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According to Chinese accounts and traditions, the last imperial dynasty of China was the Qing Dynasty. China reveals a number of dynasties and empires in which have enriched its history with ancient traditions and cultures. The Qing dynasty experienced tremendous change from having a great deal of power to a devastating decline. The prevailing need for reform during this rule was caused by things like social difference and inequality, the distribution of land, and political corruption and disorder which in turn caused the great Qing Dynasty to lose its strong influence that the dynasty first had. The Qing dynasty’s social order and power was damaged by events inspired by the need for reform like the Opium War, Boxer Rebellion and the Taiping Rebellion. We must first begin in understanding the rise of this dynasty, which will allow us to see what went wrong in the last imperial dynasty of China.
The Manchu took advantage of the weakness of the Ming dynasty. They entered China and took control in the year of 1644 (Rowe 1). The Manchu expanded into what was known as the China proper and the surrounding lands which in turn created the Empire of the Qing dynasty. As the Qing dynasty started to become established, they ruled more territory then the previous dynasty did. Although the Manchu understood and maintained much of the political system, social system and the examination system of the previous dynasty, during the Qing dynasty they seemed to take a more one track role in appointing officials and reduced tax exemptions. The respect for and believing in ranking systems was stressed and valued. Inequality showed when women continued to be lower than and controlled by men. Population growth was on the rise. The lack of available land accounted for reform efforts to become apparent. Landlords began to expand their properties and broadened the gap between rural structured classes further pronouncing the inequalities that ranged among Chinese people during this dynasty (11-13). The beginning of the Qing dynasty accounts for the fall/ending of it.
The Qing dynasty began to experience decline during the end of the 18th century. People were involved in the government for the wrong reasons now. Manchu began to see political gains as allowing them to gain power and a way to establish their family’s prosperities, not as a method for assuring equality and rights of the Chinese people. In consequence, the dynasty experienced significant loss of revenues causing a weakened military front. Land structure disruptions like deforestation caused land to be less fertile (95). Failures of dyke structures caused floods of waters like the Yellow River (243) which left people, mostly peasants, without many means that they once had and this further made the prevalence of inequalities more pronounced than ever. With that said, more people were coming into the country. More problems were developing than ever.
During this time, China began to meet population growth at a rapid rate. (44) This caused crime rate to raise, lots of social disorders, and government subsidizations. “New World” produces were one of the reasons why the Qing dynasty experienced such a rapid population increase (91). The commonwealth population and financial systems could not support the growth properly. A major conflict rose over the significance of the importation of opium into China from India and made China extremely vulnerable to conflict. Opium reversed the trade balance that was once in the strong hands of China during the Ming dynasty and now favored the British which caused the Chinese to see opium trade as a threat. Silver was no longer a prominent demand by Europeans but, the problem of addiction to opium was becoming widespread among Chinese. The Qing dynasty empire’s government fell short of ways to handle the trade and wanted it to be stopped as the British wanted it to expand (170). The “anti-opium hard-liner”, Lin Zexu, was determined to end the trade happening in Canton and nearby ports in 1939 (170). He blocked trading ports and destroyed opium and the British traders call for and established military forces. War began in 1839 and lasted till 1842. (90) The Chinese were defeated. Hong Kong was forced in least as “New Territories” to the British. This allowed Europeans to trade freely. By the 1890s, many trading ports were open to trade opium. Europeans had control over the trading ports and the proximate lands. (235) Opium continually poured into China. The Qing dynasty and China as a whole was losing its power and identity.
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The struggle for power and loss of identity caused by the European invasions produced a massive rebellion in China during the Qing dynasty. Hong Xiuquan began and was the originator of the Taiping Rebellion (186). The rebels presented platforms that were of much interest like reallocation land, social reform, and freedom to women. The provincial army offered defense from the upper gentry of providence and supported and provided aid to the Qing in the defeat of the rebellion (196). Self-motivated provincial influential leaders led a “self-strengthening” movement intended to oppose the encounters of the West and gain strength back. They encouraged overseas investment in things such as railroads, industrial techniques and military innovations (214-219). Although some now do not see this as a negative impact, the stress on the lack of industrialization that China had at this time can be tied into the weakening of the Qing dynasty. Loyalty to the Qing dynasty did not prove to be enough to generate a strong hold of the provinces of China for the Manchu. They continuously resisted reform causing the weakening of the dynasty. “In late 1860 the Qing Dynasty was nearing extinction” while the last years of the Qing were ruled by Cixi, Empress Dowager (201). She was responsible for the ending of a thoughtful reform struggle; the Boxer Rebellion. This rebellion was caused by foreign “spheres of influence” in China and the manipulation the people felt. The Boxer Rebellion further weakened China and cause many monetary and societal repercussions which further put strains on the Qing dynasty. (243-246) Reforms were wanted but not listened too just defeated. The government was not working with the people of China during the fall of this dynasty.
After the defeat of the Taiping rebels, the dynasty began to center itself in undisclosed social orders causing the need for reform to become more prevalent and worth fighting for, for the rebels who wanted to prove something or change something. The rebellions they motivated were unsuccessful but, the influence they had was not anything short of powerful. The strong European involvement throughout China was a strong motivator for these rebellions. Periodic rebellion outbursts continued but failed. The banding interests in “reserving the peace” lead to social revolutions and reconstruction measures. (282) Sun Yat-sen with his Revolutionary Alliance was given the title of “provisional president” in 1912 the new Republic of China began and the fall of the Qing dynasty coincided (283). We must not forget that the prevailing need for reform, if ignored could ultimately take the power away from once powerful time, as we seen happen in the Qing dynasty.
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