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Troubled Times at the Beginning of the Century (6)
The Treaty of 1901 
   CCTV.COM   2002-05-10 16:05:38   
    On October 11, 1900, Li Hongzhang, chief minister of the Qing government, came to Beijing from Tianjin under the escort of Russian troops to negotiate with representatives of the Eight-Power Allied Forces.

    Li Hongzhang organized the Anhui army in 1861. Then he had dealings with foreigners for 40 years. With a lot of diplomatic experiences, he firmly believed that it was necessary to keep peace with other countries and carry out reforms at home. He was one of the key figures promoting the Westernization Movement towards the end of the Qing Dynasty. From this photo we can see the capable and experienced official during the Westernization Movement. Only ten years later, both he and the imperial court he served were on the decline.

    Street lamps appeared in Beijing in 1900. The four characters meaning “blessings for the people” inscribed on the archway in front of the Jingshan Hill were illuminated by such lamps.

    Empress Dowager Cixi was fleeing westwards. The people in the capital were suffering from the war. The Eight-Power Allied Forces became the dominators in Beijing. Japanese soldiers plundered money and goods all over the city. American troops had a military review in the Forbidden City to make a show of force.

    French officers and men played a polo game on Chinese donkeys. The representatives from the eight imperialist powers made a long list of war criminals as a prerequisite to negotiations. Among those on the list were 142 local government officials and dozens of ministers of the imperial court. Empress Dowager Cixi compromised with the eight powers in order to end the war as soon as possible. Some ministers who had favoured the use of force to resist the invaders became her scapegoats.

    Li Hongzhang signed unequal treaties towards the end of the Qing Dynasty. In his remaining years, he compared himself to a paperhanger and the Qing empire to a shabby house with the wind blowing through. The nation was declining, but he could do nothing to reverse the trend.

    This was a timetable of Li Hongzhang’s public functions concerning foreigners. For a whole year, he kept on negotiating with ministers from various countries. He was exhausted by the long-drawn-out negotiations. He became critically ill in August, 1901.

    In Xi’an far away from Beijing, Empress Dowager Cixi accepted all the twelve peace terms dictated by the

    Eight-Power Allied Forces. Astonishingly she said she was willing “to win the graces of the powers, to the full extent of China’s resources”.

    The Treaty of 1901 was signed in September 1901. Under the treaty, China had to pay the imperialist powers indemnities totalling 450 million taels of silver. In terms of the population in those days, each person paid one tael of silver. The annual revenue of the Qing government amounted to only 80 million taels of silver. Although he was very ill, Li Hongzhang attended the signing ceremony of the treaty. His last photo was taken on that occasion. The signing of the treaty shocked the whole nation.

    Mentally and physically exhausted, Li Hongzhang died two months later.

    Beginning from 1840, China was the loser in the two opium wars and the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895. In 1900 when mankind was entering the 20th century, the Oriental giant was humiliated and hurt once again. The Qing empire was declining in the wind and rain at the turn of the century. The awakened people with high ideals were determined to build a new China.

Editor: Casey

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