Japan, the West, and the Road to World War, 1940-41

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It is September 1940. It has been just over three years since the beginning of the “China Incident,” in which Japan has sought by force to bring about an anti-Western, anti-Soviet partnership with China. Yet after a series of stunning victories, the war has settled into a frustrating stalemate. Worse, while officially neutral, the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union have been assisting the Chinese, and are threatening economic sanctions against Tokyo. With few natural resources of its own, Japan’s industrial economy depends on imported raw materials—particularly oil. 

However, Germany’s recent conquests in Europe may have just presented Japan with a golden opportunity, as French, Dutch, and British possessions in Asia lay largely undefended. Taking on the roles of leading figures in Tokyo—army or navy officers, bureaucrats, and members of the Imperial Court—participants are thrust into the middle of Japan’s strategic dilemma. Drawing on important works from Japan’s past, they must advise the emperor on how to proceed. Will they call for a “strike south” to seize the natural resources of Southeast Asia—even at the risk of war with Britain and America? Or will they seek an understanding with England and America—even if it means giving up the ideal of a pan-Asian partnership? Similarly momentous decisions must also be made on domestic policy. How will Japan’s increasingly scarce resources be allocated? Will the economy be subject to further state control?

About the Author:

John Moser is Professor of History at Ashland University, where he teaches courses on modern European, American, and East Asian history. He is also co-chair of Ashland's Master of Arts program in American History and Government. John did his undergraduate work at Ohio University, and has an MA and PhD in history from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has published numerous works on subjects ranging from comic books to Japanese foreign policy. He is the author of four books, the most recent of which is The Global Great Depression and the Coming of World War II, which was published by Routledge in 2014. In 2016 John was the recipient of the Edward and Louaine Taylor Excellence in Teaching Award. He lives in Ashland, Ohio, with his wife, Monica, their daughter Stanzi, and their three dogs. As a member of the Ohio Garrison of the 501st Legion, he dresses in the uniform of an imperial officer from Star Wars for charity events and other appearances..