How did imperialism affect China?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Imperialism had devastating effects on China in the nineteenth century. In the first part of the century, British and other European merchants traded opium for the many goods from China that were coveted in Europe. By 1839, the Chinese government had grown so concerned about the effects of widespread opium addiction amongst its people that it confiscated 1,400 tons of opium that British merchants had stored in the country. This, along with a conflict over who had the right to prosecute British sailors who killed a Chinese citizen, led to the First Opium War.  

The British, with their allies France, Russia, and the US, won this war in 1842. The victors forced concessions and unequal treaties on the Chinese. This was followed by the French and British winning the Second Opium War, which forced the Chinese to legalize the opium trade and allow missionaries free access to the country. Over the course of the rest of the nineteenth century, China was run by foreign powers working in concert with a small, corrupt Chinese elite to exploit the country and its resources. 

Imperialism led to the Boxer rebellion from 1898-1901 and then to the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty in 1912. This brought in a Republic, but conditions did not change for the average person until the communists took over in 1949 and finally expelled foreign influences. Some of the effects of imperialism were to cripple the psyche of the Chinese, who came to feel for many years that they were inferior to the West. On a more positive note, imperialism brought aspects of British culture to China and established Hong Kong as a major financial center, which it still is today. 

mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Imperialism had a significant effect on China. China was a very weak country around 1900. Due to a lot of infighting between the warlords in China, China was not a strong nation. As a result, European imperial powers looked to carve up China for themselves. China had a lot of items that the European countries wanted. China was in danger of losing its independence as a result of this. European countries had set up spheres of influence throughout China.

The United States was concerned about events in China. We wanted to trade there, and we were very concerned we would lose the ability to do that if Europe colonized China. As a result, the United States issued the Open Door Policy in 1899. This said all countries had equal trading rights in China. We informed the Europeans that we expected this policy to be honored.

The Chinese were concerned about the amount of western influence in the country. As a result, the Boxer Rebellion occurred in 1900. Westerners were killed, and some property was destroyed. The United States convinced Europe not to intervene in China militarily, but to accept financial compensation instead. We were worried a military invasion would lead to the colonization of China. Imperialism had a big impact on China.

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