Beginning in 1899 + following several natural disasters, China’s Boxer fighters blamed Foreign + Christian groups + set about the destruction of foreign property such as railroads, foreign property + the Legation quarter in Beijing. An Eight Nation Alliance of American, Austro-Hungarian, British, French, German, Italian, Japanese + Russian troops moved into China to lift the siege and on June 17 1900 they stormed the Dagu Fort in Tianjin. The Emperor Dowager Cixi, after initial hesitation, supported the Boxers + on June 21 1900, issued an Imperial Decree declaring war on the invading powers.

The Eight-Nation Alliance, after initially being turned back by the Chinese military + the Boxer militia, brought 20,000 armed troops to China. They arrived in Beijing on 14 August 2000 to relieve the 55 Dayu Siege of the Legations which they put down with great ferocity. Plunder of the capital + the surrounding countryside followed, along with the summary execution of those suspected of being Boxers.

Switching briefly to the UK and the Nazi blitz of London in 1940 + people can readily recall the hate that persisted in the UK for anything German — “I will never buy a Volkswagen or any German domestic appliance.” In fairness to the Germans + led, in particular by Chancellors Adenauer + Merkel they have engaged in widespread apology for the Blitz, and to Jews for the Holocaust. By comparison the Eight Nations who invaded China have been very slow to admit any responsibility.

China regularly refers to its “Century of Humiliation” at the hands of the Foreign Powers. It is part of China’s History just as the Nazi Blitz is part of UK history. You can forgive — with the appropriate + sincere apology — but you do not forget.

As the West, + NATO in particular, singles out China as #1 Enemy, we should not be surprised if China recalls the imperialist ventures of the Century of Humiliation, including in particular references to the Boxer Rebellion + the Opium Wars. Memories linger as crises approach.


POST #420–1 JULY 2022

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Graham Perry

Graham Perry

My understanding of China is dethatched, objective and informed unlike most other commentators who political prejudices invade their writings.