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By Antony Best (auth.)

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Additional resources for British Intelligence and the Japanese Challenge in Asia, 1914–1941

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14 Race was, therefore, important in the period immediately following the Russo-Japanese War because Britain saw the Japanese as the most virile and highly evolved of the Asian races, and thus as the greatest potential threat. This fear of Japan manifested itself in the political and military spheres in a number of ways. One key concern was that the Japanese community in South-East Asia was preparing the way for conquest. Important in this respect was the development of one of the most pervasive racial stereotypes of the Japanese, the belief that they were naturally over-curious and inclined to indulge in intelligence activities.

Cardew of the Royal Engineers, who, as one of his contemporaries noted, was ‘a great Japanese scholar’ as well as being proficient in Chinese, having studied as a language officer in both Tokyo and Peking. When the inquiry from Tokyo about posting an agent to Japan was received, Cardew had not yet arrived in India. 21 The British suspicion of Japan was also evident in its increasing wariness about exchanging information with the Japanese armed forces. From the start of the alliance the British had been determined that intelligence exchanges should be confined to confidential rather than secret information.

This fear of Japan manifested itself in the political and military spheres in a number of ways. One key concern was that the Japanese community in South-East Asia was preparing the way for conquest. Important in this respect was the development of one of the most pervasive racial stereotypes of the Japanese, the belief that they were naturally over-curious and inclined to indulge in intelligence activities. This distrust of the Japanese arose for a number of reasons. One factor was the propensity of Japanese to engage in areas of employment, such as fishing and photography, which could provide cover for espionage.

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