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  • 1. NonBunpetch Mr. Sweeney,IBAsiaHistoryP1 10/12/10 Whydid China’sreform movementof the 19th century failed? Duringthe periodof 1950-1964, Chinafaceda majorrebellionledbyaheterodox Christian convertnamedHong Xiuquan.Itwasnamedthe TaipingRebellionandwasone of the mostdevastated rebellioninthe historyof China. The cause forthe rebellionwas due tothe fact that Chinawasfacing majorcrisis;natural disasters,economicproblems,corruptioninthe central government,andforeign imperialism.Inthe end,and20 millionsdeadlater,Chinafinallyrealizeditsneedtoreform.Although Chinadid realize that, mostof the reformsdidnot succeeddue tothe weaknessinthe political structure and the inabilitytoaddresssocial problems. The imperial governmentof Chinaduringthe 19th century wasveryweak,unable tomanage and enforce itspolicies,while mostof the powerislocatedwiththe governor-generals. Itcouldnoteven control officialsinside the governmentascorruptionplaguedit. The Tongzhi Restorationisaclear example of this.Duringreignof emperorTongzhi,chinatriedtofix theirproblems byre-establishthe relationshipbetweenthe gentryandthe commonpeople;resumingthe examinationsystemthatwas suspendedforyears,expandingthe educational systembyopeningmore schoolsandlibraries.Theyalso triedto fix theireconomybyencouragingpeopletosettle inandfarmmore land, loweringthe taxesso farmerscan gainmore profit.Mary Wrightstatedthat ina shorttermthe restorationwasa success, “not onlya dynastybutalsoa civilizationwhichappearedtohave collapsedwasrevivedtolastfor anothersixtyyearsbythe extraordinaryeffortsof extraordinarymeninthe 1860’s.” The policiesand ideasitself weregood,butitlackedcontrol,asmany officialsdidnotfollow the lecture system.The
  • 2. increasingpowersof the local elitesalsostop the central bureaucracy’sattempttoreconnectwiththe people.The central governmentdidnothave enoughpowertomake the reform effective. AfterChinese’sdefeatbyJapan,Chinafinallyrealizedit’sweaknessinthe government,which leadto the HundredDays’Reform.Anattemptwasmade to modernize the educational system, industrialize china,andeliminate corruptioninthe central government.Butthe reformfailedas EmpressDowagersupportedthe officialsthatwere accused of corruptionandsuppressedthe reform. Thisprovesthat because of the political structure thatChinacurrentlypossessed,causedChinatofail in itsreformsand laggedbehindinmodernization. Reformsalsodidnotsucceed as Chinafailedtoaddress theirsocial problems.Itwasalmost impossible takingChinatothe modernworldwhenthe social theoriesandstructuresremainthe same, such as demonstratedbythe Self-StrengtheningMovement.The movementtriedtolearnwestern language andmathematicsbyopeningforeignschools,suchasthe Beijingschool forforeignlanguage whichusedwesternteacherstoteachChinese students.Li HongzhangalsotriedtomodernizeChina’s militaryandtechnologiesbyopeningwesternarsenals,factories,mines,andshipyardsatChina’smain cities. Butthe reformsfailedbecauseChinadidnotchange itsConfuciantraditionstoadapttowestern culture butrather promoted‘Chinese learningatthe base,Westernstudiesforuse’. Joseph Levenson statedthat “Thisrationalizationcouldnotbe sustained,foritwasnot possibletooccupythe middle groundbetween‘perfectloyaltytothe basicChinese values’andindiscriminate acceptance of Western Culture.”ChineseConfucianismandwesterncultureswere verydifferent,andoftenconflicting.For that reasonit wasimpossibletoimpose,andmake those reformsworkwithoutchangingthe social structure. The social problemsof Chinaalsoinclude the people themselves. People inChinaduringthe 19th centurywere plaguedwithopiumaddiction.Aspeople are addicted toopium, the social orderlacks organizationaspeople whoare addicted toopiumusually donotfollow rules.Familiesare destroyedas
  • 3. opiumaddicts sell whatevertheyhave tobuyopium.Withthose reasonsthe workingclassdoes not operate efficiently.The Chinesecentral governmentfailedtorealize that,the reformsthatthey introduceddidnotaddressedorfixedthisproblem, therefore withthe social ordernotworking,other political oreconomicreformswouldnotworktoo. Reformsmovementimposedbythe Chinese governmentduringthe 19th centuryactuallyhad goodideasand policiesbehindthem,butitfaileddue tothe weaknessof the political structure andthe problemwithchina’ssocial order.Reformmovementssuchasthe Tongzhi restoration,the Hundred Days’Reformcan be seenthatthey faileddue tothe weaknessinpolitical structure;the central governmentcouldnotcontrol itsofficials,andenforce theirpolicies.Andwithone personhaving absolute control,itishardto do what’sbestfor the country,but ratherwhat the emperor/empress wantsto do. The Self-StrengtheningMovementfaileddue toitsinabilitytochange the social structure; and withopiumplaguingthe lowerclass,reformscannotbe carriednoteffectively asthe workingclass cannot cooperate.