The first military conflict between China and Japan, known as the battle of Baekgang, took place in the year 663 AD and was fought between the Chinese and the Japanese Yamato. Dower (1995) says that the conflict proved to be a bitter defeat for the latter as over 350 of the Japanese vessels were destroyed by the Silla-Tang alliance. In fact, Japanese technology in marine warfare was rather obsolete in comparison to the Chinese, who achieved this feat using lesser number of advanced vessels. This defeat forced Japan to accede to several terms set forth by the Chinese including direct trade and subsidies to Chinese imports (Howe, 2006). Between the periods 700 -1500 AD, the Japanese undertook a steady campaign to modernize their war inventory with the help of expertise from overseas and improve their prospects in battle (Howe, 2006).Early Modern EraBetween 1600-1568, Japan was ruled by a feudal regime known as the Tokugawa Shogunate. During this period, China was ruled by the Qing dynasty, who favored absolute authority and political stability (Spielvogel, 2009). This led them to shun any technological innovation as they feared that this could lead to civil unrest and conflict. As a result, the Chinese went behind in technological innovation in comparison to their European counterparts who were experiencing the benefits of the renaissance and the industrial revolution (Twitchett, 2004). The Tokugawa Shogunate had established similar restriction on Japanese citizens, which not only declined
technological improvement., but also contributed to a false sense of pride in Japanese might and superiority across all parameters (Brinkley, 2007). These deficiencies eventually led to the occupation of China by Western forces and the forced opening of trade activities between China and Japan.
Japan underwent a major political change in 1868 due to the abolition of the Shogunate as a result of the Meiji reformation. The nation under Emperor Meiji recognized the need for a strong army and a rich country and strived to achieve these aims by seeking inspiration and knowledge from the industrialized and developed countries of Europe (Chaurasia, 2003). This policy allowed Japan to gather expertise in all major areas of science & technology, while the Chinese were still underdeveloped owing to the restrictions in place under the Qing dynasty. In fact, by the late 1800s, Japan had emerged to become a prominent industrial power and an economic powerhouse (Dower, 1995). The best example for this is the conflict between Japan and China over the Ryukyu Islands when the former defeated the latter without much effort (Sino Japanese conflict of 1894-1895) leading eventually to the annexation of Taiwan by the Japanese (Howe, 2006).
The above aspects highlight many interesting trends between the two nations. It appears that Japan was under conservative rule during the pre-modern era. While the Chinese were better equipped and trained at warfare during this period, it is evident that the Japanese forbade any contact with the outside world. This not only stalled their technological advancement, but curtailed the flow of knowledge and innovation into Japan (Spielvogel, 2009).
However, the pre-modern era was characterized by autocratic and prohibitive rule in both countries. In contrast, nations in Europe were