China's anti-Christian movement after the Opium War was a very serious problem not only for the Chinese society, but also for its diplomatic relations. In particular, France's legal rights approved by the Protectorate over Catholic Missions in China ...
China's anti-Christian movement after the Opium War was a very serious problem not only for the Chinese society, but also for its diplomatic relations. In particular, France's legal rights approved by the Protectorate over Catholic Missions in China caused many problems. The Qing Dynasty planned to establish a diplomatic relationship with the Vatican to restrict unjust acts of Catholic missionaries of France and solve religious education problems. The Vatican also planned to establish a hierarchy in China and tried to administer China's Catholic authorities after the abolition of the Protectorate over Catholic Missions in Portugal.
Such mutual efforts led to direct negotiations between the Qing Dynasty and the Vatican under the leadership of Lihongzhang for a diplomatic relationship in the 1880s. Although these direct negotiations did not succeed because of France's interference, they, and the changing international circumstances, motivated the government officials of the Qing Dynasty to actively promote a diplomatic relationship between the Qing Dynasty and the Vatican. However, the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Qing Dynasty was not very active. Then, why did the Qing Dynasty failed to establish a diplomatic relationship with the Vatican after Lihongzhang's failure
First of all, the conditions of a diplomatic relationship were not very mature at that time. France underwent changes in political and religious relationships, but it could not renounce its substantial benefits from China and did not completely withdraw from intervening in China's Catholic affairs. If the Chinese government had turned its back on France and established a direct diplomatic relationship with the Vatican, France would not have tolerated it. Later as a democratic state, the Chinese government was still intervened in by France when interacting with the Vatican.
At that time, Yikuang was steering the foreign affairs in China. However, his political insights and leadership qualities were far inferior to those of Lihongzhang. Many Chinese officials demanded a diplomatic relationship with the Vatican with a much more detailed and attainable plan, Yikuang only stressed its negative effects and refused to promote it. Thus, neither the Vatican nor the Qing Dynasty established matured conditions for their diplomatic relationship.
Second, the conflicts between citizens and religion alleviated and the Qing Dynasty was not very desperate about its diplomatic relationship with the Vatican. In the late 19th Century, the Qing Dynastic attempted to establish a diplomatic relationship with the Vatican to regulate and uniform the Catholic activities in China. However, the Catholic Church began to see the problems of its missionary activities after the shock of the Boxer Rebellion and other anti-church conflicts in the early 20th Century. In result, it reviewed and improved a few unjust customs of its missionary affairs. In return, the Chinese people, including the folk religious leaders and the commoners, approved of the fact that the Church exists in China and discarded blinded doubts and exclusion. Under these circumstances, it was not very desperate for the Qing Dynasty to establish a diplomatic relationship with the Vatican to dispatch envoys, and instruct and regulate the Catholic missions in China.