According to the case study of Zhejiang province, Mary Rankin pointed out that from the aspect of central government, what happened after the Taiping Rebellion is the "disintegration" of the imperial power of the Qing dynasty. However, from the aspects of the middle, it is also the upward mobility of the gentry class in the sense that they can touch the national affairs.
In the late Qing, the gentry class also created the public management system and the burgeoning civil society in the local level. The aboriginal commercialization, the opening to the Western, and the weakening of the empire, together derived to the mixing of the local, the provincial, and the national elites. The new mixed elites forced the institutional changes during the last decade of Qing. Thus, the social foundation of the Taiping uprising based on the peasant rebellions is different from that of the 1911 revolution based on the seize-power of the mixed elites.
Following the analysis of Skinner, Rankin claimed that the foreign forces did not extremely shock or change the late Qing China, but facilitated the original slow trend of Chinese social stratification. The trend is the dismissing of the central elites. The economic and political power had slowly slip into the metropolitan officials and governors of key provinces. At last, the power balance was in favor of the local elites.
Besides, the public sphere was opened. The management of the public affairs and the supply of infrastructure fallen on the social networks of gentry elites and merchants. The new public education was a good example of the gentry managed public sphere. It also nurtured political discontents and collective actions in the cities and treaty ports. Finally, the elite activism raised up from the local level to the national level during the 1895 Sino-Japanese War.
After the Boxers Rebellion the nature of the local political opponent based on the mixed elite networks had changed to the constitutionalists and revolutionists. As Rankin argued, the hard lines among the officials, the reformers, and the revolutionists were blurred by the mixed reality. In the statistics of the reformers, they were originated from and configured by the business, gentry, and intelligentsia. During the anti-loan movement(1906-7) of railway the mixed elites formed the provincial or even national allies. However, the social power of the mixed elites was too weak to integrate even the local society after the collapse of the empire....Continua