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Mass Politics in Europe and Imperialism in Africa and Asia for AP European History (page 3)

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Mar 4, 2011

Dominance in Asia

In the era of the New Imperialism, European powers also exerted control over Asia. Here, however, the general method was to rule through local elites.

India: Ruled by Great Britain

In India, the British dominated, initially through the British East India Company, a private trading company that used its economic and military power to influence local politics. Following the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857 (sometimes known as the Sepoy Mutiny), an organized, anti-British uprising led by military units of Indians who formerly served the British, the British government took direct control and restructured the Indian economy to produce and consume products that aided the British economy.

A sense of Indian nationalism began to develop as a response to the more intrusive British influence, resulting in the establishment of the Indian National Congress in 1885. The Congress, though really an organization of Hindu elites, promoted the notion of a free and independent India.

Southeast Asia: Dominated by France

In Southeast Asia, the French emulated the British strategy of ruling through local elites and fostering economic dependence. During the 1880s and early 1890s, France established the Union of Indochina, effectively dominating in the areas that would become Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

China: Increasing European Control

China had been infiltrated by British traders in the 1830s. The British traded opium grown in India to Chinese dealers in exchange for tea, silk, and other goods that were highly prized in Britain. When the Chinese government attempted to end the trade, Britain waged and won the Opium War (1839–1842) and forced the Chinese to sign the Treaty of Nanking. The treaty ceded Hong Kong to Britain, established several tariff-free zones for foreign trade, and exempted foreigners from Chinese law.

The humiliation of the Manchu rulers and the undermining of the Chinese economy that resulted from foreign interference led to the Taiping Rebellion (1850–1864). To maintain control, the Manchus became even more dependent on Western support. Chinese nationalism and resistance to foreign influence again manifested itself in the Boxer Rebellion (1899–1900). The combined forces of the European powers were able to suppress the rebellion, but in 1911, a revolution led by Sun Yat-sen succeeded in overthrowing the Manchu dynasty and proclaimed a Chinese republic.

Japan: Westernization

Japan had been forcibly opened to Western trade by an American fleet commanded by Commodore Matthew J. Perry in 1853. The Japanese government signed a number of treaties granting the Western powers effective control of foreign trade. The result was civil war and revolution which culminated in the Meiji Restoration, in which modernizers, determined to preserve Japanese independence, restored power to the emperor and reorganized Japanese society along Western lines. By 1900, Japan was an industrial and military power. In 1904, they quarreled with Russia over influence in China and stunned the world with their victory in the Russo-Japanese War.

Rapid Review

The New Imperialism was the result of a complex set of impulses that included economic needs created by industrialization; the traditional desire of European nations to compete with one another; and the need for those political elites to find ways to win the support of a new political force, the masses. Mass politics, the participation of increasingly larger portions of the population in the political process, developed unevenly in Europe, with Britain leading the way and Russia resisting the trend. The New Imperialism resulted in the scramble for Africa, in which the European powers laid claim to the entire continent in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. In Asia, the New Imperialism took the form of indirect European control exerted through local elites.

The review questions for this study guide can be found at:

Mass Politics in Europe and Imperialism in Africa and Asia Review Questions for AP European History

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