What does 'at the cost of' mean in this sentence?
So I was reading a history book. Here is the paragraph that confused me.> Regarding the speed and measures of reforms, the opinions of the progressive factions were divided into two groups. While discussing their position toward Qing and Japan and addressing the issue of lack of finance, the ones who advocated a gradual change, the so-called 'Moderate,' believed that modernization should not proceed **at the cost of** the cultural values of the Orient that had been upheld by both Joseon and Qing for many years. They thought that a certain level of protection from a stronger country like Qing would be inevitable, in the midst of all those international competitionsFor clarification, 'Joseon' and 'Qing' are two different dinasties. 'Orient' was the name of something that I wasn't sure.To me, it seems a little contradict between these two sentences: The first sentences said "...modernization *should not proceed* at the cost of the cultural values ...that was *upheld* by Qing and..." And then second sentence said "..*protection* from a strong country like *Qing* would be inevitable..."I was trying to guess the meaning from the context, but I had completely no idea.