Western nations like Portugal or England did not simply encroach upon China's territory in the name of some abstract imperialist ideal. They had strong economic interest in the area, especially in keeping the tea trade alive. When diplomacy failed to win over the Chinese, military force was used to subdue them during the Opium War and Asia was rudely awakened to the power and political thought of the West. In China intellectuals blamed the country's downfall on the foreign origins of the Qing and believed that nationalism would unite the people and inspire them to rise to the challenge of foreign might. But it wasn't the Qing's foreignness which allowed Westerners to take over the country, there was a deeper problem of corruption and financial backwardness which would needed to be dealt with. The Japanese had succeeded in rapidly modernizing by unifying their country under a national principle and creating a stable economy.
[...] This indemnity in turn funded naval development which gave the Japanese a significant advantage when they defeated the Russians in the Russo-Japanese War. Economic advantages from nationalist imperialism were vaulting Japan into the modern world, but perhaps a more significant and subtle result was the effect they had on modernizing China when they entered Manchuria in 1931. Up until that time China had been embroiled in various civil struggles. The Nationalist party had succeeded in uniting the country tenuously under Chiang Kai-shek. [...]
[...] Liang concluded that China's woes lay in its peoples' lack of a “concept of the nation” (298) and that China would follow the path of Athens, who had claimed that its “culture was the best in the world until it became subservient to other peoples, was unable to rise up, and eventually was shattered” (298). Thus, China's struggle was phrased in terms of its need to defeat the foreigners, those “other peoples” to whom she was subservient. Revolutionaries latched onto love of their nation, for they believed that China already did have the best culture and that all they needed to do was topple the foreign dynasty. [...]
[...] Chiang Kai-shek's military budget was huge in proportion to the rest of the state budget, and he was able to implement up- to-date communication and transport systems, but economic progress was severely slowed by the civil war. If the economy had been allowed to develop in a more stable environment it is unlikely that the peasants would have been won over to the Communist side later on. Perhaps though, the Nationalists can be likened to the short-lived Qin and Sui dynasties, which had also succeeded in unifying a multi-state China through military force but failed to effect lasting change. [...]
[...] It was the Japanese who effectively took the idea of competition and ran with it and it is interesting that they took such an interest in economics when they had been of much less economic interest to powers such as Great Britain. Since they did not experience oppression by the British, and also since the native emperor had always been in place and was awed and revered as pointed out by Okuma Shigenobu, the Japanese did not feel as great a need to purge their society of foreign elements and were able to focus on positive development, by “drinking freely” of other civilizations (Sources of Japanese Tradition 699). [...]
[...] There was a failure to take into account the largely agrarian nature of Chinese society and its resultant Confucian ethic of internal stability for the welfare of the people. Strong ships and effective guns may have been new, but China had certainly been exposed to militarism and imperial conquest before. Militarism in early China during the Qin dynasty was largely rejected by Confucians who wanted to nurture the people not build up frontier defenses. And during the Yuan dynasty Mongols had conquered China but nationalism had never developed. [...]
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