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H120 Introduction to the History of East Asia
Essay 3
Andy Ricci 622624
Word Count: 2018
H120 Introduction to the History of East Asia
Essay 3
Andy Ricci 622624
Word Count: 2018

Why do we sometimes refer to the events of 1868 in Japan as a 'restoration', but to those of the years following 1911 in China as 'revolutions'?


The Meiji Restoration of 1868 in Japan and the Chinese Revolution of 1911 were responsible for producing an enormous amount of upheaval in both countries. Both nations were immersed in social, political and economic backwardness. In this context, both political episodes should be construed as an attempt to reverse decline and set the course for modernization. The main thesis of this essay is based on the notion that whilst there are some similarities between both political events, the main difference resides in the fact that the Meiji Restoration began the centralization of the mechanisms of governance and induced the social and economic modernization of the country. At the same time, the Chinese Revolution of 1911 did not succeed in engendering a sound system of government capable of reversing the country’s decline. The first part of the essay will deal with the main characteristics of the Meiji restoration of 1868. The second section of the essay will outline the main features pertaining to the Chinese Revolution of 1911. The third part of the essay will examine the similarities and differences between these two events, with the ultimate purpose of determining the qualitative differentiation to be made between the concepts of “restoration” and “revolutions”.

The main characteristics of the Meiji restoration of 1868

The Meiji Restoration of 1868 can be interpreted as a concatenation of events that led to the establishment of a political compact that centralized power in the hands of the Emperor of Japan. The centralization of power that ensued was pivotal in order to embark on the process of social and economic modernization. The Japanese political system had been influenced by the Shoguns (local feudal lords), which prevented the centralization of political resources and the configuration of a modern nation-state. The imperial declaration of 1868 expresses in an eloquent manner the political aims of the Meiji Restoration:

“The Emperor of Japan…shall henceforward exercise supreme authority in all the internal and external affairs of the country…Officers are being appointed by us to the conduct of foreign affairs. It is desirable that the representatives of the treaty powers recognize this announcement.”

The Meiji Restoration entailed the reconfiguration of the system of governance according to “Enlightened Rule”, combining a mixture of Western and Eastern values in order to create social advancement. In addition to this, it is important to take into consideration that the actions of Commodore Matthew Perry, who had negotiated a series of trade deals with Japan on behalf of the United States, were influential in the realization of the great disparities that existed between Japan and the Western nations in the economic arena. It should be noted that the Meiji Restoration of 1868 envisaged the creation of a system that resembled, to some extent, the constitutional monarchical system that operated in Western European countries such as the United Kingdom. This means that the Emperor of Japan was regarded as a political figurehead that could unite the nation.

However, the system of government itself was to be put in the hands of an oligarchical political leadership that would implement governance mechanisms geared towards modernizing the nation. This entailed the abolition of the feudal system and the establishment of a modern market economy. It pays to highlight that the Meiji Restoration of 1868 was also responsible for eliminating the system of the feudal division of society into four classes (gentry, merchants, soldiers and nobility). This system, similar to the caste system that operated in parts of South Asia at that time, also led to the establishment of land reform. The changes brought forward in the system of agricultural production was influential in increasing output and providing the tenanted farmers with a sense of ownership that was not present during the times of the Shogunate.

Most importantly, the Meiji Restoration also eroded the power of the samurai, the military noble class that was previously subsidized with the proceeds of tax revenue. Here we see a process that was similar to the one that unfolded in Western Europe after the abolition of feudalism. The erosion of the power of samurai class was geared towards instilling in the Japanese population a feeling of allegiance to the modern nation-state that succeeded the abolition of the Shogunate. Another important element that was brought forward by the Meiji Restoration of 1868 was the process of industrial growth. The industrialization of Japan was propelled thanks to the significant level of investment directed at bolstering economic growth. Finally, the unification of the different dialects engendered the emergence of a modern Japanese language, capable of being understood by the different segments of society. These are aspects of paramount importance in order to appraise the historical success of the Meiji Restoration of 1868.

The main features of the Chinese revolutions of 1911

The revolution that took place in China in 1911 was aimed at overthrowing the Qing Dynasty and establish a republican system of government. The revolutionary episodes that broke out in different parts of the country also endeavored to provide the Han ethnic group with the opportunity to break free from the legal and customary restrictions that existed in society due to the dominance of the Manchu ethnic class. The feudal system was abolished, in an attempt to initiate the process of modernization that was needed in order to elevate the living standards of the pauperized Chinese people. The revolutionary episodes that unfolded in China since 1911 did not succeed in addressing the state of economic backwardness that affected China. It seems that the main objective of the Revolution of 1911 was to rid China of the monarchical system of government.

Nevertheless, the political leadership of Republican China was influential in bringing forth the cultural modernization of the country, with its orientation towards the critical reading of the ancient Confucian texts, the liberation of women from the state of virtual enslavement derived from the patriarchal and feudal system, and the incorporation of certain Western values, such as democracy and egalitarianism. These revolutionary episodes were, however, mostly carried forward by the local military, administrative and political elites. These groups would retain a significant amount of power in the period that succeeded the Revolution of 1911. The concentration of power engendered by this situation was responsible for the failure to restructure the foundations of society and centralize political power for the purposes of inducing economic growth. China, which had been the largest economy in the world before the onset of the Industrial Revolution in Western Europe at the beginning of the nineteenth century, lagged behind the West in terms of technological and economic advancement.

In addition to this, whilst the leaders of the revolution succeeded in ridding the country of feudalism and Manchu influence, the social and economic relations that followed the revolutionary period were reconstituted through a system of personal allegiances. This state of affairs would hinder the emergence of a modern system of governance capable of bringing about the political, social and economic advancement of China. In any case, the revolutionary episodes that unfolded in China since 1911 represented a significant attempt at transforming China and ridding the country of the backward political, social and economic elements that had prevented modernization. In the next section we will examine the similarities and differences that are present between the Meiji restoration of 1868 and the Chinese Revolutions of 1911.

Similarities and differences between the Meiji restoration of 1868 and the Chinese Revolutions of 1911

There are some similarities between Meiji Restoration of 1868 in Japan and the Chinese Revolution of 1911. In both cases, there was a consistent attempt to modernize both nations and to protect them from undue foreign influence. In addition to this, there was a search for the identification of the cultural elements that would be needed in order to balance tradition and modernity. The incorporation of certain Western cultural values (such as egalitarianism and rationalism) responded to the need to bring about much needed social modernization. It is possible to argue that the group of people that were influential in bringing about political change in both countries were informed by the narrative of decline. As such, there was a search for new cultural values that could propel the process of social and economic modernization. The incorporation of some Western values into the socio-cultural sphere represented a tacit acknowledgement of the dominant position of the Western world vis-à-vis China and Japan.

In spite of the existence of the similarities pointed out above, it is possible to argue that both episodes can be differentiated in accordance with the outcomes that they produced in the political, social and economic arenas. The episode that took place in Japan in 1868 is called a “restoration” because its main objective (and outcome) was to restore the position of authority of the emperor. This new compact led to the administrative and political centralization of Japan. In the case of China, the riddance of the Qing Dynasty was conducive to the breakout of “revolutionary” episodes all over the country. Most importantly, these revolutionary episodes led to the fragmentation of political power - an aspect of significant importance in order to understand the historical evolution of China after 1911. Moreover, the Meiji Restoration of 1868 was influential in uniting the country according to a new national credo, underpinned by the introduction of a unified language and a sense of allegiance to the imperial authority. This would create an important level of social modernization, as seen in the dissolution of the feudal system and the elimination of the division of society according to different classes. In the case of China, the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty and Manchu influence did not succeed in setting the foundations for the social modernization of the country. Notwithstanding the prevalence of a narrative that challenged the state of decline, the accumulation of power in the regional tiers of society was not conducive to initiating the modernization of the nation.

Another difference that can be pointed out between the Meiji restoration of 1868 and the Chinese Revolution of 1911 revolves around the effects that both episodes had in the economic arena. In the case of Japan, the Meiji Restoration of 1868 constituted an opportunity to advance an ambitious programme of economic modernization, based on the industrialization of the country and the increase in agricultural output. In the case of China, the efforts of the political leadership in order to modernize the country did not result in the reversal of the state of economic decline. For all the reasons identified above, it is possible to state that the idea of a “restoration” seems to be justified by making reference to the accomplishment of the aim of the political, social and economic modernization of Japan. Conversely, the upheavals that unfolded in China since 1911 are referred to as “revolutions” because they created a sense of fragmentation that would not be redressed until the 1970s. The Meiji Restoration of 1868 would be conducive to establishing Japan as one of the most prominent members of the international order. The Chinese Revolution of 1911 augmented the spectrum of social, political and economic decline.


In conclusion, it may be argued that in the case of Japan in the late 1860s, it is possible to talk about a “restoration” because the actions that took place during that period led to the entrenchment of the political centralization of the country. Conversely, the effect of the Chinese Revolution of 1911 was to initiate a period of great political instability and fragmentation in the country. There are a number of similarities between both political events, as the Meiji Restoration of 1868 and the Chinese Revolution of 1911 brought significant upheaval to both countries. However, the Meiji Restoration engendered the centralization of the mechanisms of governance, setting the foundations for the social and economic modernization of the country. Conversely, the Chinese Revolution of 1911 failed to produce a sound system of government capable of redressing the social and economic decline of the country.


Beasley, William G., The Meiji Restoration, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1972.

Bendix, Reinhard and Harootunian, H. D. ‘Review: Beasley's Restoration: Two Views.’ The Journal of Asian Studies 33.4 (Aug. 1974): 659-672.

De Bary, Theodore, Gluck, Carol and Arthur Tiedemann, Sources of Japanese Tradition: 1600 to 2000 , New York, NY :Columbia University Press, , 2005.

Fitzgerald, John, Awakening China: Politics, Culture, and Class in the Nationalist Revolution, Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 1996.

Fitzgerald, John. ‘The Misconceived Revolution: State and Society in China's Nationalist Revolution, 1923-26.’ The Journal of Asian Studies 49.2 (May 1990): 323-343.

Harootunian, H.D., Toward Restoration: The Growth of Political Consciousness in Tokugawa Japan, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1970.

Karl, Rebecca, Staging the World: Chinese Nationalism at the Turn of the 20th Century, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002.

Kuhn, Philip, Origins of the Modern Chinese State, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002.

Levenson, Joseph R. ‘The Breakdown of Confucianism: Liang Ch'i-Ch'ao before Exile-1873-1898.’ Journal of the History of Ideas 11.4 (Oct. 1950): 448-485.

Rankin, Mary Backus. ‘State and Society in Early Republican Politics, 1912-18.’ The China Quarterly 150 (Jun. 1997): 260-281.

Smith, Thomas C., Native Sources of Japanese Industrialization, 1750-1920, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1988.

Totman, Conrad. ‘Fudai Daimyo and the Collapse of the Tokugawa Bakufu.’ The Journal of Asian Studies 34.3 (May 1975): 581-591.

Wakeman, Frederic, The Fall of Imperial China, New York, NY: Free Press, 1975.

Wilson, George M. ‘Plots and Motives in Japan's Meiji Restoration.’ Comparative Studies in Society and History 25.3 (Jul. 1983): 407-427.

Wills, John E., Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994.

[ 1 ]. W. Beasley, The Meiji Restoration, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1972, p. 21.
[ 2 ]. T. De Bary, C. Gluck and A. Tiedemann, Sources of Japanese Tradition: 1600 to 2000 , New York, NY :Columbia University Press, 2005, p. 670.
[ 3 ]. Beasley, p. 149.
[ 4 ]. H. Harootunian, Toward Restoration: The Growth of Political Consciousness in Tokugawa Japan, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1970, p. 33.
[ 5 ]. R. Bendix and H. Harootunian, ‘Review: Beasley's Restoration: Two Views.’ The Journal of Asian Studies 33.4 (Aug. 1974), p. 661.
[ 6 ]. C. Totman, ‘Fudai Daimyo and the Collapse of the Tokugawa Bakufu.’ The Journal of Asian Studies 34.3 (May 1975), p. 582.
[ 7 ]. Bendix and Harootunian, p. 665.
[ 8 ]. Totman, p. 584.
[ 9 ]. J. Fitzgerald, ‘The Misconceived Revolution: State and Society in China's Nationalist Revolution, 1923-26.’ The Journal of Asian Studies 49.2 (May 1990), p. 324.
[ 10 ]. Fitzgerald, p. 326.
[ 11 ]. M. Rankin, ‘State and Society in Early Republican Politics, 1912-18.’ The China Quarterly 150 (Jun. 1997), p. 262.
[ 12 ]. Rankin, p. 266.
[ 13 ]. P. Kuhn, Origins of the Modern Chinese State, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002, p. 66.
[ 14 ]. G. Wilson, ‘Plots and Motives in Japan's Meiji Restoration.’ Comparative Studies in Society and History 25.3 (Jul. 1983), p. 404
[ 15 ]. J. Wills, Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994, p. 275.
[ 16 ]. J. Fitzgerald, Awakening China: Politics, Culture, and Class in the Nationalist Revolution, Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 1996, p. 111.
[ 17 ]. Wilson, p. 409.
[ 18 ]. R. Karl, Staging the World: Chinese Nationalism at the Turn of the 20th Century, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002, p. 61.
[ 19 ]. Beasley, p. 169.
[ 20 ]. F. Wakeman, The Fall of Imperial China, New York, NY: Free Press, 1975, p. 70.
[ 21 ]. Wills, p. 279.
[ 22 ]. T. Smith, Native Sources of Japanese Industrialization, 1750-1920, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1988, p. 135.
[ 23 ]. Smith, p. 139.
[ 24 ]. Kuhn, p. 69.

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...AGRANA CASE STUDY: FROM LOCAL SUPPLIER TO A GLOBAL PLAYER Introduction: The story of the Vienna-based company, AGRANA is pretty fascinating when one considers the journey of 19 years and how far the company has come thus far. Also the fact that AGRANA is major participant in the food and beverages industry while supplying the major players is quite impressive. AGRANA realized total gross revenue of US$4bn by end of 2013 (Annual Report, 2013). The continual growth of AGRANA with current expansion into Australia and South East Asia is also very outstanding. 1. From an industry-based view, how would you characterize competition in this industry? AGRANA has seen remarkable growth in its expansion and acquisition of new entities although it kept its diversification to a minimum. It still concentrates on its major divisions of Sugar, Starch, Fruit and Bioethanol production as currently. However, AGRANA has become a conglomerate of different entities within the group. The success of integrating these different entities with diverse origins has reduced its inter-firm rivalry to a minimum. Within its component parts, AGRANA has seen and continues to enjoy great success. As an industry leader, AGRANA has also cemented its lead by having a competitive edge using its “personnel, experience and financial strength” to the advantage of the company. The bas of AGRANA now has almost been solidified in an industry where new and potential entry commands a lot of resources and financial...

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