In 1900, a Chinese peasant movement called the Boxers started to target foreign missionaries and Chinese Christians. They called themselves I-ho ch'uan, or “Righteous and Harmonious Fists.” They practiced boxing skills that they believed made them impervious to bullets. It was a nativist, xenophobic movement tacitly supported by the Chinese government to leverage the foreign presence in China. For a moment, the Boxers besieged the foreign legations in Beijing, leading to the joint intervention of the troops of six European countries, plus Japan and the United States. The ultimate Boxer Protocol China signed with these foreign countries allowed the latter to station troops in China at key points. The Chinese government was to pay $330 million in gold to the countries involved to cover their war cost, plus many more fees in hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover other expenses incurred by the war.
6. A Change in China’s Self-Conception and Worldview
These wars shattered the Chinese conception of themselves and the outside world. Up to 1839, even in the letter to Queen Victoria by Commissioner Lin Tse-hsu, who was in charge of dealing with the sale of British opium in China, the view of the outside world had not changed significantly from half a century earlier, the time of Emperor Qian Long (Chien-lung). A closed, self-complacent, agrarian and self-sufficient Chinese economy finally encountered the taste of an aggressive, rapidly industrializing society that would not bow to any one else. It was a shock that would send reverberations throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. China's defeat in this series of wars, while fostering nationalism, would inflict a tremendous dent on the Chinese sense of cultural identity. Serious questionings of Chinese culture and government would eventually follow. Unlike the Japanese, who would strive to hold onto some "national essence," the Chinese, in the 20th century, would seek the destruction of such an essence, namely, Confucian learning: the systematic teachings by Confucius, a Chinese scholar who lived 2,500 years ago. They would also usher in a regime change: replacing the Manchu imperial government with a republic in 1911. In the 19th century, serious questionings of traditional Chinese practices were made and reforms were proposed.
7. Proposals for Reform
The 1895 Chinese Scholars' Petition for Reform
Upon hearing of China's defeat by Japan, formerly a country that had looked up to China, many Chinese scholars petitioned the Chinese government for reforms. Prior to 1895, limited reforms had been carried out, primarily in establishing naval shipyards and creating some sporadic schools, which specialized in engineering, translation, and interpretation.The effort was not nationwide because China did not have a nationwide educational system. The traditional form of education was private tutorials, and the Imperial Examination System used to select government officials was based primarily on a familiarity with classical Confucian texts on human cultivation.
The Imperial Examination System