Industrial Imperialism: China And Japan

It is important to note that Asia has always hosted one of the largest, wealthiest, and most powerful empires throughout history. However, the industrial revolution was the key turning point when Europe was able to supersede Asia and subjugate its nations. The given analysis will focus on the comparative analysis of the impact of industrial imperialism and the responses by China and Japan. Thus, Japan wanted to learn from its colonizers, but China wanted them to leave their country.

Firstly, one should be aware that industrial colonialism was a powerful force that emerged due to a combination of a range of factors. For example, Getz claims that industrial imperialism was mainly driven by technology, industrialization, capitalism, nationalism, racism, and ‘men on the spots’ . Both China and Japan suffered under the forceful rule of the colonialists, but the impact of industrial imperialism on these nations was highly different. These effects are well-reflected in the primary sources, which showcase the overall attitude of the colonized towards the colonizer.

In the case of China, it becomes evident that industrial imperialism had only a destructive and devastating impact on the Chinese people. A primary source states, “We have heard that in your own country, opium is prohibited with the utmost strictness and severity: this is … proof that you know full well how hurtful it is to mankind” (“Internet Modern History Sourcebook Commissioner Lin: Letter to Queen Victoria, 1839,” par. 6). In other words, China was ruined by the Europeans, who caused Opium wars and stole its resources.

However, Japan has a more welcoming and accommodating attitude towards the colonizers. A primary source states, “We have welcomed Occidental civilization while preserving their old Oriental civilization … in these respects, we may be said to somewhat resemble the Anglo-Saxon race” (Okuma 572). It means that the impact of industrial imperialism on Japan was not purely negative and destructive. Japan was rather interested and curious about the colonizers, which is why it wanted to resemble them by adopting their methods and technologies.

Secondly, the responses of China and Japan were unique as well since Japan sought to reach its colonizer’s powers, whereas China mostly wanted to fight back and end its struggle. O’Connor suggests that both external foreign invasions as well as the internal struggle for power led to the period of Chinese struggle and subsequence transformation. Campbell states that after the failure of the shogunate, old isolationist Japan wanted to reach the same level of advancement as Europeans, which is why it underwent the Meiji Restoration. In other words, the difference is that Japan was quicker and more organized in doing so because the desire for change came from leadership, whereas China did not have a single head of state. As a result, China had both internal struggles and external ones, whereas Japan’s internal struggles were minimal.

However, the major similarity is that both wanted to become industrialized to have the colonizers’ strength. Elshaikh notes that the majority of effective anti-colonial responses were done through quiet activism and protests, such as moving and planting Cassava, which allowed the colonized to work minimally and produce less. In a sense, the entirety of Asia resisted the colonizers mostly through passive and non-violence means.

In conclusion, it should be noted that China wanted its colonizers to leave their country, but Japan wanted to learn from them as well. In essence, China and Japan demonstrated contrasting approaches to dealing with the impact of industrial imperialism. While China resisted and fought against its colonizers, Japan embraced their influence and sought to learn from them in order to modernize and strengthen its own nation.

Works Cited

Internet Modern History Sourcebook Commissioner Lin: Letter to Queen Victoria, 1839.” Fordham Universtiy, 2023.

Campbell, Dennis. “Meiji Restoration.” OER Project, n.d. Accessed 6 Apr. 2023.

Elshaikh, Eman M. “Responses to Industrial Imperialism.” OER Project, n.d.. Accessed 6 Apr. 2023.

Getz, Trevor. “Industrial Imperialism, the ‘New’ Imperialism.” OER Project, n.d. Accessed 6 Apr. 2023.

O’Connor, Bridgette B. “Struggle and Transformation in China.” OER Project, n.d. Accessed 6 Apr. 2023.

Okuma, Shigenobu. Fifty Years of New Japan Kaikoku Gojunen Shi. HardPress Publishing, 2013.