China's Economic Journeyby Rit Nosotro
Change Over Time essay
How have China's economic policies changed over the last century, and what were their effects?
Naturally, China’s political changes have affected the country not only socially but also economically. Three types of government have implemented their own type of financial system and the current government continues to steadily evolve toward a global economy.
In the early years of the last century, china had been recently forced out of a state of national isolation. It was bombarded with technology and trade from the West under the government of the Qing dynasty. In 1911, the Qing was overthrown by a group of nationalists; and after this, remained in constant war and economic decline due to the Japanese and the Communist Party. The nationalist party was soon overthrown by the communists and was driven out of China, into Taiwan. This period was symbolized by its leader; Mao Zedong, who by his death in 1976; had put China even further back economically than it had been before.
Although Confucius had looked down on the merchant class as a necessary evil; China’s famous Silk Road during the Han Dynasty led to trade with the Romans. Centuries later, yet before Europeans sailed to Chinese waters, Chinese mariners sailed colossal ships to trade along the eastern coast of Africa. However, these voyages were suspended by a dynasty who believed China had no need of foreign goods. This economic and cultural isolationist policy endured over 300 years when it was broken by the Opium Wars (1839-1842) which led to Western economic “Spheres of Influence”. The influence also came from Christian missionaries such as Issachar J. Roberts, who tried to correct the vain doctrines of Hong Xiuchuan, leader of the grossly distorted Christianity of the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864) that ended with 20-30 million deaths. The western coalition that helped restore the corrupt Manchu government further weakened Chinese sovereignty. Hudson Taylor opened the China Inland Mission (1865) the following year. Missionaries such as Jonathan GoForth and Lottie Moon, risked their lives during the Boxer Uprising (1898-1900) that targeted Christians at the encouragement of the dowager empress. This too was put down by an international force that resulted an indemnity of $333 million, was further forced China to a subservient status.
Naturally, China’s political changes have affected the country not only socially but economically. Three types of government have implemented their own type of financial system and the current government continues to steadily evolve toward a global economy.
Under the Qing dynasty China’s economy had been infused with a heavy load of Western involvement. Due to the country’s closed status in the years before the foreigners arrived, China’s agricultural methods were backward compared to the Western world, and industry was almost nonexistent. Though they often took advantage of the Chinese and their resources, foreign involvement also brought Western technology. Forced to open coastal ports, a steady flow of trade ensued between the West and the East. Although the Europeans introduced railroads, highways, and started some industrial activity, the overall effect on China’s economy overall was negligible since it did not involve the hundreds of millions of peasants deep in the interior.
Revolutionaries overthrew the Qing dynasty in 1911. A long period of political strife and civil war ended much of the growth of China’s economy. Though the Nationalist government under Chiang Kai-Shek finally united most of China beneath its rule in 1928, it was constantly dogged by internal problems and a long, costly civil war with China’s new Communist Party. A truce between the two parties was brokered in order to provide a united front against the Japanese, who seized Manchuria and its heavy industries. The truce soon broke down, however, and the Japanese continued to advance. Naturally, China’s economy suffered much through these turbulent times, and the country remained in turmoil after World War II.
In 1949, the Communist Party overthrew the incumbent government, and drove the remaining Nationalist off the mainland onto the island of Taiwan. This ushered in the communist ideals of socialism and other economic policies based on models in the Soviet Union. All foreign interests were seized and ownership was given to the state. Landlords were killed by mobs chanting slogans and full of zeal toward the communist ideals. Private property became the property of the state and of “the people”. The early 1950s were characterized by the collectivization of farms and the “people’s communes” promoted by Mao Zedong. The role of Chinese women was also modified to better serve the state. In 1953, Mao adopted a policy of rapid industrialization, mobilizing the masses in an attempt to create factories and produce steel. This brought about the notoriously inefficient backyard furnaces into which the people threw their metal belongings. Mao’s launching of the Great Leap Forward in 1958 implemented his questionable agricultural policies and impractical industrial methods. Idealism quickly proved to be a poor booster of the economy as the Great Leap Forward ended in disaster. A massive food shortage killed millions of people as more moderate party leaders attempted to create better policies. Worried that his policies were losing popularity in the Communist Party, and blaming his economic policy failures on counter-revolutionaries, Mao launched the Cultural Revolution, purging the party of leaders who resisted his policies and setting China even further backward economically.
Mao’s death in 1976 not only symbolized the end of his policies, but a time of intense reform as many of the Soviet methods and ideas were reversed or discarded. Deng Xiao Ping embarked on a journey of reform that banished collectivization and opened China’s doors once again to foreign investment. Allowing privatization in some parts of the economy led to growth in industry and improved agricultural methods increased China’s output. Deng removed many of the restrictions on China’s economy in 1992, starting an age in which capitalism began creeping back into practice.
Today, China’s economy has changed greatly since the 1950s. The establishment of Special Economic Zones (such as Xiamen, where the majority of this essay was written) has welcomed foreign investment and development, and these cities are thriving economically. Agriculturally, modernization of farming techniques continues to boost productivity, though farming remains a low income job. Urbanization continues, but the large majority of China’s population remains as poverty stricken farmers. No longer socialist, China has moved steadily toward decentralization. Increasingly, industries and enterprises tightly controlled by the state have been allowed a measure of freedom, and incentives have increased production. As we begin the journey through the 21st century, China’s economy continues to develop and evolve.
1. What did the European powers introduce into China during the Qing dynasty?
2. What did Mao Zedong promote?
a. Backyard furnaces
c. Moderate economic reform
d. Chunky Campbell’s soup
3. What did Deng Xiao Ping NOT promote?
a. Economic reform
b. Collective farming
c. Foreign trade
d. Modernization of agricultural methods
4. What does NOT characterize China’s economy today?
a. A large amount of foreign investment
b. Increasing urbanization
d. Attempting to be like the Soviet Union
"China," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2004
http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2004 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
“China,” Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, Copyright (c) 2004.
“China, Economy of,” WikiPedia ©2004
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