After Imperialism: The Search for a New Order in the Far East

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After Imperialism: The Search for a New Order in the Far East

By Akira Iriye
Harvard University Press, 1965
375 pp.
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This careful study provides a convincing account of the changes in East Asian international relations from the time of the Washington Conference in 1921-22 to the Manchurian crisis of 1931. Iriye's main theme -- especially relevant to the post-Cold War era -- is that the turbulent decade of the 1930s was a result of the failure of the major powers of the day to develop a stable framework for international relations after World War I. Before that conflict, the imperial powers tried to maintain an equilibrium by means of alliances, ententes, and agreements designed to affirm their mutual spheres of influence and harmonize their interests. But the Great War undermined the old order, and the Washington Conference failed to reconcile the competing interests of the major powers. Germany and Russia were not even signatories of the Washington treaties and the Washington powers were hesitant to accord full sovereign status to China. Moreover, the great powers were all pursuing unilateral actions in China that were mutually irreconcilable. The lasting strength of Iriye's analysis stems from the fact that he grapples with the whole of international relations in East Asia although his focus is on Japan.