The Age of Exploration benefitted the Europeans, but for the rest of the world, it was not the case. Europeans colonized the continents of North America, South America, Africa, and Asia. China was no exception. Christianity came with a price for the people of China. The Chinese were well aware of the Christianity through Jesuit Missionaries. Most cultures were forced to convert to Christianity, but the Chinese had a somewhat diplomatic relationship with the Pope in Rome. The Chinese and the Pope clashed over a concept deeply embedded into Chinese society: Ancestor Worship. Christian missionaries believed that this practice made the Chinese barbaric. Chinese believed it was not the business of the Pope to interfere with the Emperor. This meddling from the 1700’s onward wore down the authority of the Chinese government.
Also many other European countries forced their influence in China. The Qing government could not stop either. China was forced by many nations to open up their ports for trade. The British East India Company was at the front of this exploitation. All business with foreigners was required to trade in one specific region: Guangzhou (Canton). Foreigners were only permitted to trade with Chinese in the port city of Canton.
The Hong would regulate prices and profits made on foreign trade. After the trading season, foreigners were forced to live on the island of Macao. In 1793 the British and East India Company requested the end of the Canton System. They also wanted more ports open to trade in China, and fair trading tariffs (isn’t that ironic, the British upset about unfair tariffs).The British were spending too much in China, while India was economically favorable for the British. The British found a way of unbalancing supply and demand. The British introduced Opium from India into China.
The Chinese population and economic situation was never the same. The Chinese pushed hard to eliminate the British opium trade. The start of the 1st Opium War (1839-1842) started with with the British provoking the Chinese into war. A small ship moved through a forbidden part of a Chinese harbor daring them to fire upon it. Once the Chinese fired on the ship, the British called this an act of war. The British used this as an excues to bring in the troops. The concessions that were forced on the Chinese were harsh and calculated by the British. Besides winning the war and continuing to push drugs into China, the British earned other prizes through the Treaty of Nanjing. A second Opium War was fought in 1856-60 against the British and also the French.
The Qing government not only had to deal with foreign threats, but also insurrection from within. In Southern China there was the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864). The leader, Hong Xiuquan (1813-1864) was exposed to Christianity by Protestant missionaries. He had visions that he was the younger brother of Jesus Christ. By 1853, Hong Xiuquan had over 1 million followers, and they captured over 600 cities. At first countries like the United States and Britain supported the Taiping Rebellion, but the instability of a religious leader made them move their loyalty and money towards the Qing government.
The Chinese lost to the French during the Sino-French War (1884-85). The significance of this war was not only the loss to a smaller country, but also the loss of territory, namely Vietnam which was under Chinese control prior to this war.
The Japanese were another example of Chinese defeat not only at the end of the 19th century, but also during the 20th century too. During this time, the Chinese controlled the peninsula held by Korea. The Japanese saw this as a chance to place their influence on the mainland. The modernized army and navy of the Japanese made it impossible for the Chinese to win. The Japanese were harsh with their demands and punished the Chinese.
Boxers were men that believed through shadowboxing and other rituals, they received supernatural powers. Boxers were upset with the way China had been treated and how the Emperor was running the country. Boxers were roaming the streets of Beijing controlling their anti-foreign, anti-Qing philosophy. The Russians, Japanese, French, British, and United States sent a small force to stop the rebellion, but realized this was a more organized and the boxers were more intense than previous rebellions