China's reforms in the 19th century were the result of a long and extremely painful process. The ideology established over many centuries, which was based on the principle of the deification of the emperor and the superiority of the Chinese over all the surrounding peoples, inevitably collapsed, breaking the way of life of representatives of all segments of the population.
New masters of the Celestial Empire
Since the Manchurian invasion of China in the middle of the 17th century, the life of its population has not changed dramatically. The overthrown Ming dynasty was replaced by the rulers of the Qing clan, who made Beijing the capital of the state, and all key positions in the government were occupied by the descendants of the conquerors and those who supported them. Everything else remains the same.
As history has shown, the new masters of the country were diligent administrators, since China entered the 19th century as a fairly developed agrarian country with well-established internal trade. In addition, their policy of expansion led to the fact that the Celestial Empire (as China was called by its inhabitants) included 18 provinces, and a number of neighboring states paid tribute to it, beingin vassalage. Every year, Beijing received gold and silver from Vietnam, Korea, Nepal, Burma, as well as the states of Ryukyu, Siam and Sikkim.
Son of Heaven and his subjects
The social structure of China in the 19th century was like a pyramid, on top of which sat a Bogdykhan (emperor), who enjoyed unlimited power. Below it was a courtyard, entirely consisting of relatives of the ruler. In his direct subordination were: the supreme chancellery, as well as state and military councils. Their decisions were implemented by six executive departments, whose competence included issues: judicial, military, ritual, tax, and, in addition, related to the assignment of ranks and the execution of public works.
The domestic policy of China in the 19th century was based on the ideology according to which the emperor (bogdykhan) was the Son of Heaven, who received a mandate from the powers that be to rule the country. According to this concept, without exception, all the inhabitants of the country were reduced to the level of his children, who were obliged to unquestioningly fulfill any command. Involuntarily, an analogy arises with the Russian monarchs anointed by God, whose power was also given a sacred character. The only difference was that the Chinese regarded all foreigners as barbarians, bound to tremble before their incomparable Lord of the world. In Russia, fortunately, they did not think of this before.
Rungs of the social ladder
From the history of China in the 19th century, it is known that the dominant position in the country belonged to the descendantsManchu conquerors. Below them, on the steps of the hierarchical ladder, were placed ordinary Chinese (Han), as well as the Mongols who were in the service of the emperor. Next came the barbarians (that is, not the Chinese), who lived in the territory of the Celestial Empire. They were Kazakhs, Tibetans, Dungans and Uighurs. The lowest level was occupied by the semi-savage tribes of the Juan and Miao. As for the rest of the planet's population, in accordance with the ideology of the Qing Empire, it was considered as a bunch of external barbarians, unworthy of the attention of the Son of Heaven.
Since China's foreign policy in the 19th century focused mainly on the capture and subjugation of neighboring peoples, a significant part of the state budget was spent on maintaining a very large army. It consisted of infantry, cavalry, sapper units, artillery and fleet. The core of the armed forces was the so-called Eight Banner Troops, formed from the Manchus and the Mongols.
Heirs of ancient culture
In the 19th century, China's culture was built on a rich heritage inherited from the Ming Dynasty and their predecessors. In particular, an ancient tradition was preserved, on the basis of which all applicants for a particular public position were required to pass a rigorous examination test of their knowledge. Thanks to this, a layer of highly educated officials was formed in the country, whose representatives were called "shenyns".
The ethical and philosophical teachings of the ancient Chinese sage Kung Fuzi were invariably respected by representatives of the ruling class(VI - V centuries BC), known today under the name of Confucius. Reworked in the 11th-12th centuries, it formed the basis of their ideology. The bulk of the Chinese population in the 19th century professed Buddhism, Taoism, and in the western regions - Islam.
Closed political system
Showing a fairly broad religious tolerance, the rulers of the Qing dynasty at the same time made a lot of efforts to preserve the internal political order. They developed and published a set of laws that determined the punishment for political and criminal offenses, and also established a system of mutual responsibility and total surveillance, covering all segments of the population.
At the same time, China in the 19th century was a country closed to foreigners, and especially to those who sought to establish political and economic contacts with its government. Thus, the attempts of the Europeans not only to establish diplomatic relations with Beijing, but even to supply the goods they produce to its market ended in failure. China's economy in the 19th century was so self-sufficient that it could be protected from any outside influence.
Popular uprisings in the early 19th century
However, despite external prosperity, a crisis was gradually brewing in the country, caused by both political and economic reasons. First of all, it was provoked by the extreme uneven economic development of the provinces. In addition, an important factor was social inequality and infringement of the rights of national minorities. Already at the beginning of the 19th century, massdiscontent resulted in popular uprisings led by representatives of the secret societies "Heavenly Mind" and "Secret Lotus". They were all brutally suppressed by the government.
Defeat in the First Opium War
In terms of its economic development, China in the 19th century lagged far behind the leading Western countries, in which this historical period was marked by rapid industrial growth. In 1839, the British government tried to take advantage of this and forcefully open its markets for their goods. The reason for the outbreak of hostilities, called the "First Opium War" (there were two of them), was the seizure in the port of Guangzhou of a significant consignment of drugs illegally imported into the country from British India.
During the fighting, the extreme inability of the Chinese troops to resist the most advanced army at that time, which Britain had, was clearly manifested. The subjects of the Son of Heaven suffered one defeat after another both on land and at sea. As a result, June 1842 was already met by the British in Shanghai, and after some time they forced the government of the Celestial Empire to sign an act of surrender. According to the agreement reached, from now on the British were granted the right to free trade in five port cities of the country, and the island of Xianggang (Hong Kong), which previously belonged to China, was transferred to them in “perpetual possession”.
The results of the First Opium War, very favorable for the British economy, were disastrous for ordinary Chinese. The flood of European goods forced products out of the marketslocal producers, many of which went bankrupt as a result. In addition, China has become a place for the sale of a huge amount of drugs. They were imported before, but after the opening of the national market for foreign imports, this disaster assumed catastrophic proportions.
The result of increased social tension was another uprising that swept the whole country in the middle of the 19th century. Its leaders urged the people to build a happy future, which they called the "Heavenly Welfare State." In Chinese, it sounds like "Taiping Tiang". Hence the name of the participants in the uprising - Taiping. Red headbands were their hallmark.
At a certain stage, the rebels managed to achieve significant success and even create a kind of socialist state in the occupied territory. But very soon their leaders were distracted from building a happy life and completely devoted themselves to the struggle for power. The imperial troops took advantage of this circumstance and, with the help of the same British, defeated the rebels.
Second Opium War
As a payment for their services, the British demanded a revision of the trade agreement, concluded in 1842, and the provision of greater benefits. Having been refused, the subjects of the British crown resorted to previously proven tactics and again staged a provocation in one of the port cities. This time, the pretext was the arrest of the ship Arrow, on board of which drugs were also found. The conflict that broke out between the governments of both states led to the beginning of the SecondOpium War.
This time the hostilities had even more disastrous consequences for the emperor of the Celestial Empire than those that took place in the period 1839-1842, since the French, greedy for easy prey, joined the troops of Great Britain. As a result of joint actions, the allies occupied a significant part of the country's territory and again forced the emperor to sign an extremely unfavorable agreement.
The collapse of the dominant ideology
The defeat in the Second Opium War led to the opening of diplomatic missions of the victorious countries in Beijing, whose citizens received the right to free movement and trade throughout the Celestial Empire. However, the troubles did not end there. In May 1858, the Son of Heaven was forced to recognize the left bank of the Amur as the territory of Russia, which finally undermined the reputation of the Qing dynasty in the eyes of its own people.
The crisis caused by the defeat in the Opium Wars and the weakening of the country as a result of popular uprisings led to the collapse of the state ideology, which was based on the principle - "China surrounded by barbarians." Those states that, according to official propaganda, were supposed to “tremble” before the empire headed by the Son of Heaven turned out to be much stronger than it. In addition, foreigners who freely visited China told its inhabitants about a completely different world order, which is based on principles that exclude the worship of a deified ruler.
Very bad for managementcountries were also financially related. Most of the provinces, which were previously Chinese tributaries, came under the protectorate of stronger European states and stopped replenishing the imperial treasury. Moreover, at the end of the 19th century, popular uprisings seized China, as a result of which significant damage was caused to European entrepreneurs who opened their enterprises on its territory. After their suppression, the heads of eight states demanded large sums of money to be paid to the affected owners as compensation.
The government led by the imperial Qing Dynasty is on the verge of collapse, prompting it to take the most urgent action. They were the reforms, long overdue, but implemented only in the period of the 70s and 80s. They led to the modernization of not only the economic structure of the state, but also to a change in both the political system and the entire dominant ideology.