China is the perfect example of what happens when one leader is given to much power. The leaders of China were each very afraid of social reform, and the consequences that outside influence may have on their customs. As a means of initiating reform, they shut the entire Western world out almost completely.
At the time it was a move that served China well but in the long run it was the downfall of China. While blindfolded, the Chinese were unable to see the great advancements of the Western world. With an egocentric government, the Chinese citizens were neglected outside of the palace walls and the country fell to shambles. Instead of stimulating economic growth the government suppressed it as the rest of the world advanced. While focused on fear of internal rebellion the Chinese leaders overlooked the status of their army and were not prepared for the rest of the world as they fell so far behind in almost every advancement.
Had China remained in contact with the Western world it would have been possible for them to be as advanced a civilization as the Western world. As the Chinese government had their head buried in the sand with worry over losing control of their empire, they neglected to maintain the basic essentials of a functional country. All of China’s canals eventually decayed as they were left unrepaired for years, the ironworks that China once prided itself one became obsolete with out a second look, and the army itself was no match for any Western army. The merchants were of no avail to the poor Chinese civilians as their profits on land and education. Upon shutting out the rest of the world China had forbidden the use of a printing press. The expression of social criticism and news of the outside world was banned.
The people of China had no idea what was happening. When the doors had been shut from the outside world Europe was not as highly advanced as China. Europeans lived in crowded cities with rodents and foul odors. The Chinese for a period of time lived with the fresh scent of flowers and tea. As China internally decayed the citizens had nothing to compare it to for they had always been ahead of Europe in almost everything for so many centuries. After the thirteenth century Western civilization flourished.
In Western Europe the governments encouraged industrial growth and individual commerce as a means of keeping ahead of the competition. With each distinct country competing with each other a variety of individual trades were created eventually sparking the Industrial Revolution. As a result of heavily trading around the world, each country became very wealthy, and as such their internal economies grew. In Great Britain without government suppression on individual companies they were able to build the most powerful navy in the world, and colonize in many different countries.
As China was suffering from economic rot, they paid no attention to the world around them. They did not realize that the rest of the world was waiting to conquer China and divide the winnings. When Chinese officials refused to continue trading with the British they initiated the Opium Wars. The final result of the Opium War was almost devastating. They were forced to sign an unfair treaty with Britain.
Under the treaty, the opium trade was legalized and the Guangzhou monopoly was ended as Xiamen, Ningbo, Fuzhou, and Shanghai was also opened to trade. The island of Hong Kong became a British base and Britain established the right to supervise and inspect a published tariff structure on China’s trade. Finally, China, already reeling from trade imbalance, was compelled to pay a war indemnity of $21 million. China was very focused on keeping the Japanese and Portuguese pirates away from their shores.
While they were distracted every other European country continued to build their armies at a rapid speed. With new technology, the Western world left China behind and continued to invent more lethal weapons. As China was busy fighting off predators they had no extra time to keep up. As all of their iron factories were obsolete they had no cost, efficient method. Because of their military weakness they lost all of the Opium Wars which resulting in crippling economic losses. Thinking that things couldn’t get worse internal upset led to the Taiping Rebellion, which resulted in the deaths of twenty million people.
The loss was yet another drastically unfavorable blow to the Chinese economy. Shortly following the Taiping Rebellion the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 further damaged China. The rest of the world was just waiting to take a piece of China at this point. The Boxer Rebellion only made their situation worse. The Chinese needed reform and fast. It wasn’t until January first, 1912 that Dr.
Sun Yat-sen was to be sworn in as the first president of the provisional government of China’s new Republic. Crippling defeat during the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95It was ignorant on China’s part to assume that Europe wouldn’t try to colonize their country. Had China not shut out the Western world they would have been able to keep advancing their army’s equipment. As a result they might have been able to fight off the British and the French during the Opium Wars. The Russian’s would have been happy to assist in return for a trading agreement.
Fortunately China ended up with a new Republic and managed to maintain order and participate in the last years of the Industrial Revolution. In closing, had China not shut out the Western world as a means of defense they might have been one of the leading countries in the world today.Political Issues