19 October 2007

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Below are excerpts from a 1911 book review of Joseph King Goodrich’s book “The Coming China”. I’ve sprinkled it with links to current events I consider similar:

CHINA’S ILL-TIMED STIR; The Ignorance of Her Vast Population Too Dense to Permit the Establishment of an Enduring Republican Government
November 12, 1911, Sunday
Section: Review of books, Page BR709, 1646 words

SURELY he would be a rash man who, in the present condition of affairs, should attempt to prophesy what the China of next year, or even of next week, will be. And therefore Joseph King Goodrich’s book on “The Coming China,” notwithstanding the apparent promise of its title, recommends itself the more because it attempts so little to predict definite outlines for the future path of the ancient empire. Almost the only matter of importance upon which its author ventures to be entirely sure about the future - his book seems to have been written in the early months of this present year - is that a republic is impossible in China at least for a long time. And already, at such daily accelerated and upsetting speed have events been moving, a republic is not only the hearts desire of the Young Chinaists but a highly probable outcome of the revolution.

Mr. Goodrich, who first went to China as a lad in 1866, has lived there many years and has also been a professor in the Japanese Imperial College at Kyoto, does not deny to the Chinese those traits of character necessary in a people before a real republic is possible. But he thinks the masses of ignorance in the huge population are too vast and too dense to be permeated, at least for a goodly while, by the enlightenment and understanding before an enduring form of republican government can be established. He admits that “There are now so many newspapers published in China, and facilities for sending them to every nook and corner of the realm are now so adequate, that the power which comes with knowledge has attained proportions that surprise Chinese leaders themselves and would amaze all foreigners who were accustomed to conditions a score of years ago.”

…The ten or twelve years following the war with Japan were years of steady though slow growth in modern ideas, but Mr. Goodrich counts the real birth of the new China from the close of the Russo-Japanese war of 1905. Since then the development of energy and ambition, of the desire for Western knowledge, and the purpose to apply Western methods to their own life has gone on with a speed more amazing, Mr. Goodrich declares, then is known even to those outsiders who have watched at a distance China’s progress. To the Occidental the successive manifestations of these seven-leagued strides that have “come up like thunder out of China”, have been bewildering, unexplainable, to a degree that makes them seem to border close upon the impossible.

…Mr. Goodrich does not believe that China can achieve a stable position among the great nations of the Earth until her populace shall have cast off the superstitions of their religion, for he declares most of them are still under the domination of polydemonism.

…Have the other nations, and, in particular, our own country, anything to fear from that coming China? he asks, and gives in reply a decided no. “If,” he says, “there are to be railways, inland navigation, post offices, factories, and all the concommitant of advanced life, the blessings must be paid for; the standards of living must be raised, so that the dreaded competition either disappears entirely or fades away into a dim future, when China has raised herself at home quite up to our standard.”

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