Sample Essay Answer
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Question: Compare and contrast the Chinese and Japanese attitudes and policies regarding modernization beginning at the time of sustained European contact but concentrating on the period between 1840 and 1910. How did their status change in the eyes of the Europeans?
By 1840, Europe had at least nominal domination over much of the known world. The last area of the globe to escape European domination was East Asia and the Europeans were now focusing their attention on that region. Despite contact with Europe since the 1600s, both China and Japan had actively resisted adopting and European ideas or, with a few exceptions, technologies. However, after Japan was forcibly opened to the west in the 1840s, the Japanese government engaged in a massive and well organized program of modernization. China, on the other hand, continued to view western ideas with suspicion and contempt and tried to maintain their traditional way of life amidst a changing world. Even though both countries were reluctant to modernize at first, Japan’s modernization caused it to go from a third-world country to a major world player; whereas China, who refused to modernize, went from being one of the greatest empires in the world to being a resource to be divided amongst the more powerful nations.
Both China and Japan had long considered the Europeans to be barbarians and were not interested in goods or ideas from Europe. Portuguese merchant Fernão de Andrade recorded in his log that when he first arrived off the coast of China in 1517, the Chinese ran away from his crew calling them “Ocean Devils” (DBQ #12, Doc. #3). In response to English attempts to trade in China, Emperor Quian Long dispatched an official letter in 1793 to King George III thanking him for his “tribute” but expressing his disinterest in any...
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