Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesday 10: Qing China

10 Events (of dozens) in Qing China that led to the 1911 Revolution:

1. First Opium War 1839: For decades the Chinese desperately tried to stop the illegal opium smuggling conducted by foreign (mainly British) ships at Canton. Millions were addicted and corruption was rife among customs officials. Smuggling also drained the cash silver from the country, making it too poor to survive and open to invasion.

2. Treaty of Nanjing: Unequal Treat 1842: An Unequal Treaty (and China considers many they were forced to sign as such) is just what it implies – the stronger West forced horrible concessions on the weaker Qing Dynasty, as well as late Tokugawa Japan, and late Joseon Korea. The Nanjing (or Nanking) Treaty was signed aboard the British warship HMS Cornwallis by British representative Sir Henry Pottinger and Qing representatives, Qiying, Ilibu and Niujian. It consisted of thirteen articles and was ratified by Queen Victoria and the Daoguang Emperor ten months later.

3. Treaty of Wanghia 1844: A diplomatic agreement between the Dynasty and the US. Dispatched by President John Tyler under pressure from American merchants concerned about the British dominance in Chinese trade, Caleb Cussing was sent to force the Chinese into concessions much like the Treaty of Nanking. A physician and missionary, Peter Parker (I swear and had to include it because of the name), served as Cushing's Chinese interpreter. However, this one was slightly (very slightly) more favorable to the Chinese. Terms included declaring the Opium Trade illegal and handing over all offenders.

4. Taiping Rebellion 1851-1864: Led by by Christian convert Hong Xiuquanan this rebellion was against the Dynasty and included both the army and civil administration. He established the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace with capital Nanjing (Nanking) and gained control of significant parts of southern China, at one time ruling about 30 million people.

5. Third Pandemic of Bubonic plague 1855-1959: The Plague had been prevalent for centuries, since it was found in rodents in central Asia. However, due to political conflicts and global trade an influx of new people in new areas, led to the distribution of this disease throughout the world.

6. Second Opium War 1856-1860: Britain demanded a renegotiation of their Treaty of Nanjing (1850) citing their Most Favored Nation status, and wanting better terms than the Americans (Wangxia Treaty) and French (Treaty of Huangpu). Their new demands included:
a. Opening all of China to British merchants
b. Legalizing the opium trade
c. Exempting foreign imports from internal transit duties
d. Suppression of piracy
e. Regulation of the coolie trade
f. Permission for a British ambassador to reside in Beijing
g. The English-language version of all treaties to take precedence over the Chinese.

7. Burning the Old Summer Palace by British & French 1860: The destruction of the Gardens of Perfect Brightness is still regarded as a symbol of foreign aggression and humiliation in China. During the 2nd Opium War, French units diverted from the main attack force towards to the Old Summer Palace. Although the French commander, Montauban, assured the British commander, Grant, that "nothing had been touched", extensive looting, also undertaken by British and Chinese, took place. The Old Summer Palace was only now occupied by a few eunuchs, the Emperor Xianfeng having run away. There was no significant resistance to the looting from the Chinese, even though many Chinese Imperial soldiers were in the surrounding country.

8. Chefoo Convention 1876: An excuse for Great Britain to press for more concessions from China. The official reason for the treaty was to resolve the "Margary Affair", but the final treaty included a number of items that had no direct relation to the killing of Margary the year earlier. It was really Margary's own fault for traveling through semi-lawless provinces in a time when foreigners were all hated and reviled.

9. Sino-French War 1884-1885: It was fought to decide whether France should replace China in control of Tonkin (northern Vietnam). On one had, the French achieved their war goals, so are are usually considered the victors. But the French triumph was marred by a number of defeats, and the Chinese armies performed quite well and far superior to their other 19th century conflicts. This war saw the emergence of a strong Chinese nationalist movement, and some Chinese scholars hail it as ‘the Qing dynasty’s sole victory in arms against a foreign opponent'.

10. Hundred Days' Reform 1898: Between June 11 and September 21 Emperor Guangxu and his reform-minded supporters led by Kang Youwei undertook a failed 104-day national cultural, political and educational reform. The movement proved to be short-lived, ending in a coup d'├ętat "The Coup of 1898" by powerful conservative opponents led by Empress Dowager Cixi. The movement aimed at making sweeping social and institutional changes in response to weaknesses exposed by China's defeat by Japan in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-95). The defeat was a major shock to the Chinese as Japan had been a tributary state, was much smaller than China, and was regarded as inferior. Moreover, the defeat of China by Japan led to a scramble of 'privileges' in China by other foreign powers, notably the German Empire and Russia, further awakening the stubborn conservatives.

And we wonder why China still harbors such ill-will towards the West. Can’t blame them when they were treated so horribly in the past.


Marlene said...

My word, no wonder there is unrest in China. Their history is so violent and seems so unhappy. Good post. Makes me appreciate our history even though we've had our problems, but nothing like this.

Nicole McCaffrey said...

Wow, what a thought-provoking list, Christine! I never knew about most of these things.

Excellent Tuesday Ten!