Modernization in the 19th and 20th centuries

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Modernizationin the 19thand 20thcenturies

Modernizationof China, Japan, and Korea in the 19th and 20th century has been theleading factor in their success in Asia. All the three countriesunderwent a successful transition into a fully developed economy bythe 20th century[CITATION Wes12 p 142 l 1033 ].Despite their differences in approaches and paths used to achievemodernization, the goals and objectives of economic growth anddevelopment were obtained. The history of the three countries and thecourse of actions they took are the significant building blocks oftheir economy[CITATION Til14 p 138 l 1033 ].The paper addresses various industrialization factors that promptedthe growth and development of these countries.

Theresponse of each of the countries to westernization was utterlydifferent and a major determinant of economic growth and prosperity.China, Japan, and Korea exercised continued isolationist habits, withtheir hands tied against the Western commerce and influence.

Modernizationof China

Chinaresponded positively to the western trade, but the merchants wererestricted to Canton[CITATION Bry13 p 95 l 1033 ].Disagreement between the British and China resulted at the beginningof the Opium Wars that led to Chinese defeat. China failed to adjustto the western culture, preserving their norms. China facedhumiliation and loss in its fight against the West as it did not haveknowledge of the superiority of Western military. China’s failureto adjust to the westernization and modernize caused it most of the20th century as it remained economically weak[CITATION Til14 p 78 l 1033 ].

Modernizationof Japan

Japan’smodernization efforts started in 1868, contributed by the Meiji[CITATION Bry13 p 106 l 1033 ].The administration adopted western model of governance. Thedifference in reaction between the two countries against the westernpower was as a result of the historical timings. Japan was afraid ofresisting the western power as it had seen the impacts of resistancefrom the Chinese. Japan ditched its old ways and formed a newgovernment, adopted the culture of the West, military thinking, newideas, and technology. Japan brought in foreign technicians,abolished feudalism, established new coinage and taxation systems,and infrastructures such as railways and banks[CITATION Til14 p 135 l 1033 ].In the 20th century, trade treaties between Japan and the UnitedStates ensured the growth of Japan as a great Asian power.

Modernizationof Korea

Onthe other hand, modernization in Korea started in the 19th century.It was an isolationist nation, but after the happenings of the OpiumWars under their watch, they lessened their strict policies andopened doors for the western powers. After paving the way for theWest, Korea went through a paramount modernization, from being anagricultural society to a modern industrialized nation[CITATION Bry13 p 128 l 1033 ].Japan made its move to Korea by practically annexing itafter the Russia War of 1905. From its experience of Meijiadministration, Japan introduced policies and measures in Korea thatresulted in modernization.


Thesecountries exhibited a common aspect of systematic evolutionarymodernization that helped them achieve their goals. Despite differenttimings of modernization among the three nations, they all strived toaccomplish economic growth. Unlike Japan, China achievedmodernization without clinging to the West[CITATION Lin12 p 69 l 1033 ].On the other hand, Korea modernization was dictated by the Westerncountries. It is evident that the three countries took differentpaths in achieving modernization. However, some commonalities intheir course manifest in different ways. Today, the pursuit ofmodernization remains as China tries to be the world’s mostpowerful economy. It is the second most powerful economy on theplanet and added reason to keep up its expedition.


Brym, Robert J and John Lie. Sociology: Pop Culture to Social Structure. Belmont: Cengage Learning, 2013.

Lin, Justin Yifu . Demystifying the Chinese Economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Till, Geoffrey and Jane Chan. Naval Modernisation in South-East Asia: Nature, Causes and Consequences. New York: Routledge, 2014.

Westad, Odd . Restless Empire: China and the World Since 1750. New York: Basic Books, 2012.

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