China's Last Empire: The Great Qing (History of Imperial by William T. Rowe

By William T. Rowe

In a brisk revisionist heritage, William Rowe demanding situations the traditional narrative of Qing China as a decadent, inward-looking nation that did not continue speed with the fashionable West. the good Qing was once the second one significant chinese language empire governed through foreigners. 3 powerful Manchu emperors labored diligently to safe an alliance with the conquered Ming gentry, even though a lot of their social edicts—especially the requirement that ethnic Han males put on queues—were fiercely resisted. As advocates of a “universal” empire, Qing rulers additionally accomplished an important enlargement of the chinese language realm over the process 3 centuries, together with the conquest and incorporation of Turkic and Tibetan peoples within the west, sizeable migration into the southwest, and the colonization of Taiwan. regardless of this geographic diversity and the accompanying social and financial complexity, the Qing excellent of “small executive” labored good whilst outdoors threats have been minimum. however the nineteenth-century Opium Wars pressured China to turn into a participant in a predatory overseas contest regarding Western powers, whereas the devastating uprisings of the Taiping and Boxer rebellions signaled an pressing desire for inner reform. complete state-mandated alterations through the early 20th century weren't sufficient to carry again the nationalist tide of 1911, yet they supplied a brand new origin for the Republican and Communist states that may stick to. This unique, thought-provoking historical past of China’s final empire is a must-read for figuring out the demanding situations dealing with China this present day. (20091204)

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Under the Ebai regency in 1661, however, the court suddenly announced its intention to clear these arrears. Deeply suspicious of the Jiangnan gentry’s politics and hoping to break the back of their autonomous economic power, it announced a schedule of required repayment, posted officials to the area charged with prosecuting the tax clearance, and, when local landholders proved unable or unwilling to meet these demands, threw large numbers of influential gentry in local jails. Nationally, the irate response of the elite was overwhelming, and the court quickly recognized its mistake.

The following, scribbled by Qianlong on a memorial from a provincial official, was typical: “When you were serving in the Board [of Punishments] you were an outstanding official. As soon as you are posted to the provinces, however, you take on disgusting habits of indecisiveness and decadence. It is really detestable . . You take your sweet time about sending in memorials, and there isn’t a word of truth in them! ”13 Qianlong came to feel that this cozy group of officials were becoming too comfortable in their status and too collectively orchestrated in what they revealed to him about real conditions in the provinces.

The Son of Heaven exercised absolute power in theory, but in practice that power was limited by the need to observe ritual correctness and the precedents set by his forebears, the constraints of his personal energy and interest in his job (constraints that had severely curtailed the effectiveness of the late Ming rulers), and not least the limits of communication. The execution of imperial power has been compared to that of a switchboard operator: when the emperor heard of regional policy initiatives worked out on the scene by a field official, he would decide on their soundness and then forward the good ideas to other regional officials to implement as they deemed feasible in their own jurisdictions.

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