Compare and contrast the ways in which Japan and China responded to western imperialism between 1890 and the start of World War II
After a long period of isolationism, many non-western countries, including Japan and China, had been left behind technologically and in military expertise. The famous industrial revolution in Europe and the United States worsened the situation creating a big gap between these two Asian countries and developed western nations.
By the beginning of the 19th century, the pressure from the western countries to modernize and industrialize had intensified. By this time, Japan and China had lagged in advancement and had no power to stand against the western nations. Eventually, the pressure forced both countries to sign unequal treaties to open foreign trade and relations. Both countries had, for many years, maintained isolationism with minimal commerce with the western nations. And while both countries were under similar pressure to develop, their response was very different.
The first major difference is that Japan had a swifter and more receptive response to western imperialism. Japan realized that it had to modernize, industrialize, and collaborate with the western nations. China, on the other hand, did not fully understand the need to modernize and industrialize. So instead of cooperating, China was very unreceptive towards the Western countries through the Boxer Rebellion. This caused China to lag behind Japan both economically and technologically.
Another notable difference is that Japan was successfully able to industrialize and modernize, unlike China. The Meiji restoration in 1868 was central in ensuring the success of the industrial revolution in Japan. The Meiji leaders realized that Japan needed more power to stand a chance with the western countries, and this power could only be acquired through modernization and industrialization. Japan opened foreign relations allowing foreign technicians into their countries and sending their own to the western countries to learn more. Japan being more receptive and accepting, promoted industrialization, and therefore successfully completed its industrial revolution. China, on the contrary, thought that their economy was already thriving and did not need industrialization. Initially, China also implemented various western innovations, including railroads and military weapons. However, this happened on a very limited scale compared to Japan and impacted a very small portion of the population resulting in an incomplete industrial revolution in China.
It is interesting how these two almost similar civilizations reacted differently to the same historical event. While both countries were under pressure from western nations, Japan was able to see the benefits of the industrial revolution, cooperated, and successfully modernized. China failed to understand the need to change and therefore rejected the full impact of western imperialism.