Qing China History: Challenges from the West

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With the conclusion of the Arrow War (1860), China realized that her position was challenged by new forces from the West. Her supreme power was shattered, her material resources were limited and her territories were exposed to foreign aggression. Moreover, China at the same time suffered from government disintegration, financial chaos, corruption, natural disasters and peasant revolts. Some conscientious officials came to realize immediate measures had to be taken to strengthen the country and to adjust her to the modern world. Therefore a series of reform movements were carried out for the sake of internal re-construction and national defense.

However, through out the reform movements, there were voices from different classes in society either supporting or opposing the changes. In general, the attitudes of people can be divided into three periods. During the Tongzhi Restoration and Self-strengthening period, the force of continuity, that is, people preferring the traditional belief and rule, played a more influential role that somehow hindered the progress of the reform. Then, in the Hundred Days' Reform movement, the force of change, that is, people preferring changes in society, began to overwhelm the oppositional force. Finally, up to the Late-Qing period, the force of change became so important that nearly every class in China saw the need to save China by a comprehensive reform. In the following paragraphs, the attitudes of Chinese towards various reforms will be discussed. In addition, the reasons behind their change of attitude will also be investigated.

In the first period, when the Tongzhi Restoration (1862-75) and the Self-Strengthening Movement (1860-91) was carrying out, the force of continuity played a vi...

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...ant to show the change of Chinese mentally after several humiliations. They became disillusioned and were willing to accept fundamental changes. Confucianism became less relevant and people were forced to be in favor of westernization.

To conclude, through out the post-Opium period, at first the force of continuity played a more influential role because the Chinese were strict followers of Confucianism and wanted to keep everything intact. Strong nationalism and anti-foreignism acted as hindrance to reform effort. Yet, it could be witnessed that the force of change began to surpass the force of continuity and gained significance in Late Qing period. This was a result of foreign pressure that awaked the Chinese. Nevertheless, this awakening was too late to save China. The revolutionary movement became so intense that finally in 1911 the Qing dynasty was overthrown.

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