Far Eastern Governments and Politics: China and Japan

By Paul M. A. Linebarger; Djang Chu et al. | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER FIVE
The Government of the Christian Rebels, 1850-1865

DURING the past one hundred years, stupendous Chinese revolutions have succeeded one another with such shocking military violence, such dreadful political tumult, that the very magnitude of the disaster has kept outside observers from seeing the dynamics at work in Chinese society. Any one of the several Chinese revolutions is in its individual right as historic an event as the European liberal outbreaks of 1848, the Japanese Meiji Revolution of 1867, or the Turkish nationalist revolution of 1923. Many observers, non-Marxist as well as Marxist, and many scholars, Western as well as Chinese, have maintained that there is a thread of continuity in these convulsions.

Continuity in Revolutionary Convulsions . The great Christian or T'ai-p'ing Rebellion of 1850-1865 was, in many respects, the parent phenomenon of the Chinese People's Republic. Each was a response to intolerable economic conditions within China. Each was provoked by the immediate circumstances of foreign war, a war against England in the one case and a war against Japan in the other. Each was led by brilliant native leadership attempting to bring into China a vital, outside ideology, which seriously threatened the traditional Chinese way of life--then it was Christianity, now it is Marxism.

Chinese classical historians unanimously condemned T'ai-p'ing leaders as fanatic and bloodthirsty mobsters, calling them "Long-haired Bandits" and emphasizing their wanton destruction of property and indiscriminate killing. One century after their dramatic success and ultimate failure, however, they were heralded as patriotic revolutionaries by the Nationalists, and as forerunners of socialism by the Chinese Communists. In the early 1930's there was a sudden development of interest by Chinese scholars in historical materials on the T'ai-p'ing Rebellion, with perhaps tacit encouragement by

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