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Japanese Monopoly Capital Steps Up Economic Expansion in Southeast Asia

[This unsigned article is reprinted from Peking Review, #41, Oct. 8, 1971, pp. 18-19.]

Japanese monopoly capital has rapidly recovered under the wing of U.S. imperialism in the 26 years since the war. It is stepping up its expansion in Southeast Asia which is rich in natural resources in an effort to make the area a Japanese colony again.

PARALYSED after World War II, the Japanese war economy regained its strength with the support of U.S. imperialism. From September 1945 to April 1952, the United States provided Japan with economic aid totalling 2,100 million U.S. dollars, enabling her to restore production swiftly in such basic industries as power, iron and steel and coal mining. When the United States launched the war of aggression against Korea in 1950 and expanded the war of aggression against Viet Nam in 1965, Japan received innumerable military orders from U.S. imperialism, which enabled Japanese monopoly capital to amass big war fortunes and stimulated the abnormal development of the economy. By 1968, Japan’s gross national product ranked second in the capitalist world, exceeding that of West Germany. A complete war industry network was built up. With the lop-sided development of the Japanese economy, the contradictions between productive forces on the one hand and meagre domestic resources as well as a limited home market on the other were sharpened. Looking for an outlet, Japanese monopoly capital has always regarded Southeast Asia the major area for large-scale economic expansion abroad.

Important Way for Exploiting People of Southeast Asia

An important way for Japanese monopoly capital to ruthlessly exploit the people of Southeast Asia and plunder their resources is to buy agricultural produce and other natural resources, particularly strategic materials, from Southeast Asia at low prices and sell its industrial goods to the area at high prices. About one-third of Japan’s total exports now goes to Southeast Asia. The reactionary Sato government plans to increase its exports in the coming five years from 19,300 million U.S. dollars in 1970 to 37,400 million in 1975 and has declared that ”by fiscal 1975, nearly half of the markets in Asia will be overrun by Japanese goods.” Japanese exports to Southeast Asia are mainly industrial products, while Japan’s imports from Southeast Asia, apart from agricultural produce, are mostly such strategic materials as petroleum, copper, rubber, iron ore, bauxite, coal and uranium ore. The 1970 ”White Paper on International Trade” published by the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry revealed that in the past ten years, 70 to 100 per cent of the major strategic materials needed by Japan were imported, making Japan the world’s biggest raw material importer. Up to 1969, 99.7 per cent of the natural rubber and over 45 per cent of the copper ore and bauxite needed by Japan were imported from Southeast Asia.

Japan has a big favourable balance of trade with Southeast Asian countries. According to Japan’s official statistics, she had a favourable balance of 2,080 million U.S. dollars in her trade with 11 countries and areas in Southeast Asia in 1969, a rise of 600 million U.S. dollars over that of 1968, or double that of 1965. This predatory trade of Japanese monopoly capital has brought serious disaster to the Southeast Asian countries. Not only has it undermined national industries in Southeast Asia, it also put a number of countries there heavily in debt to Japan. It was reported that Thailand’s trade deficit with Japan amounted to over 250 million U.S. dollars every year from 1968 on, and the three-year deficit exceeds Thailand’s total foreign exchange reserves. In 1969, Thailand’s trade deficit with Japan was seven times that of 1957.

Export of Capital Accelerated

Japan ruthlessly plunders the riches of Southeast Asia by means of intensive exporting of capital in addition to commodity exports. It exports capital to Southeast Asia mainly by two forms, ”economic aid” by the government and direct investment by monopoly capital. According to Japan’s official statistics, from 1955 to September 1970, 94 per cent of the government’s overseas ”economic aid” was concentrated in Southeast Asia. At present, 60 per cent of the foreign investments in the Philippines is Japanese. Japan is now in first place among foreign investors in Thailand, with the United States far behind. She is the second biggest investor in Indonesia after the United States. By exporting capital, Japanese monopoly capital further controls the economic lifeline of some Southeast Asian countries and by ”economic aid,” compels the recipient countries to buy Japanese goods at high prices so as to fleece the Southeast Asian people. It was reported that in the five years up to 1968, Japan took in more than 5,000 million U.S. dollars in profits from Southeast Asia through private investments, government ”loans” and other channels.

The Japanese reactionaries repeatedly clamoured in recent years that ”guaranteeing the growing need for overseas resources is a question of life and death for the Japanese economy,” and to secure bases for steady supplies of raw materials, Japan ”must develop overseas resources independently.” The Japanese monopoly capitalist groups have now obtained the rights to prospect and exploit petroleum, bauxite, nickel, copper and timber in Indonesia and the rights to exploit oil in Singapore and North Kalimantan. They have ”co-operated” with Malaysia in developing copper mining in Sabah, and an agreement has been reached with the Philippines on shipping all the copper ore mined there to Japan for 10 years beginning in 1970. By granting loans to India, the pro-U.S. monopoly capitalists of Japan also obtained iron ore mining rights in India. These Japanese capitalists are now planning to invest in the exploitation of oil resources under the sea-bed near the Mekong Delta in the Indochina Peninsula.

Spectre of Colonialism

Following intensified economic expansion by the lapanese reactionaries, signs of Japanese colonization can now be seen in some Southeast Asian countries. The June 1970 issue of the Japanese magazine, Chuo Koron, stated in an article entitled ”Invisible Economic Empire” that ”the existence of the Japanese economy in Asia casts a big shadow over the politics and economy of the Asian countries.” In Bangkok, the people ”ride in Toyota or Nissan motor cars, wear clothes made from synthetic fibres of the Toyo Jinken or Teikoku Jinken companies, and carry transistor radios turned out by the Sony or Hitachi companies.” In Indonesia, ”established everywhere, with Djakarta as the centre, were manufacturing enterprises (owned by Japanese monopoly capital) ranging from the processing of rolled steel to instant noodles.”

Dream of ”Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere”

Japan’s postwar cabinets, from Yoshida’s to Sato’s have cast covetous eyes on the rich resources of Southeast Asia. In his book Oiso Reminiscences published in 1962, Shigeru Yoshida wailed that ”after the war, Japan lost its overseas territories in Manchuria and Korea and lost the sources of supplies of raw materials. I hope that Southeast Asia can replace Manchuria, Korea and other places….” Sato and his ilk also cried out frantically that ”Japan cannot live without Southeast Asia,” and that one of the ”targets of Japan in the 1970s is to start setting up ‘an Asian economic development community’…. The form of the independence and division of rights and duties among the members of the community will be similar to the relations between the federal government and the state governments in the United States,” and so on. It can be seen easily from this frantic clamouring that following its economic expansion, ambitious Japanese militarism is trying to realize its fond dream of a ”Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere.” Quoting public opinion in Southeast Asian countries, Chuo Koron said in June 1970: ”The presence of Japan in Southeast Asia … means she will act as the ‘police’ and ‘troops’ in the Asian countries”; the countries in Southeast Asia ”will be swallowed by Japan politically and economically”; ”seeing the extension of Japan’s economic strength in Asia, one cannot help but feel that this economic strength will turn overnight into the same military expansion as in the past.”

Today, the political consciousness of the people of various Southeast Asian countries has risen steadily in the protracted struggle against imperialism. They will never allow Japanese militarism to put the shackles of colonialism around their necks again. Japan’s economic aggression or military aggression can only serve as lessons by negative example to the peoples of Southeast Asia. Awaiting Japanese militarism is ignominious failure.

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