Historian Victor Davis Hanson explains how China is following the same path to regional hegemony that Japan did in the 1930s.
Victor Davis Hanson writes: A few weeks ago, Chinese president Xi Jinping offered a Soviet-style five-year plan for China’s progress at the Communist Party congress in Beijing. Despite his talk of global cooperation, the themes were familiar socialist boilerplate about Chinese economic and military superiority to come.
Implicit in the 205-minute harangue were echoes of the themes of the 1930s: A rising new Asian power would protect the region and replace declining Western influence.
President Xi promised that the Chinese patronage offered a new option for his neighbors “to speed up their development while preserving their independence.”
In the 1930s, Imperial Japan tried to square the same circle of importing Western technology while deriding the West. It deplored Western influence in Asia while claiming that its own influence in the region was more authentic.
Only about 60 years after the so-called Meiji Restoration, Japan shocked the West by becoming one of the great industrial and military powers of the world.
Depressed by the superior technology and wealth of Western visitors, late-19th-century Japan entered a breakneck race to create entire new industries — mining, energy, steel — out of nothing.
It soon sent tens of thousands of students to European (and, to a lesser extent, American) universities and military colleges. They mastered Western military organization firsthand.
Japanese engineering students returned home with world-class expertise in aviation, nautical architecture, and ballistics — and a disdain for the supposed “decadence” of their mentors.
The Japanese model was to first inspect and assess the latest European and American military technology: single-wing fighters, aircraft carriers, naval torpedo and dive bombers, and battleships. Then they copied the most promising designs but applied trademark Japanese craftsmanship and government support to make even bigger, sometimes better, and often more numerous weapons.
China’s miraculous transformation from a peasant subsistence culture is even more impressive than was Japan’s.
By 1941, Japanese super-battleships, fleet carriers, and fighter planes looked almost identical to British and American models. Often they were just as good, if not better.
Japan also felt that it had persuasive propaganda to win over its Asian clients. It reminded its Pacific neighbors that Japan’s new industries were even more efficient than those of their supposedly more sophisticated European rivals. Tokyo offered greater wealth for Asian clients willing to submit to the Japanese patronage.
Old European powers such as Great Britain and France, Japanese warlords insisted, were spent … (read more)
via National Review
Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.