Feb 13, 2020 in Informative

China and the Western World


The history of relations between the West and China is very rich in examples of mutually beneficial cultural exchange, but also contains a large number of conflicts and contradictions. This essay discusses the second proposition about the true goal of western politicians in their cooperation with China. The results of the literature research show that although the cooperation of China and the West brought benefits to both of them in some aspects, the real aim of the Western countries was to modify China to use it as a resource for their political and economic development.

The Problems of Interaction between the West and China in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

The long historical period of the interaction of Western and Chinese civilizations shows how inventive the political leaders can be in creating the conditions for the robbing other countries. Starting from the end of the sixteenth century, when the first Portuguese ships have reached the coast of China, there has been a gradual introduction of Western political and economic elites in the Middle Kingdom structure with the purpose of acquiring benefits.

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At the first stage of the relations development between the countries of the Old World and China, it was necessary to provide measures for efficient cultural exchange. Since the religious ministers were one of the most powerful and educated social groups of that time in Europe, the task of establishing contacts between East and West was assigned to them. The first messengers of the west in China, the Jesuits, have greatly increased Europe's cultural and material wealth at the expense of China. According to European philosopher Leibniz, the Chinese philosophic thought served as a basis of the European practical philosophy. In all fairness, it should be said that the China had also benefited from the cultural communication with Europe at the in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. For example, the project of the calendar by Matteo Ricci was very important for the Chinese Empire. In this way, the Europeans never lost an opportunity to get the benefit even from a cultural exchange. Later in the history, namely the Jesuits will become the messengers of Western expansion in China.

The intentions of European Jesuits to use their position in China to create advantages for the Western merchants were mentioned since the eighteenth century. Thus, the Chinese Board of War stated in 1717 that the Europeans had established churches in several regions of the country, which accumulate bandits and rascals. At the same time, Chinese military suspected the Jesuits, in cooperation with the traders for increasing the profitability of European trade in China. The support of factional princes and Catholic partisans in China also served as a reason for the ban on the activities of the Jesuits in the country in the late eighteenth century. In this way, the activity of Jesuits was the beginning of the trend to undermine the stability and plunder China, which emerged later.

The evaluation of China as the desired trophy was common for the Europeans for a long time. In these circumstances, the European envoys in the empire became not only the ambassadors of peace but also the agents of influence serving the predatory interests of the West. It is interesting to explore the memories of Matteo Ricci as an evidence of this idea. According to him, there was the plan of the conquest of China, developed by Alonso Sanchez. He advised Spanish king to send an armada to conquer the Empire. Ruggieri and Ricci, both Jesuits in China, had to persuade the Chinese to accept the fact of conquest peaceful, describing it as the divine will. This example clearly proves that the desire of Europeans to ensure the prosperity of China dormant only predatory intent on the plunder of the rich country.

The Imperialistic Intentions of the Western World toward China in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

Starting from the last decade of eighteenth century, the Western countries are moving from soft power policy to the increasing pressure on China. The failure of Jesuits companies to culturally subordinate China to the European ideas lead to the implementation of political measures of the China’s suppression. One of the examples of such measures is the Macartney’s Commission of 1792. The British King sent Lord Macartney with the memorial for the Chinese Emperor. The delegation was accompanied by a military contingent, called to show the superiority of the British Army on the Chinese. In the memorandum, the King of Great Britain demanded trade preferences for the British trading company in China in a mild form. The refusal of Chinese Emperor to meet the demands of the British crown led to the two Opium Wars in fifty years. Not having succeeded politically, Britain used the military superiority to achieve the goal.

This act of British government is an example of Western attempts to provide conditions for the “evolutionary” development of China, which in fact serves only to the interests of the Western monarchies. The duplicity and deceit of Western states against the rich eastern countries is manifested in the interpretation of events in India in the message to Macartney. There the British King stated that the mass repressions against the local population in India had not been the aggressive policy to defend Britain's interests in the region, but only served to protect the British trade companies from the negative influence of Indian protectionists. In this way, the Britain acts not as an invader and exploiter, but as an innocent victim of persecution by the Indian barbarians. Thus, presenting the robbery and oppression as the desire to ensure growth and prosperity, the Western countries have covered their pragmatic policy in the East.

The so-called positive political and cultural influence of the West on the China caused such social and political disasters as the Students’ protests of the fourth of May in 1919 and the Boxer Convulsion in 1899. The Students’ protests of 1919, which could later develop into a national revolt against the weak Chinese government, were the result of the Paris Decision about the Japan-Chinese conflict. In these conditions, the West tried to weaken China by the transmission of Shantung region to Japan. The political intervention of Western countries, as well as the weakness of the Chinese government, were the basis for the perturbation of the Chinese students and the demonstrations that later turned into the open confrontation with the authorities.

The Boxer Convulsion case was a result of the failure of the Western countries to reform the Chinese society in their own image. The failure to understand the uniqueness of Chinese culture and way of life, the desire to drive distinct culture within the framework of the Western world will inevitably lead to social conflicts. In the situation of China, the attempts of the Europe and the US to change the country by providing western living standards led only to further crisis of Chinese society and the enrichment of Western well-wishers. China has its unique civilization, its culture, and history. And the statements about the readiness of Western leaders to change China's in their likeness leads to the hidden benefit for well-wisher, and not for the benefit of original China.


This essay proves that the relations between China and Western countries, for the most part, took the form of expansion and conquest to expand the Western sphere of influence. Although the western missioners have brought new technologies to China, their intentions were deeply aggressive. The aim of the Western countries in their communication with China was to achieve maximum benefits to the detriment of the interests of the Chinese state. All the good intentions of the European monarchies for four hundred years only served as a cover for their selfish plans for a rich state.


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