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What if Japan decided not to attack china in 1937(NO OIL EMBARGO)


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#1 ww2fan

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 03:50 AM

My alternative scenario: Lets say Japan's high command decides to draw back from anymore escalation in China and is content with the Manchurian conquest. Japan and Chiang's government settle on a cease fire treaty between armed forces and agree to divide territorial borders in Northern China. With China out of the war to deal with its civil war with possible support from Japan to oberliterate the Maoists, Japan will have a fully operational military capacity for other territorial ambitions. What do you guys think would most likey happen next in the pacific? I don't think Japan would waste its military might to take soviet far east territories besides Bailkal lake. The Russian far east seemed too limited in natural resources and Russian armour would make a real far east war more disasterous and wasted effort for Japan than China was.

Edited by ww2fan, 04 March 2010 - 01:30 AM.


#2 Carl W Schwamberger

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Posted 25 April 2010 - 10:14 PM

With no war in China there is less friction with the US & Britian. However were Japan to ally itself with Germany so it could seize the "Northern Resource Area" - Siberia then attitudes would change.

Another possiblity is Japan and China ally to expel the Europeans from Asia. With Germany keeping Britain occupied, France defeated, Italy blockaded, then it would be fairly easy for a Japanese/Chinese alliance to end the 'Unequal Treaties' China was subject to and expel the European soldiers from China. The next step would be to persuade the French to leave Indo China.

Direct confrontation with Britain & the Dutch might not be a good idea. But, the communits were not the only ones who could play the anti colonial nationalist card. Japan could underwrite nationalist movements in the remaining colonies in Asia.

The US had a strong anti colonial feeling, and was not a stakeholder in the China concessions as the Europeans were. Skilled Chinese propaganda and negotiations with US businessmen in the China trade could nuetralize any US support for the Europeans expelled from Asia.

Thus when WWII ends China and Japan are not ravaged by war, a cluster of recently independant states of Viet Nam, Laos, & Khimer are a inspiration to numerous nationalist movement squabbling with the English and Dutch colonial governments the US has negligable support for the colonialists, and the home governments of the colonialists are near bankrupt anyway.

This puts Asia in a position for strong economic growth from the 1950s.
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#3 OpanaPointer

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Posted 25 April 2010 - 11:19 PM

The "Northern Option" was seriously considered. For discussion of that, see http://ibiblio.org/pha/monos/

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#4 tali-ihantala

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 02:29 AM

Japan would never have attacked the Russian Far East, because they had their butts handed to them at Khalkin Gol and they would have little to gain (not enough oil). A japanese campaign in the east would have been disastrous for them, logistical nightmare and Russian armor was way superior.

#5 Falcon Jun

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 05:43 PM

It seems to me for this scenario to be plausible, the first thing that should happen would be the failure of Togo and his allies to rise into power. For several years before Japan's formal entry into WWII, there were two major factions in Japan, the militarists and what I would call the pacifists.
For Japan to stay put and be content with Manchuria, Korea and the other possessions they obtained after World War I, the pacifists would have to be in power. However in reality, the militarists held sway and history took the course we know today.
Would it be even possible for Japan to stay neutral in the war? They did sign the Axis pact with Italy and Germany under the militarist government. With another group in power, maybe Japan could have avoided the war and stayed neutral.
However, if the pacifists had taken over the government after the militarists had signed the pact with the Germany and Italy, I doubt if Japan would have stayed neutral. Face would've compelled the Japanese to honor the treaty and that would eventually lead to war with the Allies.
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#6 Karma

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 10:38 PM

It seems to me for this scenario to be plausible, the first thing that should happen would be the failure of Togo and his allies to rise into power. For several years before Japan's formal entry into WWII, there were two major factions in Japan, the militarists and what I would call the pacifists.
For Japan to stay put and be content with Manchuria, Korea and the other possessions they obtained after World War I, the pacifists would have to be in power. However in reality, the militarists held sway and history took the course we know today.
Would it be even possible for Japan to stay neutral in the war? They did sign the Axis pact with Italy and Germany under the militarist government. With another group in power, maybe Japan could have avoided the war and stayed neutral.
However, if the pacifists had taken over the government after the militarists had signed the pact with the Germany and Italy, I doubt if Japan would have stayed neutral. Face would've compelled the Japanese to honor the treaty and that would eventually lead to war with the Allies.


Somehow I doubt that Japan would honor the pact itself to the point where it would ensure its own destruction. If you look at the planning between Japan and its allies in Europe, cooperation was virtually nonexistent. The pacifists which I assume to be the cabinet prior to the military takeover, were influenced by the Imperial Navy, which understood the full industrial capabilities of America and Great Britain. One of the primary factors behind Japan attacking them in WWII was because the militarists headed by Tojo and his predominantly Imperial Army clique grievously underestimated their enemy's economical prowess. So, even if Japan was in the Tripartite Pact after a pacifist takeover, my guess is that Japan would most likely be allies to a diplomatic standpoint. Unless the pacifists were aiming to fuel their own militaristic gains, which I believe they had nothing of the sort compared to the militarists, then Japan would have nothing more to do with its European so called allies. The mindset of pre-military Japan during the Taisho Period was very democratic and would have clashed with the ideals of facism of Germany and Italy and would have aligned more with the other democracies of America and Britain.
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#7 Falcon Jun

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 10:56 PM

Good point raised, Karma. I agree with most of what you've said. I still think a pacifist government would have made a pro forma attempt to honor the Axis pact because not doing so would have made them lose face before their Japanese constituents. This government would have likely found a way out of this diplomatic nightmare, though because under the premise I previously posted, this type of government would've been more likely to adhere to the scenario of this alternative reality on Manchuria. If they could persuade the Chinese, it opens up a some interesting possibilities, some of which was explained in Carl's earlier post in this thread.
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#8 OpanaPointer

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 11:24 PM

Karma, which Japanese do you think would have been in the "pacifist" faction? You have strong feelings about any particular parties?

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#9 Volga Boatman

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 01:44 AM

Japanese 'pacifists" may well have remebered just what side they were on for the Great War, and pointed to an about turn against their old allies as a possible 'loss of face' on that issue alone.

We may count Isoruku Yamamoto in the bunch. Despite being a military man, he may well have delivered exactly the same advice to his 'pacifist' collegues. Yamamoto obviously felt that war with the U.S. was a mistake from the very beginning, so I would definately 'count him in' as a possible recruit, if only in a super advisory capacity.
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#10 Karma

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 03:36 AM

To be honest, OpanaPointer, I don't quite understand the division between militarists and supposed "pacifists" as put in the first post of this thread. Rather, I would like to place the whole faction issue within the military cliques. The "pacifists" would constitute as the pre-existing cabinet prior to the military takeover.

Volga Boatman puts up a good perspective. Rather than "pacifists", perhaps "realist" would work for lack of a better adjective. Men like Yamamoto understood the dangers of waging war with countries such as America and Great Britain so he wished to avoid conflict in the Pacific. The militarists, predominantly army-based were delusional as to the reality of what would actually happen should war be waged, which it did.

One thing that should be noted about the situation then was that such events such as the Mukden Incident were instigated by the Japanese military cliques and the army continued to wage war despite protest from back home. So despite a return of a parliamentary cabinet after the capture of Manchuria, my belief is that the military would have invaded China anyway regardless of what political power was technically in power at the time. So unless the army could be made to heel, then I don't see any solution where "peace" through supposed diplomacy would actually mean peace in reality.
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#11 Falcon Jun

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 05:49 PM

Karma, what I called the "pacifists" in Japan consisted of prominent people who openly opposed the militarist tendencies of the Japanese government. I used the word "pacifists" for simplicity.

Among them were heads of big industries (including the owner of the richest and most powerful corporation in Japan), major politicians and even a member of the royal family.

However, these guys' influence were slowly eroded through brash action by the militarists. Many were gunned down in cold blood with the police too intimidated to do anything. Others were cowed into silence or pensioned off.

The owner of the most powerful and richest corporation in Japan was gunned down as he was leaving his car, if I recall correctly. The militarists later "convinced" the corporation to make large "donations," which eventually made it open to a takeover.

These men had a definite vision for Japan and I think if they had neutralized the militarists, it would have been far more likely for Japan to set its eyes on Manchuria and be content with the trusteeships she gained from the League of Nations.
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#12 Karma

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 11:26 PM

Well see, the thing is that the concrete actions that were rolled out from Japan were predominantly from the military. And yes what you said is true, opposition were in constant danger of assassination. Due to the poor nature of the economy then, and the continuous humiliating treaties to Japan at the time, the nationalist movement headed by the military was gaining much support from the populace. The parliamentary government just couldn't do much to stem that tide. And with the military in control, and already with their own agendas, war was inevitable.

The key to your solution is going about how to "neutralize" the militarists. When the entire Japanese army command system is ruled from bottom to top (many junior officers resisted higher chains of command) then it's really difficult to get the military to heel. On top of that, those financial dealings were also goaded on by underground organizations such as the Kokuryukai (Black Dragon Society) who backed the militarists in intelligence as well.

The bottom line is, unless the economic situation would start getting better, then the Japanese citizens would turn to other means of government that will get them that. That turned out to be the military. And the added notion of regaining national pride packs it all into a nice package. Looking at Japan's history, war would have broken out regardless with the militarists in command, it was just a matter of with who.
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#13 OpanaPointer

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 11:34 PM

Karma, I was wondering if you had seen something I hadn't. I done a bit of looking at this situation and what I would call "pacifists" kept a low profile in Japan in the '30s. There were people who did want to avoid war, but were nothing like the isolationists of the US. The people the MacArthur shogunate put into authority in 1945 come most readily to mind.

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#14 Karma

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 02:06 PM

I certainly haven't seen any more than you have OpanaPointer. As I've seen your prowess in research, you must have a better understanding than I do.

I am only narrating what happened in history. The pacifists, those who wished to avoid war kept a low profile in order to keep from getting assassinated, which seemed like the trend back then. The way I organize these groups would be the militarists, who themselves were within various factions, the complete pacifists who wished to avoid war, and the mixed groups which sought to avoid war with the United States and Britain. The primary factors for the rise of the militarists was the ruined economical situations of Japan as well as the humiliating treaties in Japan's foreign policy. The parliamentary system just were not seen as capable enough compared to the militarists. But please, enlighten us with your views.
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#15 Carronade

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 02:33 PM

Honor the pact? The Axis only required the parties to support each other if they were attacked. The question of Japan being obligated to join in Germany's war on Russia does not even arise. If the militarists who were running Japan didn't feel compelled to intervene, why would a pacifistic or simply rational regime?

Incidentally the common suggestion that Hitler "had to" declare war on the US after Pearl Harbor is equally erroneous. Hitler declared war at that moment because he considered it in his interest.

I've never really understood Japan's motivation in China. There was some logic to Manchuria - at least in an age of empires - it was a valuable resource and agricultural region, and several hundred thousand Japanese civilians settled there after its conquest. There doesn't seem to have been much more reason for fighting in China beyond a clique of junior army officers wanting to fight.

There seems to be no reason Japan could not have prospered by adopting the sort of policies posited here, perhaps in cooperation with China. Nor much reason for conflict with the US.

#16 OpanaPointer

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 02:39 PM

I certainly haven't seen any more than you have OpanaPointer. As I've seen your prowess in research, you must have a better understanding than I do.

I've done enough research to begin to understand how much I don't know. :cool:
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#17 Falcon Jun

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Posted 01 May 2010 - 02:14 PM

I've done enough research to begin to understand how much I don't know. :cool:


An admirable attitude which I think many of us here in the forum share.

As for the question what if Japand decided not to attack China in 1937, Karma could be right in saying that Japan would have done so eventually, if they didn't do it in 1937. Japan did set up a puppet government in order to lend some legitimacy and support from the Chinese. And this was felt by the Nationalists as undermining their own authority. In this case, it would be plausible for the nationalist to take action against Japan.
Now would this mean that the US would've been more likely to be neutral in such a conflict because China was the aggressor?
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#18 OpanaPointer

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Posted 01 May 2010 - 02:19 PM

An admirable attitude which I think many of us here in the forum share.

As for the question what if Japand decided not to attack China in 1937, Karma could be right in saying that Japan would have done so eventually, if they didn't do it in 1937. Japan did set up a puppet government in order to lend some legitimacy and support from the Chinese. And this was felt by the Nationalists as undermining their own authority. In this case, it would be plausible for the nationalist to take action against Japan.
Now would this mean that the US would've been more likely to be neutral in such a conflict because China was the aggressor?

Japan would have done better by playing one side against another in China, IMHO. They could have expanded from Manchuria by their integral policy of "colonization by immigration" (yes, that was used by many countries) and made themselves essential to the China economy. This is what they did in several places after WWII, so the potential was there all along. The biggest problem with this is that it's not as "sexy" as using a samurai sword.

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#19 Falcon Jun

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Posted 03 May 2010 - 06:18 PM

Japan would have done better by playing one side against another in China, IMHO. They could have expanded from Manchuria by their integral policy of "colonization by immigration" (yes, that was used by many countries) and made themselves essential to the China economy. This is what they did in several places after WWII, so the potential was there all along. The biggest problem with this is that it's not as "sexy" as using a samurai sword.


I'm afraid what you're saying is true for today. However, I'll have to check some stuff. I haven't come across any item saying Japan had a policy of colonization by immigration.
Of course, you have access to a lot more books and references than I so I have to make do with what I have. Maybe a visit to the local university library would do the trick.
(It's not that i don't use the internet, I just plainly love the feel of paper on my hands. Maybe it's my age? ;))

I think your idea of playing the nationalists against the communists would have served Japan better in the long run. As history have shown, divide and conquer is a tried and true formula.

However, this does not answer a question that cropped up in my mind.
Would the US use the threat of imposing an oil embargo on Japan to force Japan to drop out of the Axis pact?

I think it's a point to consider because the Allies would want to close down any possibility of Japan aiding the Germans, especially with the Germans enjoying their romp through the USSR early in its campaign.

I know the Japanese didn't really consider going after the USSR after the debacle the Japanese suffered on the border. But the Allies didn't know that for sure and governments being what they were back then, there would always be someone highly placed who would be suspicious of Japan's intentions.
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#20 OpanaPointer

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Posted 03 May 2010 - 06:29 PM

"I'm afraid what you're saying is true for today. However, I'll have to check some stuff. I haven't come across any item saying Japan had a policy of colonization by immigration."

I wrote a paper that included analysis of Japanese expansionist polices prior to WWII. The term "colonization by immigration" was a common term in the literature I review. The paper was specifically on the "showdown" between the US, Japan, Germany, and the UK at Hawaii in 1897 and the colonization efforts of those countries in the Pacific as a whole. I'm very comfortable with using the term. I do have to say that this paper has gone to the great bit bucket in the sky however. I imagine my professor still has a copy, he cited it three times.

"Would the US use the threat of imposing an oil embargo on Japan to force Japan to drop out of the Axis pact"

The FDR administration was against an oil embargo. Their analysis showed it would most likely lead to war. The isolationists in Congress, however, considered "arming belligerents" would most likely lead to war. FDR traded his signature on the oil embargo for passage of other defense measures. There wasn't, to my knowledge, any great push to split up the Axis partners. They were "in the same camp" and separating them didn't seem at all likely.

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#21 Falcon Jun

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Posted 04 May 2010 - 02:24 PM

I would have loved to read the paper you wrote.

About separating the Axis partners, well, I agree it would not seem likely but that doesn't mean it would be impossible.
The Imperial Japanese Navy enjoyed strong ties with the Royal Navy and that could've been used as a conduit for backchannel talks. I know it's only a possibility, even a slight one at that. But this is a what-if, I mean an alternate history right?

It's a shame that Roosevelt was right about using the threat of an oil embargo to force Japan to take a certain course of action.
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#22 OpanaPointer

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Posted 04 May 2010 - 03:04 PM

I would have loved to read the paper you wrote.

I'll see if the prof. still has a copy.

About separating the Axis partners, well, I agree it would not seem likely but that doesn't mean it would be impossible.
The Imperial Japanese Navy enjoyed strong ties with the Royal Navy and that could've been used as a conduit for backchannel talks. I know it's only a possibility, even a slight one at that. But this is a what-if, I mean an alternate history right?

"Magic" gave the US very good reason for not thinking a split would be possible.

It's a shame that Roosevelt was right about using the threat of an oil embargo to force Japan to take a certain course of action.

Yeah, but now we know that it would have just delayed the inevitable for a while.

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#23 Falcon Jun

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Posted 04 May 2010 - 05:20 PM

Opana, I agree that the magic intercepts gave the US the ability to learn Japanese intentions, thus cementing US officials view of Japan.

What I did mention was the IJN's links with the Royal Navy. That's an entirely informal path and wouldn't have involved the US or at the most very little US involvement.

Whatever chance this backchannel had, however, would be dashed when Togo and his ilk expanded their control over Japan.

It's not really easy to look back and discuss what could have happened if this or that occured.

As for this scenario of a no US oil embargo, I'd say I would back your view of a Japanese policy of divide and conquer in China. However, I would say that policy would have a better chance of being adopted if Togo and his group was not in power.

Maybe the backchannel talks with the British could galvanize more moderate elements of the IJN to step up and exert an influence on events. At best, I see them stopping the militarists in their tracks. I concede this is unlikely but it is not impossible. Middle case, they would've slowed down events a little until cooler heads prevailed. At worst, they would've ended up with the same fate as the Japanese CEO who spoke out too much against the militarists.

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#24 OpanaPointer

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Posted 04 May 2010 - 05:28 PM

I was aware of the RN/IJN relationship. Capt. Packenham was on the bridge of Mikasa at the Battle of Tsushima Strait and his reports influenced Jackie Fisher's design of Dreadnought.

"Going to War With Japan" talks a hard look at the English "contribution" to the Pacific War. Have you seen it?

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#25 Falcon Jun

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Posted 04 May 2010 - 05:46 PM

No. I haven't. Thanks for recommending the book.
I admit that I won't have time to be reading any new books on WWII because of developments here in the PI.
The military went on red alert April 30 and as journalists, we're on red alert, too.
I doubt anything will happen but as everyone knows elections can bring about surprises. I hope these would be pleasant, even welcome surprises.

Anyway, thanks for the suggestions. I look forward to reading your other posts.

One final note, do you consider the RN/IJN link strong enough to do what I have mentioned?
The Army had the most influence in Manchuria, come to think of it.
From the little I've read, it seems the more moderate force in the Japanese military was the Navy, not the Army because their sailors and officers have more chances to be in contact with foreigners. Is this view realistic?
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