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Foreign Policy Analysis
HIST 1112 – 19th Century Imperialism in Asia

HIST 1112 – 19th Century Imperialism in Asia


This is Western Civilization. My name is Dr. Long. This video is about 19th century imperialism
in Asia. In 1500, Asian nations were the wealthiest
and most powerful in the world. China, the middle kingdom as it called itself,
was the most wealthiest and powerful nation in the world. Chinese finished products, such as silk and
porcelain, were in high demand in places such as Europe. The fleets that the Chinese sent out, under
Admiral Ching Ho in the 15th century, far outstripped Spanish and Portuguese expeditions
at the same time. Likewise, India’s spices made it important
to Eurasian trade. And Japan was both highly advanced and urbanized. Europeans did come to control a few places
in Asia in the 16th and 17th centuries; for instance – Portugal had a few trading posts
in India, such as Goa, and the Spanish came to control the Philippines, while the Dutch
– for their part – controlled the East Indies, which is present-day Indonesia. Also, from the 1770s until the 1850s the British
settled Australia and New Zealand displacing the natives there. But many Asian nations in the 16th through
the 18th centuries, such as China; India; and Japan could hold their own against Europeans. Yet after 1800, and especially with the Industrial
Revolution, European nations such as Britain and France came to economically far surpass
Asian nations. This in turn, made it possible for European
nations as well as the United States to become imperial powers in Asia and to come to control
many Asian nations during the 19th century. Now when and how this occurred has led to
a big debate among historians and in recent years this is being called the Great Divergence
Debate. Historians such as Andre Frank and especially
Kenneth Pomeranz, the author of a great book called The Great Divergence, argue that the
West only overtook China after 1800. Pomeranz argues that the West and China were
similar in development until the Industrial Revolution. For Pomeranz, the West’s access to energy
resources – such as coal – allowed it to overtake China and develop it. So the West, when it overtakes China, it’s
more of an accident of geography and coal resources than anything else. Now other historians in this Great Divergence
debate, such as David Landis, Joel Mokyr, Peter Deveres – and Peter Deveres is very
critical of Pomeranz – contend that the West outpaced China earlier, perhaps even
before 1750. These historians also stress that the West’s
own internal achievements, particularly technological advances, were what led to the Industrial
Revolution and ultimately to the West in surpassing Asian nations. Now that debate is ongoing and it has a lot
of implications on how much credit one gives the West versus more accidental factors of
geography, such as the availability of coal. Now one of the first Asian countries to fall
under British rule was India. India was ruled by the Mughal Empire and it
was strong until the 17th century. But in 1739, a rebellion occurred in the South
of India and then invaders from Central Asia invaded India, captured the Mughal Empire’s
capitol of Delhi, and brought the empire down, and this led to the formation of several weakened
states in India; the country was divided up and that attracted the attention of a rising
European power, such as Britain and France. Britain and France fought a large war called
the 7-Years War between 1756 and 1763 – a war in which Britain ultimately won, and as
a result of that Britain came to take over India. At first, Britain ruled India through a company,
a private company called The British East Indies Company, and The British East Indies
Company ran India for a profit. However, in 1857, there was a revolt by Indian
troops against The British East Indies Company called the Sepoy Revolt, and the British government
then would take over direct rule of India under the crown, what has been called the
British raj. Now for the British government, India was
far too important to lose. India became the crown jewel in the British
Empire, the most important, most valuable possession for the British – this is because
India had such a large population. I mean, it was a large market for British
goods, such as textiles, and a source of raw material, such as spices and cotton – and
all of this helped the British economy. Now for their part, the British did not impose
their culture on India. They were largely interested in making money. The number of British officials in India was
very small. For example, for every 1 British official
in India there were about 3 million Indians – so very few British actually lived in
India compared to the Indian population. The number of British troops in India was
also very small. To help them rule such a large country, the
British hired Indians for its army; police; and government administration. Britain gave upper class Indians a British
education, which meant that India’s elites became westernized and came to speak English. Britain brought rule to India, a multi-national,
multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation. The British brought Western science, technology,
farming methods, they improved India’s infrastructure by building thousands of miles of railroads
and ports. But nonetheless, it is worth remembering that
British rule of India was without the consent of the Indian people and they exploited India’s
economy. Eventually this would lead to a nationalist
movement in India to obtain their independence. In 1885, the Indian National Congress was
formed to modernize India and with the goal of ultimately winning its independence. Now it would take quite a while for this to
occur, but Indian nationalism would begin at this time period with the Indian National
Congress in 1885 and growing nationalism among India’s elites. These elites, who were educated, thought – well,
we can run the country. What about China? Well for its part the Manchu or the Xing Dynasty
took power in 1644 after overthrowing the Ming. China experienced tremendous population growth
and expansion in Central Asia under the Xing. However, it did not industrialize, and as
European powers began to industrialize then fell behind. China also remained closed off to much of
the rest of the world for trade, although it had a huge population and a huge market. Britain and other Western nations, such as
France and the United States, were very interested in trading with China. In 1836, the Chinese government banned opium
and began executing opium dealers who were shipping opium from British India to China. In 1839, it cracked down further on foreigners
importing opium and seized opium belonging to foreign and especially brutish merchants
in China. For their part the British were fine selling
opium in China and they very much desired to enter the Chinese market. For the Chinese however, they did not appreciate
the mass epidemic of opium that British products from India had caused. So this led to a series of wars between Britain
and China. The first opium war between 1839 and 1842,
and then the second opium war between 1856 and 1880. British and French troops would actually fight
together against the Chinese in the second opium war and they managed to capture; loot;
and burn the imperial palace in Beijing, even causing the emperor to flee. Now the British justified these wars as a
defense of free trade, kind of ignoring what they were trading – opium, which is a highly
addictive narcotic. The Chinese, for their part, saw their conflict
as a way to defend their country against foreign drug dealers. But the British easily won the opium wars. This demonstrated the superiority of the British
navy versus the backward Chinese navy. At the end of the opium wars, Britain was
given control of Hong Kong and allowed to trade in 5 Chinese ports. China was forced to sign a series of humiliating
treaties, all which favored the Europeans. The Xing Dynasty’s corruption and weakness
led to a major revolt in China during the middle of the 19th century, called the Taiping
Revolt. Now this revolt was started by a charismatic
figure named Hong Xiuquan. He had been influenced by Southern Baptist
missionaries and had come to have his own eccentric brand of religion in which he claimed
to be the younger brother of Jesus, and he said he was sent to restore China. He attracted a lot of followers and they eventually
revolted against the government, and this led to tremendous fighting between his followers
and the imperial army. The Taiping Revolt lasted from 1850 until
it fell apart upon Hong Xiuquan’s death in 1864; it led to a lot of fighting and chaos
in China, and a staggering number of deaths – something like 20 to 30 million people
died in the Taiping Revolt. This was the largest civil war in human history. It laid waste to much of China. And China – as a result of this and corruption
in their government, failed to industrialize, and even were ignorant of conditions in much
of the rest of the world. Now this had great consequences for China. China was not only pushed around by Western
powers, it was also defeated by Japan in war in 1895. It lost Taiwan to Japan as a result and had
to pay Japan a huge indemnity. Now this was a huge shock to China – being
defeated by Japan. Anti-foreign sentiments would also lead to
what was called the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 in China. The boxers are the righteous and harmonious
fists, as they were called, wanted to rid China of foreign influence. Now this was a bloody rebellion, but ultimately
it was put down by foreign troops, and there’s another indication of China’s weaknesses
and its failure to modernize. In 1911, reformer Sun Yat-sen led a rebellion
in China, and the following year in 1912 the last emperor of China abdicated leading to
a rebellion. So China did have – ultimately – a revolution
that brought down its empire and created a republic, but by 1912 China was far behind
Western powers and Japan. Now to the south of China, France took over
Indochina – Indochina is Laos; Cambodia; and Vietnam – beginning in the 1860s. France gradually took this territory over
between the 1860s and 1907, and the French sent administrators and military men to rule
Indochina, and just like the British in India – they did not have a large settler presence
there. French missionaries were active in Indochina,
and in time Indochina came to have large rubber plantations that became an important source
of rubber for French companies – for example, the Michelin Tire Company. By the end of the 19th century, the United
States, which was traditionally isolationist, came to acquire its own territories. The United States would fight Spain in the
Spanish/American War in 1898, and the United States would win this war, and as a result
would acquire Puerto Rico and the Philippines. At the conclusion of the Spanish/American
War, Philippinos revolted seeking their own independence from the United States. The United States sent in its army and fought
a bloody guerilla war there that led to over 5,000 American soldiers dying due to combat
and disease – but they did maintain, the United States did maintain control of the
Philippines. Again, the war there though is very brutal
on both sides. So by 1900, with the United States entering
the Spanish/American War and acquiring the Philippines, imperialism had become something
common to the entire Western world. Now what about Japan in all this? The most successful nation in Asia to resist
American and European imperialism in the 19th century was Japan. Japan began changing in 1853, when American
Captain-Commodore Matthew Perry arrived with an expedition in Japan in an effort to open
it up to American trade. Now Commodore Perry’s arrival in Japan was
a big wake-up call for the Japanese. They realized that they were far behind the
West in terms of technology, and consequently in the 1860s Japan experienced a political
revolution in which its ruling Tokugawa shogunate was overthrown. This was known as the Meiji Restoration occurring
in 1868. The Meiji Restoration transformed Japan into
a modern Westernized nation state. Japan was already heavily urbanized, which
kind of gave it a head start. Japan would get a new constitution in 1889
with an elected parliament and a strong role for the emperor. Japan’s constitution, by the way, was modeled
after Germany’s constitution. The Japanese adopted modern Western dress
and styles. The government pushed modernization – including
improving schools and modernizing their army. And most importantly, the Japanese government
intentionally sought to rapidly industrialize the nation, and to facilitate industrialization
they provided capital for industrial investments. To do this, in 1882 the Bank of Japan was
created, and the government also worked very closely with big corporations, known as zaibatsu,
to build everything from railroads to textile mills and to expand Japan’s industry. While the majority of people in Japan still
lived in rural areas, by 1900 clearly Japan was industrializing, and this paid off for
Japan. As mentioned earlier, Japan beat China in
war in 1894 and took over Taiwan. Then, to the shock of the world, in 1905 Japan
beat Russia in war quickly destroying much of the Russian fleet that had been dispatched
to take on the Japanese military. After beating Russia, Japan took control of
Korea, and Japan sent many colonists to Korea, and its rule of Korea from 1905 until 1945
was very harsh; although Japan did bring modernization to Korea. So by acquiring Korea and Taiwan, Japan was
the only non-Western nation to become a modern industrial and imperial nation in its own
right. So let’s draw a few conclusions. Western powers, such as Britain; France; and
the United States industrialized and became imperial powers in the 19th century. Because Asian nations were so populist and
had products that Europeans desired, Europeans sought to trade with Asia, and you know, this
had been the case since the middle Ages. Better trade routes to Asia were exactly why
Christopher Columbus sailed west in the first place. By the 19th century, however, the Europeans
increasingly set the terms of their relationships with Asians and Asians fell farther and farther
behind economically and militarily – India; Indochina; the Philippines, were all ruled
by Westerners while China was pushed around both by the West and Japan. For its part, Japan was the only strong Asian
nation by 1900. Nevertheless, it had only done so by copying
the West. The weaknesses of Asian nations and their
dominance at the hands of Westerners led to closer global connections on the one hand,
but it upset the global system, making the West the core and much of Asia the periphery. Western dominance and the search for greater
independence; economic growth; and a reassertion of power against the West would in turn become
a major theme that would greatly influence Asia in the 20th and 21st centuries – including
today. With that I’ll end this video. Thanks for watching.

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