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The Nature And Characteristics Of The Meiji Modernization

707 words - 3 pages

The Nature and Characteristics of the Meiji Modernization

The samurai leaders, mainly Satsuma and Choshu men’ who engineered and
led the Meiji Restoration had no pre-conceived program of social and
economic reforms in mind - i.e. the developments in the post-1868
period were not planned before the Restoration. The Meiji Restoration
(1868) was essentially a political samurai movement aiming at the
destruction of the Shogun’s power so as to effect a new national unity
in resistance to western encroachment. After the restoration, the task
of national defence fell on that group of men who now dominated the
government (the Meiji oligarchy). If they failed in resisting the
western challenge, then, they might be attacked by their enemies as
they themselves had attacked the shogun in the Bakumatsu period
(1853-1868). Thus, the new oligarchy devoted all their efforts -
‘Rich Country and a Strong Army’ (Fukoku Kyohei). Subsequently, all
developments - political, economic, social, educational, military -
were directed to this specification. In other words, the Meiji
modernization is a ‘goal-oriented’ process.

The first important point to note is that the Meiji modernization is a
‘defensive modernization’. Its aim is to achieve national independence
and security by building up the nation’s strength and thus forcing the
Occidental Powers to give up the ‘unequal treaties’ especially as the
existence of ‘extra-territoriality’ and ‘fixed tariff’ in the post
1868 period constantly reminded the Japanese of the impending foreign
threat. Not surprisingly, the Meiji government gave special emphasis
to the development of heavy and strategic industries (ship-building,
building of arsenal etc.) immediately after the Restoration since they
realized that the new western force could only be overcome by
technological superiority (not cultural superiority). Because of the
urgent need to get rid of the western threat, the Meiji...

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