China 1871 CE

The Qing dynasty is shaken by a great rebellion and imperial China has entered the final phase of its history.

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What is happening in China in 1871CE

The history of imperial China has now entered its final phase. Tensions over trade between China and Britain, particularly over the role of British merchants in bringing illegal opium into the country, led to the outbreak of the first Opium War (1839-42). In this, the superiority of Western forces over Chinese told, and the treaty which ended it was the first of several “unequal treaties” China would be forced to sign, favorable to foreign interests. The most enduring result of this one was the establishment of Hong Kong as an outpost of the British empire.

Continuing population growth and spreading poverty within the Chinese empire led to the outbreak of the most destructive uprising in China’s history (and in world history as well). This was the Taiping rebellion, which began in 1850, and was aimed at driving the Qing dynasty from China. Within a couple of years, the Qing government had lost control over a large part of southern and central China. Then, with the rebels undefeated and another major revolt breaking out further north, China found herself at war with Britain (and now France) again (1858-60). This led to the emperor’s Summer Palace in Beijing being burnt down – and of course, to another “unequal treaty”. More rebellions broke out in various provinces of the empire, and rebel forces roamed, apparently at will, through the length and breadth of China. The Qing dynasty found itself facing challenges on all sides, not least because the Chinese people were increasingly thinking of the Qing, who had originally come from outside China, as part of the problem.

By the time the Taiping rebellion had been crushed (1864), 20-30 million lives had been lost. There followed a period of rebuilding, which was remarkably successful given the circumstances, and included the resettlement of large areas of depopulated lands. Some attempts at modernizing China’s armed forces were also made.

Next map, China in 1914

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