Sample Term Paper on Success and Failure in East Asian Responses to the Western Challenge

During the course of the nineteenth century[1], all three East Asian countries namely Japan, Korea, and China faced a combination[2] of domestic upheaval and external threat posed by the western communist. All three responded with measures informed by their particular historical experiences in the field of war and defense, as they tried to free their countries from western rule. Initially, both the Chinese and Korea elites appeared relatively successful in using these measures to achieve their goals as defined in “traditional” terms (i.e., as defined by the levels of historical experience). With the same principles, the Japanese elite, in contrast, failed miserably at first. Ironically, however, Chinese and Korea success impeded further effective adaptation to the unprecedented challenges presented by Western (and Japanese) power, whereas the seeds of Japanese success lay embedded in the very reasons for their initial failure.

This paper is a historical analysis of the period that saw the three countries go through various upheavals. The paper evaluates various methods used by China, Japan, and Korea to overcome those trying moments in history. The paper also looks at how these three nations succeeded in their quest for freedom over the western countries.

The past experiences of the three countries with domestic upheaval and the external threats that might have been relevant to the situations they faced in the 19th century

During the 19th century, the three Asian countries (Japan, Korea, and China) went through various experiences, domestic upheaval and external threat from western nations, that made them face different situations in the century. For example, the Japanese were considered people of stronger will and great patriotism. They were known to work hard and accumulated many riches for themselves. They went through individual production and individual actions that the Japanese group slowly and persistently used toward a more mechanical organization in the country. The Japanese suffered different turmoil in the hands of their government. For example, the people of Japan felt that the chains of their government bound them.

The government wanted the people to accompany them and become silent followers without asking questions. According to Miyake[3], the 19th century chains of the government bound the Japanese. Out of the oppressive nature of the Japanese government, the people went out in search of fulfillment and happiness, which according to Miyake refers to the perfection of truth, goodness, and beauty in their lives as well as in the country. The Japanese faced threats of anti foreignism everywhere in their country. The Russians were out to expel every country they considered foreign from the land of Europe. There were calls to expel the Japanese from Europe; these necessities continue to be loud and widespread, in speeches and in newspapers as they proclaimed this an urgent matter.

The Chinese on the other had faced threats such as expulsion by the Russians. The cruelty and brutality of the Russians went to the extreme especially when considering the expulsion of the Chinese from the region. However, this act was found to stem mostly from the Chinese willingness to tolerate low remunerations and accept difficult work so that workers from other countries such as Canada, Australia, and US could compete. Thus, the Russians did not hesitate to bring out other workers to attack and mistreat Chinese. Miyake[4] states that they consider it an insignificant issue to see Chinese working in their land[5], hence, they ensured that the Chinese were beaten and humiliated at will as if the Chinese were animals, lesser humans.

On the other hand, the Chinese faced the threat of being over powered by the Russian regimes. They also thought that their government was not doing enough to protect them from the Russian oppression, which they thought would increase the dire consequences of the European imperialism. The Chinese also thought that the Russians were ruthless and would eventually take away their raw materials leaving them with nothing to live on.

Moreover, Matsukaka states that countries from the west such as Russia not only practiced this type of cruelty and hostility against the Chinese in Western soils, but their country men had taken over China and were enjoying all the Chinese resources, an action that made the matter worse than it appeared to be. During the 19th century, China’s land was considered vast, expansive, and rich in natural resources. However, its national strength has deteriorated and it had inadequate ability to defend itself is in times of war or invasion by other powerful nations like Russia.

Koreans also faced similar anti foreignism and the threat of expulsion by European countries that thought of themselves as strong and domineering. The country did not have an organized army that it could use to fight the western imperialist from invading their country. Just like Chinese and Japanese, they were to be driven away from western lands; they were beaten, tortured, and treated with a lot of hostility by the western countries. These westerners also invaded their country and used their resources at their own expense without bringing in any significant development to the people of Korea. They regarded people from the western countries as lesser humans that most. Similarly, research showed that the traditional Korean society did not have a basic prerequisite for sustained and substantial accumulation of capital in their rather large-scale and expansive market.

How the elites of the three countries responded initially to the crises they confronted in the nineteenth century

Similarly, the way the elite of the three countries responded initially to the crises they confronted in the nineteenth century played a significant role in their victory or failure. The Japanese responded by using their knowledge of patriotism to fight the Russians and removed them from their country. They did not involve in any trade unions with them and decided to remain united during the war against Russians. The Chinese used the gunpowder factor, which intensified warring states in Europe but brought the same problem to an end in china. It is noted by Matsusaka that the gunpowder was an invention of the Chinese in the eleventh-century, which was utilized by the Mongols for military reasons.

The gunpowder was then taken to Europe through the help of the Mongols’ continental takeover in the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. This material subsequently changed European state constructions as well as acted as materials used during warfare. The impact of gunpowder arsenal, to be precise, can be overstated. The use of large number of infantry in the form of archers and pike men superseded firearms, as early, hand-held weapons became unreliable and difficult to use. The Chinese also came up with the proto-industries such as the cotton industries, which ensured that the European countries were not getting any raw materials from them. This method also denied the European industries an access to resources from china. This activity reduced the European [6]countries so that they had a declining ability to obtain food and raw materials from such evolving peripheries in exchange for manufactured goods, unavoidably[7] return to producing more of their own food and raw materials.

Koreans on the other hand came up with the aristocratic way of revolutionizing their market so as to obtain better goods during the European imperialism era. They also ensured they cut all the supplies of natural resources to the European countries just as the Chinese did. Their leaders worked hard to ensure that the Koreans were not humiliated and beaten by the colonialist during the European imperialism. They also made sure that no Korean was expelled from their own country even though some of them were removed from European states.

Ways in which the initial response (up through 1894–outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War) of the Chinese and Korean elites be considered successful

The Chinese and Korean elites also worked hard and used different tactics to impede further attacks from western countries hence, ensuring their success. For example, by establishing the gunpowder products, which were exported to Europe, the Chinese inevitably caused uproar in the European region. This is because most European countries started fighting for the control of the import and distribution of this material. They later realized that this commodity was fit for war and could be used easily in destroying their opponents as opposed to their hand held weapons, which now proved less reliable as compared to the gunpowder. The European countries started fighting each other, as they wanted control over the material. This caused various types of war in the region. They eventually withdrew their attention from the Asian countries and started fighting against each other. This gave the Asians time and space to think of methods of putting an end to the reign of the European countries that invaded them

A country such as Korea came up with a strategy that ensured all countries from Europe did not get access to any resources from their country. Just like the Chinese, the Koreans ensured that they tightly regulated the amounts of good entering into the European countries. They established a strong government that led their country into the European nations. This massive regulation from these two countries weakened the relationships between the European countries. The decline in relationship ties between the communities in Europe brought about wars. More so, they scrambled over the control of the gunpowder, cotton and other resources needed in their industry and hence a war broke between them. Serious fight occurred between Germany and other countries, the war intensified[8] so much that they turned away from the oppression Asian countries and decided to look into how they could take care of their own problems. Lack of natural and other resources made European countries powerless and more docile than they were before.

Ways in which the initial response of the Japanese elite (up through 1868) might be considered a failure

Despite their later success, history shows that the Japanese elite group first failed miserably when they attempted to use the same methods employed by China and Korea. From most professional perspective, the Japanese failed initially because of lack of proper execution of their plans. It is noted by Miyake that Japan lacked citizenship. However, they had stronger spirit of patriotism that they later on used to defeat the Russians. The problem was that the onset of their aim of patriotism was done in a crude way. For example, they fought blindly and unaware of their opponents’ intentions. They took neither care nor caution of the consequences of their actions. The lack of awareness of their opponent’s move led to Japan being defeated heavily by the western countries during the reign of the western imperialist in Asia. Second, Japan came up with a capital market in which they aimed at regulating everything just like the Koreans did[9]. The landlords in Japan were much weaker than those in Korea, hence their weakness lead to the invasion of the country by western nations, which took over them in their own territories[10].

How the initial success in China and Korea impeded further adaptations

The success of Chine and Korea impeded the adaptation of the western countries by turning they concentration from Asia to Europe. The western imperialist thought more of how to control resources coming into their country from East Asia and stopped focusing on controlling these countries in general. Second, the Chinese came up with bureaucratic rule in their country that ensured that no one exported goods and other natural resources to the European nations. This move reduced such nations from manufacturers of industrial resources to those that relied on the little available resources within their peripheries. China and Korea worked hard and established stronger governments that overpowered those from western countries. This move by the two countries made it impossible for western nations to further move into their territories.

The ways in which the Western challenge of the 19th century unprecedented the historical experience of East Asians

Research by Miyake has indicated that the Western challenge of the 19th century unprecedented in the historical experience of East Asians. Notably, the western challenge of the western countries remained unparalleled in the East Asian countries because they were more powerful than these countries. They had the resources they needed to colonize and take over the Asian countries. They also had massive control over the Asian countries, for example, they humiliated, tortured, and enslaved them as stated in Ebrey’s text.

The extent to which it might be claimed that the sources of Japan’s successful adaptation to European style modernity lay in the same complex of factors contributing to its initial failure to manage both domestic upheaval and foreign challenge

Even though the challenges of the western countries in the 19th century were un paralleled, research shows that Japan managed to achieve victory over western imperialism. Japan was under the colony of Russia, a country that was considered the King of conquerors. Russia was also believed to have immense political and war power over many European nations during the 19th century since it is the only country that conquered and ruled many nations both in Europe and in the soviet union. A research by Yosaburo showed that despite the immense political power, Japan was able to achieve a small amount of victory over this country (Russia), which was known to possess stronger powers in the region. Similarly, this gain in Japan surprised many in the world. People wondered what tactics Japan used to defeat Russia.

Yosaburo proposed three reasons why the Japanese were able to defeat Russia, the lord of conquerors in the European times. He stated that the first reason was that Japan was, and still is a vegetarian country. If a vegetarian nation fights a meat eating nation, then the vegetarian country stands the chance of winning the war. This notion was considered dubious and found to hold no stronger grounds for Japan’s victory over Russia. Second, Yosaburo proposed that Japan had a fierce fighting spirit and they charged at Russians without caring whether they were going to die or not. However, most scholars thought of this as a reason that did not hold tight to the reason why Japan worn the war over Russia.

The final method proposed by Yosaburo states that Japan used the bushido strategy to overpower Russia. The solid explanation states that the Japanese hold a special belief in what is called bushidō that promotes patriotism and courage in the country. It is stated that the high regard for bushido promoted a stronger spirit of unity, which was later responsible for Japan’s victory over Russia. Further research shows that this notion is not only promoted by the half-informed[11], but also by those who have considerable credibility, and it enjoys widespread currency. Thus according to this author, the Japanese worn over Russia[12] because of their strong feeling of patriotism for their country, which compelled them to fight for their liberation from the Russian rule. They were prepared to fight for the freedom of their country and their people. They decided to fight [13]and ensure victory over Russia for the sake of strong citizenship and particular adoration for the nation.

This method was considered to have been used by the former and the 19th century samurais of Japan. They believed that it is a system that was used in the feudal age of the century in most countries that were not very civilized, lacked citizenship and only knew patriotism as a way of living and fighting for their country. Therefore, Yosaburo found out the use of bushido must have been the concrete reason why Japan fought hard and defeated Russia because many countries the world over fought for the freedom of their nations based on strong patriotism and nothing more.


The three countries in East Asia underwent different upheavals and threats from the western colonies. They suffered greatly in their hands, for example, they western countries threatened to expel then, utilized their resources massively, treated them with a lot of hostility, and had them beaten. They also used their resources at their own expense. However, these three countries later came up with strategies that they used for defeating the western powers. They later gained freedom and power to govern their own countries and achieved the peace they longed for in the prior centuries.


Andrew Gordon. A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the

Present. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Carter J. Eckert. Offspring of Empire: The Koch’ang  Kims and the Colonial

Origins of Korean Capitalism, 1876-1945, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1991.

Ebrey, Patricia & Walthall, Anne. East Asia: a Cultural, social, and political history, (Belmont, Cengage learning, 2013.

Jeremy Adelman, Stephen Aron, Stephen Kotkin, & Suzanne Marchand. Worlds together, and worlds apart: from 1000 CE to the present, New York, Norton & company, 2011

Joanna, Waley-Cohen. Sextants of Beijing: Global Currents in Chinese History, New York: Norton, 1999.

John K. Fairbank, Edwin O. Reischauer, Albert M. Craig. East Asia: Tradition and Transformation, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1995

Mark Edward, Lewis. The early Chinese empires: Qin and Han, USA: Harvard University Press, 2009

Matsusaka Tak Yoshihisa. The Making of Japanese Manchuria, 1904-1932 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Centre, 2001).

Miyake Yûjirô. Shinzenbi Nihonjin: Truth, Goodness, Beauty and the Japanese, Tokyo: Tenyûsha, 1919.

Patricia, Buckley Ebrey. The Cambridge illustrated history of China, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010

Yan Fu. Sources of Chinese Tradition, v. 2. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000)

Yosaburō, Takekoshi. Why Did Japan Win? [Date uncertain, late 1905 or early 1906] In Sansa Enzetsu shū  Tokyo: Japan, 1908.


[1] John K. Fairbank, Edwin O. Reischauer, Albert M. Craig, East Asia: Tradition and Transformation, (Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1995).

[2] Mark Edward Lewis, The early Chinese empires: Qin and Han, (USA: Harvard University Press, 2009).

[3] Jeremy, Adelman. Stephen Aron, Stephen Kotkin, Suzanne Marchand, Worlds together, worlds apart: from 1000 CE to the present, (New York, Norton & company, 2011)

[4] Ibid.

[5] Matsusaka Tak Yoshihisa. The Making of Japanese Manchuria, 1904-1932 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Centre, 2001).

[6] Andrew, Gordon. A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the

Present. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009)

[7] Yosaburō, Takekoshi. Why Did Japan Win? [Date uncertain, late 1905 or early 1906] In Sansa Enzetsu shū (Tokyo, 1908.)

[8] Patricia Buckley Ebrey. The Cambridge illustrated history of China, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010)

[9]  Joanna Waley-Cohen. Sextants of Beijing: Global Currents in Chinese History, (new York: Norton, 1999)

[10] Carter J. Eckert. Offspring of Empire: The Koch’ang Kims and the Colonial

Origins of Korean Capitalism, 1876-1945, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1991)

[11] Yan Fu, Sources of Chinese Tradition, v. 2. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000).

[12] Ebrey Patricia & Walthall Anne, East Asia: a Cultural, social, and political history, (Belmont, Cengage learning, 2013

[13] Miyake Yûjirô, Shinzenbi Nihonjin :Truth, Goodness, Beauty and the Japanese, Tokyo: Tenyûsha, 1919.