I’ve spent the last few months making a project on Chinese History. I always remember my Mum being fascinated by China and so this was a way to fulfil my five-year-old self’s wish to be able to understand it. I’m going to go from the fall of the Qing dynasty right up to the end of Mao’s China. Hopefully it will be interesting!
For most of China’s long (nearly 400 0 years) history, they led the world in innovation, bringing things like paper, gunpowder, cast iron and fireworks (as well as farming things like silk, tea and opium) to the rest of the world. They were impressive engineers, as the Great Wall of China demonstrates, and had been united by a series of Emperors (with brief periods of conflict between the end of one dynasty and the start of the next).
However, by the mid 1800’s, the western world started to edge ahead. The industrial revolution introduced railways, steamships and new farming techniques but China was isolated from its effects, and continued to follow a feudal system with peasants working in fields and oxen and sailing boats forming the main type of transport. Its economy was based on peasants renting land and paying large quantities of their yield to landowners. China had fallen behind, and the Western world fully intended to take advantage of it.
A series of wars with the west and Japan followed, such as the Opium Wars and the First Sino-Japanese war. They were remembered for resulting in The Unequal Treaties – agreements which gave the winning powers huge advantages at the expense of China, who couldn’t object. These advantages included huge war reparations and special trade privileges.
One of the most significant Unfair Treaties was as a consequence of The Boxer Rebellion.