chapter  8
15 Pages

‘Gentlemanly Capitalism’, Intra-Asian Trade and Japanese Industrialisation at the Turn of the Last Century

ByShigeru Akita

Recent scholarship, led by several Japanese economic historians, has offered new perspective on Asian economic history. They argue that the economic growth of Asian countries was led by the intra-Asian trade which began to grow rapidly around the turn of the century. On the other side, prominent British imperial historians, P. J. Cain and A. G. Hopkins present a provocative thesis, ‘Gentlemanly capitalism and British expansion overseas’, in which they emphasise the leading role of service sectors rather than that of British industry for reassessing the nature of British expansion overseas.

The purpose of this paper is to reconsider the British attitude to Japan and China at the turn of the century in the light of these important historiographical revisions in Great Britain as well as in Japan. By this stage, Japan had achieved an impressive economic growth, or a rapid industrialisation. The traditional view has been that Britain and other Great Powers had generally discouraged industrialisation in the non-European world and that Japan had achieved industrialisation by reacting to the Western encroachment or the Western impact. In this paper, I shall argue rather that there was a recognised sense of complementarity between British and Japanese economic and political interests, which encouraged Japanese industrialisation, and that the interest of the City of London played an important role in setting out an economic and political framework under which it took place. I shall explore several kinds of complementary relationships between the UK and Japanese industrialisation around the turn of the century, including those relating to China. The primary sources on which I shall draw are British Diplomatic and Consular Reports on Japan and China from 1895 to 1913.