The Government of China (1644-1911)

By Pao Chao Hsieh | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER IX
THE FOREIGN OFFICE

Prior to the commencement of commercial relations with the West, China had no foreign relations in the sense of diplomatic negotiations between two sovereign states dealing with each other on equal footing. Hence, up to 1840, during three quarters of the life of the Manchu Dynasty, the röle of China was to conquer, impose conditions, exact tribute, civilize, then neglect, reconquer, re-civilize and finally re-exact the same tributes again and again. History tells of the conquest, the rebellion, the imposition of tributes, etc., but once the tributes were sent, the duties of the dependencies were performed. The payments of tributes by the dependencies were exactly like the payments of taxes by the provinces, the only bond between them and Peking, the sole standard of measurement of the loyalty of the subordinate to the central government. Without a description of the reception of tributes, the kind of foreign relations China conducted for almost two hundred years during the Manchu Regime, a treatment of the Tsing diplomatic relations is not complete. This very short sketch of China's relations with outside countries in the pre-communication period, however, should not impress foreign readers as part and parcel of China's diplomatic history, although in this chapter it is dealt with.

The list of vassal states consisted of Korea, Liu Kin Islands, Burmah, Indo-China, Siam, Sumatra, etc. All these were conquered by China either by arms or otherwise. The regulations of tribute -- payments, as to the amount of tribute, the number and rank of the bearers1 and the roads

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1
Strangely enough, by process of voluntary imitation, most of the vassal states had about the same system of government as the Manchu Government, or, at least, they learned enough of the Tsing system to make it believed, in the tribute payments, that the Tsing system had been adopted.

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