China News 10th January 2022
Two news stories this week – the first about the failure of Emperor Qianlong (1735 to 1796) to modernise China, thus allowing the British to gain influence.
Chinese culture is extensive and profound, with a long history. During 5,000 years of life, the Chinese nation was always ahead of Western countries. But during the reign of the Qing Dynasty, we lagged far behind Western countries.
The Emperor once wrote a letter to the British king, from which we can see the reasons for the backwardness of the Qing Dynasty. Today, let’s talk about Qianlong’s letter to the King of England.
China was always in a leading position in history. So, how did the century-old backwardness in the late Qing Dynasty cause it? This started after the founding of the Qing Dynasty. At that time, the land of the Central Plain had still a small-scale peasant economy, and the people lived a self-sufficient life. Overall, the economy was relatively stable. Everyone could support themselves, but they had no extra money.
Very few people were engaged in scientific and technological reform. The Qing Dynasty also maintained the policy of focusing on agriculture and suppressing business, so economic development could not begin. In contrast, the West at that time had undergone earth-shaking changes. The Industrial Revolution brought the West into the steam era quickly and greatly increased prosperity.
Britain also had its own ambitions, and the industrial revolution was accompanied by colonialism. Britain wanted to see whether China was a piece of “fat meat” or “gristle” and then to export its own goods. To show its sincerity, the United Kingdom brought the most advanced “industrial products” at that time, such as steam engines, looms, firearms, etc., which could be said to be “outside objects” in the Qing Dynasty at that time.
However, the Emperor’s attitude was very arrogant. He thought they were just Western toys, just like magnifying glass, kaleidoscope, glass beads and other handicrafts. If the fruits of the industrial revolution could attract the attention of our rulers at that time, we could also get on this trip and would not have lagged behind so much.
The Emperor wrote a 976-word letter in response to the British king while giving away items. After the content of this letter was revealed, it showed his ignorance. The letter said in effect:
It seemed to the emperor that Britain, like other small countries, was here to learn its excellent culture. But what he didn’t know was that Britain was already a very rich capitalist country.
When the envoy returned to the United Kingdom, he did not know how Britain’s rulers would feel when they saw this letter. Should he admire the emperor’s sincerity, or be surprised at China’s strength, or even laugh at his ignorance? The answer soon came.
In 1840, British guns battered on the door of our country…
Looking back on the past, as early as thousands of years ago, Chinese culture had been ahead of the world. The key was to constantly absorb advanced ideas and crafts from outside. In the past hundred years of the Qing Dynasty, Chinese culture was in a backward position, the root of which is the ignorance and arrogance of the rulers.
Fortunately, after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, our people have once again caught up with the pace of the times. In just a few decades, they have caught up on hundreds of years of progress from Western countries.
Our second story may surprise you. It is a Chinese advocacy of democracy.
There are many beauties in this world. Unity, fraternity, security, order…. In this beautiful world, people pursue these values and realize them, and the world is also civilized, progressive and prosperous! Peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy, and freedom are eye-catching and common values of all mankind. Of course, the world is still uneasy, with differences, hatred, conflicts, and even wars. All kinds of misfortunes are afflicting those who yearn for a better life, and even making people homeless and displaced.
It is understandable that some people don’t like power and want to stay away from politics. However, it is precisely because of power, nations, and politics that human society could get rid of barbarism and enter civilization. Historically, people have different understandings of power: some people think that power is natural, some people think that power is given by God, and others think that power comes from the social contract. As human beings enjoy modern civilization, both theorists and ordinary people increasingly agree that power belongs to the people and should operate in a democratic way.
In today’s world, whether in the desert or in an oasis, people yearn for democracy. No matter what ethnic group they come from or religion they believe in, people are pursuing democracy. The flower of democracy is no longer just the hope in people’s hearts but has become the daily life of people’s practice. As a common value of all mankind, democracy makes differences understandable, conflicts reconcilable, relieves hatred, and even avoids war.
In the past, people had to distinguish between good and bad democracy. Today, people are already very firm. Democracy is the beauty of the world, which is worth yearning for and pursuing. However, in terms of the intrinsic value of democracy, people have choices. Making choices will obviously put people more in a dilemma. For example, in terms of economic development, the operation of capital brings efficiency, but the gap between rich and poor brings inequality and threatens democracy. In the field of culture, diversity is indispensable, creating a brilliant civilization, but bringing differences and plaguing democracy.
People in different countries pursue democracy, but culture determines that democracy in different countries is also different.
When democracy enters the three major fields of politics, the economy, and culture, it will not only adhere to its own laws, but also adapt. In the economic field, it restrains excessively expanding capital, but maintains the vitality of capital and provides a stable guarantee for the efficiency of the economy. In the political field, it allows dictatorship to have nowhere to hide, and lets the people be masters of the country. Combined with good law and good governance, it provides basic guidance for governance. In the field of culture, it can provide opportunities for human civilization to learn from each other in an open manner, pull back conflicts caused by race, ethnicity, religion, gender, ideology, and provide them with theatres.
Democracy is good, but it needs to be institutionalised, followed by the goal of good governance, and modernising national governance. It is an integral part of institutional politics. Democracy is beautiful, but democracy needs to run within the rules of capital, the laws of the market, and the provisions of property rights. It is also an important factor in economic and political science. Democracy is good, but it should respect people’s morals, religions, languages, traditions, and ideologies, and balance the consistency of democracy and cultural diversity.
There are many good things in the world. Democracy is a beauty in this world. People’s lives are short, but it is worth watching democracy improve their lives.
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