Traditionally, Chinese rulers would not deal with any outsider unless they presented themselves as a supplicant and recognized or at least pretended to recognize the Chinese Emperor as their superior. This attitude persisted for almost the entirety of Chinese history. For example, when China and Japan first established diplomatic relations things got off to a bad start as the message from the Emperor of Japan to the Emperor of China was addressed as ‘from the land where the sun rises to the land where the sun sets’ referring to Japan being to the east of China. However, the Chinese took this as being extremely rude and offensive as they saw it as implying that the Emperor of Japan was the equal of the Emperor of China. Move forward many, many centuries in time and we can see again the case of the first British diplomatic mission to China which ran into a considerable obstacle over the refusal of the British ambassador to present himself as a subject and kowtow before the Manchu Emperor, getting down on both knees and touching his forehead to the floor. Today, the Chinese Communist kleptocracy claims that any ruler or representative of a ruler who recognized the Chinese Emperor as his superior or overlord in this fashion was effectively making his country a part of China when, as we can see, this would apply to almost every foreign ruler or dignitary any Chinese Emperor ever met because they would not deal with anyone unless they assumed such a posture.
|Viet envoys to Qing court in China|
Obviously, no one today would consider Korea or Vietnam to be a part of China nor any of the other neighboring countries which paid tribute to the Chinese Emperor. Problems, and confusion, arise partly because of the different understanding of what makes a country. As stated earlier, the Chinese did not view their country as “China” in the same way that foreigners viewed their own countries. When the Chinese referred to their country, when not referring to it as the broader “Middle Kingdom” the Chinese always referred to the dynasty so that the country was whatever territory the Emperor had under his direct control which might have included most, some or even relatively little of what is labeled as China on maps of today. So, rather than saying “China” the Chinese would refer to their country, under the Ming Dynasty for example, as the “Great Ming Empire” (Ta Ming Kuo) and then as the “Great Qing Empire” (Ta Qing Kuo) under the Manchurian dynasty. The Ming Empire, for example, included all of “China” which is to say the historic lands sometimes referred to (somewhat oddly) as “China proper” but did not include Tibet, Mongolia or Manchuria though parts of southern Manchuria and southern Mongolia were under Ming rule for a relatively short time. Today, what the Chinese government likes to claim is that territory which was part of the Great Qing Empire at its height, which included Tibet, Mongolia and Manchuria (obviously, as the Qing Dynasty was the native dynasty of Manchuria) as well as smaller parts of various neighboring powers.
|Emperor Nurhaqi of Manchuria|
This is the history: When the Ming Empire was in its final days the Qing Dynasty was already well established as the leaders of the Empire of Manchuria. The Manchu Emperor formed an alliance with the Mongols and was granted sovereignty over them when the son of Ligden Khan (last Mongol Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty that had previously ruled most of Asia) handed the imperial seal over to the Manchu Emperor Hong Taiji, who was himself the son of the first Qing Emperor Nurhaqi. Thus Hong Taiji became Emperor of Manchuria and Great Khan of Mongolia. Meanwhile, to the south, the Ming Empire was coming apart. In 1644 Peking was taken by the rebel army of Li Zicheng with the last Ming Emperor, Chongzhen, committing suicide. Li Zicheng proclaimed himself the master of a new Shun Dynasty but a combined force of Chinese, Manchu and Mongol troops ousted him and he disappeared, making the Manchu Emperor Shunzhi the ruler of China, having dispatched an illegitimate usurper and restoring peace and order to China, which became part of the Great Qing Empire -an empire that already existed in Manchuria and Mongolia. Emperor Shunzhi also received an official visit by His Holiness the “Great Fifth” Dalai Lama. The Qing emperors had been protectors of the Tibetan style of Buddhism since the reign of Nurhaqi and, of course, there were deep ties between Mongolia and Tibet with the Mongols having helped establish the Dalai Lamas in the first place and with the Dalai Lamas holding spiritual authority over Mongolia as well as Tibet.
|Emperor KangXi of the Great Qing|
Hopefully, this has made clear the absurdity of the Republic of China (and more so the People’s Republic of China) claiming Tibet, Mongolia and Manchuria to have “always” been a part of China. When the revolution occurred, Manchuria naturally had no part in it and Mongolia and Tibet were both quick to make clear to the rest of the world that they were independent, issuing joint declarations to that effect. This was because their association with China was based solely on their relationship with the Qing Emperor and not the country of China itself. Once the Manchu Emperor was deprived of his throne, all deals were off. That independence was temporarily retained for Tibet, remaining independent until communist Chinese troops conquered the country in 1951. Mongolia (or at least Outer Mongolia) remains independent to this day though it was certainly not an easy achievement. Manchuria became, effectively, a warlord “monarchy” ruled by a warlord father and son in succession while they offered nominal allegiance to the Republic of China. All of that changed when the Japanese occupied Manchuria and in 1932 independence was declared for the State of Manchuria, later to be fully restored as the Empire of Manchuria. That, of course, is what should have happened from the beginning and some Chinese officials even admitted as much.
|Empire of Manchuria|