WHEN historical evolutions have reached their climax, either in a catastrophe or in the creation of a new equilibrium or both in one, they usually appear astonishingly logical. Looked at thus in retrospect, the development of Sino-Japanese relations from the date of the first clash in 1895 is no exception. Evidently China and Japan were fated to fight again. Nor is this conclusion, one feels sure, the product of ex post facto rationalizing, the systematizing of incidents and accidents. From the beginning there has been a tragic momentum towards a clash. The reasons why this is true bear directly on the present deplorable situation and will continue to influence the future relations of the two countries.
The mystery of the Meiji Emperor's decision in 1867 that Japan should embrace modern civilization, absorbing the thought and adopting the technical achievements of the West, has failed so far to make a sufficient impression on western peoples. That astonishingly abrupt and precise decision confronted the historian, the sociologist and the psychologist with a problem of unparalleled interest and importance. Instead of recognizing it as such, Europeans and Americans looked on it more with curiosity than with the "wonder" which Plato considers the beginning of all wisdom. Very soon even that curiosity subsided; Japan's resolve to "turn to the West" became a matter of course to Europeans and Americans -- and very profitable at that. Equally complacent and thoughtless was the attitude taken by the modern world toward the fact that China chose deliberately to lag behind Japan, with the result that today she must be considered on the whole the most conservative, the most "unmodern" nation in the civilized world. Through the decades following 1867 Japan gained over China rapidly and constantly (not to speak of her gains relative to the West). She had resolved to submit to the tremendous sacrifice which westernization entailed for her. With equal determination China stood back.
From such a discrepancy in the conceptions of their respective destinies, dating back to a
Loading, please wait...