Sino American Reunion
War in China: The Ravishment of the North (2/3)
Today is the 15th of January and marks the day when the twelve demands of the Imperialist nations were officially accepted by the Empire of China as Yikuang and Li Hongzhang signed the document, bringing to a de-facto end the war between China and the Eight-Nation Alliance. This document formed the basis of what would later be stipulated exactly in the Boxer Protocol, which was signed in September of 1901. This article will explain in more detail the proceedings of the Boxer War, and will attempt to shed light upon the topic of human suffering in this tragic episode of human history.
The taking of Tianjin was a violent affair. Tianjin was a coastal city that, once taken, would serve as a vital staging point providing a direct connection to Beijing and the rest of Northern China. At the same time as the Tianjin–Beijing Campaign, the Russians were also invading Manchuria.
Stone walls built in 1415 had encircled the city of Tianjin. The mud wall on the outskirts protected the suburbs from assault. There were foreign troops in China before any real hostilities commenced. The Opium Wars had granted England and France concessions in Tianjin, which were therefore already garrisoned. Tianjin, at this point in time, was divided into two parts, the historic walled city, which was governed by the Qing Empire, and which had a million Chinese inhabitants, and the foreign concession area, which was inhabited by 700 foreign merchants and missionaries, and about 10,000 Chinese workers. When the foreign legations in Beijing were besieged by the Boxers, the foreign powers reacted by dispatching a portion of the Tianjin garrison to lift the siege. This force of roughly 2,000 men, led by Admiral Sir Michael Seymour, left for Beijing on the 10th of June. On the 16th, however, it became clear that he would not be able to proceed much farther than the city of Langfang due to being blocked and harassed by Chinese defenders. On the 18th, Seymour clashed with the Gansu Braves, the Chinese Muslim troops led by Dong Fuxiang. Clearly, more men were needed to breach Beijing, and to arrive at the foreign legations. Reinforcements needed to come from overseas.
Entry into China, however, was guarded by the heavily reinforced Dagu Forts. These forts were built in the 16th century to defend against the Japanese Wako pirates, but were later expanded, redesigned, and modernised in response to the loss of the First Opium War, such as to defend against modern pirates in the form of the Imperialist powers. The forts were state-of-the-art, built with the latest German technology and armed with rapid firing Krupp guns. Three thousand of China's finest soldiers were garrisoned there. The forts were widely considered impregnable. In order to land more troops in China, and to ensure that Seymour's foray into Beijing would not be cut off, it was necessary for the invading navies to take control of the forts, but such would not be an easy task.
At nine o'clock in the evening on the 16th of June, the invading navies issued an ultimatum to the commander of the Dagu Forts, General Luo Rongguang, to surrender or be attacked directly. Luo tried to reason with the Russian Lieutenant Bakhmetieff who had delivered the ultimatum, and stated that he would not be able to come up with an answer before the deadline of two o'clock in the morning, since Luo would have to contact his superiors. The Russian officer refused to budge. The ultimatum was delivered and Bakhmetieff returned to his ship.
The invading navy consisted of thirty ships. twenty of which could not sail in the shallow waters at the mouth of the river. Of the remaining ten that could sail in those shallow waters, the American ship Monocacy, an obsolete wooden ship, decided not to participate in the battle. The Japanese ship Atago, an old iron gunboat fitted with obsolete guns, which was filled with explosives, decided not to participate due to the danger involved in having its explosive caches possibly detonated. The eight vessels that participated in the battle are enumerated in the list below:
H.M.S. Fame (British), a modern destroyer with a speed of thirty knots.
H.M.S. Whiting (British).
H.M.S. Algerine (British), a slow three-masted sloop.
The Iltis (German), similar to the Algerine with a slightly higher speed.
The Giliak (Russian), a small but modern gunboat.
The Bobre (Russian), an old steel gunboat.
The Koreets (Russian), similar to the Bobre but with heavier armaments.
The Lion (French), an ancient gunboat with two cannons.
On the 17th, at 12.50 AM, an hour before the deadline, the first shot was fired from Fort No. 4, whereupon all other forts opened fire as well. The gunboats returned fire, and the battle for the Dagu Forts had begun. Two Russian vessels, the Giliak and the Koreets, drew heavy fire from the forts. The fortune of battle favoured the Chinese in the early morning until dawn came. By 3:45 AM. the invaders had landed a storming column on the northern banks of the river, in order to storm Fort No. 4. During their assault on the fort, the invading navies managed to explode a gunpowder magazine in Fort No. 3.
With a violent explosion, the tide of the battle turned in favour of the invaders. At 5:00 AM, the invaders' flags were flown from Fort No. 4. The remaining Dagu Forts fell one by one as more and more gunpowder magazines were exploded until, finally, by 6:45 AM, all the forts had fallen to the invaders. At 7:20 AM. the German ship Hansa signalled the successful capture of all the forts. Most casualties on the Chinese side had resulted from the many explosions. The battle was hard fought, and the invading navies won a costly victory with 172 dead. The Chinese suffered a heavy defeat with an estimated 1,000 dead or wounded men (600 to 800 dead according to Myakishev). The Battle of the Dagu Forts marked the beginning of the Boxer War.
The fact that such a hastily assembled naval force, with a mere 900 marines, could take a fortified position that was considered impregnable was surprising to say the least. Xiang accredits the military success of the invading navies to a combination of dirty diplomatic trickery concerning the nature of the ultimatum, "incredible luck," and "blind audacity."
Early in the morning of July 15th, the Yihequan warriors (aka. Boxers) had begun to attack the foreign concessions of Tianjin. During this attack, a group of Yihequan warriors moved against the railway station. The station was guarded by a large number of Russians. The Yihequan, famous for their rejection of modern weaponry, attempted to face the Russian gunners armed with spears and swords. The casualties were high among the Yihequan. The Russians shot at the crowd indiscriminately and, not surprisingly, shot and killed many innocent Chinese bystanders who were just curious about the situation.
At this time, the Imperial Chinese troops were standing by, awaiting orders concerning whether to support the Boxers or to defend the foreign legations. This consideration was necessary because the Boxers were being used by the Manchu court to put pressure on the Imperialist powers, but the Manchu court had to be careful not to allow the Boxers to grow too powerful, such as to threaten the Manchu court itself. Upon receiving news that the invaders had assaulted the Dagu Forts and that Russian were shooting unarmed and innocent Chinese denizens, the choice was quickly made. It became clear that the invading armies did not intend to stop at quelling the Boxers, and that the clean-up of the Boxers was an excuse to force China into another war. The Imperial Chinese armies, even though they had been fighting the Boxers up to that point, responded by supporting the Boxers in their assault against the Tianjin foreign concessions.
Adjacent to the foreign concessions was a Chinese military academy (the Wubeitang). The academy housed some two hundred students and possessed such an amount of munition and weapons, including eight large Krupp guns, that it posed a threat to the concessions. The authorities in the concessions decided to strike the academy pre-emptively. On the 17th of June, at 3:00 PM, the concessions launched an attack on the academy. The fifty Chinese military cadets inside the academy refused to surrender. They were promptly executed.
The Chinese commander Nie Shicheng, the infamous butcher of many Boxers, now having arrived on the scene, began to bombard the foreign concession area with his artillery. He commanded a well-trained army and carried out the bombardments with precision. The concession remained under bombardment until reinforcements arrived. Many Chinese lived in the concessions during the time of the siege, and in fact, the Chinese had been of great help to the foreign communities as the women sewed clothes and pillows for the sick and wounded and the men washed 400 articles of clothing per day. They also helped, under heavy fire from the Yihetuan and Nie Shicheng's troops, with setting up machine guns for the foreign troops. Furthermore, the Chinese in the foreign legation built barricades against the firing of the Imperials and Boxers. Needless to say, the Chinese were a tremendous service to the Tianjin concessions. The foreigners, however, with all their prejudices, had become hysterical, and were not only ungrateful for this help, but also grew suspicious of these Chinese. A court was set up to try them, and during the siege of the concessions, many Chinese were put behind bars. After all, to these colonisers an Oriental was nothing more than an Oriental, and no matter how hard they tried to render assistance, or to signal friendship or submission, they remained but a tool to be used and discarded.
The French, seeing the course of the wind, thought it would be a good idea to clear the path ahead by setting fire to the suburbs of Tianjin located outside the city walls. The wind carried the flames toward the city. The raging fires lasted the entire night from the 17th to 18th of June. Innocents were "sacrificed in hundreds if not thousands." Thousands of other civilians who managed to escape the fires were seen leaving the city with what belongings they could stuff in wheelbarrows in "the last extremity of panic." For what purpose were the suburbs set on fire? It was perhaps akin to clearing a forest before a castle, to remove any cover for the enemy and to provide a clear line of sight, except that this forest was home to thousands of people. Such disregard for Chinese lives, for human lives, was nothing short of monstrous, and was the very pinnacle of barbarity.
The now-bolstered forces had the power to sally out and force the Chinese Imperials and the Boxers to lay off the siege of the concessions. The Imperials retreated into the ancient walled city of Tianjin. On the 9th of July, during one of the various skirmishes for strategic locations around Tianjin, Nie gave his life protecting his nation. As the foreign armies gained more favourable positions, they also gathered enough strength to carry out an assault against the walls on the morning of the 13th of July. Based on their experience of previous wars in China, they did not expect to face much capable resistance in the course of their assault on Tianjin. They were mistaken.
These walls were manned by competent artillerists from the Imperial Navy, Chinese regulars who were equipped with Mausers and Remington rifles, and numerous Boxers using obsolete weapons such as matchlocks. The Chinese resistance was heavy. It appeared the Chinese forces had increased in effectiveness and were "fighting well and more skillfully than ever before." During the assault against the walls of Tianjin, the Chinese resistance had on several occasion managed to pin down the siege forces. For example, the Americans, among them Herbert Hoover, were pinned down in the open, and used Chinese graves as cover. The Japanese and British faced similar heavy fire from the walls of Tianjin as they approached the city. They got as close to the walls as they could by 9:00 AM on the 13th. They advanced slowly under fire until eventually, at 2:00 AM on the 14th, deep in the night, the foreign troops reached the walls and the gate. They opened the first gates of the barbican with explosive charges. Japanese sappers scaled the walls and opened the second gate of the barbican from within. The valiant defense of the city was to no avail. With a loud explosion, the way into the walled city of Tianjin was wide open, and the onslaught began.
By this time, one third of the city was on fire, and another major portion was destroyed owing to structural damage caused by the explosives. Thousands of corpses littered the streets, consisting of Boxers and Imperial soldiers, but also women, children, and non-combatant men. According to accounts of elderly survivors, only an hour after the Western invaders entered Tianjin, the number of dead was already in the thousands. The Western forces had also employed poisonous shells, and the gas was killing many. There were many houses where the poison gas entered and the entire family, clutched together in fear — young and old, male and female — died where they huddled. There were many Imperial soldiers lying in position, as if aiming their rifles, ready to fire at a moment's notice, yet upon closer inspection, it could be seen that they were already gassed to death. The riverside near the legations had the most corpses. The pontoon bridge had to be opened so that the corpses could float away.
The city of Tianjin fell to the invaders on the 14th of July, 1900. Tianjin surrendered, after which many civilians were raped, and more were killed. The Qing government never made an estimate concerning how many civilians died, and the Allies have kept these numbers hidden. Only the Russians have given a rough estimate. They claim that after the fall of Tianjin about 100,000 residents of the original 1,000,000 remained, which is to say that 90% percent of the city either fled or perished.
When Tianjin fell, the women were conquered twice, first as Chinese and then as women. The unbridled bestial lust of the Western soldiery cannot be understated. They barged into random homes and began raping. Women above the age of sixty, girls just past puberty, and all others were targets of this rapist alliance. Many women committed suicide by jumping into deep wells. After the fighting was over, they discovered one well which contained the remains of as many as six women. When the rapists could not find any women, they would proceed to rape young boys. The raping was not limited to the city, most certainly not. Young women were captured and brought onto ships to be gang-raped. One ship was reported to have captured twenty Tianjin beauties alive.
Unsurprisingly if you have read the first part of this article, the looting that took place was of epic proportions. Not only did the invading soldiers loot, but the foreign civilians who lived in the concessions came to take their pick, and the Chinese labourers and workers who felt disadvantaged by the wealthier citizens of Tianjin took their pick. The most heinous were perhaps the soldiers, who even forced many of these Chinese labourers to do their looting for them.
Do you see the pure hypocrisy of the civilised West in having come to China to tell the Boxers how to behave? The world criticises Japan for the Nanking Massacre, but conveniently forgets their own role in the desolation of Tianjin.
Tianjin remained under occupation until its liberation on the 15th of August, 1902. During this period of occupation, the invading forces set up temporary institutions such as the Tianjin Provisional Government, which was the greatest example of utter disregard for Chinese customs, the Qing Empire, and ultimately the Chinese people. The draconic laws they established to catch any and all potential Boxers caused the death of many innocent civilians. The tyrants would see the slightest evidence of insurgency as reason to execute the suspect. For example, men who had marks on their shoulders, which they would allegedly have gotten from the recoil of their rifles, were rounded up and shot. Women who were found wearing red clothes, a colour adored by Tianjin women, were accused of being Red Lanterns (a division of female Boxers who always wore red) and subsequently tried and shot. While many Yihetuan members had already retreated, there were some who stayed behind. They removed their red sash or red clothes and blended in with the non-combatants. Those who were discovered by the Western invaders were dragged out and executed, along with the members of any family who dared to harbour the Yihetuan.
An anecdote speaks of a marriage which took place in one of the villages in the Hedong area. A TPG patrol was curious and entered the venue where the marriage was taking place. The Western soldiers, perhaps unaware of Chinese customs, were convinced that the bride was a Red Lantern and the groom was a Boxer due to their red clothing (traditional Chinese marriage attire is red). Following a brief argument, neither side understanding the other, the soldiers shot the bride and bridegroom to death, turning their marriage into their funeral.
The TPG made improvements to the city not to benefit the locals or the Qing Empire, but to ease commerce with the West, much like what these Western Imperialists did elsewhere in the world within exploited colonies. They also destroyed the ancient walls of Tianjin claiming that the lean-to slums around the walls were a fire hazard. If they wanted to prevent fires, they could have simply demolished the slums, yet they removed the entire stone wall. It appears that such was an act of spite, since the wall had caused them so much trouble during their assault on Tianjin. Incredibly, despite all the horrors they wrought upon Tianjin, the Imperialists still had the sheer gall to claim that the TPG was meant to represent the interests of the Qing Empire and the Chinese people.
Allow me to preface this section with a brief summary, from my limited understanding, of Claudia Card's article, in order to understand why the invading forces did what they did, and what the long-term effects are of large scale, weaponised rape, of the sort that occured in the north of China. Martial rape domesticates not only the female survivors who were its immediate victims, but also the men socially connected to the survivors, along with the men who were socially connected to those who perished. As state dby Dr Claudia Card, "Rape is a weapon of war. Mass martial rape first targets the women who are brutalised as objects of pleasure and serve the purpose of recreation. Martial rape also targets the countrymen of the raped women, it is a threat, a warning to the rest of the country. In essence, it is terrorism. The terrorist then seeks compliance from these people, in order to acquiesce to his demands."
Mass martial rape, at its core, is targeted against entire peoples. It communicates dominance, not only to the women and girls raped, but also to her male associates. Children born out of forcible impregnation in martial rape will take on the identity of his rapist father and undermine familial solidarity; this is an example of genetic domination. Even if no child results from the rape, the act of rape is often enough for a husband, son, or father to reject her. Therefore, martial rape undermines national, political, and cultural solidarity, changing the next generations identity, confusing the loyalties of all victimized survivors.
As can be seen, killing people with steel, famine, and disease is not the only way to commit genocide. Another method is by destroying a group's identity by perverting its cultural and social bonds, as in the previous paragraph. Card argues that martial rape does both kinds of genocide, as many women and girls are killed when rapists are finished with them. Those who are not killed either become pregnant or become known as rape survivors. As a result, cultural, political, and national unity may be thrown into chaos.
War, rape, and genocide are no joke. Could those who glorify war, idolise killers, and propagate violence raise their heads if faced by the victims of such? I hope the reader can keep this in mind as he reads through the rest of the article. I am not going to lie, it will not be a pleasant morning read.
It is the 14th of August. The people of Beijing wait anxiously as the armies of the West stand at the gates. The sound of Mausers and Maxims resonate against the stifling walls of the capital. The people, acutely aware of what happened in Tianjin, prepare for the worst. Some officials, fearing they would face retribution for their steadfast loyalty to the Emperor and refusal to acquiesce to Western demands, decided to take matters into their own hands. It was better to die with your honour than to die at the mercy of invading troops. Xu Tong, the Imperial Tutor, and his whole household wished not to endure the humiliation of capture. They chose honour. He and his wife, along with his children, concubines, and servants swayed like the leaves of a weeping willow from the rafters of his manor. In the room, there were stools which had been kicked around. No doubt some had regretted their decision to hang themselves and had violently tried to regain their footing but were unable to.
When the capital fell, aside from the innumerable commoners who died, countless officials commited suicide with their families as well.
Near the eastern gate of Beijing, the preferred method was to cast oneself into the well of the house. Each well was filled with dead women and dead girls. There were so many wells of this sort, in fact, that there was a real fear that the water supply of Beijing would be poisoned. This was how much they feared what would happen if the Europeans entered Beijing.
Captain Francis Brinkley wrote that when Tongzhou fell, no less than 573 women comitted suicide to prevent their honour from being sullied. Aside from those who chose death by their own hands, and of their own accord, many others died at the hands of the invaders.
Sadly, it appears those who hanged themselves could be counted among the lucky. The citizens of Beijing were subject to three days of unbridled savagery after the fall of Beijing. The demonic behaviour of the armies was apparent and rape was ubiquitous, so much so that among the soldiery venereal diseases were rampant. There are claims it was in the interest of both the Qing Empire and the Eight-Nation Alliance that the most excessive horrors and abominable actions should be kept secret. According to numerous sources (the veracity of which I have been unable to verify) the military advisor and journalist known as Captain Francis (Frank) Brinkley would expose the truth in the Japan Mail editorial.
One of Brinkley's accounts relays the story of a marauding soldier who entered a palace complex. Upon entering some chambers he spotted one of the maids, naked and scratching at something. The soldier immediately proceeded to assail the maid. Upon penetration, he stubbed his genitals on a hard object inside the maid. It appears that the complex had been raided beforehand, and another soldier, having taken so many priceless artifacts with him that he could no longer carry them all, found it humorous perhaps to insert a golden Buddha statue into the maid's genitals. Upon discovering this, he cut open the maid, took the statue, and left.
Authors note. A few questions: with whom did the soldier communicate to find out about the previous soldier who inserted the golden Buddha? It seems unlikely that the maid or the soldier could communicate effectively due to the language barrier. Moreoever, it seems highly unlikely for a newspaper from 1900 to publish such a vulgar act in graphic detail. A somewhat questionable account, yet nonetheless one widely spread.
It is also said that during the indiscriminate killings in Beijing and its surrounding areas, the soldiers were curious about the lotus feet of Chinese women. So curious, in fact, that some soldiers cut off the feet of some women in order to take them home as souvenirs. That being said, such a macabre account is too extraordinary to be believed without concrete evidence.
Another account tells of a Japanese officer by the name of Aoki (perhaps referring to Colonel Aoki) who would sever breasts from women and cook those breasts in his rice congee, which he would proceed to eat. There is, however, no way to verify this account, and it shall therefore be treated as an urban legend.
It is hard to imagine that a woman in an exceedingly conservative society would agree to be eternalised with bare breasts. It is speculated that the photographer coerced her to take this photograph. The horrors do not end here. There are two striking anecdotes described in the Gengxin Chronicle. In the first, a family's home was occupied by European invaders. They raped women there day and night. After they left, numerous volumes of pornography were strewn about on the floor. Chai E also reports that foreign soldiers were extraordinarily lustful. In their skirmishes against the Boxers, they had captured a number of young women of remarkable beauty. Three foreign soldiers waited until they returned to their camp before questioning these women. They found out the women had been abducted by the Boxers for the same reason they were now captured. Indeed, the foreign soldiers did attempt to rape them, but the women resisted with everything they had, until their clothes were torn to shreds. The soldiers asked them, "You have been ruined by the bandits already, so how can you even consider your own chastity?" The women replied uniformly, "Even though Boxers are ruffians, they are still Chinese. You are devils. How dare you violate women from the noble lands?" The enraged soldiers beat the women to death and disposed of their bodies on the streets.
Indeed, it appeared to be the common practice for the invading soldiers to capture women, regardless of class or creed, and to rape them. This was done by forcing them to work as sex slaves in rape-manors they had established in the Beijing alleys. This excerpt from Miscellaneous Notes about the Boxers, written by Japanese journalist Sawara Tokusuke, describes one such rape-manor:
The Allies would capture women, no matter virtuous, wretched, old, or young, and would, as much as they could, displace them to Biaobei alleys to live in row houses as prostitutes for the soldiery. At the western end of the alley, the path would have been blocked off, in order to prevent escape. The eastern end was the only way in or out. This way was guarded. Any person from the Allies could enter for pleasure and rape to his heart's desire.
Sawara also reports on the seven daughters of Yulu, the viceroy of the province of Zhili (present-day Hebei). Yulu was on good terms with the invaders. He was a man who always sought to create good impressions, and due to this, the British consul at Tianjin offered him asylum on board of one of Her Majesty's ships for his loyalty. Later in the war Yulu perished in the battle for Yangcun. When Beijing fell, the Allies abducted all seven of his daughters and sent them to the Heavenly Palace in Beijing where they were violated repeatedly. Then they were held captive as sex slaves for the soldiers in one of the rape-manors mentioned above. Yulu's efforts to please the British ultimately exploded in his face, and his daughters paid the price for it. No good deed goes unpunished.
Another story relays the fate that befell the women of Chongqi's household. Chongqi was a nobleman from the Mongolian Alute clan and a scholar of high standing in the Imperial court. He was also the father-in-law of the previous Emperor. His wife and one of his daughters, much like Yulu's daughters, were captured by the invading soldiers. They were taken to the Heavenly Temple, held captive, and were then brutally raped by dozens of Eight-Nation Alliance soldiers over the entire course of the Beijing occupation. Only after the Eight-Nation Alliance's retreat did the mother and daughter return home, only to hang themselves from the rafters. Upon this discovery, Chongqi, out of despair, soon followed suit. He hanged himself on the 26th of August, 1900. His son, Baochu, and many other family members commited suicide shortly after.
Then there were the punitive expeditions. These death squads were routinely sent into the Chinese countryside. The main perpetrators of these atrocities were the German and Italian forces, who were relatively new to the game of Imperialism in China compared to France, Britain, and the United States. It would seem that the two nations had something to prove. Count Alfred von Waldersee reportedly worked with feverish activity by ordering seventy-five punitive expeditions — death squads — into the countryside.
These death squads murdered thousands of innocents, as it is safe to say that where one real Boxer was killed, fifty harmless coolies or laborers on the farms, including not a few women and children, were slain. Mombauer also confirms this, writing that countless Chinese including many women and children met their deaths. It appears Alfred von Waldersee was ahead of his time, as his countrymen some forty years later would also send their Einsatzgruppen into the Polish countryside with feverish activity.
The German way of ensuring that no potential Boxer escaped their grasp was to kill every living Chinese they could see. Entire villages were shot, put to the torch, and massacred. Even villages which were cooperative toward the Germans were brutalised by the German soldiery. The German method can be likened to a crazed inmate who attempts to appear impressive by beating everyone in his vicinity in order to prove he is the strongest, and in order to be feared. The French way was different, but not much better. They enforced their will by offering the villages they visited an ultimatum, either that they would comply with every demand, or that the entire village would be put to the sword. The more calculated French approach, which was the equivalent of a schoolyard bully who threatens to beat you to a pulp if he does not get your lunch money, was reportedly more effective in getting the villagers to comply as opposed to the German approach.
The invading forces of the West were small armies by any measure. How was it possible that this hastily assembled and badly co-operating invasion force, which did not even have its Generalfeldmarschall present during most of the fighting, was able to breach China's defenses and take the capital city, the impregnable Dagu Forts, and Manchuria, the Heimat of the ruling class of Manchus, so easily?
First, part of the reason was the decentralised nature of the Chinese forces at this point in time. Due to the many rebellions and revolts since the Taiping Rebellion of the 1850s, the Manchu court had given many generals and governors permission to raise their own armies in order to quell the revolts. This policy had allowed the dying Qing Dynasty to continue existing for half a century longer, but it was a double-edged sword. The disadvantage was the rise of regionalism. The presence of decentralised forces meant in reality that the governal-generals who commanded large and formidable armies, each in their own corner of China, enjoyed immense autonomy. There was so much autonomy that, when Empress Dowager Cixi declared war on the eleven most powerful nations at the time, half of China refused to heed the call of duty, and signed an agreement with the Western nations instead.
The agreement was called the Mutual Protection of Southeast China. This agreement, signed by Li Hongzhang (governor-general of Guangdong and Guangxi), Liu Kunyi (governor-general of Jiangsu, Anhui, and Jiangxi), Xu Yingkui (governor-general of Fujian and Zhejiang), and Zhang Zhidong (governor-general of Hunan and Hubei) ensured that their provinces would not be invaded regardless of what happened in the north of China. This agreement and the refusal to obey a direct Imperial decree were nothing short of high treason, yet the Imperial court was in no position to do anything about it. This was the reason why the majority of China (the southern and eastern parts of China had the highest population concentration in all of China) did not participate in the war.
Drugs, gambling, and prostitution had long since weakened the fighting spirit of the Chinese. It clouded their judgement and melted their courage. Their pursuit of hedonism and pleasure led to cowardice. Indeed, even during the Second Opium War, the English, when they took the fortifications of Guangzhou, noticed the Qing soldiers were too stoned to fight. The Manchu court was acutely aware of the lure of pleasure. They had forbidden their Bannermen from attending theatre and opera performances, from visiting brothels, from gambling, and from all manners of pleasure they had gotten used to. It was to no avail, even though the Empire had collectively pardoned the entire Manchu caste on a number of occasions for the debts which they incurred through gambling, excessive living, and other activities. Indeed, it was widely known that the Manchu often snuck out of the Tatar City to take part in the vices offered to them by the Han. Addiction to hedonism had thoroughly corrupted most of the virtuous qualities of the Manchu as a collective. As such, the effectiveness of the Manchu Bannermen was a far cry from the time they fought in Kangxi's campaigns, and a farther cry from the time of their conquest of China. Indeed, the Manchu armies had become nearly useless. Even attempts to strengthen the Manchu fighting forces were in the end for naught. The Hushenying (Tiger Spirit Battalion), a unit of 10,000 Manchu Bannermen with modernised weaponry, and the Shenjiying (Beijing Field Force), a mostly Manchu army, also modernised, were decimated in the Battle of Beijing.
This, for me at least, has made it abundantly clear that alcoholism, drug abuse, prostitution, and gambling are absolutely not harmless forms of entertainment. They lead to the destruction of your body and soul, and they lead to the death and defiling of your closest family members. Abstain from these vices if you know what is good for you!
It appears the governor-generals of these southeastern provinces were of the opinion that the war was lost before it began. They decided to preserve their own regional strength for the future. Their lack of faith in their own military capabilities caused them to opt for self-preservation instead of resistance. Perhaps they did not realise that if the Imperialists did away with the Beijing court, they would be next. Indeed, perhaps the south of China realised this in 1937, when the Empire of Japan launched its full offensive into all of China, not just the north.
Among those who did obey the Imperial decree to fight, the commander of the Wuwei corps, Ronglu (aka. Yung-lu) was actually opposed to fighting the Western invasion. He thought that battling eleven of the most powerful nations after having lost against Japan five years ago was a fool's errand. Indeed, it was recorded that he once uttered the phrase, "There is no need to heed the Imperial decree from Beijing." As such, he fought the entire war with diplomatic damage control in mind. During the siege of the legations he prevented Dong Fuxiang from acquiring artillery to destroy the legations. He never directly committed his Wuwei Corps in full strength against the foreign armies. Nie Shicheng, commanding one of the wings of the Wuwei Corps, was even fighting and killing many of the Boxers before the Western forces attacked Dagu. Yuan Shikai, the man who commanded the best-trained and best-equipped wing of the Wuwei Corps at the time, decided to preserve his strength by not participating in direct combat against the invasion forces. His army remained at full strength after the Boxer War. Among the Wuwei Corps, the only commanders who fought the Imperialist forces seriously were Dong Fuxiang and Nie Shicheng.
One should always have a realistic view of enemy capabilities. It is bad to underestimate the enemy, but it is equally bad to overestimate the enemy. The Chinese troops were demoralised before the fighting even began. When the storming column of the invading navies stormed Fort No. 4, the defenders fled instead of resisting. It is rumoured that, when the Allies entered Tianjin, the Imperial forces abandoned the Boxers to their fate. The Western forces were few in number, the soldiers were hastily assembled, and the supply lines were long and expensive. They would never have been able to justify a greater invasion force and a longer campaign. A war of attrition by committing the full capabilities of the Boxers and the Imperial armies would have been impossible for the invasion forces to resist. It appears that very few of the commanders of the Imperial or regional armies believed they stood even a sliver of chance against the invasion forces. As such, their overestimation of the enemy prevented them from considering victory at all, leading to lackluster commitment.
Remember: no matter how strong they seem, they are not gods. Even if they were, gods can bleed as well.
First, I apologise for the long time it took me to write this article. There was much research to be done and in the initial phase I fell into a minor state of depression after doing the research. I was demoralised and even questioned the purpose of writing these articles if all they bring to light is pain and a severe loss of faith in the goodness of humanity. But then, I do stand by my original point of departure for writing these, and that is to make sure that none of this is ever forgotten. To this end, I have once again picked up my pen. With that out of the way, here are my concluding words:
The West invaded China under the pretense of political and moral justice. They wanted to avenge the murder of Christians and Western expatriates by punishing the perpetrators. However, their moral high ground fell into a thousand pieces as their hypocrisy was revealed. How was it possible for the morally superior and civilised Western armies to commit crimes more heinous than the ones they were avenging? How could indiscriminate murder of innocents possibly be seen as justice for the ones they were trying to avenge? To this day it baffles the mind how deeply hypocrisy runs.
What of the goals that the Eight-Nation Alliance set out to achieve with this war? They succeeded in their primary objective, which was to relieve the foreign legations in Beijing. They also succeeded in punishing the Chinese population by creating a nightmarish hell for the Chinese unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of their cruelties. As for their strategic goals, however, to perhaps put a ruler on the throne sympathetic to Western influence or to eliminate China's most effective fighting forces at the time, they were not succesful. The Empress Dowager had escaped unscathed and a good portion of China's modern armies were kept away from the fighting, leaving them at full strength.
On the Chinese side, it was also remarkable that the Emperor and the capital were threatened and subsequently invaded while the rest of China just looked on and ate all the pies instead of rushing to the aid of their land and liege. Much like in the Sino-French War, the same message about unity can be shared here. If even the surrounding provinces of Shandong (Shantung), Henan (Honan), and Shanxi (Shansi) had sent their armies to the aid of Zhili (Chihli), then the invading forces would have never been able to invade China with such ease and with so few men. Nevermind the odds of a successful Western invasion if all of China had rushed to Zhili and Beijing.
As stated by Card, "It is all a matter of perspective. When a Chinese coolie strikes a French soldier the result is a public cry of barbarity, but when a French soldier strikes a coolie, it is a necessary blow for civilization." I would have to echo Card's exhortation. The best defense is prevention, and one of the ways to prevent the victimisation of women is to reject the idea that women are perpetual victims and therefore easy targets. The idea that women should not be trained in martial arts and in the use of weapons should be rejected. That actually does not just go for women. In fact, if you wish to deter an attacker, you must gain the reputation of being indomitable. Asians were seen as cowards. In fact, "yellow bastard" still refers to cowards. Asian men are seen as meek and cowardly, Asian women as subservient and docile. These are the reasons why we are still being targeted by other groups for theft and robbery. This is why world media can insult us daily with impunity. This is why it seems like it is just another Tuesday when a man of European descent kills Asians. Irrational humans truly behave like animals. Humility, passivity, and agreeability only communicate weakness, which incurs aggression. Dignity, assertiveness, and perseverance communicate strength, which deters aggression.
Lastly, for your own sake, and the sake of our people: stop doing drugs, stop seeing prostitutes, stop gambling, and stop drinking alcohol.
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