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Self-Strengthening and Reform

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Self-Strengthening and Reform

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  • April 2006
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In nineteenth-century China the idea of reform was beginning to develop, especially, with the introduction of the Westerners and their technology. Reform and self-strengthening in China were seen as a beneficial concept to some Chinese leaders. Many scholarly Chinese had different opinions about reform and Western methods. Woren greatly opposed Western reform and the self-strengthening movement, but several people felt that it was good in moderation, such as Xue Fucheng, Zhang Zhidong, and Wang Tao. Tan Sitong and Liang Qichao, who were considered "radical" reformers, loved the idea of reform and were all for the Western methods. These six reformers debated and fought for what they truly believed but the reform of China was inevitable and could not be fought and no one like Woren could stop it.

The self-strengthening movement came upon China with the defeat of the Taipings. The use of western military weapons was brought into China with the idea of "defending China and preserving Chinese civilization." Feng Guifen was a teacher and an official who came to realize the importance of adopting Western military techniques even though he knew that the advancement in weaponry would be a difficult task to accomplish. Feng realized that the only lesson that China had to learn from the Westerners was not leadership because the Chinese already possessed that trait, but refining their own techniques and learning. Feng did believe that in order to progress in China and learn from the Westerners, China had to adopt the mathematics that was used in the West, for "All Western knowledge is derived from mathematics… If we wish to adopt Western knowledge, it is but natural that we should learn mathematics." Learning was not to make themselves better than the Westerners but to become equal with them.

One man that was greatly opposed to reform and self-strengthening from the Westerners was Woren, who believed that scholars should indeed be taught the fundamentals of...