In Japan’s quest for autarky, or self-sufficiency, the requisite resources for their expansion throughout the Pacific could only come from their largest and closest neighbor, outside of Russia (their true foe) – China. As Michael A. Barnhart writes in Japan Prepares for Total War: The Search for Economic Security, 1919-1941: “The rich provinces of Northern China were becoming increasingly available for Japan’s economic security.” Reeling from poverty in Japan, Manchuria became the focus for potential expansion of its population which had strained the Japanese mainland: “Manchuria could also supply Japan with what she so desperately needed to remain an industrial state – a guaranteed resource of raw materials and a market for finished goods.” Trouble began to escalate with the insertion of five thousand Japanese troops which were brought in to a buffer zone between China and Manchuria to protect Japanese merchants from bandits. The drive for Northern China offered strategic value from a military strategy standpoint – “a secure north China meant a secure southern flank in any clash with the Soviets.” These same regions were to provide the needed territory for the industrial production of war materiel and armaments. Japan had long seen the Soviet Union as a belligerent and needed what it saw in China as a strategic territory.
The Marco Polo Bridge
Beginning with what is referred to as the Marco Polo Bridge incident, “innocent fire” between Japan and China, tensions grew as did the numbers of combatants. The provocations which would ultimately be quelled drew international ire for Japanese aggression; spearheaded by America and Great Britain following the attacks on the USS Panay and HMS Ladybird.
1 Michael A. Barnhart, Japan Prepares for Total War: The Search for Economic Security, 1919-1941 (London: Cornell University Press, 1987) 49.
2 John Toland, The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945 (New York: The Modern Library, 1970) 6.
3 Ibid., 41.
4 Michael A. Barnhart, Japan Prepares for Total War: The Search for Economic Security, 1919-1941 (London: Cornell University Press, 1987) 39,46.
Barnhart, Michael A. Japan Prepares for Total War: The Search for Economic Security, 1919-1941. London: Cornell University Press, 1987.
Toland, John. The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945. New York: The Modern Library, 1970. Page references are to the 2003 edition.