Power to replace the Ming was already waiting — to the north, as Yongle had feared. In 1583 a gifted leader called Nurhacu had persuaded a group of nomad tribes to unite in a largely military union, the Manchu confederacy. When in 1644 Beijing fell to Chinese warlord Li Zicheng, one of many who exploited and exacerbated the prevailing social disorder and poverty, the Manchus took advantage of a last desperate struggle between Li and the Ming loyalists to invade China unopposed. When they entered Beijing with the support of the Ming generals they at first insisted they were only there to support the lawful authority, but when a Ming prince was proclaimed in Nanjing they made war on him and proclaimed their own child emperor ruler of China. Seventeen years later the Ming prince was forced into exile in Burma but the Manchu agents, fully aware of the dangers of a living Ming pretender, pursued him even there and killed him by strangling with a bowstring.
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