China’s Historic Transformation from a Dynasty to Communism
China as a regional power in Asia carried the reputation as The Middle Kingdom as its name literally translates. This reflects the historical position of power China held in the region. This enabled the nation to greatly influence the political affairs of other countries in the region.
This status of power of power that China had in the days of its Glory as The Middle Kingdom is is particularly synonymous with that Ancients Rome’s influence on the European continent. The Chinese were able to reinforce their dominance by establishing themselves as culturally, ethnically, and religiously superior to their neighbors. This tactic was, in fact, customary for every major civilization of the past as well as those of present. This ideology was perpetuated by every sitting emperor of The Middle Kingdom and remained central to the Chinese identity and perception of the changing world around them. This attitude would eventually lead to their ensuing calamity and subsequent downfall but not before they’ve enjoyed great success trading with the West.
Early into the 18th century, The Middle Kingdom prospered tremendously in their trade relations with Europe leading into rapidly growing economies in both sides. This success came during the Qing dynasty. In the terms of the trade, the Chinese government mandated silver as the only material of value to be traded for commodities with the western powers. This would go on for years until the British silver reserves were almost deplenished. This particular trade deficit would have the British East India company restrategize its trading terms with China with the introduction of opium – otherwise Heroin – for silver into the Chinese economy. This was essentially done to reverse the transference of precious metals back to the British reserves. The opium trade would official kick off in the year 1719 with about 200 chests and a 200 percent increase later in the year 1838, essentially amounting to 40000 chests. Each chest of opium would account for 63kg of the addictive substance. This would prove to be catastrophic for the Chinese economy as thousands of hours would be lost in productivity thereby severely inhibiting economic success and industrial output. The populace would be hooked on the drug and China was now running out of silver itself.
Later in the year 1839, the sitting emperor, Daoguang, would have had enough the madness going on in his country. He imposed an import ban on the British opium which also resulted in the destruction of tons of the drug. This act would infuriate the British Kingdom that would later take up arms. Little did Daoguang know that his action would cause a political uproar against his government.
The British Kingdom responded aggressively with its Navy that was sent to China to demand compensation for the loss of trade and economic deprivation. This conflict would escalate to what is now commonly regarded as the opium wars. The Chinese Navy was no match for the British counterpart and they lost the war. The Chinese would later cede the island of Hong Kong to the British and in an interesting twist, post first opium war, the import of opium increased by more than 350 percent from the initial 200 chests to an astonishing 70000 chests. Perspectively, this number can be equated to the total heroin traded between the start of the millennium and 2010. The humiliation served by the British Navy to their Chinese counterpart was brought about by only 44 battle-ready ships. This perceived vulnerability of the Chinese army would leave them under potential threats. It did in fact, lead to the second opium war which let the French and Americans gain several additional trading ports which gave them unrestricted access to The Middle Kingdom. This would also result in the annexation of the Northeastern regions of China by their far eastern neighbors, Russia, as today’s Vladivostok and Sakhalin Island. With opium also came Christianity.
Smaller European nations would also attempt to subjugate China by carving up a coalition in Asia. This placed China on the limelight as they became a thing of ridicule. The aggression of the small European nations would later force the Qing dynasty to cede the port City of Macau for an indefinite amount of time to the Portuguese.
Following these events, China would suffer what is known as the Yellow River Flood that ended up claiming the life of an estimated 1 million people with over 2 million more without shelter and basic amenities. A pandemic and famine ensued throughout The Middle Kingdom shortly after that escalated and cause a particularly historic social unrest which resulted in the more aggression from the Korean Peninsula. During this period, China would experience a severe form of social unrest. Later in the years 1894 and 1895, the ruling Qing dynasty would lose influence over the Korean Peninsula and subsequently Taiwan. This period would be followed by the First Sino-Japanese War where the Japanese troops of about 240t,000 would deal a great blow to the 630,000 strong Chinese military. A historic defeat, this would lead to The Middle Kingdom ceding both Taiwan and the Korean peninsula in Perpetuity. Later in the year 1899, the Chinese civilians from the boxer rebellion would take up arms to bring the spread western religious identity and China’s enslavement to an end. The former ultimately became analogous to foreign presence. The rebellion rallied around the now emboldened Empress Cixi in Beijing to support her will to retake the kingdom. The boxer militia became united in their course under the rule of the Empress and she seized the opportunity and ultimately declared war on the countries that threatened the sovereignty of The Middle Kingdom and the dynasty. These countries include Germany, Japan, France, Russia, United States, Italy, Austria, and the United Kingdom. The Empress’s plan, however, failed and the western coalition quickly brought the kingdom’s imperial army to its heels.
The result was particularly dramatic and some of the biggest cities of Beijing and Tianjin continued to remain occupied for what seemed like forever. The coalition wreaked havoc on these cities and against the local dwellers. The atrocities committed was beyond overwhelming for ruling dynasty. It seemed the realm was coming to an ultimate downfall. Later in the year 1912, the last imperial dynasty would be overthrown in a revolution wherein the emperor was made to abdicate his throne and The Middle Kingdom would begin the process of transformation to a democratic system of governance. Sun Yat-Sen would assume the position as the first democratically elected president of the Republic. However, this progress would be short-lived given that after about 30 years, there’d be an uprising from the regional warlords that’d connive against the central government. Sun who let the ruling Kuomintang party, would come up with the initiative of unifying the revolutionary groups which included the communist party as one coalition as they shared the same principles. Sun presidential tenure would come to an end in 1925 and shortly after, the formed alliance of the communist party and the Kuomintang came crumbling down and this development would result in a civil war. Russia and China would take advantage of this situation and violate the Chinese sovereignty by launching an attack in the Manchuria regions while the Chinese government sought to settle its internal conflict. This was all in the 1930s and in the same period, China would be plagued with an episode of severe flooding that left over 4 million people dead.
Mao who was the leader of the communist party at the time was faced with the challenge of consolidating power and bringing the entire internal and external conflict to a halt while threatened with extinction by the opposition, The Kuomintang. This presented a challenge as Mao Zedong and his forces were further driven east while the country remained mostly unattended to. Fast forward later in the year 1937, Japan that was on an expansionist agenda at the time would invade the rest of China that was under the control of the The Kuomintang and vulnerable due to the ongoing conflicts the Chinese government was involved in. The Japanese forces dealt a severe blow on The Kuomintang killing 300,000 Chinese forces and citizenry. This famously became known as the Nanking massacre which markedly changed the relations between the government of China and Tokyo. Later in the year 1940, China’s luck would would turn for the better when Mao Zedong would find a new footing in challenging the status quo by using the economic disparity amongst the Chinese citizenry to his advantage. He had the poor peasants from the eastern region to take on military ranks and formulate an actual army that was capable of standing up to western aggression. Mao was able to achieve his goal of sending the The Kuomintang’s leader and his loyals off the Chinese Mainland to the Island of Taiwan. They were also able to challenge the Japanese aggression and had them packing in no time as well. The Kuomintang vacated the Mainland of China with over two million people who continued to maintain the identity of China while Mao Zedong declared the Mainland of China as The People’s Republic of China.
Under Mao’s government, a lot of reforms were introduced but the one that particularly struck a cord was the Great Leap Forward. This policy was essentially established to revitalise the Chinese economy with industrialization at the forefront of this effort in rural areas. The government put an end to subsistence farming and seized all the farmland and had millions of people relocated from the agriculture industry to work in China’s growing heavy machinery industry. The agricultural industry output would fall as a result and The Communist Party representative were forced to overstate the actual output of the agriculture sector. This would lead to a five year long famine. The famine was severe and spread like wildfire claiming the lives of an estimated 23 to 55 million people. This brought Mao’s Great Leap Forward initiative to an abrupt halt which subsequently and steadily led to an economic decline that lasted for over two decades. These series of unfortunate events made people question Mao Zedong’s leadership capabilities. This would lead to his temporary marginalization from the Chinese ruling elite who later requested him stepping down from his position as the overseer of The People’s Republic of China. He, however, continued to enjoy significance as the symbol and face of the Republic. He essentially took a break while The Communist party general secretary, Deng Xiaoping took control over the governance of the nation and sought to roll back some of the failures of Mao’s Great Leap initiative.
Later in the year 1966, Mao Zedong would launch a comeback against his political party with a quest to rid the party of his rivals and was able to accomplish this be introducing revolution in perpetuity. This way, he was able to launch a cultural revolution by galvanizing citizens of a lower socioeconomic status, including students, soldiers, mobilizing the lot of them to do bidding for restoring his position as the chairperson of The Communist Party and subsequently regaining control of the People’s Republic of China. This movement became known as the Red Guards and they were brutal in their quest as they rounded up millions of targeted citizens rounding them up to reeducation camps in remote areas of China. The people rounded up included teachers, intellectuals and anyone that stood against the cultural revolution.
Mao Zedong later consolidated power in all of China for a second time till his death in 1976. Mao’s legacy would continue to outlive him for most of the 20th century despite efforts by his successors to undo some of his work. The Communist Party’s image essentially revolved around the era of opium wars; a period that was referred to as the century of Humiliation. This period of humiliation was essentially in the shaping the of China’s geopolitics and perception of their immediate neighbors and the international community as a whole. It was also such that a total of 21 historic documentations were officiated during the China’s opium saga as the Unfair treaties. This dark history has thereby caused most of the lawmakers in Beijing to have a distrust of the western civilization outside of it geopolitic space and has nurtured the idea of emulating the west – it’s main adversary – in order to be able to counter their plans if there were to ever be an attack on their sovereignty again.
China’s. however, focused on it’s geoeconomics objective which it believes will help it grow its sphere of influence and make new allies as opposed to taking an aggressive military stance like its counterparts in the west do. This is, however, unlikely to remain the status quo as China has taken a rather emboldened approach with what is a supposedly newfound expansionist mindset as they continue to lay territorial claims around Asia threatening their original geoeconomics objective. These latest steps taken by Beijing under the current Xi Jinping have been perceived by potential allies as an aggressive posture and has been condemned by the international community as a violation of international laws.
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