THE enormous State of China had become an empire before the time of Christ, and with many vicissitudes it remained united. Its last ruling dynasts, the Manchus, arose in the seventeenth century. The Portuguese and other nations traded with its southern ports from 1511 onwards and the English East India Company built up a considerable trade, taking tea from China and importing Indian products, including opium. Two wars were fought over this opium trade, which did not contribute to the credit of England. She gained a port, Hong Kong, in 1842 and other ports were opened to foreign trade. The barbarous and grotesque side of Chinese life as compared with Western culture must not hide its achievements: it had a tradition of civilisation much longer and less broken than that of Europe, and had done great things in art. Its religion (Confucianism) was one of the best of the non-Christian religions, and its bureaucratic government by the most highly educated persons had all the virtues of bureaucracy, if it also had the defects.
During the nineteenth century Russia encroached on the Amur and U'suri, and Great Britain, France, and Germany under various pretexts obtained naval and commercial bases. Even Japan was able to bully her big neighbour, organise immigration from Japan into Manchuria, and provoke a war in 1894 which gave her Formosa and other territory and made Korea independent. As a climax, Russia deprived Japan of part of her gains European powers encouraged their business men to obtain concessions and make loans, and much exploitation, along with some beneficial development, occurred. Meanwhile the exasperation of the Chinese ruling class had not been diminished by the excellent work done by missionaries of the various Christian churches. The old Empress took the government from her nephew in 1898, suppressed a Chinese reform party, and encouraged a society of " Patriotic Fists " (hence called the Boxers) to murder foreigners, particularly missionaries and converts. An international force was sent to relieve the besieged survivors in Peking. After some heavy fighting the Chinese Government gave way and made reparation.
For some years the Government tried to modernise the education, administration, transport, and army of their cumbrous empire. The reform party in 1911-12 brushed the infant Emperor Pu Yi's Regency Government aside and set up a Republic, with a President, Vice-President, Executive Ministry, and House of Representatives. The difficulties of welding a state of such size soon became obvious, and twenty years of anarchy followed. This empire with its vast number of inhabitants with their strength, intelligence, and capacity for discipline, must inevitably affect world history during the twentieth century.