In the 1930s, what common factors did Japan, Italy, and Germany have?

Travel Destinations

By Caroline Lascom

In the 1930s, Japan, Italy, and Germany began to assert themselves on the world stage, each pursuing their respective goals of national glory and expansion. These nations shared a number of common factors that helped to shape their domestic policies, foreign relations, and ideologies during this tumultuous decade.

Economic struggles and political instability

All three countries faced significant economic struggles and political instability during the 1930s. Japan, still reeling from the Great Depression, suffered from high unemployment, inflation, and debt. Italy’s economy was similarly hampered by the global economic downturn, while its government was plagued by corruption and paralysis. Germany, meanwhile, was still grappling with the aftermath of the Treaty of Versailles, which had imposed harsh reparations and territorial losses on the defeated nation.

Nationalist and expansionist ideologies

In response to these economic and political challenges, all three nations embraced nationalist and expansionist ideologies that emphasized the importance of military strength, territorial expansion, and national greatness. Japan, for example, sought to establish its dominance over East Asia through a policy of "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere," which aimed to liberate Asian nations from Western imperialism. Italy, under the leadership of Benito Mussolini, pursued a policy of "Romanita," which sought to revive the glory of the Roman Empire. Germany, led by Adolf Hitler, espoused a virulent form of nationalism that emphasized the superiority of the "Aryan" race and the need to expand eastward to create Lebensraum, or living space.

Militarization and arms buildup

To achieve their expansionist goals, all three countries embarked on massive militarization programs and arms buildups. Japan, for example, invested heavily in its navy, which it saw as essential to its ambitions in the Pacific. Italy, likewise, focused on building up its military, especially its air force, to project power across the Mediterranean. Germany, meanwhile, rapidly expanded its army and air force, investing in innovative new technologies such as tanks and dive bombers.

Aggressive foreign policies

As their military strength grew, all three countries pursued increasingly aggressive foreign policies that brought them into conflict with other nations. Japan, for example, invaded Manchuria in 1931 and China proper in 1937, sparking a full-scale war that would last for years. Italy, meanwhile, invaded Ethiopia in 1935, seeking to establish a colonial empire in Africa. And Germany, emboldened by its military might, began to challenge the territorial integrity of neighboring countries such as Austria and Czechoslovakia.

Attempts at empire-building

All three nations also sought to build empires that would extend their influence and control over large swathes of territory. Japan’s Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere aimed to create a pan-Asian empire that would rival the Western powers. Italy, similarly, sought to establish a new Roman Empire that would encompass the Mediterranean and beyond. Germany, for its part, sought to create a European empire that would dominate the continent and expand eastward into Russia.

Alliance-building between the three nations

Recognizing their shared interests and goals, Japan, Italy, and Germany formed an alliance in 1936 known as the Axis Powers. This alliance aimed to counter the influence of the Western powers and create a new world order based on the principles of fascism, militarism, and imperialism.

Anti-communist and anti-democratic movements

All three nations were also united in their opposition to communism and democracy, which they saw as threats to their respective ideologies and ambitions. Japan, for example, saw communism as a dangerous import from the Soviet Union that needed to be stamped out. Italy, likewise, saw democracy as a weak and corrupt form of government that needed to be replaced by a strong fascist state. And Germany, under Hitler’s leadership, saw both communism and democracy as part of a Jewish-Bolshevik plot to undermine the German nation.

Use of propaganda and censorship

To shape public opinion and control the narrative, all three countries relied heavily on propaganda and censorship. Japan’s government-controlled media, for example, portrayed its military aggression as a necessary defense against Western imperialism. Italy’s fascist regime used propaganda to promote Mussolini as a charismatic leader who embodied the spirit of the Roman Empire. And Germany’s Nazi regime used propaganda to demonize Jews, communists, and other perceived enemies of the state.

Suppression of dissent and political opposition

To maintain their grip on power and silence dissent, all three nations also engaged in widespread suppression of political opposition and dissident voices. Japan’s government, for example, cracked down on labor unions and leftist groups, while Italy’s fascist regime imprisoned or exiled critics and dissidents. And Germany’s Nazi regime suppressed all forms of dissent and opposition, using concentration camps and other brutal tactics to silence its critics.

Growing influence of fascist ideology

Throughout the 1930s, fascist ideology gained increasing influence and popularity in Japan, Italy, and Germany, shaping their policies, institutions, and cultural norms. Fascism emphasized the importance of strong leadership, centralized authority, and obedience to the state, often at the expense of individual rights and freedoms.

Prelude to World War II

By the end of the 1930s, the aggressive foreign policies, military buildups, and expansionist ambitions of Japan, Italy, and Germany had brought the world to the brink of war. The invasion of Poland by Germany in 1939 marked the beginning of World War II, an unprecedented global conflict that would shape the course of history for decades to come.

Photo of author

Caroline Lascom

Caroline is a seasoned travel writer and editor, passionate about exploring the world. She currently edits captivating travel content at TravelAsker, having previously contributed her exceptional skills to well-known travel guidebooks like Frommer’s, Rough Guides, Footprint, and Fodor’s. Caroline holds a bachelor's degree in Latin American studies from Manchester University (UK) and a master's degree in literature from Northwestern University. Having traveled to 67 countries, her journeys have fueled her love for storytelling and sharing the world's wonders.

Leave a Comment