Posted: March 22nd, 2023

The Decline of China’s Qing Dynasty

The Qing Dynasty also referred to as Ch’ing, or Manchu was the last empire that existed in all of Chinese history. In fact, the empire existed for at least 300 years, starting from 1644 to 1911 (William 41). During this period, China experienced profound influence and power because of the extended borders and a perfected imperial system. With its order and prosperity, the Qing dynasty was praised and envied by other regions. Notably, this regime was cited as one among many other empires that were great and exceedingly glorious. However, it became the last of China’s historical dynasties considering that various reason in both the 18th and 19th century saw its end (Sng 115). On the other hand, Qing was characterized by a complicated administrative structure which declined to adjust and curb new problems arising in the 19th century. However, both internal and external factors significantly contributed to its downfall. Particularly, some of the reasons leading to the Qing Empire’s defeat included warfare, bad harvests, economic disasters, foreign imperialism, and rebellions. In addition, violent revolutions significantly contributed to the end of the dynasty. Therefore, in this discussion the primary focus will be on how the Qing Dynasty declined slowly and steadily up to the end.

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Accordingly, the deterioration of the Qing Dynasty started in the last decades of the 17th century. However, the last half of the 18th century saw this empire decline entirely. During the 17th century, it was established that the Qing Dynasty’s administrative structure was malignantly ineffective (Sng 111). Other earlier emperors ruled skillfully and wisely but Emperor Chien Lung’s years were characterized by suspicions, restrictions, regulations, and inevitable checks. Consequently, the officials under his authority resorted to taking fewer responsibilities due to the fear of facing penalties. Due to this change in administrative tactics, the Qing Dynasty was confronted by multiple shortcomings. For instance, the officers refused to address important matters thus leaving the emperor to make decisions on his own. In addition, the neglect of duty by officials would later see this dynasty faced with economic problems in the coming centuries.

Consequently, the financial difficulties of the empire were propagated by the fact that its money was spent on military tools and paying for the emperor’s luxurious life. Despite the misuse of money, the issue of corruption within the government led to the decline of Qing’s economic stability (Sng 109). Therefore, the 18th century commenced with an economically weakened dynasty. Besides, China’s population rose significantly in the 18th century. Therefore, there was the inadequacy of farm lands for arable farming to feed the increased number of inhabitants. In addition, due to lack of education, more people within this empire lacked employment opportunities. Therefore, the unemployed individuals resorted to banditry activities while others were recruited as rebels.

Notably, the Opium War is also considered as one of the major disasters that led to Qing Dynasty decline due to both an eroded military and economic power. In fact, the war started after Great Britain started selling Opium, an illegal drug to China because the dynasty was no longer interested in buying silver (William 44). Initially, Britain sold to China silver while they attained tea in exchange. However, the demand for silver declined in China while Great Britain continued to import tea from this region. Therefore, in a bid to keep up to date with their debt Britain resolved to sell opium to China. As a result, the Qing Dynasty emperor tried to restrict Britain from selling this illegal drug a step that triggered a war between the two nations. However, Britain’s excellent artillery and a military force led to the defeat of Qing Dynasty, and they were compelled to sign the Nanjing Treaty. Consequently, after the invasion, the conquered China started experiencing foreign aggression where Britain started ruling some of its territories (William 43). Moreover, Western influence became malignant in China because new ports were opened up, westernized ideas were introduced, and the European cultures started spreading within this dynasty.

By and large, the worried citizens characterized the Qing dynasty due to foreign invasion, famine, floods, drought, bandits, and a weak economy. Therefore, the presence of multiple problems initiated the animosity and anger started rising amongst the people and a civil war broke within the dynasty. In the period 1850-1864, the Qing Dynasty experienced the bloodiest civil war in all history (William 44). To start with, there were several reasons for this rebellion where Hung Xiuguan the Taiping leader got the motivation to fight with claims that God had given him the responsibility of destroying the Qing Dynasty (William 45). On the other hand, an intense hatred had grown between the inhabitants and the foreign Manchu leaders. In fact, the animosity was propagated by the foreign leaders’ insistence that all those under their rules should braid a queue on the hair to show adherence to their commanding presence. In addition, the foreign Manchu in a bid to weaken the Chinese culture resorted to using harsh penalties to those who rebelled against them (William 44). As a result, many Chinese citizens left their homes to evade the civil war and search for better opportunities abroad due to an economically weakened Qing Empire.

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More importantly, the civil war did not mark the last war in China. Instead, the Boxer Rebellion broke in 1900 during Empress Dowager Cixi’s reign (William 47). Indeed, the unemployed and poor Qing Dynasty subjects initiated the battle. It is worth noting that most of the boxer rebel leaders were martial arts professionals. While their first aim was to overthrow Cixi’s government and chase the foreigners, the Empress secretly supported them and in return, the rebellion’s leaders helped her dynasty. During the rebellion, many Christians were killed, and also the immigrants living in Beijing were invaded (William 47). In fact, the American troops were sent to quell this rebellion, and the Chinese government was ordered to pay all the war reparations to America a step that further weakened its influence and economy.

Specifically, the Sun Yat-Sen’s revolution ideology that started in early 1900 became the last blow to an already weak empire. Since the beginning of the 19th century, Yat-Sen traveled around the world with one idea that China needed revolution thus the monarchy government required to be dismantled (William 50). Indeed, the emperor cited reasons that this kingdom was faced with count bounties and assassinations; therefore, wanted China to start enjoying modern democracy. Surprisingly, his democracy rule agenda gained popularity around the globe and was significantly supported by the educated Chinese inhabitants outside the Qing Empire. When Empress Cixi died in 1908, a three-year-old boy called Henry Puyi was made the emperor, and he became the last leader of this dynasty (William 49). However, in 1912 the Qing dynasty regent gave up the throne in Emperor Puyi’s name. Using the Wuching Uprising, Sun Yat-Sen became the first president of the China Republic (William 50). In essence, the leadership of Sun as the president marked the end of the monarchical Qing Dynasty.

In essence, the Qing Dynasty’s glory shone in the first half of its 300 years of reign. However, the administrative inadequacy paved the way for its downfall. Therefore, from 1800 to 1912, China faced more problems than prosperity. A once powerful dynasty took the path of ruin due to rebellions, civil wars, foreign aggression, the spread of western cultures, and ideologies. On the other hand, Chinese inhabitants increased in numbers while few employment opportunities were available. As a result, China saw more of its people migrate to other regions while those who remained resorted to banditry and rebellion. On the other hand, the Qing Dynasty became weak because foreigners were taking advantage of its declining economy and weak rulers. Nonetheless, it is clear that although their downfall was slow and steady, the Qing Dynasty and its inhabitants did not give it up without a struggle in a bid to retain its fallen glory.


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