The People’sRepublic of China (PRC) is now the world’s most populous country with a populationof 1.4 billion governed by the Communist Party of China. It has developed into anadvanced country, surpassing the Gross Domestic Product of Japan in 2011 indicatingthat China became a major actor in world market. However, many events and issueshappened in the past, and to solve those problems, many processes, plans, andlaws were executed to form as the present China. As a matter of fact, a centuryago, which was the beginning of the 20th century, China was thevictim of Western and Japanese imperialism.
China was unstable in terms ofcountry as whole, gender, various class identities, urban, rural, Confucian andtradition aspect. This essay will be going to write about the definition ofwhat it meant to be Chinese and what it changed to be Chinese in the twentiethcentury through the readings that we have assigned and other sources.The firstaspect is the history of China before the 20th century, and theConfucianism. Excavating the history of China before 20th century isvery important because the term “Chinese” is now used in common but in thepast, people did not think of themselves as “Chinese.” This was because Chinahas more than thousands of years of history from the confederacy dynasties andimperial dynasties. For instance, people who lived in the Ming dynasty did not thinkthemselves as “Chinese” but rather, the people of the Ming dynasty.
Their people’sidentity was cultivated through the dynasty that they were living. Over thecentury, there were also nomad societies such as the Mongols, Manchus, andJurchen interacting to each others, creating the new society and became wellknown in the Chinese history. Assumedly, theidea of Confucius was one of the element that combined the people into one astime has passed.
People who had shared their identities and rituals formed asone nation, combining them as being “Chinese” toward the 20thcentury. Confucius was philosopher and Chinese teacher during the Spring andAutumn period, and he aimed to expand the education for everyone. He had a beliefthat all human beings should have a benefit from self-cultivation.
According toMitter, “The ultimate ideal was to become sufficiently wise to attain thestatus of ‘sage’ (sheng), but oneshould at least strive to become a junzi,often translated as ‘gentlemen’, but perhaps best thought of as meaning ‘aperson of integrity'” (Mitter, 2008, p. 8). Therefore, what Confucius had thoughtwas that education was not just an acquisition of knowledge but also acharacter building. For centuries, until now, the teachings of Confucius havebeen an integral element in the contemporary Chinese culture. Confucianismbecame the guide of what it meant to be Chinese and what it changed to beChinese in the twentieth century.The second aspectof the definition of what it meant to be Chinese changed during the twentieth centuryis in terms of Chinese Communist Party’s action and urban area. Back in the endof January in 1949, the Civil War ended with the capture by the People’sLiberation Army of the city of Beiping (Beijing).
After the conquest, ChineseCommunist Party (CCP) started to create a state structure and its authority to consolidateas one nation under the leadership of chairman Mao Zedong. The area thatChinese Communist Party covered was not the territory that the Qing dynastyhad, but also extended to the west and north of the lands. For the Chinese CommunistParty, the priority action that they had to do was to take control of towns andcities across the China. Therefore, in the 1950s, what Chinese Communist Partydid was three important political campaigns called movement for the Suppressionof Counter Revolutionaries, the Three Anti and Five Anti Campaigns. In theurban area, majority of the people had a strong unfamiliar feeling and even hada hostile toward the Chinese Communist Party.
The new ideology that was goingto guide the nation did not match the feelings of what people had in the urbanarea. Therefore, suppressing the counter revolutionaries was the action that ChineseCommunist Party had to do at first. This mass campaigns included the leadingmembers of Guomindang, senior officers of its army, the highest-ranking policeofficers, and the secret agents who had worked for the former regime.
As thecampaign conducted by the Chinese Communist Party, the investigation even appliedto the thousands of minor officials who had worked for the Guomindangadministration and people who had associated with it. From January to Octoberin 1950, 13,812 people got arrested, in which they had been accused of being counter-revolutionary agents. Zhou Enlai was the one who signed an order to capturethe more active counter-revolutionaries. According to Dillon, it is stated that”The movement which later acquired the formal name of Eliminate Counter-RevolutionaryElements Suqing fangeming fenziexplicitly followed the example of Stalin’s purges in the USSR during the 1930swith People’s Daily quotingapprovingly from the Soviet leader’s 1937 speech in an editorial on 29 December1950.” (Dillon, 2012, p. 267).
Rethinking whether the Chinese Communist Party’saction was correct is difficult question. This is because by looking back atthese processes, we could see that the regulations conducted by ChineseCommunist Party was harsh. Anyone who betrays the motherland had to face the deathpenalty, life imprisonment, or ten years in prison. However, the ChineseCommunist Party had to execute such regulation to reestablish the new nation,and China was too huge that it was necessary to take control of towns andcities across the China. Through the ChineseCommunist Party’s Suppression of Counter Revolutionaries, the Three Anti and FiveAnti Campaigns, Chinese Communist Party was able to be establishing a newgovernment in 1949 by eliminating the enemies and political rivals. In the nextstage, in the 1950 to 1957, what China had done was to reform the fundamentalissues that had been affecting its nation for decades. According to Dillon, itis stated that “The top of the list were economic reconstruction for a landdevastated by almost 40 years of conflict; the more equitable redistribution ofagricultural land; marriage reform to alleviate the suffering of millions ofwomen and the thorny problem of how to deal with the educated and professionalclasses, many of whom were temperamentally inclined to support New China frompatriotic motives but were also, by profession and by disposition, extremelycritical.
” (Dillon, 2012, p. 283). This means that achieving authority of thenation was just a beginning to be the New China, and economic reconstructionwas the priority action that Chinese Communist Part wanted to do.
Populationwas constantly growing but at the same time, people needed to have adequateamounts of food. The problem was that the grain production in 1949 was mere 113million tons, which was an amount that was inadequate for the people who livedin China.Japan wasone of the country that led China to be the New China in the aspect of industry.In the 1930s, Northeast of China (Manchuria) was an important place for theJapanese economy due to the lack of sources of coal and iron in Japan.
However,the occupation of Manchuria after the Manchuria incident solved the problem ofscarce sources and some Japanese enterprises developed railway infrastructure totransport the sources back to Japan. Although this was surely an opportunityfor China to restore the aspect of industry after the Japan’s occupation ofManchuria had ended, the low level of technical skills and lack of investmentended up being a failure. In the period of 1953 to 1957, after the Korean Warended, Chinese Communist Party published the First Five-Year Plan to start therapid industrialization. As mentioned, the Northeast of China (Manchuria) wasstill the most developed areas of China run by Gao Gang. The FirstFive-Year Plan’s aim was to construct sophisticated large plants, which was amethod first used in the Soviet Union.
Soviet’s technical skills and financialassistance helped China’s industry to grow rapidly, which made the result success.Statistics shows that, “National income grew at an annual average rate of 8.9per cent (measured in constant prices), with agriculture and industrial outputexpanding annually about 3.
8 and 18.1 per cent respectively.” (Dillon, 2012, p.286). After the success of the First Five-Year Plan, the Second Five-Year Planstarted from 1958 to 1962.
What Mao Zedong wanted to do was to develop the economyfaster, but the concern that Mao Zedong had was that agriculture was notgrowing when the First Five-Year Plan was conducted. To do so, he started to thinkof the original way to guide China, without the help of Soviet Union style. Thepolicy of the Great Leap Forward was announced in 1958, but it failed, andChinese ended up being an economic crisis.
The thirdaspect of the definition of what it meant to be Chinese changed during thetwentieth century was in terms of gender. There were many events that women hadfaced sexual differences and through those events, women challenged to create somenew identities and achieve rights. Back in the republican transition period, malecommentators treated the women’s suffrage organizations with derision. This wasjust happened due to the appeal of achieving equal rights. However, there was amoment when women started to achieve an opportunity to achieve freedom thanbefore.
This was called the 1910s New Cultural Movement. Many intellectualshave started to doubt the traditional Confucian beliefs. There is a statement inWomen and gender in twentieth-centuryChina, written by Bailey that “Radical intellectuals (for the most partmale) thus called for the overthrow of patriarchal authority and the emancipationof women – a stance that symbolized concerns other than a simple championing ifwomen’s rights per se.” (Bailey,2012, p. 50). Male intellectuals were the key role in the movement of New CulturalMovement.
The specific person who denounced the traditional Confucian beliefs wasChen Duxiu (1880-1942). Chen Duxiu was the first secretary general of theChinese Communist Party, Chinese revolutionary socialist, philosopher,educator, and author of journal called NewYouth (xin qingnian), which was started to be published in 1915. Chen Duxiufirst criticized the Confucian family system and women’s positions in the New Youth, which was to extinguish theautonomy of wives. However, the interesting story about Chen Duxiu is Chen didnot only emphasize this in words but expressed also with an action. Chen Duxiujoined to the intellectual campaign with other male writers and intellectuals suchas Lu Xun (1881-1936), Hu Shi (1891-1962), and Li Dazhao (1888-1927). Confucianthoughts that these people condemned were widow remarriage and free socialinteraction between sexes. The time when Chen Duxiu criticized such Confucian issue,women had a low status even in the family and that is the reason Chen Duxiu emphasizedthe abolition of obsolete way of Confucian thoughts.
Educational opportunityhas expanded to young women and girls due to the new republican school systempromulgated in September 1912. Even though this system applied only to thelower primary school level, it was a great leap forward for the women toachieve educational opportunities. According to Bailey, “The total number offemale students in Chinese-run schools increased from just over 141,000 in1912-13 (constituting nearly 5 per cent of the school population) to nearly42,000 in 1922-23 (comprising just over 6.9 per cent of the school population)(Bailey, 2012, p. 56). The statistics show the importance of educationalopportunities for women. Expansion of the education for the women had an aim toteach citizen morality, respect and love for their parents, initiative, boldness,honesty, sincerity, diligence, cleanliness, andfrugality. From the apply onlyto the lower primary school, higher education was available for nine women atthe China’s most prestigious institution, the Beijing University.
As a result, Chinesewomen students were able to enroll to the universities and colleges of UnitedStates in around 1930s. These people were able to work as some occupations thatwere regarded as men’s job such as chemistry, political science, journalism,and banking.For the ChineseCommunist Party, reforming the traditional system of marriage was also animportant issue that they wanted to solve because in the rural areas, forcedand arranged marriage was common. China was becoming a modernizing country andChinese Communist Party wanted to convey to the women that they are putting alot of effort to solve this controversial issue. The marriage law of China hasbeen adopted by the Central People’s Government on 13th April 1950and has put into operation on 1 May. According to Dillon, the specific detailsis stated that, “The general principles set out in the beginning of the documentproclaimed the abolition of ‘feudal’ marriage which had ‘held sway for centuries,based on arbitrary and compulsory arrangements’ and declared that a new form ofmarriage had now taken effect, based on the free choice of partners, monogamy,equal rights for men and women and ‘the protection of the lawful interests ofwomen and children’.” (Dillon, 2012, p.
293). Reform of traditional system ofmarriage was another step for the women to have more freedom because widowswere able to remarry and demanding of dowries and bride prices were prohibited.As a conclusion, China has surelyfaced many challenges in terms of creating the New China from the beginning ofthe confederacy dynasties, imperial dynasties and during the 20thcentury. The definition of what it meant to be Chinese and what it changed tobe Chinese in the twentieth century were covered thorough several examples fromthe history of China in the urban and rural area, Confucianism, ChineseCommunist Party, and the partial aspect of sexual disparities about women.There were more other aspects that could have covered to identify the definitionof what it meant to be Chinese, but this was able to convey some of the issuesthat China had faced.