In 1900, China’s glory days were behind her. China was a nation in decline. In 1900, China was heavily controlled by foreign nations who tended to dominate the ports such as Shanghai. China was ruled by the Qing family, though the family is better known as the Manchu’s.
The Nineteenth Century has seen a marked involvement in China by European powers. Wars – the so-called “Opium Wars” – between China and Britain and France led to defeats for China. She also had to hand over to Britain the strategically important port of Hong Kong. In 1894-95, Japan attacked China. This also led to defeat and Japan took from China Korea, Formosa (Taiwan) and Port Arthur.
One consequence of these wars, was that China lost effective control of her lucrative sea ports. 50 of China’s most prosperous ports were deemed “treaty ports” which meant that they were open to foreign trade and residence. European nations also divided up China into spheres of influence and in these spheres the European nation involved all but ran it. The wishes of the Chinese were ignored. This, understandably, created a great deal of resentment amongst the Chinese.
The Manchu dynasty took the blame for this situation. Their position was unaffected by the European ‘take-over’ of China. There were rebellions against the rule of the Manchu’s. The most infamous – the Taiping Rebellion – lasted from 1850 to 1864. In this time 600 cities were ruined and as many as 20 million people were killed. Vast areas of fertile land were destroyed – land China could not afford to lose. The Manchu’s only restored their power with the help of European nations. Though this was successful, it made the Manchu’s even more hated by the Chinese people.
The Manchu family could not allow this hatred to continue. In 1898, the emperor Guangxu introduced a batch of reforms during the so-called Hundred Days of Reform. These introduced
new schools and colleges to boost the educational system in China corrupt officials were removed from court the financial structure of the government was reformed and modernised
However, these reforms which could have led to China becoming a more modern state, were never introduced. A rebellion at court, lead by Guangxu’s aunt, Cixi, led to him being imprisoned. Cixi was given the power to rule China in his place. She opposed these reforms and they were never introduced.
Therefore, in 1900, China remained
a nation dominated by European nations led by a highly conservative court which did not wish to see reforms as they believed they would weaken the Manchu’s power a nation where many millions detested all that the Manchu’s stood for a nation where foreigners were hated
It would only be natural to expect a movement to grow to fight against those who ruled China. This was the Yi-Ho Tuan movement – the Boxers.