The Empire of China (Mandarin:中國帝國, Zhonghua Diguo) ,formerly known as the Middle Kingdom of the Great Qing is one of two independent nations based from Asia along with the Ottoman Empire. China is the head of the wider East- Asian Confederation and The Chinese Colonial Empire. The ruling Qing Dynasty ruling China since 1644 is the latest incarnation of a series of eras for the oldest surviving civilization in the world. In contrast to most European based empires, China by itself has more people than the wider empire. Being formed as an absolute monarchy it has sense transitioned to administrative representation which grants limited political rights to the majority of the population. China's economy is supported by its own vast diversity in landscapes and natural resources with additional materials being imported from its colonies. China is also the only imperial seat within the Global Security Conference to not hold some form of Christianity as its official religion. Buddhism instead is the official religion with Confucianism being the official "thought" of the state's secular affairs.
China, under the reigns of the Qing Dynasty entered modern times, as the most populous, country and the largest economy on earth. As the only classical civilization to survive intact into the present. In the 18th century China's character differed from the world's other superpowers- all of which were European and most of which were sea based. Until the rise of European Exploration, Chinese civilization was the most advanced in the world for thousands of years irrespective of what happened elsewhere.
Large and strong, China was self sustaining, without the immediate need to explore, much less colonize outside of East Asia. Even within her sphere of influence middle kingdom led by example rather than force. A diplomatic system revolving around the imperial emperors put adjacent countries into tributary status. Nations such as Manchuria, Tibet, Korea, and Vietnam often gravitated to Chinese culture as a choice but, China's direct influence ended here. With few exceptions, China neglected opportunities to project power over far away areas. When Europeans began to explore the wider world, the native Chinese Ming Dynasty grew ever more inward, banning oceangoing voyages and closing major port cities. Extreme isolationism led to economic collapse and the emergence of Qing Manchu leadership. Over the 1700's the Qing restored order and the country underwent an era of prosperity. Less isolated than previous regimes the new emperors still retained ancient policies, Qing China continued to stagnate despite enjoying security and economic growth.
The First Reforms 1780-1810
Government officials with personal connections to western people were the first to engineer the modern state. Old China while ruled by emperors depended on a massive bureaucracy, with politics being based on the ideas of groups of government employees. The School of Practical Learning persuaded the Qing royal family to explore western scientific and technological advancements. Countering resistance from traditionalists reformists officials argued that learning from outsiders was well in lines with Confucian morals if it spurred people's prosperity, and practical learning was not just correct but a necessity to serve the emperor with the best diligence. Led by the ambitious bureaucrat Zhao Jintu the school lobbied for the Qianlong's emperor support to construct new western style academies in military technology, engineering and natural science. Jintu, was a practical idealist, knowing how to navigate court politics to successfully push for change. In the 1780's Jintu organized a trip for fifty of his friends and students to visit Great Britain, the Netherlands and the fledgling United Provinces of America for five years. Their visit was akin to that of Marco Polo's medieval trip to China in creating cultural exchange between China and West, unfortunately upon their return Jintu had been forced into exile by an aging emperor. reactionary officials waged a campaign to keep practical learning affiliates from having any power. An embassy in 1795 from the British greatly interested the Practical Learning School but they were unable to take action on their own behalf
Upon the retirement of Qianlong , reform officials found their opportunity to influence the new emperor Jiaqing,who they had befriended in earlier years. Though initially a conservative Jiaqing became convinced that innovation was a possible solution to the empire's problems. Local revolts became catalysts for change, using models brought by the British earlier the Qing government started manufacturing rifles for his banner armies. Crushing rebels in their wake, Jintu urged economic reforms were necessary to quell the people and to halt the trading deficit with British India
A turning point came in 1810 with the rise of Ching Shih a "pirate queen "and her Red Flag fleet, numbering in the tens of thousands and visibly unbeatable. Admirals were eager to test their new fleet which had been in construction for a decade, An elderly Jintu suggested cooperation with the British East India Company was necessary to overturn the pirates. The coordination was dramatic as this was the first time China officially dealt with a foreign power on equal terms. Together the Qing-British alliance prevailed over Shih ,paving the way for future British-Chinese relations.
Opening the Jade Gate 1815-1840
As the movement for reform grew School for Practical Learning splintered between diverging opinions (1) Dragons, those who favored only military reform and (2) Tigers those who envisioned far reaching changes to turn China into an industrial market economy. Changes, came slowly as most ordinary Chinese living away from the coast had yet to be effected by bureaucratic maneuvers.
The special relationship with the British continued to define the reform period. The interests of the military and China's economy clashed with each other in the short term. China made its first serious foreign intervention in the East Indies, defeating the Dutch in the Sino-Dutch war. Prior to that time the Netherlands had been violating the traditional Chinese sphere of influence in her coastal waters and violating existing trade rules in ports. Britain armed the Chinese navy with up to date naval guns and training in return for special concessions. The operation was a military success, being the first time China defeated a European country internationally. Victory against Europeans came at a great cost of treasure and lives, modernization and increased British trade strained the society and the government.
As wealth floated away towards Europe, a troupe of victorious commanders influenced by the Tiger faction recognized the potential of the Dutch East Indies. Centuries of spice plantations presented opportunity for Chinese to take charge of the international trading economy. Rather than continuing to sell goods to overseas European companies the East Indies would be used as a base to sell to international consumers cutting middlemen such as the British East India Company. With moderate support by authorities China's first trading company- The Southern Seas Company (Chinese:南海, Nanhai) bought Britain's land from the Dutch war to circumvent the European domination of maritime commerce. Spice grown by local Indonesian natives, and then finished in Chinese seaports would then be shipped to British cities around the world for consumption.
Internal trembling 1840-1870
Successfully propelling the Qing forward the introduction of market forces and industrialism gave incentive to a new merchant class on the coast to pursue foreign expansion. However reforms disturbed traditional agrarian life, already aggravated by over usage of the land. Merchants long held to be of lower caste than peasants bought huge tracks of land for profit ventures that steered areas away from subsistence farming. Traditional norms of Chinese agriculture were broken down, thousands of peasants became landless
A disillusioned maimed Daoist Monk Xin Song found collusion with subversives in the Qing army and the dragon faction seething with discontent. In the fall of 1843, a multi pronged scheme was hatched to remove the Daoguang emperor and instigate an armed rebellion against administrators in the southern provinces.The attempted coup failed but the Heavenly Spirits Uprising went ahead with masses of Cantonese peasants and soldiers rampaging the countryside attacking all in their path. A superbly advanced national army crushed much larger forces in February 1845. The total suppression of the movement would take years of guerilla warfare.
The large legacy of the rebellion was the purging of conservative officials and an apparent need of reforms to respond to the traumatic effects industrialization was having on the majority of Chinese people at the time. However the nation's progress needed to be continued full speed amidst a quickly changing landscape. This led to the First Harbin Convention and to the Colonization of East Africa.
New Hopes at home, broadening horizons 1850-1880
Thousands of imperial court officials were sent across the empire, to assess the changing conditions in all the provinces, reporting back many were surprised by the disparities they had seen between Beijing and the inland parts of the country. The resulting First Harbin convention in 1852 was an assembly between the Fengzhin emperor, local governors and bureaucracy, reorganizing governance.
The legal code introduced components of British law, including limited jury rights to accused. Merchants and nobles were given an elected representative body from their classes to voice their concerns to the emperor called 集会Jishui. Peasants were given their own elected councils to address their concerns with local magistrates. In all of Chinese history these were the first democratic rights given to people who did not work for the government.
Part of the answer to grievances from Chinese society came from overseas colonies an enigma to the Chinese state until the 1850s. As international demand for goods had skyrocketed private merchants were looking for new markets, peasants displaced from their old lands needed new homes and religious orders were fearful their holy places would be despoiled by industrialization. Explorers claimed the territory, followed by sailors and adventures that set up trading posts on the coasts. Peasants that arrived and stayed were given free land, giving many poor families a new livelihood.
Chinese culture continued to develop with western technology and adopted some western ways of rulership and expansion. However conservatives responded not with arms in the 1860s' and 70s but with art, new styles arose using Chinese styles with European materials. Scenes from the new culture movement showed the trauma and also benefits of Chinese entering modern life. By contrast the first Chinese realists insisted on depicting what they saw using western style, a path for artists who had been educated in the west.
Free winds 1880-1920
No institution in the history of all China had given democratic rights to citizens before, While these assemblies were limited in their functions they very existence changed how the government operated. Politics and bureaucracy became more public, the relationship between emperors and his subjects were forever changed. Governance often done behind closed doors, became more open, this was especially true of China's new merchant upper and middle classes. Peasant councils in theory empowered the average farmer, versus other classes. While they did not create immediate change councils did allow for first legal assemblies of common people to voice their issues. Peasants did however have increased opportunities whether that was migrating to a city or to colonies abroad.
The Second Harbin Convention was an attempt to address grievances and make government effective , of working people established the first government services of healthcare and pensions for all Chinese including city workers and rural farmers. The position of Prime Minister as first adviser to the emperor was created to govern the financial affairs of the country and to represent the emperor in public affairs. The Prime Minister was appointed by the emperor with token approval garnered from the Jishui. The highest authority still remained with the Qing family and their advisors.
By the turn of the twentieth century the .coastline of China had technologically surpassed much of continental Europe recovering from the stagnation of earlier centuries. Wishing to create a medium for telling stories the first instances of film came the creations of former wood block printers, creating mechanical moving images as entertainment. Chinese film would diverge from its western counterpart for many years to come. Court sponsored Engineers successfully beat the British in creating the first flying combustion aircraft in 1911, Inner Mongolia. Yet conservative backlash against machines meant Chinese would be behind in utilization of the new technology they invented on the turn of the 20th century.
The urban economy had become specified between many different classes. Factories and factory settlements caused sprawl outward, while artisans, professionals and government officials accounted for a growing middle class, which increasingly turned to consumption of domestically manufactured goods.Electricity first powering the cities of Bejing and Nanjing transformed the working day and old notions of "work". However, like European cities poor sanitation and industrial waste caused working class misery, and outbreaks of contagious typhoid killing tens of thousands between 1902-1906. Government responded with massive reconstruction projects improving quality of life but changing the traditional face of many cities.
The Dragon Empire 1880-1920
The country side by contrast was certainly abridged from earlier times but continued as a holdover from earlier eras, leaving many common people behind. Well to do Conservatives and retired entrepreneurs fled for the countryside and established preservation societies for traditional civilization. While the late 19th century was a time of great revolution within China, conservative forces resistant to any changes of Confucian way of life had mixed relationships with imperial authority, The Government wished to modernize the country- economically while safe keeping of the legacy of ancient times alive as a source of unity and pride in Chinese identity. Conservative officials who had been isolationist for the past five centuries promoted expansion as patriotic cause in the face of western aggressors- and dangerous western ideas.
The turn of the 20th century saw a China more aggressive than in all of the preceding eras and dynasty. To secure a complete sphere of influence, the modernized citizen military of China engaged both France and Spain to secure Southeast Asia and the Philippines. Europeans still unawares of the full potential of modern China were surprised by the complete destruction of the Asian French Fleet on the gulf of Tonkin in 1881. The term Dragon Empire became common both as a source of patriotism at home and growing fears of a "Yellow Horde" in western countries. The murder of Chinese fisherman by Spaniard and Filipino sailors triggered the Chinese conquest of the Southern Philippines. Though costly annexation of the Southern Philippines from Spain left Chinese dominance in East Asia and adjacent water known as "Chinese seas" uncontested. Confidence entering future negotiations with foreign powers increased.China asserted a dominance unknown of any non western power at the Treaty of Brazzaville, receiving many lands in East Africa which had been previous marked for France, and Portugal. By 1900 one third of the global population lived under a Chinese regime, just as they had two centuries before.
Flagship of the Confederation 1920-1960
When Qing China reformed in the 19th century adjacent tributaries states turned into colonies. Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Siam, Campeucha, Burma, Pahang and Malacca all relied on China for protection and oversight. At first welcoming of additional Chinese influence Asian people's began to resist increased Chinese intervention and settlement in their countries. Asians found they had traded European domination for Chinese domination. In 1922 Riots broke out across East Asia, many of which were crushed violently. China drew criticism from Europeans for dealing a heavy hand.
The Jishui, many merchants seeing their personal enterprises threatened proposed to the emperor the creation of a new international body to give representation to satisfy foreign client states. The East Asian Confederation was founded in 1924, organized into a voting council that meets four times annually. While at first the body was designed only as a political concession intellectual Bo-Xia found the opportunity to create a Pan-Asianism as an ideology. From Xia's efforts China created its first permanent communication ministry to instill "Asian Values" upon all of the confederation. Asian movie theaters and radio were ahead of their time in the successful marketing campaign. In the 1950s the Holy Roman Empire would triumph in the Pan-European War due to adopting Chinese style media campaigns.
Bloom and withering 1925-1950
The 20's and 30's were an economic boom, as a well developed Chinese media class had access to products and leisure. Many businesses rose to be huge cooperate conglomerates which exist into the present. Tourism on a mass scale happened for the first time. Urban Chinese had some of the highest living standards only equaled by the Netherlands and the United Provinces of America. However in contrast to the west consumerism took a different character. Imperial authorities counteracted the potential for self serving individualism by equating profit, and material well being with family honor. Nonetheless personal individualism grew among the youth. Daoist ideas of "nothingness" and "doing nothing" gained a following in a modern busy economy, to reduce work load and pressure. Authorities discouraged this kind of art while censoring unorthodox work that threatened to reach a national stage.
In 1941, after a generation of growth stocks in Shanghai crashed, the economy overheated speculators lost confidence in high prices of shares- demand collapsed. The roaring tiger of China threatened to peter out in a matter of days. Imperial authorities responded with bailing out markets and banks to keep institutions a stabilizing but unpopular policy
The succeeding years were the era of "withering" living standards for the majority of people retreated to earlier times, resentment grew against the merchants held responsible for the crash and the government which had supported them, leaving others behind. From the mid 40's the first republican and equalist movements to overthrow the emperor appeared in the public. The Jishui were used by the government to stem public backlash against the bailout which became named as The Five swindlers after the five largest bailed companies. In the face of hardship the culture of the land diverged, rural areas became more conservative, but urban people disillusioned with the current state of affairs repulsed traditional ways of life. Ironically during this period, art blossomed, Works focused on the theme of suffering v.s redemption, using new wild abstract styles.
As the economy began to enjoy a slow recovery, China's African colonies broke out in insurrection, the ensuing East African War was used as an opportunity by the government to regain lost support of the people. Though the government was Initially successful the efforts backfired, wartime dissent became part of the movement to end the reign of Qing royalty. The victory failed to reverse calls for change as tens of thousands of demonstrators called for complete restructuring of the government. The Jinshui at this time was divided between representatives who represented the regime, and those who came from of the electorate classes
The "New" Era 1950-1990
As Beijing and Shanghai were both shut down by instability, the army proposed to the empire an operation to violently clear the cities of protestors. The Janzi Emperor however was cautious fearing that brutality after the economic depression would cause the Qing house to lose the Old Mandate of Heaven among the people. In order to keep the empire and the country united Janzi called for a Third Harbin Convention. The convention was unique and that it attended by parties from within the government, elected councils and representatives of the demonstrators all mediated by the emperor.
The result was a new constitution for all of China proper- that maintained a mix of imperial and popular governance. While the casts between voting councils in the Jishui were maintained, individual rights in regard to political rights were expanded. Powers regarding war, and economic regulation were delegated as a system of checks and balances between elected and unelected bodies.
The succeeding decade saw the dawn of the "Xin" "New Time", the country experimented with social reform at home and the African colonies. The 1950's and 60's came to be the most liberal era in China's history, as attempts to aid historically disadvantaged people came under way. The British invention of birth control was imported to China by accident in 1959, revolutionizing concepts of the family. Mass university education for millions of rural and middle class youth was endorsed by both liberals and conservatives to enrich the country but was never completely realized. The Chinese idea of granting higher education to large sections of society would influence foreign countries far greater than China itself.
By 1965, China prided its self in calling itself the "Middle Kingdom" in being the heart and center of the world's new innovation socially and technologically. Some historians argue that China may had temporarily surpassed the west in terms of development. The ascension of a young liberal to the imperial throne- Qianfeng was symbolic for the time.
Colonial troubles, and foreign tensions laid the groundwork for a reversal of this culture. The idealistic dreams of a better world that many Chinese youth had were marred by new tensions with the Russian Empire on the northern border and with China's traditional British ally. The African colonies again made a defining spotlight when an English backed tribe attacked Chinese pioneers on the colonial frontier. A previously strong relationship was eroded by imperial rivalry. Exaggerated stories of violence toward Chinese at English hands convinced the Jishui and the Emperor to fight a limited wars in the late 1960's. Large Casualties and lack of public commitment ultimately broke the war effort, forever changing the scope of China's colonial processions- while the British gains on paper were small legitimacy of Chinese authority was shaken.
A contrast is made between the early 50's and 70's, victory against African guerillas had been followed by public outcry and the Conservative Janzi emperor turning liberal. The later failure in Africa led to many doubting the strength of public assemblies and integrity of elected people. The liberal Qianfeng like his father changed his views early in his reign. Believing it was his role to guide the people in rediscovering their traditional values. No dynastic head of state in China has ever gone to lengths to develop a personal relationship with his subjects as had Qianfeng. From the 70's through the turn of 21st century social reforms were scaled back but more importantly the Chinese people became more conservative once more. Many people choose a traditional familial lifestyle by choice, those who did not were pressured by new "good society ordinances" that mandated social behaviors.
Politics and Government
China is divided into 29 provinces and two integrated protectorates (marked in green):
Kedah | Kelantan | Maguindanao | Mongolia | Perak | Sulu | Terengganu | Tibet
Ethiopia | Madagascar | Witu | Zanzibar
China | Mongolia | Tibet
Chinese Antarctic Territory | Chinese East-Indies | Chinese East-Africa | Chinese Polynesia