Abstract for the conference Das 20. Jahrhundert und der Erste Weltkrieg
World War I, which saw only limited fighting in East Asia, nonetheless brought about profound transformation to the international order in this region on three levels—international politics, ideology and culture, and economy. The Washington System, which emphasized open, multilateral diplomacy and naval disarmament, suggests the emerging US role in peace and stability in Asia Pacific. Yet, the failure of the Powers to extend the principle of self-determination to East and Southeast Asia alienated moderate Asian nationalists. Moreover, the race issue gained new prominence after the war, both with the failure of the racial equality proposal by Japan at Versailles and postwar friction between Japan and the U.S. over immigration. Lastly and often overlooked is the war’s economic impact in East Asia. Whereas Japan’s economic dependence on China deepened substantially during and after the war in both investment and trade, Japan’s military applied the lesson from the defeat of Germany and embarked on planning an economic autarky. Japan’s quest for a New Order in East Asia after the breakdown of the Washington System in the 1930s thus can be traced to the ideological impact of the Great War as to its economic consequence. At the end of the twentieth century, after a truly world war and the Cold War, deepening economic interdependence in East Asia have renewed interest in the idea of an East Asian Community. Unlike the interwar era, however, Europe is now seen as the successful model of regional integration.
Daqing Yang is Associate Professor of History and International Affairs at the George Washington University. He has research interests in the following three areas: the technological construction of the Japanese empire in Asia; the history and memory of World War II; and Japan’s relationship with Asia in the postwar period.