Friday, 27 July 2007

China Quote of the Day

Consider the following quote that relates to China's adoption of practices, language, technology and mathematics from the West and have a guess of its year of origin:

"If we let Chinese ethics and famous [Confucian] teachings serve as an original foundation, and let them be supplemented by the methods used by the various nations for the attainment of prosperity and strength, would it not be best of all procedures?"

Feng Guifen 1860.

See Ssu-yu Teng and John K. Fairbank, China's Response to the West: A Documentary Survey, 1939-1923 (New York Atheneum, 1963), pp. 30-35.

Later in the century Zhang Zhidong coined the phrase:

"Chinese learning as the base, Western studies for use".

The policy of "self-strengthening" from this middle 1800s has generally been considered a failure with many reasons given including Western imperialism and the incompatibility of Confucianism with the priorities of the modern state.

It is useful to contemplate on why things are different now - if indeed they are that different. Issues of quality and corruption are as relevant now as they were then. Moreover, trade and FDI between China and the West has reached record levels. This is really jsut a continuation of a trend started over 150 years ago.

See Chapter 5 of Roberts' "A history of China" for more detail about this period of Chinese history when the China and West first clashed economically and militarily.

A History of China (Palgrave Essential Histories) by J.A.G. Roberts.


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