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Foreigners and Foreign Ideas Research Paper


In the early centuries, China was ruled by dynasties. The last dynasty that ruled China was the Qing Dynasty between 1644 to 1912. In the 19th century, the dynasty underwent reforms and modernisation as Chinese leaders embraced foreign ideas and foreigners.

There was the need to interact and learn new ways of life because of the ever-changing world. The paper delineates on the significance of foreigner and foreign ideas, their views, and the role of the views during the reformation period and modernisation of China between 1860s and 1890s.

Significance of foreigners and foreign ideas during the Qing Dynasty Reforms and Modernisation

Reforms and modernisation caused a paradigm shift in the away Chinese people viewed and perceived the ideas of foreigner. One of the personalities that were credited for these changes in perception was Feng.

Feng was an intellectual that recognised that the world was changing and that the Chinese nation was required to open up and appreciate other worldviews. This could enable the Chinese to be part of the wider world (Feng 1964, p. 51).

Foreigners and foreign ideas had great significance in China especially during the Qing Dynasty reformation and modernisation between 1860-1890s. These ideas led to the appreciation of western sciences in China as central or necessary sources of knowledge.

Most of the western education areas such as mathematics, science and geography became pertinent in China. The subjects were incorporated in some of the academies, and were taught in China.

For instance, the introduction of western subjects led to the established of Kuang fang- yen kuan academy at Shanghai that taught western sciences and languages (Feng 1964, p. 51). Foreigners in China were perceived negatively. Most Chinese believed that all foreigners were bad people.

Therefore, they could not be trusted or believed in whatever way. Chinese people were suspicious and jealous about all kinds of barbarians and that they had a negative attitude towards them. However, this reformation and modernisation brought a turning point in their perceptions.

The view of the Chinese was changed. They realised that foreigners required good treatment and respect. This contributed to the adoption of different cultures and worldviews that helped to establish positive relationships between the Chinese and foreigners (Rozman 2002, p. 217).

Foreign ideas were also of importance during this period of reformation because they helped the Chinese people to acquire relevant skills in various industries that later empowered china as a nation.

China’s relationship with foreigners helped it to acquire various skills in manufacturing of machines and weapons besides helping to acquire military skills and training (Feng 1964, p. 53).

Even though this was done in disguise, China aimed at getting skills and knowledge that could empower and strengthen it to be self-reliant in various areas. Furthermore, foreigners and foreign ideas acted as a waking up call for the people of China during the Qing Dynasty reforms and modernisation.

They made the Chinese people think on the ways that they could liberate themselves to depend on their own.

The ideas they received from the western countries and other developed countries made China change its mindset to prepare itself sufficiently in terms of military, weapons, ships, and other areas that made it strong to compete with the rest of the countries such as western and countries such as France and England.

Foreigners or foreign ideas also influenced the administration and governance issues of China. The Chinese people appreciated the way western nations governed themselves. Therefore, China entrenched some of its values in its system of governance.

For instance, it became opened minded and sought to have a government that respected the rule of law through the establishment of efficient legal systems. It believed that a visionary government was important in ensuring the success of the countries in different areas.

Another importance of the foreigners and their ideas is that they made the Chinese to set up schools to train its people on various issues of diplomatic (Rivlin 2009, p. 45).

This was intended to stir innovation to greater heights to enable the people of China widen their scope of knowledge to ensure that they benefited from the ways other countries lived and prospered.

Chinese views on foreigners and/or foreign ideas

Chinese people viewed foreigners as uncouth. This therefore made many of the Chinese people have a negative perception about the foreigners. However, in the reformation and modernisation era, this mindset changed as they began to appreciate the ideas of foreigners.

They even adopted such ideas in their own culture to aid in achieving their goals and objectives. They viewed foreigners in good faith, appreciated them, and even gave them their due respect.

Chinese people had a feeling that the ideas of foreigners surpassed theirs. The foreigners had high skills in sciences and general knowledge that surpassed theirs. For instance, they believed that they could supplement their skills and knowledge with those of other countries to ensure prosperity of strength.

Their Confucian teachings and ethics could serve as a foundation to attaining the level of prosperity they required to attain (Reed 2007, p. 291). They also viewed themselves as inferior compared to the Americans, Russian, French, and the English people, yet they had the largest territory.

For instance, they were inferior in terms of using their soils correctly, maintaining a close relationship between the leaders/rulers and the common people, and their deeds to the foreigners. This inferiority was believed to be innate. It was their own mandate to control or ensure that they worked hard to end this inferiority to become equals.

They also felt that they were not sufficiently armed and that they needed assistance from the westerns in areas of military and arms. They also viewed foreigners especially from west as being intelligent when it came to making weapons.

They used mathematical concepts in their references and always modified or altered their army often according to various circumstances. They believed that they were at par when it came to military and civil systems but not in firearms.

On the revision of treaty, the Chinese view was to promote positive relations with foreign countries especially in their dealings. They endeavoured to show determination in all their undertakings. For instance, they resolved that they could not be forced to do things that they could not manage.

Therefore, they opposed such instances. On the other hand, they showed generosity and broad mindedness in order to achieve their objectives. Therefore, their view to the foreigners and foreign ideas was that they needed to be generous and supportive to their initiatives towards the end.

They were not to be swayed or involved in cunning arguments with the foreigners (Hung 1964, p. 58). Furthermore, they viewed foreigners as friends and people that required to be given respect all the time to ensure that peace was maintained and good relationships established.

For instance, they believed in Confucius, which claimed that, if people were able to rule their own country, no one would dare insult them (p. 64). Therefore, they believed that, in their unity, strictness, soberness, they could not be offended by or insulted by any foreigners.

They would have to live in harmony to avoid any anxiety in life (Hung-Chang 1964, p. 64). They also believed that the foreigners/ barbarians were very difficult to manage because of their nature (Hung-Chang 1964, p. 64). Therefore, to cope with the situation, they abided by the four principles, which were part of the Confucius’ teachings.

These included hsin, tu, Chung, and ching (Li 2010, p. 336). The Chinese words meant sincerity, earnestness, faithfulness, and respectfulness. They believed that, if they abided by these values, they would coexist well with the foreigners (Hung-Chang 1964, p. 64).

Roles of the views in shaping China during and after this period

Chinese people had different views about the foreigners and foreign ideas. These views helped China during the transformation and modernisation period and even in the later development of China. During the period, they helped China to accept and change their perceptions about the foreigners.

They helped China to open its doors to foreigners to have a worldwide view about life. China had constricted and secluded itself from the western and other countries.

This made it have limitation in its scope of thinking and knowledge because it lacked the wide spectrum of life that was going outside the country (Xuezhao 2010, p. 56). One of the changes that this worldview changed is it made China to begin appreciating other countries.

For instance, China began reading books from their cultures, which helped it broaden its scope of knowledge. Furthermore, it helped to transform the Chinese’ linguistic acquisition.

Many Chinese enrolled in schools and studied foreign languages such as English that helped them participate in issues that were beyond their borders (Chan & Man-Keung 2012, p. 463).

China’s view of foreigners such as the western people as people who were far in terms of knowledge and skills was evident during the period. China had never manufactured its own steam and boilers in its own capacity and country. It lacked skills and expertise to venture in such initiatives.

However, the Chinese believed that they would be able to learn such knowledge from foreigners and even use more innovations to surpass those of foreigners.

This was evident during this period when they made steam and boiler in Shanghai factory owned by foreigners to make the machines using their own ingenuity (Hung-Chang 1964, p. 64).

Chinese respected foreigners and always aspired to promote cordial relationships between the foreigners and their ideas. As a result, they have managed to open up to various countries across the world. China is one of the developed countries in Asia that currently has functioning diplomatic offices in various countries.

The initiative the Chinese undertook of respecting other people has earned China many opportunities in different countries. China can enter trade agreements with countries across the world. Trading has earned China huge profits. It has also spread its ideologies across the countries it trades with through diplomatic relations.

Many countries are free to enter trade agreements with China because of the trust and sincerity that the country has. China also appreciated the Confucius and protestant doctrines as opposed to Catholicism. It therefore objected the Christian missionaries who came with their doctrines.

Furthermore, the views have made China remain a communist country. It embraces or values unity and togetherness. China appreciates its counterparts in the society. It has a spirit of teamwork that has made it develop more for the benefit of the whole society (Fengxiang 2012, p. 79).

Its means of production on communal basis has promoted unity and hard work among the Chinese. Therefore, the Chinese people have also extended this to other foreign countries by supporting various initiatives such as projects aimed at improving infrastructure and monetary loans that have spurred development in various countries.

China has also been able to liberate itself from poverty by putting into correct use its vast resources. During the reformation, China’s resources were not being utilised fully.

However, when they borrowed ideas from the foreigners such as Americans, France, and England, they have vowed to work hard to surpass these countries.

This has since become a reality. They used the skills and knowledge of foreigners to become more innovative. This has contributed to high level of development in China (Bergsten 2008, p. 46).


In conclusion, China’s growth and development has been greatly impacted by foreigners and their ideas. Before this period, China was constricted to its own culture.

However, the embracing of foreign ideas and learning has made China undergo various changes that have contributed to its status. The opportunity opened the eyes of the Chinese making them reach out to many other countries and learning new knowledge that has propelled its economy and ways of life in general.

They had negative views about foreigners, but when they learned how to relate and what they could get from them, they utilised them fully. This has contributed greatly to the success of China.


Bergsten, C 2008, China’s Rise: Challenges and Opportunities, Peterson Institute for International Economics, London.

Chan, Y & Man-Keung, S 2012, ‘Facing the change and meeting the challenge: mathematics curriculum of Tongwen Guan in China in the second half of the nineteenth century’, ZDM, vol. 44 no. 4, pp. 461-472.

Fengxiang, H 2012, ‘The Rise and Operation of Modern Chinese Historical Associations’, Chinese Studies in History, vol. 45 no. 2/3, pp. 70-110.

Feng, K 1964, On the better control of Barbarians in China’s response to West: A documentary survey, 1839-1923, Harvard University Press, Cambridge.

Hung, J 1964, The Taiping Rebels’ interest in modernisation in China’s response to West: A documentary survey, 1839-1923, Harvard University Press, Cambridge.

Hung-Chang, L 1964, The use of western arms in China’s response to West: A documentary survey, 1839-1923, Harvard University Press, Cambridge.

Li, H 2010, ‘From revolution to modernisation: the paradigmatic transition in Chinese historiography in the reform era’, History & Theory, vol. 49 no. 3, pp. 336-360.

Reed, C 2007, ‘Gutenberg and modern Chinese print culture’, Book History, vol. 10 no. 1, pp. 291-315.

Rivlin, P 2009, Arab Economies in the Twenty-first Century Cambridge eText, Harvard University Press, Cambridge.

Rozman, G 2002, ‘Context’, Orbis, vol. 48 no.2, pp. 217-231.

Xuezhao, L 2010, ‘My Opinion on the Use of Style in Compiling the Qingshi (Qing History)’, Chinese Studies in History, vol. 43 no. 2, p. 55-72.

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