"Impact of West On East Asia",
a review by Carroll Quigley in The Washington Evening Star,
April 30, 1965,
of a book:
IMPACT OF WEST ON EAST ASIA
Volume 2: East Asia; The Modern Transformation,
by John K. Fairbank, Edwin O. Reischauer and Albert M. Craig.
New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 19xx
of West On East Asia"
by Carroll Quigley
A HISTORY OF EAST ASIAN CIVILIZATION,
Volume 2: East Asia; The Modern Transformation.
By John K. Fairbank, Edwin O. Reischauer and Albert M. Craig.
Houghton Mifflin Co. 955 pages. $14.75.
The first volume of this substantial work was published four years
ago, titled EAST ASIA: THE GREAT TRADITION. The two volumes together offer over
1,500 pages of material from the Harvard General Education Course on the Far
East. The mark of their origin still rests upon them: an enormous mass of
factual information, competently organized and presented by recognized
authorities, with frequent use of vivid episodes from the source materials, and
occasional new and revealing insights. This second volume, which examines the
East Asian responses to the impact of Western society, has three chapters on
China three on Japan, two on the other Far Eastern areas, an introduction on the
corning of the Europeans, and a conclusion on the Far East in world politics
today. Sixty-seven maps, sketches, and tables along with bibliography and index
complete the package.
This is an excellent, if somewhat textbookish, presentation, but as
an explanation of what happened when Western culture collided with the cultures
of East Asia, it is not fully satisfying. The problem of understanding such a
collision, involving whole societies (such as foreign aid, economic or community
development, decolonization, and such) cannot be understood in terms of the
older academic disciplines however many of them are added together. A new
"whole-culture" approach with its own methods of analysis is needed.
The present volume, in spite of its coverage of political changes,
economic and social developments, and some attention to literature and ideology,
remains fairly narrowly historical. It is an interesting book to read,
straightforwardly chronological, with concrete details and real individuals, but
it will not satisfy the reader who seeks explanation rather than narration.
The chief problem raised in this book is why the Japanese response
to the West was so utterly different from that of the Chinese. This question has
become of increasing importance, for it now begins to appear that Japan is the
only "underdeveloped" country which has been able to pass over into a condition
of self sustaining economic expansion similar to that of the West; the continual
food production crises in the Soviet Union and Red China show that they have not
The Fairbank-Reischauer explanation of why the Japanese response to
the West was so much more successful than that of China is, as historical
narrative, impressive, but it does not answer the question because it does not
get to the psycho-social roots of the great differences between Japanese culture
and Chinese culture. These roots are complex, but one aspect of them which is
not to be found in this book may be indicated. The Japanese language is a highly
inflected one which indicates explicitly not only grammatical but social
relationships. Thus a statement in Japanese has a different form if addressed to
a social inferior, to a social equal, or to a social superior. This language was
used in an articulated social system in which all social relationships were
equally explicit and rigid. The process of growing up in such a psycholinguistic
and social environment could hardly fail to impress on any Japanese child the
great significance of relationships and of the need for personal discipline. The
Chinese language is one of isolated monosyllables which lack precise function
and do not belong to any particular grammatical category, while the language as
a whole has a minimum of structure or grammar, with most relationships conveyed
simply by the order of the words in the sentence, while the meaning is conveyed
in a relatively impressionistic way. This language was used in a society which
was itself a great amorphous mass whose relationships were vague and empirical.
Thus the Chinese ought to survive by
pragmatic adaptation to the immediate environment of an amorphous and
uncontrollable world, while the Japanese sought to obey the established rules of
a structured and knowable world. As a result, the Japanese, despite the rigidity
of their social structure and their cognitive system, were able to adapt to the
Western impact because their experience helped them to see relationships, such
as those between weapon-control and political power or between capital
accumulation and economic expansion. The failure of the factors of Chinese
personality formation to emphasize relationships, on the other hand, exposed
them to such futile fiascos as the Boxer Uprising or the Great Leap Forward.
Until material of this kind is incorporated into an acculturational approach to
the East Asian responses to the West no fully adequate account of this great and
significant subject will be possible.