Friday, June 06, 2014

Conquering China: A Bargain with the Devil

This time, it’s going up after a one-day delay. If this situation continues, I will post here immediately, without delay.

We’re lucky that we didn’t win the war on China.

No, not that one. That one, the on-again, off-again war between 1592 and 1598.

Hideyoshi Toyotomi subjugated the last of the warlord holdouts—actually, he forced him to commit hara-kiri—in 1590, bringing the century-long Age of Civil Wars to an end. But Hideyoshi had his eyes on bigger things. He decided that he would next conquer China, which at the time was under the rule of the Ming dynasty. He went on to wage two major if inconclusive campaigns, almost exclusively on the Korean Peninsula, before his death in 1598 brought an end to Japan’s war on China.
A half century later, the Manchurians had better luck—or so it seemed at the time. In 1644, they kicked the Ming dynasty out of Beijing and officially established the Qing dynasty. Qing endured until 1912, when China itself virtually fell apart in the face of the forces of the modern era and took the dynasty with it.  Manchurians did get a rump state, courtesy of Japanese imperialists, in 1931, but that lasted all of 15 years until it was subsumed into China when Japan surrendered to the Allied Forces. They are stateless, and stateless they will be. They will forever remain a minority in the Han Empire known to us as the People’s Republic of China.

The Manchurians were not the first to conquer China. The Mongols had done it much earlier, formally establishing the Yuan dynasty in 1271. They took a little more time to completely do away with its predecessor the Sung dynasty, which had fled south, but the task was finished in 1279. The Yuan dynasty was relatively short-lived, and the all-Han, Ming dynasty set up shop in 1368. The Mongols did get some of their sovereignty back in the early 20th Century as the Qing dynasty, indeed China itself, was falling apart, but most of them were left behind in China—mainly in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, where they are now outnumbered 5-to-1 by the Han.

So the deal appears to be: conquer China, and you get your own dynasty in the Middle Kingdom, the greatest state on the planet, for a couple of centuries, sometimes more, sometimes less. But when your time is up, they get to keep you, and they move in. And that is why I say that we got lucky when Hideyoshi Toyotomi failed to defeat the Ming dynasty.

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