Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Sunday, February 12, 2012

History lesson for Chinese politics

Stephen R. Platt's op-ed analysis of China's history and politics might be just the thing if you're looking to add some historical analysis to your political science course.

Is China Ripe for a Revolution?
The Qing Dynasty, founded in 1644 by Manchu tribesmen who conquered China from the north, was brought down by a highly organized revolutionary movement with overseas arms and financing and a coherent governing ideology based on republican nationalism. The Communist Party today faces nothing like that.

What it does face, however, is enormous, inchoate rural unrest. The dark side of China’s economic rise has been a shocking widening of the gulf between the prosperous coast and the poverty-stricken interior, a flourishing of corruption among local officials and, by such data as we can gather, widespread anger and discontent…

[I]t is instead the Taiping Rebellion, which nearly toppled the Qing Dynasty 50 years earlier, that bears the strongest warnings for the current government. The revolt, which claimed at least 20 million lives before it was quelled, [was] the bloodiest civil war in history…

The Taiping Rebellion exploded out of southern China during the early 1850s in a period marked, as now, by economic dislocation, corruption and a moral vacuum. Rural poverty abounded; local officials were wildly corrupt…

SCHOOLCHILDREN in China in the 1950s and ’60s were taught that the Taiping were the precursors of the Communist Party… That analogy has now fallen by the wayside, for China’s government is no longer in any sense revolutionary. So it makes sense that in recent years, the Taiping have often been depicted negatively, as perpetrators of superstition and sectarian violence and a threat to social order…

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