Chinese Civil War and Revolution Might Have Been Avoided If Dowager Embraced Constitutional Monarchy

An exhibit at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington DC gives a glimpse of the remarkable life of China’s Empress Dowager Cixi. More videos.

What if the original Dragon Lady, the Empress Dowager Cixi of the Chinese Qing Dynasty and effective ruler of China for 47 years, from 1861 to 1908, had embraced a constitutional monarchy or republican government? China might have been able to avoid a bloody 23-year civil war beginning in 1927 and full-blown revolution in the 1940s.

At the turn of the century, she made the unwise decision to crush reformers who wanted an Imperial Assembly similar in power to the British Parliament. She also mistakenly encouraged the disastrous Boxer Rebellion, “a violent anti-foreign and anti-Christian movement that culminated in a bloody siege of the foreign legations in Beijing,” and massacred Christian missionaries, foreign ministers and their families.

Isabel Hinton in The (UK) Guardian reviews a revisionist history of the Empress Dowager, “the concubine who launched modern China,” suggesting she wasn’t quite as bad as historians have painted her.

(Hat tip, Gavin Bowen, Alternate History Online Facebook Group.)

Drill Deeper:

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