China and Japan


China and Japan proved themselves highly vulnerable to the foreign influences of modernized societies, although neither had shown sensibility in their contacts before the development of modernized societies. The Japanese in the past had imported, adopted, and adapted much from China (including the Chinese system of writing) but they had done so without loss off the "Japanese way." When later Western contacts came, however, the Japanese organized themselves to revolutionize their society at its most general level. They converted it into what has been, from at least 1905 on, the marvel of latecomers to modernization and what is today perhaps the most highly modernized country in the world.


China, on the other hand, encountered one type of difficulty after another. Like Japan, she avoided, not without outside help, being taken over and dismembered, except for the wartime loss of Taiwan and Manchuria to Japan. China had first a revolutionary change of government from the imperial Chinese system to a republic. Afterwards, the Republic of China was chanted by revolution to the People\'s Republic of China, which took over power in 1949. After those political and social revolutions, some modernization has occurred in China, but questions may still be raised as to the degree of modernization that has taken place. Certainly, it is not yet a highly modernized society. The levels of modernization so far achieved in China fall below those of Japan, both Koreas, Taiwan (the Republic of China), and other East Asian countries. Indeed, one may be skeptical as to whether China under the People\'s Republic will continue to undergo further modernization. China may even revert to lower levels of modernization, though this seems unlikely and, given the present population of China, would almost certainly involve catastrophic death rates.


First compared what regarded as the initial stages of the societies as far as this set of things were concerned. Those were, regrettably, referred to as "traditional China" and "traditional Japan." Each was clearly defined; one as the patterns laid down in the early part of the Edo (Tokugawa) period (1603-1868), but there is no way that anyone can use the term traditional in that kind of a context without giving rise to the fallacy of misplaced dichotomies--in this case the idea that societies that are not relatively modernized are characterized by traditions, whereas relatively modernized or highly modernized ones are little if at all characterized by traditions. One may maintain that the types of traditions in the two types of societies do vary and that an enormous number of traditions themselves vary from one case to the other, but the mostly highly modernized societies depend upon traditions as surely as do less modernized ones. For example, no societies have been characterized by a higher level of traditionalization of rationality than our modernized societies.


There are differences in the basic social structure of China and Japan, the member\'s attitudes toward explicit social engineering. In general engineering, the Chinese had no peers until the twentieth century. Until the twentieth century there were more physical engineering works of large and enduring magnitude in China than in all the rest of the world for all the rest of world history together: a thousand-year-old canal more than a thousand miles in length, irrigation systems for whole provinces as large as Texas, the Great Wall centuries before European ingenuity thought of the Magi-not Line.


The Chinese were not without adeptness as social engineers either. After all, the bureaucratic system of imperial China with its attendant examination system is a spectacular example of social engineering. Nevertheless, it was in Japan that at least on two occasions the leaders tried to reorganize the entire society: at the time of the so-called Great Reform (Taika, A.D. 645), and in the social reforms that characterized the Edo system of the Tokugawa Shoguns. We know the Great Reform only from remnants and literature, but we do have direct evidence of Tokugawa social engineering. The shoguns tried to design a stable feudal system, and for 250 years they were successful. During that entire period there was no critical internecine warfare, none of the usual struggles for power or territory characteristic of all other feudal societies in world history. The sankin-kotai is the premier example of Tokugawa social engineering but it is by no means an isolated