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- 2 THE DISillTEGRATION AND J:>:TEGRATION OF POLITICAL SYSTDIS IN T\IENTIETH-CENTURY CllINA It is customary for scholars of modern China, especially historians, to peg their analyses to specific political events, such as the Opium War, the Revolution of 1911, and the May 4th ~ovement. We are, however, attaining a level of knowledge and ar.alytical sophistication in the field of Chinese studies so that we may begin sorting out the historical forces that underlay the surface, political events. This essay, depictir.g the disintegration of Chica's traditional political system and the dilemmas of integratir.g a new political syste~, is the result of one political historian's attc=pt to discern the dynamics of the Republican period.I The first lesson provided by this disintegration-integration thesis is that the R~?ublican period cannot bp meaninRfully comprehended as a self-contained historical period. For the process of disinteRration that afflicted China throughout the Re?~~lican period be~an remotely, probably in the 18th century, when the Ch'ing dynasty bo~a~ to display the frailties that we associate with the declining phase of the dy~•stic cycle: weak leader•hip in the central government, administrative inefficiency, official corruption, debilitation of the annies, etc. These tendencies did not necessarily portend a collapse of the traditional political system. Indeed, if they had a?pear,d a century earlier, these weaknesses might have been remedied by a new set of ~ynastic rul~rs. By the 19th and 20th centuries, however, there existed new forces that, tog~ther ~ith the traditional forces of dynastic decline, imposed insupportable strains on the entire political system. The resulting process of political collapse may be ar.alyzed under the headings of administrative, cultural, and economic dis!ntegracion. Ad~i~istrative Disinteg~ation Progressively during the late Ch'ing and early Republican periods the ~ovcr~~ental administrative apparatus became less ~ble to m~intain order and to control the :esources of the nation. The causes of this administrative decay are diverse and .:~r.plex, a~d it is feasible here merely to adur.ibrate a few of the major factors. One fac!.or that i::i.p::ised e:tor.:i.oua hurCens on the administrative structures--but that has be~~ little d!scussed in this context--vas the growth of the population from about 14) ~illio~ in 1644 to 450 million in 1912. These growing numbers of people greatly ove:;,10:ciened ar.c created new proble:::s for the creaking, status quo-oriented bureai.::ratic structures of the dynasty. Problems of taxation, of public order, of the ac~i~istration of justice, of care for the weak and the poor were greatly aggravated by the tripling of the population. The maRnitude of the problem may perhaps be grasped bv A~~ricans if thev envision for a moment what problems of transportation, of g~vernance of the cities. of medical care Yould be engendered if--with its institutions re~ainin~ virtually unchanged--the population of the United States were to increase fro~ 20v-million to 600 million.2 7he aci::iinistrative C.ecay that becai:ie a;>parent during and after the Taiping rebe 11 i.:l:&--e·.;i.je;-iced, ~or exaonple t by the rise of highly autonomous regional leaders, by :he loss of c~ntral control over provincial finances and arrnies 1 and by rhe decline of :~c exa~ination svstew as a means of bureaucratic recruit~ent--are too well known to be detailed here. l1~re interes:in11;, i\ only because less research has been devoted to the:, are the administrative strains on the Ch'ing bureaucracy created by the whole - 3 sories of new tasks and expectations imposed on the dynasty durinR the ten to fifteen years prior to the Revolution of 1911. Stimulated by the threat of foreign imperialism, the attraction of Western political and economic ,models, and the demands br reform by a newly nationalistic lettered class, the imperial bureaucracy was bein~ forced to create a modern army, inaugurate a national system of education, ·promote industry and co':J;ierce, construct new transportation and communication systems, and suppress opitJc:i~ Tues~ were tasks for which the Manchu regime...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1940-5065
Print ISSN
1521-5385
Pages
pp. 2-12
Launched on MUSE
2021-05-25
Open Access
No
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