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Qing China History: Challenges From The West

2776 words - 11 pages

With the conclusion of the Arrow War (1860), China realized that her position was challenged by new forces from the West. Her supreme power was shattered, her material resources were limited and her territories were exposed to foreign aggression. Moreover, China at the same time suffered from government disintegration, financial chaos, corruption, natural disasters and peasant revolts. Some conscientious officials came to realize immediate measures had to be taken to strengthen the country and to adjust her to the modern world. Therefore a series of reform movements were carried out for the sake of internal re-construction and national defense.

However, through out the reform movements, there were voices from different classes in society either supporting or opposing the changes. In general, the attitudes of people can be divided into three periods. During the Tongzhi Restoration and Self-strengthening period, the force of continuity, that is, people preferring the traditional belief and rule, played a more influential role that somehow hindered the progress of the reform. Then, in the Hundred Days' Reform movement, the force of change, that is, people preferring changes in society, began to overwhelm the oppositional force. Finally, up to the Late-Qing period, the force of change became so important that nearly every class in China saw the need to save China by a comprehensive reform. In the following paragraphs, the attitudes of Chinese towards various reforms will be discussed. In addition, the reasons behind their change of attitude will also be investigated.

In the first period, when the Tongzhi Restoration (1862-75) and the Self-Strengthening Movement (1860-91) was carrying out, the force of continuity played a vital part in Qing history. Challenged by internal disorder and external invasion, China saw the urgency to strengthen herself in order to maintain her international status. Especially after the Taiping Rebellion, China saw the effectiveness of Western weapons and was convinced that certain Western techniques would have to be adopted. It was under this background that the Tongzhi restoration was carried out. On one hand, to revive Confucianism as to purify the state bureaucracy. On the other hand, to introduce modern technology and skills to China . This was a completely new attempt because western advance technology was adopted in the program. Later, the Self-Strengthening Movement was carried out to implicate these changes more deeply.

As a matter of fact, there were some far-reaching scholars who proposed a comprehensive reform to save China. Lin Zexu (1785-1850) first championed the idea of learning about the West. He proposed translating western books, building shipyards and arsenal. Wei Yuan (1794-1856) urged that it was essential to learn the superior techniques of the West to control them and these techniques were warships, firearms and methods of maintaining soldiers. Other scholars like Xu Jiyu...

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