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Thread: China's rise in historical perspective

  1. #1 China's rise in historical perspective 
    Forum Professor Pendragon's Avatar
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    It's old news that China is rapidly developping in just about every aspect (economically, socially, militarily; perhaps politically too), and it seems that a lot of 'westerners' were taken by surprise when they first realized the extent of this change. In a way this is strange. Many times in its history China was a world power, and as recent as 1700-1750 it was probably the most powerful country in the world before it was eclipsed by Europe. Its population was certainly a lot higher, and I'm not sure if Europe really had a technology advantage by then to make up for its smaller population (in terms of military tech: Europe had reasonably effective gunboats, but China had ships with incendiary rockets to counter it). Maybe China is just returning to its former position on the world stage, after two centuries of weakness?

    Should we really be surprised about China's recent rise to economic and military power? Or should we actually be more surprised that China was not in a dominant position in the world for two centuries?


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    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    Historically I believe it was the isolationist nature of asian nations during that period that resulted in Europe comming to supremacy. The ambitious and exploitative nature of western culture gave them the drive to take advantage of the discovery of the new world.


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    I'm going with the printing press. China's symbolic language would not have adapted easily to being printed with a printing press. Europe's alphabetical system, on the other hand, was perfectly suited.

    China's amazing arrogance makes it difficult for them to move swiftly in the area of technology. Even to this day, they're unable to design their own cell phone chips. It was a huge scandal about a year or two ago when one of their lead scientists claimed to be near accomplishing it, only to have it blow up when it was discovered that he'd copied his design.

    Japan, on the other hand, has typically managed to pick up every technology they saw within a few years, and even improve it to where they become the leaders in its use.
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    Forum Cosmic Wizard icewendigo's Avatar
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    I dont think China's past glory has much incidence on its position, otherwise we might as well expect Grece to be a superpower or Italy to be a great empire.
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    Forum Professor sunshinewarrior's Avatar
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    Again, I'm with Pendragon on this one.

    A few other points in passing.

    1. China invented printing with movable type. So that argument may not wash.

    2. Historical greatness does not lead to any inevitability of current glory (greece, Italy et al), but if there were sound reasons for China to be a dominant power (and I'll never get sick of recommending Guns, Germs and Steel on this matter) then as Pendragon suggests, we might see the past two-and-a-bit centuries as a glitch in China's history.
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrio

    1. China invented printing with movable type. So that argument may not wash.
    Well, movable type is pretty much a useless technology without an alphabetic language, as I think another poster has already pointed out.

    2. Historical greatness does not lead to any inevitability of current glory (greece, Italy et al), but if there were sound reasons for China to be a dominant power (and I'll never get sick of recommending Guns, Germs and Steel on this matter) then as Pendragon suggests, we might see the past two-and-a-bit centuries as a glitch in China's history.
    Yeah, only continuous/ uninterrupted glory makes accomplishment more probably in the present. Momentum can carry you from one accomplishment to the next, but not after you've lost it.
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    China will be very great,it has glorious culture and future. Let's wait and see.
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    China is large, very large. Therefore there will always be a lot of trouble controlling the masses and keeping their country in shape. I'm sure there is a lot of corruptness in China.

    Centuries ago when the world was changing, they kept a low profile, probably because they didn't know what was going off much. Don't either forget that their main religion is Buddhism, and if you know the outlines of that, then you can understand why China's historical development is different to ours.
    "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe". - Carl Sagan
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    i agree with you all, if it werent for other nations leeching the chinese for the last 200 years and if their leaders had taken a better intitive like the Japanese or Americans, China would have reached its current level of world influence some time ago. i mean the reason they were leeched in the first place was because of China's greatness
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  11. #10  
    Forum Professor sunshinewarrior's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrio

    1. China invented printing with movable type. So that argument may not wash.
    Well, movable type is pretty much a useless technology without an alphabetic language, as I think another poster has already pointed out.
    Poor argument - they quite happily use moveable type these days. They even have highly functional computer keyboards.

    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    2. Historical greatness does not lead to any inevitability of current glory (greece, Italy et al), but if there were sound reasons for China to be a dominant power (and I'll never get sick of recommending Guns, Germs and Steel on this matter) then as Pendragon suggests, we might see the past two-and-a-bit centuries as a glitch in China's history.
    Yeah, only continuous/ uninterrupted glory makes accomplishment more probably in the present. Momentum can carry you from one accomplishment to the next, but not after you've lost it.
    Why?

    Actually, that's not relevant as a response to my point: I said that if there were factors that in general made China a great power (population levels, depth of infrastructure, agricultural resources, geographic security etc) then they would apply for long periods of time, and any change from that state would be the anomaly.


    Quote Originally Posted by willmer
    Don't either forget that their main religion is Buddhism, and if you know the outlines of that, then you can understand why China's historical development is different to ours.
    Buddhism is an import that sits alongside earlier established Chinese belief
    systems like Confucianism. And it doesn't explain why Mao's Red Army was so successful 60 years ago.
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrio
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrio

    1. China invented printing with movable type. So that argument may not wash.
    Well, movable type is pretty much a useless technology without an alphabetic language, as I think another poster has already pointed out.
    Poor argument - they quite happily use moveable type these days. They even have highly functional computer keyboards.
    Well, in the early stages of the technology, you'd need 3,000 custom carved imprinting molds, more than that if you planned to re-use words on the same page.

    With a 26 letter alphabet, you can get away with a lot fewer custom carved molds.

    Quote Originally Posted by ishmaelblues
    i agree with you all, if it werent for other nations leeching the chinese for the last 200 years and if their leaders had taken a better intitive like the Japanese or Americans, China would have reached its current level of world influence some time ago. i mean the reason they were leeched in the first place was because of China's greatness
    Well, the fact they were weak enough to be leached from is a failing in and of itself. Nobody else *could* have taken advantage of them if they'd been on their game.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrio
    Quote Originally Posted by willmer
    Don't either forget that their main religion is Buddhism, and if you know the outlines of that, then you can understand why China's historical development is different to ours.
    Buddhism is an import that sits alongside earlier established Chinese belief
    systems like Confucianism. And it doesn't explain why Mao's Red Army was so successful 60 years ago.
    I said it explains why their development was different to ours, not that it explains why their battles are succesful. How did you deduce that from my earlier statement I was applying it to all of their history?
    "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe". - Carl Sagan
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    Quote Originally Posted by 425 Chaotic Requisition
    China is large, very large. Therefore there will always be a lot of trouble controlling the masses and keeping their country in shape. I'm sure there is a lot of corruptness in China.
    You could just as well say "China is large, very large, therefore there will always be sources of economic growth in China". With over a billion people who can almost freely travel (internal migration is almost free in China, but there are some practical limits to it) and exchange ideas within a country that has quite a lot of resources, it would almost be improbable if there wouldn't be a dozen good economic initiatives somewhere in China every year.

    Quote Originally Posted by 425 Chaotic Requisition
    Centuries ago when the world was changing, they kept a low profile, probably because they didn't know what was going off much. Don't either forget that their main religion is Buddhism, and if you know the outlines of that, then you can understand why China's historical development is different to ours.
    You have to ask yourself what Buddhism really means in China. Max Weber (famous sociologer) argued that a people's belief system influences their willingness to take initiative and develop their economy and society, and in his analysis Buddhism is near the bottom of the list in terms of competitiveness. But those ideas are a century old and I doubt whether they really explain much.

    Two questions:
    - Does Buddhism really depress economic and social initiative?
    - Did Buddhism really make a strong mark on Chinese society?

    I can't answer either question with certainty, but my educated guess would be "not really" to both of them. During China's early 'golden age' (Tang dynasty, especially Ming dynasty) Buddhism was quite important, but during the Qing dynasty it had waned a bit. So a decline of the importance of Buddhism seems to have coincided with a decline in China's economic power. But that's just a very rough estimate.

    Quote Originally Posted by ishmaelblues
    i agree with you all, if it werent for other nations leeching the chinese for the last 200 years and if their leaders had taken a better intitive like the Japanese or Americans, China would have reached its current level of world influence some time ago. i mean the reason they were leeched in the first place was because of China's greatness
    True, China's greatness in the sense of its wealth. I've heard claims that China was the wealthiest country in the world around 1750. I don't know if that's per capita wealth (probably not), but the Chinese imperial treasury was probably the most attractive one in the world. For some reason this wealth didn't translate into military power over the last couple centuries, and because it did attract imperialists it actually weakened China.

    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrio
    2. Historical greatness does not lead to any inevitability of current glory (greece, Italy et al), but if there were sound reasons for China to be a dominant power (and I'll never get sick of recommending Guns, Germs and Steel on this matter) then as Pendragon suggests, we might see the past two-and-a-bit centuries as a glitch in China's history.
    Yea great book

    About Greece and Italy: those countries are now many times richer than they ever were in their golden age, they were relatively wealthy for some time but lost their position because other areas grew faster. China didn't just stagnate when others grew, it actually lost much of its wealth after 1750-1800. So I think we haven't seen its full potential yet.
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by ishmaelblues
    i agree with you all, if it werent for other nations leeching the chinese for the last 200 years and if their leaders had taken a better intitive like the Japanese or Americans, China would have reached its current level of world influence some time ago. i mean the reason they were leeched in the first place was because of China's greatness
    True, China's greatness in the sense of its wealth. I've heard claims that China was the wealthiest country in the world around 1750. I don't know if that's per capita wealth (probably not), but the Chinese imperial treasury was probably the most attractive one in the world. For some reason this wealth didn't translate into military power over the last couple centuries, and because it did attract imperialists it actually weakened China.
    [/quote]

    Maybe they had the sense to part with some of that wealth in order to get rid of the imperialists.

    I think one of China's big problems has been that it always grows to the maximum size that can possibly be ruled, and then cannot expand further. (Which means it can only stagnate). Japan, on the other hand, is this little pipsqueak country that always just can't wait to expand.

    Still, the smaller size makes it easier to adapt new technologies. China has to move slow because it's a big elephant of a country.



    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrio
    2. Historical greatness does not lead to any inevitability of current glory (greece, Italy et al), but if there were sound reasons for China to be a dominant power (and I'll never get sick of recommending Guns, Germs and Steel on this matter) then as Pendragon suggests, we might see the past two-and-a-bit centuries as a glitch in China's history.
    Yea great book

    About Greece and Italy: those countries are now many times richer than they ever were in their golden age, they were relatively wealthy for some time but lost their position because other areas grew faster. China didn't just stagnate when others grew, it actually lost much of its wealth after 1750-1800. So I think we haven't seen its full potential yet.
    Or it's going to keep on sinking.
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    WHY China couldn't dominate the world is because the europe made it a water melon and shared it and exploited it and another reason maybe the peaceful nature of people.
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    wars are waged by rulers not people the rulers makes people forcebly o go into war by araising patroitism and wealth loot and the people who dont have food and have to feed family have no other choice but to take part in wars but i think chinese taoist buddist nature is peacefulness
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  19. #18  
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    Quote Originally Posted by charvaka View Post
    wars are waged by rulers not people the rulers makes people forcebly o go into war by araising patroitism and wealth loot and the people who dont have food and have to feed family have no other choice but to take part in wars but i think chinese taoist buddist nature is peacefulness
    So what?
    That applies to all countries, hence your original claim is still meaningless.
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    i say no people are savages and wants war only rulers wants it u said chinese were not peaceful so i posted that
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    Still wrong.
    You claimed that one reason "WHY China couldn't dominate the world is because... [of] the peaceful nature of people".
    By your own subsequent argument, the term "peaceful nature of people" applies to all nations: hence your "reason" is not, after all, a reason.
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    Sorry to disappoint but thats not the only one reason the european exploitation made it like sucked ay tin and it took this much time and mao s and others efforts torecover and take its original position thats what haappened to my country also so we are still a devoloping and not devoloped country our resourses were exploited and are still being
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    Undoubtedly, IMO, a much greater degree of general dissidence exists in today's large nations, than does in China. Surmise all you wish, but in the final analysis, the society which clings to ingrained cultural decency for each individual, will emerge on top. jocular
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    agreed thank you
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    From my understanding of Chinese History (and it is not too in-depth) was that the main reason why it was a Super-Power of the ancient world was for its geographical isolation. I wonder if China was in marching distance to Rome or Athens then history would be different. China's connection to ancient Europe was the silk road and this did not find its height until the later stages of the Sui or Tong dynasties. And ancient China was not always a unified body. It was unified first under Huang-Di around 220 bc. By this time Rome was 500 years old and ancient Egypt was an ancient relic. Sure, ancient Chinese developed many wonderful things before the West did; they even had the first printed money.

    Chine of the 2000 ad period is quiet an interesting body. I personal feel it is growing too quickly. Not to mention a bigger country is a bigger task to run. China has very little arable land, and her massive pollution issues do not help this cause. China has a major problem with food shortages. She somewhat resembles an ancient version of Rome. Rome grew to quickly towards her fall and most of her grain was coming from Egypt and ancient Iraq. While Rome looked like she would last a thousand more years, food supplied dwindled and advantageous neighbors took her down.
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    China's internal politics of the early 15th century probably ruined its excellent chance to achieve the tremendous growth Europe experienced during that period. They went from having the worlds largest trade and exploring fleets to nothing more than local smaller boats by choice.

    Chinese Treasure Fleets: The Chinese Overseas Expeditions During the Early 15th Century
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    Throughout history China has had many opportunities to become the dominant power in the world, however there has always a good reason or an internal policy not to go off into the world and do this. What is different about the modern rise of China is the way they are actively engaging with the rest of the world, they have interests in virtually every continent and there expansion is being fuelled and driven by external demand and imports of foreign supplies, this again in a tradional historic context is somewhat unusal for China. What it means is nobody is really quite sure just how high Chinese ambitions really are or indeed how powerful they could actually one day become, of course at some stage in the future this type of foreign engagement may end and they may once again turn inwards again as has has happened so many times in their history the truth is as yet we just do not know and all we can say is, currently China is acting in a different way from what we have seen so often before.
    “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

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    Ascended: I've noticed your notions are often insightful but usually in the form of a single, large paragraph. May I suggest using multiple paragraphs in the future.

    China's great wall is instructive. They are a defensive nation (although, apparently, demonstrating offensive strategies in Africa).

    I would welcome the rise of China if it were not for their attacks on free speech.
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  29. #28  
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    we err in assuming china as a single entity
    try as her rulers might
    this has always been an elusive goal

    perhaps, this is the time when finally this dream may be acheived
    perhaps not?

    my beloved spouse is a professor at the university of iowa. As such, she runs the writing center, and has contact with many students from china.
    It seems, that only here do these lonely single children find unity in their "chinese identity".
    Perhaps, that only when viewed from without can unity within finally be a realized goal?
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  30. #29  
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    Communism is good for China.Who said people are oppressed in a communist regime.The western nations are selfish.They would like to see China in ethnic turmoil.I wish CHINA and CHINESE good progress and peace.
    believer in ahimsa
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    Peace? If the society will have more money than they need for life - yes
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