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The Manchus

Page history last edited by Bob Andrian 9 years, 3 months ago

The Manchu (Qing) Dynasty, Western and Japanese Imperialism, and the Fall of Imperial Rule

 

Invaders this time from Manchuria put an end to Ming (ethnically Han Chinese) rule in the mid-17th century. For almost 260 years, Qing rulers controlled China, attempting to preserve the social and political order by pursuing ancient practices rooted in Neo-Confucian ideology and ritual. Thus, proper behavior in each family would lead to a stable hierarchical society, and the "wu-wen" amalgam exercised by the emperors and scholar bureaucrats made for an autocratic, unified political order. The family was a microcosm of the state. The major difference of course was that the rulers were foreigners who worked tirelessly to deny Han cultural identity and maintain their own. Male non-Manchu Chinese, for example, were forced to wear the Manchu queue and shave their foreheads. There were punishments for not doing so.

 

A depiction of the Manchu queue and shaved forehead:

http://www.china-mike.com/chinese-history-timeline/part-10-qing-dynasty/

 

That the last emperor, Pu-Yi, was overthrown on 10/10/1911 (Double Ten) was a consequence of both internal and external factors. In its attempts (mostly successful until the mid-19th century) to rule by prestige, the Qing were ultimately confronted by domestic rebellion and civil war (the Taiping Rebellion (1851-62) lasted three times as long as the American Civil War) in the midst of growing Western influence (in the form of Christian missionaries---though Christian ethics mirrored Confucian humanism and Buddhist ethics to a degree, most Chinese could not understand the resurrection of Jesus nor the presence of celibate nuns) and interference and control of trade (in the form of "unequal" treaties with foreign powers). The "unequal" parts included the principle of extraterritoriality and the use of tariffs on Chinese goods to prevent the development of native industries, though the Qing conservative bureaucracy and Empress CiXi possessed an anti-industralization bias.

 

Taiping Rebellion leader, Hong Xiuquan, was a kind of Old Testament Protestant fundamentalist, more Jehovah than Jesus:

http://history.cultural-china.com/en/183History6234.html

 

A map indicating the amount of territory the Taipings were able to hold:

polydetect.com

 

The Taiping goal was to destroy the Manchus and create a new "brotherhood and sisterhood" that would reflect a kind of communalism.

 

Empress Cixi:

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Empress_Dowager_Cixi

Instead of a navy she opted to respond to calls for modernization by building this "Summer Palace" 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/redlightpress/3693186914/

 

While the Manchus were expanding in the 18th century into Mongolia, Tibet and Turkestan, the British were expanding their empire into South Asia (India especially) and North America (the Atlantic colonies especially) during the Seven Years War. And it was the British, among European powers, who first successfully pried open Chinese ports, beginning with Canton (Guangzhou) in the 1830s and 40s. (The Chinese Navy---if it could be called that---proved no match for British gunboats in the Opium and subsequent wars.) England discovered that by selling opium to the Chinese in exchange for products like tea, its treasury no longer would have a drain on its specie, silver. By the end of the century at least 40 million Chinese were smoking the drug with 15 million addicted to it.*

*Fairbank & Goldman, 234)

An opium den in 19th century Canton:

http://www.china-mike.com

 

In the later part of the 19th century, rival imperialist powers (Britian, France, Germany and Russia) invaded and competed for Chinese territory. The Japanese followed with full-scale invasions and wars on China, first over Korea (which they annexed along with Taiwan in 1895) and then over Manchuria (1931) and later China proper in 1937. The lack of Qing leadership, rooted in its own ossification, in responding to both domestic rebellions and foreign incursions ultimately caused its downfall. 

 

European Spheres of Influence in China one year before the Qing dynasty is overthrown:

http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/imperialism/maps/chinaspheres.jpg

 

Note that China was not colonialized by European powers. The Japanese were the occupiers.

http://www.unc.edu/~cernst/courses/2004/026/001/imperialism.htm

 

Chinese intellectuals differed in their responses to the Western encroachments. The most conservative scholars believed that China's cultural heritage, its "prestige" in other words, could withstand the outsiders. At the other end of the spectrum, there were those who insisted that complete Westernization was necessary. A much larger group of reformers led by Kang Youwei, were convinced that China needed to industrialize and modernize to "catch up" with the West (and Japan) while still preserving traditional Chinese values (Confucian based). Western democratic ideas would create political and social chaos felt the reformers. The Emperor would therefore remain and lead the way forward. Others thought that the way to lead China forward in the modern world rested with revolution. As their leader Sun Yatsen observed, "The Chinese are like a heap of loose sand." While it would take time, China needed to move towards a more democratic political and social arrangement. Industrialization was paramount as well, but traditional hierarchical structures would need to change. Ultimately a new kind of nationalism would take hold unifying the Chinese people. Still others wanted the Qing to disappear precisely because they were not really Chinese to begin with. Suffice to say the revolutionaries won out. The Emperor was deposed and forced to leave the Forbidden City (Beijing). As we shall see, however, the shift away from autocracy ultimately never happened in the way that Sun Yatsen imagined.

 

The Confucian Reformer, Kang Youwei:

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/media/12243/Kang-Youwei-1905

 

Kang Youwei and others took great pains to point out that China could go the same way as other celebrated nations of Asia like India (dominated by the British) and Turkey (whose Ottoman empire was crumbling) if it did not focus on the gaps in technology, industry, and military development that existed between it and Western imperialist powers and Japan.

     "Our enfeebled China has been lying in the midst of a group of strong powers and soundly sleeping on a pile of 

     kindling. In administration she cares only to prevent evils but does not care to develop sources of profit. ... In 

     Japan there were people who advocated respect for the Emperor and the rejection of the barbarians and hence

     they accomplished their reforms."*

*(Nancy F. Sizer, China: A Brief History, 84-85.)

 

It was Japan who had responded aggressively to the barbarian threats from the West and had worked feverishly to modernize their country. The Japanese used to look up to the Chinese as the model country, but now looked askance and even with disdain on their conservative neighbors to the west. Indeed the Japanese went to war with China in 1894-95 over Korea and emerged easy victors, the product of rapid industrialization and militarization. Japan would occupy Korea until 1945 as well as Taiwan.

 

The revolutionary, Sun Yatsen

http://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/sun-yat-sen-71.php

 

Sun Yatsen anti-Manchu revolutionary program was in part based on a desire to see a Chinese version of democracy emerge along with a determination to achieve prosperity and social and economic justice. Given China's 4,000 year old civilization he bemoaned its place in the world at the turn of the 20th century, especially noting the absence of Chinese nationalism:

     "... But the Chinese people have only family and clan solidarity; they do not have national spirit. ... If we do not

     espouse nationalism and weld together our four hundred million people into a strong nation, there is danger of

     China's being lost and our people being destroyed."*

Sun called for the establishment of a Chinese republic, but knew it would take time.

     "As a schoolboy must have good teachers and helpful friends, so the Chinese people, being for the first time 

     under republican rule, must have a far-sighted revolutionary government for their training. This calls for a      period of political tutelage, which is a necessary transitional from monarchy to republicanism. Without this,      disorder will be unavoidable."*

*(Ibid)

 

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