“It was China’s humiliation at the hands of the West that destroyed the Qing Regime.” How far do you agree?
The roots of the humiliation inflicted by the Western countries on China are various. The 19th century has been a period of commotion in the Chinese history, which in the end gave the possibility for its people to impose a radical change in their governing system. Before that, and before the western nations became interested in trading with China, it remained isolated from the rest of the world’s economic development. Its self-sufficiency depended on the handy production of the peasants, who represented over 90% of the total population of the country. They remained uneducated and lived in great poverty. This non-industrialised empire, ruled by the Qing Dynasty, possessed lots of natural resources, such as tea and spices, which the British Crown envied the most. In addition to this, its artisanal manufacture of porcelain and silk had made its way to the last European tendencies due to the reports of many explorers of the 17th and 18th century. This statement explains why Great Britain started importing Chinese products since the late 1750’s, which in the end turned into a real fight between the two nations.
The disastrous relationship between the foreign nations and China has led to many impacts on the nation’s pride and dignity. Some of the reasons rely on the policies imposed on the Chinese Regime by what were supposed to be “negotiated” treaties.
Beneficial to the British Crown in particular, but also its European allies, these treaties had no other purpose but to weaken the Qing’s power over China. After the two Opium Wars, respectively from 1839 to 1842, and 1856 till 1860, new laws were imposed on the Chinese nation. It became largely under control of the British, who enabled more of their citizens to settle down in China without being under the Qing’s rule. A foreign delegation was founded in Beijing so as to simplify Britain’s administration of its trade with China. The regulation of opium, also put in place by the Treaty of Tientsin in 1860, was totally in contradiction with the previous Chinese laws, which severely punished any opium consumer with death penalty. In addition to this, the country had also lost Hong Kong, one of its most important ports, which became a British colony. Another defeat of China was the Sino-Japanese War between 1894 and 1895. As compensation, again Japan required that a small part of the Chinese territory became under the Japanese influence, and the territory of Korea became independent.
In overall, through the achievement of land and the increase of limiting the Qing’s power, the western nations and Japan managed to gradually impose their policies in China. The Chinese Emperor had no more control on the foreigners’ rights and liberties in his own Empire, which generated a huge loss in his popularity among the people.
The intent of the Western countries to impose such harsh laws on China was primarily to command its market. Therefore, they could control all its imports and exports in accordance to their own needs and making as much profit as possible. As mentioned before, opium was legalised in 1860 in order to enable Britain to keep up its profitable trade with China, without much concern of the disadvantageous impact it had on the local production. On one hand, the country showed to be very little developed in industrialisation, and on the other the number of opium addicts increased dangerously throughout the years. In 1836, there was already over two million habitual drug users, when not even 5% of the Chinese population used to consume opium before the British came. Another fact that strongly weakened the Empire’s economy was the indemnities it owed to Britain after the Opium Wars and then the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. Because of these huge debts, China could but only rely on the foreigners exchanges to maintain a certain amount of income,...
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