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The Qing and Tokugawa

The Qing Shogunate was on the decline for various reasons, among them administrative inefficiency, corruption, weakening of the Manchus and the Bannermen, Financial constraints, population pressure, intellectual irresponsibility and the influence of foreign powers. First of all, the administration was experiencing widespread corruption among its officials.

They were amassing illegal well by charging illegal levies and a good example of this is an officer known as Henshen, who was an imperial bodyguard who managed to amass illegal wealth totaling to about 800 million taels, which was equivalent to over half of the income of the state foe 20 years. Graft and extortion became commonplace, with the military also engaging in it. (Richard W. Bulliet et al)

There were feelings of suspicion between the Manchu who were the rulers, and the Han Chinese, which led to a tendency by the administration to compromise on many important issues, in addition to being complacent and superficial, in an effort not to alter the status quo. This led to massive redundancy, with the employment of a large number of minor officials, which placed a huge burden on the government. These officials later transformed themselves into a class of local power brokers, and dominated the local government. They made it impossible for any kind of reform to take place and increased the inefficiency in the system.

Furthermore, all major decisions were made by the emperor and so the rate of development was dependent on his decisions (Richard W. Bulliet et al) The refusal by the Manchu to share power with the majority Chinese led to anti-Qing sentiments among the population. This was so after the death of Cixi and Guangxu, the Manchus still held on to power and the realization that no amount of reform could persuade them to relinquish control. The Beiyang Army also aided in fuelling anti-Qing feelings because although they had been foreign-trained, they were highly nationalistic.

When their commander Yuan Shikai was redeployed to Beijing, he lost his influence and this infuriated the people. (Richard W. Bulliet et al) The construction of the railway by foreign powers in the provinces did not go down well with the local people. There were already anti-foreign feelings cropping up, because they viewed this as a form of territorial expansion by the foreigners. Failure by the stale to stop the foreign power invasion led to declining support from the people. The Manchus and Bannermen were losing their influence fast.

This was because, instead of engaging in useful economic activity, they spent all their time in leisure activities. The Bannermen, who were the backbone of the military were poorly trained, corrupt and did not carry out the defense duties as required. With time they degraded to a point o being parasites. The Chinese Green Standard army followed suit, declining to a point of uselessness. (Richard W. Bulliet et al) The state was faced with financial pressure, another reason for its decline. Failure by the state to monitor and control the finances led to large debts, and the burden of paying them fell to the Han Chinese.

At one point, silver inflation stood at 200 percent, decreasing the people’s real income and purchasing power. Overspending high-level corruption and numerous military campaigns caused all this. (Richard W. Bulliet et al) Population was increasing at a very fast rate, and could not cope with the availability of land. It is estimated that the increase was at 100 percent, while land only increased at 50percent. Consequently, there a section of the population displaced, and they later turned into bandits. There was also increase in competition for the civil jobs. (Richard W. Bulliet et al)

In the intellectual world, the scholars were restricted to studying ancient texts, which were becoming irrelevant to the contemporary situation. These studies were not in tandem with the society and politics of the time but were based on Confucianism. They lost track of unity of knowledge and action and so the society lacked moral leadership. Tokugawa, a Japanese dynasty, was on the decline by 1868 because of a myriad of economic and social problems. To start with, the state was experiencing economic hardships occasioned by the soaring expenditure by the Bakufu, which far exceeded their revenue.

The taxation system was not organized in a manner to match growth in the economic sector. Their main source of revenue was from land taxes and rice, and as agriculture grew, the taxes did not increase proportionately. (Richard W. Bulliet et al) At the same time there was widespread corruption among the officials, coupled with inefficiency and consequently inflation took its toll. Instead of addressing the main causes, the government resorted to forcing people to take loans and cutting the stipends given to the people, at one time by over 50 percent.

This system caused a lot of problems for the people, especially the Samurai who had their stipend halved. Resentment against the rulers started to brew among the population. (Richard W. Bulliet et al) There was a rich class of merchants and peasants, with the gap between the rich and the poor increasing. This caused resentment for the growing prosperity of the merchants. Agriculture started to decline, with the peasants being overtaxed; the costs of production were going up while conversely, the income from their rice crops was declining.

This sparked violence in some parts of the state, among them the Osaka Uprising of 1837. There was also the Tempo Crisis, which was caused by bad harvest and famine. Ideological problems were proving too strong to ignore, with the rise in neo-Shintoism promoted by the Shogun, and the decline in Confucianism, as well as the increasing feelings of nationalism. These provided the premises upon which rebellion against the Bakufu and their tendency to lean towards the west was based. The Samurai resisted what they saw as the pusillanimous assimilation of European culture; this saw the rise of the “shishi men of spirit”

The Bakufu were being challenged by the Daimyo, consisting of the Choshu and Satsumai, who were living in poor conditions, had to borrow money from rich merchants and wanted more political power. The Samurai, who were also living in poverty and some even had to sell their land titles, also challenged the Bakufu’s rule. Later on, the emperor was marginalized, only remaining a figurehead, and was replaced by the Shogun. The introduction of Dutch learning opened up the Japanese to new ideas and things.

Dutch traders who frequented the single-port in Nagasaki carried this out. The learning made many people realize the need for reforms and they started demanding for change. Faced with the increasing foreign ideology, Japan began to follow an isolationist policy known as Sakoku. They were afraid of the impact Christianity on the traditional ideology of worshipping the emperor and the Shinot beliefs. They thought that by doing this, they would help to maintain the social order. This acted to restrict technological progress in the state.

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