Japan has made progressive steps in economic growth since the beginning of the 19th century to the present (Wan 234). Gigantic steps in economic growth over the last two centuries have seen the economy of Japan become the third largest in the globe (Ohno 78).
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Unlike the economy of her Japanese neighbor, which had a significant leap in growth during the last two centuries, the Chinese economy was mostly stagnant during the past century (Wan 234).
A range of elements (that were both present in China and Japan during the past two centuries) resulted in different economic progress for the two economies during the past century (Wan 234).
Among the most important parameters that have influenced the economic paths of China and Japan include pre-existing conditions before the onset of westernization, the role of western powers, the pace of embracing new ideas and technology, political stability, business environment, and globalization (Hayami 18).
Western powers began an aggressive process of increasing their wealth and power at the start of the 19th century. During the 1800’s, the Japanese population had already acquired a spectrum of behavior that is closely related with the aggressive and enterprising spirit of the western world (Johnson 124).
Here, the Japanese population could be described as well educated, hardworking, well organized and disciplined (Ohno 78). These characteristics formed a favorable pre-existing environment in Japan which would later contribute to high economic growth there.
Once a link was established between Japan and the western world (following the aggressive expansion of western colonies into the Asian region), Japan obtained an important opportunity to learn new ways of expanding her economy from her western counterparts (Hayami 18).
Therefore, Japan had a population that was more ready to initiate high economic growth than China.
Unlike her Japanese counterpart that has enjoyed relative peace and stability in the last two centuries, China has had many years of war and instability in the past two centuries. Between 1839 and 1842, a protracted war between China and Britain over opium trade destabilized China (Steinfeld 87).
Rebellions from the Taiping, Muslims, among other quarters were then to follow the opium wars. Protracted wars between China and Japan also contributed to the destabilization of China. There was also the Chinese civil war which lasted from 1945 to 1945 (Wan 234).
A study of Chinese history reveals that there was no decade of peace in China between 1839 and 1945. Moreover, autonomous provinces that were under warlord’s control fragmented China. Continual Conflicts in China at the time thus created an environment that hampered Industrial development there.
Although Japan had its fair share of conflicts, which included an array of coups from the military, she had relative stability than her Chinese neighbor (Hayami 18). Japanese wars often led to a more stable and stronger Japanese society unlike the Chinese wars that weakened the Chinese empire (Johnson 124).
For example, the overthrow of the Tokugawa dynasty gave rise to a more centralized and capable Meiji State (Hayami 18). The Meiji Empire was responsible for embedding important reforms that would catalyze high industrial growth in Japan (Ohno 80).
For Example, the Meiji rulers adopted a constitution that heavily borrowed from the western Prussian constitution. The new Japanese constitution would lay a foundation for a modern society in Japan.
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Multiple aspects that were present in the Japanese society attributed to a high industrial growth there. I have already mentioned about the presence of a functional and stable government.
Although the emperor was still very powerful, a democratic system of government was fruitful for the creation of a foundation that helped in the further evolution of democracy in Japan.
The talented, visionary and creative leaders of Meiji state played a crucial part in implementing changes that spurred economic growth in Japan (Johnson 124). Apart from able leaders, Japan had a working monetary system which helped in the financing of important industrial projects.
Moreover, Japan implemented important infrastructural projects such as a rail and cable system at an earlier stage than China. Starting with a railway line that was only 18 miles long in 1872, Japan expanded the length her railway line to over 2000 miles by 1894 (Ohno 78).
Today, Japan has one of the most developed railway transport systems in the world. The development of the railway line was helpful in opening up the Japanese hinterland for economic growth. Unlike her Japanese neighbor, China’s pace in developing a suitable environment for industrialization was slower.
As indicated earlier, The Chinese Empire was fragmented and weak during the entire 19th century (Steinfeld 87). Such a direction prevented Chinese leaders from focusing on reforms that could catalyze industrial development there (Wan 234).
Because of their participation and influence in the affairs of Asian nations, western powers played an important role in the industrial growth of Japan and China.
While some actions of western powers were positive in driving the economic growth of either country, the behavior of western powers was occasionally negative in influencing the economic growth of either country (Steinfeld 87).
A long feud that eventually resulted in the collapse of the Tokogawa Empire started after Mathew Perry Imposed a friendship treaty on Japan in 1854 (Ohno 78). In many respects, the collapse of the Tokogawa Empire created a room for the emergence of talented and able leaders who were helpful in driving industrial growth in Japan.
Understanding the power and impact of western powers on her Industrial growth and development, Japan was quick to initiate policies that created a range of strategic advantages for her.
For example, Japan tried to establish friendly relations with western powers to get support for her aggressive campaign in the Manchu Islands (Johnson 124).
Having supported the allies in WW1, Japan positioned herself to gain a lot of support for industrial growth from the United States and Britain. However, the fray of hostilities between western nations after WW1 created a complex environment for Japan (Johnson 124).
As a result, Japan made some miscalculated steps such as the bombing of the US naval base (Johnson 124). Unlike her Japanese neighbor, China did not enjoy friendly relations with western powers (especially Britain) during the 19th century (Steinfeld 87).
For example, China’s attempt to ban opium trade resulted in a war with Britain. After three years of fighting, Britain defeated China in 1839 (Steinfeld 87). As a result, Britain forced China to sign a treaty that transferred part of her territory and power to her.
Unlike her Chinese neighbor, Japan was quick to initiate important reforms that were crucial in driving her industrial growth. The Meiji rulers replaced traditional education with western education. By the mid 1800’s the Meiji government had already embarked on a process of building schools, colleges, and universities (Johnson 124).
In an effort to learn from her western counterparts, Japan exported many students to western Institutions. Japan had begun a series of foreign missions to Europe and the US by 1871 (Johnson 124). The purpose of these missions was to help Japan learn from the industrialized western societies.
The Japanese did not just import aspects of the western society into their own society; they modified and improved on what they had learnt from western nations. For example, Japanese universities tailored their education to help in Agricultural research and development.
Unlike her Japanese neighbor, China was slow in embracing a modern form of learning. China initiated educational reforms following her defeat by Japan during the Manchurian wars.
Here, China had begun amending her education system and even exported students to Japan (Wan 234). However, the education reforms had come very late to make substantial impacts on industrial growth.
Japan underwent a faster pace of modernization than her Chinese neighbor did during the last two centuries. The Japanese leaders initiated important steps that helped their country to become the most modern economy in the Asian region.
Here, The Meiji Empire was responsible for embedding important reforms that would catalyze high industrial growth in Japan (Ohno 80). The creation of a framework for industrial growth through the development of infrastructure and improvement in education has helped to spur great economic growth in Japan.
Protracted conflicts created political instability and hampered industrial growth in China. The Chinese were also slow in embracing important reforms that would have led to a faster pace of economic growth (Wan 234).
However, the Chinese seem to have learnt their lessons and are now on course to become an economic powerhouse (Wan 234).
Hayami, Akira. “Japanese Economic History” World Development 11.2 (1988): 18-22
Johnson, Chalmer. MITI and the Japanese Miracle: The Growth of Industrial Policy. New York: Stanford University Press, 1982. Print
Ohno, Kenichi. The Path Travelled by Japan as a Developing Country. Tokyo: McMillan, 2010 Print.
Steinfeld, Edward. “China’s Shallow Integration: Networked Production and the New Challenges for Late Industrialization” World Development 32.11 (2004):87-96
Wan, Lee. Growth of Total Factor Productivity and the Pace of Catching-Up Cheltenham: McMillan, 2004. Print