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Even incidents the West decries as human rights violations can be understood as the logical actions of a government valuing order and coherence over diversity and individual rights. The newer edition is mostly unchanged, save for a new foreword and an epilogue about China at the dawn of china a macro history new century.

China, a Macro History, by Ray Huang

Huang argues that his methodology of macrohistory aims to describe large trends that do not change much in the light of this or that recent event. I would agree, and china a macro history furthermore that despite the fifteen or more years that have transpired since the book's two editions, its remove from the onslaught of daily news gives it an astounding explanatory power for the developments of the past ten years or so.

I was initially shocked to read Huang's pronouncements on macrohistory, and his methodology throughout the book. It has been a long time since I've seen large-scale, almost mechanistic visions of human history in the academic realm. Granted, I read a fair amount about the Neolithic agricultural revolution and other prehistory, and much of this writing employs a fairly mechanistic view for example Jared Diamond or Marcel Mazoyer.

However, this work is usually classed as natural history, archeology, china a macro history, or the like, and as such employs an approach closer to the natural sciences. But I can't recall the last time I've read a straight historian employing a sort of universal template to describe history's progression.


Indeed, in our postmodern, deconstructionist era such thinking is almost automatically discounted as lacking in seriousness. Huang is influenced by Marx in his analysis of long stretches of history through a sequential, progressive lens: Huang is not a Marxist however, so he traces not a progression from feudal to capitalist to socialist, but rather from china a macro history, in-kind societies to commerce-based, mathematically-managed societies.

China : A Macro History by Ray Huang (1997, Hardcover, Revised)

In the light of Huang's macrohistorical thinking, China's history makes sense, especially the last hundred turbulent years. The major result then of the 20th century in China was to overturn the system of china a macro history peasants in undifferentiated villages, in order to make possible the rational use of land and labor.

This march to modernity has not been smooth. In fact, much of the past century and a half in China seems like a series of failures and false starts.


Since the Opium Wars China has tried to adjust, to make a settlement between Chinese culture and foreign influence arriving from afar. The Japanese did this in the s, which is why they became modern and prosperous well before the Chinese.

In fact, commercial-style organization in Japan's government china a macro history military led to victory over China in the war of There were no inter-business links to make this modernization attempt work, so the Self-strengthening Movement was the first in a series of seeming failures in the modern age.

Even after the revolution, the new written constitution didn't quickly change culture, neither in the countryside, the schools, or among factory workers.

Only in did the bureaucrats and students china a macro history to shift their way of leading.


The egalitarian streak of the civil war in China a macro history laid the groundwork for mathematical management. It reorganized villages and ended local usury, which had the unexpected consequence of enabling mathematical management. Egalitarianism doesn't suffice to modernize a nation, because according to Huang things would eventually revert to the prior state of inequality.

Ray Huang - Wikipedia

So for China to become modern it was necessary to diversify livelihoods and enable interchangeability. Even the much-reviled Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution of the china a macro history century fit into Huang's thesis.

The Great Leap Forward looked to decrease transport and technology needs and to replace capital china a macro history labor. It's been used as a text book and appreciated as concise and a "good introduction. Huang seeks to explain the present Chinese reforms as the culmination of a commercialization trend that has broken down the old peasant society and brought China into the mainstream of world history.

It alternates between convention and error and often condenses history in a confusing way.