The Qing dynasty, also known as the Manchu, ruled the Imperial China between 1611 and 1911. Not only did the dynasty perfect imperialism in China, but also went on to extend the borders of China during the 267 years (Historical Legacies). After witnessing numerous successes in the 18th century, the Qing dynasty began to experience both internal and external problems that led to its disintegration in the 19th century.
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Western pressure, economic debacles, overpopulation, revolts, a complicated governance system, the rise of Sun Yat-Sen, and peasant upheavals are some of the changes that made it difficult for the Qing dynasty to respond to confrontations of the 19th century and effectively reform China.
The court’s decision to cut-off China from the rest of the world led to a decline in radicalism in technological developments and enhancements, thus preventing it from becoming a world superpower. The cut-off made it easier for Europeans to conquer China and other less fortunate nations, making China fall under European colonization.
The extraordinary invasion of their nation infuriated the Chinese, who demanded immediate evacuation of their land. The Europeans took advantage of the situation to demand compensation for their efforts, and they ended-up reaping Chinese land and tones of silver. When they went to war in the 1800s, Europeans effortlessly overcame the resistance by the Qing navy and army. Foreign advancements and attacks continued from countries like France, Britain, Germany, and Japan.
The isolation policy by the colonial court proved to be a great undoing for the Qing dynasty. Attempts by some organizations like Boxers to apply guerilla tactics in repelling the Europeans were futile given the superior nature of weapons that the Europeans possessed. Of great surprise was the Boxers’ rebellion to the ruling Qing dynasty.
The opposition by the Chinese peasants weakened the dynasty, such that it was unable to address the challenges of the 19th century and reform China as well. Historical Legacies held that “…massive peasant uprisings…” distorted the plans of the Qing dynasty to effectively reform China. These numerous internal and external wars provided a weak platform for the Qing dynasty to counter the 19th century’s challenges and reform China.
Clearly, the focus to guard their borders against invasion by foreigners coupled with the inferior weapons made it difficult for the Qing dynasty to address numerous challenges that it faced in the 19th century. Moreover, the exclusion of China from the rest of the world brought backwardness in improvements, which resulted in inability to face the challenges, such as control by foreign nations.
The perception by the imperial court that European technologies were ‘evil’ also made the Qing dynasty to lag behind in technological advancements. According to the radicals, the challenges of the 19th century, such as invasion by the Europeans required modern technologies. China failed to industrialize at a time other nations were engaging in mass production of products using machines during the Industrial Revolution.
Corruption and mismanagement of funds by officials within the imperial court system brought difficulties in the way the Qing dynasty responded to challenges of the 19th century. The imperial treasury became bankrupt, and was unable to counter any challenge due to inadequate financial power.
The radicals believed that the root cause of the weakness of the Qing dynasty emanated from the inefficient systems of the imperial government. In addition, the doubling of the financial expenditures of the Qing dynasty resulted in weak financial conditions, as income remained constant.
From the economic perspective, practices by the Ching ruler and the doubled expenditures resulted in a weak economic foundation. An example of a failure that emanated from this situation is the inability to expand the system of law courts to the district level. Apart from corruption and embezzlement of funds, dissatisfaction by the Han people on the ruling system of the Manchu brought disunity within the greater Qing dynasty.
Historical Legacies attests that “Unity was inherently fragile, hence the perpetual fear of break-up in Chinese history.” Disunity was a great impediment to resolving challenges that the empire faced in the 19th century. Apparently, there was an amendment of the extravagant law of the Qing dynasty and establishments of the most comprehensive cultural ruling.
These cultural rulings were Confucianism, which was a set of ethical beliefs acquired from the teachings one of the Chinese scholars called Confucius. Actually, the most important belief was in learning and practicing the ways of Dao who they believed to be their God. The Han Empire had several dictators who made people to experience extreme hardship in their lives during the periods that these tyrants ruled the Empire.
Evidently, Liu Bang known as Lee Guang founded the Han dynasty, and went on to exasperate his subjects in various ways. Since he was the military leader and even defeated his rivals, he employed force on the subjects. When the Opium war began, the ordinary Han Chinese had little interest in defending the dynasty; this disloyalty exposed the loss of the Mandate of Heaven by the ruling dynasty.
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The decentralization of the political system, at the same time, devolved corrupt and selfish individuals who worked for their own benefits against the interests of the dynasty. Evidently, decentralization produced disloyal Chinese subjects at the grass-root levels. With autonomous administrations, the provinces went on to declare independence from the imperial Machu court simultaneously. The disloyalty infiltrated the military through numerous reforms.
This made it difficult for the Qing dynasty to get full protection assurance from the military. Regional military forces did not support the Manzhus, as they were sensibly autonomous of the Pecking’s control. From this aspect, Qing’s dynasty attempts to reform China met rebellion from the disloyal subjects. Qing dynasty also lacked competent leaders or officials to carry out the reforms needed to counter the 19th century’s challenges.
Insincerity of leaders in promoting reforms made the dynasty to lag behind in the reform process that was taking place in key nations across Europe and Asia. Empress Dowager messed with the ruling of the empire when she channeled military funds to building of a grand Summer Palace. With no funds to develop the Chinese military, the dynasty was unable to marshal enough and competent troops to face foreign armies who were invading the territory.
Her leadership style influenced key government administrators to a mass wealth at the expense of the cries of starving commoners who could be significant in the fight against external control from the Europeans. Dishonesty among the government officials and the Empress shifted the attention of the Qing dynasty to personal gains, with little or no attention to the commoners. The Qing leadership maintained high levels of unethical practices, such that focusing on challenges that faced the country became a tertiary affair.
Maintaining the huge Chinese population also proved to be a great problem for the Qing dynasty. With little resources to sustain the population, the Qing dynasty could not pay attention in reforming the country. This internal problem shifted the focus of the Qing dynasty from addressing challenges like pressure from foreigners and issues of foreign immigrants. China remained weak for the last 100 years, and with the huge population, the dynasty could not offer quality health care and education.
High illiteracy levels contributed to the inability of the Qing dynasty to address challenges of the 19th century that required expansive knowledge. In line with this, the negative perception of the western culture made the dynasty to go slow on adopting modern education systems (Historical Legacies 321). The education system concentrated on training for the Imperial Examinations, and not to learning aspects that enhanced rational thinking and autonomy, as propelled by the western education.
Reforms of the 19th century had immense connections with modern education, which the Qing rulers opposed its implementation. Empress Cixi is one ruler who did not understand why one should go through the education system. During such periods, concubines were easily endorsed to succeed their predecessors. Qing dynasty’s inability to embrace modern education worked against its reform programs in China.
From internal problems to external dynamics, the Qing dynasty was not able to address the issues that it faced in the 19th century resulting in its fall. Corruption, disloyalty, radicalism, insincerity, lack of modern education system, and overpopulation are the factors that made it difficult for the dynasty to focus on solving the problems of the 19th century and reform China. Even though the Qing dynasty succeeded in other areas, it failed to handle key issues that could have reformed China.
“Historical Legacies.” Some Historical Pointers. 321 – 2014 – Module 2