Evaluation of the Hundred Days Reform in 1898
China faced a series of defeat since the First Anglo-Chinese War.
After being defeated by Japan in the Sino-Japanese War in 1895,
foreign imperialism accelerated as the weaknesses of the Qing
government were increasingly evident to the foreign powers. The
political-conscious intellectuals now regarded reform not of academic
interest but boiling urgency. The programs of the Hundred Days Reform
were not too idealistic in fact; its failure was due to other factors,
such as weaknesses in leadership. Immanuel Tsu remarked “China at
1898 stood at a turning point in history: whereas success of reform
could stave off the breakup, failure could mean the extinction of
The objective of the reform was to save China from the ever-increasing
foreign imperialism. A reform was said to be successful if it could
realize its goals and objectives. Even though China still faced
foreign imperialism after the Hundred Days Reform, a closer look can
tell us that the reform programs were quite comprehensive compared to
that of Self-Strengthening Movement.
Politically, the reformers would like to increase administrative
efficiency and establish a more effective government. They suggested
the abolition of sinecures and useless posts; for example, the
president and vice-president of the Board of Rites were dismissed. A
budget was also prepared for national finance. Legal codes were
simplified to pave the ways for the abolition of
extra-territoriality. If the reform were given enough time to carry
out, it could successfully tackle the problems the Qing government
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...nalists at the highest level.”
Moreover, the reformers were too idealistic and had not real
understanding of power politics. Kang and Liang were southern
scholars who had no political experience. They didn’t understand the
political intricacies of the metropolitan government, thus they were
easily defeated when Tuan Shi-kai betrayed them. Guangxu had no
actual power also, or he wouldn’t have asked Yuan for help.
In short, the reform programs were not idealistic. It was the
reformers who were too idealistic to think that they could carry out
the reform and overcome the obstacles Cixi put before them. A further
proof that showed the programs were not idealistic was presented in
the Late Qing Reform, which put many of the reform programs of the
Hundred Days Reform into actions and even to a more radical extent.