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Japanese Empire in August 1939: Threats and Opportunities Essay


August 1939 is not the most successful period for the Japanese Empire because of several reasons. First, from the end of 1938, the country observes a serious deterioration in Anglo-Japanese relations (Best 61). Besides, the relations between the Soviet Union and Japan have been spoiled considerably and resulted in a small war on the Manchurian and Mongolian border that began in May 1939 (Perez 283).

Regarding these events, it is hard to neglect the fact the Japanese Empire is not in its best situation. A number of threats could be observed, and several decisions should be made to try to change the situation. In this paper, stakeholders, PESTEL, and SWOT analyses will be offered to clarify the historical trajectories of the country, evaluate the current foreign affairs, and explain what can be recommended to Japan at the moment of August 1939.

Key Historical Trajectories

In 1936, the Soviet Union and Mongolia signed the Protocol according to which the Soviet Union could place its army on the Mongolian territory. It was a kind of mutual help act that promoted economic and political freedoms. It seemed like the Soviet Union wanted to meet its goal and get the required territory to create a powerful opposition to Japan and its expansion in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia (Kotkin & Elleman 118).

The intentions to enlarge the territories and prove its abilities made Japan begin a kind of indecisive fight in summer 1938 when the Japanese troops occupied a small territory of Lake Khasan (Stone 190). Though it was not a serious step, the territory was the border of three significant countries (Korea, China, and the Soviet Union) with the Pacific Coast. During the next two weeks, the conflict between Japan and the Soviets took place and ended with the victory of the USSR.

The situation could stay as it was at that moment. Still, at the beginning of 1939, the Japanese government underwent certain changes. From that moment, the government changed its priorities and focused on its main mission, to become supreme in Asia and in the whole world with time. At the beginning of 1939, a number of Japanese decisions and activities were focused on the necessity to take control of the borders with Mongolia.

Mongolia was accused of intentional violations and the intention to break the borders. The current events from May to July showed that Japan was a powerful country with huge potential. Still, Mongolia was not alone. It was supported by the Soviet Union, and the powers of the USSR were extremely important. Air forces of Japan were more impressive than those demonstrated by Mongolia and the Soviet Union. Still, in general, the beginning of that insignificant still rather demonstrative war helped Japan to clarify their opportunities and chances against Europe.

Stakeholder Analysis

On the one hand, the conditions under which the Japanese Empire had to live in 1939 created a number of opportunities for the country and the possibilities to develop new relations and try new approaches. Due to such changes, Japan was mentioned by Germany and defined as a powerful opposition to the USSR. On the other hand, the development of the war seems to be not as favorable for Japan as the majority of Japanese leaders could think. Therefore, in 1939, Japan is supported by Germany and Italy, the countries that believe in the necessity to change the division of territories and decreasing the amount of power the Soviet Union has.

At this moment, the situation with stakeholders of Japan is different and introduces various conditions for different countries:

  • Germany begins a number of conflicts with several European countries as a result of unfair and unclear conditions defined by the Treaty of Versailles;
  • Britain and the USA supported the idea of economic sanctions in regards to Japan. A number of trade treaties and relations were broken, and Japan was not ready to leave the situation as it was;
  • China was involved in the Second Sino-Japanese War from 1937, and the military conflict between the countries does not have its end. It was hard for China to resist the powers of Japan. Therefore, it was expected that China could address the possible enemies of Japan.

Still, in general, the majority of the European countries, as well as the USA, do not want to get involved in military relations with Germany. Japan, as well as Germany, is not satisfied with the current state of affairs. It is expected from these countries to take some crucial steps and demonstrate their powers and abilities.

PESTEL Analysis

PESTEL analysis of the Japanese Empire in 1939 looks like this:

Political Landscape

It is 1939. Japan is declared as an empire with its emperor Showa, also known as Hirohito. The Emperor has all powers and performs the functions of the head of the state and the commander-in-chief (Shillony 278). The administration of the country was characterized by the military and political movements and the intention to choose military men to manage and lead the country. All political decisions are based on the necessity to prove the country’s superiority in Asia.

Economic Landscape

The economic relations remain to be unstable with many countries. The Japanese Empire experiences certain economic difficulties (Todd 32) and cannot understand if there are some changes to be made. The results of such inabilities and uncertainties are the economic sanctions from a number of European countries. The Great Depression influenced the economic situation in the country considerably, and the need for raw material is burning.

Social Landscape

Social difficulties are also observed in the Empire (Todd 32). Liberal and radical Japanese are ready to take extreme steps and prove their correctness. People create groups and organizations that are related to the government and promote the need for the power from the Empire.

Technological Landscape

The majority of the technological achievements are borrowed from the West. The Empire sets clear goals and the intentions to take the supreme positions in Asia and the whole world. The technological aspect undergoes numerous discussions and improvements because people want to facilitate their lives and gain certain benefits in military technologies.

Environmental Landscape

Industrialization and modernization promote the building of new railways and roads that unite the Japanese cities. 1939 is a war or even pre-war period. Not much attention is paid to such issues as the protection of the environment or the improvement of nature. Still, it is possible to provide people with a chance to learn more about the importance the environmental needs for society.

Legal Landscape

The Imperial Diet is the main legislative power that supports the idea of sovereign power in the hands of one person (Neary 125). The Emperor is able to give sanctions to laws.

SWOT Analysis

The following table explains the main strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats the Empire of Japan experiences in 1939.

  • Strong military power;
  • Selflessness and intentions to constant improvements;
  • Religious support and respect; and
  • Powerful and centered government.
  • Western borrowings in technologies;
  • Resistance to the challenges of the Great Depression;
  • Cooperation with Germany; and
  • Improvement of the environmental issues.
  • Expansion of democracy (inability to control all communities);
  • Poor education; and
  • The practices of non-verbal communication.
  • Globalization;
  • The beginning of the world war;
  • Inabilities to fight against the powers of the Soviet Union; and
  • Border instability.

All these aspects show that the Empire of Japan has a number of opportunities with the help of which it can achieve its main goal and become a supreme state. Still, the decisions and allies remain to be doubtful.


Taking into consideration the current achievements of the Empire and the changes that have been observed, it is possible to say that Japan has all chances to improve its political and economic positions in the world. Still, the presence of such serious countries and the United States and the Soviet Union should make the Japanese government thinks about the choices made. Therefore, it is recommended to end the war with the Soviet Union and sign the treaty on the basis of which clear boundaries are identified, and certain responsibilities are clarified. There is no need to consider Germany as the only credible support due to the fact that Germany has been already defeated.

Though the German Empire has already got a number of lessons and is still ready to resist the Soviet regime, it is possible to believe that such choice could be rather beneficial for the country. It is hard to fight against the Soviet Union alone.

Therefore, Germany could be used as a serious strategic move to get more land under Japan. Another recommendation that could be given is to try to fight for new lands but try to avoid world conflicts. In such situation, the alliance with Germany is not the best solution. Still, it may be the question of time when the Soviet Union or the United States could attack. Therefore, it is possible not to begin the war but get ready to fight, prepare people for possible actions, and develop new ideas on why Japan deserves the rights for new territories and freedoms.


In general, the situation in the Empire of Japan in 1939 is not the best example of how a powerful state should look like. A small war for the territory with the country this territory is not belonged to is a doubtful decision. It is hard to believe that the resources and people used in this war do not cost a thing. If Japan wants to be a supreme state in Asia and a recognizable state in the world, it is necessary to gather more powers, to achieve certain technological success, and to educate people using the best sources. The expansion of democracy is a serious challenge, and the Emperor should be ready to teach people with new attitudes to politics and show them the way that is appropriate to the country and can make it a leader in a number of spheres.

Works Cited

Best, Antony. Britain, Japan and Pearl Harbor: Avoiding War in East Asia, 1936-1941. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.

Kotkin, Stephen and Bruce Allen Elleman. Scientific Exploration and Expeditions. New York: Routledge, 2015. Print.

Neary, Ian. Leaders and Leadership in Japan. New York: Routledge, 2014. Print.

Perez, Louis, G. Japan at War: An Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2013. Print.

Shillony, Ben-Ami. The Emperors of Modern Japan. Danvers: BRILL, 2008. Print.

Stone, David, R. A Military History of Russia: From Ivan the Terrible to the War in Chechnya. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006. Print.

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"Japanese Empire in August 1939: Threats and Opportunities." IvyPanda, 28 Sept. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/japanese-empire-in-august-1939-threats-and-opportunities/.

1. IvyPanda. "Japanese Empire in August 1939: Threats and Opportunities." September 28, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/japanese-empire-in-august-1939-threats-and-opportunities/.


IvyPanda. "Japanese Empire in August 1939: Threats and Opportunities." September 28, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/japanese-empire-in-august-1939-threats-and-opportunities/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Japanese Empire in August 1939: Threats and Opportunities." September 28, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/japanese-empire-in-august-1939-threats-and-opportunities/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Japanese Empire in August 1939: Threats and Opportunities'. 28 September.

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