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Japan Invades China 1937-38
Japan's Occupation of China 1939-40
Japanese and American Diplomacy in 1941
Japan's Aggressive War 1941-42
Japan's Losing War 1943-45
Japan's Defeat and Surrender
American Occupation of Japan in 1945
American Occupation of Japan 1946-49
Trials of Japanese War Crimes
Censorship and Kurosawa's Early Films
Philippines under Spain to 1800
Philippines under Spain 1800-80
Rizal and Filipino Reformers 1880-96
Filipino Revolution 1896-98
US Intervention and Filipino Independence 1898
Filipino-American War 1899-1902
Philippines under US Republicans 1902-10
Philippines under Americans 1910-33
Philippines and Quezon 1933-41
Philippines, Japan, and MacArthur 1941-45
Philippines American Independence 1945-49
The ancient civilizations of the far east in China, Korea, and Japan were isolated from European influence until the 19th century, and they tried to keep the Europeans out of their countries. Gradually the Chinese began trading, and many became addicted to the opium that the British brought from India to trade for tea. This led to the opium war and efforts by the British, French, and Russians to increase their trade with China. In 1853 Commodore Perry and the Americans forced the Japanese to agree to trade. China faced major rebellions against the Manchu (Qing) dynasty, and the Christian-influenced Taiping revolution attempted to create a new society but failed in a civil war that lost twenty million lives. The Koreans often persecuted Christians and remained the “hermit kingdom” until the Japanese persuaded them to trade in 1876.
Led by the Japanese, the Orientals worked to strengthen themselves by learning from the technological, economic, and political advances of the West. In 1868 the Japanese overthrew the Shogun and restored the Meiji emperor to begin a transformation of the feudal system toward democracy. Yet with their Emperor and their samurai tradition they developed imperial ambitions and military capabilities as they modernized their society. When the Tonghak religious rebellion threatened the Korean monarchy, the Chinese and the Japanese intervened militarily. The Japanese sent more forces and defeated the Chinese in this war over Korea in 1895. China’s experiment with Kang Youwei’s reforms in 1898 was halted by Empress Cixi, and in 1900 the Boxer Rebellion tried to fight the Europeans with martial arts and swords. Like many Asian nations, the Chinese had to accept “unequal treaties” with the Europeans. Japan developed their army and navy enough to defeat the Russians in 1905 in a war that astounded the world and encouraged Asians. Japan took greater control over Korea and annexed it as a colony with increasing domination and exploitation until their defeat in 1945.
Sun Yat-sen worked for a revolution to overthrow the Manchus in China. Cixi died in 1908, and three years later the revolution replaced the Qing dynasty that had ruled China since 1644. However, in 1912 Yuan Shikai co-opted the revolution and increased his power, beginning an era of warlords and many regional wars. The May Fourth Movement in 1919 opened up intellectual development as anarchists and Communists protested Japanese imperialism and turned away from patriarchal Confucianism. Sun Yat-sen advocated independence, democracy, and socialism, and he cooperated with Communist revolutionaries. After his death the military leader Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) turned against the growing Communist party in 1927, and with warlord allies he established a Nationalist government.
Mao Zedong found the key to a successful revolution in China by liberating the peasants from their exploitation by the feudal system and the landlord class. A major civil war between the Chinese Communists and Jiang’s Nationalists, who imitated and allied themselves with the fascists, was interrupted by the 1937 invasion by imperial Japan that occupied half of China. The Communists and Nationalists formed a united front against the Japanese while holding different parts of the rest of China. After the Japanese were defeated by the Allies in 1945, Jiang’s Nationalists tried to dominate the north as well as the south; but Mao led the Communists in a defensive war that won over the peasants with land reform while the Nationalists by favoring the rich lost the support of most people. In 1949 the Communists drove the Nationalists off the mainland to Taiwan and began a new era in Chinese history.
Japan had invaded Manchuria in 1931, ignoring international law and withdrawing from the League of Nations. After occupying much of China the Japanese needed oil and other resources for their military machine and made a surprise attack against the American navy at Pearl Harbor and then invaded most of Southeast Asia. The Japanese had foolishly challenged the United States and were no match for the industrial and military might that mobilized to defeat them. In 1945 the Americans occupied utterly defeated Japan and helped them transform themselves from the most militaristic country that was tried for war crimes to a peaceful democracy.
Korea was divided by the surrender terms that temporarily put the Soviet Union in charge north of the 38th parallel and assigned the south to the Americans. Thus North Korea elected Communists, and South Korea’s democracy reflected American influence.
Spain made the Philippines the only Christian country in Asia, and the Jesuits provided education that fostered an independence struggle in the 19th century. The United States went to war with Spain in 1898 and intervened in the Philippines during the revolution. Spain was defeated mostly by the Filipinos but ceded the country to the United States, which fought and defeated the Filipinos by 1902 in a brutal war. The Filipinos developed self-government, but independence was continually delayed. The Japanese invaded the Philippines in December 1941 and imprisoned many American soldiers until MacArthur led the invasion that liberated the Philippines from the Japanese. The victorious Americans let the Philippines become independent but maintained trading advantages and military bases.
The Pacific islands were devastated by new diseases as missionaries came to convert them and entrepreneurs to exploit their resources and cheap labor. Germans entered the colonial fray in 1885 but were driven out in 1914 when Japan took over most of Micronesia. The British with Australia and New Zealand governed many of the southern islands, but the French had Tahiti and New Caledonia. The Americans captured Guam and part of Samoa and came to dominate Hawaii, which was made a territory of the United States in 1900. In the Pacific War the Americans with help from Australians defeated the Japanese invaders and used the islands as bases to bomb Japan.
This era of East Asian history tells the story of how traditional Eastern cultures were transformed by the influence of the West and went through extraordinary and dramatic changes, resulting in a Communist China, a pacifist Japan, a divided Korea, and a Philippines and Pacific islands under the influence of the United States.