British imperialism in China and India brought very different responses, in part because of the nature of imperialism in each place. While both regions were greatly influenced by the British, in India the country was placed under the direct rule of the Queen. In China on the other hand, the “spheres of influence” were economic, and did not entail direct British rule. During the British imperial age the culture of China continued on much the same as it had before, while in India the British tried to replace the Indian culture with their own.
British influence in China began with the introduction of the opium drug. In England this drug was already widely in use, even among Christians. “William Wilberforce, the slave-trade abolitionist, took opium before making a long address. “To that,” he said, “I owe my success as a public speaker. ” Clive of India, having established the security of the East India Company, took the drug for chronic malaria and gallstones, and whenever he was depressed. “1 By 1838 many Chinese were also addicted and as a result the Manchu Emperor issued an edict forbidding the sale and use of opium.
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When a British shipment of opium was confiscated the Opium Wars (1839-1842, 1856-1860) broke out. British troops overwhelmed the Chinese with their military might and forced them to sign a series of “unequal treaties” which expanded British trading rights in China. Between the two wars Britain declared Hong Kong its own crown possession and in 1844 in forced the Manchu Dynasty to allow Christian missionaries into China. The acquisition of Hong Kong, although wrong, was used and is still being used by God as a gateway for freedoms, especially Christianity into China.
Once the word got out that China was crumbling the European powers rushed to divide China into spheres of influence. These were not actual colonies (the Manchu government was still intact) but they were areas in which Europeans traded, invested and set up businesses. India on the other hand became a true colony. At first it was simply dominated economically by the British East India Company. The Company was a joint-stock company with exclusive rights over British trade in India. During the seven years war with France, the director of the company in
India, Robert Clive, raised an army with which he fought the French and conquered the Bengal region. Over the next hundred years the corporation continued to expand its control and set up administrative regions throughout the empire. They opposed interventions by missionaries such as William Carey. By 1848 all of India was under control of the company. In order to conquer and administer the vast region it controlled, the East India Company relied on the Sepoys, Indians who worked for the British as soldiers.
By the mid 1800s the Sepoys were becoming alarmed at the amount of territory the corporation seemed intent on taking. When, in 1857, they discovered that their bullet cartridges were greased with pork and beef fat (pork is forbidden to Muslims and beef is forbidden to Hindus), they rebelled. The two-year rebellion failed miserably, but had important consequences. In 1858 many Christians in Parliament condemned the Company because of the number of people getting killed in their massacres and the British parliament stepped in.
They took control of India away from the East India Company, crowned Queen Victoria “Empress of India” and exiled the last Mughal emperor. From then on India was the model British colony. India supplied the British with raw material for their manufacturing business as well as a market for their finished products. The upper class in India learned English and was educated in British customs, values and ideas. Christianity spread, railroads and canals were built and India became very anglicized. The British also outlawed the practice of widow burning, in which the widow of a man throws herself on her husband’s funeral pyre.
Missionaries, such as Amy Carmichael, rescued child prostitutes from temple shrines. They also worked to change the attitude toward the “untouchables”. “Untouchables are outcasts-people considered too impure, too polluted, to rank as worthy beings… [They] are shunned, insulted, banned from temples and higher caste homes, made to eat and drink from separate utensils in public places, and, in extreme but not uncommon cases, are raped, burned, lynched, and gunned down. ” The British gave them access to commerce, communication and education.
In 1909 the British passed an act allowing them to participate directly in politics. Meanwhile, back in China, all was not well. Because the British did not supplant the Chinese government, but simply weakened it, the Chinese people began to rebel against the government in power, the Manchu dynasty. Buddhists who were frustrated with government corruption and taxes led the White Lotus Rebellions. In the Taiping Rebellion a group of nationalistic Chinese tried to bring down the Manchu government and in the process over 20 million people were killed.
In China the British did not take over the government as they did in India, “Therefore, in India, when independence movements began, the efforts were directed against Britain, the foreign occupier. In contrast, in China, when the people wanted to change the government, they targeted the Manchu Dynasty. ” In India resistance was more passive. The British actually started the chain of events, which led to the independence of India, when they decided to educate the Indians in western fashion with English as the common language.
In 1885 the Indians founded the Indian National Congress to campaign for the independence of India. According to Auma Asaf Ali, one of the leaders of the group, “All the leadership had spent their early years in England. They were influenced by British thought, British ideas, that is why our leaders were always telling the British that Mahatma Ghandi is considered the greatest leader to emerge in the anti-colonial struggle and was also educated in Britain. He developed an approach to resistance based on the Hindu philosophy of non-violence.
He led a series of non-violent labor strikes, and deliberately violated unjust laws. In 1930 he gained international recognition his March to the Sea, in which hundreds of thousands of followers passively protested the Salt Tax. After the British granted India sovereignty in 1947, the tension between Muslim and Hindus, that British rule had suppressed, broke out in full force bringing about the partition of India with the formation of Pakistan. In China on the other hand resistance was not so peaceful.
The Boxer Rebellion erupted during the 20th century killing over 30,000 Chinese Christians and 200 Christian missionaries. In was led by the anti-Manchu, anti-Christian and anti-European Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists, known as the Boxers. They goal was to drive foreigners out of China using guerilla warfare. They slaughtered any Christian missionaries they found and seized foreign embassies. The Manchu government was unable to put down the rebellion, so foreign forces intervened, further humiliating the Manchu Dynasty.
China and India reacted very differently to British imperialism because of the nature of imperialism in each region. China experienced violent rebellions, most of them directed against the Chinese government rather than the foreign powers because the European “spheres of influence” did not actually replace their government. India on the other hand was a true British colony and gained its independence through passive resistance directed against the British.