China is the perfect example of what happens when one leader is given to much
power. The leaders of China were each very afraid of social reform, and the
consequences that outside influence may have on their customs. As a means of initiating
reform, they shut the entire Western world out almost completely. At the time it was a
move that served China well but in the long run it was the downfall of China. While
blindfolded, the Chinese were unable to see the great advancements of the Western
world. With an egocentric government, the Chinese citizens were neglected outside of the
palace walls and the country fell to shambles. Instead of stimulating economic growth the
government suppressed it as the rest of the world advanced. While focused on fear of
internal rebellion the Chinese leaders overlooked the status of their army and were not
prepared for the rest of the world as they fell so far behind in almost every advancement.
Had China remained in contact with the Western world it would have been possible for
them to be as advanced a civilization as the Western world.
As the Chinese government had their head buried in the sand with worry over
losing control of their empire, they neglected to maintain the basic essentials of a
functional country. All of China’s canals eventually decayed as they were left unrepaired
for years, the ironworks that China once prided itself one became obsolete with out a
second look, and the army itself was no match for any Western army. The merchants
were of no avail to the poor Chinese civilians as their profits on land and education.
Upon shutting out the rest of the world China had forbidden the use of a printing press.
The expression of social criticism and news of the outside world was banned. The people
of China had no idea what was happening. When the doors had been shut from the
outside world Europe was not as highly advanced as China. Europeans lived in crowded
cities with rodents and foul odors. The Chinese for a period of time lived with the fresh
scent of flowers and tea. As China internally decayed the citizens had nothing to compare
it to for they had always been ahead of Europe in almost everything for so many
After the thirteenth century Western civilization flourished. In Western Europe the
governments encouraged industrial growth and individual commerce as a means of
keeping ahead of the competition. With each distinct country competing with each other a
variety of individual trades were created eventually sparking the Industrial Revolution.
As a result of heavily trading around the world, each country became very wealthy, and
as such their internal economies grew. In Great Britain without government suppression
on individual companies they were able to build the most powerful navy in the world, and
colonize in many different countries. As China was suffering from economic rot, they
paid no attention to the world around them. They did not realize that the rest of the world
was waiting to conquer China and divide the winnings. When Chinese officials refused to
continue trading with the British they initiated the Opium Wars. The final result of the
Opium War was almost devastating. They were forced to sign an unfair treaty with
Britain. Under the treaty, the opium trade was legalized and the Guangzhou monopoly
was ended as Xiamen, Ningbo, Fuzhou, and Shanghai was also opened to trade. The
island of Hong Kong became a British base and Britain established the right to supervise
and inspect a published tariff structure on China’s trade. Finally, China, already reeling
from trade imbalance, was compelled to pay a war indemnity of $21 million.
China was very focused on keeping the Japanese and Portuguese pirates away
from their shores. While they were distracted every other European country continued to
build their armies at a rapid speed. With new technology, the Western world left China
behind and continued to invent more lethal weapons. As China was busy fighting off
predators they had no extra time to keep up. As all of their iron factories were obsolete
they had no cost, efficient method. Because of their military weakness they lost all of the
Opium Wars which resulting in crippling economic losses. Thinking that things couldn’t
get worse internal upset led to the Taiping Rebellion, which resulted in the deaths of
twenty million people. The loss was yet another drastically unfavorable blow to the
Chinese economy. Shortly following the Taiping Rebellion the Sino-Japanese War of
1894-1895 further damaged China. The rest of the world was just waiting to take a piece
of China at this point. The Boxer Rebellion only made their situation worse. The Chinese
needed reform and fast. It wasn’t until January first, 1912 that Dr. Sun Yat-sen was to be
sworn in as the first president of the provisional government of China’s new Republic.
Crippling defeat during the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95
It was ignorant on China’s part to assume that Europe wouldn’t try to colonize
their country. Had China not shut out the Western world they would have been able to
keep advancing their army’s equipment. As a result they might have been able to fight off
the British and the French during the Opium Wars. The Russian’s would have been
happy to assist in return for a trading agreement. Fortunately China ended up with a new
Republic and managed to maintain order and participate in the last years of the
Industrial Revolution. In closing, had China not shut out the Western world as a means of
defense they might have been one of the leading countries in the world today.