Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere: Wikis


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Poster of Manchukuo promoting harmony between Japanese, Chinese, and Manchu. The caption says: "With the help of Japan, China, and Manchukuo, the world can be in peace." The flags shown are, left to right: the flag of Manchukuo; the flag of Japan; the "Five Races Under One Union" flag.

The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (大東亜共栄圏 Dai-tō-a Kyōeiken) was a concept, created and promulgated during the Shōwa era by the government and military of the Empire of Japan, to represent the desire to create a self-sufficient "block of Asian nations led by the Japanese and free of Western powers".[1]

The Sphere was initiated by Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe, in an attempt to create a Great East Asia, comprising Japan, Manchukuo, China, and parts of Southeast Asia, that would, according to imperial propaganda, establish a new international order seeking ‘co prosperity’ for Asian countries which would share prosperity and peace, free from Western colonialism and domination.[2] Military goals of this expansion included naval operations in the Indian Ocean and the isolation of Australia.[3]

This was one of a number of slogans and concepts used in the justification of Japanese aggression in East Asia in the 1930s through the end of World War II, and the term "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" is remembered today largely as a front for the Japanese control of occupied countries during World War II, in which puppet governments manipulated local populations and economies for the benefit of Imperial Japan.

Japan's experiment with financial imperialism has been called "yen diplomacy" or the "yen bloc," and encompassed both official and semi-official colonies. In the period between 1895, when Taiwan was annexed, and 1937, which marked the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War, monetary specialists in Tokyo directed and managed programs of coordinated monetary reforms in Taiwan, Korea, Manchuria, and the peripheral Japanese-controlled islands in the Pacific. These reforms were intended to foster a network of linked political and economic relationships. These efforts foundered in the eventual debacle of the Greater East-Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.[4]

The negative connotations that many still associate with the term "Greater East Asia" (大東亜) remains one of a number of difficulties facing the annual East Asia Summits, begun in 2005, to discuss the possibility of the establishment of a stronger, more united East Asian Community.



During World War II, many countries occupied by Japan were run by puppet governments that manipulated local populations and economies for the benefit of Imperial Japan, backed by this conception of a united Asia absent of, or opposed to, European influence. It was an Imperial Japanese Army concept that originated with General Hachiro Arita, who at the time was Minister for Foreign Affairs and an army ideologist. "Greater East Asia" (大東亜 Dai-tō-a ?) was a Japanese term (banned during the post-war Occupation) referring to Far East Asia.

The idea of the Co-Prosperity Sphere was formally announced by Foreign Minister Matsuoka Yosuke on August 1, 1940, in a press interview, but had already existed in various forms for many years. Leaders in Japan had long been interested in the idea, in reality to extend Japanese power and acquire an empire based on European models, though ostensibly to free Asia from imperialism.

As part of its war drive, Japanese propaganda included phrases like "Asia for the Asians!" and talked about the perceived need to liberate Asian countries from imperialist powers. In some cases they were welcomed when they invaded neighboring countries, driving out British, French, and other governments and military forces. In general, however, the subsequent brutality and racism of the Japanese led to them being regarded as equal to, or more often, much worse than Western imperialists.

From the Japanese point of view, the main reason behind forming the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, was the same reason Japan initiated war with the United States: Chinese markets. Japan wanted their "paramount relations" in regard to Chinese markets acknowledged by the U.S. government. The U.S., recognizing the abundance of wealth that could be found in these markets, refused to let the Japanese have an advantage in selling to China. In an attempt to give Japan a formal advantage over the Chinese markets, the Imperial regime invaded China and launched the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

According to Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo, should Japan be successful in creating this sphere, it would emerge as the leader of Eastern Asia, and the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere would be another name for the Japanese Empire.[2] An Investigation of Global Policy with the Yamato Race as Nucleus, a secret government document completed in 1943, explicitly states that the Japanese were superior to other Asian races and suggested that the Sphere was merely propaganda intended to mask Japan's true intention of domination over Asia.[5]

The Co-Prosperity Sphere collapsed with Japan's surrender to the Allies.

This article contains Japanese text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of kanji and kana.

The Greater East Asia Conference

The Greater East Asia Conference (大東亜会議 Dai Toa Kaigi ?) was held in Tokyo from 5 – 6 November 1943, in which Japan hosted the heads of state of various component members of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The conference was also referred to as the Tokyo Conference.

The Conference addressed few issues of any substance, but was intended as a propaganda showpiece, to illustrate the Empire of Japan's commitments to the Pan-Asianism ideal and to emphasize its role as the “liberator” of Asia from western colonialism.

It was attended by:

The Conference issued a Joint Declaration promoting economic and political cooperation against the Allied countries.[6]

Failure of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere

Although Japan succeeded in stimulating anti-Westernism in Asia, the sphere never materialized into a unified Asia. Dr. Ba Maw, wartime President of Burma under the Japanese, claims that this was because of the Japanese military:

The militarists saw everything only in a Japanese perspective and, even worse, they insisted that all others dealing with them should do the same. For them there was only one way to do a thing, the Japanese way; only one goal and interest, the Japanese interest; only one destiny for the East Asian countries, to become so many Manchukuos or Koreas tied forever to Japan. These racial impositions...made any real understanding between the Japanese militarists and the people of our region virtually impossible.[7]

In other words, the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was not working for the betterment of all the East Asia countries, but rather for Japan's own interests and thus they failed to gather support in other East Asian countries. Nationalist movements did appear in these East Asian countries during this period and these nationalists did, to some extent, cooperate with the Japanese. However, Willard Elsbree, professor emeritus of political science at Ohio University, claims that the Japanese government and these nationalist leaders never developed "a real unity of interests between the two parties, [and] there was no overwhelming despair on the part of the Asians at Japan's defeat".[8]

It seems that the failure of Japan to understand the goals and interests of the other countries involved in the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere led to a weak association of countries bound to Japan only in theory and not in spirit. Dr. Ba Maw argues that Japan's fate would have been very different if the Japanese had only managed to act in accord with the hortatory concept of Asia for the Asians. He argues that if Japan had proclaimed this maxim at the beginning of the war, and if the Japanese had actually acted on that idea,

"No military defeat could then have robbed her of the trust and gratitude of half of Asia or even more, and that would have mattered a great deal in finding for her a new, great, and abiding place in a postwar world in which Asia was coming into her own."[9]

Political parties and movements with Japanese support

See also

Greater East Asia map stamp


  1. ^ Gordon, William. "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere." March 2000.
  2. ^ a b Iriye, Akira. (1999). Pearl Harbor and the coming of the Pacific War :a Brief History with Documents and Essays, p. 6.
  3. ^ Ugaki, Matome. (1991). Fading Victory: The Diary of Ugaki Matome, 1941-1945, p. __.
  4. ^ Vande Walle, Willy et al. The 'money doctors' from Japan: finance, imperialism, and the building of the Yen Bloc, 1894-1937 (abstract). FRIS/Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, 2007-2010.
  5. ^ Dower, John W. (1986). War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War, pp. 262-290.
  6. ^ World War II Database (WW2DB): "Greater East Asia Conference."
  7. ^ Lebra, Joyce C. (1975). Japan's Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere in World War II: Selected Readings and Documents, p. 157.
  8. ^ Lebra, p. 160.
  9. ^ Lebra, p. 158.


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