After the Boxer embarrassment, the Qing dynasty lost any remaining legitimacy it might have held with the restive Chinese nation. Empress Dowager CiXi, whose material support and boosterism fueled the Boxer resistance, was forced to concede to the demand for reform.
The brief, turbulent period of the early Chinese Republic that followed the fall of the Qing in the second decade of the twentieth century introduced Western ideas about science, education, and social policy that coalesced into a republican movement of military nationalists in the Japanese and German vein. Correspondingly, the internationalist political and economic theories introduced to educated young, urban Chinese in these years added other ideological movements to the simmering Chinese crucible, like Mao Zedong’s socialism with Chinese characteristics.
These conflicting forces of class-based society-wide revolution and reactionary military-industrial statism flourished in the power vacuum left by the disintegration of the ancient empire following the crippling post-Boxer indemnities. Japan’s occupation of China led to its alignment with the Chinese Nationalist government against the rising communist revolution. Just before the Boxer rebellion, Japan had become emboldened by its 1895 victory in territorial warfare against China and with its permanent presence in China consolidated its dominance of Northeastern Asia.
At the same time, the United States was also emerging as a global power with its control of the Philippines since the end of the Spanish-American War of 1898. The added economic concessions given American corporate interests added to the lingering resentment against foreign imperialist powers that provided the Chinese Communists an idealized foil against which to rally the support of the masses for revolution against the corrupt and exploitive status quo. The powerful nationalist state that emerged in the 1920s and 30s under Jiang Jia Shi was viewed as a puppet of Western imperialism, and in fact, the Chinese nationalists became crucial American allies against the marauding Japanese before and during the Second World War. It was Japanese resentment about an assertive American military presence in the Eastern Pacific that eventually led to the Japanese empire’s attacking the US naval fleet at Pearl Harbor, bringing isolationist America into Word War II.