Japan also nullified its naval disarmament agreements with the Western powers.
How did the Great Depression lead to calls for renewed expansion?
In the early 1930s, ultranationalists were winning support from the people for renewing foreign conquests and taking a tough stand against the Western powers. Members of extreme nationalist societies assassinated a number of politicians and business leaders who opposed expansion. Military leaders plotted to overthrow the government and, in 1936, briefly occupied the center of Tokyo.
Civilian government survived, but by 1937, the unrest forced the government to accept military domination. To please the ultranationalists, the government cracked down on socialists and suppressed most democratic freedoms. It revived ancient warrior values and built a cult around Emperor Hirohito, who had ascended to the throne in 1926. According to Japanese tradition, the emperor was descended from the sun goddess and was himself a living god.
In theory, Hirohito was the nation's supreme authority. In practice, however, he merely approved the policies that his ministries formulated. To spread its nationalist message, the government used schools to teach students absolute obedience to the emperor and service to the state.
Japan took advantage of China's civil war to increase its influence there. By 1937, as you have read, its armies had invaded the Chinese mainland and overran eastern China.
Japan expected to complete its conquest of China within a few years. But in 1939, while the two nations were locked in deadly combat, World War II broke out in Europe. That conflict swiftly spread to Asia, where France and Britain had large empires.
In 1936, Japan had allied with two aggressive European powers, Germany and Italy. These three powers signed the Tripartite Pact in September 1940, cementing the alliance known as the Axis Powers. That alliance, combined with renewed Japanese conquests, would turn World War II into a brutal, wide-ranging conflict waged not only across the continent of Europe but across Asia and the islands of the Pacific as well.
Japanese soldiers occupied Beijing in 1937. Japan took control of large parts of China during the Second Sino-Japanese War, from 1937 to 1945.
How did Japanese militarists rise to power in the 1930s?