Category Archives: History

Dividing up China

As the Qing Dynasty was crumbling and the Chinese people were at war with themselves, foreign powers swooped in to divide up the spoils, effectively dividing up the country. There were more than 80 treaty ports established in China – both on the Pacific and on major inland waterways.

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This is a map of the foreign enclaves that were established at the time, but does not yet included all 80 of the treaty ports. The important lesson to learn here is that when you here about some of the colonies that were in China, you perhaps think of Hong Kong and Shanghai, but looking at just this partial map should help you see (as it did me) the extent of the colonization prior to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.

In addition to the foreign enclaves listed here, entire provinces were controlled by specific foreign powers:

  • UK: Hong Kong, New Territories, Guangdong Province. Yangze River Valley
  • FRANCE: Yunnan, Guangxi, Hainan, and Guangdong Provinces
  • GERMANY: Shandong Province
  • RUSSIA: Parts of Liaoning and Shandong Province.
  • JAPAN: All of Dongbei (Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia) and Taiwan

If you’ve still got any doubts about China being divided up between the world powers of the time, take a look at this political comic from the period: UK, Germany, Russia, France and Japan dividing up China…


The Treaty of Nanjing signaled the end of the First Opium War between the British Empire and Qing Dynasty. The treaty was signed and negotiated aboard the British gunship HMS Cornwallis while anchored at Nanjing.

Prior to the treaty, the Thirteen Factories in Canton had a monopoly on foreign trade with China. After the treaty, five ports were opened for trade:

  • Canton (Shameen Island until 1949)
  • Amoy (Xiamen until 1930)
  • Foochow (Fuzhou)
  • Ningpo (Ningbo)
  • Shanghai (until 1949)

In addition, the island of Hong Kong was made a crown colony, ceding it to the British Queen “in perpetuity”. In 1860 the colony was extended with the Kowloon peninsula and in 1898 the colony was given a 99 year lease of the New Territories.

The Treaty of Tianjin, signed at the end of the Second Opium War opened 10 more chinese ports of foreign trade including: Niuzhuang, Danshui, Hankou and Nanjing. It also opened the Yangze River to free navigation by foreigners, and secured the right of foreigners to travel freely to the internal regions of China.

In short, the Qing Dynasty was very weak in the 1850-1900 time period, and foreign powers exploited that for their own gain.

History of China

History of China
3 Sovereigns and 5 Emperors (三皇五帝)
Xia Dynasty 2100–1600 BCE (夏朝)
Shang Dynasty 1600–1046 BCE (商朝)
Zhou Dynasty 1045–256 BCE (周朝)
Western Zhou (西周)
Eastern Zhou (东周)
   Spring and Autumn Period (春秋)
   Warring States Period (战国)
Qin Dynasty 221 BCE–206 BCE (秦朝)
Han Dynasty 206 BCE–220 CE (汉朝)
  Western Han (西汉)
  Xin Dynasty (新)
  Eastern Han (东汉)
Three Kingdoms 220–280 (三国)
  Wei (魏), Shu (蜀) & Wu (吴)
Jin Dynasty 265–420 (晋朝)
  Western Jin (西晋 ) 16 Kingdoms (十六国)
  Eastern Jin (东晋)
Southern & Northern Dynasties 420–589 (南北朝)
Sui Dynasty 581–618 (隋朝)
Tang Dynasty 618–907 (唐朝)
  ( Second Zhou 690–705 武周 )
5 Dynasties & 10 Kingdoms
907–960 (五代十国)
Liao Dynasty 907–1125 (辽)
Song Dynasty 960–1279 (宋朝)
  Northern Song (北宋) W. Xia (西夏)
  Southern Song (南宋) Jin (金)
Yuan Dynasty 1271–1368 (元朝)
Ming Dynasty 1368–1644 (明朝)
Qing Dynasty 1644–1911 (清朝)
Republic of China 1912–1949 (中华民国)
People’s Republic of China
1949–present (中华人民共和国)
Republic of China
1945–present (中华民国/台湾地区)

Reporting on China in 1899. The Atlantic

Over the last 100 years, The Atlantic has released a series of interesting stories about Sino-US relations, covering the weakened state of the Chinese government at the start of end of the 19th century, anti-Chinese discrimination, creation of a democratic government at the start of the 20th century, and then the break of relations after the Chinese civil war. You should be familiar with 20th century Chinese history to follow the stories below. In typical Atlantic style, all is very well written:

In “The Break-up of China, and Our Interest in It” (August, 1899) an anonymous contributor pointed out that in the wake of the Sino-Japanese war, other nations were taking advantage of the Chinese government’s extreme weakness to exploit China’s “immense general market.” If America did not move to “buttress the tottering colossus of China,” the author contended, the favorable diplomatic and trade relations that the United States had long enjoyed with the dynastic Chinese government would be in jeopardy.

In “The Chinese Boycott” (January, 1906) John W. Foster criticized America’s discrimination against Chinese immigrants in America as racist, and emphasized that such behavior was especially offensive given the pains the U.S. had taken to secure friendly diplomatic relations with the Chinese government. Despite U.S.-government affirmations of “reciprocal and sincere friendship,” and the fact that the United States had granted China “most favored nation” status in 1868, the United States persisted in mistreating and expelling Chinese immigrants. It was this behavior, Foster explained, that had incited a Chinese boycott of American trade then in effect.

In “A Parliament for China” (December, 1909) Paul S. Reinsch described China’s efforts to transform its position in the world of global politics from that of a weak, exploited pawn to that of a competent, international power by developing a Western-style parliament.

In “A Plea for the Recognition of the Chinese Republic” (January, 1913) Ching Chun Wang proudly declared that “we have transformed our immense country from an empire of four thousand years’ standing into a modern democracy,” and asked that the United States lend its support to the fledgling government through official recognition: “She stretches out her hands to America first, because she prefers to have her best friend be the first in giving her this deserved encouragement.”

In “China: Time for a Policy” (April, 1957) the renowned China scholar John K. Fairbank evaluated policy options toward newly Communist mainland China and considered the extent to which the United States should commit itself to supporting and defending an independent Taiwan. “Our opportunity and that of our friends on Taiwan,” he argued, “is to help develop there an economy, a political process, and a body of trained personnel, within the Chinese world but free of Peking’s totalitarian control, as an investment for a happier day when these same ideals may apply to all the Chinese people.”

Ten years later, in “Dragon Under Glass: Time for a New China Policy” (October, 1967) history professor and former special assistant to the U.S. State Department James C. Thomson Jr. argued that the time had come for the United States to reconcile itself with Communist China, and to begin to initiate civil interaction with its government. Until China’s adoption of communism, Thomson explained, Americans had “admired Chinese culture, liked the Chinese people, delighted in Chinese food….Our emotional investment in China was uniquely high, far out of line with our strategic or economic stakes.” To be able to progress to a more constructive relationship with China, he suggested, America would need first to overcome its bitterness toward what it had come to think of as China’s “betrayal” of United States good intentions by becoming communist.

In “China’s Andrei Sakharov” (May, 1988) China commentator Orville Schell profiled Chinese astrophysicist Fang Lizhi, whose outspoken criticisms of socialism and the Communist party had spurred student protest movements, planted seeds of doubt in the minds of party members, and frequently landed him in trouble with party leadership. Schell potrayed Fang as a hero in the crusade for modernization and democratization in mainland China.

In “Once Again, Long Live Chairman Mao”(December, 1992) Schell considered the importance of Chairman Mao’s recent emergence as a pop culture icon in China. Though perceived as a heartening reaffirmation of traditional party values by many hard-line communist leaders, Schell suggested that the phenomenon might instead indicate an erosion of socialist values by the forces of commercialism.

War Reparations to Tsinghua Univ 庚子赔款 -> 清华大学


You’ve certainly hear of the “Boxer Rebellion” (义和团运动), and if you’ve lived in China you’ve heard of the “Eight-Nation Alliance (八国联军), but in history books the story of what unfolded can only be described as “cloudy” at best. Today I finally understand why:

Esherick comments that “confusion about the Boxer Uprising is not simply a matter of popular misconceptions,” for “there is no major incident in China’s modern history on which the range of professional interpretation is so great.”

In 1900, The “Boxers” were a sect that emerged in Northern China (near Shangdong) and were fervently anti-foreign. There were a series of floods in the region and local farmers became desperate. They focused blame for the misfortune on Christians in China (both local converts and missionaries).

Meanwhile, there was a power struggle in Beijing and the Empress Dowager Cixi seized power from the reformist Guangxu Emperor. Because Western governments would support the liberal Guangxu, Empress Cixi decided to use the Boxers to expel all western influences from China and consolidate power. On June 21, 1900 the Empress Cixi declared war

on all foreign powers that had diplomatic representatives in Beijing. The Boxers besieged foreign embassies. Additionally, the Boxers killed more than 32,000 Chinese Christians and several hundred foreign missionaries.

Eventually, the “Eight-Nation Alliance” (八国联军)brought 20,000 troops from Japan, Russia, UK, France, USA, Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungary to counter-attack. After the Eight-Nation Alliance rescued the besieged foreign embassies in Beijing, they looted the capital and forced Cixi to sign the unequal “Boxer Protocol” (庚子赔款 ) of 1901 requiring payment of 450,000,000 taels of silver to the nations involved, with complete repayment to take 39 years. Equal to $335MM USD in 1901 (or $6.65B today). Additionally, the Taku Forts (大沽炮台) in Tianjin were decommissioned.

The portion of the payment given to American was more than the Americans had actually asked for, so President Theodore Roosevelt eventually agreed to return approximately half of the war reparations. Rather than simply returning the silver directly to the Gov’t in Beijing, Roosevelt established the “Boxer Rebellion Indemnity Scholarship Program ” (庚子賠款獎學金), a scholarship program that enabled Chinese students to study for free in the USA. Additionally, the funds were used to establish a “prep school” of sorts in Beijing that was called “留美预备学堂”. Eventually the “prep school” became 清华学堂 (Tsinghua College) and eventually 清华大学 (Tsinghua University) – the most prestigious University in China.


W020061031420520985671.jpg.jpeg人而无志躯壳而已 (rén ér wúzhì qūké éryǐ): A man without will is just an empty shell

死要面子活受罪 sǐ yào miànzi huóshòuzuì v.p. try to preserve one’s face at all costs means to have a hellish life

有声有色 yǒushēngyǒusè f.e. vivid and dramatic | Wǒmen de kānwù bàn ³de ∼. Our magazine is scintillating and dramatic.




Audible Update…

I haven’t had a chance to catch up on Audible “reading” for a few months now, so here’s a little “audible update”. Possible good new reads:

The Ascent of Money: A financial History of the World (11.5 hrs, $18)
The World is Curved: Hidden Dangers to the Global Economy (10.5 hrs, $21)
The Partnership: The Making of Goldman Sachs (33hrs, $32)
The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company (9.25 hrs, $18)
Wealth, War and Wisdom (12 hrs, $25)

I’ll probably go with “Wealth, War and Wisdom” first as it has a quite interesting premise… We’ll see.

The Man Who Stayed Behind…

Today was an extremely exciting day. I bumped into James Fallows again, after I had just met him for coffee yesterday.

Then, low and behold, in the parking lot behind me was the man who I came to meet, The Man Who Stayed Behind, and his wife Wang Yulin (王玉林). Today I had the fortune of spending most of the day with the two of them.

When Sidney was at the Stanford Language School, he had already realized America had a huge supply of technology and capital, and China, the largest and oldest country in the world was badly in need of technology and capital. The two made for such natural friends.

Today, when asked what one can do to help China, Sidney said that telling Americans about what is happening in China, trying to improve American support for Sino-American cooperation is very important.


UPDATE: Recent Reading…

Well, we’ve managed to burn through the list posted at the start of the month:

21:Bringing Down the House and Rigged: The True Story of an Ivy League Kid Who Changed the World of Oil, from Wall Street to Dubai

These two should be commented on together because the style and stories are so similar. If you in the mood for a fast paced novel about a life that sounds exciting, then either of these might be fun. Author Ben Mezerk spins out a story that you should be able to find on MTV. In the case of “Rigged”, saying that building a oil futures exchanged in Dubai “changed the world of oil”, it seems a bit exaggerated, but I’m not in the oil business so I suppose it’s not really my place to comment otherwise… In both cases the stories are a lot of fun, but again, I think of these more as a novel written in the character of historical fiction (ie, parts may have been based on actual events). Don’t get your expectations out of control and you should have a good time 😉in_ruins_of_empire.jpg

In the Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia

This was an excellent history of Asia from 1945-1950. If you’re interested in how military occupation works, in how systems operate, in how civil wars get started, in how arms get moved from one group to another, this is a great read! Thoroughly enjoyed this one! How did the Vietnam War get started anyway? And what about the Korean war? And why did we let Suharto get away with so much in Indonesia? Much of the current state of Asia is the result of “The Allies” unwinding the Japanese Empire in Asia. The Korean War, Vietnam War, Chinese Civil War, and Indonesian Independence from the Netherlands will all be quickly understood. Prior to reading this, I confess I wasn’t even aware that France tried to restore it’s colony in Vietnam after Japan’s surrender at the end of WWII. At least I’m slightly less ignorant then before I read this one… Highly recommended!

Liar’s Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street

This was a very wittily written story about greed on Wall Street during the ’80’s, and a bit about the training (hazing) process for new recruits. At least a few blank spots in your knowledge of modern finance will likely be filled in by a read through this one. Recommended! Enjoy 😉