W.E.B. Du Bois: An Encyclopedia

By Gerald Horne; Mary Young | Go to book overview
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The surprisingly competent performance of Japan's military forces in the Russo Japanese War (1904–1905) announced Japan's status as a major world power. To Du Bois, Japan represented hope for the masses of colored people in Asia, Africa, and Latin America who endured the racism and the bullying of Europe and the United States. Though he lived to regret his prediction in 1922, following the Washington Naval Conference, that Japan, along with China, would form a solid coalition to resist the “aggressions of the whites,” he continued to view Japan as a counterbalance to Western imperialism up until World War DL To Du Bois, native populations residing in the colonial holdings of the greedy, rapacious Western nations could only look to Japan and the Soviet Union to provide models for economic reform and to champion their struggle against oppression. Despite its growing militarism and embracing of the capitalist system, he saw Japan as a formidable rival of what he believed was a quasi-conspiratorial alliance, composed primarily of the United States, Great Britain and France, that wished to keep it from extending its influence into their imperial spheres. He conveniendy disregarded Japan's obvious expansionist designs in Asia because, he reasoned, Japanese control in the region would certainly be more benevolent, uplifting, and humane than what had been experienced under the region's white interlopers.

Du Bois argued that in the interwar period in which the major powers labored to rebuild the global economy, and in the wake of World War I and the Great Depression, the West continued to shun Japan partly out of racism and pardy because it feared having to compete against such a robust nation. The denial of raw materials for its dynamic industries, he believed, encouraged Japan to resort to territorial acquisition as a means to ensure its survival. In 1937, on the last leg of a momentous round-the-world tour, Du Bois visited the puppet state of Manchuria, which Japan had invaded six years earlier.


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