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Comment la révolte des Boxers a-t-elle été écrasée ? [QdH#18]


In November 2018, the main press organ of the Communist Party of China, Xinhua, published an article entitled : “The arise of the national conscience :
the patriotic and anti-imperialist Boxer Rebellion”. Manipulating a bit the truth, the article exalts the courange
and fervour of the Chinese rebels against Western powers in the early of the 20th century. This event, known as the Boxer Rebellion, was yet much more complex than a simple opposition to foreing occupation. Indeed, at the end of the 19th century, China was crushed by a series of humiliating treaties imposed by the Westerners. Add to that recurrent crises : starvations, floodings and rebellions shook the country. The Boxer Rebellion was opposed to the Westerners
and the ruling dynasty first before to focus on the foreigners only then. The insurrection led the rebels to besiege the Beijing Legation Quarter during 55 days which provoked a violent reaction of the eight besieged powers. I’ll go back on the 55 Days at Pekin episode and I’ll ask how the Bower Rebellion was crushed. [HISTORICAL ISSUES] [How was crushed the Boxer Rebellion ?] The 19th century meant a long and painful decline for the Qing dynasty’s China. The country stagnated economically, troubles broke out regularly and dearths was cyclic. The Westerners wanted to infiltrate this huge market. But draconian restrictions was imposed to trade. The country was withdrawn. In this context broke out a first conflict with England about opium issue : the English merchants spread illegally
in the whole country ; that provoked ravage over people. The Chinese government tried to forbid the lethal substance in 1839. The Britons intervened militarily and imposed the opening of numerous ports to trade via the 1842 Treaty of Nanking, the first one of a series of
China-humiliating unequal treaties. The damages to be paid dragged China down in crisis. To make matters worse, destructive natural disasters overwhelmed the Chinese. Starvations and flooding emphasised misery. Then, the imperial power had to face one of the biggest uprising of history : the Taiping Rebellion. The estimations come to
more 20 million victims from this civil war. Taking advantage of the slump, the Westerners took advantage to impose new rules. Pretending safety problems for theirs merchants, the United Kingdom, France, the USA and Russia inflicted China a new defeat
during the Second Opium War. Several treaties subdued the country more. Lands was given, plentiful ports was opened. Henceforth the foreigners
could travel within the country and freedom of cult was consecrated allowing the Catholic missionaries to build churches. The damages to be paid to the winners was crazy. All these ordeals obliged the rulers to try to modernise the country. From 1861, the Qing imperial power
was held by a powerful woman, a former concubine who became empress : Cixi. To be more precise, she was Empress Dowager that means she enjoyed a part
of the goods of her late husband. Even if the power was Tongzhi Emperor’s officially, she influenced the decisions and led well and truly. The attempt to modernise
passed by private investments as the country was withdrawn by the Westerners : the development of mines exploitation and the investment in military technology through the creation of a new army. But that didn’t do the population good, still living in an indescribable misery. This change impetus didn’t bear fruit especially militarily. A conflict with France China lost speeded up the guardianship of the country movement. Annam and Tonkin became French protectorates. Above all a war against old enemy Japan shook the Chinese. Japan modernised with an impressive speed since the 1868 Meiji Restoration : new institutional structures, development of heavy industry and setting up of a Western-based army. The country felt exhilarated and led to conquering imperialism. Coveting Korea for years, Japan pretended a country revolt to intervene onto the continent. The Chinese fleet was destroyed,
when it was freshly modernised. Korea and current Taiwan
became Japanese protecorates. Humiliation was total for the Middle Kingdom which has always considered Japan as an inferior neighbouring country. This crisis pushed into acting. But several movements opposed about the direction the Chinese
modernisation may be. The majority liberal movement wanted to reform the country like Japan : the capitalist economy and the development of trade, the constitutional and judicial reforms and the total reform of the army was the great outlines of these young liberals. The young Guangxu Emperor was attracted by the reformative ideas. In 1898 he started the ambitious Hundred Days’ Reform against the opinion of his powerful aunt Cixi, supported by the ultra-conservative movement. She manoeuvred with the support of the army and made arrest the reformers before to behead them. She reached to declare the emperor dim then to shut him up in the Forbidden City. Far from fights for power, people still lived in destitution and organised faced with imperial inaction. In the great history of China, secret societies have always gathered. They was often asociations of rebellious peasants in a crisis context. The increase of population, fiscal pressure, the recurrent starvations and the less-and-less-tolerated presence of the foreigners pushed many Chinese into
participating into this kind of society. In the 1890s, appeared in the north-west of the country the Fists of Harmony and Justice ; a varied secret society made with poor farming workers,
shopkeepers and craftspeople or tramps. This secret society was called
“Boxers” by the Westerners as the members practiced Chinese boxing ; corresponding with general martial arts actually. This pre-Fight Club entered into
a revolutionary movement. The Qing dynasty and the Westerners
was theirs enemies. Discipline was hard, the organisation was military. A mystical dimension permeated the movement : the Boxers thought they was invulnerable to bullets, thought to practice a magic boxing, and use protective amulets. Plentiful women participated in the movement organised in groups according to their age : the Red, Blue, Black and Green Lanterns. The Boxers considered they had magic powers proper to help them in their fight. In the late of the decade, the members of the Fists of Harmony and Justice
came out of the woodwork. The triggering event was the murder
of two German missionaries in November 1897. In reprisal, the Reich occupied the port of Qingdao and the other Western powers
demanded new concessions ; these are granted to them. A nationalist and xenophobic spurt fired the population. In March 1898, the Society of the Boxers marched in the streets. Their slogan was clear : “Overthrow the Qing government
and exterminate the foreigners.” But after a short confrontation between the army and the Boxers in 1899, the secret society decided to target
the actions against the Westerners especially the Christians : destruction of churches, massacras and abuses was made
against the missionaries but also against the converted Chinese nicknamed “Rice Christians” because suspected to convert Christianity by pure opportunism, to get some food. Telegraph lines and railways was destroyed. The movement was on the rise. The power hesistated about the answer to be given. Many members of the court looked on
the revolt with a favourable eye as it was leaded towards the foreign occupiers. Cixi and the conservatives tried
an audacious politic strategy using the Boxers. The aims : making forget the catastrophic policy of the dynasty, exalting Chinese patriotism and destabilising the Westerners. But the bet was risky. A January 1900 edict admitted the secret societies. From May (1900), the troops of Boxers was supported and organised by the imperial army. Anything stopped the rioters and they began to converge on Beijing to attack the diabolical foreigners. From June 2nd (1900), the Beijing Legation Quarter was cordoned by a security perimeter. The Legation Quarter corresponded with the area where was the foreing embassies in China. Eight nations was in : the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Japan, Russia, Germany and the USA. On June 7th (1900), the Boxers entered the capital city under the gaze of Prince Duan, in charge of safety, who let enter the rebels. The chancellor of the Japanese embassy was murdered on June 10th by imperial soldiers. The Beitang Church, to the north of the city, suffered also a fierce siege. Frightened, the united nations sent backup to Beijing under Almiral Seymour’s guidance. The 2,000-men row was obliged to retreat because the allies took Taku forts in the same time, provoking a Chinese counterattack
over Seymour’s troops. Feeling threatened, Cixi came round to the Boxers. She ordered the foreigners to leave Beijing ; she didn’t answer for their life anymore if they stay. The next day, German ambassador
Von Ketteler was murdered, when he was going to peace negociations. Every Westerner fled into the Legation Quarter. The imperial troops joigned the Boxers : the atmosphere was electric. The slogan of the rebels evolved : “Support the Qing government
and exterminate the foreigners.” The Legation Quarter siege began on June 20th (1900). 400 civilians, 400 militaries
and about 3,000 Christian Chinese was in the Quarter. The buildings suffered
the astonoshingly precise artillery shoots. Fusillades broke out every day, mines was place on the high walls, blazes materialised. A break was succeeded by the Boxers on July 13th obligeing the French to withdraw
after violent hand-to-hand fights. The Western powers’ reaction encountered the difficult agreement between nations. After having taken Tianjing to the Boxers, the eight powers gathered their back up under the British command. The 20,000-men task force moved on straight away. Boxer strong positions was taken away
during the advance at great cost. On August 4th at dawn, the gathered nations was before Beijing. The assult was started at 3:30 am. The Russians attacked first via the Northern Gate. The Japanese, at the Southern Gate, faced a well-organised resistance and had to use artillery. The Britons followed a canal allowing them to pass below the high walls. The fights was firece. In the late of the afternoon,
the Legation Quarter was released. The Imperial Court fled Beijing ; Cixi dressed up as a female peasant not to be arrest. The suppression descending
upon the Boxers was awful. A real terror policy was set up. Wilhelm II, the German Kaiser, was the most virulent. He wanted to impose the Chinese respect. The orders he sent on site was dreadful : showing Germany in China in such a violent way that any Chinese dare to look
a German face to face anymore. Massacras, lootings, rapes and abuses of all kinds was committed by the eight nations
over thousand of Chinese. The public beheading was the rule. Cixi did a U-turn quickly and accused the Boxers to be the only responsibles of the situation. She united the imperial army with Western forces to subdue the movement in order to spare these powers. She dissolved the Boxer society on Febuary 1st 1901. On September 1st (1901), the eight nations reached agreement and imposed China a new humiliating treaty know in France as “Protocole de Paix Boxer”.
[In English : “Boxer Protocol”] The Middle Kingdom had to pay
damages during 40 years, of which the amount would be equivalent
to more 6 billion euros nowadays. The main Boxer responsibles and government accomplices was executed. Taku forts was destroyed. The importation or manufacture
of weapons was forbidden. The Beijing Legation Quarter
was totally forbidden to the Chinese. Numerous cities was occupied militarily and expiatory monuments
had to be built in the cemeteries. The Boxer movement destruction, of which the estimations come to
around 30,000 Chinese deaths, didn’t solve the recurrent problems of the country. The new humiliating treaty but also the ambiguous attitude of Cixi
during the whole crisis, discredited the Qing dynasty anew. The revolutionary movements, stiffled temporarily, born 10 years later anew, provoking the 1911 Chinese Revolution and the fall of the Qing government. The alliance of the eight nations enlightens also the imperialist aims enlivening the powers of the time. Finally the main beneficiary of the revolt was Russia who took advantage to occupy Manchuria durably during the crisis. But this territorial advance worried Japan and led to the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War. Once the main enemy of the eight nations crushed, the agreement was cancelled quickly and led barely 14 years after to the worldwide conflict the First World War was. This is the end ! I hope you’ve enjoyed the video. As usual, don’t hesitate to like the video, to give your opinion and to share if you’ve liked. If you want to support the channel’s development, I kinvite you to go on UTip to watch ads freely. You can also support me on Tipeee. Of course thanks the tippers and their huge generosity. Thanks for watching again
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