A few weeks ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping offered a five-year Soviet-style plan for the progress of China at the Communist Party congress in Beijing. Despite their talk on global cooperation, the issues were socialist repeaters about China's economic and military superiority to come.
Implicit in the 205-minute harangue there were echoes of the themes of the 1930s: a rising new Asian power would protect the region and replace declining Western influence.
President Xi promised that Chinese patronage offered a new option for his neighbors "to accelerate their development while preserving their independence."
In the 1930s, Imperial Japan tried to square the same circle of imported Western technology while mocking the West. He deplored Western influence in Asia while claiming that his own influence in the region was more authentic.
Only about 60 years after the so-called Meiji Restoration, Japan shocked the West by becoming one of the world's great industrial and military powers.
Depressed by the superior technology and wealth of Western visitors, late nineteenth-century Japan entered a dizzying race to create entire industries (mining, energy, steel) out of the blue.
He soon sent tens of thousands of students to European and (to a lesser extent, American) universities and military institutes. They dominated the Western military organization firsthand.
Japanese engineering students returned home with world-clbad experience in aviation, nautical architecture and ballistics, and a disdain for the supposed "decline" of their mentors.
The Japanese model was the first to inspect and evaluate the latest European and American military technology: single-wing fighters, aircraft carriers, naval torpedoes and dive bombers, and battleships. Then they copied the most promising designs but applied Japanese craftsmanship and government support to make even bigger, sometimes better and often more numerous weapons.
In 1941, Japanese super-battleships, aircraft carriers and fighter jets seemed almost identical to British and American models. They were often just as good, if not better.
Japan also felt that it had persuasive propaganda to win over its Asian clients. He reminded his Pacific neighbors that the new Japanese industries were even more efficient than those of their supposedly more sophisticated European rivals. Tokyo offered greater wealth for Asian customers willing to submit to Japanese sponsorship.
The old European powers such as Great Britain and France, the Japanese leaders insisted, were spent. Certainly they had no moral issue that badumed the Pacific as their own.
After Japan invaded Manchuria and, later, mainland China, Tokyo seemed to badume that the conquered Asian peoples were not resented as much by imperialism in general as by Western imperialism. Supposedly, the Asian neighbors would consider the Japanese exploitation as part of the family of the Asian community in general.
At first, Americans and British arrogant and complacent (and sometimes racist) mocked the idea that Japanese backwardness could achieve parity with the West. They combine erroneously the Japanese desire to copy everything Western with the permanent inferiority of Japan.
The Great East Asian Coprosperity Sphere was officially created in June 1940 to hide the Japanese aggression in Manchuria and mainland China, to seize French Indochina a few months later, and to plan a preventive war against Britain and the United States.
Planning to have control over the oil riches of the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia), the rubber of Malaysia and the mineral wealth of China and Burma, Japan sought full independence from the West with a so-called "yen block" of states subordinates.
Asian satellite clients were expected to bypbad Japanese harbadment and imperialism in exchange for the advantages of the dripping richness of a rising Japanese economy and the paternalistic security offered by the Imperial Japanese Navy and ground forces.
In truth, the Asian subjects of Japan soon hated Tokyo even more than they did. ndon or Washington. However, they made concessions to Japan only because Western appeasement and isolationism prevented active resistance to the rising sun of Japan, at least until Pearl Harbor.
China is currently following the Japanese model of the 1930s and early 1940s.
All parallels are there: claims of Western decadence, appeals to pan-Asian solidarity, harbadment of neighbors, visions of a block commercial and monetary led by China, Westernized Western new weapons, and boasts that Beijing has combined the best of Western technology and superior Asian discipline to become the superpower of the future.
China's miraculous transformation of a peasant subsistence culture is even more impressive than that of Japan, since in 2017, China is a nation of more than 1.3 billion people, unlike Japan's prewar population of about 70 million.
In our arrogance and complacency, we once mocked the Japanese and their idea of the first Co-prosperity of Greater East Asia Sphe re – and then suffered what followed.
Do we do the same about 75 years later?
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