including the welfare of the occupied people. And as the Japasnese did not bring food for their soldiers with them, this would result in mass starvastion in the Dutch-East Indies and Indo-China and serious local food shortages throughout the occupied areas. In fact, isolated Japanese garrisons throughout the Pacific began to starve. Second, Japanese civilian occupation authorities had no control overthe military. Third, every occupied area had to be self-sufficent, including food. Occupied areas were not allowed to import food, includung territiries that berfore the War were dependent on imports. Fourth, there was no rule of law. When food shortages developed because of Japanese mismanagement, the Japanese Army was freeto go out into the countrtyside and seizefood from the peasantry. Fifth, the Japanese pursued the propaganda narative of Asia for the Asians. This appealed to some of the nationalists in the European colonies. It was less persusive in the Philippines where the United States was in the process of independence and the Fiipinos already had home rule and Democratic elections. It is unclear to what extent the Japanese would have permitted autonomy after the War. And meaningful independence seems out of the question. Even autonomy is something the Japanese did not allow anywhere in their existing empire, including Japan itself. The military had seized control of the Government. It defies logic to think that the military would have permitted independence when they denied it to their own people. There is absolutely no doubt that the Japanese would have retained control over critical natural resources, especially oil.

Impact

In practice the GEACPS was an area of inensive Japanese exploitation in which millions died of starvation and millions more suffred severe deprivation. The same occurred within the NAZI empire in Europe. There were, however, differences. The Germans made very limited pretenses of dealing with nationalist groups. In addition, the Germans pursued a Hunger Plan in which part of the goal was to kill millions as a matter of policy. The deaths in the Japanese GEACPS werre more a matter of Japanese incompetence and indifference, not an important policy objective. In practice the GEACPS was an area of inensive Japanese exploitation. Millions died of starvation and millions more suffred severe deprivation. The same occurred within the NAZI empire in Europe. There were, however, differences. The Germans made very limited pretenses of dealing with nationalist groups. In addition, the Germans pursued the Hunger Plan in which part of the goal was to kill millions as a matter of policy. The Japanese did make a pretense of dealing with the nationalists, but except for ousting the Europeans offered no real steps toward indeoendence. The deaths in the Japanese GEACPS were for the most part not an intended policy objective, but more a matter of Japanese incompetence and indifference. Of course seizing food supplies inevitablt meant starvation for civilians deprived of food, but that was not the purpose of the seizures. Many more died from Japanese administrative decesions concerning agriculture and trade. Again famine and death was not the goal, but were the consequeces Japanese administration.

Nationalist Movements

Nationalist leaders were primarily focused on European colonialists nd some cooperated to varying degrees with the Japanese. This varied significantly from country to country. There was considerable suppoet in some colonies. Other nationaliys leaders resited the Japanese from the start. The brutal Japanese rule, especially the requisitioning of supplies and the conscripting of labor made the Japanese very unpopular. Promises of indepedence of course never materialized. Nationalists for the most part fully understood the real nature of the GEACPS before the end of the War. Aung San in Burma cooperated with the Japanese. Japanese authorities causes a terribe famine in northern Burma. Early cooperation gradually turned into opposition, especially as the British began the reconquest of Burma (1944). Sukarno and other Indonesaian nationalists in the DEI cooperated closely with the Japanese. Even so, the Japanese also caused a terrible famine in the DEI resulting in the deaths of several millions. The Vichy French authorities for most of the War collaborated with the Japanese. The Vietminh led by Ho Chi Minh adopted a Communist orientation. On of the great tragedies of the War was a terrible famine caused by the Japanese in Tonkin (northern Indochina/Vietnam). The dimensions of the famine until recently have been badly underestimated. The Communist Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army proposed Japanese occupation from the beginning. The Filipino nationalist movement led by President Quezon was strongly pro-Amrican becuse of the nature of the American administratin and the fact that the United States was preparing to grant independence when the Japanese after Pearl Harbor invaded. Quezon was forced to flee The Philippines by PT-boat with MacArthur. The Communist Hukbalahap movement opposed both the Japanese and the Americans. The Thais, governned by a Fascist-like military regime was the only independent country in the region before the War. They joined the Axis and cooperated with the Japanese throughout the War.

Greater East Asian Conference (November 1943)

The Japanese staged the Greater East Asian Conference (大東亜会議, Dai Tōa Kaigi) (November 1943). The Conference is also refrred to as the Tokyo Conferece. The heads of state and carefully chosen delegates from Japan's allies: Burma, China (a pupet state were set up in the area under Japanese control), Manchukuo, the Philippines, and Thailand were flown to Tokyo to discuss Asia's future under Japanese 'leadership. The Conference from the beginning was a propaganda exercize to promote the Japanese theme of Pan-Asianism and to show case Japan's success in 'liberating' Asia from Western colonialism.. There were actually no substantive discussions of any conseuence. There were long speeches praising solidarity with Japan and condemig explotive Western colonialism. No practical plans were tabeled for either economic development or integration. [Gordon, p. 211.] Prime Minister Hideki Tōjō chaired the conference. He opened the Conference with a speech praising the 'spiritual essence' of Asia, as opposed to the 'materialistic' civilization" of the West. [Beasley, p. 204] At the time serious food shortages were already beginning to cause famines in important areas of the GEACPS. Primeminister Zhang Jinghui represented Manchukuo (Japanese occupied Manchuria). President Wang Jingwei represented the 'Reorganized' National Government of China Head of state Ba Maw represented Burma whre the nationalist movement was beginning to reconsider backing the Japnese. Head of State Subhas Chandra Bose represented the Provisional Government of Free India (Arzi Hukumat-e-Azad Hind). He had escaped India and reached Berlin and was then dispatched to the Japanese by U-boat. Some Indian soldiers taken prisoners by the Japanese were formed in Burma into the India National Army with the goal of 'liberating' India. President José P. Laurel represented the Second Philippine Republic. Prince Wan Waithayakon represented the Kingdom of Thailand. Premier Plaek Pibulsonggram who actually controlled Thailand wanted to emphasize that his country was not occupied by the Japanese and was akso worried about a coup if he did not remain in Bangkok. [Stowie, p. 251.] The delegates seemed to have not been fully aware of how badly the war was going for Japan, but most were so fully under Japanese control or committed to the Axis that they had few options. Of course the shift in the military balance was not yet fully apparent as the Allies had won back only a few small islands. The short list of delegations was notable for the huge area under Japanese control. Notable absent was a DEI delegation given the level of support offered by Sukarno and his associates. There was no delegations from Indo-China, still nominally under French administration. Nor was there a Malay delegation. There were also no delegations from Formosa and Korea, which Japan regarded as colonies integral to the Empire. Nationalist sentiment there was brutally supressed.

Sources

Beasley, W.G. The Rise of Modern Japan.

Gordon, Andew. A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa to the Present.

Kratoska, Paul H. "The impact of the Second World War II," in Kratoska, ed. Food Supplies and the Japanese Occupation of Southeast Asia (Macmillan: London, 1998).

Stowie, Judith A. Siam Becomes Thailand: A Story of Intrigue (C. Hurst & Co., 1991).







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Created: 12:24 AM 4/5/2013
Last updated: 6:16 PM 2/13/2019