The to stand up to the WesternThe to stand up to the Western

The Industrial
Revolution in the United States and in Europe had leaved Japan and China behind
them as well technologically and militarily : neither of Japan or China had the
power to stand up to the Western nations. As consequence by the end of the 19th
century and after its isolationism and under West’s pressure, China and Japan
have begun to open to foreign trade and relations, forced to open ports and
cities to the West’s merchants.  This both
nations with civilization seemed so similar didn’t accept the West and both
nations limited their trade with other countries but the main differences in
China and Japan’s response to the West were that Japan quickly modernized while
China failed to. Japan built also a strong army and navy. By having a look on
China then Japan historic journey over these years the difference how each
nation’s decision to respond how the West had affected the East.


            Few foreign trade was welcomed in
China, limited to the area of Canton where foreign marchants were only allowed
to deal with a group of traders : the Co-Hong ( Edwardes, 1973). In 1834  Lord Napier was in charge by Britain to
negociate more open space for trade without success ; later the discovering of
20 000 chests of opium from the British increased the tension, dragging
the beginning of the opium war. The Chinese defeated and they were obliged to
sign unequal treaties which endured until 1943: China opened ports, applied
moderate customs fees, recognized a status of extraterritoriality to some
concessions, placed under the authority of foreign consuls, and ceded some
territories ( Hong Kong by lease.) The defeat by Japan, in 1895, which took over
the Korea, Formosa, and other Chinese territories was experienced as a terrible
humiliation and the announcement of the “rush” of foreigners to carve
up the country “breakup of China” – dislocation – in Chinese
“sharing of the Melon”: German, French, English, Russian, seized
portions of the empire, were conceding the construction of railways, mining,
the collection of taxes. Right after the Taiping rebellion in 1864 China start
to implement innovations from the West and modernize its structures,
nevertheless this happened on a smaller scale than in Japan. Another fact was
the lack of education:  China’s
government discouraged cultural and global education and pushed people to limit
their knowledge to following orthodox texts. Texts wrote during the Ming
dynasty (14-16 centuries) with an old view of the world. After the 1911
revolution and the last emperor’s abdication, establishing a dictatorial power
brought China into a new era during the first world war. An economic boom held
from 1917 to 1922 and concerns only the coastal cities. It is explained by:
Chinese entrepreneurs ( cloth and tobacco) who go to the windback of the
domestic market abandoned by the Western-led industrial development ;  the revaluation of the Chinese currency – silver
– related to the global shortage of this metal since 1913. The city of Shanghai
was the top-place of this revival: electric lighting, tramway, cars,
commercials, as well as cinemas… Che Duxiu, who has studied at
university-based magazine ‘new youth’ written to abandon this traditional
culture and modernize emergency and in depth to continue to exist. A young
teacher, Mao Zedong wrote an article in the magazine to denounce forced
marriages. He says that he must reject the “junk”, the legacy of
Confucius (religion without transcendence and philosophy of respect for the
hierarchies which inspired imperial governements of Yuan Shikai), turn to
Western science, do confidence in youth. Peking University (Beida), where Chen
Duxiu teaches letters, was the spearhead of this movement. Enter the Marxist
and anarchist ideas, social Darwinism (theme of the possible extinction of the
Chinese race), or liberal.

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 Even though Japan was closed to foreign
influence for more than two centuries Japan at this time was attentive to
western changes. Unlike Chinese, the Japanese authorities accepted to negociate
with United States in 1854, one year after the ultimatum to open its ports. (Storry,
1960). Japan moves abruptly from the medieval world to the modern world in
1868. This is the beginning of the era Meiji with many reforms: abolition of
the feudal system, proclamation of equality before the law, compulsory
education. The Japan may rely on a population well trained to carry out the
transformation of society. Due to fear of Christian influence books had been banned
but these laws were relaxed until Dutch studies gained recognition. Japan was
interested to gain knowledge both about and from the West. By the end of the 18th
century “there were students of the West in every part of Japan” (Keene, 1969)
Nevertheless Japan’s exposure with the West was limited to the Netherlands. Like
other powers, the Japan’s imperialist policy. To deal with a very strong population
growth, the expansion becomes necessary. The Japan therefore annex the Islands
and neighboring territories (Taiwan, Korea) after the demonstration of strength
by beating the Chinese in 1895 and the Russians in 1905. Japan takes advantage
of World War I, seizing German possessions in the Pacific and developing its
industry. Conquests continue in Manchuria (1931) and in China from 1937.

 Finally there
is two main differences of reactions to Western influence between Japan and
China. Japan has gone through a modernization process and became and industrialized
power while China failed to do. Being the biggest in its region had given China
the belief that it was the center of the world. The Chinese officials couldn’t
understand the modernization that had occurred in the West during the
Industrial Revolution. All “non-chinese” were considered inferior and “barbarian”
like population of the West even with military power.  The second difference, probably the most important
, was historical timing as the first Opium war took place more than ten years
before the West started to force Japan to end its ports closures. Due to
education of its reformist elite and its pluralistic political system the
Japanese officials were able to assess their situation in relation to the
Western powers and to make decision based on facts instead of prejudices. On the
opposite the Chinese society – deeply divided – did not have an educated middle
class to drive the nation to industrialization.

            In conclusion China and  Japan responded very differently to pressure
from the West in the 19th century. Japan increased opening of trade
relation and successfully modernized while China remained in the past as
consequence inputs from the West occurs more time to impact population.