Far Eastern Governments and Politics: China and Japan

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

CHAPTER FIFTEEN
The Japanese Model of Europe

CONSTRUCTION of a Japanese model of Europe was one of the most spectacular surprises of the nineteenth century. While the process itself was occurring, it attracted a great deal of attention from the outside world and was interpreted as being a factor of major importance in foreign and perhaps in world politics. The Western peoples of that time found it supremely easy to accept the simple dogma of their own absolute superiority to all other civilizations, and they were therefore able to explain Japan's adaptation of a Western state form in the primitive positive statement that the Japanese were trying to catch up with civilization.

To us of the twentieth century Japan's adaptation must necessarily appear to be a more intricate process. We do not have the naïve confidence in our own superiority enjoyed by our great-grandfathers. We do not accept history as a continual straight line from backwardness to progress, nor even as a spiral in which we represent the unqualified best produced by the human race. It is possible for people in the mid-twentieth century?, even from the advantage of the Western World, to review the change from Shogunate to modern empire without being circumscribed by the assumption that the Shōgun's government was in esse quaint and backward and that the European style of government was progressive and modern.

Furthermore, present-day observers have the advantage of knowing what happened when the Japanese did make "progress." We realize, as our forefathers did not, that the progress led not only to horse cars in the streets of Tokyo, but to torpedo warplanes in the Hawaiian skies. Far more than our predecessors we understand the prices which nations must pay for change of any kind. By bitter experience we have learned to dread the momentum of mechanical and technological change which is not geared to a corresponding degree of spiritual or ideological development. Many of us are dismayed by the coexistence of the nation-state and atomic weapons;

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