Are there examples of powerful nations that did not become expansionist?

I suppose more generally I want to know, when a people has the means to overpower or control another group do they always opt to do it? In Europe most nations were either dominant over other European nations or had colonies on different continents. The Japanese, as arguably the most powerful and advanced nation in Asia attempted to carve out an empire in the east.
Are there any historical exceptions to this trend, or am I misreading the trend?

Well currently Iran.

The United States, at least in the last century. Can you think of any new territory the U.S. gained through conquest?

Yes, quite a bit, but it has been called ‘economic aid’.

:dubious: What territories would those be exactly?
I can’t think of any truely powerful nation that hasn’t become expansionist eventually. The US went through our expansionist period (such as it was) early on and continued up through the late 19th and early 20th century. Europe of course is the poster child for expansionism. China has also toyed with expansionism (Tibet), as has Japan as the OP noted.

I was going to say Egypt, but I can think of a few periods where they were expansionist. For my part I can’t think of a single example of a major power that wasn’t expansionist at least sometime in its history. Just some are/were worse than others.


What, you mean the Marshall Plan? Help out other countries so they didn’t get taken over by the Soviets? You honestly consider that “expansionism”?

What territorial gains has the US made recently? What countries have we annexed? If you say “Iraq” then you’re thinking way too short-term, because our current occupation of Iraq is not going to lead to de-facto annexation, any more than our decade-long war in Vietnam lead to annexation of Vietnam, or our support for the Shah lead to annexation of Iran, rather the opposite.

Well Iraq currently. Any country that loses sovereignty in the name of aid.

The Phillipines & Samoa.

They got The Phillipines in 1898 I believe.

I would say Hawaii and the Alaskan Territories would be better examples in the spirit of the OP.

I must have missed when they became a territory. Do you have a cite for it perhaps? When did the colonization start? Do they have a US territorial governor or are we formally anexing them…and if so, when will they get their representatives in Congress and the Senate?

Or, IOW :rolleyes:


Could Switzerland have gone around bullying their neighbours?

Well, those Swiss mercenaries sure got around back in the day.

America is a country that was literally built on expansionism. From the extermination/conquest of the Native Americans to the Mexican-American War, this country was built on conquest.

Britain was never expansionist. Those natives begged us to conquer them. They were grateful for our assistance!

Seriously though, with the tragic exception of Tibet, China has been extraordinarily restrained over the last few centuries, given its size and power.

At a certain point they decided it was easier to meddle in the economies of vassals than officially govern them. It’s still expansionist with a legal loophole. If they lack sovereignty and have to make their laws subservient to our economic needs then they are a vassal, regardless of how the bureaucracy is labeled.

They did,when they could get away with it. It is important to note that Switzerland expanded by conquest as well as by voluntary incorporation, carving little blocks of land off neighbors such as Savoy, Burgundy or Milan.

Actually I’d say the Phillipines are a fine example, insomuch as folks such as Emilio Aguinaldo quite forcefully resisted American incorporation.

What you missed is the OP. He/she clearly defined expansionist in terms of control–not in terms of territory. If I use your definition, then the USSR’s actions in East Germany or Poland during the Cold War were not expansionist.

Disagree, depending on what you mean by “last few centuries.” Nearly half of modern China was conquered in the 17th and 18th centuries, the last foreign adventure being punitive expeditions against Nepal in the 1790’s. It was economic and political turmoil that slowed China throwing their weight around in the 19th, is all.

Panama Canal Zone - acquired 1903.

China invaded India in 1963 and annexed Indian territory.