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Q2. Describe how the European powers destroyed the Chinese imperials regime?

In the early 1800’s, China was largely cut off from trade with the outside world.  Trade with Europe was channeled through port of Canton only. Chinese products, such as tea, silk and porcelain, were in high demand in Europe but Chinese imports were very limited.  This led to a serious drain of silver from Britain. To offset this trade British East India Company started smuggling opium from India into China on a large scale which not only upset China’s balance of trade, but the stability of its whole society.

Seeing the ill effects on society, Chinese banned import of opium but British started smuggling opium in China through ‘country agents’. Chinese government officials seized an opium cargo and destroyed it. The result was the First Opium War (1839-42) between Britain and China.

The British navy, with its modern weaponry won a decisive victory and resulting Treaty of Nanjing (1842) According to this treaty of Nanjing.

  1. China was forced to pay fines to British for war damages.
  2. Hong Kong was given to Britain
  3. China had to open five port cities to the British traders.
  4. Chinese government was no longer free to impose tariffs on the foreign goods

 

Other nations such as France, Russia, Germany and Japan forced China to grant similar treaties.  They wanted most favored nation status, which automatically gave them all privileges that any other nation had from China.  Second, they wanted extraterritoriality, which allowed their citizens to live under their own laws even when in China. Finally, Europeans could recover any debts that the Chinese government owed them by collecting China’s customs dues and other taxes if the customs dues were not enough.

Some other internal factors in China like huge population as well as floods and food shortages triggered a peasant revolution of Taiping (1850-64).

During this chaos Britain and France launched Second Opium War (1858-60) for the flimsiest of reasons.  This resulted in Treaties of Tianjin which entailed

  1. Freedom of movement for Christian missionaries.
  2. the opening of 14new ports to Western trade and residence
  3. right of foreign travel in the interior of China

 

This situation was exploited by Japanese and in Sino-Japanese War (1894-5). For centuries Korea was a tributary state of China but Japan was trying increase her influence over Korea for its natural resources and strategic location.

  1. China had to recognize Korea as an independent state.
  2. China had to give away Formosa, Taiwan and part of Southern Manchuria to Japan.
  3. China was forced to pay about $150 million to Japan for war damages.

 

China had to pay war damages to Japan, France, Russia, Britain and Germany agreed to give loans to China but in return, these Western countries divided China into “sphere of influence” often described as the “cutting of the Chinese melon”

Under this system, the dominant power in that sphere controlled the economy as collecting taxes and constructing railroads and telegraph wires, while leaving administrative duties and expenses to local Chinese officials.  USA also stepped in this point and suggested ‘Open Door Policy’ according to which all countries would have equal right to make trade anywhere in China.

Britain supported United States in this policy, thinking that it would discourage the annexation of China by Japan or Russia because Japan and Russia could easily send their armies to Chinese mainland.

Local Chinese people resented the economic exploitation, extraterritorial right and influence of increasing influence of Christian missionary on their culture and society. They also resented the corruption and inefficiency of their own royal government.

This led to a violent “Boxer Rebellion” who blamed foreigners for all the ills in China and started seizing /destroying properties of foreigners, Christian missionaries and Chinese converts. Boxers were secretly supported by many of the royal court.  Japanese, Russian, German, and Americans sent their troops to curb this rebellion. Ultimately the military might of western powers crushed the Chinese rebellion. This resulted in Western powers getting fines from China for a period of 40 years, trade concessions and right to station their troops in Beijing.

After the failure of boxer rebellion, Imperialism continued with the cooperation from Chinese warlords. Foreign powers bought these military commanders by giving ‘loans’ and in exchange the warlords granted even more privileges to the foreign powers. Thus in a period of few decades, China had been reduced to a status of an international colony. Although China was not conquered or occupied by any imperialist country, but the effect of these developments in China were same as any other areas which were formally colonized.

Such reforms only raised expectations of more reforms, and a revolution in 1911 overthrew the monarchy and established a republic in its place.  Almost from the start, the new republic was doomed by the lack of a healthy economy and educated middle class, and saw China embroiled in two world wars, civil war, and revolution.

 

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