To What Extent Did Anti Foreign Sentiment Contribute To The Collapse Of The Qing Dynasty?

2355 words - 10 pages

China was plagued by famine, natural disasters and economic problems which the government failed to recover from in the nineteenth century. Empress Dowager Cixi was a reluctant reformist and made sure China remained a monarchy till her last breath in 1908 which created anti-Qing feeling. Although the fall of the Qing Dynasty can argued as a result of its failure to reform and modernize China to keep its people content, perhaps the most significant factor was due to foreign intervention. A loser of the Opium War of 1842, the Qing government fully exposed its weakness and inefficiency when fighting against the foreign powers and signing the ‘Unequal Treaties’ afterwards. The Sino-Japanese War of 1895 and the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 further humiliated the imperial government. Defeat from the Japanese was followed by a period where foreign powers scrambled for privileges in China, exacting lease territories, railroad concessions and mining rights, and carving out their respective ‘spheres of influence.’ Therefore, it is important to understand whether foreign intervention in China was the most significant factor in exposing the Qing governments’ weaknesses which led to anti-foreign sentiment and would spark revolutionary ideas from key figures such as Sun Yat Sen to overthrow the dynasty. The revolt that toppled the world’s longest lasting empire had been developing for decades but, when it finally came in October 1911, it was sparked by accident when a bomb exploded in the office of a group of revolutionary soldiers in the Russian concession of the city of Hankou on the river Yangtze in central China. The events led to the abdication of the last emperor, Puyi, four months later on February 12th, 1912 and marked the end of the Qing Dynasty.

Britain's involvement in the opium trade with China caused economic misery and a opium addiction problem in Chinese society leading to anti-foreign feeling as early as 1839. British demand for Chinese tea had rose incredibly during the eighteenth century whereas the Chinese market for British products was very restricted. The balance of trade between Britain and China was massively in China's favour.1 To prevent this trade imbalance, the British tried to sell more of their own products to China, but there was not much demand for heavy woollen fabrics in a country accustomed to either cotton padding or silk2. As a result, the British needed to increase the amount of Indian goods to pay for these Chinese luxuries, and increasingly in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the item provided to China was opium. The social and economic problems of opium to the Chinese people were enormous. By the late 1830s, 1,400 tons of opium were being landed annually.3 The drug weakened a large percentage of the population and silver began to flow out of the country to pay for the opium. Opium addiction heavily affected the workforce and undermined production which meant foreign imports had to increase at the expense of...

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