Far Eastern Governments and Politics: China and Japan

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

CHAPTER SIXTEEN
The Meiji Constitution

WITH the adoption of Europe as a model and with the acceptance of the role of a great power as the most civilŌized and progressive role for Japan to play, the leaders of the Restoration erected an acceptable fagade of modern-looking and apparently Westernized government at the front of Japanese society. The bulk of the society reŌmained Japanese in culture, tradition, and language--not to speak of such details as administrative habits, modes of legal thought, and day-by-day ideas of what specific governmental duties might involve.

Japan and Western Nationhood. The Japanese model of European government in Japan, the Europe grafted upon the pre-national Japanese nation, was not a sham. It was authentic, as authentic as the T'ang ExŌemplar had been in another age.

Constitutionally the most extraordinary singularity about modern Japan is Japan's peculiarly facile adoption of the nation-state as a mode of political existence. Japan had never been a real member of the Confucian family of nations, nor had Japan ever been a satrapy within the confines of the ChiŌnese Empire proper.1 Japan had been a nation sans le savoir. At the time that the nation-state was hammered out across centuries of bitter Western political experience, appearing at last as a proud artifact of the European peoples, Japan was naturally, and without conscious intent on the part of the Japanese, a close, although unwitting, equivalent of the European nationŌstate. All the other nations of East Asia had to lose their respective Asian political consciousnesses before they could become "nations" in the modern world--the Chinese had to cease thinking of their country as a universal empire, the Korean and Annamites had to cease considering their countries

____________________
1
The concept of "Confucian family of nations" is best presented by the thoughtful work of the late M. Frederick Nelson, Korea and the Old Orders in Eastern Asia, Baton Rogue, 1945, while the concepts of ecumenical empire and satrapy are most cogently applied to the Far Eastern scene in an unpublished work on province and acumen in China by Professor Robert Hosack, of the University of Idaho.

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