there China Today it is the largest economy in the world. However, this situation is not new. In 1820, the Chinese economy was already in first place, accounting for 32.9% of the world’s GDP. At the same time, there was a period of decline followed by a recovery. In 1912, after more than 250 years in power, Qing Dynasty It collapsed despite being much richer than modern China at the time. For two centuries, scholars have tried to determine the causes of the fall of the Qing Dynasty. Now, a study by the Center for Complex Sciences (CSH) in Vienna reconstructs the economic stages and interdependencies of the various factors that led to its collapse: the cause was a series of economic and demographic factors Which unleashed one of the bloodiest civil wars in history.
collapse of the qing dynastyIt clearly shows that any economy needs to be vigilant because conditions can change, sometimes very quickly.confirms George Orlandi, first author of the study.It is essential to understand the origin of these disorders. It would be a mistake to assume that it belongs to the past and cannot be repeated again. Such changes can actually occur because the underlying mechanisms bear striking similaritiespoints out Peter Turchin, researcher at CSH.
Reasons for the collapse of the Qing Dynasty
In previous studies, various factors have been suggested, including environmental disasters, foreign raids, famine or riots. but None of these factors provide a comprehensive explanation. Torchin notes. So, in this study, the researchers combined different factors and found that three elements significantly increase social and political stress. First, between 1700 and 1840, there was a population explosion that led to a 400% population growth. This led to a decrease in the per capita share of land and led to the impoverishment of the rural population. Second, it led to more competition for elite positions. As the number of contenders soared, so did the number of highest academic degrees awarded, reaching its lowest point in 1796. Since this title was necessary to obtain a position in China’s powerful bureaucracy, this discrepancy between the number of positions and those who wanted to obtain lead to this contradiction. A large group of disaffected elite aspirants. The leaders of the Taiping Rebellion, perhaps the bloodiest civil war in human history, were elite failures. Third, the fiscal burden of the state increased due to the high costs associated with suppressing unrest, the decline in per capita productivity, and the rising trade deficit resulting from the depletion of silver reserves and opium imports.
Combined, these factors culminated in a series of uprisings that heralded the end of the Qing Dynasty and led to a massive loss of human life. According to the results of the study, social tensions actually peaked between 1840 and 1890. “It would be wrong to assume that the Qing rulers were unaware of this increasing pressure.”Torchin explains. The fact that the dynasty survived until 1912 underscores the strength of its institutional structures. However, many of their attempts to come up with solutions have proven short-sighted or inadequate to the task. For example, the government has increased the quota for those who pass certain degree exams, but without increasing the number of places available. This eventually exacerbated already existing tensions. With the arrival of powerful geopolitical rivals in the late nineteenth century, the rulers ultimately failed to avert their downfall.
Teachings of the present and the future
From this historical process we can draw valuable lessons for the contemporary era and for the future. Many countries around the world grapple with potential instability and conditions that closely resemble those of the Qing Dynasty. For example, the competition for top positions is still very fierce. Orlandi warns:When large numbers of individuals compete for a small number of positions, policy makers should view this as a warning sign, as it can, at the very least, lead to greater instability.“.
“Unfortunately, the devastating impact of rising inequality and diminishing opportunities is evident over longer periods of time, making it difficult to identify.Adds co-author and CSH researcher Daniel Hoyer,Not to mention fighting effectively within the short political cycles that many see. Without a long-term vision and without focused strategies to mitigate these social pressures, many places are at risk of going the Qing Road.“.
“We are not prophets. Our primary goal is to understand the social dynamics, which we can then leverage for predictionOrlandi explains. The effectiveness of this effort using structural demographic theory (SDT), a method co-developed by Peter Turchin that represents societies as complex interactive systems, has been demonstrated by researchers on multiple occasions. For example, a study published in 2010 predicted instability in the United States United States in 2020.
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