Xinhai Revolution: A Potted History
The Xinhai Revolution is named after the official title of the year 1911 in the traditional Chinese agricultural calendar, still in widespread use at the time. It consisted of many failed revolts and uprisings, with its turning point the Wuchang Uprising on October 10, 1911, when armed rebels took control of Wuchang, capital of Hubei Province, and declared “independence” from the Qing (Manchu) Dynasty. Within one month, 17 provinces, mostly in southern China, had seceded from the Qing Empire, and a provisional coalition government and a national assembly were established in Nanjing. Sun Yat-sen, then the head of the Chinese Revolutionary League, was invited to return from exile abroad to serve as the coalition’s President.
The Manchu court responded by dissolving the newly-established but much-resented cabinet consisted mostly of ethnic Manchu noblemen, appointing the ethnic Han general Yuan Shikai to head a new cabinet. Monopolizing political power in the capital Beijing and having de facto control over the imperial army, as well as the support of major industrial powers, Yuan embarked on a campaign against the South, inflicting several major defeats on revolutionary forces. Outnumbered and outgunned, Sun and his followers agreed to elect Yuan as the first President of the Republic of China if Yuan could secure the emperor’s abdication. On February 12, 1912, the last emperor Puyi formally abdicated, ending the Qing Dynasty and China’s imperial era.
After assuming the presidency of the new Republic of China in Beijing, Yuan quickly turned against the revolutionaries. China soon slid into decades of political division and warlordism, including several attempts at an imperial restoration.
After Sun Yat-sen died in 1924, his chief military strategist Chiang Kai-shek led the Nationalist Party (KMT) on a two-year-long northern expedition to unify the country to eliminate warlordism in 1926, in cooperation with the increasingly influential Communist Party of China, which had been established in 1921. In December 1928, the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) achieved nominal unification of China, but their frosty alliance with the Communists broke down in 1927, sparking a KMT purge of the Communists which escalated into civil war. After the invasion and occupation of Manchuria by Japan in 1931, the two parties forged another shaky defensive alliance in 1936, which preceded a full-scale Japanese invasion in 1937. After the defeat of Japan in 1945, a second civil war resulted in the Communist victory of 1949 and the KMT retreat to Taiwan.
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Badeling Pass | Beijing
Sep 2011 | Submitted by Brian Snelson
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