Sample Essay On Modern China: A Laboratory Of Modernity
A Nation as opposed to an Empire
The Chinese nation identity was in the past marked by distinctive ethic practices and customs in the Chinese culture. These practices involved binding the feet of their daughters, celebration of the lunar New Year and braiding of hair into a long plait or queue which was a Manchu innovation in the Qing dynasty rule over China. In the past the concept of nationalism in Ancient China was seen as a way of integration and inculcation of customs and values practiced by the elite in the Qing government bureaucracy over the large diverse population in China. Nationalism was more focused on the ethnicity identities of communities. However in the Modern China, this perception entirely changed as Nationalism was viewed as a means of unifying China into one modern state based on liberalism rather than ethnicity.
For over 2000 years China had been under the rule of an imperialistic dynasty where the head of government was an Emperor who was known as the son of heaven. The system of government was ethical and was based on the teachings of Confucius. These teachings influenced the thinking of the Chinese people. They believed that “all China was under Heaven” and that their ways of life and practices were the most convenient and best in the world. The rest of the nations were considered to be outcasts and their ways to be not in conformity with the Confucius teachings. Modern nationalism revolutionized this system of government in China and changed these unrealistic perceptions. Modern nationalism brought about the realization that China existed among other equal powerful competing nations that had militaries with sole purpose of seeking to conquer territories. It also introduced the system of a Republican Government of China which was headed by a President.
During the earlier years of the Qing dynasty rule, the Emperor’s legitimacy was determined by his position as cosmos in relation to the heavens. This was viewed to be the ultimate source of his power and domain over the Chinese territory. The Qing bureaucracy was also selected based on merit through written examinations. The Modern China revolutionized this system entirely and involved the local people by making them participate in forming their government through nationalism. The idea portrayed in nationalism was that the legitimacy of the ruler in China was to be obtained from the people of the Republic of China.
Making New Citizens and Its Implications
Making new citizens involved the transformation of China into a nation that discarded away with their traditional ethnic customs consider to be barbaric and incorporation of the Western ideas and customs in the Chinese culture.
When the western sea powers arrived in the Chinese territory in 1840, the Chinese faced serious military and political challenges. They were well aware of the imminent threat facing them and discovered they had to change their systems of education. The Chinese had to acquire technical knowledge in order to match with the western imperialist powers. Most of the Chinese went to America and the imperialist Japan in order to study and gain skills in the scientific fields as their education system focused much on the memorization of Ancient history of customs and practices in China.
These people who went to study in abroad were however considered to be outcasts as they had broken with the ways of their people. They had adopted the western style of dressing and mannerisms which was considered inappropriate in ancient China. These people began slowly rejecting the outrageous Chinese custom of the binding the feet of their daughters. They adamantly rejected to perform these rituals on their daughters as they were enlightened by their education to see that it was inhumane.
According to Benedict Anderson who is a renowned Historian, the colonial governments brought the conception of a nation in South East Asia however the nations formed were viewed to be illusions of communities rather than pre-existing communities. He challenges the nations to treat themselves using their original sense of identity through kinship and religion rather than simply adopting the Western cultures.
Despite these assertions, Modern China has been completely revolutionized and there is widespread practice of western cultures among the Chinese people on matters of etiquette among others. There has been reform in handshakes for instance and the cropping up of a new era with different political cultures. Culturalism has evolved to nationalism in China. Emile Durkheim portrays the element of manifestation of emotions as a result of rituals to be a unifying factor in any collective group. Modern China still holds on to some of their customs and they celebrate them through the national day ceremonies where they exhibit their magnificent diverse cultures despite their westernization.
As a result of the incorporation of western modes of lifestyle, Modern China has become a fast growing economy with a large market for its exports. There have been major developments in technical training of the Chinese people through the installation of many universities that center on skills training. Military academies have also been established to increase the competency skills of military soldiers. It can however be noted that before the western powers had arrived in China, the Chinese had already invented gun powder and ceramic industry. This shows how Ancient China was still very knowledgeable.
The Manchu innovation of braiding hair with long queues has become a practice of the past. Most Chinese people in the Republic have maintained short hair which also serves as a reminder of their emancipation from the Qing dynasty aristocratic rule which was unfavorable and led to the revolutions in Ancient China.
Techniques involved in Making of New Citizens
The most common technique employed was the use of social movements that sought to revolutionize China in the nineteenth century. In 1911 there were great uprisings against the Qing dynasty that led to its elimination. The revolution was led by a group of people who had studied in abroad and become enlightened on liberalism. These movements strongly condemned the Chinese customs and practices. They were completely against the Qing dynasty rule and sought to overthrow the Qing government. Due to this tension that was evident among the Chinese, the Qing government delegated powers to the local assemblies. This gave powers to the local elite and they were able to devise sophisticated ways of devastating the Qing dynasty rule in China. In a period of three months later on after this delegation many local assemblies had declared independence from the Qing aristocratic. Shanghai, Guangzhou and other major cities were among the territories to become autonomous. This led to immense failure of the Qing dynasty in governing China and they were eventually dismantled from their reign as the great Emperors of China.
The Peasant Movement Associations also played a major role in eliminating the harsh rule of the rural monarchs of local gentry and local bullies. They were against the bad practices and customs of the landlords who mistreated them. The destroyed the political power of the landlords through a revolution and took over authority over the local gentry and bullies who were now subjected to their rule.
This movement instituted certain punitive measures to deal with the old organ of rule that had harshly treated them. They imposed fines on any form of past outrages against peasants by the landlords. The landlords were forced to pay certain fines as a form of compensation to the victims of their unjust rule. The landlords were also not allowed to increase rents and extinguish tenancies for the peasants. Local gentry who were corrupt and had mismanaged funds were found through strict auditing of accounts. All these measures were taken in order to prevent these rural organs from curtailing the rights of peasants. However, some have argued that these techniques adopted by the movement associations led to anarchy in China. This anarchy was the only way to bring about revolution and the birth of a new Republic of China hence on the bright side one can say it had positive impacts on the Chinese society.
The People Responsible for Making the New Citizen
After the collapse of the Qing dynasty rule, China became a Republic eventually in 1912 elected a President to govern them. SunYatsen who was a veteran revolutionary in the struggle for a Modern China was elected as president. He and others had fought to bring about change of governance in China. In his manifesto, the leader had sworn that he would overthrow the Qing dynasty rule in China and he was successful. He was among the local elite who had been educated in America and learnt the values and ideals of democracy. During the inauguration ceremony of the leader, he showed his commitment towards developing a Modern China based on unification of all communities despite their ethnical differences.
The May Fourth Movement also shaped the creation of a new Modern China. It involved protests by college students over terms in the Versailles Treaty that ended World War 1. During the peace conference in Paris, the treaty provided terms that would make Germany to surrender its colonies in China but instead these territories would be given to the imperialist power, Japan. This was found to be unacceptable and a betrayal of the people of China. The protests in the Republic of China revolutionized the perception of many of its citizens as they sought to hold their leaders accountable. Modern China is in existence to revolutions in the past that have certainly shaped its future.
Harrison, Henrietta. The Making of the Republican Citizen : Political Ceremonies and Symbols in China 1911-1929: Political Ceremonies and Symbols in China 1911-1929. Oxford, United Kingdom: Clarendon Press, 2000.
Lam, Tong. A Passion for Facts: Social Surveys and the Construction of the Chinese Nation-State, 1900–1949. Oakland, California: University of California Press, 2011.
Li, You-Sheng. The Ancient Chinese Super State of Primary Societies. Bloomington, Indiana: AuthorHouse, 2010.
Mitter, Rana. A Bitter Revolution: China's Struggle with the Modern World. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Schram, Stuart R and Nancy J Hodes. "Mao's Road to Power Revolutionary Writings 1912 .1949." National Revolution and Social Revolution December 1920- june 1927 (1992): 420-430.
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