Ryerson Computer Science HST555: Modern China

(go back)

Series of Dynasties

Yuan (Mongol) -> Ming (Han) -> Qing (Manchu, with Mongol)

1 - Ming Dynasty


  • white & blue porcelains
  • great wall (against mongols)
  • civil service exam for an official position


  • trouble with eunuchs
  • economic issues (silver -> high inflation) -> farmer rebellions

2 - Rise of the Qing

  • founded by Nurhachi
  • from Manchuria, but the Manchu's allied with some Mongols as well
  • pressed south from the NE region
  • wu Sangui's (Ming) army was pressed from both sides (Ming farmer rebels on the other), ended up siding with Qing
  • wu Sangui eventually became too power-hungry within the Qing empire and tried to take control for himself; was eventually destroyed

Macartney's Views

George Macartney was Bitish statesmen sent to China to try to improve relations. Macartney reported back to GB misinformation about China's 'instability' to try to drum up support for attempted colonization.

  • described Chinese system as 'despotic'
  • his comments encouraged 'orientalism'

Assimilating the Han

The Manchu used a multi-pronged approach to bringing the Han under their control

  • han were forced to cut their hair in manchu style "lose your hair or lose your head"
    • this went against Han confucianism (preserve the body)
    • humiliating, forced conformity (Han fought as long as they could)
  • manchu women were not to have their feet bound so that they could be recognized to prevent interbreeding among Han and Manchu; Manchu didn't want to be mixed with the Han -- there were too many Han

3 - Opium War with Great Britain

Lead-up to the war:

  • britian had just lost North American colony (American Revolution)
  • britian had just gone through industrial revolution; with 1 less colony meant smaller market
  • british colony in India wasn't doing so well economically (operated by the East Indian Company)
  • britian faced trade deficit; found that trading opium (through the cohong) balanced things out

3 - Opium War (cont'd)

Lead-up to the war cont:

  • opium was deemed a harmful narcotic in China, was subsequently banned; trade went 'underground'
  • british dealers were in a tough position with stockpiles of opium when the ban started
  • generally poor business and social relations between the two countries


  • first steam driven ship in battle, Nemesis
  • british captured Xiamen, Ningbo, Zhoushan, Shanghai, Zhenjiang; approached capital Nanjing when Qing requested for peace


  • Treaty of Nanjing (12 articles)
    • most important treaty settlement in modern China's history
    • starting point of China becoming a semi-colony
    • extraterritoriality for Westerners (in fact pretty much any non-Asian since the Chinese didn't have the means to distinguish between foreigners of different nationalities)
    • opened the flood gates for many more treaties (an entire "treaty system", aka the "unequal treaties")
    • two more important treaties to follow were:
      • Japan: Treaty of Shimonoseki
      • Eight-nation alliance: Boxer Protocol

4 - Late Qing Reformations

3-stage reformation

  1. Self-Strengthening Movement
    • Led by Prince Gong
    • Introduced the Office for the Management of Business of Foreign Countries (Zongli Yamen) 1861
    • Heavy industry focus on military
    • Education focused on English (and other Western languages), Western Math, Science, as well as sending students abroad
  2. Hundred-Day Reform
    • Military
    • Political
    • Education
    • Economy
  3. Cixi's deeper and thorough reforms
    • abolish civil service exam

5 - Late Qing Rebellions (select examples)

Taiping Rebellion (1850 - 1864)

  • upwards of 30 million or more died
  • led by Hong Xiuquan; told others he was brother of Jesus Christ
  • anti-Qing, anti-Confucianism
  • Radical Social Programs: Property ownership, family structure
    • Zeng Guofan - major enemy of Taiping rebellion
      • wrote extensively about Taiping rebellion
    • "Land System of the Heavenly Kingdom" 1853
      • utopian sharing, equality system; communal
      • "nowhere will inequality exist, no one not be well fed and clothed"
      • Spence: most utopian, comprehensive, and authoritarian scheme...
      • hard to enforce their "ideal" system outside the capital; resistance, etc
    • Radical Gender, Family Structure
      • traditional families abolished; husbands, wives could see each other on a schedule; lived separately
      • influenced by Hakka (guest families); leader Hong Xiuquan was Hakka

Boxer Rebellion (1898 - 1901)

  • could be considered early Chinese nationalism
  • To support Qing, Expel foreigners
  • mainly illiterate farmers (vs educated people of Taiping rebellion)
  • less organized, but more secretive (farmers work during day, attack at night)
  • attack anything "foreign" (ripped up railway tracks, telephone poles, stations)
  • martial arts, believed in magic

6 - 1911 Revolution

Sun Yat-Sen

  • relatives in San Francisco, Hawaii; degree from Hong Kong
  • felt alienated, rejected by rulers (wanted to converse with the guy who signed Sino-Japanese post-war treaty)
  • started a revolt in mainland, was expelled to Japan where he started Tongmenghui (aka Chinese Alliance Association)

Tongmeng Hui - began in Japan


  • expel the manchus
  • restore China to "Chinese" (ie, not the Manchus)
  • establish a republic (liberty, equality, fraternity <- western political philosophies)
  • equalization of landownership (evaluate everyone's land to establish a baseline, future increases in value should go toward the State)

6 - 1911 Revolution (cont'd)

Revolution (Oct 22, 1911)

  • accidental bomb detonation exposed the rebel preparations, so decided to act immediately the next day (unplanned)
  • emporer abdicated; Sun Yat-Sen became first President
  • Yuan Shikai elected Provisional President in Feb 1912


  • new westernized clothing
  • introduced lunar calendar (also a western thing)
  • avoided conflict with the foreigners to try to prevent too many problems all at once

7 - Warlord Regimes (1911 - 1927)

After the collapse of Qing, army leaders (mostly of Beiyang Army developed during the Self Strengthening Movement) had no one to report to, so they ran amock.

Yuan Shikai

  • leader of Beiyang Army; forced Sun Yat-sen out of office
  • refused Yat-sen's offer to go to Nanjing, his army was in Bejing
  • decided to become emperor instead of president; nation thief; people reacted very badly, angry, Shikai died not long after

Li Yuanhong & Duan Qirui

Zhang Xun

  • Promoted another Manchu emperor

8 - May Fourth & New Cultural Movements (1916 - 1923)

May 4th Movement

  • Japan had pressed into China (through Korea) took territory formerly occupied by Germany (Shandong)
  • Japan presented 21 demands to Yuan Shikai
  • Japan helped the Allies in WW1, at Versailles Conference were awarded the land they took from Germany in China
  • China was angry; May 4th 1919 student demonstrations at Beijing University

New Cultural Movement

Scholars suggested that the entire traditional culture and value system of China needed to be overhauled

Cultual Iconoclasm (breaking icons)

  • literature revolution: Hu Shi wanted to change writing system, from classical to vernacular
  • changed classical to vernacular successfully possibly because another reformer suggested replacing chinese symbols with roman letters entirely; this was disliked so they compromised

Introduction of Communist Party (CCP) in 1921

  • started with only 13 members

9 - Rise & fall of United Front between KMT and CCP against warlords

1 Building the National Revolutionary Army

  • Sun Yat-sen; Whampoa Military Academy in 1924

2 Constructing the "United Front"

Temporarily KMT and CCP

3 Northern Expedition (1926 - 8) of Nationalist Revolution Army

  • Chiang Kai-shek (right-wing)
  • purged CCP (1927): "would rather kill a thousand innocents than let one Communist slide away"
  • Nanjing capital

10 - Nationalist Government Decade (1927 - 1937)

I - Marriage between Chiang and Song Meiling Dec 1927

  • important political relationship - Song family
  • Song lived in US, spoke English well
  • introduced a Western connection
  • sister were educated in Western finance & economics
  • one sister was widow of Sun Yat-sen; but she was not happy, felt Chiang was betraying Sun's political values; condemned Chiang publicly ("pseudo-leaders", narrow-minded militarists...)
  • Three benefits from the Song famly
    1. Mother of the nation; Sun Yat-sen's widow
    2. "Monetary gods" - TV Song, HH Kong (husband of one sister)
    3. American connection

II - Close Association with Germany: model of strong military state

  • Organizational model (one single leader)
  • Connections with Third Reich of Hitler; exchange of personnel for training

III - New Life Movement

  • imposing facist controlling rules on the public
  • New Life slogans carried in the street; if you violate, soldiers are watching and will fine you

IV - Rural Strategies, Survival of Communists

  • communists moved to the mountains; hard for the Nationalists to find & attack them
  • convinced the farmers to follow by promising land reforms
  • Long March [1934-35]
    • 100,000 communists started the journey, 10,000 survived when reached Yan'an

11 - War of Resistance against Japan (1931-1945)

I Mukden Incident (9/18)

  • attempted destruction of a northern railroad
  • first agression of japan on mainland China; first post-WW1 military challenge
  • Japan setup puppet Emperor (Pu Yi) in Manchuko
  • league of nations condemned Japan, told them to back off
  • Japan left the league of nations

II Xi'an Incident in 1936, Second United Front

  • Chiang Kai-shek wanted to fight against the communists
  • Generals Zhang Xueliang and Yang Hucheng launched coup; arrested Chiang
  • Chiang finally ended the civil war with Communists in order to fight the Japanese
  • Chiang out of spite captured and exiled Zhang Xueliang

III Breakout of Full War with Japan: Three All Policy

  • Japan Marched into Beijing; though technically still not at war
  • burn all, kill all, loot all

IV East Coast: Rape of Nanking

  • 260,000 murdered [est 350,000]
  • 20,000 rapes [est 20,000 to 80,000]
  • Japan denies the numbers, denies it happened still

V Nationalist Gov moved to Chongqing

VIII Comfort Women

  • majority Korean, then some Chinese, Japanese, Dutch
  • was PLANNED and organized by the Japanese Goverment and Military
  • early 90s women came forward to complain
  • gov refused to admit direct involvement
  • gov never appologized
  • only paid 1% of what germany paid for war reparations

IX: Japan's struggle with memory of the War

  • depict themselves as victims; selectively remembering events like the atomic bombs
  • Why does Japan remember the war as they do?
    • US dominance in Tokyo trial
    • Cold War balance

( 1945 - 1949 ) Civil War, CCP & GMD

II Hurley & George Marshall Mediations and Negotiations for a Coalition Gov (Aug 1945 - Jan 1947)

IV CCP Advanving (1947 - 1949)

  • Formed: Republican China in Taiwan (Dec 1949), & People's Republic of China in Mainland (Oct 1949)