Control of the Empire in "Chinese Countryside"


I have been reading the book "Chinese Countryside" intermittently for a long time because it is very long (over 700 pages) and contains a lot of content. Just the quoted parts alone account for nearly one-third of the entire book, showing its meticulousness.

The book is divided into three parts: the administrative division of the Chinese countryside, countryside control, and the effects of control. I believe that the second part is the essence, which is the control of the countryside. Control mainly includes public security, taxation, famine, and ideology. Only with good public security can we ensure a peaceful and prosperous life and guarantee the empire's tax revenue. The ideology cannot be too advanced, and the ideology must serve the empire. As the most remote region of the empire, control is the most difficult but also the most important. A slight negligence may lead to repeating the mistakes of history.

To maintain the grassroots governance system of the Qing Dynasty, two conditions are required: a reliable and capable bureaucratic group to guide and supervise its operation, and a relatively stable rural environment that allows ordinary people to maintain a relatively stable but not affluent life.

However, maintaining the stability of these two conditions is not easy. Firstly, the interests of the bureaucratic group and the ruling class of the empire are not aligned, so they will not be completely loyal to the emperor. Secondly, the emperor's suspicion and distrust of the bureaucratic group, as well as the control of the countryside by grassroots officials, have bred many corrupt practices in the officialdom, thereby slowing down the operation of the entire bureaucratic machine. Finally, frequent natural disasters and incompetent officials cannot guarantee a stable and peaceful environment.

The ultimate goal of the empire's control is to maintain its rule. Obedient and docile subjects naturally pose little threat to the empire, but it also severely damages the proactive abilities of the subjects and weakens the material foundation of the empire. When the internal and external environments become increasingly harsh, the Qing court will taste the bitter fruits it has sown.

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