Late Qing reforms

Last updated
Late Qing reforms
TypePolitical system and economic reform movement
Other Chinese names
Other English namesCixi's New Policies
Guangxu's New Policies
Gengzi New Policies
New Policies of the late Qing dynasty
New Deal of the late Qing dynasty

Late Qing reforms (Chinese :晚清改革 [1] ; pinyin :Wǎnqīng gǎigé) , commonly known as New Policies of the late Qing dynasty [2] (Chinese :清末新政; pinyin :Qīngmò xīnzhèng), or New Deal of the late Qing dynasty, [3] simply referred to as New Policies, were a series of cultural, economic, educational, military, and political reforms implemented in the last decade of the Qing dynasty to keep the dynasty in power after the invasions of the great powers of the Eight Nation Alliance in league with the ten provinces of the Southeast Mutual Protection in the Boxer Uprising.


Late Qing reforms started in 1901, and since they were implemented with the backing of the Empress Dowager Cixi, they are also called Cixi's New Policies. [4]


In China, the reform is most commonly known as New Policies of the late Qing dynasty (清末新政), and is also called Gengzi New Policies (庚子新政), Post-Gengzi New Policies (庚子后新政). After the fall of the Qing Dynasty, in the Republic of China, it was called "Shame-covering reforms" (遮羞变法). In Hong Kong, it was called Late Qing reforms (晚清改革), and in Japan, it was called the Guangxu's New Policies, in reference to Emperor Guangxu (光绪新政). [5]


In April 1901, the Qing dynasty established the Administration Office to supervise the overall plan for reform, appointing Ronglu, Qing Prince and Li Hongzhang as managers, nominating Zhang Zhidong and Liu Kunyi as coordinators. Zhang Zhidong and Liu Kunyi jointly submitted "Three folds for reform" to the imperial government, which includes setting reform direction, learning from Japan and implementing the constitutional monarchy. [6]

Five ministers went abroad to investigate

On January 19, 1904, viceroy of Yun-Gui Ding Zhenduo and Yunnan provincial Patrol Lin Shaonian submitted the application for political reform to the imperial government. At the beginning of the July, Viceroy of Liangjiang Zhou Wei ask for the implementation of the "separation of the three powers" political system.

On July 2, 1905, Yuan Shikai joining with Zhou Wei and viceroy of Huguang Zhang Zhidong required imperial government to implement constitutional government in a twelve-year period. They also asked the government to assign ministers to go abroad to investigate various political formats.

On September 24, 1905, the Empress Dowager Cixi decided to assign five ministers: [7] Zhen Prince Zaize, Financial Minister Dai Hongci, Military Minister Xu Shichang, Governor of Hunan Duanfang and Prime Minister of Business Department Shaoying to go abroad. On November 25, the imperial government set up a special institution "Inspection of the political pavilion" to study the constitutional government of each country, and provide consultation on constitutional reform.

In the same year, on December 7, the first group leading by Dai Hongci and Duanfang set off at the first stop, [8] the United States, and was met by the US President Theodore Roosevelt. On January 14, 1906, the second group leading by Zaize set out. At the end of the summer, 1906, the delegation returned to China and submitted a report arguing that “The only way for state to be powerful is constitutionalism”.

On September 1, 1906, the Empress Dowager Cixi promulgated an imperial decree, announcing preparatory imitation of constitution. [9]

In 1907, the preparatory office of the Zizhengyuan Institute (Parliament) was established, and Ming Lun and Sun Jiaxuan were appointed as the presidents of the Zizhengyuan Institute. Later, Zhang Jiang and Tang Shouqian established a preparatory constitutional guild in Shanghai. [10] After that, various constitutional guilds were established in major cities all around China.

In August 1908, the imperial government published "Constitutional Outline", [11] "The list of Preparations in next few years", and three appendices including "Civil Rights and Obligations", "The essentials of Parliament", "Election Law Essentials". These proposed law regulated that provincial advisory council and Central Advisory Council would be elected in the next year and the constitution was plan to prepared in nine years. On November 14th, 1908, the Emperor Guangxu died, with Empress Dowager Cixi dying the following day.

In 1909, after Pu Yi, the last emperor of Qing Dynasty succeeded to the throne, the provincial advisory councils were elected. In 1910, the Zizheng Institute held its first opening ceremony.

In May 1911, the prince regent Zaifeng appointed Qing Prince as the Prime Minister of the Imperial Cabinet to organize the new cabinet. [12] The head of the new cabinet has 13 members, including eight Manchurians, four Han Chinese, one Mongolian. As there was seven Manchurians belonging to royal family, the cabinet was taunted as "royal cabinet".

Local administrative reform

In 1902, Shanxi governor Zhao Erxun proposed to reform the local administrative reforms such as the Baojia system, including the establishment of the modern police system and the expansion of local organizational functions.

In 1907, the local official system was promulgated, and the financial power and military power of the governor were reduced. The Ministry of Civil Affairs owned the function of the national patrol.

Local autonomy reform measures

In 1906, Yuan Shikai had already established the local “Autonomous Research Institute” and the Tianjin County Council in Tianjin. In 1908, the imperial government also began to set up autonomous research institutes in the urban area, and draft the "Regulations of the Provincial Consultative Councils", which was scheduled to be completed in 1914.


Officer training

In 1901, the imperial government abolished the test of traditional Chinese Martial and founded the training system for officers. Then, in 1903, the Central Training Command was established to coordinate the training of national army. [13]


In 1901, the imperial government established three arsenals in Hanyang, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.


In 1905, the Beiyang Army was reorganized into a new type of army. The imperial government originally planned to establish 500,000 regular troops in the next ten years, but until the end of 1911 (the collapse of Qing Dynasty), only about 190,000 troops had been well trained.

An edict on 15 July 1909 was passed that established the Ministry of War to control the army. [14]

In 1902, Beiyang Navy officer Sazhen Bing proposed four methods for reviving the Navy. First, sending naval officers to study in Japan. Second, setting up a naval school in Jiangyin. Third, building Mawei Shipyard as a ship repair base. Forth, setting up naval guard town in Yantai and Fuzhou.

Other aspect

The policies reformed almost every aspect of governmental affairs:


The impact of these reforms varied from place to place. Many regions were virtually unchanged, while the provinces in the lower Yangzi valley had already taken the lead. The province of Zhili (roughly present day Hebei) was a model. With the strong support of the Empress Dowager, Yuan Shikai set up a strong bureaucracy to administer tax collection, local schools and police. [16]

However, there is still debate among the academic community regarding the actual effect that these reforms had on the Chinese people, historian Immanuel Hsü claiming that, apart from the successes in "...the abolition of the civil service examinations… the establishment of modern schools… and the sending of students abroad…”, [17] the reforms were "…essentially a noisy demonstration without much substance or promise of accomplishment…". [18] However, other historians, such as Diana Preston, place much greater weight on the influence of these reforms on the later development of China in its progression towards a more 'developed' society, contending that "…the events of 1900 and their aftermath precipitated reforms that, albeit late [and] grudging, were far-reaching and laid the foundations for a modern state…". [19]

On 22 July 1908 the Qing government issued the Principles of the Constitution (Qinding Xianfa Dagang), modeled on the Japanese Meiji Constitution, which provided for gradual introduction of an electoral system beginning with local elections in 1908, followed in two years by elections for provincial legislatures, then two years later, elections for a national assembly. Special bureaus were set up in each province to prepare for setting up assemblies, directly subordinated to the provincial governor and consisting of scholars and gentry. They set up regulations for carrying out the elections, a timetable for carrying them out, and notices. The first to hold elections for the provincial assembly was the Jiangsu province, in 1909, and elections occurred on time in all provinces except for Xinjiang. [20]

The New Policies also resulted in drastic change of the Manchu policy toward Mongolia from a relatively conservative-protective one to an aggressive-colonial one. [21]

The New Policies are judged now to have been a substantive beginning for China's reorganization which was destroyed after the death of the Dowager Empress in 1908 by the intransigent stand of conservative Manchus in the Qing court.

See also

Related Research Articles

Yuan Shikai Chinese military and government official (1859-1916)

Yuan Shikai was a Chinese military and government official who rose to power during the late Qing dynasty, becoming the Emperor of the Empire of China (1915–1916). He tried to save the dynasty with a number of modernization projects including bureaucratic, fiscal, judicial, educational, and other reforms, despite playing a key part in the failure of the Hundred Days' Reform. He established the first modern army and a more efficient provincial government in North China in the last years of the Qing dynasty before the abdication of the Xuantong Emperor, the last monarch of the Qing dynasty, in 1912. Through negotiation, he became the first President of the Republic of China in 1912. This army and bureaucratic control were the foundation of his autocratic rule. He was frustrated in a short-lived attempt to restore hereditary monarchy in China, with himself as the Hongxian Emperor. His death shortly after his abdication led to the fragmentation of the Chinese political system and the end of the Beiyang government as China's central authority.

Wuchang Uprising Armed rebellion against the ruling Qing dynasty

The Wuchang Uprising was an armed rebellion against the ruling Qing dynasty that took place in Wuchang, Hubei, China on 10 October 1911, which was the beginning of the Xinhai Revolution that successfully overthrew China's last imperial dynasty. It was led by elements of the New Army, influenced by revolutionary ideas from Tongmenghui. The uprising and the eventual revolution directly led to the downfall of the Qing dynasty with almost three centuries of imperial rule, and the establishment of the Republic of China (ROC), which commemorates the anniversary of the uprising's starting date of 10 October as the National Day of the Republic of China.

Empress Dowager Cixi Chinese empress

Empress Dowager Cixi (Chinese: 慈禧太后; pinyin: Cíxī Tàihòu ; Manchu: Tsysi taiheo;, of the Manchu Yehe Nara clan, was a Chinese empress dowager and regent who effectively controlled the Chinese government in the late Qing dynasty for 47 years, from 1861 until her death in 1908. Selected as a concubine of the Xianfeng Emperor in her adolescence, she gave birth to a son, Zaichun, in 1856. After the Xianfeng Emperor's death in 1861, the young boy became the Tongzhi Emperor, and she became the Empress Dowager. Cixi ousted a group of regents appointed by the late emperor and assumed regency, which she shared with Empress Dowager Ci'an. Cixi then consolidated control over the dynasty when she installed her nephew as the Guangxu Emperor at the death of the Tongzhi Emperor in 1875, contrary to the traditional rules of succession of the Qing dynasty that had ruled China since 1644.

Guangxu Emperor 11th Emperor of Qing-dynasty China (1875-1908)

The Guangxu Emperor, personal name Zaitian, was the tenth Emperor of the Qing dynasty, and the ninth Qing emperor to rule over China proper. His reign lasted from 1875 to 1908, but in practice he ruled, without Empress Dowager Cixi's influence, only from 1889 to 1898. He initiated the Hundred Days' Reform, but was abruptly stopped when the empress dowager launched a coup in 1898, after which he became powerless and was held under house arrest until his death. His era name, "Guangxu", means "glorious succession".

The Hundred Days' Reform or Wuxu Reform was a failed 103-day national, cultural, political, and educational reform movement that occurred from 11 June to 22 September 1898 in late Qing dynasty China. It was undertaken by the young Guangxu Emperor and his reform-minded supporters. Following the issuing of the reformative edicts, a coup d'état was perpetrated by powerful conservative opponents led by Empress Dowager Cixi.

Beiyang Army Military faction dominating much of Republic of China and Warlord Era politics, originally established to modernize the Qing dynasty army

The Beiyang Army, named after the Beiyang region, was a powerful, Western-style Imperial Chinese Army established by the Qing Dynasty government in the late 19th century. It was the centerpiece of a general reconstruction of Qing China's military system. The Beiyang Army played a major role in Chinese politics for at least three decades and arguably right up to 1949. It made the Xinhai Revolution of 1911 possible, and, by dividing into warlord factions known as the Beiyang Clique, ushered in a period of regional division.

Zaifeng, Prince Chun

Zaifeng, formally known by his title Prince Chun, was a Manchu prince and regent of the late Qing dynasty. He was a son of Yixuan, the seventh son of the Daoguang Emperor, and the father of Puyi, the Last Emperor. He served as Prince-Regent from 1908 to 1911 during the reign of his son until the Qing dynasty was overthrown by the Xinhai Revolution in 1911.

Empress Dowager Longyu Chinese empress during the end of the Qing dynasty

Jingfen, of the Manchu Bordered Yellow Banner Yehe Nara clan, was the wife and empress consort of Zaitian, the Guangxu Emperor. She was Empress consort of Qing from 1889 until her husband's death in 1908, after which she was honoured as Empress Dowager Longyu. She was posthumously honoured with the title Empress Xiaodingjing.

Grand Council (Qing dynasty) Qing dynasty policy-making body

The Grand Council or Junji Chu, officially the Banli Junji Shiwu Chu, was an important policy-making body of China during the Qing dynasty. It was established in 1733 by the Yongzheng Emperor. The council was originally in charge of military affairs, but gradually attained a more important role and eventually attained the role of a privy council, eclipsing the Grand Secretariat in function and importance, which is why it has become known as the "Grand Council" in English.

Ronglu Qing dynasty politician and military leader

Ronglu, courtesy name Zhonghua, was a Manchu political and military leader of the late Qing dynasty. He was born in the Guwalgiya clan, which was under the Plain White Banner of the Manchu Eight Banners. Deeply favoured by Empress Dowager Cixi, he served in a number of important civil and military positions in the Qing government, including the Zongli Yamen, Grand Council, Grand Secretary, Viceroy of Zhili, Beiyang Trade Minister, Secretary of Defence, Nine Gates Infantry Commander, and Wuwei Corps Commander. He was also the maternal grandfather of Puyi, the last Emperor of China and the Qing dynasty.

Cen Chunxuan Chinese politician

Cen Chunxuan, courtesy name Yunjie, was a Zhuang Chinese politician who lived in the late Qing dynasty and Republic of China.

Zaize Fengen Zhenguo Gong and acting Beizi

Zaize, born Zaijiao, courtesy name Yinping, was a Manchu noble of the Qing dynasty. He is best known for supporting reforms and advocating the adoption of a constitutional monarchy system in the final years of the Qing dynasty.

Zhao Erxun

Zhao Erxun, courtesy name Cishan, art name Wubu, was a Chinese political and military officeholder who lived in the late Qing dynasty. He served in numerous high-ranking positions under the Qing government, including Viceroy of Sichuan, Viceroy of Huguang, and Viceroy of the Three Northeast Provinces. After the fall of the Qing dynasty, he became a historian and was the lead editor of the Draft History of Qing.

Lin Xu

Lin Xu, courtesy name Tungu (暾谷), was a Chinese politician, scholar, songwriter and poet who lived in the late Qing dynasty. He was also a student of Kang Youwei, a prominent official who was one of the leaders of a reform movement in the late Qing dynasty.

The Imperial Decree of declaration of war against foreign powers was a 1900 Qing dynasty declaration of war against colonising powers: Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria-Hungary, Belgium, and the Netherlands simultaneously. This declaration of war was one of the direct causes of the Boxer Rebellion and Eight-Nation Alliance, which then led to Boxer Protocol. This Imperial decree was officially issued in the name of Guangxu Emperor, bearing his official Imperial seal. The Emperor of China was in effect under house arrest, ordered by Empress Dowager Cixi at that time, and the full administrative power was in the hand of the Empress Dowager.

Mutual Protection of Southeast China

The Mutual Protection of Southeast China was an agreement made in the summer of 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion by governors of the provinces in southern, eastern and central China when the Eight Power Expedition invaded North China. The governors, including Li Hongzhang, Xu Yingkui, Liu Kunyi, Zhang Zhidong and Yuan Shikai, refused to carry out the imperial decree promulgated by the Qing dynasty to declare war on 11 foreign nations, with the aim of preserving peace in their own provinces.

Liu Guangdi

Liu Guangdi was a Chinese government minister during the late Qing dynasty. He was a leader of the Hundred Days' Reform movement of 1898. After the reforms were reversed in a coup, he and five other leaders were executed. They are now considered as martyrs and are referred to as the Six Gentlemen. He was also a patriotic poet of reformism in late Qing Dynasty.

Prime Minister of the Imperial Cabinet Position of the Qing Government

The Prime Minister of the Imperial Cabinet was the office of the Prime Minister created on 8 May 1911 in the late Qing dynasty, as part of the imperial government's unsuccessful attempts at creating a constitutional monarchy in China.

Prince Qings Cabinet

The Prince Qing Cabinet was the first cabinet of the Qing dynasty and of China, formed as part of the Qing state's reforms to create a constitutional monarchy in the early 20th century. It was active from 8 May to 1 November 1911, led by the Prime Minister of the Imperial Cabinet, Yikuang. It initially consisted of thirteen members, of which nine were Manchus while only four were Han Chinese. As a result, it remained unpopular among the people and was nicknamed the "Princes' Cabinet" or "Imperial Family Cabinet"(皇族内阁; 皇族內閣; Huángzú Nèigé) by its critics.

The Imperial Edict of the Abdication of the Qing Emperor was an official decree issued by the Empress Dowager Longyu on behalf of the six-year-old Xuantong Emperor, who was the last emperor of the Qing dynasty, on 12 February 1912, as a response to the Xinhai Revolution. The revolution led to the self-declared independence of 13 southern Chinese provinces and the sequent peace negotiation between the rest of Imperial China with the collective of the southern provinces. The issuance of the Imperial Edict ended the Qing dynasty of China, which lasted 276 years, and the era of imperial rule in China, which lasted 2,132 years.



  1. "History of Modern East Asia". National Taiwan University. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  2. Yih-Jye Hwang (2015-01-23). "The births of International Studies in China". Review of International Studies.
  3. Eva Huang; John Benson; Ying Zhu (17 March 2016). Teacher Management in China: The Transformation of Educational Systems. Routledge. pp. 32–. ISBN   978-1-317-43514-3.
  4. China Review International. University of Hawaiʻi, Center for Chinese Studies and University of Hawaii Press. 2003.
  5. "A Study of the Five Ministers' Overseas Study Tour at the End of Qing Dynasty" (PDF). Institute of Social Science of the University of Tokyo. 2011-03-23.
  6. Esherick, Joseph, W. (2012). "Reconsidering 1911: Lessons of a sudden revolution". Journal of Modern Chinese History. 6 (1): 1–14. doi:10.1080/17535654.2012.670511. S2CID   143236087.
  7. Bian, Xiuquan (2003). Constitutionalism and legal reform in the late Qing Dynasty. Beijing: China Social Sciences Press. ISBN   9787500438366.
  8. Hou, Yijie (1993). The Trend of China's Political Reform in the Early 20th Century: The History of the Constitutional Movement in the Late Qing Dynasty. Beijing: People's Publishing Press. ISBN   9787300110288.
  9. Li, Tiancheng (2001). Chinese History Dictionary. Yanbing: Yanbian People's Publishing Press. ISBN   9787806483855.
  10. Perspective of Old Shanghai: A Study of Shanghai History of Chinese and Japanese Young Scholars. Shanghai: Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Press. 2004. ISBN   9787806814994.
  11. Long, Chengwu (2011). Xin hai : guo yun 1911 (Di 1 ban ed.). Zhongguo min zhu fa zhi chu ban she. ISBN   9787802199095.
  12. Li, Jinhe (2007). Zhongguo zheng dang zheng zhi yan jiu, 1905–1949 (Di 1 ban ed.). Beijing: Zhong yang bian yi chu ban she. ISBN   9787802112940.
  13. Christine Moll-Murata and Ulrich Theobald (2013). "Military Employment in Qing Dynasty China". Fighting for a Living. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press: 353–392. ISBN   9789089644527. JSTOR   j.ctt6wp6pg.15.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  14. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "China"  . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  15. Reynolds (1993).
  16. MacKinnon (1980).
  17. Hsü, I 2000, The Rise of Modern China, 6th edn, Oxford University Press, New York. p.412
  18. Hsü, I 2000, The Rise of Modern China, 6th edn, Oxford University Press, New York. p.412
  19. Preston, D 2000, The Boxer Rebellion The Dramatic Story of China's War on Foreigners That Shook the World in the Summer of 1900, 1 edn, Bloomsbury Publishing, London., p.364.
  20. Esherick (2013).
  21. Mongolia in the Twentieth Century: Landlocked Cosmopolitan, pp. 39-41


  • MacKinnon, Stephen R. (1980). Power and Politics in Late Imperial China: Yuan Shi-kai in Beijing and Tianjin, 1901–1908. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. ISBN   978-0-520-04025-0.
  • Reynolds, Douglas (1993). China, 1898–1912: The Xinzheng Revolution and Japan. Cambridge, MA: Council on East Asian Studies Harvard University: Distributed by Harvard University Press. ISBN   978-0-674-11660-3.
  • Esherick, Joseph (2013). China: How the Empire Fell. New York, NY: Routledge. ISBN   978-0-415-83101-7.
  • Shan, Patrick Fuliang (2018). Yuan Shikai: A Reappraisal. The University of British Columbia Press. ISBN   9780774837781.