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Semi-feudal Society


yingguoguy

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After the Opium War China was reduced to a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society

I've seen this phrase or something similar a lot in Chinese museums. Typing "china semi-feudal" into Google gives a lot of sites which have "cut and paste" versions of Chinese history and it seems to be the official line but none really explain it. "Semi-colonial" is fairly obvious , but what exactly is meant by semi-feudal?

Hadn't China always been a feudal society, ignoring the imperial examinations which kept power in the hands of the elite? Was there some change in people rights at this time under the Qing dynasty, or is this referring in some way to the rights of Chinese living in the foreign concession ports or the special rights given to foreigners? Surely moving to a semi-feudal society would be an improvement? I'm confused.

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CoffeeRider

I think they say semi-feudal because China cannot really be considered a full working feudal model. In feudalism the serfs worked the fief for the vassal, which in turn provided support for the lord. In China you had some peasants working for landlords but you also had some peasants that worked only to a) self-sustain or B) make a small, medium, or even large profit by selling goods (tea comes to mind). Furthermore, I don't think landlords were required to provide military support to the ruling emperor because often times the emperor had a standing army of rather large size. However, there were numerous instances where landlords (think the warlords) called up decent sized armies of peasant militia to help put down rebellions. Not sure if this clears anything up or muddles it more, feel free to make corrections.

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"Feudal" in a Chinese historical context is a very different thing from European feudalism. In a Marxist view of history, there are stages that civilizations pass through on their progress toward socialism; under the Chinese interpretation of this model, China is feudal from roughly the Warring States period all the way up until the fall of the Qing dynasty.

"Semi-feudal semi-colonial" is just a term that recognizes that the foreign encroachment in China never achieved the status of a full-on colonization, but nevertheless infringed somewhat on the sovereignty of the state.

Wikipedia's article on Chinese historiography has a concise explanation of this and other assumptions within current PRC history.

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"Semi-feudal semi-colonial" is just a term that recognizes that the foreign encroachment in China never achieved the status of a full-on colonization, but nevertheless infringed somewhat on the sovereignty of the state.

So in fact the semi-feudal aspect is completely unrelated to the Opium War and my original quote would be clearer as:

China was a semi-feudal society and after the Opium War became semi-colonial as well.

Thanks, that certainly makes more sense.

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