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The Boxer Rebellion: Knocked Out in the First Round

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The Boxer Rebellion: Knocked Out in the First Round

By the twentieth century, nationalism among the Chinese peasants and local leadership was festering. Anti-Manchu, anti-European, and anti-Christian, the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists, or Boxers as they came to be known, organized in response to the Manchu government's defeats and concessions to the Western powers and Japan. Infuriated, the Boxers' goal was to drive the Europe­ans and Japanese out of China. Adopting guerilla warfare tactics, the Boxers slaughtered Christian missionaries and seized control of foreign embassies. Ultimately, however, they were not successful in achieving their aims. Instead, their uprising resulted in the dispatch of foreign reinforcements who quickly and decidedly put down the rebellion. The Manchu government, already having made great concessions to the Europeans and Japanese, was then even further humiliated. As a result of the rebellion, China was forced to sign the Boxer Protocol, which demanded that China not only pay the Europeans and the Japanese the costs associated with the rebellion but also to formally apologize for it as well.

On its last legs, the Manchu Dynasty couldn't prevent the forces of reform from overtaking it from both within and without, and as a consequence, Chinese culture itself started to crumble. In 1901, foot binding was abolished. In 1905, the 2,000-year-old Chinese Examination System was eliminated. By 1911, the government was toppled and imperial rule came to an end. For the first time, under the lead­ership of Sun Yat-sen, a republic was established in China. But more on this in the next chapter.

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