As of July 2012, China had the world’s largest population, numbering over 1.3 billion people. As of 2010, it had the world’s second largest economy, according to the CIA webpage. This is why China matters to most Americans—but numbers are generalizations that don’t always mean what we think they mean. I want to help readers understand these numbers and, more importantly, understand the country behind those numbers.
China’s recent history can teach us a great deal, not only about where China has been, but where it is now and where it is heading. This website hopes to pair a presentation of China’s history with a look at contemporary China. The focus, as can be observed in the site title, is on colonialism, which matters because it has greatly influenced how the Chinese people have come to view themselves in the worldwide community. It is also part of the driving force that has brought China’s economy to the forefront, and it continues to be relevant to China politically. But before we jump into China’s colonial past there are a few things you should know.
First and foremost China was never a completely colonized state. According to Sun Yat-sen, it was something much worse. It was a sub-colony, which was at the whims of not one but several different countries (Goodman 3). I feel Sun may have exaggerated his country’s situation, but he raises a valid argument: Because different countries had varying amounts of control over various parts of the country, the issue of colonialism in China is uniquely complex. The more popular term for this situation is ‘semi-colonized state.’
In my interview with history Professor Michael Nylan, she commented on the issue of China being a semi-colonized state and advised that the differences from one region to the next are so significant that each has become unique and should be looked at individually. Unfortunately, I could not look at all of them individually as China had over a hundred cities influenced in some way by European colonialism either as “treaty-ports” or all-out colonies (Goodman 2). Therefore, I narrowed my research down to two cities.
For the first city, I wanted to choose one of the three regions under China’s “One country, two systems” policy, as this is such an important but misunderstood policy here in America, and I decided on Macau because it is a city that, though not as famous as Taiwan or Hong Kong (the other two cities under this policy), is nonetheless relevant in the Chinese political and economic landscape. It also has the longest history of colonial influence, which gives it a far richer history than can be found anywhere else in China.
In contrast, I also wanted to choose a city that was currently an accepted member of mainland China, and decided on Qingdao. This is in part because of a personal experience I had there which is discussed here, but also because Qingdao illustrates how colonial history has been at times been embraced and at other times shunned by the Chinese people.
This site, then, is broken into five main sections. There are two historical sections, each providing background for the two cities mentioned above. Both use an interactive timeline tool to help explain the significant events. I have also offered a supplementary page for each city which uses a more personal approach to look at relevant issues. The Qingdao page discusses Chinese nationalism and includes a Vuvox tool, while the Macau narrative looks at the consequences of China’s “One country, two systems” policy and uses a Prezi presentation tool.
Then there is my blog, where I discuss a number of topics that are relevant to the general theme of colonialism in China. It includes interviews, culinary reviews, historical information and a look at current events. My blogs also utilizes a number of different web tools including a photo essay in the form of a video, an animated GIF, and a slideshow. Lastly, there is my About page offering a little background on the driving force behind this website and its motivation, as well as a contact page to offer you the chance to send me any feedback.