China's Self Strengthening Movement

1191 Words5 Pages
Analyse the reasons for, and the consequences of, China’s attempt to modernise and overcome its weaknesses in the period 1862 to 1864.

From 1861 to 1895, China began a self-strengthening movement to modernise by adopting foreign ideas to improve their political, military, and economic state. The main reason for this was to defend themselves against future threats, from both external and internal forces. In addition, the Tongzhi Restoration from 1860 to 1874, was also a part of the self-strengthening movement, put in place with the purpose of reviving the Qing dynasty’s fading powers and halting dynastic decline. However, the movement met with limited success, due to the entrenched social-cultural ethos of the Chinese people, and the failure
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As the Tongzhi Restoration was largely focused on developing a nation with strong Confucian values, there was a refusal to change the intellectual mindset of the climate. Even though the scholar officials were willing to adapt Western technology and methods, they were still convinced of the superiority of Chinese values. Hence, they failed to fully understand the sources of Western power, failing to assimilate their institutions and culture. Moreover, the Imperial Court was divided into the conservatives and reformers both pushing for different goals. For instance, the reforming efforts were undermined when Prince Gong, who had been willing to cooperate with the Westerners and recognised the need for change, was replaced with the incompetent and conservative Prince Chun. In addition, Empress Cixi constantly oscillated between reform and reaction, giving no consistent backing to the provincial reform efforts. Large amounts of capital for the self-strengthening movement were also diverted for her extravagant purposes, thus creating further setbacks for the modernising efforts. Therefore, the consequence of China’s political reforms was that the lack of a common vision amongst the officials led to lack of focus in changing policies, thus little change could be enacted.
In conclusion, China’s attempt to modernise ultimately failed because of the lack of coordination amongst the officials and the people. Although several structures were put in place to initiate change, the traditional intellectual mindsets persisted, which were incompatible with Western values at the time. Hence, very little progress could be made when these changes were not supported by the citizens, who could not understand the need for change, and preferred to continue living under the old Confucian
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