Regardless of popular shibboleths, more often than not, the meeting of cultures took the form of collisions. These tended to be wars followed by the subjugation of the beaten. If the weaker people survived the conquest, if it could maintain its identity, the calamity provoked a search for the causes of the rout. This has especially been the case once mankind became aware of technology and its impact on human affairs.
There is nothing inevitable about the investigation of the origins of might and subservience. Some cultures failed to raise the question even if the answer presupposed their survival. The time gap between subjugation and the response could take generations. Here the dissimilar cases of China and Japan occur. Regardless of its isolation prior to 1854, Japan reacted promptly to reverses. The switch from seclusion to conscious adaptation, transformation through learning, was instantaneous. China, on the other hand, responded by ignoring challenges. Her rulers stubbornly resorted to old approaches that have become irrelevant through the achievements of her foes.