At the Start of its fifth Decade of (re-)Development, where is China Heading?
The Alternative Civilization
While humans developed civilizations, created cities and countries on all continents (the Aztec and Incas are two of them in the Americas), the “western civilization” (it started in Mesopotamia, but then migrated through Egypt and the Near East, to Greece, Rome, Europe and North America) essentially took over the world by conquering all other organized societies. Or so we think! There is one exception, actually: the East Asian civilization which was born in and grew along the great plains of the Yellow and the Yangtze rivers of China. Though there were contacts between China and the West since millennia (the ladies of ancient Rome already loved Chinese silk), China developed pretty well insulated from the rest of the world, protected by seas in the east and the Himalayas and hilly jungles of South East Asia in the south and west. Invaders regularly came from the north reason why the Great Wall was built. But even when a northern people, like Genghis Khan’s Mongols, took control of China, they maintained its administration and adopted its much richer and much more comfortable culture. Historically, the Mongols became for the Chinese just another dynasty. Such takeovers happened regularly, yet China, as a civilization and a culture, was never really challenged until the mid-19th century. That is when Europeans and Americans forced the Emperors to accept trading ports under the control of these foreign powers coming through the seas. For the first time in the 5000 years of Chinese history, these new types of invaders did not adopt China’s culture but started to bring their own into the country. From 1842 when Hong-Kong was appropriated by the United Kingdom until the founding of Communist China, the Middle Kingdom went through what the Chinese describe as their “Century of Humiliation”. It ended with the Chinese recovering control of their country, but by that time, China had become economically very small, accounting for just a few percents of world GDP while being home to 20% of its population.
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