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The Response of the Chinese Government to Increased
Western Imperialist Pressure 1839 - 1861.
This essay considers the question of how the Chinese government responded to
increased Western pressure between 1839 and 1861. It shows the Chinese government
struggled to have the West submit to tributary status, and that this began to breakdown as
Western pressure increased after 1839. Between 1839 and 1861 the Chinese government's
response went through three phases. 1839-1842 was the period of non-appeasement to
Western demands, where the West could only force change through military action. The
1842-1848 phase where the Manchu government was forced to appease the West after its
loss of the Opium War, and to protect the dynasty. The 1848-1861 phase where the
non-appeasement policy re-emerged, and where the government would only permit minor
concessions to the West. Then, a frustrated Britain, finally decided to use military force to
install its diplomats in Peking, which the Chinese government was determined would not
happen, so as to continue its illusion of the West's tributary status.
Between the years 1839 and 1861 the Chinese government was subject to ever
increasing pressure by the Western nations, especially Britain, to open up to increased trade
and diplomatic contact. The Manchu Government's response to this pressure is the topic of
It will show that the government's overall response was to try and maintain its traditional
relationship with other countries, and to make the West accept this as the basis of its
relationship to China. In this, it expected the West to accept the status of a tributary nation
of the middle kingdom, and that this was used as a defence mechanism connected with the
policy of seclusion. When this began to breakdown from 1839, it will be argued that...