The system of government decision-making and its changes in the late Qing
The government decision-making in the middle and late Qing Dynasty was mainly shown in the process of how government documents and memorials to the emperor were dealt with. Officials who were authorized with the right to submit memorials to the emperor drafted reports on the state affairs to ask for permissions or offer their own opinions, and the emperor replied to them with absolute power. In the late Qing, the Grand Council (Junjichu), the Six Boards (Bu), Zongli Yamen and other institutions were frequently consulted during the two periods of the empress dowagers’ “administering the state affairs behind the curtain” (chui lian ting zheng), so the higher officials’ role in dealing with state affairs gradually increased. The monarch’s routine approval of higher officials’ suggestions made these institutions to a large extent participated in the daily decision-making. However, the monarch’s authority of final decision-making remained unchanged until the establishment of Yuan Shikai’s cabinet in November 1911 when all government affairs followed the cabinet orders. Then the monarch’s decision-making power became void, and the Qing was actually turned into a constitutional monarchy.
KEYWORDS: The late Qing government decision-making administering the state affairs behind the curtain the Grand Council responsible cabinet absolute monarchy
Changes in China’s fiscal system in the late Qing
In the late Qing, due to frequent large-scale wars, the Board of Revenue (hubu) and provincial treasuries were often in a state of great difficulties, struggling to support the wartime needs. After the central government was forced to delegate the authority of fundraising, tax collection and expenditure to the provinces, the provincial governments had to rely on themselves to relieve financial difficulties. Hence, within the centralized and unified traditional fiscal system, the provincial finance was getting stronger, forming the new pattern that the central and provincial governments had equal control of finance. The allocation system of the national financial resources changed from the direct appropriation of funds from the Board of Revenue to the appropriation according to needs of provinces based on consultations with the provinces. In the later period of the Guangxu reign, the central government actively introduced the western fiscal budget system in order to solve the financial problems and prevent chaos. In revenue and expenditure, the Qing government adhered to the traditional principle of “adjusting expenditure according to the income” (liang ru wei chu), while in the wartime or when the demand of funds substantially increased due to the enforcement of the New Policy Reform, it became trapped in the predicament between the traditional principle and the new principle of “adjusting income according to the expenditure” (liang chu wei ru). When the modern budget system was implemented in the late Qing, the central government resolutely put into effect the above two principles into practical budgetary planning, trying to balance between the steady and the positive policies for expanding financial resources. However, the fiscal reform failed to save the Qing government from ultimate falling after the 1911 Revolution started.
KEYWORDS: Fiscal system in the late Qing fiscal budget system wartime finance Qing government
The reform of the legal system in the late Qing
Facing the invasion of foreign powers and the existence of consular jurisdiction, the Qing government started the legal system reform in the New Policy Reform in the 1900s. Headed by Shen Jiaben, the legal reformers followed the practice of European Continental Law and the Japanese legal system. They revised the traditional Chinese laws to achieve a legal system of lighter punishment, less cruelty and more equality. They also drafted new laws that did not exist before, such as criminal law, civil law, commercial law and procedural law. This reform broke the traditional Chinese system of legal codes in which all kinds of laws were included. The traditional Chinese legal system thus was quickly replaced by a modern legal system that composed of constitution, civil law, criminal law, civil procedure law, criminal procedure law, and administrative law. The legal reform in the late Qing, though profound and influential, reflected the characteristics of a transitional system in which the old and new coexisted and the Chinese and Western legal systems were combined.
KEYWORDS: New Policy Reform transplantation of law revision of law in late Qing The Great Qing Code Shen Jiaben
Extrajudicial deliberations in the late Qing local government: the case of Du Fengzhi
Du Fengzhi, a county magistrate in Guangdong province in the late Qing dynasty, recorded hundreds of legal cases in his diary. In addition to the details of cases and the process of dealing, he also recorded his own observations, doubts, analyses, judgments and deliberations. The diary reflected not only how he dealt with cases, but also the reasons for his decisions. From the diary, we know that Du’s actual judicial power far exceeded the provisions of the Qing law. However, the judicial resources he possessed and the political and social reality he faced often made it difficult for him to deal with legal cases abiding by the statute law, and in many cases the truth could not even be found at all. Therefore, he often ignored the evidence of the case and dealt with them in violation of law. His first consideration was to maintain his position in the officialdom, safeguard his own economic interests and reduce trouble. He also paid attention to the unwritten rules of officialdom and the comments of local gentries. In some cases, he showed his compassion for the poor, orphans and the widowed as well. This article discusses two cases in detail to reflect Du’s various deliberations in dealing with legal cases.
KEYWORDS: The late Qing dynasty local officials Du Fengzhi’s diary law judicial power
From envoy journals to legation reports: regulating knowledge of the world in late imperial and modern China
Jenny Huangfu DAY
In the Qing dynasty, the diary-form for intelligence gathering was perfected by Tuli?en, whose travelogue to Central Asia allowed the Kangxi emperor’s “imperial eyes” to assume vicarious witness to that heroic journey. Prior to China’s stationing of resident ministers abroad in 1876, envoy journals similar to Tuli?en’s were commonly used for information gathering. In the next three decades, the genre of envoy communication became a fertile field for trials and experimentations, as Qing diplomats adjusted their method of communication to the changing needs of the state and the prevalent media and information technology. When the Qing dynasty established China’s first bureau of foreign affairs (Waiwubu) in 1901, the modern-style “foreign office” required radically new genres for diplomatic communication, which prioritized systemization, standardization, and a complete elimination of subjective experience. These diplomatic reports, akin to Western-style bluebooks, were separated from classified information and thus designed for domestic circulation. Tracing the evolution in diplomatic communications from late imperial China to the turn of the twentieth century, this paper seeks to unpack how new views of the foreign were shaped by new genres, new media, and new diplomatic institutions.
KEYWORDS: Diplomacy late Qing foreign relations knowledge production travel writing
Evolution of the social relief system in late Qing and its impacts
The Chinese social relief system, first established in the eighteenth century, had already faced enormous pressure during the late Qing period. Impacted by the West and galvanized by China’s domestic social transformation, however, the Chinese social relief system embarked on some new development unseen before, including diversified famine relief mechanisms, socialization of famine relief granaries, and the development of inclusive philanthropy. The above development is a testament to the fact that the social relief system of late Qing gradually moved away from the old, state-dominated model and became an integral part of the social transformation in modern China.
KEYWORDS: Social relief social transformation charitable donation charity granary Late Qing period
The impacts of the end of civil service examinations in modern Chinese history