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Capitalism and Imperialism are a product of anti-colonization movements and both of these played an integral role in the decolonization. Working classes, traders, labourers and people from every walk of life were against colonization because, during that era, eternal forces or colonizers had too much power and control over masses. Karl Marx introduced Capitalism as an economic system which aims at lessening state control and allowing more private ownership avenues among the masses (The West, Capitalism, and the Modern World-System). This system decreases state control on private property and people can get benefitted from it directly. This school of thought has its interpretation in social and political spheres. However, it is also believed that this system illegitimate control and puts it in the hands of the majority working class, similarly, it has many social implications. This essay revolves around the capitalist and imperialist ideology and its reception in the 16th and 19th century Mughal and Chinese empires. It also compares the outcomes of these ideologies in Japan.
Imperialism, although came after capitalism it has far more implications because it centres power and authority around one country and it outreaches other countries. This results in the loss of a country's writ and sovereignty. This ideology is extremely controversial in today's global age and it is although banned by international law Capitalism laid the foundation of this ideology. For instance, first world countries established open trade markets and through this tactic, they established their hegemonic control over third world countries (Hobson, Imperialism).
These ideologies started surfacing in the 19th century and many countries emerged as a capitalist state. However, during the Mughal reign in India and the dynasties in China had a strong state-level control on both their economy and people. Capitalism could not be executed there because masses would obey their rulers and during this monarch rule, power and resources were not directly accessed by them. This pattern remained evident from the 16th century till the 19th century in both these countries and they remain secluded from the rest of the world regarding trade markets. They did not think about expanding their goods and exporting them to the outer world. They were more concerned about their inner rebellions and political issues. Whereas, on the other hand, Japan thrived its economy through both of these ideologies and now this country can be seen as an already established member of the open trade markets.
The Mughal dynasty had a legal and administrative system run by a lot of bureaucrats, officials, courts and jurisprudence. The common source of revenue was trade and it was limited to a few neighbouring countries. The tax system was transparent and everyone had to pay tax equally. Similarly, the state had a say in everything and people could not think of private ownership at that time. The masses were satisfied with the rulers and there were no chances of any rebellion. When the East India Company came into India in the early 18th century, it had to face a lot of resistance because the state was not willing to trade with them (Chandra, Medieval India). It is important to note that although people were happy with their rulers, subcontinent being a multiethnic and multiracial land paved ways for rebellion (Mukhia, The Mughals of India). Near the ending of the 18th century, East India Company established itself in India. Moreover, they became successful in creating a lot of private stakeholders that endangered the Mughal throne. At the end of the 19th century, India was colonized but still, it did not become a capitalist state because of the local masses' rebellion against the colonial powers. Moreover, people were not aware of their rights and the benefits of open trade markets. Another possible reason may stem from the idea that people held their cultural values above anything and they would think about these concepts as a product of the Western culture. In the post-Mughal era, the process of modernization was rejected by both the local states and masses. Due to this reason, capitalism could not flourish in the subcontinent but this did not prove viable for the economy in the coming centuries. For the reason that people looked up to the government instead of making individual efforts (Hall, “Varieties of Capitalism).
Similarly, China during the 16th to 19th century was not well aware of the western ideologies and open trade market. China and Japan share proximity when it comes to culture, traditions and social life, however after world war I, when western imperialism was on its rise, china did not give in to this external pressure. In the mid-19th century, China turned down every offer of the trade from the open market and this rejection led to war between Britishers and Chinese. Due to the former's opium trade in China, masses suffer a lot both mentally and economically because China was not in a position to fight with its already weak economy. However, opium trade can be considered a clear attempt of control in Chinese land and it led towards the start of unequal treaties. It can be seen here that both Mughal and Chinese empire did not realize the value of open trade instead they considered it a threat towards their sovereignty. Both the nations were not much aware of colonization and the western expansion program through the soft power of cultural imperialism and trade. They just kept their focus squarely on occupying more lands and fighting wars with the neighbouring countries. Moreover, in China, people were not allowed to read foreign texts and meet with foreigners in general. Whereas, on the other hand, West approached China first for the trade than Japan. Chinese were unaware of the Industrial revolution as well because similar to the Mughal dynasty, they also used to believe that they can rule over people for centuries by keeping them in dark. When they came across the Western expansion and progress over the years, it was too late because under the monarch system because they rejected the idea of Capitalism. Moreover, a historian notes that due to these revolutions in wet, Chinese officials and imperialists could not establish their foreign relations with them on the old patterns (Allen, Donnithorne, and Donnithorne, 2012).
On the other hand, Japan modernized itself before China and its economy thrived, they did not hold on to their monarch system. similarly, Japan culturally familiarized its culture with the outside world and adopted its pluralistic political system (The Rise and Fall of the Japanese Empire Documentary). Unlike Chinese and Mughal dynasties, Japan in the 19th century presented the foreign envoys with a lot of facilities and resources for a smooth trade partnership. According to old Chinese view, all foreigners were barbarians and their nation was the only civilized one. With this attitude, China's economy suffered great loses whereas, in the meantime, Japan complied to the western demands and became its strategic partner. Likewise, its geographical position was much established than before. It can be viewed here that through Capitalist ideology in Japan, people became much aware of the private ownership avenues. They also escaped the threat of any external involvement in their state affairs in the form of war or trade sanctions. Quite on the contrary, Japan was aware of China and the ongoing opium trade in its neighbouring state because they were not under strict western sanctions. Unlike the two dynasties or empires, Japan invented a great deal of time and effort at both state and individual level to understand foreign policies and ideologies through their books. They learned it quick that their state will flourish in the coming centuries because monarch rulers everywhere in the world were facing a lot of troubles both at external and internal levels. The Shogunates were only trading with Netherland in the early 19th century but unlike Qing rulers, they had a farsighted vision ( The Great Chinese Empire). They never shy away from learning new skills and even gained a lot of opportunities and capital through this cultural exchange. Their strategic policies ensured that every decision should not be taken based on prejudice instead trade should be treated as a gateway to the open trade market. Its goods were not in much demand as compared to Chinese goods but they were more open to trade and allowed more access to them. They also started culture exchange programs and focused on firsthand skill training from western nations. It was a wise move and allowed them to boost their export market more and they became less reliant on imports. In in the free trade markets, value-added taxes generate more capital than the export of raw material. Similarly, Japan took benefit of their goods as exotic symbols in the west and exported them well. After the Meiji restoration in the 19th century, Japan became the first country to rise as non-westerner power. They introduced railways and other transport means in their country to ensure even more smooth flow of trade routes. They abolished years ago feudal system and introduced a tax system aligned to the western system (Nakamura, Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples).
Japanese nation left behind their old ways of imperial rulers in the country and the working class was given a voice and authority to speak. The merchant class and many other small-scale business ventures were given loans by the state to strengthen their economy at the individual level. Due to no bureaucratic system and dynamic elite system in Japan, the benefits of Capitalism reached to the grassroots level. It also established Japan as an imperial state after the war between China and Japan. Likewise, it took control of Manchuria and later on invaded China in 1937 and stayed there till the end of World War II. In the era of the great depression, military control increased in Japan and it emerged as an Imperialist state. Japan threatened China with an invasion and he had the back support of the established Western forces such as America and Great Britain. It was a strategic win of Japan that China had to agree to the clauses of Twenty-One demands. Unlike the other Asian countries such as India and China, Japan’s economy, foreign relations, trade and institutions were far better established at the end of the 19th century (Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy).
The ideologies of capitalism and imperialism proclaim that in a democratic or monarch system, the government takes hold of all the resources and the capital cannot reach to the working class who are the wheel of the economy because of state corruption. Likewise, those goods are produced who are in high consumer demand, this approach results in keeping the position established in the trade market by focusing on consumer demands more. Satisfying the consumer demands ensure the establishment of any country as a potential part in the international trade market. In a capitalist market, efficient individuals are always in demand and no hegemonic control can stay for longer if they are not manufacturing relevant goods or products. They allow private ownerships and people stop looking at the state to fulfil their needs. More private ownership results in more efficient production and they never go out of trend because they experience it a much larger level. Similarly, in the 16th-century trade was a great source of generating money but Asian nations wee unaware of its power.
Western economies thrived on trade and made a lot of capital by putting unfair conditions in their trading contracts because of the other party’s ignorance with trade rules and emerging trends. Due to capitalism, nations compete at an economic level and it reduces the risk of war. Control and hegemony are also related to the market competitiveness of a nation. Imperialism has its roots in a Capitalist ideology and it is evident through the example of both Chinese and Mughal empires that established nations can pave their way in any nation if it coincides with their economic gains. Although the capitalist system did not succeed in these Asian nations they had to face the loss of their sovereignties and decreasing economic stability. Capitalism is called "creative destruction" because of nations loose power at the geopolitical level if they are not economically stable (Historical Capitalism, East and West). Likewise, the economic gain is associated with political gains because a strong economy will have more room for making policies or negotiating the trade rules. Imperialism is viable for showing the world that a particular has control over the other country because of its strong political and economic conditions. It does not involve control through hard power always, it can be exerted through soft power control as well. For instance, in the form of trade options, trade sanctions and culture imperialism (Tomlinson, “Cultural Imperialism”). This control also ensures that countries make their defence strategies stronger and more undefeatable. Imperialist ideology of Western countries made it possible for them to enter in the Asian region and force them for trade. In this way, they established their trade market in these countries as well and generated a lot of revenue. The Mughal economy was thriving before the East India Company but they did not realize the importance of private ownership. Similarly, they faced a lot of conflict from the working class because ultimately, they were the sole providers of these trade goods such as spices, cotton and jewels. On the other hand, Japan emerged as an imperialist state because it did not resist against these ideologies. Both capitalist and imperialist agendas, could not deter the strict mindset of Mughal and Chinese empires in 16th till 19th century but these nations had to face the aftermaths of colonization and imperialism. Trade is soft power tactics and its benefits cannot be denied at both anthropological and geopolitical levels. In the contemporary world, monarchies do not exist and the state relies on capitalist and imperialist agendas for a stronghold at the free-trade economy. As a strong economy determines the power of any nation.
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