In the century after the Opium War (1839–42), against the backdrop of deeply seated anti-mercantile ambivalence, a middle class emerged and gained social legitimacy in Shanghai. It embraced the pursuit of industrial wealth on the grounds that it would bring material benefits to the nation. It succeeded in framing the discourse of wealth in terms of science while forging an alliance with the modernizing Chinese state. The new wealth was presented, in the first half of the twentieth century, as patriotic, scientific, and democratic. This chapter argues that private capitalist enterprises contributed to the wealth of the Chinese nation. This new doctrine of commercial wealth inspired a generation of aspiring youths to prepare themselves in particular skills and to pursue careers in the new economy.
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