Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Downfall of the Qing Dynasty

The Chinese 20th century starts with the "Boxer Rebellion" [1]. They are a Chinese secret
organization named the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious fists, that defend
chinese traditional ideals and are supporters of the Qing Dynasty. They make themselves
known because of its anti-westerns and anti-japanese ideas.

[2] The rebellion starts in northeast China. It quickly spreads in the countryside and the
main objective of this fighters is the destruction of foreign property and the killing of
christian chinese. In a matter of moths they reach Beijing and with the support of the
empress Cixi they start the siege of the foreign legation district.

As a result of this the eight mightiest nations of the world (United States, Great Britain,
France, Germany, Italy, Austria-Hungary, Russia and Japan) form the biggest coalition
ever seen to defend their interests and nationals in China. Within a few weeks the coalition
navy destroyed the Chinese navy and the army invaded mainland China. They quickly
reach Beijing and lift the siege. The battles between the belligerents are catastrophic
for the chinese as their casualties are among the many thousands while the coalition
only lose a few hundred soldiers. Finally the empress' cabinet is forced to capitulate
and make war reparations of $330 million to the coalition.

This war represents the weakness of the Qing Dynasty and its failure to protect the
country from external threats Civil disorder is on rise, so an imperial edicts is
implemented, the "New Policies", trying to reform the country with such things as a
national education system. Unfortunately empress Cixi dies in 1908, and a child is
designed as emperor. After a short-term regency Yuan Shikai makes the regent, and
therefore the child emperor Puyi, abdicate thus ending the Qing Dynasty.

*[1] https://www.history.com/topics/china/boxer-rebellion

Revolution in China (1912-1949) & Chinese Civil War

Following the fall of the previously mentioned Qing Dinasty in the Republican Revolution of 1911, a wobbly republic is established in December 1911, with Sun Yat-Sen elected president. Months later Sun resigns in favour of Yuan Shikai, giving him full power. A provisional Constitution is written in March that year and in April the government moves from Nanjing to Beijing.

Chaos and disorder in conjunction with the refusal to give Shandong to China in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, subsequent to the end of WW1, lead to the rise of two political parties willing to reunify China. These groups are the Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CPC). 

In 1923, the KMT & the CPC agree to form an alliance to combat warlordism called the First United Front. However, Sun Yat-Sen dies, bringing Chiang Kai-Shek to power, breaking with the Communists and supporting the Nationalists. A period of hostility begins with the attack in 1927 of KMT led by Chiang over Communist forces in Shanghai and follows with  a period of purge of Communists in regions under KMT control.

Chiang becomes chairmen of the Nationalistic government of the Republic of China in 1927 and due to previous episodes such as the Shanghai Massacre and the breach of the First United Front, a Civil War breaks out in 1927, although its biggest phase concerns the period of 1945-49. China's demand for US aid is analysed in the following newspaper article from 1945 extracted from the Australian National Library: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/42459821. [3]

The Civil War ends in 1949 with the Communist capture of Beijing, where its leader Mao Zedong declared the People's Republic of China; inheriting, however, an unstable nation. [4]

China's role in WWI (1914-19)

Although China doesn't fight directly in WWI [5], its support proves decisive for the further victory of the Allies. When the war broke out, China decided to remain neutral. However, 50,000 troops were secretly offered to the British Minister John Jordan in orden to retake the Chinese province of Qingdao. Jordan rejected the offer and instead, the Japanese used their forces to oust the Germans.
Nevertheless, the massive amount of casualties the British were suffering during the war made Jordan come up with the idea of requesting Chinese aid and support. China would enter the war in the side of the Entente if the members agreed including Japan. Japan sees this as a threat to their power and dominance in the east and refuses to allow them to join. 

Due to the denial to fight directly, Shikai decides to send secret support to the Allies: voluntary non-combatant workers. Their supply includes munition, transport and reparation of tanks.

Finally, the Allies win the war and sign the Treaty of Versailles. China, however, refuses to do so as they expected to receive the mainland territory of Shandong. Instead, it is given to Japan.

*[5] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/surprisingly-important-role-china-played-world-war-i-180964532/

Conflict with Japan & participation in WWII

With respect to China's role in WWII, about 40,000 Chinese soldiers fight alongside the British and Americans, holding down 800,000 Japanese soldiers but suffering around 14 million casualties. When the Allies won in 1945, China was only given a permanent seat on the Security Council of the new United Nations. This information among others was extracted from a Newspaper Article from the CNN from Rana Mitter: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/42459821. [6]

While China suffers its internal problems, uneffective control over the military and the effect of the Great Depression of 1930s lead to a rise of the military in Japan as well as their imperialistic objectives. As a result, Japan occupies Manchuria in 1931 and goes on to invade China in 1937, remaining there until WWII ends in 1945. One of the most significant events is the takeover of the capital city of Nanking, establishing a reign of terror until 1945 called the "Rape of Nanking".

Tension between China and Japan reaches its peak with the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. There, the  Chinese Army opens fire on the Japanese Army and attacks them on the Marco Polo Bridge, causing the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-45). During the conflict, China fought with the aid of the Soviet Union and the USA, being considered the largest Asian War in the 20th century. During the course of the War Japan conquers other Asian Nations but is finally defeated in China.

Chinese rulers & dictators (1911-2008)

The following timeline summarises the evolution of rulers [7] in China:

Economic and Political Policies

Qing Dynasty: The economy during this period has been the same like centuries prior. Focusing mainly in agriculture, handicraft , local trade and internacional trade. But the rulers of this dinasty have followed the tradition of protectionist economic policies putting many obsticules to foreign trade because they value way more chinese products than foreign products  (mainly those from western powers) and because they fear open internacional trade would disturb the country. And they were right about those fears because after the forced signature of the "unequal treaties" western merchants would trade as they wish without any real repercussion thus harming chinese merchants.

Five-Year Plan: After the communist party takes power in China their first goal is to estabilize the economy. Once this is done their first economic policy is a five-year long, soviet-style, reorganization of the economy. The goal is  industrial growth within a very hevay centralized goverment and the collectivization of the agriculture. The main focus is heavy industry (steal, coal, electricity production), they end up being state-owned meanwhile a lo of investment is put into them. Regarding the agriculture every farm in China is organize in large collectives, where thousands of farms produce yields that the State collects and redistribute within the country.

Great Leap Forward: During this time the goverment encourage all citiziens to give their best at working so the economy could grow even further. The colectives are integrated in even bigger blocks (people´s comunes) ,that in theory they should be more effective. Factory workers suffered even longer shifts  so more output can be produced. In the end there is a huge inbalance between industrial and agricultural output because the people´s comunes are not near as efficient as they should have been causing starvation arround the country where millions died. To fix it a program of decentralization starts in the farms by reducing the "basic unit" of agricultural output to a few families instead of entire towns. A lot of the industrial investment is shifted to the agriculture as well as several tax cuts.

Major Economic Reforms: As China is falling behind other economic powers in Europe and Asia they decide to work towards a free market economy while keeping some centralist ideas. Now  individual farmers could keep their yields for profit as long as some amount is given to the government at a fixed price. This encourage farmers to produce more and better output. The direction of the fabrics is given back to private investors and taxation on output produced is implemented instead of giving all the benefits to the central goverment. Opening economic policies are made so foregein investment is permited as well as more internacional trade is created in the so called Special Economic Zones, such as Shanghai. All this policies combine make the overall economic growth increase to levels never seen before in China, thus incrising the quality of life of Chinese citizies. This policies are still used and new ones are created in today´s China.