The Paths of China and Japan in the Second Half of the 19th Century

ThePaths of China and Japan in the Second Half of the 19thCentury

Duringthe second half of the 19thcentury, China and Japan were confronted with opportunities to breaktheir isolation. In the economic sector, there was the pressure toallow foreign trade and relations. While the West needed to expandtheir trade across the world, the two East Asian countries were leftbehind regarding technology and military (Brown and John 10). Theycould not be compared to the Europeans and the United States as thetwo continents had experienced an industrial revolution.

Thetwo countries ended up signing unequal treaties to open their Ports.However, they had taken different directions to arrive at theresults. It attracted the attention of historians on the twodifferent processes that involved a common historical event towardsthe similar civilization of the two East Asian countries. The Chineseresisted the pressure while the Japanese yielded to the pressure (Pae66).As a result, Japan became modernized while China was left behind. Theessay will focus on the different ways of reaction as well as thereasons behind their disparity in reaction(Pae 66).

Whenthe two countries were pressured to engage in foreign trade, therewas an incongruity in reaction. To begin with, China resisted. In thebeginning, China was receptive to foreign trade. However, the Westwas not lucky. They were confined to Canton where they were to dealwith a specific group of traders(Amend 53).On the other hand, Japan allowed foreign trade with the Dutch only.These restrictions made the West pressurize their intention. Chinawas very rich in resources. Therefore, it was a major target to theGreat Britain. The British targeted to trade with China.

Accordingto Cohen (249) Napier, who had been sent by the British governmenthad little knowledge of the situation at Guangzhou. He had been askedto request for a more open trade with China. In China the Co-Hongmerchants had been given the mandate to handle the foreign tradeaffairs. Napier ignored the protocol and demanded to be addressed bythe Qing. On refusal to address the matter, Napier initiated war,putting in place two warships. China managed to block the twowarships(Amend 53).When Napier retrieved to Macao and requested for reinforcement fromIndia. A few months later he died of malaria and peace was restored.The China and British merchants continued with their trade. However,the British traders demanded their government send some troops tohelp them demand their right to trade. The government did not heed tothe plea as they needed a peaceful transaction with the China.

DaoguangEmperor decided to ban the trade and usage of opium in 1838. Heclaimed that the use of drugs had led to moral decay. He did thiswith the hope to restore the morality in China. In 1939, he sent thenew imperial commissioner Lin to confiscate opium traders fromBritain (Cohen 251). There was the accusation of the merchants alsorefusing to hand over a British merchant who had killed a Chinese. Asa result, there was some tension that led to the first Opium War. Linmanaged to harass the British merchants until they surrendered theopium that he washed away in the sea (Cohen 251). Ignoring the factthat the British government was taking reinforcement from India, heconcluded that they were too far from a fight-back. However, aconstant plea of the merchants interested in China made the Britishto fight back. Though Lin had prepared for retaliation, they weredefeated. During the negotiation, the Chinese government was forcedto compensate the lost opium. They were also forced to allow trade toproceed in China. The British, having triumphed in the opium war, aninequality treaty was signed called Nanjing (Cohen 251).

Japandid not resist the pressure from the United States on foreign trade.Commodore Perry was sent by the U.S government to request the Japangovernment to open their ports for trade. Two years later, theyreceived a positive response that the Japanese had agreed to thedemands, and they were ready for the negotiations(Brown 15).On negotiation, the two nations signed the treaty of Kanagawa. Thetwo East Asian countries were now open to foreign trade andnegotiations.

Thereare various reasons that led to the difference in the processes. Tobegin with, China had more resources than Japan. Therefore, theindustrialized countries had earlier interest in China. Therefore,they began with China to pressure for open trade and when Chinaresisted, there was war. Due to superiority regarding weaponry, theywere eventually defeated. They ended up signing the treaty after agreat loss of people(Brown 17).Japan was confronted later. They had learned that the West was moreindustrialized and that they were subject to surrender. Therefore,they decided to agree with the terms without risking their lives.

Chinahad limited knowledge about the industrial powers of the West. Theydepended on the ancient books that carried ancient knowledge. Theybelieved that the West had not evolved regarding military and,therefore, they thought that they could easily manage them (Amend54).They had also had no prior experience of their superiority. On theother hand, Japan had prior knowledge about the industrialization ofthe United States. Therefore, they knew they had to compromise. Theyhad also learned a lesson from the Chinese resistance.

Afterthe treaties, Japan became modernized, but China retained theirconservative culture. Unlike China, Japan had an interest in learningthe culture of the west. They were receptive to the knowledge theyhad. The Chinese believed so much in their culture, such that anyother culture was treated as a minority (Brown and John 10).Therefore, despite the trading with the British, they did not getcivilized immediately. China wanted to be more reserved in theirculture. All non-Chinese were considered to be barbarians as theChinese had very high esteem towards their culture. Apart from beingso conservative, China was large. Therefore, it was difficult topenetrate considering that there was a small population that wasinvolved in the trade. The rest had little or no contact with theoutside world hence modernization was difficult (Brown and John 10).

Inconclusion, the two East Asian countries, Japan and China hadsimilarities in their civilizations. They were confronted by theUnited States and Europe respectively, for an open trade. However,the two countries took different paths which resulted in the KanagawaTreaty with Japan and Nanjing Treaty by China. These two treaties ledto open foreign trade. However, Japan became modernized while Chinastuck to their culture. China being a large country with a largepopulation, it could not manage adequate contact with modernization.Also, they were so reserved to their culture that they regardedmodernization barbaric.


Cohen,Warren I. EastAsia at the Center: Four Thousand Years of Engagement with the World.New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

Brown,Ju, and John Brown. China,Japan, Korea: Culture and Customs.North Charleston, South Carolina: Book Surge, 2009. Print.

Amend,Allison. Asian-AmericanWriters.New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishers, 2010. Print.

Brown,Sidney D. Japan`sTransition to the Twenty-First Century.Denver, Colo: Center for Japan Studies at Teikyo Loretto HeightsUniversity, 2010. Print.

Pae,Chŏng-ho. China`sStrategic Environment and External Relations in the TransitionPeriod., 2014. Print.