The Qing Dynasty was arguably one of the most influential and most significant imperial dynasties in Chinese History, lasting for approximately three centuries, between 1644 and 1912. For the longest time, Chinese citizens believed that their nation was at the center of the world as the government established itself as the sole superpower in East Asia. The empire was more or less a regional power and had substantial jurisdiction and power on the policies of neighboring nations such as Vietnam, Korea, and Japan (Takahiro 33). Moreover, every interaction between the Europeans and the east was handled by the Chinese. The Qing dynasty, however, championed for marginal interaction with Europeans despite the high demand for Chinese products in Europe as they had little to offer for trade. Nonetheless, the definitive fall of the Chinese Imperial power was imminent after almost 2000 years. The collapse of the dynasty was an intricate and lengthy procedure as the Qing’s rule weakened through the second half and early 20th century as a result of internal and external dynamics.
Reasons for the Fall
Long periods of prosperity and peace were overseen by the first three rulers of the Qing Empire. However, policies implemented by the Qing ruler were generally unpopular amongst the populations. Several strategies comprised of the massive suppression of literature and poetry, the execution of whole cities associated with resistance, forced adoption of the queue, and conferring to the Manchu aristocrats by marking off peasants’ land (Wang 285). Every bit of the policy occasioned a reduction in levels of productivity in various aspects of the Chinese economy. The majority of the significant cities that focused on the production of handmade products comprising of ceramic and silk merchandise suffered enormously from the bloodbaths. Complete recovery from the resultant damage attributed to the atrocities proved rather challenging to overcome. Furthermore, the second half of the Qing’s regime was flawed by widespread corruption, which was viewed as an obstruction to strategies that candidly attended to the public’s requests.
Rebellions were part and parcel of the social order in the empire, considering the aspect that they ruled over a vast region with numerous ethnic groups. In the late 1700s, a revolt known as the White Lotus Rebellion emerged and was significant for some reason. The Chinese citizens engineered the rebellion instead of being initiated by any border aristocrats in quest of securing the Mandate of Heaven. Later on, the emperor indicated that unethical local officers encouraged the rebellion, and the group had significantly identified themselves after an unlawful movement that took over the reins in the past. Furthermore, the White Lotus rebellion was comprised of Chinese ethnic groups, which made it difficult for the Qing military to fight them (Moll-Murata 353). The protestors employed guerrilla tactics and would easily blend in with the population after harassing the royal combatants. The rebellion persisted for ten years, from 1794 to 1804. Even though they managed to subdue the revolution, the Qing army ended up slaying many rebels and citizens.
Other revolts arose through the 19th century as a model used by the citizens to air their frustrations towards the Qing regime despite the tribal pressures serving as undercurrents. The Taiping revolt ensued as a result of famine between 1851 and 1864 (Wang 285). A majority of the insurgents were of Chinese origin who sought to ouster the Qing ruler and the Mongolian rulers, replacing them with leaders deemed to be suitable. The Taiping Rebellion was also concurrent with other revolts that included the Panthay Uprising, and Dungan Uprising experienced between 1858 to 1873 and 1862 to 1877, respectively. These revolutions commenced as a result of the Muslims’ interest in controlling the empire to eradicate the issues linked to both the Mongolian and Chinese oppressors. It is significant to notice that regardless of all these revolts fading, they persisted for a longer duration.
The Qing regime continued provoking views of displeasure amongst the Chinese citizens that eventually resulted in another revolt. In 1900, Chinese farmworkers established the Boxer Uprising, a massive movement in opposition to any external authority. The Boxer Uprising intended to eradicate all foreigners from China, with the inclusion of the Mongolian Qing. Initially, it opposed the European nations, Japan, and the Qing monarchs, but the farmworkers ultimately combined with the Qing armed forces. However, it failed to march the European nations’ resolve, signaling the dynasty’s fall. In 1906, the subsequent demise of the empress led to inheriting the position by the ruler’s two-year-old son. Following half a decade characterized by in-house authority brawls, some Chinese regions resolved to become independent from the kingdom in 1911, marking the start of the dynasty’s fall.
European colonialism is one of the most noticeable aspects that resulted in the diminishing of the Qing Territory. The chief authorities in Europe had fortified their jurisdiction over substantial regions within Africa and Asia. This led to increased tension in Majestic China as the established global force of East Asia.
The Chinese citizens were acclimatized to the perception that they were more significant than other nations around the globe. China remained the most dominant regional republic until the 19th century, which fuelled their perception. The way China cooperated and associated with European nations depicted a centric approach. A restriction in regards to trading with European countries was imposed on the Port of Canon, as China deemed it as insignificant (Yi 43). Europeans obeyed the restrictions for the periods leading up to the 19th century. However, the Europeans considered trading relations with China as crucial. Despite the establishment of European colonies in other Asian nations such as Indonesia and India, they viewed China as a critical base for the expansion of imperialism. Numerous efforts by European countries to establish more trading pacts were unsuccessful. China restated that trading activities with the western nations would be conducted at the port of Canon, and the mode of payments would only be the use of silver. Additionally, China was not very much interested in European products.
The British became gradually irritated with blockades in accessing the Chinese markets as key European nations continued to vest their interests in China. Although China portrayed a great need for opium, the trade limitations inferred that the British, being the nation that supplied opium, could not gain the profit margins they desired. Also, they stumbled upon hitches in sustaining the high demand for opium. Consequently, the British had a distinct advantage in regards to weapons and shipbuilding technology over China. Throughout the Opium Warfare in the 1840s, this specific lead was visible as British steamships managed to stage tremendously effective assaults against China’s weapons made of wooden junks (Yi 25). The conquering British established the Nanjing treaty, resulting in the significant oppression of China. The agreement gave full control of Hong Kong to the British. Europeans had the unrestricted right of entry to ports, and the British had the liberty to transact unconstrained opium quantities in the republic of China.
The pact also indicated the swift tumble of China in global associations. The pact terms offered the basis for another warfare between the Chinese and the British. The British then instituted the Tientsin pact after winning the second opium warfare. The agreement was in countless aspects damaging as compared to the initial treaty. This lead to the unrestricted access of the British to every waterway that China possessed. Moreover, every document in possession by the government was to be written in English. China was coerced into signing over 12 self-depriving pacts with other foreign nations with the inclusion of the United States.
The Qing reign faced substantial political and social turbulence demonstrated in a sequence of revolts. More so, ensuing in the impact of foreign authorities, the administration lost much of its respect and command. The exterior power from European nations and Japan aided in accelerating Qing’s rein as they exhibited technological might over the Chinese. Therefore, Qing’s kingdom was left susceptible to manipulation through biased pacts enforced by the interfering European nations. The incapability by the Qing Dynasty to respond to foreign annoyance ignited turmoil amongst the Chinese citizens. They decided to convey their grievance through numerous revolts such as the Taiping and Boxer revolts. Therefore, the collapse of the Qing Dynasty was occasioned by the coinciding internal and exterior aspects deliberated.
Moll-Murata, Christine, and Ulrich Theobald. “Military employment in Qing dynasty China.” Fighting for a Living: A Comparative Study of Military Labour 1500–2000: 353-92.
Takahiro, Onuma. “The Qing Dynasty and Its Central Asian Neighbors.” (2014): 33-48.
Wang, Wensheng. “China’s Last Empire: The Great Qing.” The China Journal 71 (2014): 285.
Yi, Hye-Gyung. “Two Universal Civilizations the People of the Qing Dynasty Encountered.” 철학사상, null, no. 32, 2009, pp. 3-44. Institute For Philosophy, DOI:10.15750/chss..32.200905.001.