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The Emergence of Japan as a World Power in the Early 1900s

The Emergence of Japan as a World Power in the Early 1900s

Rapid Militarisation

Kwantung Army

The Kwantung Army was the largest army of the Japanese Imperial Army (1919-1945). 

The army was formed in 1906 originally as the security forces for the Kwantung Leased Territory and South Manchurian Railway Zone. It expanded into an army group during the interwar period, however, to support Japanese interests in China, Manchuria and Mongolia.

They are credited with being largely responsible for the creation of the puppet state Manchukuo in 1932 following the Mukden Incident in 1931. The army often acted independently in an unsupervised manner of the Japanese government as a result of its location in Manchuria. 

Western-style military

Japan’s military was one of the earliest aspects of society to modernise and Westernise. A universal male conscription act was introduced in 1873 that undermined the pre-existing samurai class. Japan would rely heavily on foreign advisors (particularly French advisors throughout the Meiji period) in its modernisation efforts. Troops would also begin to wear Western uniforms.

33% of Japan’s GDP was spent on the army and navy forces at that time. Their industrial revolution mainly enabled its rapid militarisation. 


Japan was initially dependant on imports from the US and Manchuria for development as they did not have sufficient raw materials to modernise. Coal was particularly important in order to run the factories. This meant that they had to hold a pragmatic and compliant attitude in order to maintain good relations

But Japan would soon become one of the fastest nations in the world’s history to modernise in only 50 years. Many countries would come to be intimidated by this rapid progress. 

Their efforts for industrialisation included the introduction of steam-powered factories. Mines, iron foundries, factories and shipyards were also set up. There was also an increase in the privatisation of businesses and their subsequent sales as private enterprises such as Honda and Toyota. Capitalism was starting to establish a presence. 

Japan would also see to installing railway and telegraph lines which aided industrial communications and unification. At that point, textiles were Japan’s biggest export

But as a result of its intense industrialisation, Japan was forced to turn to alternative, overseas sources for more raw materials such as Korea and Manchuria. 


Japanese education was also remodelled to suit Western syllabi as part of their modernisation efforts.


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