The Boxer Rebellion

Introduction

The Boxer rebellion, which is also referred to as Boxer Uprising or Yihetuan lobby group, was a proto-separatist group by the Righteous Harmony Society in China. The lobby group emerged between 1898 and 1901. The group was against foreign invasion and introduction of Christianity in China.[1] The revolution was also against the partitioning of China. Colonial interference led to conflicts ranging from interruption of opium trade to economic exploitation.

Chinese citizens were against the signing of treaties that benefited only foreign powers. The Qing regime was forced into signing unpopular treaties that aimed at subjugating the people of China. For instance, British foreigners used the power of the treaties to acquire land that was later appropriated to the church. The Chinese peasants were forced to surrender their resources to foreigners. The activities of foreigners in China resulted to rebellion that was later termed as Boxer rebellion.

In 1900, the Boxer members waged war on foreigners, forcing them to seek asylum in the Legation area. The Empress, who requested the foreigners to leave, supported the demonstrators. Consequently, foreigners were at the mercy of the Boxer fighters for approximately fifty-five days.

Those attacked included envoys, civilians and foreign soldiers. The government of China weighed options between destroying the residence of foreigners and requesting them to leave peacefully. Within the Chinese forces, there were those who supported extermination of foreigners.

Others preferred to send them back to their homelands peacefully. This caused a delay that later on led to the defeat of the boxers and the Chinese government. Eight nations agreed to send troops to crash the boxers. Indeed, twenty thousand soldiers were deployed in China. Through the alliance of eight nations, the imperial army of China was defeated and foreigners captured Beijing.

In September 1901, the Boxer protocol was signed, which ended the uprising. Consequently, the Boxers were heavily punished for being aggressive to foreigners. The Chinese government was ordered to pay sixty seven million pounds as compensation to the eight nations involved in the war. This paper will therefore analyze the causes of Boxer uprising. The paper evaluates whether the uprising was successful. To do this, a brief history of the Boxer organization will be outlined.

Origin of Boxer Organization

As earlier stated, the Boxer organization was also referred to as the society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists. The Boxer secret society was established in the northern coastal province of Shandong. The society consisted of people who had been deprived of their rights. Members of the group had been rendered jobless due to the effects of colonialism. Colonialists had taken everything from them, including their trade.

Furthermore, natural disasters had affected many people, which forced them to fight for survival in society. The group gained the name because of their fighting skills. The members of the group had received a superb form of training that enabled them to engage foreigners in war effectively. They had been trained in martial arts and aerobics. The group was typified by spirit ownership that included the spiraling of weapons, aggressive prostrations and reciting prayers to Taoist and Buddhist feelings.

Members of Boxer uprising assumed that through exercise, diet, antagonistic arts and hope they would perform surprising acts including flight. The Boxers had strong faith since they believed that spirits would come from heaven to help them in flushing out foreigners from their land. The Boxers comprised of peasants and other members of society that had been displaced by foreigners. Foreigners had taken over opium trade, which was relied upon by locals.

Missionaries had further criminalized the use of opium, forcing many youths to adjust their lives. It was difficult for some of them to do without opium. Therefore, they decided to fight back in order to eliminate opium trade. On the hand, the Boxers could not target missionaries alone since Christian servants were protected under the treaty of extraterritoriality[2].

Chinese peasants accused Chinese Christians for allowing foreigners to terrorize them. The Boxers did not have sophisticated weapons that could match the kind of weapons possessed by foreigners. They relied on supernatural spirits, which proved futile in war. The Boxers could be likened to American Ghost Dance fighters. Such fighters try to fight for their rights due to frustrations and stress in society.

In China, various activities went on in society. The aims of various groups were diverse. The Boxers of Shandong were particularly concerned with conservative social and ethical principles, such as filial piousness. Most of the leaders of the organization were traditional medicine men.

For instance, Zhu Hongdeng was a traditional doctor who specialized in curing ulcers. The leader offered his services for free hence gaining respect in society. He was determined to revive the Qing regime by flushing out all foreigners. His ambition was however cut short when the eight nations invaded China.

Causes of Boxer Rebellion

The causes of the rebellion can be divided into two. There were internal causes and international causes. Therefore, it can be summarized that global tension and national unrest precipitated the intensification and spread of the Boxer movement. Between 1897 and 1898, farmers in China were hit by a prolonged drought followed by floods. Many farmers and other small businesspersons decided to move to towns to look for food and better lives.

Many people depended on farming, which was badly affected by drought. In towns, Chinese farmers could not find employment because they did not have enough skills to operate machines in industries. Life in urban areas was characterized by frustrations and stress, which forced farmers to seek for other alternatives[3]. They saw that flushing out foreigners would be a good idea. They would then take over businesses owned by Europeans.

Another cause of Boxer revolution was the activities of missionaries in the country. The Boxers were against the activities of both Protestants and Catholics. The missionaries flocked China after 1980.

The missionaries had hidden agendas, which disillusioned many farmers. They could be given free land and other public resources to construct churches. Furthermore, missionaries were not subjected to law. Missionaries were the major cause of conflict in China. In November 1897 for instance, a group of aggrieved Boxers stormed one church run by a German missionary referred to as George Stenz.

The youths killed two priests and injured others. In retaliation, a group of Christians defended the church by engaging the Boxers in attacks. The event is referred to as the Juye incident. The event had a negative effect to the residents of Shandong. The German leader ordered soldiers to occupy Jiazhou Bay, which was in the southern coast of Shandong. These soldiers frequently harassed residents of Shandong because they did not respect missionaries.

A section of Boxers attacked missionaries in October 1898 at Liyuantun village. In this village, a Chinese temple had been replaced with a catholic church. The premise had been allocated to the church illegally since the Chinese locals built it. This attack is also important in understanding the Boxer rebellion because it is out of this that the Boxers made a resolution to attack foreigners.

Foreign powers realized that tension was high between missionaries and the locals, especially the Boxers. In 1899, the French official intervened to ease out the pressure on missionaries. The official declared that missionaries could intervene in cases involving their relatives without following the due process. This was highly criticized by the Chinese officials. Local Chinese leaders feared that foreign powers were intending to colonize China in bits.

Chinese officials protested by claiming that foreign powers had to withdraw missionaries and stop opium trade if they were to be allowed to stay in China. This was not attended to since local leaders had no military power to counter the influence of foreign powers. This is a clear indication that the activities of missionaries angered many people in society. It is not surprising that Boxers decided to rise against them.

Another cause of Boxer revolt is the Hundred Days Reform plan. The program was established in 11 June 1898 and was supposed to run up to 21 September 1898. Progressive officials within the Chinese government established the program with back up from Protestant Christians.

The missionaries urged the emperor to come up with reforms that would benefit them. However, the reforms alienated many educated Chinese, who went ahead to support guerilla movements such as the Boxer. The Empress sided with educated Chinese by supporting the activities of Boxer movement. Afterwards, the empress took over power as the Chinese leader but the western powers refused to accept the empress as the de facto leader of China. The new leader promised to overturn the plans established by the previous regime.

This was against the interests of Europeans, who wanted to control decision-making processes in the state. The empress was forced to utilize illegal groups such as the Boxers to claim power. The Boxers fought to institute a regime that would be responsive to their sufferings. The previous regime served the interests of colonial powers but not the wishes and desires of the majority Chinese.

Furthermore, the opium trade precipitated the Boxer rebellion. The western powers forced the Chinese population to utilize opium, which caused many sufferings since productive population was rendered useless mainly because of drug addiction.

Local leaders were against European invasion because the illegal drug had disorganized the youths. Other issues that were opposed by the regime include the imposition of unequal treaties and formalizing Christianity as the only form of accepted religion in the state. Foreigners disregarded other religions such as Buddhism and Shinto.

Foreigners were given special treatment at the expense of locals. Foreign firms could easily violate the law without punishment. Indeed, by 1900, colonial powers had seized Chinese land and tricked the government into entering in inauspicious treaties. The government realized later that the accords were not beneficial to the people of China. This caused bitterness and intolerant reactions leading to uprisings such as the Boxer revolt.

China had been divided into spheres of influence. Each power had its own territory meaning that China was under various foreign administrations. The people of China saw that their culture and sovereignty was under threat. Conservative Chinese saw it wise to engage foreign powers in conflicts in order to restore sovereignty. Therefore, Boxer revolt was staged because of continued loss of sovereignty.

Change in the administration is also seen as one of the causes of Boxer revolution. In January 1900, the empress reversed her policy concerning Boxers. The empress supported the activities of Boxers, which was highly disputed by foreign powers.

The administration supported the Boxers by giving them technical support and protecting them from the law. The Boxers could torch Christian houses without facing the long hand of the law.[4] The Boxers engaged themselves in rowdy behaviors after realizing that the regime in power supported their activities.

On June 5, they uprooted the railway that connected Beijing to other parts of the country. It was difficult for foreigners to conduct business since the railway was the main means of transport. Furthermore, the Boxers engaged in boisterous behaviors by unleashing terror to foreign diplomats. The German official ordered the murder of one of the Boxer member who was found roaming in the Legation Quarter.

This is seen as the immediate cause of Boxer war. In the same afternoon, Boxers turned up in large numbers to participate in war. They terrorized Christians and other foreigners by burning their houses and beating them senselessly. The British soldiers engaged the rioters in war, which angered other villagers and the government. The Boxers received support from other extremist groups such as the Kansu braves.

The Aftermath

It can be reported that the Boxer war was not successful. This is because of various reasons. After the war, the Russians invaded Manchuria and imposed ominous laws. Manchuria was forced to sign treaties that did not benefit its members. Russian forces took advantage of the war to weaken the people of Manchuria economically. The foreign powers occupied most cities and other urban areas in China for over one year.

It was reported that German soldiers killed many Boxers because they trailed them to villages. German soldiers had clear instructions to kill but not to take Boxers as prisoners of war. The people of China paid dearly because the French officials moved to villages to collect indemnities in form of wealth[5]. Furthermore, women and children underwent hard times because they were forced to spend their nights in the cold. The Russian forces abused women sexually. On their part, the Japanese beheaded Boxers and their supporters.

In the streets, soldiers and civilians looted public resources and destroyed public infrastructure. Surprisingly, the Cathedral was used as a market center for disposing stolen goods. Some foreign officials distanced their governments from looting but it was mere publicity. Generally, the Boxers suffered because their properties were confiscated and given to Chinese Christians.

The society lost a lot because it was reported that Chinese women committed suicide after being raped by soldiers. Families were left unattended, which led to untold sufferings. After the revolution, Chinese people had nothing to eat, forcing them to rely on grants from the government. Many foreign firms took advantage of the war to utilize the services of Chinese workers cheaply.

Administratively, the Qing family was not overthrown. Foreign powers guaranteed the empress of her safety in case she cooperated. On the other hand, the advisers of the empress urged her to go on with the war, arguing that her regime would win the war. However, other leaders agreed to surrender but on condition that their security was guaranteed. This shows that the war was not successful at all because most parts of China were taken over by foreign powers.

Even areas that were previously controlled by Chinese leaders were taken over by foreign powers. Foreign powers agreed to offer protection to local leaders on condition that they mobilized cheap labor for them. Local leaders were afterwards supposed to collect taxes and present free labor to foreign mining sites. The Qing court cooperated with the foreign powers by allowing the signing of Boxer protocol on 7 September 1901[6].

The treaty was hostile to the people of China because it ordered the execution of planners of the war. This caused psychological trauma to families of the affected. Moreover, the war was never triumphant since China was ordered to pay millions of dollars. The reparation was to be paid within thirty-nine years, which was a short period given that the state was weak economically. It is estimated that each Chinese had to pay one tael of silver.

The Chinese government could no longer sustain itself. It had to rely on foreign powers for funding of major projects. This allowed foreigners to manipulate decision-making processes in government. Foreigners were given access to the economy because they could import sub-standard goods and force the locals to buy them.

Furthermore, there was unfavorable balance of trade because the Chinese government exported its products to foreign states at a cheaper price. However, goods entering China were exempted of taxes meaning that the government got nothing from importation.

Through analysis, it is established that some benefits accrued from the Boxer war. The US government taxed Chinese farmers to educate their children abroad. This was under Boxer indemnity scholarship program.

The US government opened up an education center that would teach English language to local youths, who would then apply for scholarships in the US. Those trained in the US would then come back to their country to teach their fellow compatriots. Through this arrangement, the first university was established in China, which was referred to as Tsinghua University.

Conclusion

The Boxer rebellion was caused by factors such as confiscation of private property and displacement of the local population. The locals wanted to flush out foreigners so that they could get some space to conduct business.

The activities of missionaries angered the Chinese because public land was misappropriated to them. The missionaries did not appreciate the existence of other religions. Furthermore, they did not follow the laws of the land. On the other hand, Boxer war was caused by natural disasters whereby farmers lost everything due to draught.

They were forced to seek for employment in urban centers. The foreigners were reluctant to offer them jobs since they were illiterate. They decided to flush out foreigners in order to take over their businesses. The rebellion was never successful because the people of China paid dearly. Many lives were lost and property worth millions of dollars was destroyed. Furthermore, the people of China were taxed in order to compensate foreign powers.

Bibliography

Elliott, Jane. Some Did It for Civilization, Some Did It for Their Country: A Revised View of the Boxer War. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2002. Print.

Harrington, Peter. Peking 1900: The Boxer Rebellion. Oxford: Osprey, 2001, 96. Print.

Hevia, James. “Leaving a Brand on China: Missionary Discourse in the Wake of the Boxer Movement”. Modern China 18.3, 1992, 304-332.

Hunt, Michael. “The Forgotten Occupation: Peking, 1900-1901”. Pacific Historical Review 48.4, 1979, 501-529.

Sharf, Frederic and Harrington, Peter. China 1900: The Eyewitnesses Speak. London: Greenhill, 2000. Print.

Thompson, Clinton. William Scott Ament and the Boxer Rebellion: Heroism, Hubris, and the Ideal Missionary. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2009. Print.

Jane, Elliott. Some Did It for Civilization, Some Did It for Their Country: A Revised View of the BoxerWar. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2002. Print. P.63
Peter, Harrington. Peking 1900: The Boxer Rebellion. Oxford: Osprey, 2001, 96. Print. P. 41
Thompson, Clinton. William Scott Ament and the Boxer Rebellion: Heroism, Hubris, and the Ideal Missionary. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2009. Print. P.58
Michael, Hunt. “The Forgotten Occupation: Peking, 1900-1901”. Pacific Historical Review 48.4, 1979, 501-529.
Frederic, Sharf and Peter, Harrington. China 1900: The Eyewitnesses Speak. London: Greenhill, 2000. Print. P.124
James Hevia,. “Leaving a Brand on China: Missionary Discourse in the Wake of the Boxer Movement”. Modern China 18.3, 1992, 304-332.