The Rise of Modern China




Billy Hamilton




Problems in China

The Manchus invaded China in the sixteenth century (the 1600s).  China had previously been owned by Han.  The imperial family was known as the Qing dinosaur.  Qing means “king” in Chinese.  The Qing ruled from the Forbidden City, which humans weren’t allowed to enter.

On a regional level, China was managed by about ten thousand mandarins, which were more expensive back then.  Later, however, Mao would give out two mandarins to everyone.  More than a quarter of these mandarins were Manchurian.  This was because they were very rich and so could afford to study.

Another persistent problem in China was that all the names sounded the same.  Many were also all spelt funny.

China at this time was run by an ideology called confusionism.  This meant that everyone had to keep track of all the relationships in their family, which was very difficult because of China’s rapid population growth.  Confusionism also required marriages to be arranged with the wife’s feet tied up.  This contributed to a decline in agricultural productivity per capita in China.  If anyone failed to follow this tradition they became subject to the imperial purges, which could be detrimental to one’s health.

The economy was run by landlords, but this was impractical because most of the land was owned by peasants.  Chinese farmland had to be carved out of mountains in steps by hand, so there was a great shortage and unemployment was high.  Industry hadn’t been proven yet in China.  Although China had many rivers, they were clogged up with domestic trade and canals, so relative foreign trade was absolutely small.  Absolute foreign trade remained relatively large.  Because everyone was a protectionist, merchants were looked down on for going against China’s rich tradition of paranoia and xenophobia.

Many external problems came from the West to China, largely for trading purposes.  China thought itself superior and so everyone who visited China was required to follow the “come, kowtow, and go” policy, also known as the Tribute System.  This was understandable because China had spent hundreds of years stuck in Asia and was only just beginning to collide with other powers.  The Westerners were seen as foreign devils and also as having relatively little cultural merit.

The foreign imperialists, who were finished scrambling Africa, wished to open concessions in China to make some more money on the side.  China produced only three important commodities, which were called porcelain, tea, silk, and maybe also cotton.  When the British showed up there was understandably an immediate increase in the opium trade.  The government chose to appoint Lin Zexu to bust up the drug trade, and this decision led to Opium War I.  By the time everyone had come to their senses in 1842, the Chinese had signed the Treaty of Napkin, which granted the British extraterrestriallity and the Most Favourite Nation clause, which said they were China’s most favourite nation except for themselves.  China also sent Hong Kong to Britain, on the understanding that it would be sent back in 1997, ninety-nine years later.

Nanjing was followed around by a flurry of “unequal” treaties, which came from France, the USA and everyone else as well.  A lot of missionaries also were sent towards China, so later treaties were made to allow them to come inside.  Other treaties gave foreign devils the right to enter Berlin, which was still forbidden to humans.  If one had a map, one would be able to see that there were many treaty ports, mostly along the coast.

The Americans who came to China pioneered the Open Door Policy, because they showed up late and didn’t like being locked outside.  At the time, almost everyone agreed with the Open Door Policy, but the Russians sure didn’t, which was a factor that later lead directly to the Cold War.  The Open Door Policy unfortunately led to many Chinese people becoming victims to burglaries.  Another unintended consequence was the formation of many secret societies, which were against the Manchus, especially when they were in southern China.  The dire economic straits that followed the attempted use of war communism led may people to join the secret societies in desperation.

Missionaries were an important force in China because they taught teachings contrary to confusionism.  The missionaries ran lots of schools sometimes.  Well, there were a bunch, anyway.  The missionaries stirred up trouble by opposing emperor-worship and spreading word of how things really were.  The missionaries also started two rebellions, one in Taiping and one in Boxer.

Opium War II, fought from 1856 to 1860, was pretty well just more of the same.

The Taiping Rebellion was the largest rebellion in the history of the Chinese dynasty.  Hong Xiuquan lashed out and started the rebellion because his hopes and dreams were crushed when he failed his final exams and so couldn’t become a bureaucrat.  His ideology was a mixture of utopian traditionalistic pre-confusion Chinese Communist Christian theocratic doctrines with social gender equality that wasn’t actually implemented in the areas where the rebels took over.  The Taiping rebellion founded the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace, where arranged marriages and foot-bindings were undone.  The rebellion failed to overthrow the dynasty but came within spitting distance.  The rebellion was a failure because of fighting within the rebels, foreign involvement in the form of the Shanghai concession, and a small complication called the Imperial Army.

Many issues led the Qing dynasty to support the Self-Strengthening Movement, which was run on the principle of every man for himself.  The goal was to make change in China without abandoning any Chinese idealists.  Sun Yat Sen was sent abroad to look for models showing how to fix China, but he went to Hawaii instead.




The Decline of the Qing

In 1875 the Emperor, Tong Hzi, died and then had his wife commit suicide, so a relative named Empress D. Cixi became in charge basically.  She appointed her nephew Guangxu as the new emperor, but this was controversial because even at the age of three months he was a “last-generation” emperor.  As a result, if he ever had a son, the son would become an instant emperor.  Around then something called the Grand Council suddenly became more conservative because its members were dying.

The Sino-Japanese war was fought over Korea.  It was settled by a quick naval battle, which Japan happened to win.  This was a humiliating defeat by an Asian power.  Afterwards, China gave it to Japan in the Treaty of Shundneski, which was signed by Li Hongzhang.  This also allowed the Japanese to open four new ports in China, and build factories in them.

The next attempt by the Qing to patch up China, which can be compared to a building where the supports have rotted away, was the Hundred Years’ Reform.  This included changes in the systems of education, corruption, medical care, law, and postage.  The conservatives in the bureaucracy thought this was all just a little too much, so leaders such as Juan Shikai helped put an end to the changes by killing the reformers.  Dowager Cixi finally shoved the stopper in after less than a year by overthrowing the emperor and basically becoming in charge.

The next thing that happened in China was the Boxer Rebellion.  The Boxers, which is short for the Righteous Society of Harmonious Fists of Righteousness, were a martial arts club that got way out of control because they could block bullets.  This worked well in practice but not in the field.  Due to the spread of nationalism by foreign missionaries, the Boxers desired to make China a nation free of foreign interference by driving out all the missionaries with foreign ideas from China.  To do this they all equipped their swords or fought unarmed.  They were also against the Qing on principle until Empress Dowager agreed to support them.

The short-term cause of the Boxer rebellion was the murder of some German missionaries, after which the Germans occupied the Chingdao region.  The following year, there were severe famines and flooding in Chingdao, which the Boxers mistakenly blamed on the Germans.  The rebellion proper got started with the Taiyuan Massacre, when anyone who was a Christian, a missionary, or both was killed, and a number of buildings such as the world’s oldest library in China were burned down.  All this happened accidentally after an attempt to destroy a British legation went horribly wrong.  The Siege of Peking petered out because of the International Gun, which shot several of the Boxers and spooked the rest.  An International Expeditionary Force, organised by the Eight United Nations, got lost in China but stumbled onto a secret arsenal, which they used to pillage the land until the diplomats could be rescued and the remaining boxers were outlawed and/or put to death.

The Boxer Rebellion failed because of its poor organization.  They didn’t even get within spitting distance because they were too afraid of being shot.  The boxers might also have done better if they hadn’t used swords.  Most of the imperial army just stood by, even though Empress supported the Boxers, because her power over the rest of China really wasn’t.  The parts of the army with modern weapons in particular remained uninvolved, so after this fiasco the decision was made to modernize more of the army.

The Boxer Rebellion officially snuffed it with the signing of the Treaty of Peking, under which government officials involved with the rebellion were persecuted and all Chinese forts between the inland area and the sea were dismantled.  Arms imported into China were banded.  Hereafter China was manipulated using the “rock-paper-scissors” system where the foreigners covered the government, the government smashed the people, and the people had the potential to cut up the foreigners.  A good example of this was the Anti-American Boycott of 1905 when the people of China coordinated in anti-American action until the Americans made Empress make them stop.

In 1908, Empress’s career of stopping reforms came to an abrupt end when she and the emperor both died and the throne was left to a four-year-old named Puyi, who was a surprisingly good leader, all considered.



The Revolution

Sun Yat Sen, who was still in Hawaii, wrote a long letter to China suggesting the election of three Principals of the People.  When he received a rejection letter back, he decided to travel around the world starting non-profit organizations to support rebel activities in China.

Many of the young folk sent abroad from China to find modern ideas found some and brought them home where they went on to become a long-term cause of the 1911 Revolution.  This revolution was set off by a bomb, which was set off by government attempts to nationalize the railroad systems.  The Hun portion of the army joined the rebels against the Manchu army, so the government was soon disembowelled from within.  The winds of change had caused the metaphorical building of China to collapse, and the Qing dinosaur was now extinct.  This rebellion was probably one of the major causes of everything else that happened in China thereafter.  It also marked the replacement of the Confusion ideology with the regular kind.  Sun Yat Sen became the president of a new republican government centred in Nanking, but he gave power over to Juan Shikai, because it seemed like the right sort of thing to do at the time.

A republican form of government was an unheard-of novelty in Asia, but like most fads it didn’t last long.  As soon as Juan Shikai got a hold of things, he reorganized everything back into a monarchy, and then went the way of King Saul—ambiguously.  Regardless of what exactly did him in, the result was complete and utter chaos that would engulf China in a series of warlords until the KMD and GMT were able to each free part of it in their Northern Expedition.

Japan issued a series of 21 Demands, which included, among other things, acknowledging Japan as being the only country allowed to open concessions in China.  Shikai’s decision to accept these demands may or may not have contributed to his demise   Juan Shikai himself may also have contributed to the demise of his political rival Song Jioran, who had just won the elections.  When considering the demises of Chinese politicians, the waters of history are often bemurkled by multiple civil wars and the P.R.C. 

In any event, accepting the 21 Demands generally did not contribute to Juan’s support.  He tried moving the capital back to Berlin, where he received somewhat more support, but his credibility was ultimately ruined by his habit of taking power both from the former monarchy and from the new republic and giving it to himself.  This was actually very stupid because it undermined the whole attempt to have a democracy.  One way or another, Juan Shikai died on June 6, 1916.




The Warlord Era

Europe fought a war called World War I at this time.  When it was all burnt down to the trenches, China sent a delegation to the peace conference at Versailles to demand the cancellation of Japan’s 21 Demands, the return of Shandong to China, and an end to western imperialism, but the powers at Versailles were too concerned with making Germany pay for the holes in France to be concerned over China.  In response, a group of students founded the May Fourth Movement, where, taking advantage of the Open Door Policy, they broke into the home of a Japanese statesman.  This achievement sparked much literature and new artistic ideals in China, mostly in the vernacular region.  The cabinet fell and China didn’t sign onto the treaty of Versailles, but based on what the Treaty did to Germany, that was probably just as well.  The two main leaders of the May Fourth Movement were named Mr. Science and Mr. Democracy.

Because Juan Shikai owned the largest army in China, an era of conflict was sparked by his death.  This was known as the Warlord Era.  (An Era is a unit of geologic time larger than a period and smaller than an eon.)  Each of Shikai’s generals became a warlord and gained a nickname.  Common warlords included Feng Yuxiang (the “Christian" General), Wu Peifu (the “Philosopher" General), Zhangs Zuolin and Xueliang (the “Old" Marshal and the “Young" Marshal, respectively), and a whole host of no-names.  The warlords amused themselves in the squabble for Beijing, because this was still where tax money went.  The aim of most warlords was to make money quick while contributing as little as possible to the economy, although they were a various bunch so some were moderately more principled.

After Juan Shikai passed away, the new president was named Duan Quixote, but he became involved in accepting money from the Japanese, so he got booted out of Beijing.  A monarchist warlord tried to reinstate Emperor Puyi, who had done a bit better than Shikai, but Quixote came back in with a vengeance (and an army) to send him packing.  After this Beijing suffered through a variety of warlord-instated governments with power shortages.

In their own provinces the warlords taxed absolutely everything.  Among hundreds of taxes were taxes on opium and “laziness taxes” on those who didn’t grow opium.  The opium was then confiscated and sold while the growers were fined.  Another source of fundraising was seizing companies and selling all their assets, which had a negative economic effect because it was not encouraging to potential investors in China.  Another major economic issue at this time was that photocopied money was considered to be legal tender.  This is why modern money is shiny.  Foreign governments stood by ready to help China as soon as there was a government to give real money to, but there wasn’t.

And there were bandits, who were just plain bad.  They made a good living kidnapping people.  There were also secret societies, which were now turned towards an anti-warlord position because there was no longer a ruling dinosaur to oppose.  They sacrificed goats before battles and therefore were able to pose significant opposition to the actions of the warlord armies.  One group, called the Red Spears, had over 100 000 000 members, over 1 000 of which could be called up to do battle at any given time.  Nonetheless the economy hit the ground face-first quite hard during this time.

Some ideologies, especially communism, flourished in the non-warlord-ridden areas of China, which were small proportionately but still larger than Japan if taken together.  Meanwhile, in the foreign concessions, ideas bubbled and festered with little control or recognition.  The British attempted to stem this tide of Chinese people thinking by firing at troublemakers on May 30th, 1925, signalling the end of the movement that had started on May 4th.  The Open Door Policy was still in place, so Chen Duxiu and a band of his friends were able to secretly enter a girls’ school, where they made plans to communize China at the next opportunity.

Meanwhile, Sun Yat Sen started a new government in Guangzhou, which was then in southern China.  He organized a group called the KMD (Kuomindang or “Nationalist Party” in the Chinese vernacular) and another group called the GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).  He needed to found two separate groups because of the introduction of the Pinyan system, which rendered all old names obsolete.  The KMD and the GMT formed an alliance called the First United Front with the USSR where the USSR agreed not to spread communism into China until there was an oppressed working class.  In fact, it was already too late because a peasant named Mao Zedong had written a little red book entitled The Red Book that he used to spread Marxist ideas throughout the peasant areas of China.  This became known as the Autumn Harvest Uprising, and was a failure.  As a result, Mao was forced to resign and so joined the KMD instead.



The Two Decades

After Sun Yat Sen died, the KMD and GMT organized a campaign known as the Northern Expedition, which trounced the warlords and re-established a republican government in Nanjing.  Chiang Kai Shek was the Generalissimo of the GMT but was also kind of a failure.  The KMD was renamed the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) because Mao had come to be in charge of it after its previous leader, Qu Qubai, made a mess of what was supposed to be a revolt in Canton but ended up taking place in the winter.  This turn of events alarmed Chiang Kai Shek, the leader of the GMT, because he had been focussing only on taking over Shanghai.  Chiang Kai Shek turned the GMT against the CCP and drove all the communists to live in caves, where they continued to rise in popularity among the people.

With the cooperation of the supposedly Christian general Feng Yuxiang, Chiang Kai Shek instated Wang Jingwa as new leader of the left-handed division of the GMT.  However, it later turned out the Wang Jingwa was Japanese, and Feng Yuxiang converted to Methodism.  The GMT named their new government the Nanking Decade because it would only last ten years, after which the Japanese would invade, ending a period that Sun Yat Sen called “political tutelage.”  This was the first time China was united under one flag since the fall of Duan Quixote.  China stabled out enough that the economy was able to rise to its knees.

The Nanking Decade saw improvement in transportation, roads, communications, banks, education, the currency, harvests, and the paramilitary, and took all the credit.  The once-unequal treaties now became more China-friendly.  The foreign powers were still required to keep their armies in Chinese concessions “just in case.”  However, Chiang Kai Shek let the real pig out of the poke when he began suppressing Unionists and ordering arrests by his blue-collar squadristi.  Anyone suspected of committing communism could get gotten.  Speaking out was also hazardous.  The other army of the GMT was the People’s Revolutionary Army or I.R.A., which later made a lot of trouble in Ireland.

The CCP, on the other hand, won the support of the Red Army, a band of terracotta soldiers left behind by one of those really old emperors that no one cares about any more.  In 1930, Mao brutally repressed a rival Soviet Union led by Li Lesan with the Futian instrument.  This revealled his ruthless tendencies and made his eventual domination of China statistically inevitable.  It was at this point that Mao founded the Chinese Soviet Armed Republic, where he took all the land away from the people and chopped them up into equal sized portions.  This was in revenge against classiness of the landowners.

Aghast, the GMT led a series of embezzlement campaigns, which eventually surrounded the CSAR, forcing Mao to commit the Long March.  This was China’s second Northern Expedition.  Mao was a worse planner than Chiang Kai Shek, so the route he proposed led across seven rivers, six swamps, five mountains, four time zones, three French hens, two mountains, and a desert.  This Long March, which was the largest mass migration of mammals in history, allowed many men to leave their wives and children behind.  By offering nine-tenths of their number sacrificially, the CCP were able to arrive safe and sound in the province of Shaanxi.

Having survived the GMT, the CCP founded a rival decade called the Yan’an.  This time the social revolution was less radical and the communists didn’t confiscate landowners.  The educated people cared about the government, so they took good care of it.  The Yan’an government followed a policy of self-sufficiency, which increased in popularity when enemy forces blockaded the region.  Mao started some simple industry in order to create an oppressed working class, and ran the reactification programme, where people were forcibly persuaded to become communists or else.  Mao was also leader of a personal cult.




The War

China was a tranquil scuffle compared to the rabid militarism of the Japanese, who had been gradually carrying off more and more pieces of Manchuria.  They were required to do so under allegedly Pacific goals, such as the development of their Asian empire and the seizure of resources towards their goal of autarky, until they succeeded in blowing up one of their own trains to prove they really meant it.

Chiang Kai Chek, however, boldly insisted that the true enemy was the communist, until 1938, when the Japanese roasted Nanking on a stick, more or less.  If not for the actions of some foreigners who organized a Safari Zone, an additional 250 000 people could have become subject to decapitation practice.  These foreigners included the only doctor in China, a woman who became Buddha, and a Nazi businessman.  His certainties were shattered when Hitler refused to come to the rescue of the poor in Nanking but instead invaded Czechoslovakia.  They also captured film footage of atrocities committed by the Japanese invaders, and these findings were assembled into a documentary film that was nominated for awards.

Chiang continued to deny the Japanese threat was anything compared to the CCP, so his generals, led by Zhang Xueliang, had to kidnap him and give him a piece of their mind.  After this he formed the Second United Front with Mao’s communists, although in fact the communists spent the rest of the war getting ready to pummel the GMT something nasty.

At one point in the war, a dike was removed in order to flood the Japanese back out of China, leading many people to move to higher ground.  This event is what is known as the Rise of Modern China.  It’s lucky that the mountains in China are made with steps built into them.

World War II raged on under the lead of the Big Three, none of which seemed to have heard of China.  Extraterritoriality died sometime about 1943.  FDR followed soon thereafter.

When the war was over, the Japanese slunk back home after being bombed twice.  This left a power vacuum that sucked all the enemies in China too close for comfort.  Despite attempted meditation by the Americans, the Second Civil War burst up throughout China.  The GMT outnumbered the CCP forces four to one, but only the CCP had gorillas.  The GMT’s heavy machinery was not able to manoeuvre through all the broken china.  The CCP quickly gained in strength because most of the GMT forces were made up of deserters.  Seeing they were beginning to lose ground, the GMT renamed itself Taiwan.  The CCP responded by changing their name to the PRC (People’s Republic of China) and renaming its army the People’s Liberalization Army.  In fact, the war between Taiwan and the PRC is still continuing today, but, despite this, China’s population continues to grow alarmingly.

The communists seized Berlin in 1949, and the country took a sudden left turn off the main highway of modern development.  Mao became the big cheese of all of China.  This was the first clear sign that something was seriously wrong.