The Qing Dynasty Empress Dowager Cixi with Wives of the Diplomatic Corps in 1903
The Qing Empire had ruled China since 1644, and in its golden age, the empire was the largest, most prosperous, and most populous country in the world. However, with superior technology and industry, the old Asian orders, including the Qing Empire, seldom stood a chance against the east and began to crumble. Disasters from inside and out struck the Qing Empire. Internally, violent rebellions, natural disasters, and political infighting weakened the empire’s resolve. Externally, wars with foreign powers and encroaching colonization further weakened the Chinese order. The Qing Empire eventually fell in 1911, resulting in China fell into feuding warlords and years of chaos. Even after Nationalist and Communist united to fight the warlords, China was still undergoing an internal civil war that continued to divide the country.
The Meiji Emperor and his family in 1880, featuring adults in western-style
(Image by ThoughtCo.)
As China struggled to reform and hold itself together, Japan embraced the ideas and technology of the west. Japan's Meiji Restoration revolutionized their technology, industry, economy, and military, which helped them defeat their former overlord, China, in the First Sino-Japanese War and western power, Russia, in the Russo-Japanese War. Then, moving into the First World War, fascist and race-based nationalistic ideologies inspired Japan, leading Japan to continue westernizing. As a result, at the turn of the 20th century, Japan sought to create its empire, initially for acquiring resources, later for economic and military power in preparation for another potentially devastating conflict.
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