Tuesday, March 26, 2024

A Political and Economic History of China, Part 14: The Most Corrupt Official in Chinese History Bankrupts the Qing Dynasty

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6 MIN READ - Given China’s multi-millennial tradition of government corruption, for anyone to earn the distinction of “irrefutably most corrupt official in Chinese history” is quite an achievement. In this column the Cautious Optimism Economics Correspondent describes how a single government minister became one of history’s richest men by completely draining the Qing dynasty’s treasury by 1799.

Qing Grand Councillor and Revenue Minister Heshen
Last post we discussed Qianlong, the longest reigning monarch in Chinese history (de facto r. 1735-1799) who is still viewed by some as one of the middle kingdom’s greatest emperors.

Two-plus decades ago when the Correspondent first read about Qianlong (pronounced “chien-long”) the emperor’s reputation was deemed stellar with history books making only passing mention of a few missteps late in his life.

Since then Qianlong’s reputation has declined among historians, in the Correspondent’s opinion for good reason. As we’ll see, completely avoidable mistakes not only inaugurated the early decline of the Qing but also signified the opening chapter of what would become two centuries of backslide and prostration for China.

We’ve already discussed his multiple wars, the “Ten Great Campaigns,” many of which were failures yet ultimately cost the Qing treasury over 150 million taels in silver.

However the monetary cost of the Ten Great Campaigns would prove minor compared to one domestic blunder Qianlong would make in his final years.


One Qianlong vulnerability that would open the door to Qing decline was his love of pomp and grandiosity.  

Qianlong’s grandfather and father, the great Kangxi and Yongzheng emperors, strongly subscribed to (their words) “good government,” a “moral” imperial court, and “virtue” among officials with both emperors authoring edicts emphasizing constant vigilance against corruption while extolling the Confucian principle of leaders earning and maintaining the trust of their subjects.

Kangxi’s attitude regarding good governance was partly demonstrated on his royal excursions.

Kangxi embarked on several “grand tours” of southern China to inspect firsthand his dominions outside the Forbidden City. Although he brought an imperial entourage for security reasons, he preferred whenever possible to mingle incognito among the common people and listen to their candid thoughts about Qing rule.

By contrast Qianlong would have none of this discreetness. His tours were enormous, grandiose affairs where he reveled in large crowds bowing before his royal caravan. Modesty is a character trait Qianlong did not inherit from his ancestors and his vanity would ultimately cost the Qing and all of China dearly.

Later in life, an aging and venerable Qianlong began to lose interest in day-to-day state affairs. His favorite empress had just died leading him into desolation and apathy. He retreated into art, calligraphy, poetry (he’s said to have written 40,000 poems, more than all poets of the Tang dynasty combined) and earthly pleasures.

In 1772 a still-despondent Qianlong spotted a low-level imperial guard stationed at the Forbidden City’s gates. Heshen (pronounced “huh-shun”) was a young and ambitious Manchu who impressed Qianlong with his intelligence. Heshen was also an expert flatterer and within two years the 24-year old was appointed to a high-level cabinet post.

There are unconfirmed rumors that there may have been more than flattery involved, for Heshen was said to be a strikingly handsome man with a sibling resemblance to Qianlong’s recently deceased favorite consort, but there’s no question that he charmed the emperor into a career fast track.

Soon Heshen was placed in charge of the Ministry of Revenue. Older, more deserving officials resented being leapfrogged by the young Heshen, but knowing he was the emperor’s favorite they dared not complain.

From the Ministry of Revenue Heshen was in complete control of the Qing empire’s finances. Using his political influence he appointed loyal subordinates and began embezzling state funds on an astronomical scale. Senior Qing officials and even the crown prince, the future Jiaqing emperor, plainly saw Heshen’s brazen robbery but were forced to remain silent given his standing with the emperor.

Heshen also stole openly, as did his ministers, and after seeing them do so long enough with impunity other officials began stealing openly as well. Over the course of nearly twenty-five years corruption wormed its way into all levels of government including everyday peasants being squeezed by provincial bureaucrats. All the while the aging Qianlong was apathetic to the rot spreading through the empire, leaving Heshen to effectively run the government for over two decades.


Between corruption and steeper taxes imposed to fund the Ten Great Campaigns, majority ethnic Han Chinese resentment towards the Qing resurfaced. Back in 1644 Han Chinese were hardly thrilled about the new alien conquerors running their country but eventually accepted Manchurian authority under the enlightened administration of Kangxi and Yongzheng.

Now the animosity returned worse than ever. Secret societies were established to resist the Qing and open rebellion broke out in the 1790’s—most notably the southern Miao Rebellion in 1795 and the much larger White Lotus Rebellion in 1794.

By 1796 Qianlong was 84 and showing signs of dementia. Not to outshine his grandfather he officially abdicated after 60 years, one year short of Kangxi’s reign, but still held de facto power thereby leaving his son emperor in name only and allowing Heshen’s embezzlement to continue.

When domestic unrest shook the empire Heshen requested more funds to quell the revolts, reporting back to Qianlong that he was suppressing the insurrections with ease. In fact he simply pocketed the money while rebellion spread unchecked throughout the empire. Once again the emperor’s son was fully aware of Heshen’s corruption but could do nothing while his father was alive.

Qianlong finally died in 1799 at age 87. The Jiaqing emperor, having at last secured real power, arrested Heshen within a week. An investigation uncovered the extent of his embezzlement had surpassed anyone’s wildest estimates. An inventory of Heshen’s estate discovered multiple mansions with nearly 3,000 rooms, over 10,000 acres of land including farmland and animals, ownership of several banks and pawnbrokers, enormous hoards of gold, silver, precious jewels, and rare art, 24 beds made of solid gold and countless foreign mechanical devices including hundreds of novel European clocks.

The final tally of his fortune was calculated at 1.1 billion taels of silver. To place this number in perspective, Qianlong’s Ten Great Campaigns had cost the treasury 151 million taels. 1.1 billion taels also approximated 15 years of Qing government tax revenues—fiscal receipts for the most populous country in the world (China had 330 million people compared to 10.5 million in Great Britain and 49 million across the entire British Empire).

Given that we know the silver content of a Qing dynasty tael (1.3 ounces), the silver content of a 1799 U.S. dollar, and the silver equivalent of the British pound (which was on a de facto gold standard until 1797), it’s also possible to approximate Heshen’s fortune in western terms.

Staring with 1.1 billion taels of silver, a back of the napkin calculation yields an estimate of $1.5 billion compared to US nominal GDP of $447 million in 1799.

Heshen had embezzled more than three times the GDP of the United States.

Of course using U.S. GDP in 1799 is a bit misleading because the American economy, with only sixteen states, was much smaller back then. Instead we can compare Heshen’s fortune to a much larger country with three times the USA’s population.

In pounds sterling equivalent Heshen had embezzled 20% more than the GDP of Great Britain.

Discovering the scale of the larceny, the Jiaqing emperor had Heshen’s estate confiscated and ordered his execution by slow slicing. But since Heshen had married into the royal family—his son had married Qianlong’s favorite daughter—Jiaqing instead granted him the dignity of hanging himself with a silk rope.

Jiaqing would soon learn he needed every penny from the Heshen estate firesale, for he inherited imperial power to discover the Qing treasury had been completely emptied by theft. He also inherited an empire beset by unchecked rebellion across its periphery, a dilapidated military long starved for funds, and endemic corruption at every level of government.

It’s understandable that after so many decades running the enormous Qing empire Qianlong grew weary of governing and wished to retire from affairs of state. But the wise decision would have been to abdicate earlier and transfer power to his son who was eager to assume responsibility in earnest. 

Instead Qianlong clung to power for decades longer—to his last dying breath—and allowed China to backslide into bankruptcy during his old age.

Jiaqing would rule China from 1799 to 1820. As the 19th century commenced Beijing’s dire fiscal position would precipitate major frictions and conflict with many trading partners—most notably Great Britain—when the Qing embraced protectionist trade policies to refill its emptied coffers. 

But that’s a subject for another column.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

A Political and Economic History of China, Part 13: The Great Qianlong Emperor and the Pinnacle of the Qing Dynasty

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6 MIN READ - The Cautious Optimism Correspondent for Economic Affairs and Other Egghead Stuff discusses the peak and first declining years of China’s last dynasty: the Qing.
Modern China (black border) and the Qing dynasty's maximum extent
The Economics Correspondent has already written about the declines of several Chinese dynasties: the Qin, Han, Tang, Song, Southern Song, Yuan, and Ming. But the decline of the Qing will take several posts… and for good reason.

Not only does the fall of the Qing take us into the early 20th century, not only does it foment the conditions that would produce decades of revolution, invasion, and civil war ending with communist victory in 1949, but the dark days of the Qing’s decline still linger in the minds of many Chinese (quite bitterly I might add).

And today, to stir the up the flames of nationalism and anger against the USA and UK, CCP propaganda openly blames China’s “century of humiliation” (approx. 1839-1949) entirely on western imperialism.
The Correspondent’s task, therefore, is not only to chronicle the details of the Qing’s decline, and not only to agree where the West played a part in China’s fall from power, but also to point out where the Qing dynasty brought both itself and China down—a subject that isn’t discussed very much within China and, whenever mentioned by westerners, frequently generates a lot of angry nationalist backlash and resentment.

But we’ll start with the historical record.


The dominant figure in the story of the Qing’s pinnacle is the great Qianlong emperor (pronounced “chien-long”).

Yes we've just discussed another great emperor in two previous articles, Kangxi, but the first half of the Qing was fortunate to have three consecutive great emperors—Kangxi, Yongzheng, and Qianlong—who collectively ruled for 138 years.

Kangxi held the throne for 61 years (1661-1722) and Qianlong for another 60 (late 1735-early 1796). However out of respect Qianlong abdicated one year short of surpassing his grandfather. Still, he held the real power for the three more years before his death while the crown prince ruled in name only. Therefore Kangxi officially held the throne for longer than any emperor in Chinese history, but Qianlong held de facto power even longer.

Between the two venerable emperors was Kangxi’s son, the Yongzheng emperor.

Serious Chinese academic scholars never tire of reminding the public “don’t forget about Yongzheng” because, at only thirteen years on the throne, his reign was relatively short and tends to be overlooked.
The Correspondent is not going to spend much time on Yongzheng because, while he implemented many important reforms, there aren’t many fireworks in his story.

In a nutshell Yongzheng was an extremely hard working emperor who focused ceaselessly on stamping out corruption and improving China’s economy. Scholars point out when Qianlong succeeded his father he was handed the perfect hand of cards: a smoothly running kingdom with a strong economy and low corruption. Ethnic Han Chinese even began to view the Manchus, initially hated as alien conquerors, as legitimate rulers of the empire.

Unfortunately Yongzheng made the same mistake with his health that the salient emperor Qin Shi Huang had made back in 210 BC: drinking an elixir of immortality that contained mercury. In the 1,945 years that had passed since Qin Shih Huang’s death medicine had still not yet recognized mercury’s dangers so Yongzheng died in 1735 at age 56.

One last Yongzheng reform was the creation of a new procedure to determine his successor. Yongzheng had seen disputes erupt over not only his own succession, but countless times throughout Chinese history where brothers assassinated one another, went to war, or forged wills to inherit power. Hence he developed the “Secret Designation of the Crown Prince” system whereby his choice for heir to the throne was written down on several documents which were locked in different sealed boxes, and the boxes were stored for safekeeping by trusted officials in different locations—as well as one kept by Yongzheng himself.

After Yongzheng died the secret designation boxes were opened and the documents all matched: Yongzheng’s fourth son would take the throne peacefully as the Qianlong emperor. 


As we’ve already mentioned Qianlong was handed the equivalent of a royal flush in poker when he took power. And for several decades he ran the empire quite effectively.

His most notable accomplishments included opening up land in the northeast Manchurian homelands to Han Chinese farmers who in turn ballooned food production to new heights. In the century from 1700 to 1800 the Chinese population increased by 106%, from 160 million to 330 million.

Qianlong also re-annexed the remote Xinjiang region into the empire. The Correspondent has already chronicled details of how China ruled over Xinjiang for nearly four on-again, off-again centuries during the Han (202 BC-220 AD), Tang (618-907), and Yuan (1279-1368) dynasties. Link to that entry at:


In the 18th century the Qing was actually invited into Xinjiang by a warring Dzungar Mongol khan named Amursana (1755). 

Amursana was losing a power struggle with a rival khan and promised to serve as a vassal governor to China if the Qing would help him win the conflict. The messy details of the Qing’s entry into Xinjiang are also in the comments link, but China has stayed in the region ever since. 

With the annexation of Xinjiang Qianlong expanded China’s already extensive borders to the widest expanse ever in the country’s long history.

A map is included with this article comparing present-day China’s geographic size (black border) to its Qing maximum (all dark and light brown regions). 

As the Qing’s decline accelerated in the 19th and early 20th centuries neighboring states began to chip away at China’s exterior, taking territories in what is now Mongolia, pieces of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma, Laos, Vietnam, and Taiwan.


Hence the subject of border territories brings us to Qianlong’s first great blunder: he waged far too many wars at home and against his neighbors—known as the “Ten Great Campaigns”—which proved incredibly expensive.

Three of the great campaigns took place in Xinjiang (1755-59) which we’ve already touched on. There were two military campaigns in the western mountains of Sichuan province (1747-49, 1771-76), one suppression of an aboriginal Taiwanese revolt (1787-88), one campaign against Burma (1765-69), one in Vietnam (1788-89), and two against Nepal (1790-92).

Of the ten campaigns, only five could be considered successful with Burma and Vietnam being unambiguous military disasters. The Correspondent once read (but he can’t remember where) that China has fought wars with Vietnam 22 times and lost 18 of them, most recently in 1979.

After losing the Qing declared victory before packing up and going home. However the cost of the ten campaigns was enormous at an estimated 151 million silver taels. To put this into perspective Qianlong’s grandfather Kangxi had reformed the economy and boosted the imperial treasury’s reserves from 15 million taels in 1668 to 33 million taels in 1722. Qianlong burned through nearly five times that amount for wars alone.

To finance his military expeditions Qianlong ordered taxes raised steeply across the empire which created much resentment. Han Chinese who had tentatively accepted Qing rule due to the good economy reversed course after the burden of higher taxes. Many resumed hating the alien Qing when they were also squeezed by the return of corrupt government officials (a lot more on that in the next chapter).

Although many Han Chinese weren’t prepared to openly rebel, the final years of Qianlong’s reign marked the founding of many “secret societies” or underground resistance groups plotting to overthrow the Qing.

Although we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves, once the Qing was overthrown in 1912 the secret societies lost their original raison d’etre and turned to organized crime, transforming themselves into the famous mafia “triads” of the 20th century. One famous secret society, the Green Gang of Shanghai, was frequently recruited by Chiang Kai-Shek to do his dirty work including the violent purge of Chinese communists in 1927.

After 1949 the CCP cracked down hard on the triads which continued to operate out of British Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. But once China reopened its economy the triads reestablished a mainland presence. There are even rumors of triads working hand-in-hand with CCP government officials today.

Nevertheless, an interesting piece of trivia is most of the notorious 20th and 21st century Chinese triads were started as anti-Qing societies during the earliest years of the dynasty's decline.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Communist Vietnam "Ministry of Information" Reporting Now More Truthful Than U.S. Media

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Now more trustworthy than the New York Times.

The Cautious Optimism Correspondent for Left Coast Affairs and Other Inexplicable Phenomena has found a Vietnamese website headline accurately reporting Donald Trump's "bloodbath" comment referring to U.S. automobile sales. 

The website is administered by the Vietnamese government's "Ministry of Information and Communications."

Yes, we have reached the unfathomable milestone in America's devolution where Vietnam Communist Party state-run news is more trustworthy than U.S. "free press" institutions like the New York Times, CBS, and NBC.

See accurate "Mr. Trump warned of a 'bloodbath' for the US auto industry if he lost the election" headline at...


Tuesday, March 12, 2024

San Francisco Progressives Bellyache About Higher Power Bills They Asked For

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Progressive/enlightened PG&E customers

The Cautious Optimism Correspondent for Economic Affairs and Other Egghead Stuff has a quiz for CO readers.

As CO has posted repeatedly, California leads the country in green energy mandates for which there is one inevitable outcome: greater energy scarcity and higher energy prices. And within California the city of San Francisco takes the crown as loudest climate change progressive virtue-signaler of all.

So the quiz question is: How many of the fourteen San Francisco Nextdoor commenters below have made the logical connection between their feelgood carbon-neutral policies and the sharply higher energy rates they’re now complaining about?

1) “I’ll join in a fight the cost is getting out of hand. Half the time I don’t turn on the heat because to warm my house is $$$$”

2) “It's ridiculous to live in an apartment the size of a double wide, and receive a $150 bill.”

3) “My husband and I have been spending time in our cabin, both sons working full time out of the house and our bill is still escalating astronomically, guess that damn cat is playing with the heater all day.”

4) “PG&E wants us to blame ourselves for the high bills and to get us to think all we have to do is use less energy. Like just eat less and your grocer bill will go down. But if grocers keep charging more you can eat less and still have to pay more.”

5) “I recently called the “People Gouging, & Enemy” office about these ridiculously annoying notifications and was told to ignore them said everyone is receiving them.”

6) “Yes, the notices that we use more than our neighbors may be a way to shift blame to us and away from PG&E and the city.  These notices I have been receiving used to be notices I was using less than my neighbors. With fewer people in my home, the bills have gone up from the $300s per month to mid $500s month after month this winter.”

7) “We get those. We don’t even have a heater of any type, and we do laundry less than once a month so it baffles me”

8) “Yep. I don't turn the heat on in the house until it reaches 59 degrees inside, and even then, I only turn it on when someone else is going to be around, since I don't mind the cold. Most days, I am only running the energy that it takes to cook dinner, yet we still receive these notices on our bills. It is absolutely a lie. And, how on earth am I using $500 of energy a month when living like this? Would be nice to have PG&E either be a government organization, or, if private, to have multiple options for carriers.”

9) “Great topic. My PG&E bill is through the roof and the reports of my usage versus other comparable dwellings is not accurate, IMHO. We remodeled our home in the last 10 years, which added new EStar rated windows, wall insulation, EStar rated heating system and went 100% LED on our lighting. PG&E increases are approved by the state, and Newsom… …BTW, PG&E rates have increased 8X the inflation rate in resent years and they are looking for another 14%.”

10) “I’m experiencing the same, except my heat is on 56. I just don’t get it. I turn off my lights, I don’t watch TV and run the laundry and dishwasher sparingly.  I’m at a loss as to what else to cut.”

11) “We, like so many San Franciscans are feeling the PGE throttle on our utility bill. We receive notifications that we are using way more energy than comparable neighbors, but I feel this is a lie. We took measures to monitor our usage and reduce etc, but we continue to get these notifications. Do you get these as well? What can we do as a united force to show PGE we are fed up? It's very frustrating to feel captive to this for-profit public service.”

12) “Yes, I get those notices too. The only way this could be true is if no one was ever home or used their PG&E. Everything in my house is energy efficient, my heater is on a timer, and I'm on the bundle package and the economy use, high time is 4p-9p weekdays. Yet it still is getting higher and I'm concerned. I really think PG&E should be sharing their profits with us users and use some of that to repair the lines that they are responsible for and not be charging us!”

13) “This is the profit motive, pure and simple. The little guy or gal doesn't stand a chance.”

(Correspondent’s note: Yes, “profit motive” is to blame in the most anti-corporation, most regulated, most “consumer protection” blue state in America)

14) “Well you all keep voting democrats and climate change agendas, the energy bills have no where to go but higher and higher. Renewable energy does not work. When we shut down natural gas, hydroelectric, nuclear, and fossil fuel generation plants. There’s just not enough energy. Expect higher prices, brown outs and blackouts.”

Bonus question. What mixes worse: cats and dogs, oil and water, or San Francisco progressives and reality?

Thursday, March 7, 2024

A Political and Economic History of China, Part 12: The Kangxi Emperor Launches the “High Qing”

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5 MIN READ - The Cautious Optimism Correspondent for Economic Affairs and Other Egghead Stuff wraps up the reign of China's storied Kangxi emperor (r. 1661-1722) who ushered in the middle kingdom's last imperial golden age.

Ming vs Qing Dynasty territories at their peaks (1750's regions
added after Kangxi and error: the Ming did not control Taiwan)

In the last installment we discussed the opening decades of the greatest emperor of China’s last dynasty, the Qing. 

Kangxi (pronounced "kahng-shee") would occupy the throne longer than any emperor in Chinese history at 61 years. At age 22 he found himself opposed by five simultaneous rebellions which he skillfully put down.

He ousted the last Ming dynasty loyalists from Taiwan, making him the first Chinese sovereign to ever possess and govern the island. And he solidified foreign Manchurian rule over China’s much larger ethnic Han population.


It’s worth noting that Kangxi also brought prosperity to the Chinese, something they hadn’t experienced for a very long time. Historians record the late 1600’s as the beginning of the “High Qing” or “Prosperous Era of Kangxi and Qianlong” (his grandson).

In the era leading up to the Qing conquest (1644) China's economy had endured a lengthy upheaval under the decaying, corrupt, and generally apathetic Ming dynasty. The “Little Ice Age” had reduced crop yields in the mid/late 1500’s and led to famines by the early 1600’s. A historic plague was the final nail in the Ming’s coffin, breaking out in the late 1630’s.

Shortly afterwards China was wrecked by rebellion and civil war with a peasant army eventually fighting its way into Beijing, just before the Manchurian Qing took advantage of the situation and successfully invaded from the northeast, taking all of China for themselves.

Decades of internal resistance followed including the “Revolt of the Three Feudatories” (1673-1681) that pitted Qing armies against rebelling and highly organized Ming loyalists in the south.

By the time Kangxi finally pacified China (1683) the country had suffered through one calamity after another for well over a century. Hence prosperity, which no one alive by then could remember, was a welcome change for suffering Chinese.

How did Kangxi deliver economic good times? While details from the Qing’s late 17th century economic policies aren’t as plentiful as, say… America’s Ronald Reagan era, historians universally focus on three major reforms.

First, Kangxi opened four trading ports to the outside world.

The Mongol Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) had encouraged foreign trade, but when the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) overthrew the Yuan its Chinese emperors turned inward and closed Chinese commerce off from the world. One Ming emperor famously kicked the Dutch traders out of mainland China and told them to set up shop in Taiwan instead.

The Qing reopened commercial trade with foreigners (at first) leading to far more markets for its products.

Second, Kangxi enacted reforms against corruption. The emperor was a workaholic about stopping shady officials from squeezing the public and he implemented land reforms that ended the arbitrary government seizure of farmers’ property. He also worked tirelessly to reform the bureaucracy and reduce opportunities for graft as much as possible.

Third, Kangxi enacted significant tax cuts.

Yes, you heard that right, tax cuts. And that part is cited more frequently in the history books than any of his other reforms.

Even more incredibly a near unanimity of historians credit Kangxi’s tax cuts for the giant economic boom that followed—which is strange considering how many historians, being the intellectuals they are, love left-wing socialist policies while so despising tax cuts that they curse Ronald Reagan as America’s Great Satan for the sin of lowering taxes. 

Kangxi’s tax cuts, open trade, and anti-land seizure reforms collectively exemplify the diametric opposite of big-government socialism, yet historians still credit “all of the above” for ushering in China’s lengthy era of Qing prosperity. Go square that circle.

Not only that, the Qing's treasury swelled with tax revenue; from 14.9 million silver taels in 1668 to 50 million taels by 1709.

And here I thought free marketers who claim tax cuts actually increase government revenues were supposed to be flat-earth, voodoo economics neanderthals?

Incidentally the Qing treasury’s reserves did decline somewhat by Kangxi’s final year—to 33 million taels, still far higher than in 1668—due to wars he waged near the end of his reign.


In the middle and last decades of Kangxi’s reign several frictions with foreigners arose. 

The first would initiate two centuries of northern border disputes with imperial Russia. In 1685 Qing forces confronted Russian Cossacks who set up settlements in what the Qing considered Chinese territory. The Qing army set siege to and eventually destroyed the settlements but were merciful to the defeated Russians. However, one year later a larger Cossack force returned leading to another battle followed by diplomatic negotiations (by which time nearly all the Russians had died) whereby Russia recognized Qing territorial claims and withdrew all its settlements.

As the Qing weakened in the 19th century the Russians would return to seize huge tracts of Manchurian land which they still hold today.

In the 1690’s a civil war between Mongol tribes to the northwest pushed the losing side into China where they agreed to serve as Qing vassals. The victorious tribe, the Dzungars (who would reappear over and over in ensuing decades), pursued their rivals deep into Chinese territory sparking war with the Qing.

In 1696 a large Qing army led by Kangxi himself made the long trek deep into barren Dzungar territory and defeated the Mongol army which retreated further west, as far as present-day southern Kazakhstan. Kangxi annexed what was left of western Mongolia as well as pieces of eastern Xinjiang and southern Siberia.

Two decades later the Dzungars returned, this time invading Tibet (1717). Kangxi sent his army on another long trek into the remote and inhospitable region where they joined forces with local Tibetans. After driving the Dzungars out Kangxi installed the seventh Dalai Lama who was friendly to the Qing, and he left a garrison in Lhasa since Tibet was now effectively a tributary state.

Prior to the Qing, the Ming dynasty’s territory had encompassed land from Beijing southwards through most of eastern China. But when adding Qing victories over Taiwan, Mongolia, eastern Xinjiang, Tibetan deference, and its original Manchurian homelands Kangxi had more than doubled the size of China’s territories to their greatest extent ever—although his grandson would enlarge China even further to an all-time peak.

Finally there was internal friction with Jesuit missionaries or more precisely the Catholic Church.

Up until the early 1700’s a succession of Yuan and Ming emperors enjoyed good relations with Jesuits who they relied upon for expertise in science, mathematics, and astronomy. The Jesuits in turn adopted some Chinese customs, studied Confucian ideas and eastern philosophy, and sent a great deal of information about the Far East back to Europe. It was a mutually beneficial relationship and over many centuries both sides respected and even admired the other. Kangxi was no exception.

Things changed when the Dominican position of Pope Clement XI led to a change of policy from the church. A representative of the Vatican was sent to Beijing who advised Kangxi that Confucian rites and ancestor worship were heretic and missionaries and converts would be banned from partaking. Clement also decreed any missionary or convert partaking in Confucian ceremonies, building ancestral shrines, and observing Confucian holidays would be excommunicated.

Kangxi didn’t take well to the changes and assumed a new distrust of Christianity in general. By 1721 Kangxi outlawed Christian preaching and closed missions, and his own decrees on the subject fully reversed what had been his overwhelmingly positive written opinions of Europeans in 1692 (excerpts from both in postscript).

From 1721 onwards western religion would undergo a tense on-again, off-again presence within China through the end of the Qing dynasty, followed by a brief revival under Chiang Kai-Shek (who himself converted to Christianity in 1930), before being squelched under the always-atheist communists.

Postscript: Kangxi's changing views on Europeans and Christianity.

Kangxi on westerners in 1692: 

“The Europeans are very quiet; they do not excite any disturbances in the provinces, they do no harm to anyone. They commit no crimes and their doctrine has nothing in common with that of the false sects of the empire. Nor has it any tendency to excite sedition.”

Kangxi in 1721, after reading Pope Clement XI's order banning all Chinese converts from partaking in Confucian rites, ancestor worship, or holidays: 

“Reading this proclamation, I have concluded that the westerners are petty indeed. It is impossible to reason with them because they do not understand larger issues as we understand them in China. I have never seen a document which contains so much nonsense. From now on, westerners should not be allowed to preach in China to avoid further trouble.”

Sunday, March 3, 2024

"Bring Algebra Back" Proposition on San Francisco's Ballot

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2 MIN READ - A Peoples Republic of San Francisco March ballot update from the Cautious Optimism Correspondent for Left Coast Affairs and Other Inexplicable Phenomena.

The Left Coast Correspondent received this flyer in the mail for San Francisco Proposition G. It’s no coincidence the largest sponsor is Asian and that it reads in both English and Chinese.

A decade ago the progressive San Francisco Board of Education decided to do away with 8th grade algebra. It seems the problem was not enough black and Hispanic students were passing, so better to force everyone to wait until 9th grade in the hopes of raising passing rates for the bottom students.

Of course pushing algebra back a year meant 12th grade calculus got pushed to… well, out of the curriculum, which can be a real problem for higher performing students trying to get accepted by the nation’s better universities. But who cares about them? San Francisco politicians were trying to make everyone more equal.

After outcries from some parents the board decided to generously allow students to take 12th grade calculus, but in order to do so they would have to “double up,” still taking algebra in the 9th grade while simultaneously cramming in geometry the very same year—a course that’s supposed to follow one year later, followed by algebra II, then trigonometry/pre-calculus.

Parents who cared about their kids’ education were forced to make them take two years worth of math in a single year to have any chance of getting into a good college, particularly in science or engineering programs.

Of course the kids got very stressed out taking both math courses at the same time, but many dedicated parents hired private tutors to make the unnaturally burdensome agenda easier.

The parents who could afford tutors that is.

As for the poorer minority parents with talented and motivated kids of their own, too bad. They didn’t have the money so their kids were shackled with another handicap.

Which is how the progressive “drag everyone down to the same level” policies have repeatedly backfired over the years. Under the new system, designed to coddle the poorest performing students to allegedly help black and Hispanic kids, San Francisco progressives widened the divide between white/Asian and other minorities’ achievement scores by aligning their chances of getting ahead with the size of their parents’ bank accounts.

But why worry? Progressive school board members and SF politicians make huge $$$, so their kids go to private schools where 8th grade algebra has been legal all along. Or for those whose kids actually go to public schools they can afford to hire tutors.

Obviously this whole debacle has had the Asian parents up in arms for years since they care about their kids’ math and science performance more than any other demographic—hence the heavily Asian sponsors of this March 5th proposition to “bring algebra back.”

18 months ago Asians organized to oust San Francisco’s left-wing District Attorney, and former pro bono counsel for Hugo Chavez’s socialist government, Chesa Boudin because all the criminals he was releasing disproportionately preyed on Asians.

When if ever Asian voters in blue cities and blue states will figure out that the Democratic Party and left-progressives are not their friends is beyond the Left Coast Correspondent’s predictive powers. It seems the unremitting propaganda of “Republicans are racist against Asians” keeps them in fear... i.e. in line and reliably voting Democrat year after year.