Industrial Revolution: Great Britain Versus China

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Industrial Revolution was the development to new mechanical processes started in Great Britain from late 18th century to 19th century. Industrial Revolution created myriads of influential inventions that they still have effects on us nowadays, for instance, it gave birth to textile, railroad, steam engine, the sewing machine, telephone, and telegraph, which contributed to transportation, communication, and manufacturing profoundly. Undoubtedly, Industrialization gave rise to Great Britain and impacted global economy, politics, social classes, and many other parts. Great Britain lead Industrial Revolution by “a series of converging developments” (Hanns et al.). Natural resources, capitalistic marketing, and large supply of labors were conducive to Great Britain’s success in industrializing before others. However, other countries like France and Germany had chances that they could industrialize before Great Britain. What if China opened the door for Industrial Revolution before Great Britain? If China has industrialized first, China would open free trades, become colonizer, accept religions, and exist as a democratic country.

In reality, Great Britain industrialized first while China stayed isolated. During Qing dynasty, China remained imperial and did not stay in touch with other European industrialized countries. Britain gained a significant amount of economic advantages by changing the era of manufacturing. In particular, people used to work in small workshops or at home, the invention of flying shuttle, Spinning Jenny, and cotton gin “gradually reduced the need for hand labor”(Morrill). These machines officially ended the era of handmade goods and emerged the dominance of industrialized goods. From 1820s to 1870s, Britain almost tripled its GDP (gross domestic product) from 36,232 million to 100,180 million, while other European countries only increased around 50% to 80% (Maddison). people in 1880s satiated the city and formed a new middle class. Despite Industrial Revolution did not gain Britain a massive economic breakthrough compare to the gigantic benefits of America, it transformed Britain into a superpower leading in economy.

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In 20th century, China was weakened by western power who wanted to force China end the imperial tribute system and open various trades. China was partially colonized and harshly damaged. After Britain evolved with Industrial Revolution, it created an empire on which the sun never sets. For instance, the Indian Rebellion of 1857, also known as the Sepoy Rebellion, was brutally suppressed by Britain. Britain was also an “avid participant” in the ‘Scramble for Africa,’ all Africa besides Ethiopia and Liberia, and Britain was accountable of the most territories (Burns). The empire progressively elaborated its radical desire to expand in territories and trades. China was traumatized by Britain’s Opium War, a war to compromise China’s sovereignty and economic power by bringing in opium; the purpose was to open free trades for tea.

China was forced to make the Treaty of Nanjing, which was a peace treaty that opens foreign trade, recompense reparations and demobilisation, and give the Cession of Hong Kong. The impact of the Opium War still remained today, the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong was not declared until 1997. The cultural influence created by Britain was slightly recovered, even today, Hong Kong continue to exist as one of the two special administrative areas.

Another significance was that during Qing dynasty, China rejected other religions and mainly remained its focus on Confucianism and was partially syncretized with Buddhism, yet China constrained its attitude towards Christianity. As a consequence of being colonized by western powers, China disdained Christianity. Chinese people considered western products as a sign of vice and evil, so lower and middle-class people hold hatred against Christians, which resulted in the persecution of Christians in China. China had a history of suppressing and persecuting Christians. In 1692, Emperor Kangxi issued the Edict of Toleration “protecting existing Christian church buildings throughout the provinces” and allowed “freedom of worship”, however, because of Rome’s condemnation of the Chinese Rites, Kangxi was angry and “prohibited the preaching of Christianity” in 1720 (‘China, Christianity in.’). During Qing dynasty, China persecuted many Christian missionaries. Although China reconciled with the West decades ago, the evangelization of Christianity was not very effective and most Chinese people persisted as non-religion people.

During 20th century, China later adopted Communism, Mao Zedong was in lead of CCP (Chinese Communist Party). China followed USSR to hold out Communism, it lasted and evolved as Socialism even USSR collapsed in 1991. China originally had Kuomintang Party, which is the Nationalist party. However, the Chinese Civil War broke out due to two parties’ gap in thinking. The war’s purpose was fighting for legitimacy as the government of China. CCP was not very successful in the beginning, the Red Army undertook a military retreat, also known as the Long March, to evade Nationalist party. However, CCP gained strength over the retreat and WWII drew to a close of the Civil War. Both sides agreed to fight against Japan to terminate invasions. Yet after WWII, CCP was fully restored and the Nationalist party could not recover from WWII, eventually CCP won the Civil War and declared independence over the People’s Republic of China.

In spite of that Britain was phenomenal after Industrial Revolution, if China industrialized first, the world would be completely different. First of all, China would be open to all free trades and brought industrialized products to west and other Asian countries. China encountered with cross continents trades issues before, from Han dynasty to Yuan dynasty, China has never broken off the trades until Qing dynasty. The Silk Road maintained significant influence in economic trades, missionary works, and technological innovations. Since China had reliable experience with trading routes, Industrial Revolution will grant China more mobility to access trades. and Dutch East India Companies may be replaced by China, and China would accomplish more trading posts along the coasts of Asia. Most importantly of all, China would not be isolated during Qing dynasty. China would be capable to stay as a superpower, dominant all trades around Asia, and strengthen foreign connections between other countries like India, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Unlike Britain, China would not become an empire sun always shine on. The main purpose of colonization was caused by nationalism and desires of acquiring raw materials and cheap labors, yet China appeared to contain all above. Still, China could establish a cultural empire like America in the 1900s, most Asian countries would be deeply influenced by China. This influence could resulted in unification of language around Asia, diversification would be absorbed or eliminated, and China would occupy more territories towards south and west.

China would also accept ideology of Christians gradually despite China had history of opposing Christianity. China would likely create a new blended religion with Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, and Christianity. On the strength of cultural diversion, China could form new schismatic churches like England created Protestant Church. Inevitable cultural integration would make China become the supreme cultural exporter instead of America. Many traditional cultural values such as filial piety, harmony, and benevolence would expand, which encouraged people to consider moral values more. Cultural diffusions could also appear in food, clothing, arts, and literature. China would challenge global food culture and impact in syncretic diffusion of food from America to Europe. (As we all agree, Chinese foods are great, so it would be awesome.) Cheongsam (Qipao), a feminine dress with distinctive Chinese features and decorations designed for upper class and wealthy people, would become more common. Since Qipao is mainly made out of silk, it would encourage people to consume. Chinese traditional art works, which are mainly visual arts, would develop and influence western modern arts, it would create exchanges in pottery, paintings, and sculptures. Lastly, Chinese literature would spread and encourage more people to study in China, European and American parents could send their children to study abroad to have a better educational chance.

Finally, the rise of CCP would most likely not appear. China would become democratic and capitalistic, which could encourage America or Europe become Communism. Although China would enjoy freedom of trades and consumerism, China would experience economic downfall like Great Depression and crashed stock market because government would not interfere marketing economy. China would grant more freedom of speech, freedom of association, and multiparty elections. Even with China only became capitalist in economy after Deng Xiaoping reformed economy of China in 1980s, China is still the second leader of global GDP at present. If China became capitalist 100 years earlier, China would acquire most of high-tech industrial products. Almost everything would become “made in China” since China obtained labors from Southeast Asia and raw materials from the entire Asia continent. This could also severely damage American and European manufacturing businesses and technology industry. Americans and Europeans would be more encouraged to contribute in manual laboring.

All in all, China would become more dominant and influential if China industrialized first, many possibilities and factors could shift the balance and destroy myriads of things. Globalization would inevitably become the only future for reality and in theory. As Carlos Santana said, “One day there will be no borders, no boundaries, no flags, and no countries, and the only passport will be the heart.”


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