Phenomenon Phoenix

As the semester draws towards an end, and the discussions begin, I looked forward to engage in the sheer variety of viewpoints our classmates bring to these classes. Today one of our classes discussed “Rise of China”. I want to build upon 2 points that compelled me to write this piece

Even before the discussions could begin, One of our Chinese classmates, pointed out, the fundamental difference between western view and the international view of China. While the rest of the world keeps referring to the “Rise of China” , Chinese themselves view it as, “re-rise” of China. The significance of difference, which has so much historical context to it cannot be emphasized enough. Speaking as a resident of a civilization as old and as rich as China, I could vouch for the importance of this distinction.

Factually speaking, these 2 countries are rise in asserting that they are re-rising, as they controlled 50% of world trade before 1700’s. The economic development would have led to strong human capital investments. How come then, Britain become the hotbed of industrial revolution, instead of these economic giants?

But, in my mind it prompted another question – If the level of education decides the future of a country, how could these countries loose to British Empire? And how did UK, despite being far behind civilizations of Asia in wealth and knowledge, become the hotbed of industrial revolution?

Mark Elvin, of Stanford University while answering this question in his book called “Pattern of the Chinese Past” concludes that extreme inequalities in China made the labor very cheap. It implied that the knowledge revolution could never be converted into technological revolution. This conclusion was one of the most beautiful interplay of education, poverty and inequality that I had seen so far.

The second puzzle appears to be the strong realism in its foreign policy literature and public opinions, despite having Confucius norms entrenched throughout its thousands of years of existence. I believe that this stance should be analyzed with their historic context in mind – The humiliations suffered during its colonial period, are still fresh in nation’s collective memory. The idea of ceding grounds on foreign policy issue, is so easily translated into a threat to sovereignty, due to the immense historic baggage. After the class, One of my classmates, directed me to an amazing book written on the subject Wronged by Empire: Post-Imperial Ideology and Foreign Policy in India and China” which talks about transformative effect that colonization had on these 2 countries’ worldview. I am excited to read more on this!


One Comment Add yours

  1. Anshul says:

    Great post! The thought of the re-rise of these civilizations is particularly insightful. The recent histories (read: post WW2) of these two societies also have many common threads and both have employed similar foreign policies and domestic politics, with Gandhi family leading one and Mao’s party leading another. Would love to discuss more. Keep such posts coming!

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