Modern Chinese History (first part)

When we say China we should know that the name of the country comes from the Qing dynasty which united vast portions of land under a single flag (the Chinese call their country `Zhangguo` and it means `the middle kingdom` in the sense of center of the world). The peoples living on those lands were not, and still are not as united as we think.

China`s road to modernity is sinuous and why not say it, transited by misfortune in both directions. In the imperial period, there were four different classes, `shi` (gentry), `Nong` (farmers), `Gong` (artists) and `Shang` (merchants). We will focus on the gentry. This nobility was made out of people who primarily studied Confucius and through exams took different administrative positions. Most of them were not wealthy but they were respected for their knowledge.

In the 19th century, China knew in some extent economic growth, but in spite of this the general situation quickly started to decline. The political situation dragged down the society, the country being a semi-colony, at the hands of the great powers. This means that many key areas were indirectly or even directly controlled from abroad.

Although the beginning of the 20th century knew widespread instability we can recognize three important moments of change, the revolutions of 1911, 1928 and 1949. Kang Youwei (1858 - 1927), a `radical Confucian` wanted China to become a constitutional monarchy that eventually would lead to democracy. With the support of emperor Guangxu`s court, Kang and his disciples started what would be called `the 100 days of reform` in the summer of 1898. By the end of the year the reforms were halted. Soon after the Boxer Uprising started as a response to ever increasing foreign intervention in internal affairs. In the north, the empire lost its authority.

The shi, which now were in the process of becoming the modern intellectual class, began to search for solutions to the crises. Liang Quichao (1873 - 1929) was an important figure of this new generation. Because of the turmoil he fled to Japan where he gave up on the Confucian philosophy saying that `truth is more important`. Between 1989 and the Revolution of 1911 talks began on the topic of European political thought. Liang plead for nationalism and the rejection of traditional cosmology which linked the emperor, the heavens and humanity. He also saw that their present could be best described through Darwinism, only the strong will survive. For Liang, every member of the stat needed to be active, courageous and loyal.

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