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Foreign Interference in China

This version was saved 13 years, 2 months ago View current version     Page history
Saved by Jinan Thomad
on April 12, 2009 at 1:06:43 pm


     Through much of its history, China generally isolated itself from other cultures and peoples, never having a strong or appreciated merchant class. After the expeditions of Zheng He, however, the Europeans became interested in China and the products it had to offer, and eventually succeeded in penetrating China's coasts.


     Christian missionaries such as the Jesuits in the late 16th century attempted to convert people to their religion, and tried to become friendly with the Ming Emperor. Most Chinese officials thought of these foreigners as "barbarians", but some Jesuits were allowed to remain in China and keep their positions in court when the Manchus came to power.

Jesuit missionaries in China.


     During the Qing dynasty (ruled by the Manchus), trade grew greatly, and a new wealthy group of merchants called compradors emerged, importing and exporting goods on China's southern coast and linking China to the outside world. 


     During the decline of the Qing dynasty, the Manchus foolishly underestimated the Europeans traders coming into their country. Great Britain, a European state that traded with China extensively, had superior technology and science, which gave it an advantage in wars against China later on.



1580s ~ Jesuits arrive in China

1644 ~ Qing dynasty begins

1839-1841 ~ Opium War against Britain

1850-1864 ~ Taiping rebellion

1912 ~ Last emperor, end of Qing dynasty


The Opium War: 

After centuries of exporting silk, tea, porcelain, and other goods from China, Britain found that they needed great amounts of silver to pay for the amount of products that they were buying. So, to even out the trade, the British decided to sell opium (grown in India) to the Chinese population.



Opium poppies.


This method was successful in Britain's favor, as many Chinese became addicted to the drug, and bought great quantities, but it was harmful to Chinese society. Qing emperors decided to take action and in the 1830s, General Lin Zexu was ordered to destroy the trade. Once Lin confiscated the opium, the British were furious, saying that the Chinese were threatening their free trade, and war broke out in 1839. The European gunboats easily defeated the Chinese junks, and these victories forced China to open up its trade. This is when Hong Kong was established as a European trading center, along with 5 other ports. 



In the end, Chinese trade was supervised by Europeans, and European ambassadors even became part of Chinese court. 


The Opium War's effects on economy: 

Opium War had many negative effects on Chinese economy: 


- reversed money flow in the country, causing it to spend great amounts of silver instead of gaining it from the British like before 

- less money = less funds for public works, and expansion of trade decreased

- agricultural production declined, so higher unemployment

-people spent more time in opium dens using the drug instead of taking care of responsibilities, weakening the economy 


The Opium War's effects on society:   

Opium war also had many bad effects on Chinese society: 


- many people lost ambition or desire to work, weakening China and bringing discontent upon population, leading to a massive rebellion called the Taiping rebellion.

- another rebellion rose after this, called the Boxer rebellion, which was bloody and caused many deaths, and China was unsuccessful.


Taiping rebellion- Consisted of peasants and members of secret socieites, attacked the Confucian elites and scholar-gentry, which eventually caused them to be defeated. 


Boxer rebellion- Also consisted of peasants, was supported by empress Cixi. Aimed to eliminate foreign rule from China. 


Boxer rebellion.  


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