仕途不順、遭控賣國與冷落、受制於朝廷決策體系中專制君主的突出角色，以上三點關鍵因素大幅制約著上述知識分子能力與才識的發揮。再者，中國面對西方衝擊反應遲緩受到了傳統、政治、及財政的三個因素影響。中國的表現不如人讓中國帝制免不了覆滅一途，錯失改革最佳時機也使得現代化之路走得更遠也更艱辛。 The recent development of China is conspicuous. It finally marches on the path of modernization and restore its position as a world power. However, since the final years of 18th century, Qing dynasty started to suffer from internal governance problems and tension with western countries. China lost several wars and ceded lands to foreign countries. Thus Chinese regards the past 150 years as a century of humiliation. This thesis will look at the problems why China with its glorious history and achievement failed to tackle internal uprisings and external pressures during the timeframe from First Opium War to Hundred Days’ Reform.
By studying three intellectuals in late Qing dynasty: Wei Yuan, Guo Songtao, and Yen Fu, the thesis will not only find out the trend and evolution of China’s domestic and international environment, but also examine the ways how China adapted to its imperial decline. The three intellectuals all stood out in their own era, Wei Yuan is the first Chinese scholar who thoroughly introduced world geography to China. Guo Songtao is the first Chinese ambassador in history, and Yen Fu is the first Chinese scholar who systematically translated several western books into Chinese language. Although living in a conservative society, they viewed the west with pragmatic attitude, allowing them to develop ideological foundation for China’s modernization.
Three key points significantly restrict their ability: unsuccessful official career, marginalized, and the distinct role of the emperor in the Qing decision making process. Furthermore, tradition, politic, and finance all have an impact on China’s response to the decline. China’s underperformance of modernization in late Qing dynasty invariably made the imperial system collapse.