Qing Dynasty Essay, Research Paper In 1644, the Manchus took over China and founded the Qing dynasty. The Qing weren’t the worst rulers; under them the arts flowered and culture bloomed. Moreover, they attempted to
Qing Dynasty Essay, Research Paper
In 1644, the Manchus took over China and founded the Qing dynasty. The Qing weren’t the
worst rulers; under them the arts flowered and culture bloomed. Moreover, they attempted to
copy Chinese institutions and philosophy to a much greater extent than then the Mongols of the
Yuan. However, in their attempt to to emulate the Chinese, they were even more conservative
and inflexible than the Ming. Their approach to foreign policy, which was to make everyone
treat the Emperor like the Son of Heaven and not acknowledge other countries as being equal to
China, didn’t rub the West the right way, even when the Chinese were in the moral right (as in
the Opium Wars, which netted Britain Hong Kong and Kowloon).
To live during the Qing Dynasty was to live in interesting times. Most importantly, the Western
world attempted to make contact on a government-to-government basis, and, at least initially,
failed. The Chinese (more specifically, the ultra-conservative Manchus) had no room in their
world-view for the idea of independent, equal nations (this viewpoint, to a certain degree, still
persists today). There was the rest of the world, and then there was China. It wasn’t that they
rejected the idea of a community of nations; it’s that they couldn’t conceive of it. It would be like
trying to teach a Buddhist monk about the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost. This viewpoint was
so pervasive that Chinese reformers who advocated more flexibility in China’s dealings with the
West were often accused of being Westerners with Chinese faces.
Other problems that plagued the late (1840 onwards) Qing included rampant corruption, a steady
decentralization of power, and the unfortunate fact that they were losing control on too many
fronts at the same time. Rebellions sprouted like mushrooms after a rain; apocalyptic cults
undermined what little official authority remained. Several of the rebellions, such as the Taiping
Rebellion, very nearly succeeded. Compounding the problems was squabbling between various
reformers who disagreed on how to best combat the chaos and the West (not necessarily in that
order); in hindsight, it is clear that the entire system was slowly collapsing. .
The attitude of the Western powers towards China (England, Russia, Germany, France, and the
United States, were, more or less, the primary players) was strangely ambivalent. On the one
hand, they did their best to undermine what they considered to be restrictive trading and
governmental regulations; the best (or worst, depending on your point of view) example of that
was the British smuggling of opium into Southern China. Other examples included the ‘right’ for
foreign navies to sail up Chinese rivers and waterways, and extra-territoriality, which meant that
if a British citizen committed a crime in Qing China, he would be tried in a British council under
British law. Most of these ‘rights’ came into being under a series of treaties that came to be
known, and rightly so, as the Unequal Treaties.
On the other hand, they did do their best to prop up the ailing Qing, the most notable example
being the crushing of the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 by foreign troops (primarily U.S. Marines).
What the Western powers were interested in was the carving up of China for their own purposes,
and that, paradoxically, required keeping China together.
But things happened to prevent that. First, in 1911, the Qing dynasty collapsed and China
plunged headlong into chaos.
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