Part of the Human Comedy series
May contain incomplete facts
The Chinese have always been known for their creative diplomacy. The “Ping Pong” diplomacy between China and the United States was a fine example. But there was another creative instance of Chinese diplomacy that many aren’t aware of.
In the early 1900s, there were a lot of unrest in the Chinese capital of Beijing. A number of foreigners were killed by a nationalist group called the Boxers. The killings infuriated foreign governments who demanded the Qing government to take swift actions. In hope of reducing tensions, Empress Dowager Cixi invited all the top foreign diplomats to a very elaborate banquet.
The banquet was one of historic proportions. It lasted for several days (& nights) and cost up to $100 million in today’s value. Unfortunately, very little diplomacy actually took place during the feast; people were just too occupied with their eating. In fact, the participants spent more time in restrooms than engaging in diplomacy.
Ironically, many Chinese died of starvation during the same period; the money spent on the banquet could have adequately fed most of the Chinese poor. The banquet, however, failed to dissuade foreign governments from attacking China and nearly demolishing Beijing.