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CeMEAS Lecture: Beyond Modernity – Understanding Change in Qing China (1644 – 1911)
May 2016 @ 12:15 - 14:00
Beyond Modernity: Understanding Change in Qing China (1644 – 1911)
Friday, May 20, 2016, 12:15 VG 2.101
Prof. Margherita Zanasi
Director of Asian Studies, Department of History at Louisiana State University
This lecture explores the limits of adopting a modernization approach to the study of economic change in Qing China. Recent works have successfully “decentered” developmental determinism by questioning both the uniqueness of the European experience and the imposition on non-Western countries of derivative chronologies of modernity. They have especially focused on tracing the existence in China of those elements that characterized the modernization experience in Europe, above all the introduction of pro-market and pro-consumption policies. This approach, however, had the unintended consequence of keeping the historical narrative focused on the European experience, overshadowing elements that played a uniquely important role in China, such as population growth.
In the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, under mounting pressure from population growth, pro-market and pro-consumption ideas and policies that had culminated in the reign of the Qianlong Emperor (1711 –1799) began to lose favor. This reversal marked the beginning of the uneasy relationship with the free market that came to characterize modern China. In China, therefore, the fortunes of laissez faire thought and policies followed a very different path than in Europe. They emerged almost a hundred year earlier and came later to be considered unsuitable to face newly emerging problems. In China, modernity actually arrived in the form of an increasingly interventionist state.
Image: By tanakawho, Behind the bars, CC BY-NC 2.0, https://flic.kr/p/dYqAgS