Understanding Contemporary China Essay Example

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Understanding Contemporary China


Understanding Contemporary China


Contribution of the Western Nations in Shaping the Changes and Development of China from Mid 19th Century to 1978

The changes and developments evident in the modern China were impacted in a number of ways by the Western countries. The People’s Republic of China has emerged to be a great economy in the world with the onset of globalisation. However, the economic development did not come up without challenges and make over, the Chinese worked effectively and strategically to beat all odds and rebuilt their country from the ruins of wars and desperation in the 19th century. According to Dillon (2009), the contemporary China has a number of historical accounts that greatly influenced the legacy that is evident now. The historical accounts include the opium war and the contributions made by the West in the nineteenth century, military occupation of Japan during the Second World War II, civil war of the communists and the nationalists, among others (Dillon 2009:10). This essay distinctively identifies the impact made by the Western countries to the changes and development of China from the mid-nineteenth century to 1978. Although Hsu (2000) asserts that there has been two stands on the coming up of the modern China with respect to the contacts made with the West, this essay dwells with the mid-nineteenth century interactions evident with the end of the Opium War. The western influence played a pivotal role in shaping and influencing the growth and development of the People’s Republic of China.

According to Hsu (2010), the convergence of the Chinese and Western interactions brought to an end China’s seclusion and resulted to enhanced involvement of China in global affairs. The Western nations had a great impact in influencing the birth of modern China after the opium war. Nevertheless, the winning of the Communist Party consolidated the resources of the People’s Republic of China to create a great economy of the 21st century. In the present world, any happenings of one affect the other considerably (Scoppa 2010). This shows the extent to which China and western countries influence each other in the quest to global development. The major developments experienced from the mid nineteenth century in the People’s Republic of China can be attributed to the great policies laid down and implemented by the leaders of the times. The key to understanding any given period in the history of Chinese development can be traced back to the major forces that brought about the change. Modern China can be attributed to various overt and convert forces that greatly influenced the development. Government policies and institutions formed a critical role in the development of the overall achievements made by China in the last half of nineteenth century to the 20th century (Kuo 2008).

Ogden (1989) clear asserts that the coming up of a new government in China saw a vitriolic reaction towards it emanating from the West. Notably, the end of the Opium War brought about signing of the Najing Treaty which was following by a number of subsequent agreements. Majority of the agreements were imposed to China by force bringing up the opening up of various costal and river cities to trading with the West (Schoppa 2010). This also saw the handing over of the island of Hong Kong to the British. The presence of the Europeans traders in ports Shanghai, Tianjin and Guangzhou made many Chinese think exclusively towards expanding the business class experience and entrepreneurship keeping them at par to transact business with the Europeans. Further, religion was greatly influenced by the treaty contents with missionaries having the capacity to go preach anywhere in China and purchase property (Hsu 2000). This saw Christianity find roots and propagate openly in China as a result of the unequal treaties signed after the humiliating defeat of China by the British during the Opium War. This posed a great threat to the traditional Chinese culture and was characterised by a number of uprisings and rebellion evident in the East Central and South China. Christianity was championing for equality while diminishing the strongly rooted Confucianism and family as the cultural hallmarks (Kuo 2008). Further, the aim of missionaries was to empower the women, bring up primitive economic communism while promoting equality to replace the social hierarchy in the country. However, the missionary work failed to make greater impact and permeate dominance in China due to the rebellions. The Han Chinese came up with strategy of dethroning the dominance by instituting a coup de grace which came from Beijing having a leadership created and led by the Han’s officials (Scoppa 2010). According to Wenheuer (2010), the 1850-1860 Taiping rebellion was a blow to the Qing Dynasty and resulted to millions of deaths due to the famine. The great famine of Henan province in 1960 brought about high mortalities which prompted the central government to put up policies for the whole country to evade such calamities. Further, the 1900 Boxer rebellion was instituted but failed to remove the foreign influence in China. At around this same time, the people of China were eagerly looking for new leadership and reforms which came up with Sun Yixian in conjunction with the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) (Ogden 1989).

The rise of Chinese Communist Party (CPP) in the mid twentieth century saw the country grow politically with no substantive opposition. CPP growth coupled with the revolutionary movement spearheaded by the party have its roots stemming from the colonial times by the United States and Japan in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century (Dillon 2009). The events of the twentieth century brought up great changes to the people of China. The historical changes saw the extensive and rich traditions of the Chinese, long history and an isolated culture being subjected to profound changes. The dynastic change that came in the 1900’s was followed by invasions, rebellion, civil war, democracy, reform, industrialisation and communism (Dillon 2009). The changes brought about astronomical costs, created very powerful leaders and brought up a very powerful modern economy that is fast treading to become a super economic power. Although the Qing Dynasty had prevailed in keeping at bay the western influences to China through the policies of isolationism and tradition, the aftermath of the Opium war was of great magnitude to the influences by Western countries (Ogden 1989). This period also coincide with the European dominance in most parts of the world with growth of imperialism.

The rise of Sun Yixian saw the coming into power of the Nationalists where the leader saw the need for radical reforms in the Republic of China in the quest to replace the Qing Dynasty (Scoppa 2010). The coming to power of Sun brought about three principles geared towards enhancing the rule of law and the lives of Chinese. The three principles were; democracy where a representative government was to be instituted; Nationalism aimed at ending the foreign rule while at the same time taking back the complete rule of the political, economic and cultural systems of China. The third principle involved livelihood where China was aimed at enhancing the standard of living of every individual while strengthening the national economy to ensure equity. The historic Qing Dynasty was brought to an end during the 1911 revolution and Sun Yixian becomes the President of the Republic of China (Hsu 2000). This saw the cooperation between Sun and the Soviet leader Lenin after the short lived success where the military leaders sought power among themselves and made Sun access aid and support from the Soviet leader. The death of Sun in 1925 saw the coming to power of Jiang Jieshi who came with a new program against the communist wave that was gaining populace in China.

The civil war that broke up in 1928 to 1949 was of major impact to the political state of the nation and left it split into two rival groups (Kuo 2008). The rise of Mao Zedong and the Communist Party gained populace among the Chinese. Mao embraced massive support from the peasants due to his prominence on promises to bring sanity with respect to land reforms and ensure equality. Majority of the people in China supported the Communist Party as they regarded the Nationalist Party corrupt due to the practices exhibited by its leader’s (Wenheuer 2010). The forces set for fighting were well trained in hit and run guerrilla tactics to counter the forces backed by the authority. In 1933, Mao Zedong engaged the Nationalist’s in a fight with a seventh army number whereby they trekked for 6,000 miles from the Southern China headed north. Mao’s army numbered 100,000 but he survived with about 20,000 loyal communists’ followers and decided to have his new base set up in the North West of the republic of China (Ogden 1989. China was not just faced by the hostility of the civil war among the Nationalists and the Communists, but also the Japanese invasion in 1937 in quest for resources (Dillon 2009). This invasion had a great impact on the power balance in the nation of China and brought the two warring forces together to unite against the Japanese. The joint operation was able to drive back the Japanese into surrender, thereby bringing to light the much needed unity to ensure success for the modern China. However, the end of Japanese invasion did not bring to an end to the civil war, as it slowly resumed after the invasion was quelled.

The influence from the West was also being instilled in the course of the civil war which saw the Americans support Jiang Jieshi but the prevailing economic problems made many supporters and troops to join the communists (Ogden 1989). The leadership of Jiang was also suffering terribly at this period of China growth in mid twentieth century. The year 1949 saw the defeat of Jiang Jieshi and the Nationalists retreated southwards and eventually settled in the island of what is the modern day Taiwan (Hsu 2000). This saw the declaring of the People’s Republic of China by Mao Zedong. The establishment of the People’s Republic of China by Mao Zedong saw development of China between 1949 and 1976 with establishment of various strategic goals and policies aimed at enhancing the economic grip of China and reforming the land in the country (Dilllon 2009). The winning of civil war by CCP was a major stride which was mainly attributed to the patriotic reputation acquired by the party via its guerrilla resistance during the Japanese invasion. Among the land reforms and other positive issues favouring CCP like sheer incompetence and corruption of the GMD, it made a hard transition of doing away with the military revolutionary force and put in place a civilian administration (Ogden 1989). After China’s participation in the Korean War, China became more unified and stronger having popular support paving way for creation of ‘New China’’. This was followed by popular policies like the land reforms and marriage laws, as well as a five year development plan on economy following the basis of the Soviet model.

Mao came up with the famous “little Red book” which well outlined and provided a code of behaviour to be followed the Chinese communists (Ogden 1989. Nevertheless, the plan failed to carry on well as planned due to divisions among the ruling elites. However, Mao Zedong was determined to ensure China become more industrialised and he aimed at strengthening the collectivisation of agriculture and at the same time improve on national output of steel, coal and electric power. The passing on of Mao Zedong in 1976 saw the emergence of a new moderate leader Deng Xiaoping who came with the four economic reforms termed as the “Four Modernisations” and composed of agriculture, industry, defence and science and technology (Dillon 2009).

In conclusion, although the growth and development of the modern China seem to have been instituted and developed by the great leaders within the nation, the essay has pointed out various contributions made by the western nations to influence the growth. The interactions dating back from the pre-opium era to the emergence of the modern China, the European can be termed to have made considerable contacts in the land of China and triggered growth and developments. Further, the retaliations and reactions against the Europeans notably targeting the missionaries saw the people of China charged to focus on the destiny of their nation and safeguarding their culture. This greatly brought up the idea of building a modern China geared towards economic and industrial growth while promoting national and cultural unity.

Reference List

Dillon, M., 2009. China past in the Present, In Contemporary China: An Introduction, 1st ed.New York: Routledge,p. 10-20.

Hsu, I., 2000. A conceptual Framework of Modern China, In The Rise of Modern China, 6th ed. New York, Oxford University Press, p. 3-15.

Kuo, Y., 2008. Redeploying Confucius: The Imperial State Dreams of the Nation, 1902-1911, In M Yang (Ed.), Chinese Religiosities: Afflictions of Modernity and State-Formation, Los Angeles: University of California Press, p. 65-84.

Ogden, S., 1989. The People’s Republic of China in Search of its Goals 1949-1988, In China Unresolved Issues: Politics, Development and Culture. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, p. 36-76.

Scoppa, R., 2010. From Empire to People’s Republic, In W. A. Joseph (Ed.), Political in China: An introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 37-62.

Wenheuer, F., 2010. Dealing with Responsibility for the Great Leap Famine in the People’s Republic of China, The China Quarterly. Vol. 201:176-194. doi: 10.1017/S0305741009991123.