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China - a Modernist View

Autor:   •  April 6, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  2,929 Words (12 Pages)  •  902 Views

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China is among the fastest growing economies in the World. According to the CIA World Factbook, in 2009 it was the fourth fastest growing economy. However, despite impressive economic growth over the past three decades, largely fueled by its transition to a more market-based economy, China still faces many socioeconomic barriers, which inhibit it from transitioning from a developing nation to a developed nation. China's impressive growth was the result of the country's modernization of its economy to a more capitalist form.(Wang 3) In order for China to sustain this growth and further develop; it must also modernize its society and political systems.

Though commonly referred to as China, the People's Republic of China (PRC) is China's official name. "China is the oldest continuous major world civilization, with records dating back about 3,500 years"(U.S. Department of State (USDS)) and "for centuries...stood as a leading civilization, outpacing the rest of the world in arts and sciences."(Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)) Though once possessing superior technology in comparison to the rest of the world, it is only in modern times that China has been able to catch up once again.

In 221 B.C., China was unified under the Qin Dynasty (CIA) and was ruled by successive dynasties up until 1912.(USDS) In 1912 the Qing Dynasty, established in 1644 A.D., was replaced (USDS) by the Republic of China.(CIA) During the later days of the Qing Dynasty in the 19th century "China suffered massive social strife, economic stagnation, explosive population growth, and Western penetration and influence"(USDS) all of which weakened Qing control.(USDS) "Reformist Chinese officials argued for adoption of Western technology to strengthen the dynasty and counter Western advances, but the Qing court played down both the Western threat and the benefits of Western technology."(USDS)

The reluctance of the Qing dynasty to adapt to the changing world and embrace the technology of Western nations was the catalyst for a "revolutionary military uprising on October 10, 1911."(USDS) After the uprising, the Qing monarch abdicated and the Republic of China was created on February 12, 1912.(USDS) the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty was "inspired by the revolutionary ideas of Sun Yat-sen."(USDS) However, "the revolutionary reformers allowed high Qing officials to retain prominent positions in the new republic" and "one of these figures, Gen. Yuan Shikai, was chosen as the republic's first president."(USDS) In so doing, the new republic had already doomed itself. Before dying in 1916, "Yuan unsuccessfully attempted to name himself emperor."(USDS) The death of Yuan "left the republican government all but shattered, ushering in the era of the 'warlords' during which China was ruled and ravaged by shifting coalitions of competing provincial military leaders."(USDS)

During the 1920's, "a revolutionary base" was established in South China by Sun Yat-sen. (USDS) Sun's aim was "to unite the fragmented nation."(USDS) The Soviet Union aided Sun in the organization of the Kuomintang (KMT) and under his leadership the KMT "entered into an alliance with the fledgling Chinese Communist Party (CCP)."(USDS) However, this alliance did not last for long. In fact, after Sun's death (1925), "one of his protégés, Chiang Kai-shek" who had "seized control of the KMT" broke the alliance between the KMT and the CCP by "executing many of its [CCP's] leaders."(USDS) The KMT and the CCP continued their "bitter struggle" until 1949, at which point the CCP succeeded in occupying most of China.(USDS) On October 1, 1949, in Beijing, the CCP's new leader, Mao Zedong, "proclaimed the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC)."(USDS) The CCP has remained in power and maintained its control of China ever since.

China is the 4th largest country (in land area) in the world and the most populous, with a 2010 estimate of 1,330,141,295 citizens.(CIA) As with most communist states, China's economy was "a centrally planned system that was largely closed to international trade."(CIA) However, over the last three decades (starting in 1978) it has been progressing towards "a more market oriented economy that has a rapidly growing private sector and is a major political player in the global economy."(CIA) It is this shift from a planned economy (popular among communist states) to a market or capitalist economy (popular among democratic states), which has allowed China to see such impressive economic growth. However, if China wishes to continue seeing impressive economic growth it must further modernize, thereby cultivating an environment in which democracy can blossom. The idea that economic development and modernization are conducive to democracy is what is known as the theory of modernization.

Before the theory of modernization can be applied to China's development process we first need to understand what it means for a nation to be classified as developing. The World Bank classifies countries into various income groups. These groups are determined by the country's gross national income (GNI) per capita as determined by the Atlas method.(World Bank) "The groups are: low income, $995 or less; lower middle income, $996 - $3,945; upper middle income, $3,946 - $12,195; and high income, $12,196 or more."(World Bank) These figures are all in 2009 dollars. Michael P. Todaro and Stephen C. Smith write, "developing countries are those with low-, lower-middles, or upper-middle incomes."(Todaro & Smith 41) In order for a country to be classified as developed (as Western nations are) it must have a per capita GNI greater than $12,195.

In 2009 China's per capita GNI was $3,590, which classifies it as a lower middle income nation.(World Bank) However, "China in 2009 stood as the second largest economy in the world after the US."(CIA) The United States and Japan are the only nations with economies currently larger than that of China. The CIA estimates that in 2009 China's gross domestic product (GDP) grew some 9.1%, giving it the fourth highest growth rate. The impressive economic growth of China has been ushered in by its "strong productivity growth, spurred by the 1978 market oriented reforms."(Hu & Kahn 9) Such reforms and their results support a modernist view. From the time China became a communist state in 1949 until 1978 its economy was planned. Only after the gradual opening of its markets in 1978 did China start to see impressive economic growth. Capitalism allows the free flow of ideas and is crucial to

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