HIS 351 Asia in Age of Decolonization and Globalization
Western imperialism or expansion ignored a country’s sovereign right to self-rule and independence from dominant foreign powers. Using the premise of colonization or Manifest Destiny, the search for trade routes, raw goods and materials, and cheap sources of labor legitimized imperialistic might. Whether it was the undiscovered countries of the Americas, the dark continent of Africa, or the countries of Asia, the response to the encroachment of Western Imperialism would be filled with meek acceptance, opposition, rebellions, and eventual violence. As Western Imperialism penetrated the Asian countries of China, India, and Japan their responses were both similar and vastly different. India initially succumbed with a seemingly meek style while China and Japan responded both defensively and arrogantly. Each country in its own way was opposed to foreign rule but Japan managed to flip the script with its own version of imperialism that was just as superior and devastating as Western Imperialism. Western imperialism in India began as early as the 1600s when the British East India Company set up trading posts in Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta. Initially, the ruling Mughal Dynasty kept the European traders under control until the empire collapsed; smaller states and their maharajahs set up independent rule and became vulnerable to the military power of the East India Company. Britain’s superior navy allowed them to become the dominant imperialistic power in India. By bargaining with the prince of Calcutta, they gained control of a strategic point for trade and fortification. Calcutta was later retaken by an Indian ruler from Bengal along with British prisoners who eventually died from overcrowded conditions. Using Indian sepoy fighters and British military forces, the inexperienced Bengalese ruler lost his advantage through poor execution and disorganized troops. Because of the irresponsible control of India by Western imperialists and the British East India Company, revolts and uprising occurred. The British felt that they were superior and attempted to force the people of India to follow what they considered were superior customs, religion, and culture. In 1857, the Moslems and Hindus of the 19th Regiment of sepoys mutinied and began killing British colonists. They could not unite against the British because of weak leadership and internal conflicts between Hindus and Muslims. The Hindus did not want the Muslim Empire restored and many preferred British rule versus Muslim rule. Most of the princes and maharajahs who had made alliances with the East India Company did not take part in nor supported the rebellion. The British government took direct control of India and Emperor Bahadur Shah II, the last ruler of the Mughal Empire was sent into exile in Rangoon bringing the Mughal Empire to an official end. The allies of princes and maharajahs were given promises of independence and respect to the honest fulfillment of treaties that they had made with the East India Company. In 1877, Queen Victoria was given the title Empress of India and promised equal treatment under British law, but Indian mistrust and racist attitudes of the British had already become a legacy of Western Imperialism and the Sepoy Mutiny. Conflicts over the control of India continued to develop; demands for westernization, modernization and greater roles in self-governing began to surface. The Indian National Congress was founded in 1885, the Muslim League in 1906, and acts of terrorism occurred over the partition of Bengal. China’s response to early Western Imperialism was filled with skepticism and disdain. As the Middle Kingdom, the Chinese felt that since they were the cultural center of the universe for 2000 years; foreign traders had to follow Chinese rules which included trading only at special ports...