Chapter 347 Look to the West
After reading, Takoyashi slowly set the document down, his face contemplative. The first thing he noticed was that these terms are quite unequal. One example is the proposed jurisdiction of French law over French citizens in Japan, which would essentially create pockets of French sovereignty on Japanese soil. Additionally, the proposed tariff reductions heavily favored French imports, potentially harming the domestic market.
"Your Highness," Takoyashi began, "while I appreciate the straightforwardness of this document, there are some aspects that appear unbalanced."
Francis raised an eyebrow, waiting for him to elaborate.
Takoyashi continued, "For instance, the idea of having French citizens under French jurisdiction while in Japan could be problematic. It could lead to potential conflicts of interest and undermine our domestic laws."
Takoyashi then pointed to the section about tariffs. "Reduced tariffs for French imports for a decade is a long time. This could potentially harm our local industries and give French products an undue advantage in the market…" 𝙛𝒓𝓮𝓮𝒘𝓮𝙗𝒏𝙤𝓿𝓮𝒍.𝓬𝙤𝙢
He trailed off as he watched Francis simply smiling while he listened to his words. As if he doesn't care.
Francis leaned forward slightly, his expression calm.
"Governor Takoyashi, let me be clear. This may sound like a proposal to you but this is a demand. If you had agreed to trade with us before we fought one another, we could have edited some terms. But considering we are the victor, we are in a position to set the terms. You only have two options, sign the treaty or continue the war. It's as simple as that. I'm sure you are already aware of the consequences….Let me show you something."
Francis flickered his fingers and one of his staff approached and handed Francis a wooden box. Francis nodded in appreciation before opening the box. He picked up what's inside. It's a rolled paper, tied with a thin red ribbon. He delicately undid the ribbon and spread the paper on the table for Takoyashi to see.
It was a world map. A detailed one.
"These," Francis began, pointing to the blue areas. "Are the lands on this planet that we controlled. The only presence that we don't have left is in East Asia. Should you not sign the treaty, well this Japan of yours, it will be layered with blue as well.
Takoyashi's eyes widened slightly at the sight of the map. The extent of the blue, representing French territory, was staggering. How come such a single country dominates far-flung lands so extensively? Not only that, it seemed that France was not the only one doing it but its neighbors as well.
The prospect of becoming a colony of what they deemed barbarians in the past is something the Japanese won't accept. He's certain that the Shogun or the Emperor would feel the same. It's better that they open this country than be subjugated by force. Takoyashi gathered his thoughts before speaking.
"Your Highness, the terms you present are challenging, and I must admit they pose a significant concern for our country's future," he said. "While it's clear that you have the upper hand militarily and strategically, there might be a way for us to reach a middle ground. A compromise that ensures Japan's sovereignty and dignity while accommodating France's interests."
Francis listened intently. "Go on," he prompted.
"First, regarding the jurisdiction of French law over French citizens in Japan," Takoyashi proposed, "we might consider establishing special zones where French law applies, instead of a blanket jurisdiction across the entire country. This approach will minimize potential conflicts with our domestic laws."
"As for the tariffs," Takoyashi continued, "instead of a straight decade of reductions, we can implement a phased approach. Start with a significant reduction for the first few years, then gradually decrease the concession rate over the remainder of the decade. This will provide some relief to our domestic industries and allow them time to adapt."
Francis considered the suggestions. "You present reasonable modifications. As expected of a statesman, not only that but an economist as well."
"Thank you for the compliment, Your Highness," Takoyashi bowed his head.
"Very well. I agree with the suggestions," Francis agreed. "The rest of the terms don't need changing."
"Of course, it's only those two, Your Highness," Takoyashi lifted his head up. "Your Highness, can I ask you a question?"
"What is it?"
"The technology you have, is it possible that Japan would acquire it? We are fascinated with your modern technology and if we were to accept these terms, having access to modern technology could help us rapidly progress and better integrate with the world," Takoyashi inquired.
"So you want your country to modernize. I don't have a problem with it, in fact, it's what this whole discussion is about. Trade. No doubt there'd be a lot of French businessmen who would invest in Japan and bring their technologies with them. However, this won't be a one-way street," Francis responded.
Takoyashi nodded, understanding the implication. "What do you suggest?"
Francis leaned back, "If Japan wants access to our technology, then France should get preferential access to Japan's resources and unique products. This includes but is not limited to, crafts, textiles, and certain minerals which are scarce in our territories. We can facilitate technological exchanges, where our experts come and share their knowledge, and set up infrastructures, and in return, we get a favorable position in terms of trade and access to your market."
Takoyashi paused to consider the proposal. "That is a substantial request, but understandable given the circumstances. I believe we can work on that. Lastly, Your Highness, there's one thing I have been meaning to ask. Your country, is it the most powerful country in your continent?"
Francis wondered why Takoyashi would ask that question. Nevertheless, he answered.
"We are the first in the world, with Russia being the second. All of the world powers reside in the European continent."
"But what about China? We believe that China is the most powerful country in the world…" Takoyashi said.
"China?" Francis scoffed softly. "To be honest, I admit that China is culturally and economically rich. But a superpower? I don't think so. China in our eyes is a backward nation and weak."
Takoyashi looked surprised, "So, China isn't as influential on the global stage as we believed? This is new, we Japanese people always looked up to China because most of our culture is derived from them."
This is a huge problem for Japan. If China was looked down upon by the West, then it's certain that they are facing the same treatment from the West. If that is the case, the only way to protect their country is through modernization. To do so is to look to the West.