Age Of Imperialism: Japan & China

1389 words - 6 pages

The nineteenth century was a turbulent time of western imperialism and a major Asian power shift. European powers and the United States had a destabilizing effect on the region and the choices Japan and China made in response their imposing expansion was a major contributor to the trajectory of their respective futures. Social factors, such as the differences in national and religious unity, also played a role in the how the two nations emerged from the Age of Imperialism.
European trade with China was historically restricted. In 1793, emperor Qianlong denied King George III's request for fewer trade restrictions by declaring, “Our Celestial Empire possesses all things in prolific ...view middle of the document...

Finally, deeply rooted tensions between Britain and China began to come to the surface as the Chinese attempted to crack down on opium use and trade within its borders.
The appointment of Lin Tse-hsu as Imperial Commissioner at Canton was the catalyst that changed the trajectory of Chinese-British relations. Tse-hsu immediately began to shut down the opium trade at its source by exposing and punishing corrupt officials and seizing opium supplies without compensation. He wrote a letter to Queen Victoria requesting Britain forego further opium imports to China, citing Britain's banning of its use and trade within its own borders (Hooker). The Queen's refusal enraged Tse-hsu and he threatened to end trade with Britain altogether. Britain responded by using their superior military might to compel them to keep trade channels open and to remove the many trade restrictions currently in place, thus beginning the first opium war. It is important to note that the opium trade was merely the final straw amongst a heap of British-Chinese tensions. With a decisive victory in 1842, the Chinese were forced to sign the Treaty of Nanking, which significantly reduced their autonomy and awarded the British favorable trading conditions. However, by 1856, the British felt China was not abiding by the terms of the treaty and launched another campaign, the second opium war, that ended in 1860, and reduced China to something more akin to a semi-independent British colony as opposed to the great empire it once was.
Foreign influence was not the sole cause of the Chinese decline, internal uprisings were well underway before the clash over opium. The Qing dynasty was seen by many as illegitimate because they were merely foreigners who adopted Chinese culture. In addition, people were struggling to survive because the huge population boom resulted in peasants with farms to small to sustain their families and an inept government, unwilling to adapt to a changing world. This had the dual effect of further reducing national support for the foreign leaders and providing the conditions for people to rise up in revolt. The most notable revolt was the Taiping Uprising, a Christian movement that began in 1850. It was determined to cleanse China of demons and remove the Qing dynasty from power. Finally crushed in 1864, it contributed to the instability and decline of China that ultimately led to the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911 (Strayer, 889).
In the seventeenth century, Japan pursued a policy of isolationism after expelling every foreigner and opening a single port to trade with the Dutch. In 1853, the United States sent Commodore Perry to Japan to demand a trade agreement. He made it clear by presenting the Japanese with a white flag that the United States was prepared to use force if they declined. Well-aware of China's fate, the Japanese willingly accepted an unfair trade agreement to the detriment of the Japanese people. Enraged by the...

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