Chapter 1: Boxer War
The March of Time - 20th Century History
With a PoD in Boxer Rebellion, this TL focuses on the major geopolitical events of the 20th century.


The rise of the Boxer movement

By the beginning of the century, tensions within the Chinese society were reaching a boiling point. After a century of humiliating defeats at the hands of pagan barbarians, the ruling Chi'ing dynasty of the Middle Kingdom had at first witnessed a frantic Westernization program, followed by an internal power struggle where the supporters of reform had been soundly defeated by the arch-conservative Manchu Empress Dowager and her henchmen. While the court schemed and pondered the direction the country should take in the face of Western imperialism, renewed and increased contact with the outside world had shocking and rapid effects to living conditions of the common people.

First the British had gone to war to keep their lucrative opium markets open, and humiliated the obsolete Chinese navy. The following decades had marked a trend where foreigners had been in a position to dictate trade terms that had forcibly ruined Chinese protective tariffs and allowed their domestic markets to be flooded with cheap imports. By the first year of the 20th century, the once flourishing village industries were virtually bankrupt in the face of this foreign competition.

The arrival of foreigners had also brought railroads to compete with the ancient communication and trade routes within the vast Empire. For centuries, the Grand Canal had been the life-vein through which the southern tribute rice had been commuted to the northern China. Now both the Canal and the old Hankow-Peking trade road had both been rendered obsolete by the new railroads, and countless cart drivers, bargemen, innkeepers and rice traders had suddenly found their livelihoods ruined by this foreign invention. To make matters worse these changes had greatly imbalanced the imperial budget. When the growing trade deficit forced the imperial government to raise taxes, dissent among the population soared.

Economy was one thing, but the foreigners were also blamed for the devastation brought along by the Taiping rebels. Even after millions had died and vast areas of China had been ruined to starvation and famine in this bloody and failed revolt, the very same foreign missionaries who had stirred the rebellion in the first place by their alien barbarian religion were now allowed to openly lure Chinese people to their new cult. For many it was easy to link this sacrilege to the troubles and natural disasters that had plagued China in the last years. By the beginning of the century the flooding of the mighty Yellow River had caused widespread destruction, after which severe drought had destroyed crops in Northern China. Hunger was by then nothing new in the Chinese countryside, as the destruction and famines brought along by the Taiping rebellion were within living memory. The previous hardships had already turned the countryside restless, and many villages and towns were already teeming with vagrants and bandits.

When driven to such situation, the people were eager to listen anyone who offered them easy explanations and scapegoats to their problem. The arrogant Westerners were an easy and logical target. Ridding China from their evil influence would surely bring back the natural order of things and restore life to the peaceful and good state of the golden past. It was thus no wonder that the supporters of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists was able to recruit so many Chinese to their superstitious antiforeign movement. The "Boxers", as the members of the movement were later on known in the West due their calisthenic combat rituals, initially sought to both rid China of foreigners and spoke of slaying "one dragon, two tigers and three hundred lambs." In this they were loyal to their anti-dynastic secret society roots and referred to the reform-minded Manchu Emperor Kuang-hsü, and the two Manchu princes and all metropolitan officials who had been contaminated by foreign contact. Despite this initial streak in their ideology, the Boxer movement was ultimately steered towards grimly summarized policy: "support Chi'ing and exterminate the foreigners."

This was largely achieved by the actions of few key officials, especially Yü-hsien, the new governor of Shantung province. After the had openly subsidized the movement and helped it spread despite foreign protests, he was finally summoned to the court to explain his actions. There he managed to portray his policies to the reactionary Manchu princes and officials as beneficial development, and they in turn convinced the Empress Dowager to consider the idea of using the movement to "drive the foreigners away." Gradually the Imperial Woman who was rather uninformed of the rapidly changing outside world due her isolated life in the court was swayed to the viewpoint of these anti-foreign reactionaries, who were equally blind to the geopolitical situation of China. Daily they kept telling her that the Boxers were favoured by the gods and immune to bullets and were thus the right force to restore the dignity of China and expel the troublesome barbarians. The court and Empress Dowager did not change their mind overnight, but gradually the Boxer movement gained more support. In the spring of 1900 groups of Boxers, know calling themselves Righteous and Harmonious Militia, were openly attacking symbols of foreign enslavement. They damaged and destroyed telegraph lines and railways, fully aware that the back in the capitol princes and nobles were now setting up tables to burn incense to their gods, while regular government troops were joining to the ranks of their movement.

Alerted by the deteriorating situation, the foreign diplomatic community in Peking called in more guards from Tientsin harbor. Soon thereafter the Boxers cut the railway the railway between Peking and Tientsin, and more and more Boxers begun to gather to northern China. Now truly alarmed by the quickly deteriorating situation, the foreign legations wired an urgent request of help and reinforcements to the coast. British Admiral Seymour started to move inland with his 2100 men strong multinational force by 10th of June, and soon thereafter contact to Peking was lost as the last telegraph lines were cut. Now no one in the West really knew what was happening in the Chinese capital, but events in Tientsin made foreign governments fear for the safety of their citizens and legates in Peking. By June Boxer groups were roaming in Tientsin virtually unopposed, and they set the streets ablaze. Foreign merchandise and books were burned alongside churches. Christians, missionaries and Chinese converts alike, were hunted and put to death when captured. After the Boxers broke in prison and looted the local government arsenal, the captains of foreign vessels anchored at the outskirts of Taku Forts gathered to an emergency meeting to discuss their options.
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Chapter 2: Taku Forts

The battle of Taku Forts - opening shots of the Boxer Rebellion

Located to the river banks near the city of Tientsin, the Taku forts had a history as a central place in the hostile encounters between Chinese and foreign barbarians. Their geographic position was strategically central at the mouth of the river system that reached Peking further inland and Tientsin closer to the coast, and both sides of the upcoming conflict knew that these gates had to be broken to open a way to the interiour of the Empire. When the tensions within China were escalating in spring 1900, a sizeable flotilla of foreign warships had gathered to the Bohai Bay. Their original task had been to conduct naval maneuvers aimed to pressure the Chi'ing court to take a firmer stand against the rising Boxer movement. Now the captains of these vessels had to make quick and hard choices. Foreigners caught and encircled to Peking, Tientsin and other locations in China had been caught to the midst of Boxer activity and were clearly in dire peril. First rumours of bloodshed and massacres combined to the frustratingly slow reactions of their national governments had made these officers nervous and agitated.

When they gathered to make the fatal decision to deliver an ultimatum to the Chinese garrison, the captains of the foreign warships anchored to the mouth of Pei Ho mentioned the battle of Weihaiwei as a recent example of the weakness of Chinese naval defences. They were also confident due the fact that the forts were actually rather isolated from nearest possible sources of support. Aside from the river itself, only the 50km-railway line linked them to the city of Tientsin, and there mostly Russian force of 2400 international troops had already secured the railway station and the line itself, and now guarded the Foreign Settlement from Boxer attacks. Thus despite the considerable risks and the diplomatic significance of attacking the fortifications, the conference of British, Russian, German, French, Italian, Austrian and Japanese commanders agreed to prepare their ships and crews for combat and deliver and ultimatum to the Chinese garrison demanding their surrender. Only the officers of the US Navy stated that their government had strictly ordered them to remain neutral.

On the sea the foreign fleet was certainly an imposing gathering of naval power. With battleships Sissoi Veliki, Parfleur and Centurion, heavy cruisers D'Entrecasteau, Pascal, Kaiserin Augusta, Hansa, Hertha, Aurora and Kasagi supported by light cruisers Endymion, Gefion, Surprise, Orlando, Gaidamak, Newark, Calabria, Elba, Zenta and destroyers Fame and Whiting at their disposal, they were without doubt the unchallenged masters of the coastal waters of China. Yet there was little this imposing fleet could do to the Taku forts due the shallow waters near the river estuary. Despite of all of their their strength and firepower in the open water, the international fleet gathered at Bohai Bay could only muster a meager attack force to move up the river itself. This force consisted of the old Japanese gunboat Atago, equally outdated French gunboat Lion, British destroyers Fame and Whiting and unarmored sloop Algerine, unarmored German destroyer Iltis and the three Russian gunboats: Bobr and Korietz with their muzzle-loaded cannons, and modern Gilyak. Old american paddle-steamer USS Monocacy was also present, but tried to keep her distance from the upcoming battlefield since she was officially there only offer shelter for Western civilians who had arrived to the area via the railroad to flee from the fighting at Tientsin.

Meanwhile, in their own war council, the Chinese commanders of the Taku Forts took heart by referring to the previous time the foreigners had sought to capture the forts by a naval assault in 1859 during the Opium Wars. While pessimists among them mentioned that that particular conflict and the following conflict with barbarians had all humiliated Chinese forces and ended in defeat, other officers urged them to maintain their courage at the face of these foreign adversaries. They emphasized the fact that during the recent turbulent years the Chinese had certainly not been idle in their attempts to modernize their military forces. The status of the Taku garrison in June 1900 was certainly a good example.


The Hǎi Huā (海花) was one of the four Hǎi Lóng (海龙)-type German-made torpedo destroyers guarding the Taku Forts in June 1900.

The current Taku forts, four in total, were placed in interlocking positions so that two emplacements stood on the north bank and two on the south bank. All four forts were strong mud-brick structures constructed with the help of German engineers. As a part of their reconstruction their older armament had also been extensively supplemented by modern Krupp-made heavy rapid-firing coastal guns. And despite the destruction of the best ships of the Chinese fleet at the hands of the Japanese in the previous war, the Taku forts also had a squadron of Chinese warships at their disposal. The Hǎi Huā and her three other sister ships were all new Hǎi Lóng-type 312-ton torpedo destroyers constructed in Germany by the Elbinger Dampfschiffs-Reederei F. Schichau. When the Chinese garrison begun to mine the river and place torpedo launchers to the shores of the forts, the defenders had every reason to remain confident of their chances to defend "the gates of China" against yet another barbarian invasion.

In postwar research the following events would later on be seen as typical to the early phase of the Boxer Rebellion. The foreigner military forces that were rushed to the scene with inadequate supplies and unclear picture of the situation they were facing underestimated their Chinese opponents due their previous experiences, and then suffered from the consequences of their early hybris.

On the afternoon June 16th the ultimatum presented to the Taku garrison by the captains of the foreign navies was due to expire soon, and the allied ships begun to move upriver in smaller groups to take up positions from which they could disembark their landing parties behind the forts in the cover of darkness. From there the warships were then tasked to move into firing positions and start a barrage against the forts to suppress them and clear the way so that the landing parties could commence the actual assault. But while the fleet was still passing by the Taku forts, a disaster struck. As the allied ships steamed by a Chinese junk which was actually busily laying mines to the river to block their way, Iltis suddenly tilted violently as a heavy explosion echoed in the river.[1] As the unfortunate ship begun to quickly sink due the extensive damage caused by the "electric mine", as the Chinese naval infernal machines would later on be known, gunners on warships and forts were all startled and shocked enough to hastily open fire against one another. The battle of Taku Forts had begun.

Alarmed by the explosion, the Chinese gunners opened up with a thunderous barrage. As a furious gun battle fought from close range between the forts and the attacking gunboats now erupted, Hǎi Huā and the other Chinese torpedo-boat destroyers suddenly appeared from the wharf at full steam, rushing forth to engage the attackers with their own guns blazing and torpedo tubes armed and ready. Caught between the forts and the charging Chinese destroyers, the attackers closer to the forts had no choice but to hastily flee towards the open ocean the best they could. The gunboats already past the forts turned their course and started a perilous journey upstream, seeking to link up with the Russian garrison defending the besieged foreigner community of Tientsin. As the night fell, the Taku forts were firmly in Chinese hands.

1: This is the first PoD the outside world knows about. The initial PoD of this TL actually occurred in Peking few days earlier, but that will be covered in the next update.

In OTL the foreign ships moving past the forts at the afternoon of June 16th 1900 did pass by a Chinese junk which was setting up a minefield to the river. One of the ships, British HMS Whiting actually collided with a single mine - which failed to explode. Here the early explosion alerts the crews of the Chinese torpedo destroyers, which in OTL remained idle at the wharf until a small Royal Navy boarding party captured them intact. These ships alone would have been enough to repel the attack, so once they join in the fray in this TL attack attempt has to be called off.
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Chapter 3: The terrible hangover of Count Muraviev

Count Mikhail Nikolayevich Muraviev in 1900.

Boxer Rebellion and the Russian Empire

When the Japanese Prime Minister Yamagata gathered his cabinet to an emergency meeting regarding the situation in China on 15th of June, the consensus was reached rather quickly. While the unknown fate of shokishi Sugiyama Akira[1] and other members of the Japanese delegation naturally concerned the cabinet, there was also consensus about the fact that Japan had little reason to commit substantial resources to the relief attempt due foreign opposition. The memories of the first Far Eastern crisis of 1898 were still fresh in the minds of the Japanese leadership, and their main concern was to avoid a repetition of the situation of 1895, when Russia had managed to mobilize France and Germany to oppose Japanese aspirations in Manchuria. Despite the knowledge that the British government had expressed willingness to speak on the behalf of Japanese intervention to other European powers and had even offered to cover parts of the military costs of such endeavour, Yamagata cabinet remained sceptical of committing Japan to "support the missionary cause." Internationally other European powers remained equally wary of the prospect of a Japanese intervention. British support for it was widely seen as a British attempt to cover the fact that the ongoing Boer War in South Africa was putting a severe strain to the resources of the British Army. Russians suspected that London was hoping that a large-scale Japanese intervention would act as a counterweight to the Russian ambitions in Manchuria and Northern China. Privately many also shared opinion of the German Kaiser, and suspected that the Japanese were "working for the solidarity of the yellow race."

Meanwhile storm clouds kept gathering above China. As the first reports of the foreign ultimatum and following repulsed foreign attack against Taku forts reached Peking, the Empress Dowager made her mind regarding the Boxers and her limited understanding of foreign relations. Feeling confident, her conservative court declared war against foreign powers on June 21st. The Boxers would now on be regarded as "righteous people" and organized into militias commanded by Manchu princes Chuang, Kang-i and Tuan. Their view on the situation clearly showed how far removed the court was from the diplomatic realities of day. Many of them truly believed that "when the legations are taken, the barbarians will have no more roots. The country will then have peace" as Prince Kang-i defiantly declared. For more cynical reactionaries within the court, destruction of the legations would allow the dynasty to direct the wrath of the Boxers on the foreign barbarians. It would also kill (in really macabre and very literal sense of the word) all evidence of court sponsorship of the Boxers.

All this was putting enormous strain to Count Muraviev in St. Petersburg. Never before had his position and past policies as the Foreign Minister of Russia had never been more duly criticized. Financial Minister Witte, his former ally and a potent force in the politics of Czarist Russia, had outright blamed Muravievs insistence of annexing Port Arthur against his advice as the primary cause of the current situation in China during a dinner where him, Muraviev and War Minister Kuropathin had discussed the situation of China to late morning hours. In his memoirs Muraviev later on mentioned that he had never felt more forlorn and desperate than then, and that he shuns to think what might have happened unless he'd have fallen asleep soon after arriving home.[2] But drunken stupor brought little consolation to Muraviev. If his previous night had been bad, the news of the Chinese declaration of war hardly cheered him up in the following morning. But despite his terrible hangover and the stressful fact that his personal actions and past policies had greatly contributed in bringing the Russian Empire into her current difficult position, Muraviev was an experienced diplomat who had not risen to lead the foreign office of the Russian Empire by accident. He was the third member of the unofficial leading ministerial "triumvirate" Finance Minister Witte had formed with Muraviev and General Kuropatkin. Now, together with his two influential colleagues he was determined to fix his previous mistakes and overcome this challenge to Russian strategic aims in the Far East.

While everything in the vast Russian Empire officially happened in the name and according to the will and commands of Autocrat Czar Nicholas II, in reality the triumvirate of Muraviev, Witte and Kuropatkin would largely determine what Russia would do in China. With German and other European reinforcement troops still underway in the high seas and Japan unwilling to bring major forces to continental China due the diplomatic troubles such a move would entertain, the Russian army in the Far East was the strongest foreign force in the region and the only one with capacity of staging an immediate intervention to China. Paradoxically this situation greatly annoyed both Czar Nicholas II and his ministers. Muraviev was on the opinion that the "special relationship" between China and Russia made her position unique among the major powers. Now their worst fear was that foreign involvement to internal affairs of China could end the reign of Empress Dowager, who had maintained the status quo within the country and thus kept Chi'ing Dynasty and whole China stable (and weak enough to be easily pressured when necessary). The strategic goals of Russian leadership were thus seemingly different from other European powers, and in addition there were personal differesences of opinion among the triumvirate itself.

For Muraviev himself the aims he felt necessary to pursue in this situation were rather modest, as his personal view was that Russia should be primarily interested of guarding her influence in Europe and the Near East instead of focusing on this corner of the globe. While Count Muraviev had earlier on advocated the idea of taking advantage of Britain's preoccupation in South Africa by improving Russian positions in Afghanistan, Persia and Caucasus, he now thought that Russia had little to gain by getting too deeply involved to the crisis in China. Seeking further concessions like a coaling station at the coast of Korean peninsula, for example, would in the opinion of Muraviev only further antagonize Japan and involve serious expenditure. For Witte, reports of attacks against the new Russian railway line in Manchuria were a prime concern, and he was willing to allow finance ministry to sanction costs of a large military expedition if necessary. In his own words "It is better to lose money rather than prestige." This suited well for General Kuropatkin - he was eager and willing to utilize this opportunity to alter the balance of power within the Czarist administration to his behalf. The coming months would indeed offer him ample opportunities to do so.

1:The chancellor of the Japanese delegation was feeling ill on the day the delegations expected the Seymour expedition to arrive, so he avoided the fate of being the first high-ranking foreign diplomat being killed by Boxers.

2: In OTL Count Muraviev was found dead from his apartment on 21st of June with an ugly wound on his left temple.

Many concluded that he had committed suicide due the harsh criticism he had received from his colleagues on dinner in the previous night. This time the count is too dru... tired to do anything stupid once he gets home, and he goes directly to bed instead. In the morning he receives news of the Chi'ing court and their declaration of war against the foreign powers. Now sober and faced with a new challenge, he manages to pull himself together.
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Hundred views per post with a single comment? Encouraging :D
Seriously though, what do you think so far? Are the chapters too long or short, and what events of the time period do you find especially interesting?
Hundred views per post with a single comment? Encouraging :D
Seriously though, what do you think so far? Are the chapters too long or short, and what events of the time period do you find especially interesting?

Well, I, for one, subscribed to the thread. That said, not too familiar with China in the period. In broad strokes, yes, but not to the level you're covering it so I can't exactly comment much other than say I very much like it so far.

As for events, well, the Russo-Japanese conflict is always interesting, if we're talking about the Far East. If we're talking about the world in general, then I suppose it would be the political mix-up occurring in Europe is fascinating in the same way watching a train wreck is.
Chapter 4: Beitang Incident

From Seymour Expedition to Beitang Incident

When the foreign forces failed to take Taku Forts, the position of Admiral Seymours Expedition that was slowly proceeding towards Peking in the middle of Northern China changed overnight. The ill-fated expedition had encountered nothing but grave difficulties since Seymour had gathered sailors from nine nations and led his train column to relieve the Legations that had requested additional military protection. But not only had Admiral Seymour been unable to reinforce the besieged Legations in Peking in the intended timetable due Boxer sabotage of the railway his train column was using. His forces had been unexpectedly assaulted by the Imperial Chinese army, and stopped to their tracks at the battle of Langfang. Since then he had been forced to lead his men to a long retreat towards Tientsin. In addition to the daily death-defying headlong charges of Boxer militias, the expedition was now also harassed by the troops of General Tung Fu-hsiang. This antiforeign commander had greeted the court decision to declare war against foreigners with glee and had led his equally eager 10.000-men strong Kan Chün Muslim cavalry division against the Seymour Expedition straight away.

His skilfull ambush attack had turned a delayed relief attempt into a desperate struggle for survival. After abandoning their trains, soldiers of the expedition had been forced to use captured rafts and junks to sail the Hai River southwards. Cut off from their supply lines and burdened with ever-growing numbers of wounded, men of Seymour Expedition ran out of food entirely and were finally forced to dug in for a desperate last stand on a hillside near Tientsin. Luckily for them a Chinese servant managed to reach the besieged Tientsin garrison in time and deliver the urgent plea for help to the defenders. When the relief force consisting mostly of Russian reinforcements hastily shipped from Port Arthur finally broke the siege of the expedition on the night of June 25th, the 2,157-men strong multinational force had lost over 400 men killed. The thirsty and sick survivors were utterly exhausted, having fought off the last Boxer attacks mostly by bayonets after most of their ammunition had been spent. Seymour himself had been severely wounded, and his Chief of staff, Captain John R. Jellicoe had been killed. Captain B.H. McCalla of the United States Navy was widely hailed for saving the mission from turning into total disaster. This veteran of Spanish-American War and other central American conflicts had insisted that his 112-men strong detachment packed along plenty of extra ammunition, and the survivors felt that this decision most likely saved the entire Expedition from being overrun by Chinese forces during their last days under siege.

With Peking out of reach from the coast, Taku forts still in Chinese hands and the reinforced defences of foreign legations in Tientsin being daily shelled by the artillery of general Nieh Shih-ch'eng, many present in China wondered how rest of the vast Chinese Empire seemed to continue business as usual without signs of major disturbances. The reason for this situation was a clear indicator of the waning power of Empress Dowager and her allies in the court. In southern China the local provincial authorities had jointly declared that the court declaration of war against the foreign powers had been a luan-ming, an illegitimate order issued without proper authorization of the throne. Having formed an informal pact with foreign consuls in Shanghai, the Yangtze valley governors had agreed to protect foreigners and their property from Boxer violence in exchange of promises that foreign forces would refrain from entering their territories. Thus southeast China seemed to be initially safe from the troubles that had plagued the northeastern parts of the realm since spring.This pact was result of shrewd diplomacy of men like Yüan Shih-k'ai, Li Hung-chang, Liu K'un-i and Chang Chih-tung. Their attempts were based on an intentional twist of a court edict from June 20th , where the Empress Dowager and her allies had commanded that the governor-generals "should be united together to protect their territories." More interested in preserving their own bases of power and maintaining their positions than waging war against the outside world, these influential figures in Chi'ing administration had agreed to use the edict as a pretext to do the exact opposite: to suppress their local Boxer activity and thus keep the Westerners away.

But while Chinese and foreigners were plotting and planning their next moves, the crisis took a dramatic turn on Church of the Saviour in Peking. With a military presence of a handful of French and Italian legation guards commanded by two French officers, the cathedral was filled by eighty Europeans and 3,400 Chinese Catholic Christians, 2,700 of whom were women and children. Located nearly four kilometers away from the rest of the Legation Quarter the Cathedral stood alone against the besieging Imperial and Boxer forces. On the morning of 27th of June the astonished defenders saw an amazing sight: as the sound of the Chinese artillery roared in the distance around the Legations, a large group of Chinese clad in colourful imperial court dresses had gathered to the ramparts the besiegers had raised around the church to gaze towards the building under the shade of their decorative parasols. Before Bishop Favier, the leader of the defenders could be alerted of their presence, few shots rang out. Whether they were fired by Italian or French soldiers remains a mystery.

Their results were nevertheless irrevocably dramatic. The tightly-packed royal entourage dispersed and disappeared from the view of the defenders, as screaming court maids and servants fled from the spot they had just a moment earlier believed to be safely away from the effective range of defender rifle-fire. And after few hours of tense silence around the church, a terrifying war cry alarmed the defenders in the early afternoon. Thousands of Boxers with their loose-hanging hair, formulated steps and all-red outfits poured over the barricades to the open area around the cathedral. Brandishing swords and spears, they performed few coordinated martial art moves as a part of their ritualistic way of fighting, and rushed forward towards the church en masse, ignoring the desperate volleys the defenders kept pouring to their ranks. The deafening sounds of battle muted the similar sounds coming from main Legation Quarters. While smaller pockets within the doomed Legations would still hold out for weeks, the Peking Massacre had nevertheless begun by the storming of the Beitang Cathedral. As the furious bands of Boxers and supporting Imperial troops rushed forward the besieged foreigners around Peking with renewed vigor, they took heart from the fast-spreading and alarming rumour. The one that claimed that Empress Dowager Tz'u-hsi had been shot dead this morning, while Her Majesty had been visiting the troops sieging the Legations...
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... claimed that Empress Dowager Tz'u-hsi had been shot dead this morning while Her Majesty had been visiting the troops sieging the Legations...

If that happened, well, that's a spot of good news for China. The massacre not so much, that's likely to get Europeans riled up even more, but Cixi biting the bullet, very much so. Now, if only they found someone reasonable to put on the throne ...

Not that I think the Qing empire was a good thing, particulary, though I'll say it was certainly better than the Warlord Era. Though I'm not sure the systematic flaws could be fixed easily, so there still might be some form of chaos (hopefully less of it than OTL). A divided China, maybe?

Oh, and shame about Jellicoe, too.
Thanks for the replies, here are answers to more detailed comments.

If that happened, well, that's a spot of good news for China. The massacre not so much, that's likely to get Europeans riled up even more, but Cixi biting the bullet, very much so. Now, if only they found someone reasonable to put on the throne ...

You speak as if there weren't someone officially holding that throne already...

Not that I think the Qing empire was a good thing, particulary, though I'll say it was certainly better than the Warlord Era. Though I'm not sure the systematic flaws could be fixed easily, so there still might be some form of chaos (hopefully less of it than OTL). A divided China, maybe?

The Middle Kingdom is certainly living interesting times.

Oh, and shame about Jellicoe, too.

Poor captain had it coming - he seemed to have shared the foolhardy command style typical to the British forces of this era, as he was seriously injured while serving in China in August 1900 in OTL as well.

Here the surrounded Expedition force had to defend themselves in makeshift dugouts instead of inside the walls of a Chinese arsenal as in OTL, and thus they sustained most of their casualties, including Jellicoe, in the last days of close combat against the Boxer attacks after June 22nd.
Oh dear.

All things considered, Kaiser Bill's charming "The Huns" speech that OTL landed us with that charming nickname might actually be seen as nothing special TTL.

Relevant parts:

Wilhelm II said:
"When you meet the enemy, he will be defeated! No quarter will be given! No prisoners will be taken! Those who fall into your hands are forfeit to you! Just as a thousand years ago, the Huns under their King Etzel* made a name for themselves that make them appear awe-inspiring in tradition and myth, so shall you establish the name of Germans in China for 1000 years, so that a Chinese will never again dare to look askance at a German."

*obsolete German term for Attila.
Oh dear.
All things considered, Kaiser Bill's charming "The Huns" speech that OTL landed us with that charming nickname might actually be seen as nothing special TTL.

It certainly seems like the dam has been broken right now.
But without the 20 000 Japanese soldiers the 8-Nation Alliance had at their disposal in OTL, the foreigners will be hard-pressed enough to hold their own in Tientsin right now. Especially because the Taku Forts are still blocking their main supply route.
You speak as if there weren't someone officially holding that throne already...

The Guangxu Emperor being relevant? That would be a pretty shocking development, considering just how badly he lost that little palace conflict with Cixi. Not bad shocking, mind you, but interesting.

Then again, he might survive long enough to wrest some power back from the opposing side, especially if the European powers succeed in kicking the reactionaries around a bit.

I'll admit I'm rather curious as to where this is going. Interesting times, indeed.
The Guangxu Emperor being relevant? That would be a pretty shocking development, considering just how badly he lost that little palace conflict with Cixi. Not bad shocking, mind you, but interesting.

Many prominent figures in the Chi'ing court who betrayed him when the reformers attempted their failed coup will certainly find the very idea shocking in a very bad sense of the word, that's for sure.

Then again, he might survive long enough to wrest some power back from the opposing side, especially if the European powers succeed in kicking the reactionaries around a bit.
I'll admit I'm rather curious as to where this is going. Interesting times, indeed.

As trekchu pointed out, aside from the Russians all members of the Alliance are out for blood. And none of them aside from the Russians is right now in a position to do anything decisive.

Mind you, this whole bloody mess might help clear away some of the dead wood that made WW1 so bloody.

When butterflies start flapping in 1900, things to come in upcoming decades will certainly be affected. What does this "dead wood" actually refer to, by the way? International diplomacy in general or something else?
Chapter 5: The Powers react

The Powers react - arrival of first foreign military reinforcements

As news of the failure of Seymour Expedition reached Europe alongside with rumours that claimed that all foreigners in Peking had been killed, the governments of major powers were now facing a situation where they seemed to have only bad options. Most military experts of the day estimated that in order to avoid loss of face and their interests in China the major powers would have to commit substantial military forces to even stabilize the situation. Yet newspapers were stirring up a public outcry for harsh punitive actions. And since the major powers distrusted one another, none of them wanted to stay completely out of the situation in China in the fear that the outcome of the conflict would grant their rivals new benefits in the region. And so, as the summer months passed, a Babel of foreign armies begun to gather around Tientsin. Ever since the Boxer troubles had begun, Russian troops had played a key part on the defence of the foreign legations and railway station of the city. They had taken this role largely by accident, as more than 1700 Russian soldiers had simply been waiting for a train that was due to transfer them to Peking when Boxers first attacked against the station and railyard area. Ever since the three battalions of the East Siberian Regiment, two batteries of artillery and squadron of Cossack cavalry had been in a key role in the defense of the Legations area in Tientsin. The Russian force had entered the theatre as raw recruits, but weeks of siege had forced them to become quick learners in manners of war.

Normally the British government would have met this kind of challenge with confidence and sought to take a leading role in the endeavour, but right now the Boer War was severely limiting the amount of troops available for deployment as most of the British Army was engaged in Southern Africa. Regardless of this the Empire was still able to muster together the second-largest foreign contingent, mainly by shipping in additional forces from her Indian territories. In addition of the Naval Brigade that was initially brought to the area to reinforce Tientsin, Royal Navy used the summer months to transfer in additional forces. Foreign observers were quick to note that only one unit, the 2nd Battalion of Royal Welch Fusiliers, came from Home Islands. Majority of other troops of the British force consisted were gathered from territories of the Empire. Half of their infantry forces came from various Indian territories, as the battalions of the 1st Indian Brigade included the 1st Sikh, 7th Rajput and 24th Punjab Infantry. These Indian troops were well-seasoned, as many of them had fought and served in the Chitral and Tirah campaigns a decade earlier. The multinational character of British armies was further emphasized by the fact that they also included 600 men from the 1st Chinese Regiment, recruited from the territories of the British concession in Shantung Peninsula. While soldiers of other contingents widely distrusted and openly despised them, the Chinese soldiers of the Regiment would prove themselves most willing and able to fight their own countrymen when ordered to do so. The British infantry units were supported by the cavalry force of the 1st Bengal Lancers, two artillery batteries the 12th RFA and the Sikh mountain gunners of the Hong Kong and Singapore Artillery. With their signalmen, telegraphists and Royal Engineers, the British detachment was thus a solid combined-arms force of 2900 men and 12 guns.

Due the proximity of Philippines and the ongoing hostilities in the archipelago, the United States was also in a position to swiftly send in two regiments, 9th and 14th Infantry, and one troop of the 6th Cavalry supported by Light Battery F, 5th Artillery. Together with a single battalion of USMC, the force totalled 2200 men and 6 guns. Like the British forces, the US troops were veteran units with combat experience from Spanish-American War and following conflict in the Philippines. Eager to maintain their international status a major Power and defend their influence in the region, the French government had also shipped in 1200 men and 12 guns. Consisting of 2 battalions of Infanterie de la Marine, 1 Naval Battalion and supporting artillery battalion, the French contingent also had auxiliary Annamese colonial troops as reinforcements.But while these troops arrived early, the largest European force sent to the theater was still underway, and due to arrive from Europe only in mid-September. With 55 companies of infantry, 4 squadrons of cavalry and 10 batteries of artillery, the German "punitive expedition" that had been personally sent forth by Kaiser Wilhelm II was seen as a critical reinforcement that would have to be waited to gain sufficient forces to finally start the advance towards Peking.


General Nieh Shih-ch'eng (at right) was considered one of the best commanders of the Chi'ing Empire. No friend of the Boxers, he had successfully fought against the movement only to later on join forces with them in the struggle against foreigners in Tientsin in summer 1900.

But while the 10 steamers transporting the men of General-Major von Lessel continued their slow journey towards China, the foreign armies could do little but wait and slowly build up their strength to meet the upcoming challenges. While they prepared to make their move, weeks of fighting against the vast army that was estimated to consist of approximately 50 000 Boxers and Imperial troops was mounting pressure against the hard-pressed defenders of the foreign settlement in Tientsin. The main weapon of the Chinese armies in this battle of attrition were their sixty modern guns and cannons, which had been relentlessly hammering the foreigner positions since June 21st, when the Chi'ing court had declared war against the foreign powers. Only the abysmal quality of Chinese ammunition - most shells had been duds - had kept the casualty rates from mounting to unsustainable levels. To make matters worse, the Boxer forces in Tientsin were under unified leadership and were under strict instructions dictating their code of conduct. These rules forbade them for even staring other people, and always bow to one another in polite manner. More importantly they were commanded to behave in a coordinated fashion, obey orders from Imperial Army officials and avoid all contact with women due their "polluting influence." Strict discipline was seen as a necessary precaution among them Chinese factions, since only weeks earlier the forces of general Nieh Shih-ch'eng had been fighting against these same Boxers forces he was now officially supporting against the foreigners. But while this arrangement caused unease among the Chinese, it was a minor squabble compared to the status of the shaky alliance of foreign powers. As July turned to August and the summer heat made the climate of northeastern China dry and hot, both sides massed their forces to the vicinity of Tientsin. The city was the administrative center of the Chinese coastal railways, and thus the only chokepoint from which the routes to Peking could be effectively defended. The stage was set for a decisive battle.
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When butterflies start flapping in 1900, things to come in upcoming decades will certainly be affected. What does this "dead wood" actually refer to, by the way? International diplomacy in general or something else?

Not so much diplomacy. More the late-Victorian military leadership that lead to the "awesome" military tactics especially early in the war.