Chine China Industrialisation modernisation industrie asie technique
Why did China never undergo an indigenous Industrial Revolution in the 18th-19th century despite its high scientific level, wealth and political stability while Western countries did?
Alors que la Chine dominait le monde sur les plans scientifiques, techniques et économiques au Moyen-Age, ce pays a connu de forts troubles aux origines diverses encore discutées de nos jours, le privant d'une véritable Révolution Industrielle per se.
[...] Needham very cleverly not only put the emphasis on China's unique approach to science but also associated socio-political factors with it. We now begin to realise that only an intricate web of factors can explain China's failed modernisation in the 18th century. Let us now discuss our last series of theories: political and geopolitical theories. III. Political and geopolitical factors After having discussed socio-economic and science and technology as reasons for China's failed modernisation in the 18-19th century, it is time to address one last hypothesis, inspired by Jacques Gernet. [...]
[...] As an example, a farmer improving its tool spontaneously by trial and error could make incremental improvements to its tools but only experts and scientists using exact and intentional scientific methods could make substantial progress. What made the difference between China and Europe was what Mark Elvin dubbed the “seventeenth-century European mania for tinkering and improving”: obviously, dedicated scientists could make hundreds or thousands of trials in their laboratories while peasants had only limited opportunities to improve their technology. Another important point by Needham is made by showing that science in China was closely associated to the philosophy of organism, i.e. seeing the universe as a whole, opposed to the West materialist philosophy. One of the pioneers of organism was Einstein in the 20th century who decided that the experiment-based Galilean-Newtonian view of the world was not longer relevant. [...]
[...] If greedy, merchants were greedier for titles and official positions than for money. Furthermore, reinvesting profits was not an easy task for entrepreneurs in China as they had to enrich their family, contribute to the empire if required and affirm their social status by purchasing cultural goods or acting as patrons for the arts. One additional cause also lies in the fact that the “rapacity of the government”and its difficulty to handle social uprising did not create a safe enough framework for merchants to do business and enrich themselves. [...]
[...] In short, many theories have been exposed to explain the economic reasons for China's failed industrialisation but very few theories have managed to be convincing enough to be universally accepted. There are examples for small markets and large markets, for small companies and large businesses, for dynamic entrepreneurs and reluctant entrepreneurs so it becomes hard to build theories on those. However, I think one theory does stand out: the humanist tradition of China emphasising trust, relationship, and dignity seems to have been a hurdle to a capitalist industrialisation in the manner of Europe. [...]
[...] A corrupt government, difficult economic times, a depreciation of currency concurred in causing social discontent and to spark uprising. The major insurrection was called the Taping Rebellion, which partially destroyed 17 provinces and killed 20 million people.The Qing dynasty was shook up by those series of rebellions and had to use whatever means possible to reassert its authority in China and deal with the material destructions. What is more, the central power was threatened by the growing power of regions, so it became ever harder for the central power to potentially urge the whole country to modernise. [...]
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