Qing Dynasty, 1644-1911 was the last Chinese dynasty. ‘During the Qing period, imperial China reached its peak of power”.1The Qing dynasty lasted for almost 300 years extended China’s borders and had improved the Chinese imperial system. ‘Of all the Chinese dynasties, the Qing was the strongest and one of the most powerful’.2 ‘ the qing empire can also been seen throughout china in the form of architecture, artifacts, and art.’ After flourishing in the 18th century it fell apart in the 19th century. It could not adjust to the new problems that arose warfare, rebellions and foreign imperialism contributed to the dynasty’s collapse.In this essay I will discuss in whether the internal or external factors were more influential in bringing about the fall of the Qing dynasty.
A internal factor that was influential in bringing about the fall of the Qing empire was the boxer rebellion in 1900. ‘ the boxer uprising was a anti foreign movement in China against the westerners and western influence’. this was because at the ‘end of the 19th cent. the Western powers and Japan had established wide interests in China’. And it also
targeted the Manchu dynasty. ‘The rebellion began in north China in the Shantung Province.The shantung province was owned by the Germans.’3 The Europeans living in China had a much better lifestyle than the Chinese. the boxer rebellion weakened the Qing government because one of the targets for the rebellion was the Manchu government which was the Qing government. ‘As they saw them as doing nothing for national pride.’4 ‘ Peking was extensively damaged. The Chinese government was also ordered to pay $450 million in compensation’. 5
Overrule this foreshadowed the eventual downfall of the Qing empire.
an internal factor that lead to the fall of the Qing empire was the ethnic tensions within China. ‘ the founders of the Qing dynasty came originally from Manchuria. the Manchurians were from a different tribal-ethnic group called the Jurchens’.6This however weakened the Qing empire slightly. ‘The Manchu imposed some of their cultural traditions, such as the queue hairstyle, on Chinese society.’ Due to the Qing rulers being Manchu in origin.’7 So the ordinary Han Chinese felt little loyalty to the Qing rulers, who were Manchus from the north. The Qing dynasty was also nervous about the numerical superiority of the Han-green standard army.’ And these tensions resulted in the Taiping rebellion.
Another internal factor hang was significant was the Taiping Rebellion. ‘The Taiping Rebellion was a revolt against the Qing dynasty in China, fought with religious conviction over regional economic conditions, and lasting from 1850 to 1864 taiping also cause around 20 million deaths.’ as the western allies helped the Qing empire out down the Taiping Rebellion, however this showed that the Qing government was weak.’8
A external factor that was influential in bringing about the fall of the Qing dynasty was the Opium wars. The first
Opium war was from 1839-1842 and the second Opium war was from 1856-1860, there was a high demand for Chinese tea in Great Britain but a low demand for British goods in China. Britain was in debt to China. Therefore they had to turn to selling silver to make the imbalance better. They began selling opium. Opium is an addictive drug grown in India, smoked from a pipe. China’s people became quickly addicted to the drug. ‘Opium was illegal, and China wanted the trade of opium to stop. China tried to make new restrictions against foreign merchants and ships, and Great Britain did not like this idea and fought back resulting in the Opium War. In which this brought the century of humiliation for China and the Qing dynasty and was the start of the unequal treaties that was imposed on them such as Britain taking Hong Kong from China’9, Britain came out on top because they had better artillery, forcing China to sign the Treaty of Nanjing. This was only the beginning of Western influence in China because now more ports were open to foreign merchants. All trade was put under European control causing more western ideas, foreigners, and cultures to spread into China These humiliations showed China’s neighbours that they were weak and vulnerable. And as a result China began to lose control of its territories and peripheral regions. As France seized some of South-East Asia, Japan took away taiwan and gained control of Korea and by the 1900 Some of the European nations such as Britain, France, Germany had established ‘Spheres of influence’ along China’s coast allowing them to control trade which allowed the power away from the Qing imperial court and towards the foreign powers. The first opium war weakened the Qing empire with treaty of Nanjing which allowed 5 treaty ports in China it also ended the canton system.
Therefore beginning an age of European Imperialism however some would consider that imperialism truly took hold of China after the first opium war when more western influence began spreading through China.
Lastly the last internal factor was its efforts of reforming and self strengthening. This was a approach that the Qing dynasty took after the Opium war this was a approach that China should adopt Western technology but still keep its cultural values. ‘This policy was used for 25 years and there slogan was “Learn the superior technology of the barbarian, in order to control him.”’10 However this new policy did not help the Qing retain its power. However Despite their efforts the three decade long ‘Self Strengthening Movement was generally unsuccessful. ‘Significant figures in the Qing government were sceptical about the movement and gave it inadequate attention or resources. Xenophobes in the bureaucracy wanted nothing to do with Western methods, so some whipped up opposition to self strengthening. Another significant factor in the failure of self strengthening was China’s decentralised government and the weak authority of the Qing in some regions. The majority of successful self strengthening projects were managed and funded by provincial governments or private business interests.’11 Most importantly, the Self Strengthening Movement operated on the flawed premise that economic and military modernisation could be achieved without significant political or social reform.’ the Self Strengthening Movement played a vital role in the decline of the Qing Dynasty because it was the last chance for the preservation of the Qing Dynasty. The movement lasted from the 1860’s to 1870’s and 1894 to 1895 and came about through events such as the Opium Wars and unfair treaties that took place before the movement. ‘This helped China to realize that the old ways of the Qing Dynasty were becoming corrupt in their present era. This lead to China revolutionizing their Society and Military to keep up with the fast ever changing environment evolving around them. However due to the lack of time they had to revolutionize their society and Military, China was defeated in battle and invaded during the 2nd Sino Japanese War.’ This event caused the end of the Self strengthening Movement which then lead to the demise of the Qing Dynasty as the Japanese invaded.
Overrule the Qing Dynasty did not want to accept its own defeat. After attempting to hold on to whatever power they had left, the empire ruled for another decade from behind the walls of the what is today known as the Forbidden City. China’s last emperor and last member of the Qing family was a 6-year-old child named Puyi, had to abdicate and give up his throne on February 12, 1912. The External factor I think was the most influential in bringing about the fall of the Qing dynasty due to that being one of the first hostilities between China and the west and when China really started to decline. As they lost the first Opium war in 1860 in which they lost Hong Kong to the British and began the ‘century of humiliation and unequal treaties.’ 12 This was the start of European imperialism in China as many European nations began to spread their influence and occupy many coastal cities in turn controlling some of the trade. Even Though the internal factors such as the ethnic tensions between the Manchu Qing and the Han Chinese and the Boxer rebellion were significant as they help bring the fall of the Qing.On the other hand there could be a argument that both external factors and internal factors all contributed to the Qing’s downfall such as the Opium war and the Taiping Rebellion in which the Qing could not respond effectively to these crisis therefore all of these factors have significant contribution leading to the downfall of the Qing