How did the Taiping Rebellion (1850–1864) affect China? 

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The Taiping Rebellion occurred during the Qing Dynasty. In order to understand its importance, we must look at the context of what was going on in China during this period of time.

While the Qing were in power, Great Britain was in control of a massive empire throughout the East....

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The Taiping Rebellion occurred during the Qing Dynasty. In order to understand its importance, we must look at the context of what was going on in China during this period of time.

While the Qing were in power, Great Britain was in control of a massive empire throughout the East. One of her biggest colonies was India, where Britain produced and then sold large quantities of opium, which comes from the bulbs of poppy plants. In order to establish political and economic dominance over China, Britain flooded the Qing Dynasty with opium, getting its people hooked and therefore economically dependent on trading with them.

The Qing were actually the Manchu, a group from the north of China who invaded the Ming in 1644, conquered, and established a new dynasty. To the Han Chinese, the Qing were considered invaders. Prior to the Ming, another invading group conquered China: the Mongols. The Qing were always considered outsiders, and there was a fair amount of rot from within because of their weak rule.

Because of British and European influence, some in China wanted to see change. China had spent a considerable about of time in the Early Modern era focusing inward on cultural expansion and not industrializing like the West and Middle East. As a result, some were unhappy with the Qing Dynasty. Hong Xiuquan, who considered himself a religious prophet, attempted to take control of the Qing Dynasty in what we call the Taiping Rebellion. While this rebellion was ultimately unsuccessful, it resulted in the deaths of potentially over 20,000,000 people during the upheaval and revolts. The Taiping Rebellion highlighted social problems within Qing China, and it was not long until the Europeans gained a stronger foothold in China (during the Boxer Rebellion) and the Nationalist and Communist parties rose to control China.

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The Taiping Rebellion served to hasten the end of the Qing Dynasty. The severe backlash against the citizens of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, including a purported 1,000,000 executions, led to a great level of resentment against the Emperor. As a result, the Qing Dynasty had to rely more and more on western support to maintain its power, further delegitimizing it in the eyes of the Chinese.

The Taiping Rebellion also served to encourage later rebel leaders such as Sun Yat-sen and Mao Zedong. Mao, in particular, viewed the Taiping Rebellion as China's prologue to a Communist revolution.

The Taiping Rebellion also greatly weakened China's economy. The massive death toll resulted in a labor shortage that took a generation to recover in certain regions. This led to a steep rise in the price of hiring laborers. In fact, many landowners were unable to hire laborers and still make a profit from the land, which resulted in fields going fallow and regional food shortages. This added even more to general discontent and strengthened animosity towards the Qing rulers.

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The Taiping Rebellion led to the deaths of millions of Chinese so that, in and of itself, is a huge effect.  However, its more lasting effect was to further weaken the Chinese imperial government.

The Taiping Rebellion itself was so big and so dangerous to the government of the Qing Dynasty that the government was forced to rely on aid from Britain and France to defeat it.  In addition, it caused many other rebellions to spring up, further weakening the government.

By weakening the government and making it rely more on foreigners, the Rebellion had the effect of opening China even further to the West.  In this way, it helped weaken China and make it more vulnerable to being dominated by the West.

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