Consider the recent launching of Japan’s huge new warship, an aircraft carrier in everything but name, the Izumo. Izumo was also the name of a flagship cruiser that led the brutal invasion of China in the 1930s and that, a few years later, fired on the USS Wake and sunk the HMS Peterel in one of the first actions in the Pacific theater of World War II.To western observers, that looks like a dumb decision. Given the direction the Sino-Japanese rivalry has been going, that name might have been purposefully chosen. The World War II generation has passed. The conditions leading to that war remain.
Tomorrow, the anniversary of Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II, we’ll see just how many and which Japanese politicians choose to visit the Yasukuni shrine, where several convicted war criminals are interred; these visits will certainly be interpreted as another jab at Beijing and Seoul.The Via Media article considers whether it's in the interest of the United States to disengage.
Considering Japan’s (and the region’s) ongoing militarization, and the Abe administration’s slightly unhinged nationalism, that might lessen the chances that the US gets dragged into a conflict, which is good, but it also might increase the enmity between the world’s second and third largest economies.On the other hand, those permanent interests suggest that history rhymes.
The policies of the Abe government echo the response of the Japanese bourgeoisie to the 1929 Wall Street crash and the onset of the Great Depression in the 1930s. As Japanese exports collapsed and economic growth plummeted, the military, backed by the emperor, sought to overcome the crisis by rearming, invading Manchuria in 1931 and China as a whole in 1937—moves that collided with the interests of US imperialism and led to war in 1941.This time around, it might be the Chinese exports collapsing and the Chinese military throwing its weight around, but a new Pacific War might drag the United States in, all the same.