Uyghur and China, Japan and GHQ… The “Shadow” of Population Policies Distorted by Eugenics
Hideomi Tanaka (Professor, Faculty of Business and Information Studies, Jobu University)
In my previous series of articles, I pointed out that the Chinese government’s oppression of the Uyghurs is strongly linked to its population policy and eugenic ideology. I pointed out in my previous series that the Chinese government’s crackdown on the Uyghurs is strongly linked to its population policy and eugenic ideology. This “population policy and eugenic ideology” is having a serious impact on Japan today.
In the pre-war period, Japan misjudged its population policy and justified the acquisition of overseas colonies to relieve its overpopulation. At the same time, it also encouraged overseas immigration and restrictions on childbearing. There is a limit to the population that can be supported by Japan’s land and economic resources. It was linked to the economic idea that overpopulation was the reason behind the structural stagnation of society.
There is no doubt that the theory of overpopulation was behind the military expansion overseas as part of “Great Japanism. Even before the war, Ishibashi Tanzan and others actively criticized the fallacy of the theory of Japanese stagnation linked to overpopulation. Ishibashi pointed out that there was no major problem with overpopulation itself, but rather that the lack of jobs was the main cause of economic stagnation.
Ishibashi argued that there was little economic merit in having colonies overseas, and that it would rather cause emotional and political backlash from other countries, and that it was important to actively promote trade liberalization (see “Ishibashi Tanzan’s Economic Policy Thought” by Harada Yasushi and Wada Mikiko, and “GHQ’s Conspiracy and Japan’s Economic Revival (tentative)” by Tanaka Hideomi, forthcoming).
Ishibashi’s stance of “small Japanism” was crucial to the future of prewar Japan. However, Japan used the false theory of overpopulation as one of the backdrops for its increased expansion into foreign countries, which eventually led to war and defeat for Japan.
But the story of this false overpopulation theory does not end there. During the occupation of Japan by the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers (GHQ), the overpopulation theory came back to life with a huge increase in the birth rate and a decrease in the death rate. The goal was to prevent Japan from starting another “foreign war” in the name of democratization. This “foreign war” initially included the defense of Japan against invasion by other countries. A very thorough and distorted absolute pacifism was adopted.
It is said that many of the staff of MacArthur, the supreme commander of GHQ, were New Dealers. These were people who supported the aggressive macroeconomic policies adopted by US President Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression. In Japan, however, rather than expanding the size of the economy, the main approach was to reform the system and control the economy under the name of “economic democratization.
The size of the pie remained constant, and the challenge was how to make the slice of the pie “fair” from the perspective of GHQ. Please note that the way GHQ looked at Japan is the same as the way the Chinese government looks at the Uyghurs today.
In the midst of this policy of economic democratization and stagnation of Japan, the theory of overpopulation and eugenics became active (see “Japan’s Population Problem: Population Explosion 50 Years Ago” by Tetsuya Yanagisawa, Executive Vice President of Saitama University and “Population and Eugenics Policy in Occupied Japan” by Kiyoko Yamamoto, Professor of Sonoda Gakuen Women’s University). The main actors were of course the GHQ and, especially in the first half of the occupation, the leftist forces and leftist intellectuals who could be called domestic policy partners.
Former Prime Minister Tanzan Ishibashi
As for the GHQ side, the contribution of demographer W.S. Thomson, who came to Japan in 1947, stands out. In his “Dangerous Zone of World Population” (1929), Thomson predicted that overpopulation would cause Japan to go to war. At the behest of President Truman, Thomson conducted fieldwork on Japan’s “overpopulation” problem and published the “Thomson Statement. The statement stated that Japan’s overpopulation could not be met by expanding productivity and trade, and that birth control was necessary. Even if the size of the pie remains constant, a declining population will apparently lead to an increase in the standard of living per capita. In this sense, it was possible to suppress the rearmament of Japan. In the article mentioned above, Yanagisawa points out that
In addition, the Eugenic Protection Law was passed in 1948, and it is difficult to imagine that the legislation was enacted at this time without regard to the intentions of GHQ. In fact, one of the proponents of the eugenic protection bill, Dr. Yazaburo Taniguchi, former president of the Japan Medical Association, explained the reason for the proposal by referring to the comments of Ackerman of the Natural Resources Bureau at GHQ. Therefore, it can be said that the birth control theory was a common view even within GHQ.
Japan’s Population Problem: The Population Explosion 50 Years Ago
The Eugenic Protection Law, passed in 1948, is known as a law with a strong eugenic ideology under the title of “improving the quality of the population. Eugenics here is primarily for the reason of preventing the bringing about of “defective offspring”. The scope of sterilization for the purpose of eugenics was also expanded rapidly, and its harmful effects have remained until today when the law has been repealed (see “Eugenics and Human Society” by Shohei Yonemoto et al. Restrictions on abortion have also been greatly relaxed.
The contribution of leftist intellectuals to this domestic legislation and the subsequent development of eugenics was particularly conspicuous. In particular, the role of Shizue Kato, a member of the Diet who was known as an advocate of birth control before the war and had strong ties to GHQ, was important. The Eugenic Protection Law was a bipartisan proposal, but Kato was at the center of the movement.
Yamamoto pointed out that Kato, who was influenced by Margaret Sanger, contributed to the strengthening of eugenics in the Eugenics Protection Law by raising the issue of reverse selection (an increase in the number of people with inferior genes and a decrease in the number of people with superior genes, a typical eugenicist thought) in postwar Japan. He also said that the GHQ actively approved magazine articles and books about the Birth Control Law.
In other words, while GHQ claimed that the Japanese people were “responsible for themselves,” in reality they were deeply involved in population policy and the dissemination of eugenic ideas, from the passage of the Eugenic Protection Law to the promotion of birth control. Japan’s population reduction policy was defined by the “shadow of GHQ.
This “shadow” continues to have an impact even today. A similar theory of demographic determinism is gaining strength, as if the decline in population will lead to the stagnation of the Japanese economy, with the only difference being the difference between “excess” and “decrease”. However, GHQ was concerned about Japan’s overpopulation in the first place. The 1974 “Trends in the Japanese Population: Toward a Quiescent Population” was compiled by economist Yuzo Yamada, an authority on social security. In 1974, “Trends in the Japanese Population: Toward a Stationary Population” was compiled by economist Yuzo Yamada, an authority on social security.
In the long history of human life, a variety of genes must have been latent. Therefore, the issue of superiority must be emphasized. The eugenic environment is a living environment in which the latent energy of the population’s qualities can be dynamically realized, and it involves not only education, but also clothing, food, and housing, as well as occupations and skills. In economics, there is also the concept of human capital, but this is referred to from the perspective of improving the job skills of individuals, not improving the quality of the population.
Here, it was posited that the population should be reduced. At the same time, the expansion of social security was advocated, but how it would be financially secured was unreflected. In particular, the anti-growth boom of the early 1970s (including the Asahi Shimbun’s “Fuck the GNP” campaign), which focused on pollution and other problems, led to a negative view of the expansion of the economic pie. With the size of the pie fixed, people were more interested in how to allocate it or reduce the number of people to allocate it. In this sense, it was no different from the ideas of GHQ.
The “qualities of the population” or the “quality of the population” can be enhanced in a eugenic environment, which is “a living environment in which the latent energy of the qualities of the population can be dynamically realized. The economist Michio Morishima was a strong advocate of this point of view. Morishima argued that Japan’s downfall was caused by a declining population and a decline in the “quality of the population.
This kind of thinking, in which social movements are derived from the movements of the foundation of population, can be called a historical perspective on population. The most important role in population history is played by pedagogy, not economics. If the quantitative and qualitative composition of the population is determined, then we can consider what kind of economy can be run with such a population. It goes without saying that if the quality of the foundation is poor, the economy will be inefficient and Japan will fall. This is how I predicted the downfall of Japan.
Why Japan is Falling” by Michio Morishima
In order to prevent this decline in the quality of the population and the loss of economic opportunities due to a declining population, Morishima brought up the idea of a Northeast Asian Community. The Northeast Asian Community would be a political, cultural, and military community of Japan, China, the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan, and the Ryukyu Islands, divided into several blocs that would divide the existing “territories. Morishima pointed out that the obstacle to this “Northeast Asian Community” would be nationalistic trends such as Japan’s “perception of history.
Specifically, he pointed to the “rightward shift” in the writing of history textbooks and other phenomena. Morishima’s entire argument is that such a rightward tilt is not right because it goes against the wheel of history toward building a community. In short, Japan should keep pace with China’s perception of history and effectively be swallowed up by the political and economic sphere centered on China. This was also connected to the eugenic ideology that increased the “quality of the population” of the Japanese.
Ryutaro Komiya, an economist, harshly criticized Morishima’s argument, saying that the “quality of the population” was unclear, and that Japan would simply be absorbed by China, which has different values from Japan’s, with no benefit to Japan.
Women from ethnic minorities protest against human rights violations by the Chinese government, March 7, 2021, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo.
However, Morishima’s “quality of population” theory takes on a different meaning when we see the current oppression of ethnic minorities such as the Uighurs in China. It is not only Morishima’s problem. It is a serious lesson that China, Japan and various intellectuals have wrong social and economic views due to population policy and eugenics. We must learn the lesson and raise our voices to help those who are suffering from faulty population policies and distorted eugenics today.