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Huang Tsun-Hsien’s interpretation of Mieji Japan’s economic development : an early stage of China’s intellectual response to modern Japan Lee, Ching-Man

Abstract

This thesis is an attempt to analyse the conscious response of a Chinese intellectual—Huang Tsun-hsien—to Meiji Japan and its relation to some aspects of the historical situation of China in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. It includes, in the first place, an examination of Huang Tsun-hsien as a typical example of China's intellectual response to Japan in the late nineteenth century. His "Jih-pen kuo-chih" (Treaties on Japan)" was the first systematic study on Japanese history which was used as a blueprint for the Hundred Days Reform in 1898. Huang was one of the precursory Chinese who seriously recommended Japan as a model of modernization for China. An effort is made to evaluate his interpretation of Japan-by analyzing the relevant portions of the "Jih-pen Kuo-chih" and comparing his image of Meiji economic development with the situation in reality. In examining the implications of Huang's reform proposals, we not only reconstruct the intellectual atmosphere of his time but also trace the evolution of Chinese economic concepts. A general contour of late Ch'ing economic thought, i.e. the ching-shih (practical statecraft), yang-wu (self-strengthening) and Shang-wu (mercantilism and industrialism) is drawn. By placing Huang as an economic reformer against such a background, we hope to find out the position he occupied in this trend. The findings of this thesis are: (1) Huang's response to Japan was basically a reflection of his concern for China's indigenous problems and a projection of his preoccupation with the searching for a workable formula that would bring wealth and power to China. This thesis suggests a better understanding of the Chinese intellectuals' response to Japan by probing deeper into the built-in perspective of the Chinese; (2) Huang was an incisive observer of the Japanese economic development though the explanation he offered was somewhat distorted by his preoccupations with China's problems. His failure to analyze the applicability of the Japanese model to China demonstrated China's difficulties in borrowing and adapting Japanese and Western ways of modernization, and (3) Huang was a shang-wu thinker with a ching-shih intellectual commitment and a yang-wu career background. His significant contribution was in introducing to China the economic experience of the Japanese in their modernization.

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