1750 to 1900
The Modern Era By:Patrick Ryan
Opium was originally used as a small scale medicine. It did not become a problem until the late 18th century, when the Bristish used it to cover there trade imbalances with China. A very profitable market developed from the opium trade. But opium was illegal in China so it had to be smuggled in and many officials were bribed causing corruption. The silver used to pay for the opium caused China's economy to weaken. When China decided to ban opium under the guidance of Commissioner Lin, who was known as a"drug czar", the British sent a large naval expedition to China. Britain won both wars and ports were opened to European traders and Europeans could buy land in China.
China's population went from 100 million in 1685 to around 430 million in 1853. But an industrial revolution did not occur in China like it did in Europe and the agricultural production couldn't keep up. Smaller farms for the growing peasant population, growing pressure on the land, unemployment, and starvation resulted. As taxes climbed higher and higher for the peasants, Hong Xiuquan led a rebellion that rejected Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism and accepted a unique form of Christianity. But divisions within the leaders and failure to link up with other rebel groups led to the defeat of the uprising. Hong Xiaquan had planned to implement ideas such as no private property, railroads and industrialization of China, and more rights for women.
The treaty of Nanjing ended the opium war in 1842 and restricted much of China's sovereignty while also opening five ports to the British. This demonstrated the shift in power emerging after Britains industrial revolution. Britain again was victorious in the second opium war (1856-1858) which was followed by brutal vandalizing of the emperors summer palace outside of Beijing. More ports were opened to foreign traders. Foreigners were allowed to travel freely and buy land, preach Christianity, and patrol some of the rivers.
Self Strengthening Movement
The self strengthening movement took place around the 1860's and 1870's. It's main goal was to reinvigorate traditional China while borrowing some stuff from the western world. Changes included a better examination system that called for qualified officials, repairs of dikes and irrigation in the countryside, some industrial factories were built, mines expanded, and modern weapons were made. But the overall failure of this movement led to the boxer uprising.
Taking place in northern China between 1898 and 1901, militias calling themselves the society of righteous and harmonious fists killed many Europeans and Chinese Christians. Japan and European counties had to occupy Beijing to stop the uprising making it clear that China was a dependent country mostly under foreign control.
Chinese Revolution of 1911
In 1911 the imperial system in China came to an end bringing in the Republic of China. A group in southern China started the revolt against the Qing Dynasty. The Qing dynasty tried to modernize the military and make late reforms to the examination system and other government policies but were overall overcome by a nationalist movement and external pressures from the western world and Japan. Also weakened by the opium wars.
The Ottoman Empire
Once referred to as "The strong sword of Islam", the Ottomans became known as "The sick man of Europe". By 1750 they controlled the Anatolian heartland, North Africa, and Egypt along with other regions. But the Ottomans couldn't prevent many of these regions from falling to the Christian powers. By 1882, like China, The Ottoman Empire became dependent on the western world and Europe controlled much of there revenue gaining systems.
The leadership of the Ottoman Empire recognized many of the problems within the Empire and started many programs trying to fix the problems. After a few decades of this in 1839 more serious reformist measures took effect. Factories and mines were opened, agricultural lands were taken back, railroads, telegraphs, a modern postal service, and steamships were all established. New western style schooling and law codes were enacted.
The young Ottomans all shared the belief that the empire was a secular state whose people were loyal to the dynasty that ruled it, rather than a Muslim state based on religious principles. Active during the mid 1800's most of the young Ottomans had a western style education and sought changes in the political system. They did not want the emperor to have complete power and favored a more western democratic approach. In 1876 the sultan, Abd al-Hamid ll, accepted a constitution and elected a parliament but reverted back to the old ruling style during war with Russia.
The young Turks pushed for modernization like in Europe and wanted to abandon any reference to Islam. They gained real power when a military coup over threw the government in 1908. They pushed to make many improvements such as opening modern schools, new courts and law codes, making Turkish the official language, and giving women many more rights. Women could get divorces, go to school including college, and abandoning the traditional veil.
Both China and the Ottoman Empire now are heavily dependent on Europe after neither country was able to create the industrial economies required to fend off European invasions. The state these empires were in led to the rise of new nationalist views of society. In 1911 the imperial system collapsed in China and later in 1949 gave way to the rise of communism. After world war 1 the Ottoman Empire broke apart into many smaller fragmented states.
For 250 years before Matthew Perry stormed into Tokyo Bay demanding that trade be opened up to the rest of the world Japan was a isolated nation. Ruled by a shogun who prevented all of the daimyo from going into civil war. But all of the daimyo acted as if they each ruled a small independent country with their own law codes and small armies. Since Japan was not engaged in any warfare for 250 years they experienced significant economic growth, commercialization, and urban development. By 1750 Japan could have been considered the world most industrialized country.
Japan had purposely limited any contact with the world only allowing foreign trade in one port and only the Dutch could trade there. Soon however many European counties and the United States were knocking at the door. Perry forced the issue which led to Japan signing more unequal treaties with the western world. This made people support the shogun even less and ultimately lead to a brief civil war in 1868. A take over by a group of young samurai lead to the restoring of power too a young emperor named Meiji. The shogun was eliminated and Japan like the other Asian empires began to westernize.
As Japan escaped from isolation and built an empire of their own war with Russia was inevitable. There victory over Russia made Japan a major military competitor in the world. They became the first Asian state to defeat a major European power. Japan also gained control of Korea and Taiwan. Japan was now established as an imperialist country.