Saturday, May 31, 2014

Hundred Days Reform: Administration

Forbidden City (the center of the Empire)
 depicted in a Ming Painting
When Emperor Guangxu began the Hundred Days’ Reform, he wanted to improve the public administration of China. Much of his reforms were encouraged by Kang Youwei. The Emperor wanted to remove unnecessary offices to make the government more efficient and less costly.  Besides removing useless departments, the Emperor also sought to reform the government by creating new offices and appointing new officials. The reforms, however, faced formidable enemies which would succeed in halting the changes.

The reforms that will be launched were on the instigation of the reformist Kang Youwei. Kang viewed a constitutional monarchy for China. He wanted to create the western style of government based on three branches of the government: the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary. Having three branches of the government, Kang wanted to have a system of check and balance between the three branches. Lastly, he would like to have a National Assembly to be established and served as the legislative branch of the Empire. These were the vision that he showed the emperor who would launched the nation toward that direction.

Over the course of a hundred days, from June 11 to September 21, the Emperor executed the abolishment of many offices which enraged many. Parts that were to be abolished were sinecure offices in the government and provinces. For instance, certain jobs were removed in the Imperial Supervisorate of Instruction, Office of Transmission, and Court of Imperial Entertainments. Useless jobs were also removed in the Court of State Ceremonial, Court of Equerries, and the Grand Court of Revision.  Lastly, the Emperor also removed the taotai or government official in charged on grain transport and salt production and the Director-General of the Yellow River. Besides removing sinecure jobs in offices, unnecessary governors were also removed. A sample would be the removing of the governors of Hupeh, Kwantung, and Yunnan.  These actions made many officials, especially those who will be affected, angry.

To reinforce his desire for a more efficient government, Guangxu appointed new officials, changing many administrative processes, and created new offices. With the help of Kang, Emperor Guangxu appointed liberal reformist in key government post. Reformist such as Lin Xu and Tan Sitong were placed as head of different councils. The emperor also simplified many administrative processes. Finally, he wanted to create bureaus to be in charge of agriculture, industry, and commerce in Peking.

The reforms didn’t last long. In September 21 of 1898, the Empress Dowager Cixi, launched a coup d’etat that ended the progressive movement of the Emperor. Many reformist were executed. The emperor was incarcerated in the Summer Palace. This coup ended the chance of Imperial China to live on when in 1911, the imperial system collapsed.

See also:
Hundred Days Reform
Hundred Days Reform: Education
Hundred Days Reform: Other Reforms
Menelik II
Radama I

Hsu, Immanuel. The Rise of Modern China. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. 

Meyer, M. China: A Concise History . Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1994. 

Spence, J. The Search for Modern China. New York: Norton, 1990.

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