Robert Bickers at Literary Review:
Despite its long and extensive literary heritage, and despite being the home of some of the earliest printed books, Qing-dynasty China found itself at a profound disadvantage in the new global information order that evolved in the 19th century as part of the intertwined processes of colonial expansion and globalisation. Foreign powers subordinated China through the deployment of advanced maritime technologies and weaponry. The Qing empire found itself hampered in its efforts to respond by the nature of its written language. Knowledge is power, goes the saying, but not if knowledge cannot be organised, retrieved, transmitted and reproduced.