What possible reasons might explain why there was no equivalent to Japan's Meiji Restoration in China?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I would argue that there are at least two reasons for this.

First, China was a much less feudal and decentralized system that Japan.  This meant that there were not any regional lords who had the same kind of clout and legitimacy that the lords of places like Satsuma and Choshu did.  This meant that there was less possibility of an uprising led by such lords.

Second, China did not have a figure with the kind of legitimacy that the Japanese emperor had.  In Japan, the shoguns ruled, but everyone respected the emperor as well so there was an obvious figure around whom rebels could rally.  In China, there was no such figure.

Japan, then, had a system that made a controlled revolution much more possible while China had a system that was much more monolithic and less easily changed.

moustacio's profile pic

moustacio | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

The Qing government remained largely conservative and proved unwilling to adopt Western technologies and ideas, as rapidly as the Japanese state had done under the Meiji Restoration. In their eyes, the West were still viewed as barbarians - Chinese cultural pride was simply too deeply ingrained in Chinese society for them to stoop down to the level of the barbarians to learn from them. Such attitudes blinded many Chinese officials and prevented them from seeing the need for fundamental change in China. There was thus no significant industrialisation and little willingness from the Qing authorities to abandon their traditional imperial institutions, since that would only severely weaken their political power. The government in China at that time was simply too conservative and backward-looking in nature to have undertaken an effort as great as the Meiji Restoration, in China - they only sought to retain their power and to repel the West by isolating China from foreigners.

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