Japan conquers in battle for orders

VJ DAY REMEMBERED

STEPHEN VINES

Hong Kong

Western countries often forget that when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the Imperial Army also attacked Malaya, the Philippines and Hong Kong. The US government was unambiguous in its response to the Japanese attack, but the leaders of the nationalist movements in South-East Asia had decidedly mixed feelings about their new masters. These feelings persist long after the end of the Japanese occupation.

Nationalists in Burma, Indonesia, Malaya and the Philippines rushed to collaborate with the Japanese, seeing them as allies in the struggle against colonialism. The Burmese national hero, Aung San, father of the recently released opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, placed his Burma Independence Army at Japan's disposal. In Indonesia, Sukarno was released from detention to mobilise support for the Japanese.

These leaders were soon disillusioned by Japan's promise of "Asia for the Asians". By 1944 Aung San, for example, set about forming the Anti- Fascist People's Freedom League and actively sought co-operation with the British forces. Yet the nationalists were right in seeing the Japanese occupation as starting the process of decolonisation, because it destroyed for ever the authority of the European colonisers.

Unlike in China, there was little initial resistance to the Japanese in South-East Asia, apart from that put up by Communist forces.

The main victims were the Chinese Communities of South-East Asia, who were brutally treated. Women in some countries in the region, notably the Philippines, were forced to become "comfort women", or sex slaves for the occupying forces. Yet when the Japanese armies departed in defeat, they did not leave the same residue of bitterness felt in occupied Europe or China.

Japan was astute enough not to disturb traditional forms of rule. In Malaya, for example, the Japanese preserved the position of the royal families, while in Thailand they allowed a puppet government to do their dirty work, never declaring the country to be under Japanese rule.

There is still bitterness over Japan's failure to pay reparations or, until this week, even to apologise for its occupation of the region. Japan has indirectly paid its dues to the previously occupied countries, however, in the form of a number of large-scale aid projects.

Like the Germans in Europe, the Japanese have compensated for military defeat by throwing their energies into economic resurgence. Japanese consumer goods reign supreme in South-East Asian stores, and Japanese companies are among the biggest investors in the region. Although their investment in Asia is well ahead of the total put into Europe, it is way behind the amount poured into the US. Despite all the talk of focusing on South-East Asia, Japanese trade with the region is just over half the amount done with the US alone.

South-East Asian countries often complain that Japanese investors are unwilling to transfer technology. Japan, meanwhile, sees the emergence of ever-stronger economies in east Asia as threatening its competitive position in world markets. Malaysia's Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has committed his country to a "Look East" policy, stressing the need to learn from Japanese, rather than Western examples, but even in Malaysia the course of economic relations has not been smooth. The joint project to develop Malaysia's first national car, the Proton Saga, has been bedevilled by a mass of disputes between the Malaysian and Japanese partners.

Culturally, however, the extent of Japanese influence on South-East Asia is often overlooked.

Japanese design, pop music, food fads and clothing have had a tremendous impact on the thinking of the younger generation since the 1970s.

Politically as well, Japan is far more active in this region than anywhere else in the world. Japanese diplomats played a key role in the recent release of Ms Suu Kyi in Burma, and Japan first broke its policy of not sending troops overseas by joining the UN mission in Cambodia.

It is clear that what the wartime leaders in Tokyo called the "Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere" is still very much regarded as Japan's backyard, even though the Imperial Army has long gone.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Lettings Coordinator / Office Support Administrator

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This London Bridge based estate...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Advisor - Print

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based just north of York, this ...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Account Manager

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SEO Account Manager is requi...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map