Drawing on what I’ve learned from class discussions and individual research, the 19thcentury in China brought a lot of failure and hardships. It was a time of unhappiness and rapid decline giving it a theme of “national humiliation”. There was a lot of corruption and rebellion during this period of the time. Around this time China experienced economic regression when foreign interests invaded the country. With the majority of the world expanding and advancing, China found itself on the back burner of this shift into a globalized world.
China weakened in the adaption of the new world due to it isolationist ways. This period of rapid political decline and unhappiness was matched with an economic decline as well. China ill-prepared to handle the military and technological distresses from the West in the age of industrialization. Many say that the last few years of the 19th century were by far the worst for China. They had fallen into a state of chaos by the turn of the 20th century.
The political structure was a very imbalanced structure in the sense that it did not seek equality. The imperial known as the Manchus were at the top of this political structure. The Manchus came from Manchuria, they ruled from 1644 to 1912 and became nearly conformed into China. The Manchus were known to be the last ruling dynasty to date. They were in charge when the Europeans begun to arrive in vast numbers.
Internal trade was very important to China during the 19th century. The silk industry was very important, as it had been for many years. But the balance of the population and the ability to maintain it reached its highest at approximately 1779. Later on, it continued to rise but could not sustain itself at the same time. Accordingly, the orthodox of living and food available for every individual declined greatly. Eventually, with the rise of population, the ability to sustain its people and the average standard of living plummeted. Millions of people starved to death in the province of Shaanxi, a third of the population, all in one winter.
Near to the end of the 18th century, China’s political administration experienced a tremendous decline. These problems were not very well known, even to the current Emperor. However, In addition to a combination of political and economic issues, the Emperor gave up the throne. Chinese society was made up of a hierarchy, which consisted of male officials. During this time the country was in shambles. The women in China during this time were extremely mistreated and limited. One very unfortunate sign of exploitation women was foot binding which became worse over time.
In late 17th century England tried to convince the Chinese emperor to ease restrictions on trading privileges. The Chinese had always felt that they had enough and did not need anything else. With the downfall of political administration and economic failures, multiple wars that resulted in unfair treaties were further intrusions upon the once proud country. These treaties became known as the “unequal treaties,” made by the British and French after their invasions. In the early 19th century British importers began smuggling opium into China in order to surplus their acquisitions of tea for export to Britain.
In 1839, China implemented its prohibitions on importing opium by terminating it, a large quantity of opium seized from the British merchants. Great Britain, which had been trying to end China’s limitations on foreign trade, reacted to this by sending battle ships to attack several Chinese coastal cities. This was known as the first opium war that last for two years. This was the first of many “Unequal Treaties.” China was defeated by the superior British and was forced to sign the Treaty of Nanjing.
In 1850 China experienced the Taiping Rebellion, which is known to be the largest peasant revolution in Chinese history as well as one of the biggest civil wars in world history. The rebellion was anti-Manchu, anti-Confucianism and pro-Christianity movement. This revolutionary movement resulted in a three huge changes in China; it shifted military power from the Manchu to Chinese generals due to the Qing government mobilizing local Chinese army to fight the Taiping. It regionalized China and gave more economic and political power to local influences. This provoked anti-Manchu feelings and led to the end of the Qing Dynasty and the reestablishment of the Chinese nation.
China had derived from world economic supremacy to a shattered semi-colonial country with a huge impoverished population. The last few years of the 19th century were China’s toughest ones, causing them to fall into a complete state of disorder as the 20th century was around the corner. This was not a good period for China, but they got past all their hardships and failures with time making them a stronger and more unified nation.