Analyze and compare the differing responses of China and Japan to western penetration in the nineteenth century
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Both China and Japan had faced similar challenges from the West (both faced severe challenges from Western imperial powers and ended up signing unequal treaties with the West, with the new foreign presence instilling new waves of domestic turbulence) but had responded in very different ways. The elites of both countries responded to the challenges posed by Western penetration by initiating reforms. In Japan, the Meiji regime chose to remake themselves entirely through Westernisation, while in China, the Qing government chose instead to hold on to traditional Chinese values and institutions. China’s efforts at reforms, including the Self-Strengthening Movements and the Tongzhi Restoration, were in essential traditional answers to traditional problems. There was no significant, large-scale industrialisation in China and the Machus displayed little willingness to abandon traditional imperial institutions that were incapable to dealing with contemporary problems. Chinese cultural pride was just too deeply ingrained, so much so that it became an impediment, blinding many Chinese and preventing them from recognising the need to learn from the barbarians and for fundamental change. On the other hand, Japanese efforts to adopt foreign technology to meet their military and industrial needs were largely successful. The Meiji regime, however, saw that military technology and industrialisation could not be separated from institutional structures that had produced and accompanied such developments in the West, and showed little hesitation in transforming or abolishing traditional institutions in favour of those that could give Japan the modernity it needed to survive. Overall, the Meiji Restoration was a tremendous success for the Japanese and allowed them to join the ranks of Western new imperial powers.
While both countries saw western power impose economic and political influence, they responded very differently. Japan responded by beginning to industrialize so they could challenge western influence. They looked to begin building modern industry imposed western laws and dress all in an attempt to resist influence from the western powers.
China on the other hand did little to resist imperialist intentions from the western world. China was sectioned off by the western powers which competed for influence to gain economic advantages. This kept China under the influence of the western powers while Japan was able to modernize. China isn't truly able to fully break away from European influence until Hong Kong is returned in the late 1990s.
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