Free «Japan, China, India, Response to Western Imperialism» Essay Sample

Japan, China, India, Response to Western Imperialism


Imperialism refers to the act of one country taking over another country or place with an aim of coming up with an empire with an aim of acquiring land, resources, labor, and profit. The ides that supports imperialism is that some people or territories need to be dominated, assisted or civilized. Three types of imperialism are in existence:- Colonies where by the mother country enjoys total control over the conquered land, protectorates where the mother country enjoys a lot of, but not total, control over the conquered land and spheres of influence where by the mother country has exclusive trade rights and other economic privileges (Hodge, 2008). The western countries practiced imperialism in many parts around the world in the nineteenth century (1870-1914). These regions were African and Asian countries. The forces that brought about imperialism included industrialization, economic motives, special interest groups, spread of Christianity, view by the leading countries that their colonies were crucial security, military power and international prestige, nationalism and social Darwinism, acquire cheap raw materials, labor and land.

Availability of technology enabled imperialists to acquire colonies more easily. Britain was ranked the largest colonial empire which had two kinds of colonies, Cecil Rhodes and Lipton’s Teas (Hodge, 2008). France was the second largest colonial empire while Germany was third largest empire which took colonies in 1880s for status symbol. The United States did not get involved in European affairs but became a colonial power after 1898. These countries justified imperialism by saying that diplomatic competition between powers required colonies, imperialism would be able to end domestic discontent, to satisfy their military and commercial needs and it was a civilization mission (Hodge, 2008).

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Imperialism in Asia began in the 17th and 18th centuries and then expanded greatly in the 19th century. In India, Britain was trading since 1600s but the British government gradually took over India in the 1800s. The British East India Company imported tea and cotton from India but did not give India a chance to become industrialized. The aim of the members who formed this company was to get wealthier at the expense of India. In 1887, a rebellion of Indian soldiers fighting in the British service broke out. Sepoys who were Indian soldiers were not happy with the British claiming that they did not respect their culture and religion. As a result of this, Sepoy rebellion saw many British soldiers, children and women being killed. The end of this rebellion saw the British government making India a colony. After the British declared India as their colony, Indian Nationalist Party was formed which eventually led the fight to independence in 1947 (Vohra, 2001).

In China, the British colony involved its self in smuggling of opium into its colony. This saw the emergence of the opium war which was a Chinese response to the continued smuggling of opium into China by the British. The British won the war as a result of their superior technology. This was later followed by establishment of spheres of influence by the British, Netherlands, Russia, France and Germany. The Chinese’s also engaged the British in another rebellion, the Boxer Rebellion. This resulted because many Chinese people did not welcome the idea of having foreigners in their country. It began in 1900, where poor Chinese farmers, the boxers killed Christian missionaries.

On the other hand, Japan just like China did not welcome the idea of interacting with the Europeans and they opted to remain isolated. The Americans on the other hand were struggling to get a chance to trade with the Japanese so that they could get wealthier. In this attempt, they sent Commodore Mathew Perry to open trade with them in 1853. This attempt became a success, which saw Japan getting industrialized and eventually becoming a military power (Chaurasia, 2003).

Struggle for independence for India.

The East India Company dominated much of India’s territory by quickly taking the advantage of the weakening Mughals. The company’s troops found themselves winning a battle against the Indian troops over a battle for Plassey. This victory made the East India company to become the leading power in India whish the area covered by the company growing bigger every day (Vohra, 2001). Its growth saw it governing directly or indirectly areas such as modern Bangladesh, large part of southern India and nearly all region of Ganges River in the north. Initially, the company was being controlled by the British government but at the beginning of the 19th century, the company ruled India with less interference from The British government. These sign of independence was strengthened by the fact that the company had also its own army which was staffed by Indian troops. These Indian soldiers were at one time referred to as a delicate and dangerous machine that could turn against it master once mishandle (Vohra, 2001).

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The colonial era had both befits and oppressions to the Indians. Some of the benefits that came along with this era included the laying of the world’s third largest railroad network. The completion of this railroad brought about the development of a modern economy and also it united the connected regions. Apart from the construction of the railroad, modern road networks, telephone and telegraph lines, bridges and irrigation were constructed which enabled India to get modernized. Areas related to sanitation and public health were also not left behind as they also saw a major development (Thampi, 2005). On matters related to education, schools and colleges were constructed which brought about a decrease in illiteracy. The British troops were also responsible for the clearance of bandits from central India which brought an end to the local warfare among competing local rulers. The most significant negative effects that prevailed during this era were that the British held too much of political and economical powers.

The colonial government also restricted Indian owned companies such cotton and textile industries. British colony highly emphasized on growing of cash crops which later resulted to loss of self sufficiency for many villages. Concentration in the production of cash crops was the cause of famine in the 1800s. The British colony also had a control over the Indians religious and social customs. The increased number of missionaries and the outspoken racist attitude by the British officials threatened Indian traditional life. By 1850, large area of Indian Territory was under the control of the British colony but despite this fact, the Indians still had saw many areas through which they could disconnect with their colonial master. The Indians had believed that, apart from the British having control over their resources, they still wanted to convert them to Christianity. The Indians also viewed the Britons as people who were a threat in spreading racism in their country (Thampi, 2005). 

As the economic problems increased in India, the Indians saw the need to become an independent nation. This saw the rise of several rebellious groups and 1857, sepoy rebellion emerged which brought about a crucial turning point in the fight for independence in India. The emergence of this rebellious group forced the British colony to take a direct command over India. Raj was one area in India that was under direct British rule. At this point, India was divided into 11 provinces and about 250 districts. These new territories that were created were however ruled by the Britons. The sepoy rebellion was not pleased by this idea and they therefore opted to fuel the racist attitudes of the English (Vohra, 2001).

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As time passed by, Indians became more enlightened and came to understand their right which they began to demand from their colonial masters. One such modern-thinking individual of that time was Ram Mohun Roy, who was well educated and pioneered the campaigns aimed at moving India away from traditional practices and ideas (Vohra, 2001). More people like Ram joined together to form Indian Nationalist Movements which brought about a system that made a second-class citizen in among the Indians. Through the action of these movements many people got employed in different institutions within the country. The further need to become an independent nation saw the formation of two nationalist groups, Indian National Congress in 1885 and the Muslim League in 1906. After some period of activisms, the movements started to demand for self-government. The war between India and Britain continued until 1947 when they got their independence (Vohra, 2001).   

Struggle for Independence in China

Europeans had a very strong interest in trading with the Chinese much more than the Chinese wanted. The Chinese had little demand for European products which made the Europeans to trade with silver bullion. Alternatively, Europeans opted to trade in opium a trade that was illegal and created both social and economic problems. In response to these, the Chinese decided to set up serious measures against opium trade which later made the British to protest by launching the opium war between 1839-1842. This war was won by the British and later China lost several other wars with France (1884-1885), France (1884-1885) and Japan (1894-1895) which subjected China to “unequal treaties”. As a result of these, China was forced to cede Hong Kong to Britain, open ports to commerce and residence, permit the establishment of Christian missions, legalize the opium trade not levy tariffs on imports. By 1900, ninety Chinese ports were under the effective control of foreign powers, foreign merchants controlled much of the Chinese economy, Christian missionaries were converting Chinese throughout the country and foreign gunboats patrolled Chinese waters. An anti-foreign society, the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists (the Boxers) emerged in protest of the increasing Western presence in China. The group organized to get rid of foreigners in China and they on rampage killing foreigners, Chinese Christians and Chinese people who collaborated with the British. In 1900, the organization besieged the foreign embassies in Beijing but heavily armed force of British, French, Russian, US, German and Japanese troops crushed on them.

Struggle for Independence in Japan.

The Tokugawa Shogunate of Japan was able to control foreign interaction until the early 19th century. They refused all requests for extensive relationships with the Europeans and Americans and even started preparing their military in case of any attack (Chaurasia, 2003). The US sent Perry in 1853 to woe the Shogun to open Japan to diplomatic and commercial relationships and a treaty of friendship an attempt that was successful. These later followed for the British, Netherlands and Russia. Just like the Chinese, the Japanese were also subjected to a series of unequal treaties which lead to the opening of Japanese ports to foreign commerce, deprived the government of control over tariffs and granted foreigners extraterritorial rights. Intrusion by foreigners leads to the collapse of Tokugawa and the restoration of the imperial rule (Chaurasia, 2003). Menji government struggled to fight down the foreign power through gathering knowledge from the US and Europe that would strengthen Japan and win revisions of the unequal treaties. Menji transformed Japan by:- abolishing the feudal order which centralized political power, revamping the tax system, creating a constitution that empowered the emperor, constructing modern transportation, communications and educational systems. After defeating China in a war over Korea, the European powers started to see Japan as a powerful nation that deserved to be respected while China was seen as a very weak nation (Fusé, 1975). In 1899, Japan managed to end extraterritoriality and in 1902, it concluded an alliance with Britain as an equal power and by the 20th century, it had joined the ranks of the world’s major industrial powers (Chaurasia, 2003).

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Effects of Imperialism.

Its effects were both positive and negative. Some positive effects included:- construction of new roads  and railroads, telegraph and postal systems, irrigation systems, new laws, education, end of customs that threaten human life (Hodge, 2008). Negative effects included:-taking of resources to Europe, European goods replaced local goods, emphasis on cash crop production, top jobs were meant for Europeans, treating Asians as inferiors, replacement of local customs with European ways. Other effects:- famine as a result of over production of cash crops, foreign rule, destruction of traditional political units, influence of the Western culture on the rest of the world, evolution of nationalist movements, competition for empires that lead to wars, control of the global economy by the industrialized nations (Hodge).

Many of these effects seemed to bring about the growth of the countries that were being colonized in as much as it benefited the imperialists. Imperialism changed the three countries in all aspects of life and in fact it played a very big role in shaping these three countries into what they are today.


It is evident that there were many different reasons for European imperialism during the late nineteenth century. The European imperialism caused a lot of reactions in the three countries which was as a result of resistance to their governance. The three countries reacted differently to imperialism a fact that is revealed in their struggle for independence. Generally, European imperialism disrupted traditional way of life and still continues to affect the world today.