During the 19th century, both Japan and China faced the imminent threat of western imperialism. However, both countries put up a spirited resistance although for different periods and at varying extents. For more than 250 years the punishment for foreign tolerance and support was execution until the Tokugawa class signed an unfair treaty with the US and accepted their entry into the country’s borders. Most Japanese citizens felt oppressed under the leadership of the ruling class, and after a successful uprising, Mutsuhito took over and began a series of changes throughout the empire. However, in China things were a bit different; the opium wars that occurred from 1839 to 1860 weakened the kingdom pushing it to allow foreigners to penetrate its borders. This paper aims to explore the extent to which Japan and China varyingly responded to foreign domination in c. 1750 and c. 1900.
In China, the Opium Wars caused too much damage to the existing systems, and the kingdom was in ruins. The British managed to continue their trade in Opium throughout the region even though effects were too detrimental to the nation. Weakened China could not prevent further invasion by the foreigners, and this led to western navies setting up residence in strategic locations. The Chinese people were resentful of the growing number of Christians even though they didn’t have a visible religion they could call theirs. The public grew bitterer especially after the Chinese administration afforded the British the favored status and the legalization of opium that continue to claim more people’s lives. At this stage, the Chinese response was significantly on a decline.
Unlike in China, the Japanese speedily welcomed foreigners with open arms. Immediately after the defeat of the Tokugawa, Mutsuhito instituted the launch of a westernized constitution which publicized the inclusion of all classes of people in the ruling of the state and, the introduction of individual rights and freedoms that protected every citizen. The influence of western countries like the US on the development of the constitution was notable. Elements such as the rights against unreasonable searches and the freedom of speech were essential aspects of the American Constitution. Modernization took place in Japan as a result of the monarch consolidating its power of the government. In 1873 to 1876, the emperor made significant and drastic changes socially, economically, all through to the military of the empire.
Firstly, it was a familiar sight to spot Mutsuhito donning western-looking military uniforms accessorized by shiny medals and a sword by the hand. Mutsuhito also abandoned the traditional social class of the samurai and replaced it with a new army with new and modern weaponry. It was a clear sign of the direction the leader intended for the country. He reinforced this message by launching a complete overhaul on the infrastructural systems such as the railroads and telegraph lines. The Japanese also embraced the western calendar and tolerated Christianity to a significant extent. At this point, the whole empire thrived on the new era of western industrialization, and there was no sign of negative response to foreign domination.
However, China continued its opposition especially through rebellions that thought the government as weak. The rulers continued a spirited fight with a series of revolutions such as the self-strengthening Movement, supported by The Qing which aimed at increasing China’s capacity by injecting more knowledge and resources into local factories, schools, and railroads. Unfortunately, it became too challenging for them to compete with the pervasiveness of western values in public. In 1912, the hapless rebellion of The Boxers which involved the killing of foreigners ended embarrassingly together with the monarch paving the way for a smooth for successful modernization of the region. Although there was a time when both Japan and China resisted the invasion of foreigners in an absolute fashion, the Japanese changed with the strengthening of the monarchial government while Chinese suffered multiple defeats but still opposed causing the region a hefty blow on progress. The Chinese resisted to a much significant degree, but the internal disputes in the country caused the existing system to collapse. On the other hand, Japan matched on to the 20th century as an active and aggressive imperial power.