When I was born a girl, my mother said, "one day, she will grow up to be a doctor!" Father said, "one day she will grow up to be someone great." Today, father has long left for the mysterious afterlife, merging into the moist Earth. Mother cries that I had never become her doctor.
During the period from 1839-1860, Ch’ing China faced the downfall of a dynastic cycle plagued by a dual threat, externally from the West and internally from the rebellions within the country. Thus in discussing the challenge from the West, we should be aware that at the same time rebellions seriously damaged the foundation of Ch’ing rule. The Taiping Rebellion nearly overthrew the imperial sovereignty by raging over sixteen provinces (out of eighteen in total) and more than 600 cities from 1850 to 1864; the Nien Rebellion devastated eight provinces from 1851 to 1868; the Moslem Rebellion spread in the Yunnan province from 1855-1873; the Tungan Rebellion in the northwest spread over Kansu, Shensi, Ningsia and Sinkiang provinces from 1862-1873;1 and another Moslem insurgence occurred in Sinkiang between 1864-1877. All these brought major disasters and not a little humiliation to China, including its ruler and people.
The response to the West
However, the Opium War from 1839 to 1842 occurred earlier than these domestic rebellions, which happened after 1850. Thus first we should review how Ch’ing China responded to the threat from the West. Basically we can perhaps divide this into two stages to consider, the first being the Opium War (the First Anglo-Chinese War of 1839-1842)2 and the second the Arrow War (the Second Opium War or the War of Anglo-French Allies against China in 1856-1860). It was clear that China chose the policy of 'combat'3 to resist Western expansion in the formative phase.
The Ch’ing court, political leaders in the government, and also scholars, could not imagine that China had any ability to confront the West. Some things were obvious to China, as Immanuel C.Y. Hsu says:
... the incompatibility of the Chinese claim to universal overlordship with the Western idea of national sovereignty; the conflict between the Chinese system of tributary relationship and the Western system of diplomatic intercourse; and the confrontation between self-sufficient, agrarian China and expansive, industrial Britain ....The power generated from the industrial Revolution and the idea of progress through change propelled the West into overseas expansion.4
Thus to China there was no way to stop the new trend. However, in order to retain the tributary system, the anti-opium policy and to exclude Western expansion, the Ch’ing court assigned the commissioner Lin Tse-Hsu (1785-1850) to Canton to take charge of the whole situation and deal with Britain. Unfortunately the Opium War finally broke out and China was inevitably defeated.
As a result of the First Opium War, the Treaty of Nanking in 1842 and the Supplementary Treaty of Hu-men-chai ('The Bogue') were concluded between China and Britain. Apart from the indemnity of $21 million for military expenses and the cost of opium, opening five ports (Canton, Amoy, Foochow, Ningpo and Shanghai), and the cession of Hong Kong, China conceded certain powers of sovereignty, mainly
2 The First Opium War (1839-1842) was a conflict between Britain and China. Britain fought over commercial rights, especially for opium selling in China, and China fought to terminate opium use. In the end the British were victorious.
including the fixed tariff, extraterritoriality, and the most-favored-nation to Britain. In the years following the bitter experience of the Opium War, Ch’ing China was anxious to avoid new conflicts in order to retain its Manchu imperial sovereignty, so it satisfied the demands from other Western countries that followed the British. China passively signed the Treaty of Wanghsia with America in 1844 and the Treaty of Whampoa with the French in 1844, through diplomatic...
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