The Chinese tradition has long been rooted in a deep respect for, and, at times, total immersion in, the ways of the past; as the 20th century loomed, however, this way of thinking began to leave the Chinese people lagging hopelessly behind their European counterparts. Chinese resistance to modernization in weaponry left them devastated in the Opium Wars, and their lack of trade savvy and experience left them open to a different kind of devastation as the British trade machine grew rich off of the Chinese people's newfound chemical dependencies. Also, the growing factionalization within China opened further the floodgates through which the "foreign devils" might carve, with a knife of opium, the Chinese melon. An inability to adapt, both militarily and fiscally, to new circumstances, combined with growing societal chaos and dissatisfaction, proved fatal to the Qing's dynastic rule.
Though the Chinese military had on their side zealotry and devotion, they proved no match for European weaponry. During the Taiping Rebellion, followers were advised in a memorandum to "hurriedly arm [themselves] with gun, sword or spear," but the latter two seemed often to be the Chinese weapon of choice, in both the rebellions and the wars with European forces. When Chinese troops, armed with spears and martial arts, charged into battle with the British, they "were totally unprepared, and [they] completely underestimated their enemies' capabilities," according to historian Debra Soled. This failure to match the Westerners' superior might forced the Chinese to allow an even greater threat to Qing control: the trade and use of opium.
Inability to stem the flow of opium into the ports, streets, and lungs of China proved to be a second spear through the heart of the Chinese dragon. When Europe finally found a product that China demanded—opium—the traders that introduced the drug "seduced the Chinese people, and caused every province of the land to overflow with that poison," according to a letter written by a Chinese official at the time. Any major attempt by the Chinese to quell the opium trade was met by another opium war, ensuring that the next generation of Chinese would be transformed into unwilling customers. It is true that the British used deceptive business practices to get the first opium into China, but thanks to Chinese inability to stand up to the foreign devils, this scourge upon the Chinese people was able to cause the border freely.
The final downfall of Qing hegemony was its struggle to control problems within its own borders, on top of those without. Disputes and compartmentalization helped to further tear apart imperial rule, according to Soled: "Local villages were no longer safe from robbers and bandits... Both wealthy families and secret societies alike created self-defense forces, which also began to be used in disputes over the land." A surge of uprisings, including the Boxer and Taiping Rebellions, halped to further erode the emperor's power base.
The Qing dynasty's suzerainty was challenged, and finally demolished, by an inability to adapt to new military and trade circumstances, coupled with an increase in societal strife and and turmoil. Eventually, the ineffectual and unpopular Qing dynasty gave way to the epic struggle between Chiang Kai-Shek's KMT and Mao Zedong's CCP; these parties, though their ideologies were radically different, both embodied the same desire: to be free, once and for all, of the antiquated system of government that had served China for so many years but now was painfully unable to deal with the problems and situations with which China must deal if it was to take its place among the nations of the West.