he Manchu overtook the ming dynasty and became known as the Qing dynasty, aka the last Chinese dynasty. Following the early forceful and productive Qing rulers, the Qianlong reign began in 1735 and lasted until about 1796. The Qianlong improved bureaucracy, focused on military expansion and had a fairly successful regin. However, like every political group they experienced hardships such as piracy, and radical uprisings.
The Qianlong’s problems increased dramatically resulting from the popularity of opium imports, a problem pasted to the Daoguang emperor, 1820-1850. The Daoguang attempted the combat the problems experienced in the previous rulers’ reigns by creating an Imperial Household Department, to prevent a too high of a concentration of power to government officials, and a Grand Council, a new decision-making body that enabled the emperor to better control the government. Despite the emperor’s efforts significant social and economic turmoil followed in China, mainly as a resulting of China’s increasing addiction to opium that had even worked its way up to government officials. The Chinese anti-opium efforts, such as banning usage and punishing distributors, caused a lot of tension with Great Britain leading them the first opium war.
After fighting a very uneven war, as the Qing had no effective force or method against the strong British navy, peace was once again restored with the Treaty of Nanjing. The treaty gave the British significant power and many immunities in China. Most notably, China was forced to open its ports to British trade and became a sort of colony of Great Britain. Chinese citizens were obviously opposed to the idea of British rule and a strong anti-foreign and anti-government mood was produced which lead to the the second opium war. The Qing, still not able to match the strength of the rest of the world, had no choice but to give into the rest of the world’s demands. France, Russia, and the U.
S. wanted privileges similar to those given to Great Britain and forced China into unbalanced treaties. These treaties had a detrimental effect on the Qing empire as they not only undermined their rule but offended the moral and cultural values of China. Partial Foreign rule meant a serious blow to the dynastic rule that had been over China since its original colonization. The Qing dynasty, and all of China for that matter, had a very hard time adjusting to foreign presence and increasing pressure to westernize.
They viewed Westerners as useless destructive barbarians and wanted absolutely nothing to do with them. For years China made no effort to advance and remained withdrawn from the rest of the world buried within the rubble of their traditions. The 19th century brought about a series of uprising, including the Taiping rebellion, the Nian rebellion, and Muslim rebellions, all resulting from social discontent. In response to the seemingly constant revolts the Qing were forced to rely on local armies which caused a gradual decentralization of the government. Power shifted from the emperors and manchu leader to the Chinese governors who were credited with controlling the rebellions. The various uprising in combination with numerous natural disasters brought substantial damage and devastation to China.
The self-strengthening movement followed this destructive time in Chinese history with an attempt to introduce western technology to China. After the practically failed movement Chinese physician, writer, and revolutionary, Sun Yat-sen lead a successful revolt, deemed the Chinese Revolution against the Qing Dynasty thus killing Imperial China. As western powers and Japan increasingly interfered in China, along with numerous civilian rebellions the divine mandate that seemed permit dynastic rule seemed to have been forfeited as China aimed to become a republic. However, with its rocky society and economic state, China was in no way prepared actualize this wish. Instead Sun Yat-sen gave up his provisional role as acting president to Yuan Shikai, who promised to work to establish a republican government and unify China. Yuan appealed to the conservatives in China, and even more so to the army.
Yaun held his promise and China became a republic however, The government had run out of money, states were still largely under the control of local warlords, and the republic’s national assembly was unproductive and could not agree. The revolutionaries victory was cut short as Yaun made grabs for more power and became more of a dictator than a president. All his previous supporters turned against him as the four years of his rule came to an end leaving an ugly messy and unstable China. Citizens were heavily opposed to the republican-ese government and China was falling back down the path to destruction. The imperial country turned republic was well on its way to warlordism.
A new revolution made way in China with the establishment of the Nationalist and Chinese Communist parties. As the two parties fought for power after the death of Sun Yat-sen the country entered into numerous political based civil wars. The Nationalist maintained their hold on the Communist party and ruled for nearly 2 decades until a communist victory in 1949, giving the communist party the spotlight. The communist party was a party for the peasants, oriented around Marxist ideology and aiming for industrial modernization. Once granted power, communist leaders realized that in order to unite China they would have to gradually switch into communism so they placed their communist goals on the back burner and focused on implementing strong public and governmental order. Many communists party members saw these compromises as a betrayal of their revolution.
Their frustrations intensified and ironically, the compromises intended to ensure a united successful China lead to a divide in their own party. After a rocky transition the communist party began to carry out their goal of rapid industrialization along which a stronger united China emerged. The strong centralized government style of the communists was gladly welcomed as the economy boomed and society flourished which lead to a fairly accepted transition towards socialism and increased security. As rapid advancement slowed down the Chinese became dissatisfied, hence the start of the Chinese cultural revolution (1966-1976)