Modernization in China

Peter G. Rowe 

Sui Jianguo, Mao Jacket, Dashanzi 798, Beijing

Modernization in China, since the onset of the Opium War in 1840, has been a long and arduous process, full of ups and downs. Today, China is a moderately well-developed country by most measures, although still very poor in many places and saddled with outmoded economic and institutional practices, despite many recent successes. It has gone through three relatively distinct periods of modern development. The first, spanning from 1840 to 1949, was characterized by fairly sustained foreign contact and occupation, as well as considerable internal turmoil and a clear diminution of the influence of feudal society. Modern industries were established, a break was made with a centuries-old dynastic form of rule, and modern cities began to emerge, often replete with foreign architectural accoutrements. For the most part, the beneficiaries of this progress were better-off members of society as the differentiation between upper and lower social strata persisted and even became magnified; the middle class and its influence – so much a hallmark of modernization elsewhere – remained small and relatively ineffectual... [+]

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