This year is the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up, our country is on the way to regaining its leadership role in the world. However, it is hard for us to forget the decline of the Qing Dynasty and how China was invaded by other European countries in the mid-1800s. To some extent, I believe these painful experiences accelerated China transforming from a natural economy to a commodity economy. In this reading, the author introduced how European capitalists destroyed peasant economy and natural economy in order to accumulate resources for its development, how the capitalist countries deprived lands and livelihoods of the peasants, and why the people in the colonies were willing to become their labours.
For a natural economy, peasants are originally self-sufficient. Their demand for foreign goods is very little because they are contented with their current situations. Unfortunately, their resources such as land and manpower become the target of some capitalist countries. They are invaded by these countries through revolutions or wars, thereby losing the precious resources such as lands and minerals. The livelihood of farmers is affected, thereby forcedly become the labour power of the capitalist society.
In human history, some classical examples can explain the relationship between colonizer and its colony. For example, British invasion of India and French invasion of Algeria in the 1800s. In the colony, citizens were exploited to be the labour with low wages, producing a great bulk of high profit commodities for the colonizer, but who would be the buyers? Therefore, the colonizer had done a second step: introducing the commodity economy into some backward countries, who would buy products to accumulate resources for the capitalists.
Modern China is a classic example to explain. In the 19th century, it is known to all that China was forcedly opening-up to trade by the European capitalists through wars. At the beginning, the demand for Chinese tea and silk were high in the British market. However, as the Qing Empire was a natural economy, they didn’t show interest in the commodities from Britain. In order to solve the problems of the deficit, British merchants introduced the Indian opium to China, but opium addiction became widespread in the society. Clashes occurred between British and China and thus the happening of Opium Wars. As China lost the battles, there were more than 40 ‘Chinese Treaty Ports’ for commodity exchange and had given the island of Hong Kong as a colony of the British Empire eventually.
This reading helps me to recap the modern history of Hong Kong. Before I read the article, I doubted about the reasons why many people in Hong Kong developed an affection for the colonial period. I was most impressed with the discussion in our class, discussing the uniqueness of Hong Kong as a British colony. Our destiny is very different from other colonies such as India and Algeria, because Hong Kong located in a special region beside China with limited land resources and manpower. Instead of exploited by the British capitalists, we were granted a lot of developments, such as the introduction of means of transport, receiving education, and well-established legal system, etc.
Today, Hong Kong is a well-known free port in the world. In the past 40 years, Hong Kong act as an important entrepôt for mainland China. This is not only help us to become the financial hub in Asia, but also help China to opening-up and reform. According to the research from the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, Hong Kong is the largest source of overseas direct investment in the mainland China. ¹
The colonizer shaped Hong Kong to be an international city, and thus Hong Kong helps China accelerating the growth of economy. Nowadays, Chinese economy is regarded as the driving force of the global economy in recent years.
This article helps me to understand why some people, especially the older generation in the society, keep missing the so called good old days. We can’t deny our development was help by the colonizer in some extend. However, from my point of view, the prosperity happened in China was just ‘accidentally’. The well-developed infrastructure in Hong Kong was a tool for trade between the European capitalists and China. Although we do benefit from it, this does not mean that the colonists have planned to help Hong Kong for development. Moreover, many problems occurred after the handover of Hong Kong in 1997. A lot of conflicts happened between China and Hong Kong since then. People often identify themselves as ‘Hongkongers’, instead of the Chinese citizens.
This article helps me to analyze the ties between Hong Kong and mainland. As I am a television news reporter, I interviewed the conflicts between mainlanders and Hongkongers from time to time. A few years ago, many Hongkongers were discontented with the mainland pregnant women who would give births in Hong Kong, accusing their child of enjoying different kinds of welfare, such as free education, government subsidized medical care in public hospitals, etc. In recent years, as the economy of China is growing at a fast pace, mainlanders often visit Hong Kong to buy milk powder which lead to shortage. They also invested properties in Hong Kong, which was accused of leading to high property price and affecting the livelihood of Hongkongers.
Many problems left in the post-colonial period which need to be solved. As we are a capitalist society, while China is a socialist society, this lead us very different from each other in essence. More importantly, I think the government should try to solve the conflicts between Hong Kong and China by adjusting the history curricular in the future. If the youngsters have a deeper understanding of the modern history, I think it can help Hongkongers to develop empathy towards mainlanders.