Introduction to the Economic History of China

By E. Stuart Kirby | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII
ANTECEDENTS OF THE MODERN PERIOD

The last chapter referred especially to the exploitation of China in the period of Mongol occupation, which lasted some ninety years ( A.D. 1280-1368). One very powerful and enduring consequence of this, among the Chinese people at large, was a deeply instilled xenophobia. No nation, in all history perhaps, has ever been entirely free from anti-foreign feeling or prejudice; but it has existed in China in the last few centuries in a particularly sharp and explicit form. The Mongol domination is perhaps especially or originally to blame for this, to a large extent. Under it, the presence of the foreigner, and political subjection to him (or discrimination in his favour) came to be primarily associated with economic exploitation by him of the resources of China and the labour of the Chinese. It is noteworthy that all revolts against the Mongols stressed primarily economic rather than racial grievances.

Ever since then, this association between the foreign presence and economic exploitation--alongside, or even transcending in importance, the consciousness of political or cultural subordination--has continued to be a weighty factor in the Chinese outlook and in Chinese politics. Western communities, which have not been historically so long under foreign domination or pressure, and have not suffered so protractedly from bad governments of their own, can hardly appreciate the rootedness and continuity of the psychological reactions which spring from this.

The oppressive Mongols were succeeded by the purely Chinese or national dynasty of the Ming ( 1368-1644). There was much that was good under the Mings, but unfortunately they displayed also many bad characteristics. Moreover, they were constantly under external or foreign pressures, often so great as to give them hardly a fair chance.

The Mings were succeeded by a new foreign group, the Manchus, whose system of dynastic rule and racial or caste

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