Chapter 1: China and the modern world
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The shift to the modern world took its initial form in Europe where a unique constellation of economic, social, cultural and political processes ushered into being the world of natural science, industry, states, nations and mass societies. The form of life was very dynamic, and it encouraged both domestic intensification and global expansion. When European traders reached China their demands slowly undermined the long-established, agrarian-based, bureaucratic feudal system centred upon the emperor. The collapse of the system was slow. European powers were crucial players, with their insistent demands for free trade and familiar recourse to violence to secure their goals. The Chinese elite’s eventual choice of a form of modernity was signalled by the 1911 Revolution. However, the revolution was beset by problems: there were internal divisions, a continuing foreign presence and, finally, civil war and outright foreign military invasion. The Chinese elite’s embrace of modernity only found effective form in the 1949 Revolution, the establishment of a party-state system and the creation of New China. It is the nature of the shift to the modern world that informs the logic of politics in China, and the argument presented in this book will contextualize contemporary Chinese politics in this fashion, granting that the present is the out-turn of events in the past and turning to spell out institutional forms (the party-state), political-cultural understandings (the national past, collective memory and the realms of everyday life) and patterns of policy action (ideas-in-practice). In this way the book will unpack the logic of politics in China.