Overview of Asia from 1945 to the Present

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  • 0:01 Asia Since 1945
  • 0:50 Japan Since 1945
  • 2:20 China Since 1945
  • 4:15 South Asia Since 1945
  • 5:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In this lesson, you will explore the general experiences of nations in Asia since the end of World War II in 1945. Then, test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Asia Since 1945

I am willing to bet that you can look around you right now and find something that was made in China or something that was developed in Japan. The nations of Asia are major players in the global culture, politics and economy of our world. How did it get to be this way?

In the 1940s, the world went to war. I mean, this war really involved the entire world. I bet you can guess which war I'm talking about. That's right, World War II (WWII). For the first time, Eastern and Western nations were really thrown together into one giant war. After the war ended in 1945, the world was changed. The United States and the Soviet Union were the new dominant powers, much of Europe was devastated and Asia began a period of transition that would redefine the modern era.

Japan Since 1945

Japan was considered a major aggressor of World War II, really bringing Asia into the conflict with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. After being devastated by America's use of atomic bombs, Japan surrendered in August of 1945. The United States occupied Japan, turning it from an empire into a democratic state and beginning to rebuild its government and economy. Japan created a new constitution in 1947 and, in 1952, became a sovereign nation once again.

This did not mean that America's relationship with the new Japan ended. Japan was left without a military, and the USA got to keep a few naval bases on Japan in order to protect the still-recovering nation. The United States became the official military protectors of Japan in 1960. Without the need to build a military, Japan was able to focus on rebuilding its economy, which it did at a remarkable rate. Japanese industries boomed, and they quickly became one of the most important producers in the world.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Japan's economy grew at such an incredible rate that it was termed the Japanese economic miracle by historians. Even more impressive was the fact that Japan was able to maintain strong cultural stability throughout this period, developing progressive policies to maintain quality of life in the new industrial era. To this day, Japan remains a major producer and integral member of the global economy and culture.

China Since 1945

China's story after World War II was different. China was invaded by Japan during WWII, resulting in extremely violent exchanges. China emerged victorious, but was completely devastated from the war. The country's land had been destroyed, their economy was ruined and their government was in shambles. China broke into a civil war, from which the Communist Party, led by Mao Zedong, rose to power in 1949.

Mao Zedong renamed the nation the People's Republic of China and turned it into a communist nation. Mao tried to encourage massive population growth after the devastating wars and created a major economic and social reform project called the Great Leap Forward to industrialize China. China's population doubled, but the industrial changes led to immense poverty and starvation. Up to 45 million Chinese people died in these years. Mao's next project, the Cultural Revolution, was designed to take China off the capitalist market and give China a communist culture. This was met with massive social upheaval lasting until Mao's death in 1976.

After the death of Mao Zedong, China loosened its economic policy and allowed for a mixed economy. Although still communist, they embraced elements of the open market and began a new era of improved relationships with capitalist nations, including the United States. Their current constitution was adopted in 1982.

In the 1990s, Chinese industry grew quickly and helped to drastically reduce the nation's poverty rate. China has made a dramatic impact on the world market as a producer and consumer of global products. While their social policies are greatly improving, China is still working to address difficult issues of industrialization such as pollution and rapid urbanization.

South Asia Since 1945

Since 1945, much of Asia has experienced growth and social innovation. This does not mean, however, that there are no longer major struggles to resolve. Several nations of Southern Asia have undergone periods of immense upheaval after World War II, largely due to the end of European colonialism. Before the war, colonialism was accepted by most of the world, but this changed by 1945.

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