11 A World Order Dominated by the Gun
Japan and China Disarm as Europe Enters the Age of Great Military Powers
Europe_s world domination was made possible by a military revolution in the sixteenth century. This military revolution consisted of three elements: the development of firearms, the strengthening of fortresses, and the expansion of armies. The three hundred years from 1500 to 1800 are referred to as the beginning of the _modern era_ (the post-medieval era) in European history. These three centuries started with the military revolution from around the beginning of the sixteenth century and ended with a political revolution in France (the French Revolution), an economic revolution in Britain (the Industrial Revolution), and a cultural revolution in Germany (Goethe, Beethoven, Hegel, etc.) at the end of the eighteenth century.
During this whole period, there were only about thirty years without war in Europe. Expenditure on arms clearly reflects the zeal with which modern Europe used military force and pursued military expansion. In the 1650s, military spending accounted for 90% of England_s expenditure, 75% of Louis XIV_s expenditure in France, and 85% of Peter the Great_s expenditure in Russia. The main cause of the expansion of armaments in Europe was the deep-seated rivalry between the Hapsburg family and the French monarchy. This rivalry became entangled with religious antagonism between Protestants and Catholics, involving the whole of Europe in war. These wars spilled out beyond the borders of Europe, developing into a struggle for domination of the seas. The sea war spread from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Indian Ocean, in the course of which the European nations forcibly expanded their territories. By the dawn of the latter part of the modern era in 1800, they possessed 35% of the world_s territory, and by the First World War 84% of the world was under European rule.
In The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500_1800, Geoffrey Parker, a leading authority on modern European military history, pithily states that the greatest export of modern Europe was violence._ Peoples all over the world were at the mercy of Europeannations driven forward by the military revolution. Nevertheless, it is particularly noteworthy that the East Asian world represented by the two great civilizations of Japan and China, never fell under European hegemony. Although European nations succeeded in controlling certain parts of East Asia, such as Macao and Hong Kong, they were not allowed to rule the region as a whole. What was the reason for this? Parker leaves this as an insoluble mystery, describing China and Japan as _the immovable kingdoms._
When China and Japan finally succumbed to the pressure from the Western powers and opened their doors in the mid-nineteenth century, they were both considerably inferior to the Western powers in terms of military strength. This military inferiority seems beyond doubt, but closer examination reveals certain curious facts. In the Opium War (1840_42), British navy warships continuously bombarded Guangdong from 74 cannons for two hours with absolutely no effect: the walls of the city had been built to withstand bombardment by 32-pound cannons. During the attack on Beijing in 1860, the British army came to realize that the city walls were impregnable, moving General Norris to comment that _the walls of Beijing are as thick as they are high._
Since firearms had originally been invented in China, this is hardly surprising. The explanatory text of a surviving picture scroll of the Mongol invasions of Japan (1274 and 1281) shows that the Chinese troops used guns. China underwent a gunpowder era lasting several centuries, during which city walls all over China were designed to withstand cannon attacks. The firearms invented in China found their way to Europe, where they were developed into muskets and later introduced to Japan in 1543. This musket was called the Tanegashima gun after the island of Tanegashima where it was initially introduced.