China during the Industrial Period (Chapter 25)

For this paper, I would like to discuss the nation of China during the period in question. I think China, in particular, stood to lose much more culturally as a result of industrialization during that specific time period. Given that China is currently a Communist state, and is inherently ideologically opposed to the Democratic/Capitalistic systems of government, many westerners see China as one of the last threats to Democracy. However, after accounting for the history of China for the last two hundred years, it is easy to be swayed into thinking more rationally and to approach China with more of a sense of understanding than before.

For many years, China stood as an Imperial regime, able to impose the will of the empire upon the people through means of mere intimidation. The size and awesome power of the last Imperial government was unable to be opposed. China stood as a testament to cultural dignity and superstition, and the mixture of the two led to, for the most part, unquestioning loyalty from the people. The people of China were proud to be Chinese, and felt a sense of superiority. However, when outside influences began to seep into the country, the Chinese began to see their land for what it really was: it was a crumbling and weak empire. It was an eccentric and culturally isolated nation. It was almost the antithesis of what they were led to believe.

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I see the industrialization of China as a “pseudo-war.” Although no “war” was actually declared, China was fighting quite a battle. Between the Russians to the north, and the British and French to the southeast, China was fighting a war on two fronts. This war was a cultural war. The British and French brought with them their culture as they attempted to expand their business ventures. Religions never before seen penetrated to the point that churches were cropping up in this new land. Before long, the Chinese were beginning to see a world beyond China. Chinese businessmen defied conventional Chinese business beliefs and practices, and adopted the industrialized methods as their own. This encroachment of the western world into secluded China eventually led up to various revolutions and conflicts between the classes, and surely ultimately led to the current system of government.

Before the industrial introduction into China, it may have seemed that it was an underdeveloped nation, despite the ability to be self-sufficient and the abundant workforce. China lacked many things that industrial nations of that time had. These included railroads and machinery for manufacturing. However, there was no real need for those things at the time. As I said, China was self sufficient. Chinese goods traded were traded for gold, seeing as the Chinese felt no need (and no desire) to import other goods from other inferior nations. Only gold, save for one other product: opium. Opium became another chief import of the Chinese, despite its addictive and detrimental attributes. The introduction of opium allowed the intruders to further advance their industrial agendas.

So, now that the Chinese were under control, The British and French took this opportunity to further other agendas, as well. Religious recruiting was rampant. Christian missionaries and newly converted Chinese were beginning to question the faith and doctrine that the Empire was based on. More and more people started hearing this message. Workers were being exported from China to work for their new employers, in order to build railroads and such. The peasants left behind began to struggle for land. The empire truly was unraveling. When a new ruler was put into place who tried to westernize China to some degree (including railroads), he was removed and replaced by a more traditional leader.

As if things were not bad enough, China had to go to war with Japan. This proved to be detrimental to the ultimate fate of the empire. China lost the conflict, largely due to the fact that the Chinese navy was far inferior to that of the Japanese. After losing to Japan, the Chinese government was seen to be weak, and the Chinese military less of a threat. This disgrace paved the way for a rebellion, the Boxer Rebellion. However, aid was granted by those who would industrialize China. Britain and France and the United States helped to crush the rebellion, but not without a fee. The helping nations were now granted immunity as well as territory to do as they please. This only led to further pollution of the Chinese culture; these granted ports and territories now became hotspots for any Chinese looking to get a glimpse of the western world.

The detrimental effects to the Chinese empire did not only come from outside, but also form within. Those Chinese that had left in earlier years returned educated, spreading word and questioning the government. Many scholars felt it was time for a regime change, and they also thought that it was time to become like the industrialized nations both to the east and west. The peasant uprising was becoming more unstable, threatening revolution. Left unchecked, the peasants would eventually organize to the point of being able to overpower the empire. Buddhist beliefs were thrown into the foray and pitted against Christian beliefs, allowing for even more conversions to Christianity. The Chinese state of affairs certainly was dire.

It is unclear whether the fall of the last dynasty was completely a result of industrialization. The factors necessary for revolution were all present beforehand: a large unimposing lower class working for a higher class, among other things. There was a lack of global belonging, and this was felt among the people of China, particularly among the working class. However, be it solely responsible or not, industrialization surely served as a catalyst to the eventual fall of the empire. And so, as a whole, China eventually lost what was most important to the people: the cultural purity that was present pre-industrialization. China lost the pride of the infallible Imperial regime. Many superstitions and myths that played a major part in the culture were also lost as a result of the introduction of Christianity. I am not saying that industrialization was a bad thing; I am just saying that China paid a hefty price to join the rest of the industrialized nations. And, which was not mentioned in the book, I believe that China possibly took a step backwards when they became a communist state, which was probably an eventual result of the industrial period. However, as stated earlier, the course of events may well have been unavoidable, and does not make China inherently evil.