Even before the Opium Wars, it was clear to many in China that Qing leadership was failing. Hong Xiuquan took it upon himself to do something about the situation. After failing the imperial examinations, he fell ill and experienced a vision, in which he was commanded by the Christian God to “kill the demons” (Schoppa, 71). When he was imprisoned for sedition, the power vacuum resulted in the ascendancy of more radical leaders. They decided that the “demons” were Manchus and created a rival government (Schoppa, 72).
In the ensuing battles, Qing forces suffered defeat after defeat. The Taipings, as the rebels became known, sought to reverse China’s decline with the principles of equality and community. By creating a Christian Chinese utopia, the Taipings hoped to make China prosper once again.
However, these goals were never realized. The Taipings were poor administrators, which meant that all of their economic reforms were never actually implemented, which in turn lead to discontent within the organization. A combination of internal chaos and external pressure eventually led to the failure of the movement (Schoppa, 77). Had it succeeded, Taiping Christianity alone would not have ended China’s deterioration. The Taipings had no more chance against the West than did the Qing. Without a modernization program of some sort, the Taiping Rebellion was the wrong revolution to end China’s decline.