Evaluate the causes and failure of the self-strengthening movement. How did its failure affect China up to 1912?

Essay by strausserB, February 2004

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The Self-strengthening Movement (1860-1894) was also named "Yang-Wu Yun-Tung" by the Marxist historians. It is because the movement did not strengthen China and it depended too much on the foreigners. All the reform programmes just imitated the West. In the upcoming paragraphs, we are going to discuss the causes and failure of it, and how its failure affected China up to 1912.

It has been said that the Self-Strengthening Movement was a response to the West. The repeated defeats which China suffered from the 1st and 2nd Anglo Chinese Wars convinced the Qing Court Officials that the western powers were not barbarians. Instead, their weapons were very superior. And the foreign powers have been kept seeking advantages and privileges from China. As a result, China has to strengthen herself in order to resist foreign aggressions. To a large extent, it explains why the Self-strengthening Movement is military oriented.

In the 1860s', western menace was not so great as it seemed to be.

As a matter of fact, the signing of the peace treaties and the peaceful withdrawal of army from Peking showed that the foreign powers had no intention of conquering whole China. They even helped China to suppress the internal rebellions by sending the Ever-victorious Army. The well organized structure and hi-tech weapons fascinated the Chinese officials such as Li Hongzhang, one of the Movement leaders. Convincing the Chinese should carry out military reforms. Moreover, the foreign powers adopted to co-operative foreign policy at the mean time.

The sincerity of the western diplomats in China also showed the friendliness of the foreigners. For example: Alcock, Burlingame and Robert Hart. It helped to ease the misunderstanding between China and the west.

The Self-strengthening Movement was also a response to internal rebellion. It is undeniable that the domestic rebellions were serious...