The Japanese Empire in 1942
In 1942, Japan had imperial aspirations and, as the map shows, controlled a huge area of Asia. According to Wikepedia, in 2011 Japan's GDP was $4,395.600 (PPP U.S. dollars)
Compare that to the GDP of China in 2011, which was $11,316.224.
Here are the GDPs of some of the other countries controlled by Japan at the peak of its expansion:
- South Korea: $1,556.102
- Taiwan: $886.489
- Indonesia: $1,208.542
- Malaysia: $491.967
- Philippines: $424.740
- Singapore: $327.557
- Vietnam: $320.450
- Myanmar: $88.751
- North Korea: $40.000
- Cambodia: $36.010
- Laos: $19.158
Thus not only is the GDP of China two and one-half times that of Japan today, but the combined GDPs of other countries that were under Japanese control early in World War II is also considerably larger than that of Japan.
We in the United States today are trying to understand the implications of the changes in the global economy, especially as China's GDP is surpassing ours. At the end of World War II, the U.S. GDP was about that of the rest of the world combined. Today we see in addition to the rise of China, and the huge economy of western Europe, the growth of the economies of other regions. Still, the United States is in a cooperative economic relationship with Canada and Mexico, its geographically closest neighbors, and feels no threat from Central America, the Caribbean and South America.
The Japanese and Chinese must be having a much greater problem understanding the implications of the changing pattern of economic power in their region. Both depend heavily on imported commodities and on foreign markets. They are rubbing against each other and against other countries in their region in new ways. They are very close geographically, one to the other. And they have a history in the 20th century of a major war between the two.