The Manchu Dynasty
Ruled by the Qing family who originated from Manchuria in Northern China
By 1900, the Chinese empire got weaker. European countries in the nineteenth century gained influence in their affairs by using force against China.
Invaders forced the Manchus to sign unequal treaties, giving them control over China's sea-ports and allowing them to have special trading privileges. By the end of the nineteenth century, 50 of China's ports were treaty ports which were open to foreign trade and residence.
Also, the European powers dividied China into what they called spheres of influence. This meant that, for example, in the British sphere, the British people had the largest share of business, missionary work, transport, etc.
Europeans were very unpopular amongst the Chinese and many Chinese blamed the Manchus for allowing China to be over-run by Europeans, and planned to overthrow them.
Between 1850 and 1864, large areas of fertile land were laid waste, 600 cities were ruined and 20 million people were killed. The Manchus were only able to control and put down the rebellion with the help of the Europeans, making them even more unpopular.
Emperor Guangxu tried to strengthen China by modernizing the way it was run. During a three month period known as the Hundred Days of Reform, Guangxu introduced new schools and colleges as well as a new examination system. He improved the government's budget and got rid of corrupt officials from the court.
However, his aunt, Empress Dowager Cixi, opposed these changes. With the help of conservative court officials, Cixi had him imprisoned and forced him to grant her power to rule China.
The Boxer Rebellion
During the Hundered Days of Reform, opposition to the Manchus was common throughout China. Many of those who opposed the Manchus also despised the foreigners. Their hatred towards them reached a peak when two harvests failed and the Yellow River flooded vast areas of farm land, causing a famine.
A rebellion was organized by a movement called Yi-Ho Tuan who were known as Boxers.The Boxers blamed foreigners and Christians and called them Foreign Devils. They espeically hated Chinese who coinverted to Christianity. At first, they despised the Manchus but after Empress Dowager Cixi won them over to her side, she showed her support, encouraging them to attack foreigners.
They reached their climax in 1900 when the Boxers killed Europeans and Christians who they have captured. European governments sent an armed force to Beijing to protect their nationals. However, the European force was defeated by a Chinese army cooperating with the Boxers.
At the same time, a Boxer rising begain in Beijing, attacking and burning the French cathedral there, killing hundreds of Chinese Christians in flames. In the Legation area, the Boxers trapped nearly 1000 foreigner keeping them under siege for two months. The European government reacted angrily at this and a six-nation force attacked China, capturing and looting Beijing, foricng the Manchus to pay a fine of £67 million. Many captured Boxers were executed on the streets.
After the Boxer Rebellion
The downfall of the Boxers did not solve any problems as the harsh methods used by the Europeans to suppress them made many Chinese hate them even more. Also, the invasion and looting of Beijing showed how weak the Manchus were.
Empress Dowager Cixi realized that changes were necessary. In 1905, she started to modernize the education system. She formed a New Army modelled on European armies. She promised the formation of a parliament and democratic elections but all this was too little and it was too late to save the Manchu dynasty. The anti-Manchu and anti-foreigner movement had already spread to so many people that the Manchu dynasty was to be overthrown very soon.