As Canadians, there is a sense that international collaboration has acted and continues to act as a positive force in the world today. Yet certain events serve as a reminder that the foundations of our international relationships have sometimes developed not out of cooperation, but out of aggression and intervention.
The Boxer Rebellion unfolded during the high tide of imperialism at the turn of the 20th century. In response to pressure from foreign diplomatic and religious influences, the Boxers, or the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists, rose as an anti-foreign Buddhist sect, taking control over large swaths of Northern China resulting in the deaths of some 200 Western missionaries and over 2000 Chinese Christian converts. The international involvement to put down the Boxer Rebellion, through an eight nation alliance which occupied and divided Beijing, not only provides a litmus test to measure the imperial ambitions of Western nations, but also speaks to what happens when our communications have broken down and civil methods for resolving international crises have been exhausted. In this episode, Kyle Pritchard sits down with Blaine Chiasson about the historical importance of the rebellion and how questions around war and empire continue to shape multilateral relations today.
Blaine Chiasson is an associate professor in Chinese History at Wilfrid Laurier University with a specialization in the history of colonization in Northeastern China. He is currently working on a history of the occupation of Beijing and Tianjin by the Eight Nation Alliance during and after the Boxer Rebellion.