Imperialism Good or Bad?

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Imperialism is the policy of extending a country's power by gaining control of other areas. Imperialism was exercised by leading Europeans powers such as Britain and France during the 1800s and 1900s. These European powers would use any methods needed to extend their power. Imperialism’s legacy around the world is overwhelmingly negative; it fueled racism, exploited resources and caused an abuse of power through conflict. The experiences of South Africa, Vietnam, and China can best demonstrate this legacy.

Imperialism in South Africa left a negative legacy, because it incited racism, and established segregation and mistreatment of Africans. South Africa had a long history of imperialism, the Dutch had been living in the area for decades, but it wasn’t until the British invaded that things became more racially divided. Britain invaded searching for precious metals, they set up mining missions, and the diggers, both black and white, worked the small claims by hand. Once production centralized and mechanized,the ownership and labor patterns became racially divided. This was all introduced after South Africa came under imperialist rule. Then, when South Africa was named a Union by Great Britain, it went through an eight-year reconstruction, “Reconstruction ensured that settler minorities would prevail over the black majority… segregation became a distinctive feature of South African political, social, and economic life as whites addressed the ‘native question.’ Blacks were ‘retribalized’ and their ethnic differences highlighted.” (Thompson). Britain allowed this behavior by claiming the ‘white man’s burden’; they saw it as their right to introduce new technology and advancements into the area. Britain segregated and unfairly treated the African people of South Africa, unwillingly and unfairly shows that the legacy of imperialism is negative.

The legacy imperialism left behind in Vietnam is also detrimental because it was motivated purely by draining and exploiting the resources of an area. French imperialism within Vietnam had lasted decades and “became one of France’s most lucrative colonial possessions.” (Alpha History). France had its eyes on Vietnam’s rice, rubber, and other materials, and held a complete disregard for anything other than making a profit off of Vietnam. France put pressure under rice production in Vietnam, and rice production quadrupled. But while rice production rose, the people in Vietnam’s overall rice consumption decreased without the substitution of other food. This clear lack of care for the people of Vietnam shows just how negative France’s imperialism was for the people of Vietnam. France tried to cover up their tracks by using public works and good deeds to help them exploit their resources. Paul Doumer, the French president at the time, “built public works with the aim of rapid and systematic exploitation of Vietnam’s potential wealth” (Duiker, William J., and Neil L. Jamieson). The exploitation of natural resources for direct export was the main purpose for imperialisation, every front of public works was a way for France to further drain resources from Vietnam. The obvious focus on the production of rice and goods and the lack of care for the wellbeing of citizens of Vietnam, displays just how negative of an legacy imperialism left behind.

The legacy of imperialism in China was atrocious, as it shows a legacy of using conflict to abuse the power they have. China had always been self sufficient and usually kept away with the west, not giving away much access to trade for other countries. The West had been searching for ways to gain access to China and they found Opium, an addictive drug that caused generations of addicts along with social and economic instability. That proves just how disastrous of an impact imperialism had on China. China pleaded with Britain to stop Opium trade, but Britain ignored the concern. As a result, there was an “open clash between the British and the Chinese- the Opium War” (Beck 806). Years later there was a second Opium War with the British and the French against the Chinese. The wars were all won by foreign powers and forced China to pay indemnity and increase treaty ports, forced to concede territorial and sovereignty rights. These wars took lives, and took advantage of the rights of a place that wanted remain isolated. The way that imperialists like France and Britain took advantage of China, using violence and conflict to get their way puts on display the negative legacy they left behind. The clear lack of care for the safety for the people within the country lead to conflict all contribute to this dark and antagonistic legacy of imperialism.

Imperialism in places like South Africa, Vietnam and China by european powers of Britain and France all left a negative legacy. Imperialism fueled racism and the idea of the ‘white man’s burden’, it exploited goods from vulnerable countries without any care for the people’s well being as well as inciting conflicts simply to gain more power. Overall, imperialism left a negative legacy, and the countries that went through these experiences can still see the mark that imperialism left.

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Imperialism Good Or Bad?. (2021, Jun 28). Retrieved June 19, 2024 , from

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