Comparative Study on China and Japan After World War II (1947-1950)
Two East-Asian countries, China and Japan, have an extensive history and both countries share many traditions. However, even with many similarities and having spent so much time grouped together in their respective histories, they are still two separate countries of two differing people and therefore their mindsets and goals are still their own and differ greatly in certain aspects— especially in their government and policies. This was visible many times—particularly at times of arising conflicts and war. In fact, many wars happened in the history of both China and Japan, both civil and international, and in most, the two were pinned against each other. The wars that seemed to shape China and Japan into their modernization periods and what they are like today, World War II and the Cold War, brought about even more policy changes in both countries than ever before and with it came shifting ideas within their respective governments and their relations all around the world as well.
Before the time of war that ensued in China in the 1930s-1950s, there was an emergence of two new political parties in the 1920s: the nationalist Guomindang and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Both demanded a “free and independent China, ruled by the Chinese with no foreign political involvement,” but the similarities in their objectives stopped there. The nationalist Guomindang was a pro-capitalist party, supported by conservatives, the middle-class, business interests and the West, particularly the United States. The CCP, however, represented China’s industrial working class and peasant farmers, who comprised a majority of the population. The CCP was inspired, and to some extent, directed by the Soviet regime in Moscow. Until the early 1900s, China was a “vast but weakly governed empire, dominated and exploited by Western powers”. From 1927 China was ruled by the nationalist Guomindang, though there was a growing communist movement. In 1927 the Guomindang reined in the nation’s warlords, reunifying China and restoring national government. The Guomindang leader, Chiang Kaishek, an anti-communist, then turned his attentions on the CCP, initiating a “massacre of communists in their urban base” in Shanghai. Thousands of communists were forced to take refuge in remote areas, where they reorganized by forming soviets.
Supplied with military aid from both the US and Nazi Germany, Chiang attempted to defeat the communists. In 1934, thousands of communists fled the largest soviet, Jiangxi, and began his journey to northern China. This Long March, as it became known, was a turning point in communist fortunes in China. It allowed the CCP to avoid defeat and annihilation—but it also heralded the arrival of a new leader: Mao Zedong. In 1937, as the CCP was establishing another soviet in Shaanxi, China was invaded by Japan. Hostilities between the Guomindang and CCP eased for a time, as the Chinese struggled against Japanese occupation. But following Japan’s defeat in World War II and its withdrawal from China, the Guomintang and CCP resumed their civil war. By this time, the nationalists had lost the support of millions of Chinese. Years of corruption, mistreatment and pro-capitalist policies had made Chiang Kaishek’s government unpopular, particularly with China’s mass number of peasants. Support for the CCP and its policies of land reform and respect for the peasantry had soared. After four more years of civil war, Chiang Kaishek and his legion were forced to flee to the safety of Taiwan. In October 1949, thousands rallied in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, where Mao Zedong proclaimed victory and the birth of a new communist state: The People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Soon the Cold War reaches Asia as Mao Zedong announced in the summer of 1949 that “‘there could be no third road'” and that China must pertain to one side, to the communist camp, in the Cold War. The rise of communism in China was a concerning development for the U.S. government, which already had its hands full with Soviet expansion in Europe. The Americans had worked with Mao Zedong and his group during the 1930s, when both were at war with the Japanese. But now, they refused to acknowledge Mao Zedong and the CCP as the legitimate government of China. Washington instead continued to deal with Chiang Kaishek and the Guomindang in Taiwan, considering them the government of China. The U.S. began to pay much closer attention to political events in south-east Asia. The communist revolution in China “opened up an ‘eastern front’ in the Cold War: communism could now spread south to take root in politically vulnerable states like Korea, Vietnam, Malaya and Indonesia. If these countries fell to communism then important US allies—like the Philippines, post-war Japan and Australia—would be isolated and at risk of communist aggression”. After years of struggle, interrupted by World War II, the communists eventually gained control of China in 1949. This created a radical shift in the Cold War, with China’s Asian neighbors now deemed at risk of falling to communism. Meanwhile, the communist regime in China set about transforming their nation from a backward agricultural economy to an industrial and military power, a process that succeeded but at enormous human cost.
During the early 1950s, communist China embraced policies similar to those employed in Stalinist Russia in the 1930s. All businesses were nationalized, while private ownership of capital was prohibited. Beijing embarked on a land reform program, seizing property from landlords and redistributing it to peasants; the landlords were tried and vilified before village meetings, many of them executed. But the new government’s main economic priority was to haul China out of their “ancient ways” that were a bit outdated through industrialization and modern technology. Beijing accepted raw materials, machinery and thousands of technical experts from Soviet Russia. In 1953 the CCP government initiated its first Five-Year Plan, an economic program setting ambitious goals for industrial and technological growth in China. China’s military strength increased in line with its industrial capabilities.
In Japan there was a long road that would lead to the modern-day Japan. Following the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and the inclusion of the United States in World War II, Japan went through times of struggle. The Japanese were forced to surrender on August 15, 1945. The defeat did not bring an end to the hardships of the country as the people suffered, especially the poor and working class who lost everything due to the war, but everyone was short of food. The occupation of Japan under General Douglas MacArthur that began on August 30, 1945 first considered punishing Japan but after the beginning of the Cold War with the Soviet Union and 1949 communist takeover of China, the emphasis shifted to keeping Japan in the free world and stopping the spread of communism. After the defeat of Japan in World War II, the United States led the Allies in the occupation and rehabilitation of the Japan. Between 1945 and 1952, the U.S. occupying forces, led by General Douglas A. MacArthur, enacted widespread military, political, economic, and social reforms. The leaders of the Allied powers discussed how to defuse Japan, deal with its colonies (especially Korea and Taiwan), stabilize the Japanese economy, and prevent the remilitarization of the state in the future.
In September 1945, General Douglas MacArthur took charge of the Supreme Command of Allied Powers (SCAP) and began the work of rebuilding Japan. Although Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the Republic of China had an advisory role as part of an “Allied Council,” MacArthur had the final authority to make all decisions. The occupation of Japan can be divided into three phases: “the initial effort to punish and reform Japan, the work to revive the Japanese economy, and the conclusion of a formal peace treaty and alliance”.
The first phase, roughly from the end of the war in 1945 through 1947, involved the most fundamental changes for the Japanese. SCAP dismantled the Japanese Army and banned former military officers from taking roles of political leadership in the new government. In the economic field, SCAP introduced land reform, designed to benefit the majority tenant farmers and reduce the power of rich landowners. MacArthur also tried to transform the economy into a free market capitalist system. In 1947, Allied advisors essentially dictated a new constitution to Japan’s leaders. Some of the most profound changes in the document included “downgrading the emperor’s status to that of a figurehead without political control and placing more power in the parliamentary system, promoting greater rights and privileges for women, and renouncing the right to wage war, which involved eliminating all non-defensive armed forces”.
By late 1947 and early 1948, the emergence of an economic crisis in Japan alongside concerns about the spread of communism sparked a reconsideration of occupation policies. In this stage of the occupation, which lasted until 1950, the economic rehabilitation of Japan took center stage. Occupation policies to address the weakening economy ranged from tax reforms to measures aimed at controlling inflation. However, the most serious problem was the shortage of raw materials required to feed Japanese industries and markets for finished goods. After the UN entered the Korean War, Japan became the principal supply depot for UN forces. The conflict also placed Japan firmly within the confines of the U.S. defense perimeter in Asia, assuring the Japanese leadership that whatever the state of its military, no real threat would be made against Japanese soil.
In the third phase of the occupation, beginning in 1950, SCAP deemed the political and economic future of Japan firmly established and set about securing a formal peace treaty to end both the war and the occupation. The U.S. perception of international threats had changed so profoundly in the years between 1945 and 1950 that the idea of a re-armed and militant Japan no longer alarmed U.S. officials; instead, the real threat appeared to be the creep of communism, particularly in Asia. The final agreement allowed the United States to maintain its bases in Okinawa and elsewhere in Japan, and the U.S. Government promised Japan a bilateral security pact.
Japan was seriously harmed in WWII but, nonetheless, the ability of recovery astonished the world. The first reason for Japan to recover from war trauma swiftly was the successful economic reform by the government. One of the major economic reforms refers to the inclined production that primarily focus on the production of raw material. Moreover, to stimulate the production, Japanese government supported the new recruitment of labor, especially female labor. By enhancing the recruitment of female labor, Japan managed to recover from the destruction. The second reason that accounts for Japan’s rapid recovery from WWII was the outbreak of the Korean War. The Korean War was fought on the Korean Peninsula, and the United States eventually participated in the war, providing an opportunity for the Japanese economy. As one of the major supporters of the United States in Asia, Japan stood out, providing ample support to logistical operations, and also benefitting from the production of firearms. The order of mass firearms and other material by the United States greatly stimulated the Japanese economy, enabling Japan to recover from the wartime destruction and providing Japan the basis for the upcoming high increasing stage which further encouraged their capitalism and democracy.
In the end, China ended up being a communist state after the communist takeover of the Nationalist party during the Civil War in China. They thought communist policies were the best for their country. After the Nationalist Party had been defeated by the Communist Party the communist party itself changed from Comintern control to being more associated with peasantry. Mao had risen to the top of the Communist Party by 1949 and established his own version of Marxism as the correct ideology for China. By the end of 1949, the Communist Party had gained control of almost the entirety of China and Mao Zedong had established the People’s Republic of China (PRC). It reconstructed China through its people by redistributing land, promoting heavy industry and more in their personal lives as well. China had become a copy of Russia with a Totalitarian government under Mao in 1949 until his death in 1976. The communist state was anti-west for most of that time and much in part due to their ties with the Soviet Union in World War II and the Cold War influences as well. The Party’s control brought advantages to modern life, such as schools, healthcare, to those of urban and rural poor lifestyles and economic backgrounds. The many benefits of the Communist policies and ideals made for rapid progress in the 1950s for the population in China and therefore they saw no reason to change their course of thought during that time to other ideals or form of government.
Japan, however, turned to democracy and became a nationalist state under the occupation of the United States after the end of World War II and the Cold War. After the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were dropped in 1945 their surrender came fast, and they fell under the control of the United States. With this the leader General Douglas MacArthur forced Japan to develop a new constitution and were, in a way, domesticated and modernized by their American counterparts during that time of occupation in the 1940s and 1950s. The United States was determined to make Japan a “Democratic, peace-loving state” during their occupation, so they protected the emperor from charges of being a war criminal and wrote the military out of existence in Japan’s new constitution. During the occupation the Japanese people went from being in despair and feeling defeated to a mindset of determination to rebuild their shattered lives and the nation. At the end of the 1950s, the government announced an Income Doubling Plan and prosperity was experienced by the people, even though they were still reluctant on accepting the political system presented by the Liberal Democratic Party. The war “destroyed lives, infrastructure, and, for a time, belief in the Japanese spirit”. Japan recovered thanks to the “changing international climate” of the late 1940s and early 1950s, reforms initiated by the U.S. occupation as well as protection provided by security agreements with the United States, and U.S. recognition that democracy required economic stability.
Both countries had their respective reasons for believing their form of government was the best for East Asia as a whole to follow due to what it helped them accomplish after their wartime struggle and recovery, but both experienced growth in the 1950s and both can be seen as decent approaches of government. The communist ways are very limiting to its people but bring about order and safety in the country of China while capitalism and democracy bring about freedom and equality among the people of Japan but can lead to many differing opinions within its people as well. Both can be unstable at times of war and economic depressions but that is normal for any form of government as there is not just one right way for any continent as the people in the world are not all the same and differ in opinions and always will.
Comparative Study on China and Japan After World War II (1947-1950)