Far Eastern Governments and Politics: China and Japan

By Paul M. A. Linebarger; Djang Chu et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOURTEEN
The Coming of the Sea-Borne States

DYNAMIC though Japanese history was in the period before Western contacts, the world of Christendom was even more dynamic. While Japan moved from one kind of feudalism to another, developing meanwhile one of the world's most perfect examples of the police state, the nation-states of Europe sprang from the rich ruins of medieval Christendom and, for the first time in human history, made the "world" of their power politics co-terminus with the planet Earth.

The greatest change in all Japanese history came, as it has come sooner or later to every single Asian country, from the outside. Even in the mid- twentieth century it is still true that the West European peoples, together with their American, South African, and Australian offsprings, and their East European rivals, are the most dynamic of the human race. From the sixteenth century onward, change in Asia has been colored by the fact that the Western World first remotely and then proximately set the standards for change, if not for forward movement.

It would be an oversimplification to suggest that the native dynamism of Japanese history has disappeared, or to allow the inference that the only forces making for change in Japanese society are forces from the outside. Great though the Western impact may have been, and greater still the extraordinarily creative fusion of Japanese national character and the stimuli provided from the West, it would be an exaggeration to make the major factor into the exclusive one. It is wise therefore to preface any recitation of changes provided by the Western impact within Japanese government by a statement of what was happening to Tokugawa Japan at the very time that this impact took place.

____________________
1

A mature, reflective study of this central problem of intercultural penetration--with Japan chosen as the principal illustration--is offered by Sir George Sansom in his recent The Western World and Japan, cited.

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