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In Session: Conflict and Identity in Asia: Studies Within and Across Borders
2: Trouble on the Waters: “East Coast Elites” in the Making of Japanese-American Foreign Policy, 1910-1911
Thursday, March 25, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School, United States
The period between the end of the Russo-Japanese War and the conclusion of the First World War constitutes a relatively understudied period in American-Japanese relations. While one would think these were relatively amicable years of peace and cooperation, a closer examination reveals near constant wrangling for dominance in the Western Pacific and an American public newly fearful of the aspirations of their neighbor across the Pacific. This paper uses American State Department records alongside influential newspapers and popular media of the time to reconstruct the rise and fall of a war scare that undermined Japanese-American relations in 1910-1911. The paper argues that the diplomatic environment of 1910 was defined by factors outside the control of the American State Department, which found itself constantly disavowing the provocative words of prominent American businessmen prophesying future conflict with Japan. Moreso than any geopolitical conflict, the War Scare of 1910 was fueled by a rapacious press and the underlying logic of Social Darwinism. Of the three war scares that characterized the period of 1905-1914, only 1910 totally lacks extensive scholarly examination, and this paper seeks to rectify that by shedding light on the evolving relationship of the United States and Japan in the post-1905 era.