Steam ship Nemesis destroying the Chinese war junks in Anson's Bay,
7 January 1841
(National Maritime Museum, Greenwich)

UCSB Hist 2c (World History, 1700-pres.)
Opium Wars in China, Imperialism in Japan
Lectures 11 & 12, on May 9 & 11, 2006 (midterm, next)

by Professor Harold Marcuse
(Prof's homepage;
created May 12, 2006, updated 5/8/08

1. China prior to the 1830s
2. The
Opium Wars

3. Before & After Japan's Meiji Restoration (1866-69)

4. Japan joins the "Imperialist Gang," 1895-1931
Japanese karuta card game

Introduction (back to top)

  • This page of lecture notes encompasses 2 lectures:
    1. Prof. Marcuse's L11 on China with focus on the Opium Wars (1839-1852, 1856-1860). Core question: On the scale of world history, how was the greatest world empire since the 1400s reduced to "second rate" status in the 1840s?
    2. Prof. Robert's lecture on Japan, with a focus on Japanese imperialism from the 1870s to the 1930s.
  • The lead-in to the first lecture was an analysis of several editorial cartoons about illegal immigration into the United States (since it had to do with the second paper topic, I will put most of that discussion on the Events page), including one that used a reverse analogy to make its point. I presented a present-day scenario that, I argued, would be analogous to the terms of the "Unequal Treaties" that ended the first Opium War in China. Why did I think one analogy was "better" than the other? Both are very good because they bring a point home very strongly. However, whereas the immigration reversal analogy used a grossly exaggerated number to overstate its point (which has to do with the relative numerical impact), I claimed that my analogy was intended only to compare structural similarities, not magnitudes, and was therefore somehow more appropriate or accurate. So what were the two analogies?
    immigration reversal comic
    1. A recent (May 2, 2006) Mallard Fillmore cartoon simply reversed a high estimate of the total number of illegal immigrants in the US today, and placed them in Mexico. It makes its point very powerfully. Aside from the question whether many of these illegals are actually taking advantage of US social services "for free," I focused on the number 20 million.
      • Estimates range from 28 mio (rabid anti-immigrant group, no source cited), to 11.7 mio (immigration reform group, with detailed discussion of INS and US Census Bureau estimates), to 9 mio. (INS). And only a fraction of those are from Mexico (not the rest of the world): Census: 3.9 mio., INS: 4.8 mio.
      • But Mexico has a much smaller population compared to the US: 107 mio. vs. 298 mio. A fairer analogy would reduce the reversal by a factor of 2.8. (CIA factbook figures)
      • Still, the economic drain is actually on the labor force alone. A comparison of those numbers, 43 mio. vs. 150 mio., would suggest a reduction by a factor of 3.5.
      • Another, possibly more accurate comparison would be the burden on each citizen in terms of per capita production (GDP): $10,000 vs. $42,000 in the US. That would reduce the figures of 4.8 mio. Mexicans illegally in the US by a factor of 4.2): 1.2 million.
      • Thus a "more accurate" reversal analogy might have 1.2 mio. US citizens showing up in Mexico. This is an actually imaginable and less fear-inspiring number. One might even argue that the services US citizens might expect to access there are equivalent to those available to most illegal immigrants into the US.
    2. My analogy [from the book: Travis Hanes and Frank Sanello, The Opium Wars: The Addiction of One Empire and the Corruption of Another (Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2002), p. xi]:
      • Imagine that a Colombian cocaine cartel invades the US today (maybe they could have a superweapon that disables our telecommunications & internet), and does the following:
        • forces the legalization of Cocaine
        • allows cartel to import into 5 major US port cities (no taxes or customs oversight)
        • only drug lords have authority over Columbian citizens operating in the 5 ports
        • US has to pay $100 billion indemnity (cost of war and previously confiscated cocaine)
      • This is analogous to what Britain was able to do to China in 1839-42 and (with France) 1856-60.
    3. So why do I think that one analogy is "more appropriate" than the other?
      • I think the cartoon distorts the relationship in its simple reversal. After all, it makes a big difference (to use another analogy) whether a pony goes into an elephant's stable, or an elephant into a pony's.
      • The purpose of the drug cartel analogy is 1) to underscore that what we would now call a controlled substance was at the heart of this war, and 2) to highlight how quickly the relatively small, undeveloped, beggar nation Britain advanced to handily force its terms on the largest and in many ways most developed world empire to date.

1. China prior to the 1830s: A World Superpower (back to top)

Before the age of European global exploration, namely in the early 1400s, China was vastly superior in its political, cultural and social organization to Europe. The textbook (Tignor p. 64f) illustrates the relative size of one of Zheng He's ships (ca. 1400) and one of Columbus's almost a century later:
Zheng He's ship and Columbus's Santa Maria
The Menzies, 1421Chinese ship had 4x the length and 9x the cargo capacity. Whereas Columbus had 100 men in his 3 ships, in Zheng Hes retinue there were 868 civil officers, 26,800 soldiers, 93 commanders, two senior commanders, 140 millerions (captains of a thousand men each), 403 centurions, a Senior Secretary of the Board of Revenue, a geomancer (who divines information from earthly signs), a military instructor, two military judges, 180 medical officers and assistants, two orderlies, seven senior eunuch ambassadors, ten junior eunuchs and 53 eunuch chamberlains,

Amateur historian Gavin Menzies wrote a book arguing that Zheng He's fleet even discovered the Americas before the continental Europeans did: 1421: The Year China Discovered America (2002; $10 on amazon, also available: DVD of a PBS TV documentary).

    • As an aside: critically examining the evidence presented in that book would be an appropriate topic for the second paper.
    • A more serious book on Zheng He's voyages is: Louise Levathes, When China Ruled the Seas : The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433 (1997, $10 at amazon)

The textbook also includes a map of Zheng He's documented voyages:

How did China rank in the following centuries? I reminded of the readings in textbook chapters:
5. Cultures of Splendor and Power (pp. 172-175), and
6. section "Persistance of the Qing Empire" (pp. 230-235)
Together these cover the rise and fall of several Chinese Dynasties:

  • Mongol Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368)
  • Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)
    • prosperity in: textbook pp. 115f
    • downfall/transition to Qing: pp. 141-146
  • Manchu Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) [Manchuria: NE China, towards Korea & Japan]
    • expansion with additional arable lands and new crops (rice from SE Asia, sweet potatos from Americas) -> led to demographic change (remember L3-4 about causes of the IR?)
      150 mio. population ca. 1650 doubled to 300 mio. ca. 1800.
    • Long-serving emperors brought stability:
      Kangxi (1661-1722) [note: I had the first date wrong in the ppt]
      Yongzheng (1722-1735): banned opium (in an opium-tobacco blend) in 1729
      Qianlong (1736-1796)King George III, 1792Quianlong Emperor, 1792
    • Lord Macartney's mission, 1793: British textiles, cutlery, pottery, clocks, scientific gadgets, musical instruments, vs. Chinese tea, silk, porcelain. Nothing the Chinese wanted.
    • The Canton System continued unabated (text & explanation by John O'Brien, John Jay/CUNY):
      • Canton=Guangzhou: 13 "factory" warehouses on riverbank
      • trading pattern between Chinese and foreign merchants, primarily 1759-1842
      • all foreign trade highly regulated and confined to Canton
      • tea, rhubarb, silk, spices, handcrafts
      • similar to mercantilism of Europe and its colonies
      • drain of silver from European sources (since 1600s)

So how did contemporary China and Europe compare? For example compare Emperor Zhu Di's "Forbidden City" (1421-) to Louis XIV's Versailles Palace (1661-):

Forbidden City need Versailles palace image 290x185px

Random facts: China is about the size of the United States, including Alaska, but it has more than four times the population (1300 million vs. 300 million). Clear overview map of China at In 1801 China's population was the same as the US's in 2001.

2. The Opium Wars (back to top)

The textbook (Tignor et al, 2002, 232-234) has an excellent section on them, replete with superb illustration. Be sure to read it! I also recommend:

  • Book: Travis Hanes and Frank Sanello, The Opium Wars: The Addiction of One Empire and the Corruption of Another (Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2002)
  • Video: The Opium War (China, 1997, 150 mins.) (imdb Yapian Zhanzheng page)
  • The Cornell Univ. library's Wason collection pages on the Opium Wars offer numerous primary sources, including Lord Macartney's logbooks.

Background & History

  • 1773 the (British) East India Company (chartered in 1600 to compete with the monopolistic Dutch and Portuguese East India companies; see wikipedia East India Co. page) achieved a monopoly on opium produced in Bengal.
    • Since the Company couldn't import opium into China, it was smuggled into China by third-party traders.
    • Cash from Chinese drug-runners was paid into Company accounts at Canton.
  • From 1799 to 1821 about 5000 chests of opium were smuggled into China each year.
  • By 1825 most of the money needed to buy tea in China was raised by this opium trade.
  • "Country trade": British imported Indian goods into China to balance exchange, esp. opium
  • 1834: end of British East India Company monopoly on trade with China -> competition among British importers begins. Opium imports increase dramatically (1821-1837: fivefold to about 25,000 chests/year); 16,500 in 1831-32, 40,000 in 1838-39.
  • 1838 Emperor appoints Governor Lin Zexu (1785-1850) as his anti-drug czar.
  • Jan. 15, 1840: Lin Zexu's letter to Queen Victoria [in course reader].
    • Lin did not mail the letter, and since there was no British ambassador in China to deliver it, Lin had it published in Canton, thinking that British sea captains would bring it to the queen's attention.
    • On June 3 (now anti-smoking day in Taiwan) Lin confiscated the stockpile of 20,291 chests of opium in Canton and had them destroyed by burying them in trenches and flooding them with seawater (compare: Boston Tea Party).
  • 1839-1842 (first) Opium War [wikipedia First Opium War page]
  • Treaty of Nanking: indemnity, annexation of Hong Kong, "fair tariff," 5 ports
    1843 addition: British not subject to Chinese law
    Text of Nanking Treaty (Aug. 29, 1842) at UCLA Asia Institute; to be renegotiated after 12 years.
  • ca. 1850: 30,000 chests of opium imported per year
  • 1856-60: Second Opium War (Britain + France vs. China, US & Russia hovering)
    [wikipedia on Second Opium War]
    See also this loooong Feb. 26, 1857 British Parliamentary speech on the "Arrow Incident" on Oct. 8, 1856 that triggered the war -- talk about beating around the bush!
  • by 1867: 70,000 chests of opium imported "legally" per year

Prof. John O'Brien at John Jay/CUNY has an excellent set of primary source documents on the Opium Trade from the 1790s to 1900 (scroll down to "The International Scene--1. China")

Compare India and Japan

  • India: like Europe, had no centralized state
    • gave rise to a more dynamic situation with more competition between states
    • competition between various European powers; Britain eclipsed others by 1700, France decisively defeated by 1760
    • the Mughal emperor was weakened by recalcitrant provincial rulers; both were little more than puppets under the control of the Company
    • The Company used sepoys (Indian mercenaries trained and commanded by British officers) from one state to conquer others. (Also against China in the Opium wars.)
  • The US came to Japan in 1853, AFTER industrialization, as compared to Macartney in China in 1792: in steam-powered warships
    • there was a stand-off, with the Shogun refusing an audience
    • return in 1854: Shogun opened 2 ports as a compromise
      festival with sumo wrestlers and a 1/5 scale miniature steam locomotive train
    • See the 1853 source in the course reader (p. 52): Tokugawa Nariaki, "Reject the Westerners"

The prints below are from the series History of the Fall of the Tokugawa and Meiji Period According to Woodblock Prints (Nishikie Bakumatsu Meiji No Rekishi), UCSB: Asian DS881.K63 v.1,6,12
These images were a kind of souvenir postcard produced for travelers.Perry's arrival in Japan, 1853
The print above shows (clockwise from top): Westerners awed by Sumo wrestlers, the site of the trade treaty negotiations, Perry's steamship (note the emphasis on the smoke, and the sailors in the rigging), the Westerners parading with their musical instruments and weapons, old Japanese scholars debating how to respond. In the center is a world map showing the location of the US--note how Japan is in the center of this Pacific-centered portrayal of the globe.

Perry's hand reaching into Japanese society
This woodcut shows Perry's giant hand reaching into Japan, prompting a yin-yang of reactions:
some welcoming, some fleeing the Western intervention as good or bad for business.

3. Before and After Japan's Meiji Restoration (=1866-69) (back to top)

Tokugawa period, 1600-1868

  • Japan was comprised of many pricipalities, each ruled by a samurai daimyo. All of the daimyo were subordinated to the shogun. Characteristics:
    • very hierarchical status society
    • highly literate with well-developed print culture
    • very bureaucratic, very stable, commercially integrated, commercial culture
    • NOT truly isolated: trade with countries within 1000 miles, BUT Japanese not allowed to travel abroad for fear of missionary Christianity
  • Japanese well aware of British Opium Wars against China and take-over of Mughal India
  • 1858: after Perry's arrival in 1853 & 1854, conclusion of Unequal Treaties, called "Treaty of Amity and Commerce" by the US. Consequences:
    • not tarif autonomy to protect domestic industries (cotton industry collapses)
    • Westerners have extraterritoriality
    • most favored nation clause: any privilege to anyone must also be granted to US
    • one major difference to China: prohibition on trade in opium
  • Cholera epidemic, high indemnities paid by Tokugawa -> crisis of legitimacy
  • 1864, 1865-67 civil wars: Tokugawa resign. Renegade samurai establish new government
    • 1868 Imperial Oath shows both promise of democracy and self-colonization:
      1. 'The practice of discussion and debate shall be universally adopted, and all measures shall be decided by public argument." BUT:
      4. "The uncivilized customs of former times shall be broken through, and the impartiality and justice displayed in the workings of nature be adopted as teh basis for action."
    • self-colonization: acceptance of Western ideas & customs as "civilized," and non-Western as uncivilized
    • best-selling scholar Fukuzawa Yukichi (1835-1901) advocated Westernization in order to resist being colonized by the West.
    • Japan brought in medical & legal scholars from Germany, agricultural experts from the US; also Western educational system, French army, British navy and industry. (Silk trade provided revenue for this.)
  • Japan wants to become one of the "imperialist gang," but underlying racism in West prevents.
    Still, Japan develops an ideology of superiority over other Asian lands
  • 1890 constitution: elected assembly has control of annual budget, but still very elitist (very few can vote)
  • The goal of Japanese foreign policy is the revision of the Unequal Treaties, attained in 1894, into effect by 1899-1905

Was this adoption of Western ways good or bad?
The following woodcuts from the 1890s illustrate the two possibilities:

Western education is good Western education is bad
Students in Western dress receive an orderly education.
The "School of Shivers" shows Japanese pupils learning demonic arts (Shi ri co ta ma in Western letters). (Enlarge and examine closely!)
Japanese factory, 1880s?
Japanese Western-style factory, perhaps in the 1880s (compare Tignor et al, 2002, 298)

4. Japan Joins the "Imperialist Gang," 1895-1931 (back to top)

  • Japan can prove that it is "civilized" by colonizing others, namely Okinawa and Hokkaido and the Kuril Islands
  • 1894-95: first Sino-Japanese War, won handily by Japanese
    • Japan concludes treaty directly with the Qing, gets island of Taiwan and Kwantung peninsula on mainland
    • Triple Intervention by Russia, Germany and France: Japan can't have part of mainland.
      BUT: Russia immediately leases the Kwantung territory itself!
    • Taiwan becomes Japan's model colony
  • 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War
    • This time they let Westerners (Teddy Roosevelt) broker treaty
    • Japan gets Korea, but as a state-society it is much harder to rule than Taiwan.
      Japan forces Koreans to learn Japanese, etc.
    • Japan gets Kwantung this time, as well as lucrative Russian railway through Manchuria
  • 1914-1918 World War I: combination of racism and imperialism
    • The Versailles Treaty claimed the "self-determination of nations" as a guiding principle
    • Japan wanted to have "all races are equal" as a provision of the treaty, but the Western powers refused. It was the time of the "yellow peril" craze.
    • Koreans took national self-determination seriously, in 1919 started "March 1st movement"
      The Japanese crack down hard: 13,000 Koreans killed, 45,000 wounded
  • 1931: Japan decides to go it alone & pursue imperialist agenda without Western approval
    • Why? because of racist "glass ceiling"
    • fear of increasing demand for freedom, e.g. Marxist labor movement (Red scare)
    • fear of feminism
    • increasing wealth, BUT rich get richer, poor get poorer; zaibatsu (see Tignor 2002, p. 298: giant family-controlled firms, in contrast to limited-liability corporations) cause bankruptcies among small businesses.
    • rice riots quelled with Korean imports, prices drop, hurts Japanese farmers (70% of pop.)
    • spiritual revival: Shinto purity
    • fear of being closed in: see Hashimoto Kingoro speech (reader p. 55): 3 doors to escape pressure of "surplus" population, namely emigration, world trade, territorial expansion
    • 1931, Sept.: Japan invades Manchuria while China busy fighting communism.
      Justification: "Harmony of the 5 Races" (Japanese, Han, Mongol, Korean, Manchu)
    • League of Nations (created to guarantee/enforce terms of Versailles Treaty) won't recognize Manchuria (a "puppet regime"), so Japan withdraws from the League in 1933
    • 1937: Japan stages the Marco Polo bridge incident as a pretext to start a war with China.
      It is unwinnable, so Japan resorts to increasing violence & pillaging, casualties mount.
  • Is Japanese imperialism any worse than Western?
    No. For example, Japanese kill 100,000 in invasion of Phillipines; US kills 200,000.

Map of Japanese Empire

Japanese Karuta Card Game (back to top)

  • "carta" introduced by Portuguese sailors, 1542
  • adapted older game with shells
  • Jap. ABC=syllabary
    • katakana (angular)
    • hiragana (cursive)
    • kanji (Chinese)
  • A game of World War II karuta made by Prof. Roberts will be an activity in section this week
    • Most of the images are paired, that is, two cards show the same thing from the Japanese and US perspectives
    • Why? To show the similarities in the ways we view ourselves and our enemies during wartime.
World War II karuta: N
The "N" card shows British soldiers (helmets) massacring Asian civilians.

The "O" card shows a kong-sized Japanese soldier devastating an Asian (house roof) town. The (US?) caption reads: "A British commentary on the Japanese soldier."

Note: Prof. Marcuse's pet peeve: I really dislike the use of "the Japanese soldier" ("the reader," "the listener," etc.), since it hinders differentiation by implying that there is only one (type). Please use the plural: "Japanese soldiers," "readers," etc.

World War II karuta: O
Japanese Karuta game: today
katakana Karuta, 1944
hiragana karuta, 1944

prepared for web by Harold Marcuse, May 14, 2006, updated: see header
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