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China: “Middle Kingdom,” Industrialization, and Population Growth, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 739

Essay

In assessing the circumstances regarding China today, there is an inevitable connection drawn between its former and self-exalted status as the “middle kingdom” and the enormous shifts occurring within it today.  More exactly, differing viewpoints regarding China’s immense industrialization and population growth create differing associations.  Some hold that China’s progress in commercial matters, even as the nation struggles to reconcile challenges equally massive, are reflective of its recapturing that “kingdom” stature once again.  Others maintain that China is frantically pursuing a global image and position no longer feasible in the modern world (Kennedy, 2011, p. 8).  It seems, in fact, that contrasting views are necessary in any examination of China, simply by virtue of the nation’s lengthy history and unique presence in the world, in the past as well as today.  It may be argued, for example, that China truly was the “middle kingdom,” or realm between heaven and the underworld, because the enormity of the nation created the reality.  At the same time, this self-exalting image belies both Chinese practices of the past, and particularly present in modern times; namely, the power of China was and is largely reliant on its relations with other nations.  Consequently, China itself is a conundrum of a giant, and one continually defying analysis applicable to Western states.

It may be claimed, of course, that China is entitled to regain its “middle kingdom” status due to its increasing presence in the global economy, the inherent contradiction noted above notwithstanding.  No nation, certainly of such a size, exhibits such remarkable contrasts, as rapid growth has both coincided with and dictated national policy.  This path is also by no means strictly recent.  Under Mao Zedong, and for much of the second half of the 20th century, China embarked on a path somehow combining Marxist, or communist, ideologies with agricultural progress so vast, it took on the form of early industrialization.  The Mao agenda was to create a novel, socialist realm relying on no precedent, so the capitalist strategy of focusing on expanding commercial interests was emphasized in its vast farming territories (Chai, 2011,  p. 233).  This was the Great Leap Forward, and it was largely successful.  What is seems to have generated, however, are consequences removed from the Maoist motivations.  Essentially, and no matter the political ideology initially fueling the activity, China was embracing capitalist strategies and ambitions.  Increased industrialization, further promoted by Mao successors Deng Xiaoping and Zhao Ziyang, shifted the foundation further; the planned economy for the socialist state became a market economy for the capitalist one  (Chai, 2011,  p. 234).  This immense industrialization impact has vastly affected the population.  On one level, increased prosperity has generated rising growth, and the nation’s population today is at approximately one billion.  Equally important is distribution.  This was long a nation dispersed in agricultural concerns; as industrialization creates urbanization, however, there has been a dramatic restructuring of the societies.  Officially, four-fifths of China’s residents live in rural areas still, but the reality is that these rural areas are now juxtaposed to urban centers (Kennedy, 2011,  p. 94).  This in turn is promoting a more capitalist form of regime, in that class structures based upon income are more strongly defined.

All of this translates to a “kingdom” that cannot be identified as “middle,” or as anything else, simply because it is accelerating at such a pace, and of such a size, as to render assigning status impossible.  If anything defines modern China in terms of both industrialization and population, it is a state of flux, and one largely unfathomable to the West.  This is a vast nation under communist rule that is frenetically adopting every means possible to achieve capitalist standing, and no nation in history offers a precedent for so striking a dichotomy.  Western, and Eastern, critics point to the dangerous levels of pollution as generated by industrial policy oblivious to environmental concerns, but the industrialization grows.  Observers marvel at how a regime ideologically opposed  to Western ideals so flagrantly employs Western strategies in commerce, yet China persists in carrying on with a seemingly untenable agenda.  However the future of China evolves, it appears that it will assert itself as a “kingdom” unlike any other known, and strikingly in contrast to the image it once fiercely insisted upon.

References

Chai, J. C. H.  (2011).  An Economic History of Modern China.  Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Kennedy, S.  (2011).  Beyond the Middle Kingdom: Comparative Perspective’s on China’s Capitalist Transformation.  Stanford: Stanford University Press.

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