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how was the Chinese Empire different from the British and the French?


China has always been one of the strongest empires in the world. As the Chinese empire played a significant role in ancient history, it was always based on the tributary system. In every single era, the emperor was a symbol of that particular ruling dynasty that he belonged to in the first place. In every period, one thing was quite evident. China wanted to mark its territory over other areas so that it could protect itself from becoming a beneficiary territory. The primary means by which China had connections all around the world was ‘trade’. It was because of the purpose of trade that almost all neighboring countries had good relations with China. Trade between different countries and China has helped develop more opportunities for China. The imperial system in China existed until 1912. After that, it just ended under the Qing dynasty. There were a number of similarities and differences between the Chinese, British, and French Empires. However, all three empires dealt with everything in their dynasties in a totally different way. The primary subject of discussion is to highlight how the Chinese Empire differed from the British and the French.

Mission to Civilize:

The culture of the Chinese empire had an ideology known as the ideology of Confucianism. This ideology helped in redirecting the whole system of the Chinese empire. As China had its own differences from the British and the French, this ideology states that the British culture was more outgoing and developed more outwardly than the Chinese empire at that time. At that time, China was eager to do anything to maintain good relations with other countries, which is why they introduced the idea of free trade. They had a mission to civilize the Chinese culture at that time. There are cultural, economic, and political differences between China and the empires of France and the British. In reference to the Chinese empire, the Qing era plays a very significant role. The Qing era was actually the time when there was greater interaction between the Chinese Empire with the British and the French Empire, which is how it was easy to rule out how the Chinese Empire was nothing like the French or the British Empire. Qing China was considered a centric empire at that time. They created an imperial culture in China to gain geographical unification in that region. Compared to the British and the French empires, they were global entities and had affairs at a global level, which was unlikely in China’s empire. There was greater competition among these two empires than between the Chinese empire. The main areas of this continent were in constant war with one another. They were all eager to gain the upper hand in this war zone and be the only ruling party in that particular empire.

The mandate of heaven:

Confucianism played a very significant role in the imperial unification of the Chinese empire. The ideology of Confucianism plays a very important role in defining the hierarchy levels of the superiors and the inferiors, who were a part of the Chinese civilization. The ideology of Confucianism introduced the concept of the ‘Mandate of Heaven.’ This idea basically revolved around modernism. The idea of the mandate of heaven had more to do with the French and the British Empire than the Chinese Empire. This was the first step which was taken during the Qing Empire. Although this whole idea of the Mandate of Heaven was a concept that was brought forward by the foreigners, however, it did have a great impact on the Chinese empire. The Chinese Ambassador Macartney gained a lot of practical experience during this time. It was easy for him to know how different the whole Chinese civilization was compared to the French and the British. When the Chinese empire adopted the culture of the mandate of heaven it did add an unreal uniqueness to the imperial unification of the Chinese. The imperial unification was something that both the French and the British lacked. The mandate of heaven was not only about one thing. It not only helped defeat the enemies but also helped prove the incompetence of the government. The whole century was about revolutions and changes that none of these civilizations saw coming in the first place.

As far as Britain and France were concerned, they had their own strategies that gave them a competitive edge in economic acquisition. What China lacked at that time was the motivation to deal with the conquest. There was a formality of an official document that was presented at that time; it showed the importance of legacy at that time, and none of it can be denied as it was the highlight of this whole era. Britain and France had everything ruled out regularly. At that time British India was governed by the direct and the indirect ruling of the emperors. The distances involved in these two significant detailed areas were undeniable. Due to the critical logistics, the Qing was left with no choice except to lure the Manchus closer to China’s territory so that they could conquer them in the same territory(Clan D.B 2008). These logistics presented a clear picture at that time and it was quite similar to the French and the British. The comparison of the government shows that China’s concentration of force in one, albeit huge, geographical area. Compromises in governance in local contexts were preferred by Europeans over a China-style direct unification. However, such compromises always favored Europeans, such as the ‘doctrine of lapse’ used from the 1840s in British India to bring semi-autonomous princely states with no heir into direct rule. The British doctrine was all about forcing their rules and regulations and the imperial power was not able to stay in front of these overruling parties. In the era of the Qing dynasty, a number of significant changes were brought forward. These socio-cultural changes in China were quite revolutionary. Compared to the French and the British, in the 1800s the French and the British were more focused on the ‘vision to civilize’. The one thing that was quite different between the Chinese Empire and the French was the way they dealt with everything. The French had this hard and fast rule they believed in imposing their ideas and thoughts rather than implying them to see the results. This argument never left the discussion because they planned to defeat the conquerors. The fact that Qing system of tributary was not exactly based on Western styles, there was an imperial relationship between these styles. China placed emphasis on cultural restoration. China was considered an empire with true cultural values and was not based on any theoretical or cultural concepts.

The concept of Confucian, which was based on imperialism, was rather passive as compared to the European equivalent. From the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, it goes without saying that the idea of free trade was particularly taken from the French and the British. It was a universal fact at that time that everyone seemed to believe that commerce played a very important role in all these civilizations. However, Qing China had no radical ideas or steps that were similar to the policies that were implemented in the French or British civilizations. At that time, the demand to change the policies was a cry for help. The Chinese civilization had no idea how these changes would be hard work and would bring about a revolutionary era for everyone who was a part of that civilization. French and British had an independent system which was nothing like the Chinese empire and all they had had to offer to their people. They had aggressive ideologies and with this aggressive approach, the outcome was not healthy. The international markets in China were forced to stay open to susceptible trade on an international level. China never welcomed the free trade, of course, it was always eager to make better communication grounds with the other countries however it always resisted the idea of free trade. They did not get any comparative advantages as compared to the French and the British empires. The Qing’s market at that time was too stable for even their own economy, and it showed their aggressive approach and how they were not able to manage the basic ideologies related to the French and the British. Confucianism basically refers to the morality of the farmers and artists who were placed in China at that time. Unlike the French and even Britain, this offered a large area for the workers to work in that particular rural area. Confucianism was a direction that helped the Chinese society at that time. In comparison to this, France and Britain were considered geographically stable in terms of treatment and ideology. China has done a great job adapting to these changes as they did not want to abandon their traditional roots and culture. (French Revolution)


As has already been mentioned in this paper, the Chinese Empire is nothing like the French and British Empires, as they were based on the ideas of free trade and Western outward cultures. China has always been too reluctant to accept these two ideologies. I believe the West is more fond of modern culture and more eager to accept the challenges brought forward than China. However, currently, the West is not successful in maintaining success at a global level. This is a debatable topic, however, I strongly agree that if we look at the bigger picture the Chinese empire is nothing like the French and the British. The leader, let alone, was not in favor of modernism, and that is something that has a huge impact on the modern culture of the Chinese civilization. It felt as If one of those times where this is an amazing piece of debate where people try to relate these two totally opposite empires based on the trade they might have shared. Free trade was never promoted in China, and the West was all about free trade. Chinese empire worked in a completely different manner because they were too reluctant at that time, and they did not want to let go of their cultural roots and holding on to them made everything look different for these civilizations, which were being compared to the Chinese empire.


Cobden, R. (1841) Debate on the Repeal of the Corn Laws, The Times

French Revolution (2016) Encyclopaedia Britannica [Online] Available at (Accessed 2 February 2017)

Chan, D. B. (2008) ‘Hongwu’ in Encyclopaedia Britannica [Online] Available at (Accessed 2 February 2017)



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