Kerry Ryan

Foreign Powers Reaction to the Boxers

As has been noted previously, foreign interest and action in China is the main cause for the beginning of the Boxer Rebellion. Clearly, since the Boxers were becoming more and more of a serious threat to foreign missionaries in China, the foreign powers of Great Britain, France, Germany, and the United States had begun to encourage foreigners in China to resist the Boxers with force. Other nations as well began to join the struggle and resistance against the mutiny occurring. There was an eight nation alliance that including the countries of Italy, the United States, Britain, Austria-Hungary, Japan, the French Third Republic, Russia, and the German Republic. Some of these powers began to threaten that they would take action if local Chinese authorities would not protect the foreigners located in China. In April the Great Powers had each placed at least one ship near forts as a demonstration of the naval force that could be used against China in a time of desperation. “Predictably, this sort of Great Power bullying only strengthened the resistance of the anti-foreign element in the capital, and the court vacillated wildly as it was buffeted by these two contrary forces” (Esherick 286).
The Chinese courts were completely unpredictable in their actions towards the boxers because the Empress Dowager supported the cause of the boxers, fearing the power and impact foreign nations would have on the growth and independence of China, but there were some authorities who understood the devastation that the boxers could bring. After the previously stated naval show from the foreign powers, the government published an edict prohibiting boxers, but two days later it restated that it would allow peaceful organizations to gather if they were formed for the purpose of self-defense. The only thing that seemed consistent about the Chinese government’s view of the Boxers was that it would continue to change.
In the summer of 1900, there was an enormous siege on Beijing by over one hundred thousand boxers. The foreign forces resisted for two months until the aid of eighteen thousand men forced the Boxers to disperse on August 14th. As a result, China was forced to allow foreign forces to remain in Beijing and the foreign powers forced three hundred million dollars of reparations on the nation. This also led to more emphasis on the necessity of an open door policy in China. This was first created by American Secretary of State John Hay in 1898 and called for equal trade rights for all foreign nations in China but that the nation should not be carved into territories for the foreign powers. This would mean that no nations had priority above the others at any time. Though these open door notes were created years earlier, the end of the Boxer Rebellion again brought about endorsement for the open door policy in China.

Works Cited

Cohen, Paul A. History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Events, Experience, and Myth. New York,
NY: Columbia UP, 1997.

Esherick, Joseph W. The Origins of the Boxer Uprising. Los Angeles, CA: University of
California P, 1987.

O'Connor, Richard. The Spirit Soldiers. New York, NY: G.P Putnam Sons, 1973.

Preston, Diana. The Boxer Rebellion. New York, NY: Walker and Company, 2000.

Price, Eva J. China Journal: An American Missionary Family During the Boxer Rebellion. New
York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1989.