From the Ruins of Empire


Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,” wrote Rudyard Kipling in 1889. This was nothing if not wishful thinking, and no one knew it better than the poet of the imperial Raj himself: indeed, that same year Kipling visited Hong Kong and bemoaned the likely impact of bringing railways and newspapers to China. “What,” he warned, “will happen when China really wakes up?” With the British empire at the zenith of its power, it was hardly an immediate worry. The Chinese might pride themselves on avoiding the fate of a “lost country” such as India, with its viceroys and its foreign empress, but the Qing dynasty was losing its grip and only a few years later the nationalist Boxer rebellion would be brutally crushed by a western expeditionary force, precipitating the crisis from which China did not emerge for half a century.

more from Mark Mazower at the FT here.