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Japanese Economic Development Post World War II

World War II left many powerful nations in smoke and rubble. The deconstruction of many countries gave them the chance to rebuild their cities and economies. No country took more advantage of this opportunity than Japan. Japan was a huge militaristic power in World War II . Their aggressive behavior caused them to be stripped of their military and their power for self rule. The demilitarization of Japan changed the countrys focus from world militaristic domination to world economic domination.

The country established free trade, manufactured goods, and improved and invented technology, making themselves one of the largest economic uperpowers in the world. World War II exploded across Europe and the rest of the world in 1939. Germany and Japan had united to take over Europe, Russia, and the Pacific islands. The focus of the Japanese was to conquer China. Conquering the mighty country was not as easy as they expected and they needed more resources as the war dragged on. Japan turned its focus to the Pacific Islands for resources for their war with China.

There was a barrier that stood between Japan and those resources they needed: the United States Navy. Admiral Isoroku Yamatmoto of the Japanese Navy stated that, The U. S. fleet in Hawaii is a dagger pointed at our throat and must be destroyed (Beck et al p. 827). Early in the morning of December 7, 1941 American sailors at Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii, awoke to the roar of explosives (Beck et al p. 827). Within two hours the Japanese had sunk or damaged 18 ships, including eight battleships – nearly the whole U. S. pacific fleet. Some 2,400 Americans died, more than 1,000 were wounded (Beck et al p. 27).

The news of the attack shocked America. The day after President Roosevelt announced to Congress and the world that the United States had declared war on Japan. After the attack of Pearl Harbor President Roosevelt stopped sending oil to Japan. The U. S. and Japan played tug-of-war for four years until the United States had had enough. Newly elected President Harry Truman warned the Japanese. He told them if they did not surrender they could expect a rain of ruin from the air (Beck et al p. 841). The United States heard no response from the Japanese.

On August 6, 1945 the U. S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan (Beck et al p. 841). A Japanese journalist describes the terror: Within a few seconds the thousands of people in the streets and the ardens in the center of town were scorched by searing heat. Many were killed; others lay withering on the ground, screaming in agony from the intolerable pain of their burns. Everything standing upright in the way of the blast, wall, houses, factories, and other buildings, was annihilated (Beck et al p. 841). That day 73,000 of 365,000 died in the city of Hiroshima (Samurai and Swastika).

Three days after Hiroshima the U. S. dropped a second atomic bomb over Japan. This time the bomb dropped on the city of Nagasaki. The bomb killed 37,500 instantly; the radiation later killed more. The two bombs devastated Japan. The nation of Japan was torn between wanting to continue the war and wanting to surrender. The Japanese government finally agreed to the surrender terms from the United States. The Japanese Emperor urged the Japanese to lay down their weapons. They surrendered to General Douglas MacArthur of the United States on September 2, 1945.

The surrender took place aboard the United States battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay (Beck et al p. 841). The surrender was first signed by the Japanese foreign minister and then by General Umezu Yoshijiro. The surrender concluded with a separate surrender with China in Nanking on September 9, 1945 Britannica). This final surrender ended World War II. In the surrender with the United States, Japan agreed to demilitarization. This meant that they could have no military or law enforcement; the U. S. would now protect Japan. The U. S. military occupation in Japan was headed by General Douglas MacArthur.

He began the occupation of Japan by creating a General Headquarters in downtown Tokyo. He was supported by Japanese government officials. The Japanese started to view MacArthur as an administrator of considerable skill (Britannica). His reforms played a role in Japan developing as a free and independent nation. In the early months MacArthur focused on getting rid of everything that symbolized World War II Japan. He did this through demobilizing the armed forces and disbanding the empire. He destroyed all weapon-producing industries to prevent a radical uprising.

The Home Ministry with its prewar powers over the police and local government was abolished(Britannica), and the polices extensive power was taken away. As temporary leader of Japan, MacArthur had some of his own ideas for the born again country. Although he was a conservative American in politics, he fostered many democratic reforms for the Japanese government (Britannica). He also encouraged the government to legalize labor unions and to adopt universal suffrage. The most important reform carried out by the occupation was the establishment of a new constitution.

When Japanese efforts to write a new constitution proved inadequate, MacArthurs government prepared its own draft and presented it to the Japanese government. It was endorsed by the Emperor and went into effect on May 3, 1947 (Britannica). On April 28, 1952 MacArthur and the U. S. military left Japan and the country was declared as a sovereign nation (Britannica). The country could now rebuild on its own, building ts economy through industrialization and urbanization. Japan had earned some money during the war by providing military goods for other countries. MacArthur had destroyed all factories in Japan for fear of weapon production.

For this reason Japan used this money and built many new state of the art factories. Japanese economy at the return of independence in 1952 was in the process of growth and change (Britannica). The country was already showing signs of rapid growth as Japans economy was on the move. Their annual growth rate by 1955 averaged 10 percent (Britannica). The new legislation as now looking to enforce fair trading. They also put a stop to monopolies that once ruled Japan before World War II. Japans new economy was starting to take shape. The 1960s were known as the era of rapid growth for Japan.

A primary reason was the development of the consumer economy, which was helped by Ikeda Hayatos Income Doubling Plan. This plan reaffirmed the governments responsibility for social welfare, vocational training and education. It also redefined growth to include consumers as well as producers (Britannica). The second cause was the new industrial policy from the Ministry of Trade and Industry in 1959. This policy changed the Japanese economys focus onto high quality and high technology products. This idea created broader trade because the products were similar in quality to those in the western world.

Long states, The goods produced were reliable and contained few flaws (p. 84). As the economy took change so did the social life of the Japanese. There were two big social changes. The first was the great decline in birth rate that stabilized the population. As Japans population growth slowed the economy expanded (Britannica). Japan now faced a problem: a shortage of workers for the industries. This drew workers in from agriculture and small businesses. The second was the population shift from the countryside to urban centers. Tokyos population went from 3 million in 1945 to 9 million in 1970 (Britannica).

Rural Japan changed with the appearance of paved roads, concrete schools, factories, and sales outlets for automobiles and farm equipment. The rural Japanese were used to thatch roofed structures. The average farm household income rose, creating a market for rural purchasing customers. Television tied rural households to urban Japan and to the world beyond (Britannica). The rapid growth era continued until 1973 when the oil shock resulted from OPECs embargo. Japan was heavily dependent on Middle Eastern oil. In 1971 the United States devalued the U. S. dollar by 17 percent against the Japanese yen (Britannica).

Although Japans industrial expansion and exporting made it a world leader in electronics, shipbuilding, precision optical equipment, steel, automobiles, and high technology (Britannica), the significant advances in technology, the dwindling rural labor force, and the decline in international competitiveness in manufacturing industries slowed Japans economy. By the middle of the 1970s Japan was losing their place in the global economy. The United States had temporarily embargoed soybean export to Japan (Britannica). This was vital to Japan since they had no real source of raw materials; they needed that food.

In the 1970s and 80s Japan broadened its sources for raw materials. As a result Japan broke more into trade. Japan became a firm advocate of international free trade and tried to create at least a measure of energy self-sufficiency through the increased use of nuclear power generation (Britannica). The mbargoes of oil and soybean exports made Japan feel that once again the world was against them and that their hard-won postwar gains were being taken from them. By the 1980s the Japanese economy had become one of the worlds largest and most sophisticated. Per capita income had surpassed that of the U. S. (Britannica).

Japan had become the largest donor in developmental aid and the worlds leading net creditor. In the late 80s, the annual gross national product of Japan (nearly $3 trillion) was the largest in the world after the U. S. ; the gross national product per capita was about $23,730. The estimated national budget included revenues of $417 billion and expenditures of $455 billion (Long, p. 147). During the oil crises in 1972-74 and 1979-81, Japan had successfully used exporting to offset deficits. The export of automobiles, color television sets, high-quality steel, precision optical equipment, and electronic products surged.

The United States became Japans largest single export customer. Japans finance was also becoming internationally strong in the 1980s. Japans banks came to dominate international banking, while Tokyo Stock Exchange emerged as one of the largest securities markets in the world. The market rose 500 percent (Time. com). At this time Japans economy became known as the bubble economy. This was an economy of combined easy credit with unbridled speculation that eventually drove Japanese equity and real estate markets to astronomical price levels, bursting the bubble (Britannica).

This brought about Japans lowest postwar economy in 1992-1993. The postwar recession further undercut Japanese consumer confidence and inevitably exacerbated trade tensions (Britannica). Japans merchandise trade with the world kept the country alive. The exports stabilized Japans economy and raised he appreciation of the yen against the dollar. By the 90s the Japanese economy showed clear signs of maturation. Growth rates were modest, the average age of the workforce was rising rapidly, and worker productivity was inhibiting profitability (Britannica).

To stay competitive the Japanese industries began to go to offshore production. Long says that, It is widely recognized that Japan must continue to integrate its economy more effectively into that of the emerging Asian economic block (p. 163). The Japanese had to continue to improve products and technology to compete with rising economic countries. Japan continued urbanization into the 90s. The migration from countryside to city largely had been completed; fewer than ten percent of Japanese were living on a farm (Britannica).

Japan continues to transform into an urban, industrial, high-technology society, but not without a price: urban congestion, limited housing space, the cost of raising children, trend toward delaying marriage and a growing desire of women to remain single have caused a birth rate decline, threatening the active workforce and traditional Japanese values. Today Japan has successfully created a large communications network for its country. The Japanese network of telecommunications and of postal services is among the best in the world (Britannica).

The whole country is linked by this, even the smallest islands. Japan is a world leader in use of advanced technology, using advanced telecommunications like facsimile transmissions and electronic-mail systems (Time. com). Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) is one of the largest private companies in the world. It is creating one of the worlds most sophisticated domestic and international communications systems, including a national telecommunications network that incorporates fiber-optic ransmission capabilities (Time. com). NTT is only able to do this with the help of the Japanese government.

Under the leadership of the political party, LDP, a combination of liberals and democrats, the Japanese government has been economically successful from the mid 70s through the 90s. The party steered Japan through the oilshock of 1973, took Japan through economic transition, and substituted high-technology enterprises for smokestack industries in the 70s and 80s, thereby restoring Japans international economic confidence (Britannica). Today Japan is one of the worlds primary shipbuilders and automakers. Its industrial plants are some of the largest and most advanced in the world.

The most amazing growth has been in the production of automobiles, machinery (including robots), petrochemicals, precision optical equipment (mainly camera equipment), and advanced electronic equipment such as computers, telecommunications equipment and consumer goods (stereos, watches, TVs video equipment, electronic toys, CD players, etc. ). All this growth has brought Japan into the elite group of the worlds most advanced industrial nations. Japans role as a leading world creditor have made its foreign investments ignificant enough to be recognized as an International leader.

Japanese leaders are feeling international pressure to begin contributing more than just money to foreign policy: In 1992 unarmed troops from Japans Self-Defense Forces participated in a UN peacekeeping operation for the first time since the war. While many Japanese are reluctant for Japan to pursue an activist foreign policy role- particularly one hinting at military participation- many Japanese argue that full participation in world affairs should include a voice in decision making- specifically, a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and, ith it, the long-sought legitimization of its status as a world leader (Britannica).

The demilitarization of Japan changed the countrys focus from militaristic world domination to economic world domination. Japan wanted to become a modern industrialized country through imperialism directed at China. This idea brought a confrontation with the United States and its allies, which ended in defeat in World War II. Since the war Japans economic growth is one of the greatest of any nation in that period. It is now one of the worlds biggest manufacturing countries and traders of goods as well as a global financial leader.

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