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  • Print publication year: 1980
  • Online publication date: March 2008

10 - Currents of social change

This chapter elucidates the internal dynamic of China's social evolution at the end of the Ch'ing by looking at the rural world which still contained some 95 per cent of the total population. In the very last years of the monarchy, division among the new privileged classes grew from within and was actually more ideological than social. Instability and precariousness more aptly characterize lower class conditions in Chinese society at the end of the monarchy than do models of continuous evolution. Among the many factors contributing to changes in Chinese society during the last forty years of the monarchy, the foreign intrusion, in various forms, was of primary importance. The force behind the changes which shook Chinese society at the end of the imperial era perhaps lay more in the progressive deterioration of the agrarian situation and especially in landowners' relationships with their tenants.
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The Cambridge History of China
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