Imperial China

Imperial China

Imperial control over China ended on 12 February 1912 when the child emperor, Puyi abdicated his throne following the Xinhai Revolution. The revolution was sparked following continued discontentment of the Qing’s Dynasty failure to modernize China. Two decades prior to the revolution, the Qing Dynasty suffered a debilitating loss to the Japanese in the First Sino-Japanese War, which saw Japan gain hegemony over Taiwan, the Penghu Islands, and the Liaodong peninsula bordering Korea. The Japanese had modernized their nation and military, and overwhelmed the Qing military despite being heavily outnumbered. With the abdication of the imperial throne, China ended its 2,000-year imperial rule and paved the way for an era of republicanism. Despite its long grip of control over the nation, Chinese imperialism had experienced a history of revolutions and uprisings, although in all cases imperialism remained the practice of governance.

Some of history’s deadliest conflicts occurred in China. The rebellions of Taiping and An Lushan killed an estimated 136,000 million people. Despite the massive casualties inflicted by these two rebellions, the Chinese imperial regime remained. The Taiping Rebellion arose in the 19th century with the Christian uprising of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom against the Qing Dynasty. Millions were killed and displaced by the fighting, and the conflict eventually saw the western powers of France and Great Britain deploy military forces and aid to quell the rebellion.

In 755, the Chinese general An Lushan sparked a rebellion against the Tang Dynasty. Like the Taiping Rebellion, the An Lushan Rebellion engulfed much of China, killing and displacing millions in the fighting. The An Lushan rebellion saw the rise and eventual fall of the Yan Dynasty during the conflict. The rebellion saw the collapse of Tang control of the western provinces in China that it had previously fought for control over. The conflict also saw the rise of Islamic forces into China, with the use of Arab and Uygur mercenary soldiers fighting for both sides in the conflict.

While the An Lushan rebellion greatly weakened the Tang Dynasty, it did not extinguish the imperial flame. The eventual collapse of Imperial China occurred because of its failure to address modernity and move forward into the 20th century. The Chinese Republic on mainland China would only last until 1950, when the communist forces of Mao Tse-tung seized control of the country, forcing republican forces to retreat to Taiwan. While China today is a communist nation, there are remnants of imperial control.

Look for more information regarding the First and Second Chechen War in the upcoming Strategy & Tactics issue #297 article “The An Lushan Rebellion” and join the conversation on Facebook!

About The Author

Kyle is a Military Historian and Senior Editor at Strategy & Tactics Press. A fourth-generation combat Veteran, Kyle retired from the United States Army in 2010. He specializes in military operations from 1945-Present and has written extensively regarding the future of asymmetrical warfare.

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