The germination and development of Chinese national capitalism

Discussions on this issue focused on examining the relationship between the germination of modern machine industry and the budding of capitalism and foreign capital. One view was that the germination of capitalist industry had little to do with the budding of capitalism. Because China’s handicraft workshops were severely damaged after the Opium Wars, few of them could be transformed into the machine industry. The modern machine industry was not a continuation of capitalism that had been nurtured before the Opium Wars, but was founded under the stimulus of foreign capital, relying on the power of the feudal country and the investment of bureaucrats, businessmen and compradors.12 Another view was that the two were closely related. In the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, China’s small handicraft industry had already been well developed, and there were private and government-run handicraft workshops in many areas. The private workshops had prepared certain conditions for modern industry of national capital. Although the government-run workshops were purely feudal, they played an important role in the germination of modern industry in the second half of the nineteenth century. These workshops might continue to exist and gradually develop into modern industries, or switch their production in competition with foreign goods. Even though some of them were forced to shut down, their capital, technology and workers flowed to other modern industries. Therefore, the invasion of foreign capital could not cut off the link between the budding of capitalism and modern industry, and the workshop handicraft industry was an important way to form modern industry.13 The third view was that they did have relations but were not very close. Some major industries basically did not go through the workshop handicraft stage, but directly used machines for production. However, most industries passed through this stage, and some still remained at this stage for a long time. According to the number of entrepreneurs, 80 percent of capitalist industry in modern China consisted of artisanal workshops. Since there was such a connection between artisanal workshops and modern industry, foreign capital could not completely cut off the connection between them, which only prevented budding capitalism from developing independently. The foundation of China’s social economy and its changes under foreign aggression were the first reason for the emergence of China’s modern industry.14

The national bourgeoisie and the comprador bourgeoisie

Research on the national bourgeoisie involves two issues. The first one is about the time of its formation. There were two viewpoints, both of which were put forward on the basis of examining the number of enterprises and investors of national capital. Some believed it was formed in 1870s and others thought it was formed before and after 1895. The latter view also regarded the Reform Movement of 1898 as a confirmation that the national bourgeoisie

Economie history 143 had become an independent class. The second is about stratification. All relevant studies held that the national bourgeoisie had three tiers: upper, middle and lower. There were also scholars holding the four-gradation theory, that is, the middle gradation of the three-gradation theory was further divided into upper and lower sub-gradations, with the upper sub-gradation being larger industrial and commercial capitalists, middle bankers and bosses of big money shops (Qian Zhuang), and the lower sub-gradation being mediumsized industrial and commercial capitalists, small bankers and small and medium-sized shop owners.15 The comprador bourgeois research during this period drew the following conclusions: first, it divided the process of formation and development of the comprador bourgeois into three stages, that is the period before 1912 was the initial formation and development stage, the period from 1912 to 1927 was the development stage; the period from 1927 to 1949 was the stage in which the comprador bourgeois developed into bureaucratic bourgeoisie. Second, it defined the nature and function of the comprador bourgeois as a product of the combination of foreign capitalist forces and Chinese feudal forces and a reactionary class totally attached to foreign capital, representing China’s most reactionary relations of production and hindering and destroying the development of social productive forces. However, some scholars argued that the comprador bourgeois had some similarity with the national bourgeoisie and were able to transform into each other under certain conditions. Third, it held that comprador bourgeois was an important partner and supporter of foreign invasion of China.16

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