Modern China 1/5

These are some notes from my Modern China class on 04/24.

The shifting tide of the market displaces skilled artisans, crafts people and small shopkeepers with capitalist factory workers in the transition between feudal and capital society.

In Modern China (177G), I re-learn the basics of historical periodization in the context of communist conceptions. Theory on the development of class consciousness draws from this historical conception of transgressive economic modes to identify/expound on social ills.

Governments in capitalist countries establish public education systems to accommodate the predominance of the factory worker occupation. These public systems were established sometime in the 1870s in China. The education works as a governmental support of capitalist industries, made in part to increase basic efficiency among a wide worker base.

A proletariat revolution threatened, to a large extent, to overthrow the few controlling the capitalist system. Democratic governments were important to appease this potentiality. The massive divide in workers and leaders parallels the landed aristocracy and serfs during Feudal eras and the modern rhetoric around the 99 and 1 percent.

Class consciousness is constructed in this mode as a way to logically draw the conclusion of a proletariat revolution.

Our professor’s question is: how does China defy the mold of the proletariat revolution process? In class discussion, the  “anomaly” of China as a place for proletariat revolution in Marx/Engel’s paradigm is evidenced in its lack of a democratic government and industrialization, one of my classmates point out. Mao’s revival of the Communist party in China, after Chiang Kai-Shek’s Guomindang (Nationalist) Party’s brutal slaughtering of Communist leaders and sympathizers in the Shanghai Massacre, began in the country with a very weak but sustainable party named the Jiangxi Soviet.

Furthermore, China is an anomaly in its sudden jump from feudal to communist society. Marx saw the likelihood of a proletariat revolution as being highly possible in developed capitalist countries like Great Britain or the United States. More damning of the structure is China’s proletariat base, which was mostly comprised of illiterate peasants. Marx stressed the importance of literacy in organizing widespread discontent. He also believed that organizing peasants was impossible, a stance diametrically opposed in a letter given to us in class last week penned by an upper-class individual attempting to incite a peasant revolution. The farming class in China also didn’t possess class consciousness. All they knew of the government was that they were the ones who collected taxes.

In contrast, the Western countries prime for revolution according to Marx, e.g. France, Great Britain, had an established history of democracy. Russia also had a significant lack of capitalist and democratic development but is the most prominent example of proletariat revolution in 20th century history.

Marx sees several factors, absent in China’s revolution, as being pivotal in the instigation of a Communist revolution:

  1. Capitalism (economy)
  2. Democratic government
  3. Public education
  4. Worldwide communism

This last point is necessary because, as my professor stresses, no single country can become fully communist alone. Marxist intended Communism to flourish first from the most advanced capitalist countries that would later catalyze a chain reaction in less developed capitalist societies. Russia and China were divergent instances in this paradigm.

In Russia, Lenin argued for a sustainable, isolationist Communism confined in the single nation with opposition frok Trotsky and his party. Stalin later championed “socialism in one country.”

1932 – Manchurian Incident

Japan began to invade the Northeastern section of China (Manchuria)

We see this reality in chapter three (“Life Under the Japanese”) of the seminal memoir “Wild Swans” assigned as optional reading for this week. Pu Yi, the last emperor of China, became Head of the Manchu State after the fall of the Qing Dynasty.

In our class discussion of “Wild Swans,” our professor noted that the invasion of China was justified by the perception that they were primitive and needed help. The justification was in reality support for exploitation- akin, I thought, to justifications of Western colonialism, i.e. The White Man’s Burden.

In 1937 Japan began to invade China proper. We’re moving onto the Nanjing Massacre next class.


Consider historical modes in journalism and who created them. What is the history of socially critical modes of journalism? How has history played a part in the formation of journalism as we know it today? Do some investigative journalism on journalism.

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