Japan like any other emerging economies of the mid-19th century was hard hit by the world wars. The far-reaching effects of the war on the social-political and economic development progress were hardly felt by the country especially after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings that marked her defeat in the Second World War. The most relevant economic social and political motivators of the recovery of Japan after her defeat in the world wars are numerous. They are however centered along with the goodwill of investors and the members of the state as well as other external global and intercultural factors. This transformation has been motivated and driven by a host of factors which I shall interrogate in this essay.
Japan’s economic recovery in the context of the defeat in 1945 and the subsequent American occupation.
Various historical scientists have developed theorized a proposition of the factors that could have been behind Japan’s aggressive and rapid recovery from the loss in the Second World War. They, however, all agree that there existed a high amount of cash flow there was partially generated and secured for the war and war-related activities. This, therefore, was an important aspect of growth for the economy that put Japan at a strategic advantage over all other countries. The money was an important bargaining tool for both resources and services necessary for the production and generation of products and services. Japan was therefore a rich country even after the defeat and therefore did not find it any difficult to rebuild its self.
In as much as the world wars had a serious and detrimental effect on the Japanese economy, it gave her a chance to make strategic and important alliances with other nations both in trade and social interaction. These relations still existed even after the war and did not deter the consumers of Japanese-made products from demanding these goods. After their defeat, therefore the Japanese people gave more attention to these ties and increased the amount of revenue that they generated from the trading front. It also allowed the country to establish new ties with emerging economies such as Korea and Indonesia who accepted grants and loans and other strategic investments from the Japanese. This played a great role in securing viable and productive investments for the economy and increased the amount of revenue and resources available (Beasley, pp. 3-10).
Education and cultural interaction
Japan also suffered a heavy influence from western cultural methods and practices. The number of Japanese students who had acquired western education by the end of the war was large and they continued to increase even more after the war. This, therefore, meant that the number of educated professionals and qualified labor was sustainably enough to operate and serve the demands of the labor market. The majority of those who received western education in local and western institutions were keen enough to return home and participate in the building of their nation. This, therefore, increased the amount of quality local products in the various sectors of the economy. By the end of the Second World War and the commencement of the cold war the country had a well-established labor supply and had managed to regulate the amount of western reliance on manpower and expertise.
The majority of Asian and African countries attribute the success or otherwise of their economies after the war to the colonization period and process. The misfortunes and setbacks that were attributed to the colonization scramble and partition by past Japan allowed her to enjoy a peaceful and uninterrupted recovery process. This was marked by the signing of the peace treaty after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings that not only secured Japan’s position as a no-go zone for the major powers but also guaranteed her place in the world arena. As soon as the country surrendered to American occupation, Japan held its first elections and developed its own constitution. This aspect was an important and relevant vehicle for economic growth that gave Japan a head starts for modernization. The American influence in the Japanese economy at the time was of great strategic importance to them in as far as guidance and direction of the economy towards modernization. They readily embraced the western and American methods and increased their know-how on technological and strategic fronts. They adopted a related but un-similar imperialist ideology that saw Japanese leaders increase their interest in control of resources and the market of other Asian economies. It was a rather conservative approach that saw Japan conquer its close neighbors instead of faraway countries (Howard, p. 45).
The Cold War as an important economic engine for Japanese reconstruction after the Second World War
After the defeat of Japan in 1945, she became a close ally of the United States in the Asian continent. These relations were clear when Japan sided with the United States in the Korean war of 1950 to 1953. The United States economy, therefore, benefited from the large production capacity of the Japanese products and became an important and key market for these products (Dower, pp. 9-20). They benefited from the alliance and partnership in exchange for an ideological selling point. The Asian continent was largely divided between capitalism and communism throughout the cold war. The United States, therefore, used Japan as its center of distribution of the capitalist ideology. This however did not stand in the way of economic development and growth but rather acted as a cover strategy for the Japanese utilization and investment into the American market and demand.
The restraints which were implemented by the United States of America on Japan
As a punishment for the loss in the Second World War the Japanese nation faced numerous economic and resource restraints by the United States. For instance, the Americans having reduced the Japanese military force by a large portion retained the right to have military bases in the country. This mainly meant to secure all American interests in Japan but turned out to be an added advantage to the Japanese. American investors became more confident in the security of their assets in Japan and increased their level of investment (Steel, pp. 51-80). This acted to boost the level of trade and growth in commerce. On the other hand, it allowed the country to focus more on the growth of the economy instead of the military. The countries military budget was therefore tremendously reduced and the resources channeled to other sources.
The concerted effort made by the state to boost technological development and pool resources
The alliance with the United States guaranteed the Japanese easy and reliable access to American advanced technology that was an important tool for the growth of the economy. The Japanese interacted with American technology through the cold war period and learned to use make and repair these technological advancements. They took this knowledge back home and implemented it in their industries and production processes. They also engaged in the education of the population on the various technological methods and devices that were applicable and relevant to the economic process.
The Japanese had for the longest time maintained a rather pure and conservative cultural setup. This was however greatly violated by the unavoidable interaction with western culture. This caused a great deal of cultural position whose effects were eminent in the countries cultural dimension and trend. The cultural front was marred with practices of western origin such as prostitution child abuse and same-sex relations. These were an unheard-of phenomenon in Japanese society that gradually crept into the society affecting and influencing societal values. On the positive aspect, the cultural interaction with the western culture played a great role in revolutionizing the primitive practices of denying education to the minority. This played an important role in spreading education and empowerment. The western influence however did not interfere with key cultural values trends and practices. For instance, people still gave paramount importance to family relations despite the rather selfish nature of the capitalist western ideology. The importance given to the community remained an abiding and uniting factor among the Japanese people. Cultural interaction also allowed the Japanese to keep up with social change both in its laws and in societal values (Drifte, pp. 15-49).
apan has bypassed its own expectations in as far as development and maturity in modernization and economic growth. The most important drivers of the economy were on the economy’s side. Alongside the political and social goodwill, the Japanese economy grew tremendously over the decades. It has continuously grown to a first-world modernized economy that has investments across the globe.
- Beasley, WG, The rise of modern Japan. Political, economic and social change since 1850. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1995
- Dower John. The Useful War. Daedalus Vol. 119, No. 3, Showa: The Japan of Hirohito pp.49-70 (1990),
- Drifte, Reinhard. Japan’s foreign policy for the 21st century. Hampshire: Macmilan press 1998
- Howard, Michael. The Oxford History of the Twentieth Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
- Steel, Ronald. Superpower Reborn. New York: New York Press, 2008