• China, Britain and France: A comparative analysis of the East and West's leading Imperial powers 1644-1911



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    China, Britain and France: A comparative analysis of the East and West's leading Imperial powers 1644-1911
    by Dante Von Hespburg




    Painting of Qing Matchlock Banner soldiers battling against British Line Infantry, Battle of Chinkiang (Author unknown, Image sourced from Wikipedia)

    The following is a short academic article outlining an introductory look at the differences and similarities between the Chinese (particularly Qing) and British and French empires. It will, I believe, spark both choruses of agreement (as any writer hopes!) and howls of 'shame'. Both are good for any article (I said optimistically). My hope though is that it will encourage the reader to dwell on the shared and connected histories of China and the 'West'. The research, debate and understanding are in this modern era more important than ever as the globe's centre of power takes a shift away from the Atlantic and towards the Pacific, which arguably is its 'historic' place (though thinking more China-India admittedly). I am writing of course from a western (and particularly British) perspective and the historical analysis here will alas reflect that (bias is something we can strive to mitigate, but can never avoid) despite a conscious effort to centre the discussion on China. I do not claim this is an exhaustive analysis, nor is China's history my scholarly speciality, but more I hope this to be an introductory piece to a further series of investigations, out of which I hope some discussion can be generated. In particular, I hope for discussion around the merits of an outward looking power versus one that turns in on itself which perhaps is I would hazard politically relevant today, through a role reversal from East to West.

    The premise on which this article is based is that the Chinese empire's underlying cultural ideology of Confucianism directed its social and political self-conception towards a universal ruler exercising a 'Mandate of Heaven'. The empire's large-scale and continuous geographic context forced the promulgation of this ideology and supported it in creating an inward-looking Confucian state obsessed pragmatically and ideologically with the creation and maintenance of stability and unity, perhaps above all else. Thus, China, while sharing similarities with Imperial Britain and France as will be discussed, was set apart because of this underlying ideology creating a system at odds with the two 'western' powers' own outward-looking and aggressive ideology of global economic-cultural enforcement through free trade and the 'mission to civilize'. The European powers' shared geographical context provided the forced competition and impetus necessary for this more extrovert cultural outlook. While the Chinese empire's geographic dominance and lack of equivalent external rivals saw it turn to an inward facing ideological stance to counter its main perceived threat, that being itself, in the form of the potential for inner turmoil and the issues of governing effectively such a sweeping geographic entity. This article will argue this through an analysis of cultural, economic and political differences through and by showing how cultural ideology and geographical context created and sustained these differences. Lack of space and source constraints will centre the analysis on the Qing era (1644-1911) of China. This period has been singled out due to the Qing's increased interactivity with the world, particularly with Britain and France, which can thus more succinctly and openly highlight their differences and similarities. Britain and France in this time period too went through a transition of unprecedented globalisation in the mimicking of Spain's earlier (and first) 'Global maritime Empire'.

    Qing China was a vast continuous land-centric empire. Its early unification in the third century BCE and imposition of Han culture over China (Waites, 2009, p.123) created the ideological concept of its geographical unification as a single entity. Britain and France in contrast were global maritime empires, whose geographical background, despite the example Rome was one of a patchwork of vying coexisting sovereign states in Europe. The competition of the area drove its main powers to actively, or reactively against rivals, seek access to resources beyond the continent to try and gain an upper-hand, or to make sure the playing field remained even by copying the other states.

    Chinese imperial unity relied on the permanency of Confucianism within the state apparatus. Confucianism advocated a strict social hierarchy with responsibilities to both social superiors and inferiors (Weiming, 2016). Conquest Dynasties like the Qing assimilated Confucian doctrine and its perceptions of the 'Mandate of Heaven', instead of overturning local beliefs as the British and French tended to do in Africa and to a lesser extent in India. This was perhaps a pragmatic step given that Lord Macartney notes during his embassy to China in 1793 that the Qing rulers were still aware of their foreign origins, seen through the 'precautions' (Macartney, 1962, p.2) of favouring their own Manchu countrymen for higher offices. Though this was an outside perspective of the empire as foreigners were only allowed 'snapshots' of (Waites, 2009, p.129), Macartney as an ambassador experienced the emperor's court firsthand and so must have gleaned some practical workings and moods and thus can be seen as relatively reliable in this regard at least.


    The Reception -A caricature of Lord Macartney's reception by the Qialong Emperor by James Gillray (Image sourced from Wikipedia). Interestingly the image belies the reality in which the Embassy for the British was an absolute disaster. While Macartney's account and the Qianlong Emperor's letter are perhaps the most important historical documents for Chinese-Western relations from the 17th Century,the actual Embassy failed in all its aims, and a series of ridiculous faux-pas marred the proceedings- firstly Macartney due to his own hubris and the slowness of Chinese officials directly sailed up-river towards Beijing to land, a big 'no-no' in contemporary Chinese etiquette. Several more issues dogged the meetings, the weirdest of which was Macartney's stipulation that he (as Representative of the King) would only kow-tow to the Emperor if the Emperor and his officials did the same to a portrait of the British Monarch- apparently the request was so ridiculous that the translators left it out completely when passing on Macartney's words to the Emperor.

    The adoption of the Mandate of Heaven added a unique internal element to Chinese imperialism that was absent in Britain and France. The Mandate of Heaven was a double-edged sword. It legitimized their conquest as one being divinely sanctioned by basing political authority on Confucian virtues. This also naturally justified the overthrow of a dynasty that was incompetent in governance or the cultivation of these virtues by a popular uprising where even a peasant could take the throne. This had actually happened previously with Zhu Yuanzhang in 1368 who had founded the Ming Dynasty, which the Qing themselves had overthrown (Szczepanski, 2014), making stability a key imperial concern through recent history if nothing else. The British and French had a similar conception of a monarch's 'divine right'. This had been kicking around since the early feudal-based medieval regimes, but came into its own in the 'Age of Absolutism' of the 17th century where the former social contracts between the 'three estates' (Commoners, Church and Nobility) were crushed under the (extravagantly jewelled) heel of the monarchy. This 'divine right of kings' while also justifying kingship through heavenly appointment as the Mandate of Heaven did, contrastingly, made it a sin to topple a monarch through revolt as seen with Samuel Roswell's coronation sermon for George III in which God is against 'enemies of the succession' (Roswell, 1714, p.4).

    Thus the rebellion that had established the Ming dynasty with its peasant origins (Chan, 2008) would be an anathema to Britain and France, as shown practically in their reaction to the French Revolution, a popular uprising partly due to monarchical incompetence (Wu, 2016). Britain and royalist France started a series of 'Coalition Wars' (1792-1815) to reinstate the former dynasty, de-legitimizing the uprising's success through their non-acceptance and eventual reversal of it, something that in China just did not happen, as the Mandate of Heaven made a fallen dynasty naturally illegitimate in Chinese historiography as they had clearly lost divine favour.

    The European Coalition Wars also relate to the European specific context of interstate rivalries. With multiple states in competition for resources, a maritime global empire was necessary to influence the balance of power due to the dangers and difficulties of wide-scale European conquest against other states with similar armies and tactics (Lawrence, 2009, p.20). Even if a European state was not particularly interested originally in imperialistic adventures, if it wanted to be one of Europe's Great Powers, it would have to mimic its rivals and acquire overseas colonies merely to 'keep up' in terms of economic, political and military power. Britain and France had done this to stay competitive with Spain, both eventually toppling that Empire of its crown position in Europe and then Britain doing the same to France later after 1815 through the creation of more-successful overseas colonies and the undermining of their rivals' global possessions. Qing China already had a large territory and when stable, no immediate threats (Waites, 2009, p.129), making global colonies an unnecessary excess, particularly as there was no driving political need from inter-state rivalry. This combined with issues of keeping control over an already vast continuous empire, let alone a discontinuous one and colonies on the strict hierarchical Chinese model of direct state control made overseas colonies a stretch too far.

    European colonies were thus economic acquisitions with a competitive edge. Both France and Britain colonized India in an attempt to control luxury goods instead of allowing their 'rival' a monopoly (Raynal, 1770[1776], p.2). China's conquests lacked these motivations. Qing expansion into Mongolia in 1690 was preliminarily satisfied by the Mongolian Khan merely swearing allegiance to the Emperor (Perdue, 1996, p.763), perhaps due to the prestige inherent in the victory and its reflection in honouring the ancestors of those involved. This was uniquely important in Confucianism, the mention of 'My Ancestors' merit...reached their distant shores' (Qianlong Emperor, 1793[1957]) contained in the Emperor's own summarisation of Lord Macartney's embassy implies the British are there due to his ancestor's splendour, not the Emperor's own. While perhaps a formality on an official document, it also may show the importance of legacy and need to sustain it, which is also, mirrored through any acts of greatness, such as conquest.

    Britain and France had an array of colony ruling arrangements. British India was governed chaotically with directly and indirectly ruled areas all under an Empress, who was only a Queen of Britain (Porter, quoted in Lawrence, p.109). The Qing by comparison directly unified China with its border conquests administratively under 'one family' as its Emperor framed it in 1755 (Dunnell, 2004, p.77). Geographically the distances involved in both maritime and land-based conquests were huge. Due to the difficulty of logistics, the Qing even had to lure the Mongolians closer to China to conquer them (Perdue, 1996 p.764).

    Qing Empire, 1765 (Image sourced from Wikipedia) - Continuous empires in many ways had far greater logistical and communication difficulties than discontinuous empires as water-borne travel typically tended to be faster, though just as risky.

    This equally shared logistical nightmare should have put the Qing, British and French in a similar position. However, in 1800 the collective population of Britain and France was forty million (Lawrence, 2009, p.21). China had '320 million' (Waites, 2009, p.119). The manpower difference and continuous imperial nature allowed the Qing to keep its eight Banner armies spread throughout the empire to ensure order, allowing mutual support and enabling a more comprehensive form of direct control with less logistical requirements than France or Britain. Both France and Britain were limited by manpower, material requirements and naval tonnage in transporting large bodies of men. Britain's naval tonnage in 1815 was 609.3 and France's 228.3 tons (Table 8.5 in Waites, 2009, p.32). This while significant (both states had the largest global navies) was further restricted by needing to maintain a global presence in all their overseas interests, unlike China's concentration of force in one, albeit huge, geographical area. Compromises in governance on local contexts were preferred by Europeans over a China style direct unification. However, such compromises always favoured Europeans, such as the 'doctrine of lapse' used from the 1840s in British India to bring semi-autonomous princely states with no heir into direct rule (Goldberg, 2009).



    Britain and France, 1750
    (Image sourced from Eric Ross, Al Akhawayn University, Morocco) - Unlike the Qing they followed the European 'Great Power' tradition set down by Portugal and Spain in acquiring global maritime empires as a basis for prestige and economic purposes (mostly to fuel or mitigate 'Great Power' rivalries). The key departure from Portugal and Spain's example was the 1842 adoption in Britain of the concept of 'free trade' over the previous mercantilist model, which would eventually influence and invigorate similar pushes in other European empires.

    The forcing of a British doctrine over an indigenous system highlights the more aggressive scale of western imperialism. While the Qing made some socio-cultural changes to China, such as the parallel addition of their own aristocrats alongside existing scholar-official elites (Wittfogel, 1957, p.12) they were net assimilators of Chinese culture. In comparison, the French and British by the late 1800s had an ideological 'mission to civilize'. This was particularly apparent in France, as shown by a French article in the 1880s stating that spreading civilisation was worth 'spilled blood' (Lawrence, 2009, p.112). While the actual impact of this on readers is unknowable it can be correlated with actions taken during the same period, as reported by Guy de Maupassant visiting Algeria in 1881. He said that the French were 'brutal conquerors' and that the 'practices we impose' did not fit the country (Maupassant, 1801[1999], p.2). This is an argument against the overwriting of indigenous structures, but combined with other primary sources shows there is no evidence here of any two-way assimilation as with Qing China.

    Similarly, while British India retained local elites and arguably up to a point saw these indigenous social elites as equal to Britain's own upper class, as highlighted by George V's participation in the Maharaja of Nepal's 1911 hunt (Figure 10.6 in Lawrence, 2009, p.105). this could be perceived as merely a conciliatory gesture rather than a Qing styled elite incorporation, particularly as Dadabhai Naraoji, an Indian politician and member of India's local elite argued that equal treatment 'without distinction of race or creed...was never carried out' (Naraoji, D. (1901 [1917]), p.2). The replacement of Indian forms of rule with a bureaucratic civil service modelled on British ideals in which Indians had a very small voice (The Indian Civil Service) is another blow to the idea that any kind of equality in race-relations was sought. Thus while both British and Qing conquerors held the highest offices, the British exported and imposed their own system while the Qing adopted the Chinese one.

    Furthermore, China's basis in Confucianism and the belief in the Mandate of Heaven created an external hierarchy of foreign states, imitating the internal social one with the 'enlightened' Chinese emperor at the pinnacle (Waites, 2009, p.135). This system indicates that like Britain and France a belief in the superiority of Chinese culture over others existed, seen in the Emperor's remark to George III that by sending an embassy he was 'inclining his heart towards civilization' (Qianlong Emperor, 1793[1957], p.1). This remark also highlights the key differences underlying a shared west-east attitude of cultural superiority. The Qing Empire was far less pro-active and aggressive in disseminating their notions of superiority. Tributary state governments were not changed or interfered with, unlike those under the spheres of Britain and France. Britain indeed from the Qing's perspective was considered a 'tributary state' during Macartney's embassy to China and yet the Emperor noted 'your country has its own customs...you would certainly not copy Chinese ones' (Qianlong Emperor, 1793[1957], p.3), a stark contrast to Britain and France's global mission to export their own civilisation as highlighted earlier.

    The fact is the Qing tributary system was not a 'western'-styled imperial relationship, but more had echoes of that, while being the only mechanism accepted by Qing China to regulate and perform international interactions. This was due to an emphasis in China on cultural superiority and the ideas of China as the 'Middle Kingdom' of the earth- its centre. It was truly an 'empire of the mind' in this regard, and was incredibly frustrating to European empires who saw imperial superiority as being based not on theoretical or cultural concepts, but on economic and military power that was tangible and had actual practical limitations. This was a hang-over of their own geographic conception of having co-existing Great Powers with firm areas of influence. But yet in dealing with China up until 1839 at least, they had to conform to the Chinese system and play by its rules or risk being ignored (and thus losing out to their fellow European rivals who were courting China too for economic access). This system thus did not even share an economic purpose with the loosest British and French colonial relationships, as showcased in a schedule for protection treaties in 1880 Kenya which more than expanding influence actually ceded 'rights to land' (Kenya Land Commission, 1934) to Britain. Qing emperors actually gave greater value back through gifts to their Tributaries than the value of tribute received. This is showcased with the Emperor stating he gave the British a 'generous return, wanting to preserve my...power' (Chinese Record, 1957), which places the tributary system as a tool for showcasing the emperor's Confucian virtue and to aid internal stability through confirmation of his pinnacle position by foreigners, broadcast to his subjects. China thus lacked the real-terms basis of economic gain for it to have a true informal empire on the European model, such as Britain's over South America or China, where military pressure was leveraged for permanent economic concessions (Darwin, 1997, p.2)

    Confucian-based imperialism was thus passive compared to its European equivalent. From the mid-1800s the ideology of 'free trade' had influenced Britain and France, as shown by their dropping of tariffs to '12-15' percent in 1875 from a highly protectionist stance in 1820 (Table 9.2 in Mackie, pp.51-52). This change indicated free trade's incorporation alongside the civilizing mission as Palmerston, British foreign secretary in the mid-1800s framed, 'Commerce is the best pioneer of civilisation' (Lynn, 1999, p.6). The impetus for this policy came not from government but opposition MPs like Richard Cobden influenced by and in return representing 'the manufacturing population' (Cobden, 1841). Qing China had no similar political system for the outlet of new or radical ideas. The Confucian hierarchy prevented it as the Emperor's position was absolute, as seen in Macartney's account of the ritual prostrations of the court in 'worship and adoration' of their sovereign (Macartney, 1962, p.1). The demand to respect virtuous betters meant institutional challenge by subjects in the manner of Cobden was impossible, nor would it be in the interests of the Emperor to weaken his authority by heeding such calls. This ideological stasis was reinforced by China's elite being tied to the state and Confucian system as a bureaucratic nobility whose social position was dependent on acquisition of a state given degree. While a degree was also required for British administrators in the Indian Civil Service, these were typically already from the wealthy upper classes (Mackie, 2009, p.89) thus having an independent power-base, not reliant on state support for status as the scholar-gentry's meritocracy was in Qing China (The Metropolitan Museum, 2004). This made China's elite unlikely to advocate policies, which changed the state structure on which their status relied.

    Meanwhile state-independent British elites could act freely in influencing policy and even directing imperialism. The basis of property for social status (Waites, 2009, p.131) removed the direct consequence of losing position by 'taking on' the state policy for elites, unlike in China. Thus, a working relationship formed in Britain as Joseph Warren in 1772 states that laws are made by the 'consent of each branch' (Warren, 1772[1992], p.1),as one 'elite' group - be it gentry, Parliament, Industrialists or Monarchy - could check the power of the others from being too absolute (Wittfogel, 1957, p.14). Thus a group of private sub-imperialists where nurtured while China's Confucian state would have sought their 'pulverization' (Wittfogel, 1957, p.17). Their advocacy of aggressive ideologies to further their own interests through expanding the empire as is seen with the Scottish merchant William Jardine's lobbying of Palmerston to 'open up' China, who in turn 'immediately wrote to the Prime Minister...to discuss a military expedition' (Su, 2004, p.46). This resulted in the forced opening of Chinese markets to international trade and incorporation into the west's global imperial system. (All through opium no less).


    An 1842 Sketch of British soldiers occupying the ground above Canton during the First Opium War.(Image sourced from Wikipedia). This preliminary conflict between Britain and Qing China saw an unexpected and heavy defeat inflicted upon the Chinese by the British who they had previously underestimated, in no small part due to the constructs of 'barbarians' in the Mandate of Heaven. It would take though the Second Opium War for a real change in attitude among China's political elite with the end of their 'Great Power' status confirmed to themselves and the European powers through Britain and France drawing China into their systems of informal empire. The Qing's (unsuccessful) attempts to reform along western lines after this were the death knell for the older traditional Confucian-based order as it gave way to China being forced into a distinctly 'Western' global order of extroverted politics and economics.

    China's resistance to free trade came from ideological and pragmatic perspectives. Confucian is the morality of rural artisans and farmers (The Metropolitan Museum, 2004) and placed them above merchants in the social order. Unlike in Britain this offered status to rural workers leading to a larger scale of artisan-led production which meant there was an over-supply of craftsmen and farmers and too few consumers to justify rapid technological investment (Waites, 2009, p.126). Thus, there was no 'comparative advantage' (Lynn, 1999, p.2) to facilitate the seeking of new markets through a dominance of quantity or quality or need for expansion. The Qing's market was ironically 'too stable', and partly through this it was unable to effectively manage the more aggressive globalising ideologies of Britain and France.

    The lack of Chinese primary sources handicaps this analysis from providing a fuller range of differences particularly as a source is an individual perspective and not indicative alone of any larger picture. While the analysis is not exhaustive and is period specific, it can generally highlight how underlying differences of ideology and geography created pervasive differences between China on the one hand, and France and Britain on the other. A Confucian directed society alongside the pragmatic need for stability over a vast land-based empire created an inward-looking state for which imperialism was foremost a culturally based enterprise for supporting domestic ideology and stability. In contrast Britain and France from geographically enforced competition and later ideologically based ideals of free trade created a globally aggressive state and private led imperial system whose rationalisation was the creation of new markets through the 'civilisation' of indigenous peoples. China's own ideology was unable to provide the tools to compete with this. After 1842 a series of unsuccessful reforms to 'modernize' along western lines heralded the end of the traditional Confucian state and a move towards participation in the globalized western system. This though of course is not the end of the tale, fast-forward to our current global economic and political situation, and that same former 'globalized western system' is potentially seeing its rejection, or at least an appraisal of it in the largest 'western' states. At the same time, China under the Communist party has fused tradition, communism and capitalism in a seemingly potent mix, and is using this same globalized system to not merely retake its perceived historical place as a 'World Power' but also as a tool to realign the power balance between itself and the 'West' in far more favourable terms. Potentially placing China as the next 'world leader', is this a case of the conquered becomes the conqueror where ideology is concerned? That is a question for a whole other debate, but it is fair to say that while the British and French 'Western' globalized ideology destroyed Qing China's traditional basis, China has done a sterling job of adapting and fusing this victor to its traditional roots. In doing so, it redresses what might in the future be seen as a 'blip' of momentary power imbalance between West and East.

    The modern dimension:

    In this final part, I will actively suspend my attempted neutrality of discussion and include some of my own opinion as to why this 'great game' of ideologically based systems has a key bearing on the 'here and now'. The 'Western' globalized model of free trade and a 'mission to civilize' has formed the basis of what is commonly known as 'globalisation' and the modern neo-liberal model. It is the economic model that encountered resistance in 1870 from newly revitalized 'imperial tariff regimes', has adapted and evolved and since the fall of the Soviet Union and China's increasing engagement with it during the early 1990s seemed to have won out. Culturally the 'mission to civilize' is also still alive and kicking from a western perspective. It may have been dressed up, made politically acceptable to modern sensibilities and re-branded, but the concept of interfering with a foreign state's institutions and structures, of spreading democracy and western values is very much alive. Indeed the very thing was attempted (and failed) in Afghanistan and Iraq in the 'post-war' rebuilding programmes, and the 'west' still regards itself as having a moral imperative from a political angle to, rightly or wrongly, intervene in another country's domestic affairs if what is happening there openly contradicts 'western' values. Of course this often is used as a cover for a more pragmatic economic or political goal, but the fact an intervention can still be successfully 'sold' to an electorate on those moral grounds speaks volumes I think to the concept of a 'civilizing mission's' active appeal even today.

    However, this western globalized system having won out and enjoyed at least two decades of unchallenged global hegemony (and around two centuries of being the largest global ideological system), appears to be potentially floundering now. In our current 21st century context we are seeing either a new evolution of capitalism (not uncommon as there have been roughly four key changes or 'phases' to updating the capitalist model to 'make it work' in its context at the time) or its change beyond recognition in the face of globalization's negative domestic consequences. These particularly being wage decline, the decline of the middle class (who ironically were responsible for capitalism's growth and predominance in the first place), growing wealth divides and the 'Fourth Industrial Revolution' of automation, made possible and competitive by the globalized market. This is in a context where, according to the Bank of England, out of the 33 million strong UK workforce, just shy of 15 million may be out of a job by 2030, due to the increasing pace of automation. Globalization and the very economic and cultural system the 'west' - epitomized here by Britain and France - sought to create and enforced upon foreign powers may be facing decline or collapse. Its traditional guardians found in the UK, the US and EU are scaling back (rightly or wrongly) both their real-term influence, and their 'wills' to enforce the system, which is no longer 'certain' both domestically and in regard to other rising challengers. The 'west' currently has no answers to the growing negative aspects of the system they created, meanwhile former dependencies who saw their indigenous ideologies overturned, like China or India, are on the rise. Though still facing the same issues of how to deal with the problems globalization has created they are arguably managing more successfully due to their unique economic and geographical contexts and the fact they have managed to fuse their traditional cultural models with the imported one. China's ambitious 'New Silk Road' project speaks volumes for this - blending the concept of inter-connected free trade driven and directed by the state, all harking back to reclaim a history deemed lost due to western intervention. Moreover their unique blend of traditional central state intervention and communist trappings laid over a 'western' capitalist model allows their state far more lee-way in addressing growing problems quickly. Just recently the state has 'back-doored' itself into China's investment market, much to the dismay of western investors, to provide 'stability' and 'certainty' in market decisions and growth, over what they see as western 'volatility' in the finance sector. Against the backdrop of the 2008 financial crash and the myriad of ways the 'west' has chosen to deal with it, who is to say they are wrong here?

    Can a state-led and regulated globalized model be the next evolution as driven by China? Perhaps. The west in general is moving towards greater state regulation of the market to deal with its issues- whether this can be successful or not is again for another article (and one I shall write, I promise!). But currently what is assured is the 'west' is not making any large scale globalizing gestures of its own- indeed the current debate in many states seems to be whether to fully partake in the globalized system at all, let alone how to keep their historical place as 'leaders' of the system they founded. This will be I feel one of those periods of time where it will be a fantastic piece of history to look back on and study ... but is potentially going to be incredibly difficult to live through.

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    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
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    Comments 16 Comments
    1. mad orc's Avatar
      mad orc -
      Hats off,such a detailed account.You must write more of it.
      Wrote on smartphone so cant comment big.
    1. Dante Von Hespburg's Avatar
      Dante Von Hespburg -
      Quote Originally Posted by mad orc View Post
      Hats off,such a detailed account.You must write more of it.
      Wrote on smartphone so cant comment big.
      Thank you mate, that's appreciated .
    1. hellheaven1987's Avatar
      hellheaven1987 -
      A good article that provides solid basic understandings of China, although there are quite a number of misconceptions. For example, Confucianism did not traditionally "oppose" free market; in fact, a famous Han document, Discourses on Salt and Iron, saw the Confucian scholars criticized government market monopoly of some common goods and argued a laissez faire policy using Confucianism as debate source. Besides, the two Chinese dynasty during Middle Age, Tang and Song, actually had policies of promoting Mercantilism since their tax revenue was largely based on sales of certain goods (silk, cloth, etc), particularly the Song dynasty. In fact, Song government was so serious about business market they even introduced reforms like providing government loans to farmers and merchants for private investment in order to boost market performance (which, as the reformer Wang Anshi argued, would boost tax revenue without increasing tax rate). Overall, I think those misconception affect the analysis process and the conclusion, although I don't think that is you faults as those misconcepts are widely presenting in Western academy today (which actually shows how little West understand China, but then it is not like China understands West too).
    1. Dante Von Hespburg's Avatar
      Dante Von Hespburg -
      Quote Originally Posted by hellheaven1987 View Post
      A good article that provides solid basic understandings of China, although there are quite a number of misconceptions. For example, Confucianism did not traditionally "oppose" free market; in fact, a famous Han document, Discourses on Salt and Iron, saw the Confucian scholars criticized government market monopoly of some common goods and argued a laissez faire policy using Confucianism as debate source. Besides, the two Chinese dynasty during Middle Age, Tang and Song, actually had policies of promoting Mercantilism since their tax revenue was largely based on sales of certain goods (silk, cloth, etc), particularly the Song dynasty. In fact, Song government was so serious about business market they even introduced reforms like providing government loans to farmers and merchants for private investment.
      Cheers there Hellheaven, some really interesting additions to consider, i appreciate it. I'm afraid i do admit to being rather selective here in the article, limiting my analysis of the practical application of Chinese imperial systems and ideologies to only the Qing era for China basically (with brief mention to the earlier Han period for contextualization), as honestly China's overall history is so rich and detailed (and arguably from my amateur Chinese-history eyes probably the most extensive history of any existing state considering its consistent geopolitical importance and state longevity) that i alas had to be extremely harsh in my presentation and stick to just that particularly era. Which overall indeed does a disservice to the multitude of rich changes and developments that China went through- Really interesting for instance that as early as 81BCE the Salt and Iron discourses you've drawn my attention to were perhaps similar to the much heralded 'Corn Law' debates in Britain during the 19th Century. Free trade is being advocated here way before the West had come into its own. Though i think the differences here is the caveat that the 'Wests' particularly ideological emphasis on globalized free trade and its creation could be a specific defining feature.

      But earlier China, ancient and medieval is something i'd love to try and research, write about and do proper justice too... i may need a few years (or decades knowing me ), so i appreciate your additions there, you've piqued my interest with the contextualizations!

      I would say its a fair comment indeed to argue that the absence of mention to the specific earlier Chinese dynasties and their systems could affect the analysis and thus conclusions, the Qing era after-all is framed by a western perspective alas due to it being the 'key' era for early 'large-scale' East-West interactions, but my understanding is that Qing era state-sponsored Confucianism was a more reactionary force at the time to perceived 'Western influence', far different from its earlier Ming variety which was outward looking, engaging and dynamic, and of course very different from the periods you've interestingly raised during the ancient and medieval periods. But indeed simply concentrating on the Qing and discarding earlier debates in Confucianism does limit alas the ability to provide a comprehensive comparison if we were to judge the two cultures side by side overtime and not just in this particular era as I've done.

      EDIT: Just to address your last point, i do agree though that there still persists a lot of misconceptions in western academia to China and vice versa. Its interesting and rather sad alas that my source list beyond primary sources (and few of those alas) lacks any Chinese-based scholarship (Now that might be because its currently beyond my means , but typically i didn't encounter it 'out and about' in the mainstream) which is indeed a shame. Hopefully we'll see a change to that from both sides of the academia, as the west gets to grip with China as global power, here to stay, and China begins to set down its roots as said power (Though then again- we arguably have the same issue we Cold War Soviet Union in western scholarship- its still not totally understood in its own right, but there's always hope )
    1. hellheaven1987's Avatar
      hellheaven1987 -
      Well, even just looking at 19th Century Qing there are still some misconceptions in the article, for example:

      The premise on which this article is based is that the Chinese empire's underlying cultural ideology of Confucianism directed its social and political self-conception towards a universal ruler exercising a 'Mandate of Heaven'. The empire's large-scale and continuous geographic context forced the promulgation of this ideology and supported it in creating an inward-looking Confucian state obsessed pragmatically and ideologically with the creation and maintenance of stability and unity, perhaps above all else.
      Although your explanation and comparison of the concept of Mandate of Heaven is right (still it is debatable whether Divine Right prevented rebellion and coup, since there were so many rebels simply claimed Jesus chose him when they seized throne, particularly in Byzantium, after Constantine the Great informally introduced this Divine Right idea), it does not explain why that makes Qing government inward looking. In fact, under that logic, the Catholic-dominated Iberian states should be historically most inward-looking states like Qing, but weird, they were the first European global imperalists instead. This suggests that Mandate of Heaven was in fact not the reason why Qing is a inward-looking state, but something else was the key.

      This equally shared logistical nightmare should have put the Qing, British and French in a similar position. However, in 1800 the collective population of Britain and France was forty million (Lawrence, 2009, p.21). China had '320 million' (Waites, 2009, p.119). The manpower difference and continuous imperial nature allowed the Qing to keep its eight Banner armies spread throughout the empire to ensure order, allowing mutual support and enabling a more comprehensive form of direct control with less logistical requirements than France or Britain.
      That is more a statistic game instead reflecting reality. In truth, only perhaps 5~6 millions Manchus among that 320 millions (today there were 10 millions Manchus) population - the only one that is absolute trustful for Qing government. The small Manchus population hence means Qing military presence in China was very limited - in fact Eight Banners were mostly concentrated in north of Yangtze River instead the heartland of China, and several southern provinces had no Eight Banner presence at all (Hunan, Guangxi, etc) but relied on Green Standard solely. Event of Taiping Rebellion would show that this military weakness created a major crisis, when the Green Standard deserted in mass to the rebels while too few Bannermen could be spared.

      The fact is the Qing tributary system was not a 'western'-styled imperial relationship, but more had echoes of that, while being the only mechanism accepted by Qing China to regulate and perform international interactions. This was due to an emphasis in China on cultural superiority and the ideas of China as the 'Middle Kingdom' of the earth- its centre. It was truly an 'empire of the mind' in this regard, and was incredibly frustrating to European empires who saw imperial superiority as being based not on theoretical or cultural concepts, but on economic and military power that was tangible and had actual practical limitations. This was a hang-over of their own geographic conception of having co-existing Great Powers with firm areas of influence. But yet in dealing with China up until 1839 at least, they had to conform to the Chinese system and play by its rules or risk being ignored (and thus losing out to their fellow European rivals who were courting China too for economic access). This system thus did not even share an economic purpose with the loosest British and French colonial relationships, as showcased in a schedule for protection treaties in 1880 Kenya which more than expanding influence actually ceded 'rights to land' (Kenya Land Commission, 1934) to Britain. Qing emperors actually gave greater value back through gifts to their Tributaries than the value of tribute received. This is showcased with the Emperor stating he gave the British a 'generous return, wanting to preserve my...power' (Chinese Record, 1957), which places the tributary system as a tool for showcasing the emperor's Confucian virtue and to aid internal stability through confirmation of his pinnacle position by foreigners, broadcast to his subjects. China thus lacked the real-terms basis of economic gain for it to have a true informal empire on the European model, such as Britain's over South America or China, where military pressure was leveraged for permanent economic concessions (Darwin, 1997, p.2)
      This section is both right and wrong. First of all, Qing did have the concept of Sphere of Influence. In fact, two wars, Sin-French War and First Sino-Japanese War, were the result of competition of SoI (first for the control of Indochina, second for Korea). Second, it was right that Chinese did not have tribute state for economic reason since Chinese had different goal in mind - to create a friendly buffer state on the border to ensure the security of border. So unlike European who expanded due to chase of market (and for French to follow the butt of British), Chinese tributary system is more close like ancient Rome and its barbarian neighbours. Because this Qing government was especially focused on its right to freely station troops on those tribute state - both for maintaining external and internal security and influence on those little allies. Is it a genuine system? Sure. Is it peaceful and passive? Absolutely not.

      China's resistance to free trade came from ideological and pragmatic perspectives. Confucian is the morality of rural artisans and farmers (The Metropolitan Museum, 2004) and placed them above merchants in the social order. Unlike in Britain this offered status to rural workers leading to a larger scale of artisan-led production which meant there was an over-supply of craftsmen and farmers and too few consumers to justify rapid technological investment (Waites, 2009, p.126). Thus, there was no 'comparative advantage' (Lynn, 1999, p.2) to facilitate the seeking of new markets through a dominance of quantity or quality or need for expansion. The Qing's market was ironically 'too stable', and partly through this it was unable to effectively manage the more aggressive globalising ideologies of Britain and France.
      That is not right. Qing/Ming government were not interesting about foreign trade because first there is no need for those goods (exception can be made when there is need of certain goods, such as the silver importation during Ming), and second Chinese government found trade a troublesome thing through historical experience. First of all, we need to realize that government is not some sore of corporation. Its primary goal is always administration/control the state, not seeking maximum profit. Second, the memory of Song's financial bankruptcy due to financial market melt-down (note: I mentioned Song's tax revenue was largely from trade in previous post) had left a deep scar on Chinese heart, particularly the bankruptcy was one of chief reasons why Mongol could overrun Song. Perhaps it is not surprise that when Ming Hongwu Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang seized the throne he immediately introduced very strict law and control on trading and demonized the merchant class (yes the idea of that merchant class is the lowest social class in Chinese society was a Ming product). Furthermore, the later experience dealing Wakko further consolidate the idea that trade was just trouble in Ming's mindset (which Qing inherited). It is perhaps not a wonder why when European powers tried to open the Chinese market in late 18th Century the Qing emperors simply thought "well I have no need of those goods so why should I engage a troublesome business which I cannot control absolutely?"

      At the same time, China under the Communist party has fused tradition, communism and capitalism in a seemingly potent mix, and is using this same globalized system to not merely retake its perceived historical place as a 'World Power' but also as a tool to realign the power balance between itself and the 'West' in far more favourable terms.
      I fail to see which part of CCP is Communist. In fact today CCP does not even use "Communism" to present their leftist ideology but prefer a more general "Socialism" term. In other words PRC today is trying to fuse tradition. nationalism, capitalism and socialism into a perfect product without reduce the government control (well feeling political insecure is always part of Chinese government tradition) - oh well you probably already know where that goes.

      Anyway, overall there are quite some challenge and dangers of studying China. For example, much like Fascists, Chinese often overplay their own propaganda to a point that they actually believed those are real. Hence when studying China it often must be careful, preferable with multiple sources from different points of view, in order to grab the big picture.
    1. Dante Von Hespburg's Avatar
      Dante Von Hespburg -
      Some interesting points indeed, i'll try and address them as best i can, though no promises at this time of night

      Quote Originally Posted by hellheaven1987 View Post
      Well, even just looking at 19th Century Qing there are still some misconceptions in the article, for example:
      Although your explanation and comparison of the concept of Mandate of Heaven is right (still it is debatable whether Divine Right prevented rebellion and coup, since there were so many rebels simply claimed Jesus chose him when they seized throne, particularly in Byzantium, after Constantine the Great informally introduced this Divine Right idea), it does not explain why that makes Qing government inward looking. In fact, under that logic, the Catholic-dominated Iberian states should be historically most inward-looking states like Qing, but weird, they were the first European global imperalists instead. This suggests that Mandate of Heaven was in fact not the reason why Qing is a inward-looking state, but something else was the key.
      For me perhaps i haven't explained it too well, but that while indeed the concept of Divine Rights in Europe could be 'overruled' with the victor claiming backing from God (Henry VII being the best example here i think of this), it was always a very precarious position- again Henry VII who achieved it, spent the entire rest of his reign a paranoid wreck who created a medieval 'police state' that was rather at odds with his contemporaries to hold onto power because he felt so insecure. The 'Divine right of kings' was a legitimizing concept that came with dynasty and was what i would call a 'preventative one'.

      Meanwhile the Mandate of Heaven to me by comparison seems far more... 'egalitarian' should we say, it can be a positive justification for the removal of a dynasty and its replacement- unlike in Europe where seizing the throne had to be forcefully legitimized after the fact...and then scrabbled in for decades after as Henry VII had to, in China because this concept was already institutionalized in a way, things were easier on the legitimacy front- they didn't have to stretch far to legitimize it, because the script was already there, meanwhile poor Henry had to build a propogandic state up to create his dynasty. This led to situations in China that i found rather fascinating, with the Mandate of Heaven being the key ideological crutch to allow someone who was basically a humble peasant to become Emperor- something that would be nigh on impossible in Europe.

      This i would say puts China into a more inward facing view when its combined with China's unique geographical context. With a tool such as the Mandate of Heaven that both justifies a rulers legitimacy, but also that of his rivals if things go south for him politically, socially, economically or militarily- i'd argue greater attention would have to be paid to domestic issues as its 'easier' to rebel (The Mandate incidentally i think provides the basis for how China was so 'stable' for so long, compared to European states, even when dynasties faced usurpation and civil war- because it had been ideologically institutionalized that this happened- whereas in Europe nearly every time a challenge to a reigning monarch with the intent to replace their entire dynasty was a shock- Indeed we could even argue that Henry VII wasn't nearly as radical anyway, sharing some loose claim to the throne- he certainly wasn't a peasant or unknown!)

      I would say though that the key mix of Mandate, need for stability and geography was the key for the Qings inward-looking state.

      That is more a statistic game instead reflecting reality. In truth, only perhaps 5~6 millions Manchus among that 320 millions (today there were 10 millions Manchus) population - the only one that is absolute trustful for Qing government. The small Manchus population hence means Qing military presence in China was very limited - in fact Eight Banners were mostly concentrated in north of Yangtze River instead the heartland of China, and several southern provinces had no Eight Banner presence at all (Hunan, Guangxi, etc) but relied on Green Standard solely. Event of Taiping Rebellion would show that this military weakness created a major crisis, when the Green Standard deserted in mass to the rebels while too few Bannermen could be spared.
      Its interesting to hear the actual dispositions here of the Qings military strength, so thank you- it was difficult trying to gather concrete data on this part alas. Though even with that in mind it would be still easier for the Qing to deal militarily with threats to their empire when compared to Britain or France with theirs, i'd point to for instance the difficulties Britain had in this period trying to rule over India- indeed the two might make an interesting comparison the Raj and the Qing state for a later article as both are relatively small populations of 'conquerors' occupying through a monopoly on the positions of power a vastly larger subject people- The British here though had a far more tenuous grip and a harder time in terms of logistics than the Qing in attempting to keep control of their possessions in India and that indeed is them with various types of direct and indirect governing styles (Directly controlling certain areas, leaving the rest to informal vassals, allies etc), while the Qing were able to directly assume the mantle of power.

      A related question though, the Banner armies from what i've read where really effective, well trained and equipped.... up until a point that they suddenly 'weren't' (No real explanation is given in the sources i have alas for this)- is this the case? Where they run down by peacetime occupation? Or were they continuously effective?


      This section is both right and wrong. First of all, Qing did have the concept of Sphere of Influence. In fact, two wars, Sin-French War and First Sino-Japanese War, were the result of competition of SoI (first for the control of Indochina, second for Korea). Second, it was right that Chinese did not have tribute state for economic reason since Chinese had different goal in mind - to create a friendly buffer state on the border to ensure the security of border. So unlike European who expanded due to chase of market (and for French to follow the butt of British), Chinese tributary system is more close like ancient Rome and its barbarian neighbours. Because this Qing government was especially focused on its right to freely station troops on those tribute state - both for maintaining external and internal security and influence on those little allies. Is it a genuine system? Sure. Is it peaceful and passive? Absolutely not.
      No real disagreement from me here, i don't doubt they had an ideal for a sphere of influence, but 'informal empire' i'd argue it wasn't particularly when we compare the informal empires of Britain over Argentina (or China later indeed) where policy was directly changed at all levels, in this was i think western imperialism was far more pervasive and aggressive, though indeed i agree and by no means would i say the Qing were passive, just comparatively they seemed... 'fairer' for want of a better word.

      That is not right. Qing/Ming government were not interesting about foreign trade because first there is no need for those goods (exception can be made when there is need of certain goods, such as the silver importation during Ming), and second Chinese government found trade a troublesome thing through historical experience. First of all, we need to realize that government is not some sore of corporation. Its primary goal is always administration/control the state, not seeking maximum profit. Second, the memory of Song's financial bankruptcy due to financial market melt-down (note: I mentioned Song's tax revenue was largely from trade in previous post) had left a deep scar on Chinese heart, particularly the bankruptcy was one of chief reasons why Mongol could overrun Song. Perhaps it is not surprise that when Ming Hongwu Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang seized the throne he immediately introduced very strict law and control on trading and demonized the merchant class (yes the idea of that merchant class is the lowest social class in Chinese society was a Ming product). Furthermore, the later experience dealing Wakko further consolidate the idea that trade was just trouble in Ming's mindset (which Qing inherited). It is perhaps not a wonder why when European powers tried to open the Chinese market in late 18th Century the Qing emperors simply thought "well I have no need of those goods so why should I engage a troublesome business which I cannot control absolutely?"
      So from what i gather the 'demonization' of the merchant class prominent in the Qings iteration of Confucian thought that i found, was founded on the pragmatic issues regarding economic downturns caused directly by trade and the affect this had on subsequent dynasties policies? Its eye-opening to get views on the root cause here. For me i think Waites still has it right though when talking about this attitude to trade for him rooted in Confucianism, which you've quite fairly i think explained the roots of that, meant industrialization in China effectively stagnated for a fair amount of time (iirc correctly from my research notes, the Ming were comparatively technologically advanced compared to their European counterparts, particularly in maximizing the crop yields- but this Waites argues directly led to a 'no reason to innovate' attitude, backed up by that brand of Confucianism which basically stopped innovative investment, particularly as it was 'peak efficiency' for the market.

      Of course as i think we've mentioned again we're talking about Western Scholars looking into China, so Edward Saids infamous concept of 'Orientalism' perhaps is still at play here hence Waites' purportion of ideology to explain practicality.

      I fail to see which part of CCP is Communist. In fact today CCP does not even use "Communism" to present their leftist ideology but prefer a more general "Socialism" term. In other words PRC today is trying to fuse tradition. nationalism, capitalism and socialism into a perfect product without reduce the government control (well feeling political insecure is always part of Chinese government tradition) - oh well you probably already know where that goes.
      To be honest if i were to expand on it i would argue that communism was in the 60s-80s treated much as Confucianism was by the Qing when it briefly ossified under them (Prior to this with the Ming they had been an outward center of learning, even sharing and swapping ideas with the Portuguese and tackling with western philosophies it seems), basically the brand was adopted, but a lot discarded . But yeah its easier to summarize and use communism here- though (probably should again do another paper ), i've never really found China to be 'communist', or indeed socialist . I like your description, its rather apt i think and indeed haha.

      Anyway, overall there are quite some challenge and dangers of studying China. For example, much like Fascists, Chinese often overplay their own propaganda to a point that they actually believed those are real. Hence when studying China it often must be careful, preferable with multiple sources from different points of view, in order to grab the big picture.
      I would definitely agree there, i think in some ways it should be similar (should be key here ) to studying the history of my own culture, where sources are checked off against one another, take everything with a pinch of salt etc, but i think partly because i have to rely mainly on 'western' sources- and the few Chinese primary ones (it was amazing to read McCartney's correspondence) are relatively rare its more challenging to get a clearer picture, especially with a lot of Chinese ideology and practices being very exotic (Said is creeping in again ) that combined with what you've said makes for an interesting experience! I'll definitely go beyond my comfort zone a bit more though and try to look outside Europe and its empires, its worth the extra challenge of researching a piece on somewhere like China to find out more both from doing it, but also from discussions such as this which are sparked from it and where new insights and perspectives can be seen that go beyond the 'western' academic based consensus.
    1. hellheaven1987's Avatar
      hellheaven1987 -
      I am more comfortable working part by part and taking rest in between (as it refresh your mind and give you time to think about each issue). Furthermore, I realize that some of your questions cannot be answered properly without introduction of some background materials, so I would answer two questions per post.

      Meanwhile the Mandate of Heaven to me by comparison seems far more... 'egalitarian' should we say, it can be a positive justification for the removal of a dynasty and its replacement- unlike in Europe where seizing the throne had to be forcefully legitimized after the fact...and then scrabbled in for decades after as Henry VII had to, in China because this concept was already institutionalized in a way, things were easier on the legitimacy front- they didn't have to stretch far to legitimize it, because the script was already there, meanwhile poor Henry had to build a propogandic state up to create his dynasty. This led to situations in China that i found rather fascinating, with the Mandate of Heaven being the key ideological crutch to allow someone who was basically a humble peasant to become Emperor- something that would be nigh on impossible in Europe.
      Except the idea that Divine Right prevents a humble peasant to rise to nobility only applies on West Europe (and we probably have to discount Italy and North Europe). Recently I just reread John Julius Norwich's "Byzantium" series and the first impression I had was how many Byzantine Emperors had humble birth - peasant, hillmen and even wildmen, you name it. Clearly the Byzantine's concept of Divine Right has no issue to crown an Emperor of low birth, and consider the concept of Divine Right was technically a Byzantine product (officially it was introduced through Papacy; Charlemagne was arugable the first receiver formally), that suggests it was not Divine Right itself that prevented a lowbirth person raised to higher position, but rather due to the social structure of West Europe.

      A key to remember is that, Medieval European society is generally a cooperation between three independent social groups - the feudal nobility, the Church and the bourgeoisie (the correct term should be "urban elites"; the independent city state), each one maintained its independence and political power through the control of unique resource - military for nobility, spiritual guidance for Church and production/trade for bourgeoisie. Hence although Divine Right has a propaganda effect for Monarchy, the deeper meaning it presents is the cooperation contract between Church and nobility - an act that shows the Church recognize the leader of nobility. From the monarchy's point of view it provides not just legitimacy but also means Church is willing to back the monarchy in the political game, while from Church's view it means nobility's willingness to guarantee Church's independence. This may suggest that, under a feudal military system when military power was controlled by nobility, Church was less willing to back a lowbirth person, often means less military power, to be the leader of nobility, since that did not promote Church's interest.

      On contradict, there is only one power group in Chinese society - the government/monarchy itself, so it has no need to please whatever religious community in realpolitik. However, one thing Western academia often ignore is that Mandate of Heaven has more religious meaning than political sense in Chinese society and Emperor's core duty is as a religious leader who performing religious rituals instead doing good administration. This is probably not so obvious in Chinese primary sources as it was not commonly mentioned, perhaps due to the reason that it is treated as a matter of facts. However, we can see Chinese did treat it as a serious issue since often in primary sources the excuse of accusing someone as bad emperor was the failure of performing religious rituals properly. In fact, the story of Ming Wanli Emperor actually shows an extreme case that provides some insight about how serious Chinese thought the religious duty of Emperor. Wanli Emperor was famous/infamous because he refused to hold court meeting, rejected any personal meeting with his officers and never appointed new person to empty government position. It is often credited that the downfall of Ming has to do with his recessive behavior and the primary sources clearly suggests the bureaucracy of Ming court hated him, but in the same time they also could not impeach him because he continued fulfilled emperor's core duty of conducting religious rituals and signing documents, hence there was no legit excuse to remove him. This case shows that the traditional duty of Chinese emperor is not administration, but rather its religious role (in fact there are some accounts suggest Ming bureaucracy was angry about Wanli Emperor not because he never showed up, but rather his refuse of appointing new officers to open position preventing different bureaucrat factions to fill up those positions with their own men, hence those factions were unable to expand their own political influence).

      No real disagreement from me here, i don't doubt they had an ideal for a sphere of influence, but 'informal empire' i'd argue it wasn't particularly when we compare the informal empires of Britain over Argentina (or China later indeed) where policy was directly changed at all levels, in this was i think western imperialism was far more pervasive and aggressive, though indeed i agree and by no means would i say the Qing were passive, just comparatively they seemed... 'fairer' for want of a better word.
      I don't completely agree. Qing did use its military garrison to watch the loyalty of its tribute subjects and was quite happy to intervene politically when it suits its interest (Korea come to my mind, the military campaign against Tibet in 1910 is another example). I think the term "tribute state" is quite misleading and a propaganda that modern Chinese is too happy to present to the world (in order to maintain its victim status under Western imperialism while hiding the fact that Chinese also conducted fairly brutal imperialist policies against others - in other words, to maintain the moral high ground in a game of guilt war). Personally I believe the right term should be "satellite states" or in modern term "neo-colonism". That is perhaps why Chinese is quite comfortable in today's international great games since they already played it before Europeans even showed up.
    1. Dante Von Hespburg's Avatar
      Dante Von Hespburg -
      That's quite alright mate, i'm the same and honestly i'm just grateful for any and all replies , as i said new perspectives are always good.

      Quote Originally Posted by hellheaven1987 View Post

      Except the idea that Divine Right prevents a humble peasant to rise to nobility only applies on West Europe (and we probably have to discount Italy and North Europe). Recently I just reread John Julius Norwich's "Byzantium" series and the first impression I had was how many Byzantine Emperors had humble birth - peasant, hillmen and even wildmen, you name it. Clearly the Byzantine's concept of Divine Right has no issue to crown an Emperor of low birth, and consider the concept of Divine Right was technically a Byzantine product (officially it was introduced through Papacy; Charlemagne was arugable the first receiver formally), that suggests it was not Divine Right itself that prevented a lowbirth person raised to higher position, but rather due to the social structure of West Europe.

      A key to remember is that, Medieval European society is generally a cooperation between three independent social groups - the feudal nobility, the Church and the bourgeoisie (the correct term should be "urban elites"; the independent city state), each one maintained its independence and political power through the control of unique resource - military for nobility, spiritual guidance for Church and production/trade for bourgeoisie. Hence although Divine Right has a propaganda effect for Monarchy, the deeper meaning it presents is the cooperation contract between Church and nobility - an act that shows the Church recognize the leader of nobility. From the monarchy's point of view it provides not just legitimacy but also means Church is willing to back the monarchy in the political game, while from Church's view it means nobility's willingness to guarantee Church's independence. This may suggest that, under a feudal military system when military power was controlled by nobility, Church was less willing to back a lowbirth person, often means less military power, to be the leader of nobility, since that did not promote Church's interest.
      Firstly i absolutely love John Julius Norwich

      I would agree with you here if we were talking about the Medieval period specifically, but 'The Divine right' has a complex evolution to it for instance, at the point in time where i've limited the article to we're looking at the Divine Right of Kings through the absolutist monarchical lens and then beyond to the constitutional monarch, where the feudal structures of responsibility have been replaced. Both these 'sections' saw there monarchs as basically untouchable as there was no mechanism for their removal at all (Even with Charles I Parliament would extremely hesitant to get rid of him, to the point of not doing so indeed and coming up with an alternate offer from some parties. It was only really his own incompetence and Cromwells extremism that caused his execution- moreover the reaction to his execution from the rest of Europe was one of nonacceptance and disgust.

      Earlier periods, and the Byzantine Empire in particular are indeed more complex and fascinating, though of course there is the whole debate of if the Eastern Roman Empire could or should be countered as 'European' given its unique institutions (At least until the 15th century). But i don't disagree with your assessment that the divine right for a feudal monarchy was in essence a complex social contract between the three parties- though regardless of its nature, it did prevent and discourage take-overs (Even looking at the abhorrence the French and English had at Henry II's sons who tried to topple their father, or the fact that the new Tudor monarchy took a generation to really be accepted- Henry VII having to rule with an iron fist, in contrast to most previous monarchs). Something which (Really interesting stuff by the way on China's Mandate of Heaven, i admit to being unaware (and for most of the historians i've used too being unaware) that it was more of religious significance than political) the Mandate of Heaven from what i gather did allow- as it seems to imply that if an emperor was found wanting/ failing in their duties, they could potentially be toppled and the usurper accepted? Which i think specifically to western Europe's France and Britain was something that rarely if ever happened without a lot of issues.

      Perhaps key to this, and something i genuinely do not know, but were China's population nonchalant to who was ruling them until things went bad? Particularly in the era explored here, but France and Britain for instance was a melting pot of politics (centered mainly around religion as the big contentious issue, but also ability to govern)- which i would argue the Divine Right of Kings added a specific 'buffer' to and extra layer of defense for those to 'think twice' about what to do once they topple a monarch (As again Charles I whose execution shocked many Parliamentarians, the Commonwealth experiment dying rather quickly and being extremely unstable), meanwhile China's 'Mandate' seems to act as the opposite of a buffer to this with a 'get out clause' by talking about failed duties. I guess its a matter of contemporary perception- and of course what's frustrating is the inability for us to get at what was thought, considering most primary sources as you rightly say are selective and bias etc .


      I don't completely agree. Qing did use its military garrison to watch the loyalty of its tribute subjects and was quite happy to intervene politically when it suits its interest (Korea come to my mind, the military campaign against Tibet in 1910 is another example). I think the term "tribute state" is quite misleading and a propaganda that modern Chinese is too happy to present to the world (in order to maintain its victim status under Western imperialism while hiding the fact that Chinese also conducted fairly brutal imperialist policies against others - in other words, to maintain the moral high ground in a game of guilt war). Personally I believe the right term should be "satellite states" or in modern term "neo-colonism". That is perhaps why Chinese is quite comfortable in today's international great games since they already played it before Europeans even showed up.
      That's a very interesting point and one in fairness i can't really refuse- with my politics hat on, it would be in keeping with modern China's narrative of being an 'anti-imperial' power to play down its own Empire (both current and historic). Tibet is indeed a text-book example of colonialism. I wouldn't ever argue though that China didn't have an Empire 'overborders' and a sphere of influence, but perhaps due to its less globalized nature than the Western Imperial powers, or the fact that it was not driven by economic necessity in a 'race to get one over/balance out' the competing European imperial powers it just doesn't seem (as far as i can tell) to have had the extensive impact to its imperial constituents than say Britain did- i mean for me in this period the big thing is that the Qing directly 'took on' China's culture and customs, with some changes, whereas Britain in India and other places enforced their own systems, institutions, culture and models of governance. While for the Qing i'm sure expediency and pragmatism played a big part in this (You've just conquered one of the worlds largest land empire), But for Britain (perhaps due to the perceptions of their own cultural superiority being reliant on action to justify- while China 'Just knew it man ') who was in a similar situation in India, they really did just 'go for it' (in most parts). Though this could be down to something i wanted to discuss that being technology- But Britain's military superiority was a 19th Century development- With prior to this on-paper India, China etc being 'up to scratch' with it, and also something to ask you, but was the Qing's 'Eight-Banners' a significant military advantage over the Ming Dynasty? Hence why the Manchu's steamrolled over China, in a comparative sense this would place them on the same footing as Britain, i can find that the Banner armies were a new and effective development, but what was specifically different than what came before? Or was it more the ability to group, supply and organize large bodies of fighting men in an efficient manner that the Banner system allowed gave them the lead?
    1. hellcatfighter's Avatar
      hellcatfighter -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dante Von Hespburg View Post
      Though this could be down to something i wanted to discuss that being technology- But Britain's military superiority was a 19th Century development- With prior to this on-paper India, China etc being 'up to scratch' with it, and also something to ask you, but was the Qing's 'Eight-Banners' a significant military advantage over the Ming Dynasty? Hence why the Manchu's steamrolled over China, in a comparative sense this would place them on the same footing as Britain, i can find that the Banner armies were a new and effective development, but what was specifically different than what came before? Or was it more the ability to group, supply and organize large bodies of fighting men in an efficient manner that the Banner system allowed gave them the lead?
      The Qing 'Eight-Banners' were essentially the same northern enemies China had been facing for the past three thousand years - horse-riding warriors adept at both bow and spear. There was no technological superiority over the Ming, who were more adept at using gunpowder weapons than the Manchus. The composition and tactics of Manchu forces had little to no difference to the Mongols of Kublai Khan, and was in no way a new development that the Chinese had not faced before. I would argue that the weakness of the Ming Dynasty played a bigger role in its collapse than foreign invasion. The inability of the Ming court to handle large scale famines led to major peasant rebellions, the most famous being the one led by Li Zicheng, which weakened the Ming Dynasty considerably before the incursion of the Manchus. The timely defection of Wu Sangui, the Ming general controlling Shanhai Pass at the Great Wall (who ironically led a revolt after the establishment of the Manchus in the guise of restoring the Ming Dynasty - not that many people believed him), also played a major role in facilitating the entry of Qing forces into China. So the Manchus did not 'steamroll' over China, rather China steamrolled herself.

      The 'Eight-Banners' were considered to be the elite forces of Qing China and played a major role in Qianlong's military expansions at the start of the 18th Century. They played the same role as Napoleon's Imperial Guard, by acting as the final reserve in battle. However the quality of these forces dropped significantly after the first quarter of the 18th Century, with several sarcastic Chinese texts commenting on the Eight-Banners' poor performance in the Imperial Hunt held once every year - most of them fall off their horses at anything faster than a trot! So in the end it became more of a status symbol rather than a martial institution by the Opium Wars.

      The debate on difference in military technology between East and West is still heavily debated - I tend to lean more towards the opinion that it was a slow divergence from the 17th Century which accelerated rapidly by the end of the 18th Century. Definitely check out the works of Jeremy Black (my prof at uni!!!!) who is considered to be the leading historian on global history, with a focus on 17th and 18th Century military history (the battles he has had with Geoffrey Parker over the 'Military Revolution'!), and also Tonio Andrade, who has written amazing works on the Opium War and the Sino-Dutch conflict.
    1. Dante Von Hespburg's Avatar
      Dante Von Hespburg -
      Quote Originally Posted by hellcatfighter View Post
      The Qing 'Eight-Banners' were essentially the same northern enemies China had been facing for the past three thousand years - horse-riding warriors adept at both bow and spear. There was no technological superiority over the Ming, who were more adept at using gunpowder weapons than the Manchus. The composition and tactics of Manchu forces had little to no difference to the Mongols of Kublai Khan, and was in no way a new development that the Chinese had not faced before. I would argue that the weakness of the Ming Dynasty played a bigger role in its collapse than foreign invasion. The inability of the Ming court to handle large scale famines led to major peasant rebellions, the most famous being the one led by Li Zicheng, which weakened the Ming Dynasty considerably before the incursion of the Manchus. The timely defection of Wu Sangui, the Ming general controlling Shanhai Pass at the Great Wall (who ironically led a revolt after the establishment of the Manchus in the guise of restoring the Ming Dynasty - not that many people believed him), also played a major role in facilitating the entry of Qing forces into China. So the Manchus did not 'steamroll' over China, rather China steamrolled herself.

      The 'Eight-Banners' were considered to be the elite forces of Qing China and played a major role in Qianlong's military expansions at the start of the 18th Century. They played the same role as Napoleon's Imperial Guard, by acting as the final reserve in battle. However the quality of these forces dropped significantly after the first quarter of the 18th Century, with several sarcastic Chinese texts commenting on the Eight-Banners' poor performance in the Imperial Hunt held once every year - most of them fall off their horses at anything faster than a trot! So in the end it became more of a status symbol rather than a martial institution by the Opium Wars.

      The debate on difference in military technology between East and West is still heavily debated - I tend to lean more towards the opinion that it was a slow divergence from the 17th Century which accelerated rapidly by the end of the 18th Century. Definitely check out the works of Jeremy Black (my prof at uni!!!!) who is considered to be the leading historian on global history, with a focus on 17th and 18th Century military history (the battles he has had with Geoffrey Parker over the 'Military Revolution'!), and also Tonio Andrade, who has written amazing works on the Opium War and the Sino-Dutch conflict.
      Definitely going to check out the works of your old uni professor, thanks for that, particularly as that is a period of warfare i find fascinating. Also its good to see heated academic rivalry haha . I do tend to lean towards the assessment you've put forward there that the 18th century was really the 'key' divergence where you could say potentially 'there's a real difference in most military areas now'. It might be interesting if i looked for Instance as the Russian successes and failures in expanding East - i know Russia isn't particularly the poster-boy for the Wests technological developments compared to the 'Easts', but i seem to remember they at first had issues when they reached the Chinese border and it wasn't until much later in the time-span you've laid out where they started to gain the upper hand (Nabbing several border areas). Not sure if it would tell of anything technologically wise, or if its more as you've laid out that China was weaker due to other internal reasons at that point, but could be interesting.

      Thank you though for the comprehensive run-down of the Eight-Banners. Its interesting that like much of history it seems then to be a 'right-time, right-place' both for their victory and then later the defeats inflicted upon them by the British and then Anglo-French forces. I love the bit about you've raised about Chinese texts commenting on their hunting prowess, it illustrates well your point about them as a status - symbol over a functioning combat corps.

      Its a point well stated and raised about the Mings internal issues and the 'self-harm' in essence going on (We Sangui sounds like a fascinating person- for all the wrong reasons ) that allowed the arguably easy conquest of the Qing. Interesting too that the Manchus were in then the 'same old' foe just at a more opportune time.

      I'd ask one more thing you of course don't have to reply or address as its a bit unfair of me to keep picking your brains. But in your view was there any long-term impact to the Opium Wars on China? I've rather left out a detailed mention of them thus far (even though they feature heavily in the pictures) as i felt a direct comparison at that point would be unfair for several reasons- though i feel it did have a significant impact perhaps. Naturally in the UK a lot of weight is given to the Opium Wars in not only 'opening up' China (unfairly i think considering China had previously a large navy and iirc sent fleets as far a field as East Africa with Zheng He) but also in changing China's perception of itself, them and starting to influence China by western thought (though not nearly as much as Japan i'd argue, and also China's so-called 'failed westernization' in the decades following the second Opium War surely point out that sweeping-change of that manner wasn't seen as desirable or needed by most at each level), is this a fair assumption made in the 'west', or are the Opium Wars as others have argued merely adding a foreign dimension to subsequent Chinese internal history (I.e. the fractures and changes would have happened without the Anglo-French victory anyway, but they merely added a new third party to events who could influence things somewhat)? Its a monstrous question i know, so again feel free to not answer or tell me to 'read a damn book' on it
    1. hellcatfighter's Avatar
      hellcatfighter -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dante Von Hespburg View Post
      I'd ask one more thing you of course don't have to reply or address as its a bit unfair of me to keep picking your brains. But in your view was there any long-term impact to the Opium Wars on China? I've rather left out a detailed mention of them thus far (even though they feature heavily in the pictures) as i felt a direct comparison at that point would be unfair for several reasons- though i feel it did have a significant impact perhaps. Naturally in the UK a lot of weight is given to the Opium Wars in not only 'opening up' China (unfairly i think considering China had previously a large navy and iirc sent fleets as far a field as East Africa with Zheng He) but also in changing China's perception of itself, them and starting to influence China by western thought (though not nearly as much as Japan i'd argue, and also China's so-called 'failed westernization' in the decades following the second Opium War surely point out that sweeping-change of that manner wasn't seen as desirable or needed by most at each level), is this a fair assumption made in the 'west', or are the Opium Wars as others have argued merely adding a foreign dimension to subsequent Chinese internal history (I.e. the fractures and changes would have happened without the Anglo-French victory anyway, but they merely added a new third party to events who could influence things somewhat)? Its a monstrous question i know, so again feel free to not answer or tell me to 'read a damn book' on it
      Feel free to ask me anything - knowing more history is always good for both your brain and mine . I actually do think there was a significant long-term impact of the Opium Wars on China. Firstly, you must remember that the expeditions of Zheng He were conducted in the 15th century - after that, the Ming and the Qing had a strictly isolationist policy, to the point where offshore trading was banned, which was why there was a surge in number of 'Japanese pirates' (actually mostly Chinese - but we Chinese love blaming Japan for everything ) during the 16th and 17th centuries. So it would be a fair assessment in saying that the Opium Wars 'opened up' China, by letting China see how outclassed their military technology was.

      Of course, as you noted, the westernization of China was fundamentally different from Japan's westernization. '中學為體,西學為用' is a term often used by Chinese officials to describe China's westernization. It literally translates to 'Chinese learning as the body, western learning as the tool'. The Qing government basically wanted the status quo to remain the same but with the benefits of western technology. On the other hand, Japan fully adopted both western technology and western thought. The problem with China's modernization is that when you create western schools and put the elite of the country into these schools, some western political thought will inevitably influence the students, leading to discontentment among the well educated. So the idea of 'western learning as the tool' was flawed from the start - you need western learning as the body and tool to truly utilize its full potential. So linking back up to your first question, the Opium Wars did open up China, but not fully. In my opinion China was never fully opened up to the west until the 1980s under Deng Xiaoping.

      The Opium Wars did have a significant impact on China's history, as I do believe that the Wars hastened China into a greater acceptance of western thought and the overthrowing of the Qing Dynasty. While I do not like hypothetical history in general, I do think the Qing Dynasty would have collapsed anyway - it was always tethering after the Taiping Rebellion (though you could argue that the Taiping Rebellion was influenced by western thought and technology...), but I think this state of near-collapse would extend for an uncomfortably long period of time. However, there was always going to be a trade war between either one of the colonial powers and the Qing even if the Opium War never occurred (no way any sane economy driven government would respect China's isolationism with its huge potential market), so the question of when would the Qing Dynasty collapse becomes moot anyway - China was always going to be 'opened up' whether she likes it or not and collapse afterwards.

      As a Hong Konger, I would say that the Opium Wars were hugely significant - it's thanks to the Opium Wars that Hong Kong was opened up much sooner than the rest of China as a British colony!!!
    1. hellheaven1987's Avatar
      hellheaven1987 -
      Quote Originally Posted by hellcatfighter View Post
      The 'Eight-Banners' were considered to be the elite forces of Qing China and played a major role in Qianlong's military expansions at the start of the 18th Century. They played the same role as Napoleon's Imperial Guard, by acting as the final reserve in battle. However the quality of these forces dropped significantly after the first quarter of the 18th Century, with several sarcastic Chinese texts commenting on the Eight-Banners' poor performance in the Imperial Hunt held once every year - most of them fall off their horses at anything faster than a trot! So in the end it became more of a status symbol rather than a martial institution by the Opium Wars.
      Additional information, the Eight Banners were not completely cavalry-based army. In fact, Besides original Eight Banners (which had large amount of Han Manchurian), there were also Mongol Banners and Han Banners (formed by defected Ming force after Manchus entered northern China). The Han Banners were largely an infantry-based force, and it was Han Banners played the crucial role of conquering southern China (which due to its Balkan-like terrain, unfavorable for cavalry warfare). However since most Han Banners were northern Chinese, the Eight Banners performed poorly during Revolt of the Three Feudatories and Kangxi Emperor had to rely on the Han Green Standard. Since that the Green Standard was the main military force of Qing, while Eight Banner became somesore of elite force (socially).

      Quote Originally Posted by Dante Von Hespburg View Post
      I'd ask one more thing you of course don't have to reply or address as its a bit unfair of me to keep picking your brains. But in your view was there any long-term impact to the Opium Wars on China? I've rather left out a detailed mention of them thus far (even though they feature heavily in the pictures) as i felt a direct comparison at that point would be unfair for several reasons- though i feel it did have a significant impact perhaps. Naturally in the UK a lot of weight is given to the Opium Wars in not only 'opening up' China (unfairly i think considering China had previously a large navy and iirc sent fleets as far a field as East Africa with Zheng He) but also in changing China's perception of itself, them and starting to influence China by western thought (though not nearly as much as Japan i'd argue, and also China's so-called 'failed westernization' in the decades following the second Opium War surely point out that sweeping-change of that manner wasn't seen as desirable or needed by most at each level), is this a fair assumption made in the 'west', or are the Opium Wars as others have argued merely adding a foreign dimension to subsequent Chinese internal history (I.e. the fractures and changes would have happened without the Anglo-French victory anyway, but they merely added a new third party to events who could influence things somewhat)? Its a monstrous question i know, so again feel free to not answer or tell me to 'read a damn book' on it
      Technically yes and no; more specifically it was Second Opium War + Taiping Rebellion. Second Opium War allowed the Qing monarchy directly saw the awe of Western power (since it hit the capital), while Taiping Rebellion convinced Qing government it was possible to modernize Chinese military (through Ever-Victorious Army; did I mention Chinese Gordon was technically a Qing officer?). Sino-French War was the test of this Chinese military modernization, and since Chinese thought it was a win they thought military modernization was enough until Nippon hit China hard during 1895.

      Quote Originally Posted by hellcatfighter View Post
      '中學為體,西學為用' is a term often used by Chinese officials to describe China's westernization.
      Well, we do need to remember that term was from Zhang Zhidong, a more conservative officer.
    1. Dante Von Hespburg's Avatar
      Dante Von Hespburg -
      Apologies for my delayed reply here to you both, some really fascinating insights here that i really appreciate. I'm currently using them as a spring board to delve deeper into a more general history than the analysis i presented here- can't promise that it'll be done anytime soon of course- there's such a wealth of things to take in, i'll try i think and concentrate on the coastal areas in particular when it comes to society (Being a Jardine i have a keen interest in Hong Kong, so i tip my hat to you Hellcatfighter as a true Hong Konger- such a unique history your city has, straddling two worlds).

      The military world is a fascinating one for China- everything is up-scaled seemingly, and some very interesting corps and bodies of soldiers. The Sino-French war is one i think i'd definitely need to explore in further detail as it would appear on the surface to act potentially as a 'turning point' (from a Chinese perspective) as Hellheaven said- that they'd finally modernized enough to beat a western power- so i think a comparison of these two wars would be useful. Its been a pleasure reading your responses as always guys. I shall hopefully reply properly when i can give your replies due time (Uni has started again alas ).
    1. hellheaven1987's Avatar
      hellheaven1987 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dante Von Hespburg View Post
      The military world is a fascinating one for China- everything is up-scaled seemingly, and some very interesting corps and bodies of soldiers. The Sino-French war is one i think i'd definitely need to explore in further detail as it would appear on the surface to act potentially as a 'turning point' (from a Chinese perspective) as Hellheaven said- that they'd finally modernized enough to beat a western power- so i think a comparison of these two wars would be useful.
      Well I did not mean Qing win the war "objectively"; what I mean is that Beijing felt it at least stalled the French and prevented any territory lost hence it won the war from Chinese point of view. Military modernization did play a role in Chinese effort of stopping French (particularly hold French attempt of seizing Formosa/Taiwan), but ultimately the instability of Third Republic and long supplyline were the key why French effort collapsed in the end.
    1. Dante Von Hespburg's Avatar
      Dante Von Hespburg -
      Quote Originally Posted by hellheaven1987 View Post
      Well I did not mean Qing win the war "objectively"; what I mean is that Beijing felt it at least stalled the French and prevented any territory lost hence it won the war from Chinese point of view. Military modernization did play a role in Chinese effort of stopping French (particularly hold French attempt of seizing Formosa/Taiwan), but ultimately the instability of Third Republic and long supplyline were the key why French effort collapsed in the end.
      Don't worry, i thought you meant as much i think though perhaps the fact it was more successful both in military/strategic 'victories' compared to the previous encounters (Anglo-French Second Opium war) that by comparison the Qing could indeed feel justified in believing 'yes we did it' regardless of other factors.
    1. hellheaven1987's Avatar
      hellheaven1987 -
      Well, at least Battle of Bang Bo was decisive enough, even though Chinese records did not even try to hide the fact that Chinese troops were armed with spears and only won through human wave charge with sheer death count.

      Unfortunately it is pretty much a forgotten war for both China and France today, save only French Foreign Legion remembered it, as Siege of Tuyen Quang is pretty much a legend for Legion just like Camaron today.