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China, Prosperous and Strong, to 1796

The Manchus took control of Beijing allied with rebelling Chinese. And after decades of extending their power, in cooperation with their allies they organized China into districts. Mongols and Chinese who came over to the Manchus were taken into the system and organized in their own military units. Cultural continuity was sought. The China scholar John King Fairbank (1907-91):

The Manchus attempted no social revolution. They slaughtered those who resisted but confirmed the status of Chinese gentry families if they accepted Qing rule.

But the Manchus also sought to preserve their identity. They banned intermarriage with the Chinese, and they wanted to preserve some of their cultural differences. Manchu women, for example, did not bind their feet and Manchus were not supposed to engage in trade or labor. They also preserved Manchu clan organization and its shamanism.

The Qing Emperor, Kangxi, started his reign in 1651 at age seven (without a regent nine years later) and was to rule until he was 68 and is said to have initiated a new era of prosperity that accompanied the political stability. By the beginning of the 1700s, China's economy recovered from the devastations of war and political breakdown that followed the demise of the Ming. China's markets expanded and its population grew. Under Kangxi, foreign trade was reestablished on China's southeast coast. China was exporting tea, silk and manufactured goods and accumulating silver. (The British East India Company established a trading post in Guangzhou in 1711.)

During his reign, the island of Taiwan was forced to submit Qing rule. Emperor Kangxi confronted the spread of Russian fur traders in with conflicts along the Amur River in Siberia, and he secured the area for China. He ordered the reconquest of border towns in western Sichuan that had been overrun by Tibetans, and he moved against the (the last of the nomadic empires from the breakup of the Genghis Khan's empire). The Dzungar Khanate invaded Tibet in 1717, took control of the city of Lhasa and held the city until a Qing army came in 1718 and with a larger force in 1720 (China's involvement in Tibet before descendants of American colonists moved west of the Appalachian Mountains).

The Kangxi Emperor dealt with the Jesuits who had come to China. He responded to a request from Europe for tolerating Christianity by recognizing Catholicism. He banned attacks on their churches and legalized their missions. Then came the Dominicans. They offended with a hostile stance against "idolatry." Kangxi was presented with a demand that he ban Chinese rites, and a message from Pope arrived explaining papal supremacy in matters of religion. The Jesuits, meanwhile, had become involved in Manchu court politics. Christian missions were then forbidden in China, with the Jesuits allowed to remain only in Beijing.

Kangxi's son, Emperor Yongzheng, has been described as despotic, efficient, vigorous and as a reformers. He curtained the "wily subterfuges" that the wealthy had been using to avoid paying their share of taxes. Also, taxes were reduced to encourage economic incentive. And instead of the labor draft system (the corvée), laborers were hired by local government, paid for with revenues from a head tax.

The production of textiles and handicraft goods boomed. Merchants built fortunes and patronized literature, theater and the arts. Foods were imported from the Americas and southeast Asia, and China's population of approximately 150 million during the late Ming was on its way to 300 million by the end of the 1700s. (The population of the United States would then be around 5.3 million.)

Kangxi's grandson, Emperor Qianlong, reigned sixty years, from 1735 to 1796 when he stepped aside so as not to rule longer than his grandfather. About China's economy under Qianlong, historian Fairbank writes:

We are left with the impression that as of 1750 or so the preindustrial societies of China and Europe had much in common; indeed, they probably seemed in appearance to be more like each other than either one was like the Western states that would emerge transformed by the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century. Yet we must acknowledge that such a similarity in appearances was superficial. Beneath the surface lay great differences in social structure, culture, and ideas, as the nineteenth century would demonstrate.

Qianlong's government could afford to manage military operations to control China's border areas in the west. Qianlong's government prepared a new campaign against the Dzunghars in 1754. Some Dzunghar groups defected to China's side. Qianlong's series of military campaigns and disease is described as having killed from 500 to 800 thousand Dzunghars, and also described as having eliminated Turkic and Mongol threats and as having extended Qing Dynasty authority into what today is the Autonomous Region of Xinjiang.


BOOK: free download online, pdf, China, a New History, by John king Fairbank and Merle Goldman

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