In the early 1800's the Manchu regime of the Ch'ing dynasty, which had ruled China since 1644, was confronted by much turmoil. Famine, revolts in different parts of China, and pirates along the southeastern coasts weakened Imperial authority.

The Opium war demonstrated the superiority of European weapons and in the Treaty of Nanking (1842) the Manchu regime was forced to grant foreign privileges.

In 1860 an Anglo-French force invaded Peking and burnt the famous Summer Palace. The Manchus had to grant still more concessions with disasterous effects on China.

A horrendous Civil War (Taiping Rebellion) and Muslim uprisings in Shensi and Sinkiang weakened the governments power even further. Coastal provinces in the North were ceded to Russia in 1860. 1885 recognition of the French protecorate over Tongking; 1886 cession of Burma to Britain.

As a result of the Sino-Japanese (1894) war Taiwan (Formosa) was lost. 1897 Germany occupied Tsingtao and was granted a consession to built the Shantung railway. Similar agreements were concluded with Russia, Britain, and France and only mutual suspicion prevented a partition of China among the colonial powers.