Comparing Responses to European Exploration
As trade routes and relationships began to develop between Europe and Asia, the countries of China and Japan sought to curb the amount of influence that these European explorers had over their nations.
In China, the main ideology regarding foreign relations was one of isolationism, meaning they wanted to isolate their country and keep it from any entanglements with other countries. Chinese leadership did not see many benefits in forming relationships with foreign nations, and therefore wanted to limit outside influences. Similarly, Japan’s leadership also wanted to curb the amount of influence from other nations, and even communicated with China to learn from them the best way of going about this. Both had an interest in preserving their respective cultures.
As more and more countries began to show interest in Chinese goods, the country decided to tailor its foreign policy in a way they thought would be beneficial to everyone. China created foreign enclaves, or pockets of territories within their countries, that the European explorers could lease and conduct their trade. Macau, for instance, was one enclave located in Western China that was leased to the Portuguese for trade purposes. At a certain point, China would only allow trading to occur in three ports, but that would soon expand. China thus saw an increased European demand for their goods, such as tea, porcelains, and silks.
The Portuguese, after gaining Macau, also expanded their efforts into Japan, where they began to trade things like firearms. Japan had also adopted a policy of isolationism at this time, with the military shogun (leader) controlling the emperor, but they were not strong enough to completely limit Portuguese, and thus European, influence. Their country had been ravaged by a civil war in the 1400s, and they could not take the chance that another force would come in and threaten the peace that had been established in the wake of the conflict. They did nevertheless try to adhere to isolationism, going as far as creating a trading post off on an island off of Nagasaki for the Dutch East India Company, and for a while, that was the only location where Europe could trade with Japan. Japan’s goods therefore became highly coveted in the foreign markets.
Despite their efforts to maintain isolation and preserve their cultural practices and identities, the Chinese and the Japanese were not as powerful to fight back against the Europeans.