Example research essay topic: Chinas Way To Communism Since European Imperialism – 1,854 words

The Western Powers Arrive As also in other places
in Asia, in China the Portuguese were the
pioneers, establishing a base” at Macao, from
which they monopolised foreign trade at the
Chinese port of Guangzhou. Soon the Spanish also
arrived, followed by the British and the French.
Trade between China and the West was carried on in
the guise of tribute: foreigners were obliged to
follow the old rules imposed on envoys from
China’s tributary states. There was no conception
at the imperial court that the Europeans would
expect or deserve to be treated as cultural or
political equals. The only exception was Russia,
the most powerful inland neighbour. The Manchus
(the ruling Qing Dynasty at that time) were
sensitive to the need for security along the
northern land frontier and therefore were prepared
to be realistic in dealing with Russia. The Treaty
of Nerchinsk (1689) with the Russians, drafted to
bring to an end a series of border incidents and
to establish a border between Siberia and
Manchuria (Northeast China) along the Heilong
Jiang (Amur River), was China’s first bilateral
agreement with a European power.

In 1727 the
Treaty of Kiakhta delimited the remainder of the
eastern portion of the Sino-Russian border.
Western diplomatic efforts to expand trade on
equal terms were rebuffed, the official Chinese
assumption being that the empire was not in need
of foreign–and thus inferior–products. Despite
this attitude, trade flourished, even though after
1760 all foreign trade was confined to Guangzhou,
where the foreign traders had to limit their
dealings to a dozen officially licensed Chinese
merchant firms. Trade was not the sole basis of
contact with the West. Since the thirteenth
century, Roman Catholic missionaries had been
attempting to establish their church in China.
Although by 1800 only a few hundred thousand
Chinese had been converted, the
missionaries–mostly Jesuits–contributed greatly
to Chinese knowledge in such fields as cannon
casting, calendar making, geography, mathematics,
cartography, music, art, and architecture. The
Jesuits were especially adept at fitting
Christianity into a Chinese framework and were
condemned by a papal decision in 1704 for having
tolerated the continuance of Confucian ancestor
rites among Christian converts. The papal decision
quickly weakened the Christian movement, which it
proscribed as heterodox and disloyal.

The Opium
War, 1839-42 During the eighteenth century, the
market in Europe and America for tea, a new drink
in the West, expanded greatly. Therefore, there
was a continuing demand for Chinese silk and
porcelain. But China, still in its pre-industrial
stage, wanted little that the West had to offer,
causing the Westerners, mostly British, to have an
bad balance of trade(for the British). To change
the situation, the foreigners developed a
third-party trade, exchanging their merchandise in
India and Southeast Asia for raw materials and
semi-processed goods, which found a ready market
in Guangzhou. By the early nineteenth century, raw
cotton and opium from India had become the staple
British imports into China, in spite of the fact
that opium was prohibited entry by imperial
decree. The opium traffic was made possible
through the connivance of profit-seeking merchants
and a corrupt bureaucracy.

In 1839 the Qing
government, after a decade of unsuccessful
anti-opium campaigns, adopted drastic prohibitory
laws against the opium trade. The emperor
dispatched a commissioner, Lin Zexu ( 1785-1850),
to Guangzhou to suppress illicit opium traffic.
Lin seized illegal stocks of opium owned by
Chinese dealers and then detained the entire
foreign community and confiscated and destroyed
some 20,000 chests of illicit British opium. The
British retaliated with a punitive expedition,
thus initiating the first Anglo-Chinese war,
better known as the Opium War (1839-42).
Unprepared for war and grossly underestimating the
capabilities of the enemy, the Chinese were
disastrously defeated, and their image of their
own imperial power was tarnished beyond repair.
The Treaty of Nanjing (1842), signed on board a
British warship by two Manchu imperial
commissioners and the British plenipotentiary, was
the first of a series of agreements with the
Western trading nations later called by the
Chinese the “unequal treaties.” Under the Treaty
of Nanjing, China ceded the island of Hong Kong (
or Xianggang in pinyin) to the British; abolished
the licensed monopoly system of trade; opened 5
ports to British residence and foreign trade;
limited the tariff on trade to 5 percent ad
valorem; granted British nationals
extraterritoriality (exemption from Chinese laws);
and paid a large indemnity. In addition, Britain
was to have most-favoured-nation treatment, that
is, it would receive whatever trading concessions
the Chinese granted other powers then or later.
The Treaty of Nanjing set the scope and character
of an unequal relationship for the ensuing century
of what the Chinese would call “national
humiliations.” The treaty was followed by other
incursions, wars, and treaties that granted new
concessions and added new privileges for the
foreigners. The Taiping Rebellion, 1851-64 During
the mid-nineteenth century, China’s problems were
compounded by natural calamities of unprecedented
proportions, including droughts, famines, and
floods. Government neglect of public works was in
part responsible for this and other disasters, and
the Qing administration did little to relieve the
widespread misery caused by them.

Economic
tensions, military defeats at Western hands, and
anti-Manchu sentiments all combined to produce
widespread unrest, especially in the south. South
China had been the last area to yield to the Qing
conquerors and the first to be exposed to Western
influence. It provided a likely setting for the
largest uprising in modern Chinese history–the
Taiping Rebellion. The Taiping rebels were led by
Hong Xiuquan ( 1814-64), a village teacher and
unsuccessful imperial examination candidate. Hong
formulated an eclectic ideology combining the
ideals of pre-Confucian utopianism with Protestant
beliefs. He soon had a following in the thousands
who were heavily anti-Manchu and
anti-establishment.

Hong’s followers formed a
military organisation to protect against bandits
and recruited troops not only among believers but
also from among other armed peasant groups and
secret societies. In 1851 Hong Xiuquan and others
launched an uprising in Guizhou () Province. Hong
proclaimed the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace (
or Taiping Tianguo) with himself as king. The new
order was to reconstitute a legendary ancient
state in which the peasantry owned and tilled the
land in common; slavery, concubinage, arranged
marriage, opium smoking, footbinding, judicial
torture, and the worship of idols were all to be
eliminated. The Taiping tolerance of the esoteric
rituals and quasi-religious societies of south
China–themselves a threat to Qing stability–and
their relentless attacks on Confucianism–still
widely accepted as the moral foundation of Chinese
behaviour–contributed to the ultimate defeat of
the rebellion. Its advocacy of radical social
reforms alienated the Han Chinese scholar-gentry
class.

The Taiping army, although it had captured
Nanjing and driven as far north as Tianjin (),
failed to establish stable base areas. The
movement’s leaders found themselves in a net of
internal feuds, defections, and corruption.
Additionally, British and French forces, being
more willing to deal with the weak Qing
administration than contend with the uncertainties
of a Taiping regime, came to the assistance of the
imperial army. Before the Chinese army succeeded
in crushing the revolt, however, 14 years had
passed, and well over 30 million people were
reported killed. To defeat the rebellion, the Qing
court needed, besides Western help, an army
stronger and more popular than the demoralised
imperial forces. In 1860, scholar-official Zeng
Guofan ( 1811-72), from Hunan () Province, was
appointed imperial commissioner and
governor-general of the Taiping-controlled
territories and placed in command of the war
against the rebels. Zeng’s Hunan army, created and
paid for by local taxes, became a powerful new
fighting force under the command of eminent
scholar-generals.

Zeng’s success gave new power to
an emerging Han Chinese elite and eroded Qing
authority. Simultaneous uprisings in north China
(the Nian Rebellion) and Southwest China (the
Muslim Rebellion) further demonstrated Qing
weakness. The Hundred Days’ Reform and the
Aftermath In the 103 days from June 11 to
September 21, 1898, the Qing emperor, Guangxu (
1875-1908), ordered a series of reforms aimed at
making sweeping social and institutional changes.
This effort reflected the thinking of a group of
progressive scholar-reformers who had impressed
the court with the urgency of making innovations
for the nation’s survival. Influenced by the
Japanese success with modernisation, the reformers
declared that China needed more than
“self-strengthening” and that innovation must be
accompanied by institutional and ideological
change. The imperial edicts for reform covered a
broad range of subjects, including stamping out
corruption and remaking, among other things, the
academic and civil-service examination systems,
legal system, governmental structure, defence
establishment, and postal services. The edicts
attempted to modernise agriculture, medicine, and
mining and to promote practical studies instead of
Neo-Confucian orthodoxy.

The court also planned to
send students abroad for firsthand observation and
technical studies. All these changes were to be
brought about under a de facto constitutional
monarchy. Opposition to the reform was intense
among the conservative ruling elite, especially
the Manchus, who, in condemning the announced
reform as too radical, proposed instead a more
moderate and gradualist course of change.
Supported by ultraconservatives and with the tacit
support of the political opportunist Yuan Shikai (
1859-1916), Empress Dowager Ci Xi () engineered a
coup d’ tat on September 21, 1898, forcing the
young reform-minded Guangxu into seclusion. Ci Xi
took over the government as regent. The Hundred
Days’ Reform () ended with the rescindment of the
new edicts and the execution of six of the
reform’s chief advocates. The two principal
leaders, Kang Youwei ( 1858-1927) and Liang Qichao
( 1873-1929), fled abroad to found the Baohuang
Hui ( or Protect the Emperor Society) and to work,
unsuccessfully, for a constitutional monarchy in
China.

The conservatives then gave clandestine
backing to the antiforeign and anti-Christian
movement of secret societies known as Yihetuan (
or Society of Righteousness and Harmony). The
movement has been better known in the West as the
Boxers (from an earlier name–Yihequan, or
Righteousness and Harmony Boxers). In 1900 Boxer
bands spread over the north China countryside,
burning missionary facilities and killing Chinese
Christians. Finally, in June 1900, the Boxers
besieged the foreign concessions in Beijing and
Tianjin, an action that provoked an allied relief
expedition by the offended nations. The Qing
declared war against the invaders, who easily
crushed their opposition and occupied north China.
Under the Protocol of 1901, the court was made to
consent to the execution of ten high officials and
the punishment of hundreds of others, expansion of
the Legation Quarter, payment of war reparations,
stationing of foreign troops in China, and razing
of some Chinese fortifications. In the decade that
followed, the court belatedly put into effect some
reform measures.

These included the abolition of
the moribund Confucian-based examination,
educational and military modernisation patterned
after the model of Japan, and an experiment, if
half-hearted, in constitutional and parliamentary
government. The suddenness and ambitiousness of
the reform effort actually hindered its success.
One effect, to be felt for decades to come, was
the establishment of new armies, which, in turn,
gave rise to warlordism. The Republican Revolution
of 1911 Failure of reform from the top and the
fiasco of the Boxer Uprising convinced many
Chinese that the only real solution lay in
outright revolution, in sweeping away the old
order and erecting a new one patterned preferably
after the example of Japan. The revolutionary
leader was Sun Yat-sen ( or Sun Yixian in p ….

Research essay sample on Chinas Way To Communism Since European Imperialism