The Future Of China -- By: G. Frederick Wright

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 057:228 (Oct 1900)
Article: The Future Of China
Author: G. Frederick Wright

The Future Of China

G. Frederick Wright

The political history of China is one of frequent changes. With striking regularity one dynasty has been supplanted by another every two or three hundred years for two millenniums and a half. But the people have retained their ethnological characteristics with little change. From the earliest times there has been scarcely any intermixture with other races. Their industrial, social, and religious conditions have likewise suffered little change since the days of Laotze and Confucius. Indeed, the immobility of China has been proverbial. So impervious has the nation been to outside influences, that the close of the nineteenth century found everything in the interior essentially as it was three hundred years before the Christian Era.

But at the beginning of the twentieth century new conditions are rapidly arising which will test the capacity of her people and the strength of her institutions as nothing in the past has ever done. The impending industrial changes are such as, in their results, to baffle the most vivid imagination. The 400,000,000 of China are now adjusted to an industrial system in which manual labor is supreme. Machinery is almost entirely unknown. Even the plow is of the rudest kind, consisting of the forked prong of a tree, sheathed at the end with a thin piece of iron, and this is frequently drawn by human muscle. The lumber is all sawed from the logs by hand. The small amount of coal which is taken from the inexhaustible mines is brought up on the backs of naked men, and dis-

tributed, often to a distance of sixty miles and more, by pack animals. The supply for Peking is largely brought in from a distance of thirty miles on the backs of camels, to which it had been transferred from mules which had brought it from the mines still farther inland. The effete condition of the Empire is well exhibited in the condition of this part of the road to the mines. It was once well paved with large blocks of stone, but these have now become so worn and out of place that pack horses cannot go over it. Only the nimble feet of the mule can traverse it with safety.

Practically, the population of China reached its maximum many centuries ago. Its natural increase has long been checked only by pestilence, famine, and infanticide. The same causes are still effectively at work. Every once in a few years, at the present time, an overflow of the great rivers or a brief drought so curtails agricultural production that many millions die from lack of food and its consequent diseases. Smallpox is almost universally prevalent, causing an immense death-rate among children. Unsanitary conditions are constantly at work prematurely to destroy their victims in every ci...

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