In the middle of the 19th century, despite a few similarities between the initial responses of China and Japan to the West, they later diverged; which ultimately affected and influenced the modernizing development of both countries. At first, both of the Asian nations rejected the ideas which the West had brought upon them, and therefore went through a time period of self-imposed isolation. However, the demands that were soon set by Western imperialism forced them, though in different ways, to reconsider. And, by the end of the 19th century both China and Japan had introduced ‘westernizing’ reforms. China’s aim was to use modern means to retain and preserve their traditional Confucian culture. Whereas Japan, on the other hand, began to successfully mimic Western technology as it pursued modernization, and thus underwent an astounding social upheaval. Hence, by the year 1920, Japan was recognized as one of the world’s superpowers, whereas China was on the edge of anarchy.
The Chinese empire had once been one of the greatest and most powerful empires in the world. Before the 19th century, China had a large population and was ruled by families or dynasties. It was considered technologically advanced as China had a history of many miraculous inventions, such as: writing, magnetic compasses, movable sails, porcelain, abacus and paper money. Although China was isolated from the rest of the world, it coped well on its own, and saw no need to begin trading with the west, (as Lord McCartney proposed in 1793), since it was a self-sufficient nation. At that particular time, the Chinese empire was still able to exclude the ‘barbarians’, thus forcing them to only trade at one port. However, China soon took a turn for the worst as important developments took place in the 19th century. The population increased rapidly; in 1700 there were only 100 million people, whereas by the year 1850 it had increased to a whopping 300 percent; 400 million people. Due to this sudden population increase, many people faced starvation and famine, and the peasants rebelled as there was a shortage of food production.
In the meantime, the industrial revolution took place in many countries in Europe. Soon enough, steam and electrical power had been invented. The King of England, George the third, then sent an ambassador to the emperor of China to create a trading agreement. Although at the first, the emperor disagreed, he eventually said yes, and China began trading their porcelain and tea in return for silver from European merchants. When the European merchants found that the silver was too expensive, they introduced the sale of cotton. China tried to resist all foreign, economic and political penetrations by inhibiting foreign trade. However, though China tried to seal itself off from the rest of the world, it also invited an even more devastating penetration: the Opium War.
In 1820, european merchants bought opium from India, and began trading it to the Chinese. The...