The Underlying Crisis

Unfortunately, we have to admit that Western missionaries -- both Protestant and Roman Catholic -- had something in common with consul Fontanier and his kind. A young American woman, a preacher of the Word, is riding on the horseback in Shansi Province in 1898. A Chinese villager calls her "a foreign devil" (common derogative for the aliens) from far away; she catches up with him and treats him with her whip. Worst of all, no one of her fellow missionaries seems to have any problem with that...[12]

Arrogance and contempt are often explained away by "cultural differences". There are indeed enough peculiarities in the Chinese culture, from an evasive manner of speech (mistaken by many for deception), unusual food, clothing, and hygienic rules, to the already mentioned addiction to drugs, propensity for litigation (some Chinese viewed conversion to Christianity as a means to prevail over the contestants in numerous lawsuits), swindling, and horrible custom of killing the "unneeded" newborn. All that is true, and all that could be counted as an excuse for someone who came here as a merchant -- but hardly as a Christian missionary.

Considering Sino-Western relations in general, including politics, commerce, culture and religion, we have to conclude that the events of 1900 were caused not by the "transgressions" of the West, but by the very nature of the Western influences. The ancient Chinese state could be seen as a victim of the conflict between opposing trends within the Western culture itself, -- or, in other words, of its crisis.[13]

Tragically, Russia took her part in the "slicing of the melon". A. Solzhenitsyn observes that

" was wrong for Russia not only morally, but also practically, to overstep her vast natural boundaries. The Russian government since 1895 joined forces with the European powers in the Far East, which resulted in the shameful act of sending troops to Beijing in 1900: for many decades China had been weak, and all international predators were scrambling to take a bite."[14]

We shall see below to which extent Solzhenitsyn is justified in calling Russian military operation "shameful"; but in any case, there is much to lament here, both in particular -- when Russian names are mentioned in connection with violence against the civilians, -- and in general, when we speak of Russian involvement in Manchuria, of Russo-Japanese war, and the following events. And, as always, the enemies of Russia use every opportunity for their advancement:

"British policy of the moment was to play up to Germany and defeat Russian territorial ambitions in the Far East. For that policy decision, nameless Chinese villagers would die of English bullets."[15]

[12] Brandt, p. 152
[13] Arthur N. Holcomb. Chinese Problem. The Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences, Vol.3, 1930
[14] A.I. Solzhenitsyn. Russkij Vopros k Konysu XX Veka. Novyj Mir, 7, 1994
[15] O'Connor, p. 299