The country has been dominated by the Han Chinese people for millennia. Modern China's origins stem from the Canton-based state that split off from the Qing empire in the 1850s. Constitutional reform led to the establishment of a Chinese republic in 1931 and the reunification of China in 1936. Currently China boasts the largest population of any country in the world.
The Ming-Qing transition was one of the deadliest periods in Chinese history that witnessed the fall of the Ming dynasty and the rise of the Qing empire that supplanted it. It caused massive changes in Chinese society, politics, and economics.
Stabilization of the Qing periphery
In 1650, a Zheng junk unintentionally sinks a Corean ship heading to Tauland. This provoked King Sangdjong to send marine troops to assist Qing-Dutch forces in the Minzhe region against pirates and Ming loyalists. During the Battle of Cizao, Corean soldiers defeated the Zheng army alongside the Manchus.
Two years later in the Battle of Jiangdong Bridge, Koxinga and his army was defeated at a critical juncture. He was sent to exile in Hirado with his mother, who was evacuated to Japan two years after the Qing conquest of Kiang-nan. During the battle, Zhu Yihai betrayed Koxinga and defected to the Qing side. Zheng Cai fled to the Ryukyu kingdom with a contingent of pirates in an effort to gain materials for the next attack, especially focusing on the sulfur trade.
The Zheng family eventually failed to create a Ming loyalist base in southeastern China. Later, many members of the family and their allies participated in the southern Japanese Ōmura Rebellion in 1656.
Relations with the Dutch
The Dutch established a base on Tauland (known as Formosa at the time) in the 1620s, stabilizing their rule in the 1660s. Although not universally welcomed, they fostered a good but informal relationship with the Ming on the mainland. With the Qing conquest of southern China, the Dutch of Formosa cut their ties with the Ming and established a strong relationship with the Qing and Corea. By the 18th century, the Dutch almost monopolized European trade in southern China.
Breaking the Monopoly: The Coming of France and Britain
Britain and France had long desired to break the Dutch monopoly on Asian trade. They had continuously chased any opportunity that came knocking at their door. In the early 1800s, Britain had started to establish a small presence in the southern regions of China (particularly Canton). The Qing, however, were not receptive to this. They started to enact more restrictive trade policies in Canton, leading to the disgruntlement of British and Chinese merchants alike. The influx of Christian missionaries in Canton did not help the situation either, only further alienating the populace from the ruling Qing. An insurrection was brewing in Canton, and this was exactly the opportunity the British and French had longed for.
The Canton War (1850-1857)
The unrest in Canton grew into an open revolt by 1847. The Qing were slow to respond and faced multiple defeats at the hands of the rebels. The Canton rebels were well-equipped and well-supported by British and French arms, while the Qing army was languishing in their antiquated systems of fighting. By early 1848, the rebels were able to take substantial portions of the southern China region.
By late 1848, the leader of the rebellion had garnered enough support and legitimacy in the region. He established a new kingdom, dubbed by the west as the "Kingdom of Canton." This new kingdom would infuse Chinese tradition with western styles, particularly putting Christianity at its core. Britain and France were quick to recognize this new kingdom.
At this point, the fledgling kingdom became this unstoppable force aiming at the Qing capital. The Dutch Empire realized that their Asian monopoly was at stake. If this British-backed kingdom becomes the new master of the region, the Chinese trade would be open to other powers besides the Dutch. A Qing collapse would mean the end of the Dutch Empire's Asian enterprise. The Dutch had to act quickly. In the spring of 1849, with the consent of the Qing emperor, the Dutch landed their army on the mainland and launched naval attacks on Canton.
Britain and France nervously watched as the Dutch crushed the rebels marching towards the north. Although not officially in the war, they continued to provide logistical support to Canton. However, they are still looking for an opportunity to intervene in the war and turn the tides. An opportunity came on 1 March 1850, when a Dutch admiral had sunk a British ship carrying gunpowder to Canton: an open act of aggression.
As soon as Europe got word of the incident, Britain hastily declared war on the Dutch Empire. France soon joined on the side of Canton and the British. This quickly developed into a global conflict, with British and Dutch colonies being pitted against each other in the Americas, and multiple naval battles being fought on the English channel. In China, the Anglo-British-Cantonese alliance was slowly pushing back the Dutch and the Qing.
Things started to look tragic for the Dutch, especially when the Spanish Empire declared a separate war against the distracted Dutch Empire in late 1850, hoping to take some of the territories from the Dutch Colony of Tussenland in America. Dutch Formosa was now being attacked on all sides, by Britain and France from Canton and the Spanish from Manila.
Dawn and Dusk period
This period's name was inspired by the 17th-century book Waiting for the Dawn by politician and philosopher Huang Tsung-hsi. In this era, lasting from 1857 to 1936, China proper was split into two parts during the Canton War - the Eastern Qing dynasty and the Kingdom of Canton.
Kingdom of Canton (1857-1931)
|Kingdom of Canton|
The war ended in disaster for the Dutch and the Qing. In the resulting Treaty of Tchangtcheou (1857), the Kingdom of Canton was formally recognized by all nations, taking most of the southern Qing territory. Multiple treaty ports were opened, specifically Tchangtcheou (France), Foochow, Taichow, Ningpo, and Shanghai (Britain). The Dutch were forced to concede defeat and retract their monopoly on the Asian trade. All Dutch presence in China was removed. This war would later be known in the Dutch-speaking spheres as The War of Dutch Humiliation.
However, it was the Qing that suffered the most damage in the war. Although still holding a large territory, the situation in post-war Qing had devolved into a constant civil war between local warlords, and they would never recover from that point on/ The Qing would be known as the "Sick Man of Asia [亞洲病夫], and by the late 1880s, although the Qing state was still present de jure, it was already considered dead. The withering of the Qing in the 1880s had allowed for a new Asian power to enter the global stage: the Empire of Corea.
Modern China's origin stems from the western-backed Christian rebellion against the Great Qing in 1847 from Kwangchow (Canton). Seeing this as a way to disrupt the Dutch-Qing alliance and trade monopoly, Britain and France supported the "Canton Rebellion." This culminated in the Canton War (1850-1857) that caused the southern half of China to split from the Qing state in 1857.
The southern state that broke away called itself Tenchyew (天朝; heavenly dynasty) and was ruled by a Cantonese Christian dynasty. Tenchyew was more commonly known as the Kingdom of Canton in the west.
The Christian dynasty reigned over the Kingdom of Canton with absolute rule over the latter half of the 19th century. In the early 20th century, various secret societies promoting pan-Chinese Republicanism started springing up in Canton. By the 1910s, these secret societies had begun to increase their strength and influence over the region. Fearing a mass rebellion, the Kingdom of Canton established the Tenchyew parliament.
Wahhah Republic (1931-1936)
1931 Sanmei Coup
Multiple parties formed and participated in the parliament. However, the dominating party was the National Reformation Party (華夏改革會, lit. Huaxia Reformation Party) which aimed to dismantle the monarchial pretensions of Canton and unite China after many decades of fragmentation. In 1927, the NRP-dominated Tenchyew parliament commenced the National Reform Movement, which attempted to do away with classical Chinese philosophy and tradition in favor of western ideals.
In 1931, the NRP-dominated parliament overthrew the Cantonese Christian monarchy. They renamed the country the Wahhah (Chinese) Republic (華夏民國) and sought to unify with the Great Qing by military aggression.