“The Reawakening of Asia,” an article by His Excellency, Jose P. Laurel, President of the Republic of the Philippines, written for the “Domei News Agency,” in connection with the celebration of Greater East Asia Day, December 8, 1943:
Mother Asia, after nursing the human race and endowing it with the most ancient civilization and the most profound religions that the world has ever known, seemed to have exhausted herself in the travails of creative efforts and has slumbered through the centuries on her well-earned laurels. Her children subjected to constant villification and abuse, her immense territory made the stamping ground of Occidental greed and concupiscence, and her temples and sanctuaries violated by profane invaders, she has at long last been roused from her lethargy and is even now claiming back her own.
In ancient times, the Greeks initiated the European penetration of western Asia with the colonization of Asia Minor and the conquest of northern India. The Romans followed suit and held away at Byzantium even after the decline and fall of their Empire in the West. The Crusades which marked the close of the medieval age furnished another pretext for the spoliation of the East, no longer by the tottering remnants of the Byzantine Empire but by the ambitious young nations of Europe, until the rise of Genghis Khan put a temporary check to their depradations. The modern age which was ushered by the so-called discoveries of Columbus, Da Gama and Magellan, witnessed a mad scramble among the Occidental powers for land grabs in Asia and Africa As a result, we find that towards the close of the 19th century a good portion of the mainland of Asia and many of the islands towards the southeast were under Occidental domination. India, Burma, Malaya and Australia were under Great Britain, and the East Indies under the Dutch. Indo-China become a protectorate of France, and the Philippines was wrested by the United States from Spain In short, the centuries have seen the gradual but steady penetration and domination of Asia by the Occidental powers.
Regardless of the ostensible reasons adduced by the Occidental powers, the true motives of their expansion movements were to secure new outlets for population, new fields for the investment of surplus capital, new trade channels new markets for manufactured products, new sources of supply for raw materials, and last but not least, new ways to bolster up national prestige and glory. The keen rivalries between the great powers gave birth to a new imperialism which sought not only commercial but political domination, even in countries where there was no attempt at colonization.
I need not recount the struggle of the peoples of Asia against the exploitation and aggression of the Occidental powers. The peoples of India, Burma, China, Malaya, the East Indies, and the Philippines were undergoing the pains of a rebirth occasioned by the impact of materialistic Western culture upon their age-old spiritual civilizations. Even as the Occidental nations owed them with mastery of the tool and the machine, the Oriental peoples who languished under alien yoke were almost forced to believe in their inferiority. With trepidation but not without resolution, they began to learn the ways of the West in an endeavor to discover the secret of Occidental dominance. With fatalistic Oriental fortitude, they uncomplainingly endured the trying ordeal of social, economic, political, intellectual and military apprenticeship, not to say subjection, to the West for sometime. But not for long because the Russo-Japanese War, which ended in the victory of Japan, produced a great change in the Asian mind. The myth of European superiority and invincibility had been exploded, and a new principle was born, “Asia for the Asians.”
This victory of Japan was to the masses of the Orient a revelation. They became aware of the inherent weakness of Western civilization and the telling realization was brought home to them that there was a nation in the Orient that could stand on the same footing with the Occidental powers and actually prove her superiority over them. From that time on, the other countries of Asia began to look up to Japan, not merely as an example of a progressive oriental nation, but as a worthy leader in their liberation while the Occidental nations wrangled among themselves and betrayed ench other in dividing the colonial booty, the seeds of Asiatic renaissance had taken root and was soon to hear fruit with the waging of the Greater East Asia War by Japan in 1941.
A brief narrative of the events that precedcd this Sacred War of Emancipation will enable us to comprehend the underlying reason for this reawakening. The Occidental powers, stunned by the swift victory of Japan over Russia, slowed down their imperialistic expansion by entering into alliances with Far Eastern countries, particularly with Japan. The machinations were, however, looked upon always with suspicion. Under the guise of assistance in the economic and cultural development of the weaker countries of the East. The British and Americans continued to extend their spheres of influence. Japan naturally looked upon their schemes with disfavor, but remained silent. On the other hand, she kept strengthening herself economically, politically, and militarily, and established commercial connections with the other countries of the Orient to secure essential raw materials for the prime needs of her people. Hardly had she made progress in this friendly effort when Britain, America, and others began to secretly obstruct her. At the outbreak of the China Incident when Japan was endeavoring to amicably settle her differences with China, the Anglo-Saxon powers instead of keeping their hands off in an affair involving purely Oriental peoples turned their aid to China into actual military and political collaboration with China aguinst Japan.
Not satisfied with the help she had been extending to Chungking to fight Japan, America placed a ban on the export of scrap iron to Japan. When Japan entered into an agreement with French Indo-China for the joint defense of that country, the United States freezed Japanese assets and prohibited the export of petroleum to Japan. Nor did America end plottings here. A few months later she worked to form the so-called ABCD enc crclemment against Japan.
Deeply concerned with the peace ot tfle Pacific for the sake of the peoples of the Orient, Japan did her utmost to prevent a brenk between her and the United States by sending to Washington in the spring of 1941, her two ablest diplomats to negotiate with the authorities there. Instead of cooperating with Japan in this most serious question, America used abstract arguments ignoring the interests of the peoples of East Asia, thus compelling Japan to wage the War for the establishment of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
The complete destruction of Anglo-American power and influence in the Orient by Japan single-handed, startled the world and reawakened the peoples of Asia to their right to work together and live together without the help or intervention of Occidental nations. The establishment of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere on the basis of cooperation, co-existence, and co-prosperity is the consummation of this long-cherished dream of the peoples of the Orient. Burma and the Philippines have declared their independence; China has abolished the irksome extra-territorial rights imposed upon her by the Occidental powers; Thailand has recovered her lost provinces: Free India is well on the way to realization; and Malaya and the East Indies are on the high road to political autonomy.
With the treaties of alliance entered into between Japan on the one hand, as the leader, and the National Governments of China, Thailand, Manchoukuo, Burma, and the Philippines individually on the other, climaxed by the Joint Declaration at Tokyo on November 6, 1943, which may be characterized as the greatest single human charter ever conceived and put into effect by the mind of man, the one billion peoples of this part of the globe have given notice to the world of their compact union to protect their collective interests against outside interference. Than the five cardinal points of the Joint Declaration which express the determination of the countries of Greater East Asia to insure the stability and well-being of their region, to promote each other’s friendship by upholding one another’s sovereignty and independence, to enhance their Oriental culture and civilization by respecting one another’s traditions and developing the creative faculties of each race, to accelerate their economic development upon a basis of reciprocity, and to cultivate amicable relations with the rest of the world without racial prejudice; than all these, no better example can be found of the lofty ideals which motivated the formation of the Asiatic bloc, founded as it is on the bedrock of sound morality and essential justice.
I know that the peoples of East Asia are undergoing great hardships and untold sufferings and I know that they are bound to suffer more, but I am confident that conscious of the fact that they are making these sacrifices for the sake of their own future, they will forge ahead with increasing determination in cooperating with Japan until the sacred mission of insuring the security of Greater East Asia has been accomplished. It is only with the attainment of this goal that the peoples of Greater East Asia will be in a position to promote their own welfare and contribute to the happiness of mankind.
As we celebrate on this day the second anniversary of the outbreak of the Greater East Asia War, we can look back with pride and satisfaction to the efforts we have exerted in the past and face the future with faith and confidence that the one billion peoples of East Asia will continue to be solidly united in the fulfillment of their common destiny.
Source: Office of the Solicitor General Library