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The Boxer Rebellion

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China during the late nineteenth century was in turmoil from external and internal forces. The underlining internal pressures were exacerbated by the thrust of western imperialism and exploitation. Imperialism and the west were the catalyst for the Boxer Uprising. The ingredients of descent and conflict were always present in the late nineteenth century. China had its difficulties without the west's intrusion. The Boxer Uprising was a reaction against the West, not a rebellion against the Qing Dynasty. The Boxer uprising differs from Taping rebellion in that regard.
In this essay, I will illustrate the slow incremental effects of the Imperialist powers on China. This process gives insight into the origins of the Boxer Uprising. I will also argue, that the way the Chinese government choose to deal with the West compounded its problems. There were major decisions which led to the Boxer Uprising and the demise of an empire. The first decision between gunboat and appeasement in dealing with the west. The second decision was between Chinese culture and western studies. The third major decision between managing western powers and ignoring them. The Chinese leadership made key decisions which led to the ultimate demise of Imperial China. So I will look at the impact of outside influence on China and how China reacted to the pressure. Finally, I will look at the impact of the Boxer Uprising.
China's first major change in policy with regard to the west was set with the Portuguese. The Portuguese first attempted to trade with China, there was an awful precedent that the rest of the West would follow. The Portuguese used force to get what they wanted with regard to trade, port access, and settlement. The Portuguese were considered like bandits, but the Chinese allowed for them to trade and eventually settle. The Chinese viewed themselves as superior and these foreigners as less than civilized. This was integral part of Chinese thinking and was a major factor in the reasoning in the way China dealt with the West. According to Wakeman, the Chinese viewed themselves as superior to all other societies, he states, 'The Chinese did not stereotype all barbarians in a single undifferentiated category. They were acutely of the differences between Mongols khans....and Dutch merchants. But all barbarians were placed beneath the Chinese in an ideal world order of which their empire was the Central Kingdom' (pg. 111). This Chinese 'world order' has an extreme consequence later when western powers flooded into China. This view of superiority sets the tone for the relationship between China and the West.
As England moved in to the Trade picture, represented by the East India Company, it would eventually bring opium. Opium was illegal in China and England regardless, imported it to balance trade. Opium became toxic to the economy of China, to its addicts, and to the framework of Chinese agrarian society (Wakeman pg. 127-128). This drug bled the silver out of China and destroyed the value of copper and the ability of peasants to pay their rent. The illegal importation of opium and the war over it, illustrated the extent the west was going to act over profit, China's perception of the west as barbarians, I feel clouded their perception and affected their decision over what to do about some critical decisions. Granted, opium was a serious problem, but even the most simplest of life forms, barbarians, can cause major problems. After China losing the Opium Wars, they marked the entrance of western imperialism into China with Treaty of Nanking. If China perceived the West as a real threat and not as a barbarian, why concede? The Treaty of Nanking was one of many known as 'unequal treaties' (Wakeman, pg. 137). The treaty was based on a policy of appeasement that gave the west a strangle hold in China. China was now dealing with the west on its terms and those terms would be granted to all other countries, this was known as the most-favored nation principle. China's defense was to deal with the West, 'Divide and rule' was breached (Wakeman 140). The Treaty of Nanking set an era of concessions, appeasement, and marked a beginning for resentment against the west. The Treaty of Tiensen ratified the force of the west and the Chinese appeasement policy. This treaty forced the Chinese to legalize opium.
As the west intruded into China, according to Esherick, the main disturbances to Chinese day to day life and that affected the Boxer activity came from the cotton trade and Christian missionaries. The affects of western mass production affected the Chinese competitiveness with hand woven cotton. Although, according Esherick, 'The Western and Japanese imperialism had no economic impact on this (Boxer) area. Rather it seems that these regions lost crucial markets to foreign imports of yarn and cotton, yet ....too lacking in alternative resources to enjoy and stimulate effects. The Chinese could not replace their cotton industry, kind of like California with its aerospace industry, thus they lost their competitive edge in a global market. This added one type of underlining antagonism against the west and ...

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