The Boxer Uprising and Rebellion in 1901 further weakened an already destabilised Qing Government and was a key component in governmental change. After the first Opium war with Great Britain from 1839- 1842, China was coming under an increase in pressure from various foreign powers. Following the war, foreigners were given the rights to control trade, collect customs money and run the courts in dozens of Chinese cities, called ‘Treaty Ports’. China had suffered the violation of the powers, although once it was suddenly made clear that the country was defenceless against modern military organisation and weapons, this encroachment was flung into a scramble for concessions. This scramble intensified the already present Chinese hatred of the foreigner. Hong Kong was given to the British in 1842, Indochina was taken by the French in 1884, and Taiwan was taken by Japan in 1894 following their war success over China. Germany and Russia also started to gain influence throughout China (Salem Press, 1992). The Qing government, also known as the Ch’ing government, was heavily manipulated by the West. This led to the distrust and lack of support by the Chinese public – severely weakening the government. The Boxer Uprising and Rebellion during 1901 was a pivotal point in the eventual destruction and downfall of the Qing by Sun Yat-Sen and the formal abdication of the last emperor Puyi in 1912 (Szczepanski, 2013).
CONTEXT OF THE REBELLION
Throughout the 1890’s many secret societies and militia were formed and worked to solely oppose foreigners inside China. The most active society was the I-ho Ch’uan or The Righteous and Harmonious Fists. This group in its ceremonies practiced the ancient Chinese art of shadow boxing, thus the West nicknamed the group the ‘Boxers’. The Boxers had always been opposed to foreign control inside China, although more and more, however, the group began to oppose missionaries, especially after Germany started to dominate Shantung in 1898 (Salem Press, 1992). Kuang-hsu, the Chinese Emperor was in a difficult position. The Boxers wanted to rid China of foreign influence, while the foreign powers implored the government to stand firm against the Boxers. For a period of time in the summer of 1898, it seemed as if tensions and problems would quell. Emperor Kuang-hsu had decided to reform the Chinese government and had introduced ‘One Hundred Days of Reform’. Although this came to a sudden end when the emperor’s aunt, Empress Dowager Cixi and her chief advisor Jung-lu staged a coup, Kuang-hsu was arrested and Cixi became the ruler of China. The Empress Dowager was committed to getting rid of foreign control. With the support of many officials in North China, the Boxers began to sabotage foreign railroads and settlements. In 1899 attacks on people began. This included the murders of foreign missionaries, numerous massacres of Chinese Christians, the murder of the chancellor to the Japanese legation, the German minister Clemens von Ketteler as well as the destruction of railways, churches and other ‘foreign’ structures (Miffin, 2001).
The Empress Dowager believed the Boxers when they claimed that the foreigner’s bullets could not harm them. The Boxers motto became “Fu-Chieng, mieh –yang”: Support the Ch’ing (Qing), exterminate the foreigners (Salem Press, 1992). On June 21 1900, the Ch’ing government declared war on all the treaty powers in China. She called up the Chinese army and Boxers to defend the country from a foreign invasion that was sure to come. By Late July, a powerful international force of twenty thousand men including Germans, Japanese, Americans, British, Russians, French, Austrians and Italians were deployed in retaliation to the attacks, under the command of Alfred von Waldersee. Within two weeks of fighting, the force made their way to Peking (Beijing) and defeated the Chinese army and Boxer units...