Saturday, May 31, 2014

Hundred Days Reform: Other Reforms

Emperor Guangxu
On June of 1898, Emperor Guangxu made an announcement that shook the foundations of the old Middle Kingdom. The Emperor issued decrees that aimed to modernized and bring progress to China after series of defeat and humiliation. Reforms were made to the education system, civil service examination, and administration. Other than that, there were also reforms for the military and the economy. Much of this radical changes were to the dismay of Emperor Guangxu’s old fashioned and traditionalist courtiers.

Emperor Guangxu was inspired by the Meiji Restoration in Japan. With the help of Kang Youwei, the Emperor decided he wanted to emulate the reforms of the Japanese. Japan’s story was considered a miracle by many. Emperor Meiji sponsored the industrialization of his country in order to adhere to the idea of Fukoku Kyohei or “rich country, strong army.” This spared Japan from the faith that China was taking that time. And so, the Emperor wanted China to catch up with the West and the Japanese. He promoted the construction of railroad systems and modern ports. He also wanted developments to be made in the fields of agriculture, industry, and commerce. He also promoted his people to make inventions that would help China to advance. To protect those who strive to invent something original, the Emperor launched a system of copyright and patents. He also wanted to establish offices that would administer certain strategic economic activities. He pushed for the establishment of a bureau for mining and railroad and another one for trade in Shanghai.

Meanwhile, the emperor intended to build up a new modern Chinese army. He ordered a new system of organization for the armed forces. It was a way to moved away from a clan based organization called the Banner System where lineage was the basis of leadership. Emperor Guangxu intended to make an army based on the west as well as merit. Another priority for the military was rearming it with modern weapons. Modern rifles, cannons, and 34 modern warships were to be bought by the Chinese military. Then, the training of the military was also to be changed and turned into something lie the west had.

Other reforms included changes in government procedures and laws. Emperor Guangxu wanted the budget of the nation to be formally made through a system of annual budgets. In law, he wanted all laws of the land to be codified and made clear for the people. Also, government officials were encouraged to travel abroad in order to learn things from governance, to science and technology, and to economy.

The whole reform ideas of the emperor were radical for a China which cherished its old ancient ways. And so, conservatives within Guangxu’s court loathed very much of his reforms. These conservatives then asked help from the only person that could stop the Emperor, the lady that placed him in power, the Empress Dowager Cixi. Cixi, was then in semi-retirement, but when news of the reforms reached her in the Summer Palace, she act quickly. She instigated a coup d’etat which materialized in September of 1898.

The coup launched by Cixi killed the chance of the modernization of China. The lack of reforms let the Manchu Dynasty to be once again humiliated in the Boxer War of 1900. Finally, it sealed the faith of the fall of the Manchu Dynasty.
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. 

Peking Times. “A Press Summary of the Hundred Days Reforms (1898).” Alpha History. Accessed May 31, 2014.

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