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The Context of Japanese Imperialism
Western studies of Japan often rely on cultural and racial models to explain Japanese policies during Japan's era of Imperialism. These approaches seldom address the dominant international systems, structures, or norms of the day. In contrast, this paper explores the international normative context of Japanese Imperialism throughempirical review of Western speeches, literature, and histories of the period, and subsequent historical and social research by Western and Asian scholars. This research suggests Japanese geopolitical decisions during the period in question can be best understood by viewing the Japanese as deliberate adopters of external norms to cope with (first external, later internal,) challenges, during a period when international norms were undergoing transformation and divergence. It concludes that both Western norms and classic Chinese thought, as adopted and localized by a bureaucratic, rather than warrior, class of Japanese elites, played key role in shaping, and for a time legitimizing, Japanese Imperialism.