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(JAPANESE POLITICS and SOCIETY, to 1927 – continued)

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JAPANESE POLITICS and SOCIETY, to 1927 (8 of 9)

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Prosperity, Liberalism and Conservatism

In May 1924, President Coolidge signed into law an act that excluded Japanese immigration. Not many Japanese wanted to migrate to the United States, but some of Japan's newspapers denounced the law as a "grave insult" and as a "deliberate slap in the face." Some Japanese denounced the law as "harsh, cruel and unjust" and a "glaring breach of international etiquette." Japan lodged a formal protest through its embassy in Washington, and the Japanese began a boycott of American goods.

But soon the Japanese abandoned their boycott – after learning that it was hurting themselves. Japan was borrowing money from the United States and elsewhere in the West for reconstruction after the earthquake, and in 1924 Japan was beginning to prosper again, much of the prosperity dependent upon international trade.

Americans, meanwhile, were investing in Japanese companies, and Japanese companies were creating combinations with American companies. General Electric combined with Shibaura Electric Works. Western Electric combined with Nippon Electric Light. Ford Motor set up a plant in Yokohama. And the Aluminum Company of America owned 60 percent of the shares of the Asia Aluminum Company.

Japan's trade with Taiwan, Korea, China and Manchuria was significant for Japan, but Japan was becoming increasingly dependent on trade with the West. Japan's exports to the United States were growing most rapidly. Japan's silk industry was benefiting from the prosperity that had returned to the United States. Textiles were becoming Japan's leading export, and in Japan the textile industry became a leading employer. Japan was also exporting china and porcelain, which it was manufacturing in line with Western tastes. Japan was producing more iron and steel, and it was increasing its importation of materials needed for manufacturing – including scrap iron from the United States. And Japan needed to import more food.

The prosperity of the 1920s benefited political liberalism in Japan. Japan's workforce was happier. In 1925 all males over twenty-five who were not indigent were given the right to vote, and in 1926 Japan created a National Health Insurance law. But another law was passed called the Peace Preservation Law, intended to mollify conservatives, particularly those in the House of Peers. The Peace Preservation Law made it illegal to advocate the abolishment of private property or the creation of a different political structure. And, the Peace Preservation Law set up military training at universities and high schools. Meanwhile, Rightist organizations grew in response to the growing materialism and prosperity. One of these organizations was founded by Baron Hiranuma Kiichiro, son of a low-ranking samurai, with a degree in English law from Tokyo Imperial University and vice president of the Privy Council, which advised the emperor. His society sent representatives through Japan lecturing in favor of the revival of Japan's spiritual values.

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