A Comparison of the Opinions of Andrew Nathan as Expressed in his Essay "Imperialism's Effects on China" With the Opinions Expressed by Joseph Esherick in his essay "Harvard on China: The Apologetics of Imperialism"
At the most simplistic level of analysis, neither author is arguing the inherent "goodness" or "badness" of the Imperialism that was inflicted on China at the end of the 19th Century. Nathan is presenting the view that Imperialism was not a bad thing and did not have a major economic or philosophic drain on China. Esherick, propounding the view of a school of Harvard sinologists argues that the drain on China from the Imperialistic practices was so strong that China was left with no other recourse than to forge a revolution.
Nathan argues that Imperialism led to a series of events that hindered China's growth. Both writers have to deal with the same sequence of events. In the middle of the 19th Century, several hundred million Chinese citizens who were disgusted with the weakness of the Quing (Manchu) Dynasty and its inability to get rid of the foreign devils. This of course led to the Taiping Revolution of 1850-1864, which gave the dynasty the reason to ask foreign nations for help. This led to the Open Door Policy, which forced the Chinese nationalists to stage the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. This rebellion led to the Revolution that toppled the Dynasty, and 5,000 years of Dynastic reign. Let us see first how each of them reached their conclusions.
He makes it clear at the beginning that he is not in agreement with Isaac's "The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution...In doing so, I do not mean to suggest that Peck's views are those of Isaacs or vice versa. But it seems most convenient for both author and reader if we focus on this highly developed, widely available and influential version of what Peck calls a revolutionary Marxist view of the effects of Imperialism on China