What they meant was that China should import technology hardware from the west while preserving the fundamental values of the Chinese society. In fact, when Zeng Guofang and Li Hongzhang suggested sending some Chinese youths to study abroad in a letter submitted in March 1871 to Zongli Yamen, they also advocated those youths to be under the control of the commissioners so that they would not be westernized.By 1890s, the Self-Strengthening movement was considered a failure as the reforms the moderate reformers advocated could not catch up with the increasing aggressiveness of the barbarians and the defeat of Li Hongzhang’s army and navy( a product of the Self-Strengthening movement ) by the Japanese in the First Sino-Japanese War, which spurred many Chinese intellectuals to became more radical. As many Chinese intellectuals began to realize that the Self-Strengthening movement was a disappointment, they began to press for more aggressive and institutional change.The most prominent among the radicals were Wang Tao, the Father of Journalism, Yan Fu, Kang Yuwei and Liang Qichao.
Wang Tao, who as an independent scholar in his writings asserted that Confucius himself would change under the current circumstances and with that, he advocated changes in education, recruitment of civil servants, method of training soldiers and the reducing of the “complex and multifarious laws and regulations”de Bary. Like Wan Tao, Yan Fu spread his opinions through publications and his view on Social Darwinism was a major influence on Chinese thinking at the turn of the century.He believed a monarch should be responsible to the people and was against political revolution which in his opinion would only derailed China’s progress. Kang Youwei was the only one among the four who had the opportunity to put his theories to test. He was a Jinshi degree holder and thus was an important official in the government. He was asked to take charge of the government in June 1898 and from then onwards till the coup d’i?? tat that restored Empress Tzu Hsi to power, he set up a stream of reforms to turn China into a modern state.However his reforms threatened the special interests of the scholars, bureaucrats and others who had the most to lose from the reforms.
So, they opposed bitterly to his reforms and it was one of the reasons why his tenure in the office and his reforms were short-lived. Basically Kang Yuwei’s basic idea was that the reforms were compatible with the Confucian Way and China should use Japan as a model of reform. He was influenced by Buddhism, Confucianism, Wang Tao, Social Darwinism and many others and he was a genius in synthesizing all those different ideas into one coherent and comprehensible thought.Last but not least, Liang Qichao might be the most radical of the four but towards the end of his life, he was disillusioned by the west and believed Chinese morality was superior to the west and therefore should be preserved as China became modernized. He was a disciple of Kang Youwei and after the failure of the reform movement, he moved to Japan.
There, he was exposed to more western ideas and influences. He believed in throwing away the part of Chinese culture that proved to be obstacle to progress and unlike Kang Youwei, he did not try to “repackage” the idea of reform into something Confucian.Instead he expounded his “new view of world history strongly colored by social Darwinism: a struggle for survival among nations and race”de Bary. He believed that the competition for survival among nations was the “spur to drastic reform”de Bary. One thing all these men have in common was that they all were radicals in their thinking but they still wanted to maintain the Chinese culture. They were against a total upheaval of Chinese society and believed China’s interest was best served if the society retained the Chinese Culture.The 1911 revolution overthrew the Manchu dynasty and Sun Yatsen was sworn in as the first Provisional President in Nanking but later he offered the post to Yuan Shikai. Even though Yuan Shikai was the president of China in name, real power was in the hands of the local warlords of which he was perhaps the biggest warlord.
Moreover he had to contend with the Nationalist down south and the Japanese in Manchuria and Korea. This period of polycentrism created anarchy and chaos. However, foreign governments recognized China as a state and extend diplomatic relationship to Yuan’s government.Yuan exploited this recognition by borrowing heavily from the foreign government in his effort to secure his position and to fight against the Nationalist. Yuan’s tyrannical rule culminated in his trying to proclaim himself as an emperor.
Before he could realized his ambition, opposition was so great that he had to cancel it and it was rumored that he died in chagrin. Apart from Yuan Shikai, Sun Yatsen was another major figure during this period as he led the fight against Yuan. He was widely considered as the Father of Revolution and his ideas greatly influenced his successor, Chiang Kai Sek and a great many other revolutionaries.
The idea of nation over the people came from him and he believed that China should be a united and secured nation before personal liberty could be given to the people. He died in 1925 and was still revered and respected in China till to the present day. Apart from the Nationalist, the New Culture Movement was in full swing in China during that period. The movement came into being as a reaction against the stifling and stagnant nature of Chinese culture which inhibited progress and modernization.The movement wanted to do away with Confucianism and replaced it with something new.
The leader of the movement, Chen Duxiu led the attack against Confucianism which he deemed a hindrance to progress. His view shocked many who viewed Confucianism as inseparable from Chinese culture but had an electrifying effect to young teachers and students. Another way to liberate from the past was to replace the classical literary language with a vernacular one. Hu Shi launch the literary revolution with the support of Chen Duxiu in 1917.He advocated a new written language closer to the spoken language for China, along with the reevaluation of the classical tradition in thought and literature. He believed a literature reform should start with eight items that were”to write with substance, do not imitate the ancients, emphasize grammar, reject melancholy, eliminate old cliches, do not use allusions, do not use couplets and parallelism and do not avoid popular expressions or popular forms of characters”de Bary.
In conclusion, changes in China started with small reforms and then snowballed into a revolution and an upheaval of traditional culture and literature.As each reform failed to keep China abreast with the world, the reforms became more radical until it came to the point where everything from the past was associated with stagnation and therefore should be removed. The reforms and the revolution may seem to ordinary observer did not achieved much except causing chaos and pandemonium in China in the early half 20th century but in my opinion, it actually made the Chinese gained awareness of their identity and provided important ideological and philosophical base for the creation of nation state of China.China may have lost a century of development and stability but in the end it became a strong and unified communist nation able to produce impressive economic growth and catch up with the west.
I have learnt a lot from taking the East Asian Class and from doing this paper. From the readings and researches I have to do to complete the paper, I learned about China’s subordination by the west and her struggle to change in order to become part of the modern world.A lot of life lessons can be taken from it like never give up even though you are at the lowest ebb in your life, never to give up totally your past to become a new person because it will only cause confusion and loss of identity and unlike Lin Zexu, you must always be aware of your adversary’s true strength before making your move. Apart from the life lessons, I gained a deeper understanding of China and better appreciation of my culture.I am now proud to consider myself of Chinese heritage and will like to learn more about China in greater detail.BIBLIOGRAPHY: de Bary, Wm. Theodore, ed.
Sources of Chinese Tradition, Volume II (Second Edition) Columbia U. Press 2000. Fairbank, John King , Goldman, Merle. China : a New History Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998.
Mancall, Mark, China at the Center, The Free Press 1984. Pelissier, Roger, ed. The Awakening of China, New York: Capricorn Books 1970.