The Brain Drain and Revolution in the Late 19th and Early 20th Century China

1633 Words 7 Pages
By the end of the 19th century, Chinese officials were beginning to realize that their country’s educational infrastructure was becoming increasingly anachronistic. Traditional education largely ignored technology—considered it low class, even—and students instead focused on cultivating a sense of moral righteousness. Yet, the Confucian-centered examination system was beginning to prove ineffective in a world where modern militaries predominated in international relations. China learned this painful lesson during a succession of lost wars, eventually entering a long period of introspection, quite notably, by first looking outward. Foreign education systems were of particular interest to this nation in transition. Foreign
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In fact, the late Qing Empire’s encounter with Western civilization was necessarily heralded by guns, warships, and other new instruments of Western military might. The narrative of China’s dynastic glory was replaced with a newer, less flattering image of China as the “sick man of Asia” (Holcombe 193). Fears of the encroaching imperial powers were only heightened after China lost in the 1865-60 Opium War, as were fears of increasing internal disorder, as evinced by the 1851-64 Taiping Rebellion (Bary 661; Rhoads 1-2). China would later suffer yet another humiliating defeat in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-5, but they first instituted a series of reforms in an attempt to curtail foreign dominance, particularly in the military sphere. China thus entered a period of so-called “self-strengthening,” a government-led “restoration” that spanned the years between 1961 and 1895. This movement was largely a response to these early military defeats and the nation’s perceived sense of inferiority (Rhoads 1-2; Holcombe 201). In a phrase, the goal of self-strengthening projects and the larger Tongzhi Restoration (1862-74) was to “emulate the Western countries and master their technical skills” (Holcombe 201; Rhoads 9). In order to do this, China first had to open its borders to Western influence; the late Qing first allowed
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