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March 23, 2006

Comments

Jim

Or irony. The Communists have destroyed a lot of what was worth keeping. And yet there is no question that China's fortunes are in better shape than they were even at the height of the Qing Dynasty, even by the horrific standards of human rights in modern China. Ming dynasty China was well ahead of Europe; by the end of the Qian Long emperor's reign China had fallen way behind England and France in a lot of areas. China may be a long way from having caught up with threst of the world, but at least they are not heading in the opposite direction the way they were doing a hundredd years ago.

There are lots of Chinese people who despise the Communist regime, but no one misses the Qing regime or the imperial system overall.

Abiola

"And yet there is no question that China's fortunes are in better shape than they were even at the height of the Qing Dynasty, even by the horrific standards of human rights in modern China."

If one ignores the tens of millions who had to be slaughtered to get here, sure ... I see no reason whatsoever to credit the advances of modern science and medicine or America's destruction of imperialism in East Asia to the Communist Party.

"China may be a long way from having caught up with threst of the world, but at least they are not heading in the opposite direction the way they were doing a hundredd years ago."

When you've been heading backwards for as long as the Chinese Communist Party has, you're going to hit a rebound sooner or later, if only because there's nowhere else to go but up. One only has to look at Taiwan to see just how dismal the Communist Party's record really is.

"no one misses the Qing regime or the imperial system overall"

Thanks more to the "patriotic education" drilled into the minds of impressionable youth than to any great merits possessed by the current regime. There was nothing inevitable about the demise of the Qing: if the Dowager Empress Cixi hadn't been a power-hungry, reactionary witch who blocked all attempts at modernization and had her nephew Emperor Guangxu put under house arrest, there's every reason to believe China would have undergone something similar to the Meiji restoration, and say what you will about the Qing, but theirs at least was not an ideological police state run on the basis of mass terror. In almost every aspect of governance one chooses to compare other than the ability to suppress dissent and annihilate neighbors, the Qing come out looking better than the corrupt, brutal barbarians of the CCP; for the 800 million peasants who own no title to the land they farm and who have no real avenues of redress against the depradations of local party bosses, theirs might as well be an existence under the least accountable of Qing feudal lords.

Dan tdaxp

"The tragedy of course is that no regime has done more to destroy what was worth preserving of China's cultural heritage than the Communist Party which poses as the "restorer" of Chinese fortunes ..."

If you ever get a chance, read "Waiting" by Ha Jin. A short romance story, it's actually the story of China's divorce of her past for the mistress of Communism. Very powerful, especially the ending.

"for the 800 million peasants who own no title to the land they farm"

Especially tragic, because before Mao landholding was widespread. Capitalization in reverse.

Jim

"Thanks more to the "patriotic education" drilled into the minds of impressionable youth than to any great merits possessed by the current regime."

That will come as quite a surprise to Taiwanese people. Nobody has much good to say about a regime that was so weak and corrupt as to allow foreigners to gain dominance, and you don't have to grow up under Communist propaganda to see things that way.

"There was nothing inevitable about the demise of the Qing:"

Hardly. Hardly. All dynasties inevitably failed. Blaming it all on Ci Xi is as superficial as it gets. Ci Xi isn't the reason the Taiping Rebellion got the support it did. It's called the dynastic cycle and it has been recognized as a constant since about the Song Dynasty.

" I see no reason whatsoever to credit the advances of modern science and medicine or.."

But perhaps you do see how none of those things matter in the lives of actual people unless they are applied, and somoehow they didn't get applied except in a very thin layer of society, in the chaos that reigned from the Tiaping Rebellion until Mao took over.

The blood-soaked Communists don't have to be half as good as Taiwan to be better than the Qing.

Jim

"there's every reason to believe China would have undergone something similar to the Meiji restoration,.."

There is no reason the believe this. For one thing, it was tried. Ci Xi had a son who tried this. He didn't live very long after that. And you can blame her for that, the poisonous hag, but the truth remains that if the country had been anything like close to being ready for reform, an obvious precondition for any hope of success, killing this or that emperor wouldn't have mattered.

Jim

"and say what you will about the Qing, but theirs at least was not an ideological police state run on the basis of mass terror"

The only piece of that that is close to true is the lack of ideology in the Qing state, although come to think of it, that's false too since Confucianism is a political ideology. As for the police state business, google '保甲制度 -bao jia zhi du". Where the Qing were less a police state than the Communists, that was due to impotence rather than differnece in mentality. But where they could, they used mass terro. There was a purge of the scholar class at the beginning of the dynasty that eventually took out 40,000 individuals. The Taiping Rebellion was put down with exterminations so thorough that the affected provinces were open to resettlement from the north, and the dialects are now forms of Mandarin.

Abiola

"That will come as quite a surprise to Taiwanese people. Nobody has much good to say about a regime that was so weak and corrupt as to allow foreigners to gain dominance, and you don't have to grow up under Communist propaganda to see things that way."

Even if everything here you say is true, it would only mean plenty of Taiwanese of mainland origin have also had their brains addled by nationalism, and even then I doubt there are many crazy and ignorant enough to credit the CCP for ridding China of imperialists.

"But perhaps you do see how none of those things matter in the lives of actual people unless they are applied, and somoehow they didn't get applied except in a very thin layer of society, in the chaos that reigned from the Tiaping Rebellion until Mao took over."

As if that was what was happening throughout all those years before Mao finally stopped breathing ... Gimme a break! You think more than 50 million Chinese citizens went to early graves because the CCP was out ministrating to their health and welfare?

"Ci Xi isn't the reason the Taiping Rebellion got the support it did. It's called the dynastic cycle and it has been recognized as a constant since about the Song Dynasty."

This "theory" explains absolutely nothing: if a dynasty fails, blame it on "the circle", and if it doesn't, just say it hasn't reached that part of "the circle yet" ...

"There is no reason the believe this. For one thing, it was tried. Ci Xi had a son who tried this. He didn't live very long after that."

This pointless bit of lecturing ought to be directed to someone more ignorant of Chinese history than I am. Not only did I myself mention the efforts of this "son" before you did - see above - but he was in fact her *nephew*, not her son.

"if the country had been anything like close to being ready for reform, an obvious precondition for any hope of success, killing this or that emperor wouldn't have mattered"

A novel thesis which runs directly counter to everything most scholars on this issue have written; the usual (correct) line is that when reforms did come after China's humiliation in the Sino-Japanese war, they were then already *too late.* In any case, if what you say is true, how can it possibly be the fault of the Qing that their reforms were rejected by a country which wasn't ready for them? You can't both blame them for retarding progress and advancing reforms Chinese society wasn't ready for.

"The only piece of that that is close to true is the lack of ideology in the Qing state, although come to think of it, that's false too since Confucianism is a political ideology."

In the Chinese context, Confucianism is about as much an "ideology" as Christianity was in the West, or as liberal democracy is in our day - something so all-pervasive at so many levels of society for so long cannot be regarded as a political imposition of some regime or other, and the Qing had no choice but to adopt it as their own, just as they took up lots of other customs in order to became the most "Chinese" of Chinese emperors: nothing less would have sufficed to hold the allegiance of their subjects. Communism, on the other hand, is an alien, malignant creed which has been rammed down the throats of hundreds of millions of unwilling Chinese people at the barrel of a gun for going on 57 years now.

"Where the Qing were less a police state than the Communists, that was due to impotence rather than differnece in mentality. But where they could, they used mass terro. There was a purge of the scholar class at the beginning of the dynasty that eventually took out 40,000 individuals."

"Took out" is a nice way of eliding the tremendous difference between a new regime sacking the previous regime's loyalists to consolidate its hold, and working millions of your own members to death in concentration camps. I repeat: the Qing dynasty was not an ideological police state, and the Manchus didn't care what you thought as long as you payed your taxes and had no designs against their rule. In that respect they were no worse than most regimes anywhere else on Earth at any time, and in fact they were *better* than most, as they actually tried to impliment schemes to advance the welfare of their subjects - that's why they went to war with Britain over opium, remember?

"The Taiping Rebellion was put down with exterminations so thorough that the affected provinces were open to resettlement from the north, and the dialects are now forms of Mandarin"

You do realize the difference between a *civil war* and communist mass killing campaigns of peasants, don't you?

Jim

I do indeed realize that there is a difference between exterminating whole provinces of people because they are in revolt and you can't determine anyone's loyalty on the one hand exterminating a whole class of people because you have decide that you cannot trust them, or of engineering the deaths of millions of people by starvation.

You do realize that the Communists did not engage in " mass killing campaigns of peasants" They accomplished that through malignant stupidity, some kind of campaign.

"This "theory" explains absolutely nothing: if a dynasty fails, blame it on "the circle", and if it doesn't, just say it hasn't reached that part of "the circle yet" ... "

It may explain nothing to you, but it describes the histories of every dynasty from the Han onward. Tell me one dynasty that did not fail eventually.

"In any case, if what you say is true, how can it possibly be the fault of the Qing that their reforms were rejected by a country which wasn't ready for them? You can't both blame them for retarding progress and advancing reforms Chinese society wasn't ready for."

First off, how do you figure that you cannot blame a regime for the state of a society they have been in charge of for more than four centuries, especially when they have maintained policies all that time that run exactly counter to those advances. If the country was unready for the reforms, does that have bnothing at all to do with the policies of the previous 400 years? Second, how on earth do you characterize those advances as "Qing"? It was the Qing bureaucracy that opposed them.


You are right, Guangxu was not her son; her son preceded him.

As for the supposed benevolence of the Qing towards their subjects, for which you adduce the evidence of the Opium War, well, maybe that's well-intentioned, about like the current Drug War in the US.

This is an argument about nothing. The Chinese Communists are a hideous regime. Whatever progress China has made is probably been in spite of them rather than because of them. Whether you or I think the Qing were or were not as bad is just the opinions of some foreigners. Have you ever heard any Chinese say anything good about the Qing government? Do you think that that is all just nationalism, or do you think just maybe a government that is so inefectual as to allow foregin occupation of control of big slices of the country is too worthless to merit much consideration on any of its other points? Or is that just nationalism too? Artistic achievements don't change that record - what do you think the judgement of history on the Song? Does anyone praise Renaissance Italy for the perfection of its governments?

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