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The west's Influence on Early 20th Century China

Uploaded by Kerrytom on Aug 10, 2013

A more modern approach to Chinese history in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, focuses more on a China-centred approach, placing less importance on the role Western civilisations had in shaping China during this period. However one cannot escape the fact that the West had a massive influence in defining and shaping China in this period, more-so than internal Chinese influence. The West played a vital role in altering Chinese history from the period of time encompassing the Opium War, all the way to the eve of the revolution of 1911 and beyond. “China- truly a geographical and not a political expression before 1912- moved from being a ward, if not semi-colony, of the ‘great powers” to being a great power itself, recovering the sovereignty and autonomy that had been so severely limited in the latter stages of the Qing dynasty.”
The West’s influence touched almost every aspect of China during this period. The change was caused by direct economic and political forces, which became “all penetrating, all permeating, all prevailing- durchdringend, as the Germans say- ultimately forcing their way into every part of Chinese society.” Over the course of this essay we will discuss how exactly the West influenced Chinese history and what specific areas of Chinese society and culture changed.


To understand how foreign influence affected China in the early 20th century, we must first examine how the West had an effect on China during the late 19th century. The start of the change can be traced back to the Opium War of 1839-1842. This was the first of many wars that China fought with foreign powers up until the early 20th century. The Opium War in particular had a lasting effect on the Chinese economy. The major consequence of the war was that there was a massive degree of foreign control placed on China and the Treaty of Nanking, signed in 1842, placed indemnities on the country which saddled it with a great international debt. Britain in particular could now control China as it pleased and made changes to suit Britain’s own agenda. China ceded Hong Kong to Britain and opened five treaty ports.
Another vital consequence of the Opium War was the end of any true power of the Manchu’s in governing China. It was in the best interest of foreign powers to support the Manchu’s enough to keep them in power, but in...

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Uploaded by:   Kerrytom

Date:   08/10/2013

Category:   History

Length:   10 pages (2,340 words)

Views:   1716

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