Postwar Japanese Economy Term Paper

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Post-World War II Japan: A Nation in Transition

Devastated by the Allies in World War II, Japan has emerged as one of the world's most economically and technologically advanced societies today. Some observers have suggested that the "Japanese miracle" was the result of a collusion between the government and industry to prosecute economic growth through a series of subsidies and favorable business climates, while others maintain this explosive growth was due to the industrious and business-savvy Japanese people themselves. In order to determine which is correct, this paper will provide a review of Japan from the time of the signing of the peace treaty bringing an end to World War II and the years that followed. A review of the peace treaty and what was demanded of Japan to bring an end to the war after the bombing of Nagasaki will be followed by an examination of the role of the U.S. In ruling post-war Japan. An assessment of how Japan aggressively pursued its post-war reconstruction, including what industries were pursued and why, will be discussed by an analysis of those factors which made it possible for Japan to recover in such a short time following the devastating war and become a major global industrial power. A summary of the research will be provided in the conclusion.

Review and Analysis

Background and Overview. Following the surrender of Japan in World War IIJapan was under Allied military occupation during the period from 1945 to 1952. The occupation was headed by the Supreme Commander for Allied Powers (SCAP), a position filled by U.S. General Douglas MacArthur until 1951. While nominally overseen by a multinational Far Eastern Commission in Washington, D.C., and an Allied Council in Tokyo (which included the United States, the Soviet Union, China, and the Commonwealth countries), the occupation was virtually an all-American operation. Although MacArthur established a large General Headquarters in Tokyo to conduct occupation policy with support by local "military government" teams; however, Japan, unlike Germany, was not governed directly by foreign troops. Rather, SCAP depended on the Japanese government and its agencies, especially the efficient bureaucracy, to carry out its directives. General principles for the proposed governance of Japan had been spelled out in the Potsdam Declaration and spelled out in U.S. government policy statements drafted and forwarded to MacArthur in August 1945 (Watanabe 2003).

The key points of these policies were simple and straightforward, and included the demilitarization of Japan (so that it would not again become a danger to peace); democratization, meaning that, while no particular form of government would be forced upon the Japanese, efforts would be made to develop a political system under which individual rights would be guaranteed and protected; and the establishment of an economy that could adequately support a peaceful and democratic Japan. Further, MacArthur shared the vision of a demilitarized and democratic Japan and he was well suited to the challenge. MacArthur was an outstanding administrator and possessed the leadership and charisma that appealed to the defeated Japanese. MacArthur did not tolerate any domestic nor foreign interference, and aggressively went about creating a new Japan. To this end, he encouraged an environment in which new forces could and did rise, and, where his reforms corresponded to trends that had already established in Japanese society, they served to play a critical part in Japan's recovery as a free and independent country (Winchester 1989).

In his recollection of the negotiations surrounding the Japanese surrender, Shigemitsu (1958) reported that the Instrument of Surrender was delivered on the evening of September 2, 1945, which was quickly followed by a copy of an order, issued by MacArthur's headquarters, to the Foreign Ministry's Yokohama Agent, Minister Suzuki. The order stated that the whole of Japan was to be placed under military government. "The report shocked the Japanese Government and the people. It seemed that Japan and the Allied Powers interpreted Japan's acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration in a radically different manner" (Shigemitsu 1958:375). The source of this dismay was based on the assertion that the Allied Powers' interpretation was that Japan's unconditional surrender signified that, just as in the case of Germany, the country would on occupation be governed by the Army of Occupation. However, Japan's interpretation was that its surrender was dramatically different from that of Germany, which had in effect disintegrated. By sharp contrast, Japan was surrendering under the terms of the Potsdam Declaration. According to that declaration, the Japanese forces were required to surrender unconditionally; however, the existence of the Japanese Government was recognized and the reciprocal nature of the functions of the Army of Occupation and the Government were clearly recorded (Shigemitsu 1958). In spite of the initial shocked reaction from the Japanese populace, the occupation represented a period of rapid social and institutional change that was based on applying foreign models with a Japanese style.

Notwithstanding the maintenance of previous Japanese governmental organs to help operate the nation, SCAP acted quickly to remove the principal supports of the militarist state during the early months of the occupation. For instance, the Japanese armed forces were demobilized and millions of troops and civilians from overseas were repatriated. In essence, the Japanese empire was dissolved, the Japanese State Shinto was disestablished, and nationalist organizations were abolished and their members removed from important posts. Further, Japan's military industries were dismantled. The Home Ministry with its prewar powers over the police and local government was abolished; the police force was decentralized and its extensive power was removed. Similarly, the Education Ministry's broad powers over education were restricted, and obligatory courses on ethics (shushin) were abolished. Finally, all prominent individual in the Japanese wartime organizations and politics, including commissioned officers of the armed services and all high executives of the principal industrial firms, were removed from their positions. An international tribunal was established to conduct war crimes trials, and seven men, including the wartime prime minister Tojo, were convicted and hanged; another 16 were sentenced to life imprisonment (Winchester 1989).

The most important reform carried out by the occupation was the establishment of a new constitution. In 1945, SCAP had made it clear to Japanese government leaders that revision of the Meiji constitution should be their highest priority. When MacArthur was Supreme Commander of Allied Powers in Japan, he attempted to fulfill his father's mission. He remembered the general's lectures on the value of using conciliation rather than punishment when dealing with a defeated enemy, his hatred of racial bigotry, and, particularly, his strong belief in republicanism.:In Tokyo, Douglas treated the Emperor Hirohito much as his father had treated President Aguinaldo. For example, Douglas refused to give an order against fraternization with Japanese civilians. According to Winchester (1989), "In contrast to the rules established for Allied solders occupying Germany, GIs in Japan were allowed to mingle with the local civilians. General Arthur felt that orders against fraternizing were unenforceable: "Soldiers will be soldiers," he said. MacArthur's father had told him he should "never give an order unless I was certain it would be carried out. I wouldn't issue a no fraternization order for all the tea in China." (Young 1994:325). Winchester reports that the Japanese response to the occupying troops was respectful and courteous.

It was in this benign atmosphere in the post-war years that MacArthur pursued his primary goal to stimulate the development of democratic principles and to guarantee to the Japanese people the personal liberties outlined in the U.S. Constitution (Young 1994). When the Japanese efforts to create a new document failed, MacArthur's government section prepared its own draft and presented it to the Japanese government as a basis for further deliberations. Endorsed by the emperor, this document was placed before the first postwar Diet in April 1946. It was formally promulgated on November 3 and went into effect on May 3, 1947.

The emphasis in the new constitution was clearly on the people rather than on the imperial. After the war, the Japanese people's sovereignty was guaranteed by a 31-article bill of rights, with Article 9 renouncing forever "war as a sovereign right of the nation" and pledging that "land, sea and air forces" would "never be maintained." The emperor was declared to be no longer "sacred" or "inviolable," and was described as the "symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." The constitution also established a bicameral Diet, with the most power concentrated in the House of Representatives; the members of this body would now be elected by both men and women. Further, the old peerage was abolished and the House of Peers was replaced by a House of Councillors. The Privy Council was dissolved and the prime minister was to be chosen by the Diet from its members; an independent judiciary was also established with the right of judicial review (Watanabe 2003).

In spite of its rapid creation and foreign-based inspiration, the new Japanese constitution received wide public support. While the ruling conservatives desired to revise it following Japan's regaining its sovereignty in 1952, and an official commission…[continue]

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