History of Modern China: The Republican Period 1911-1916


In the previous paragraph we introduced the suddivision of modern Chinese history and the last century of the Qing dinasty characterized by the influence of foreign powers, the Japanese agressions and the political tumoils inside the country.

This arcile will discuss the beginning of ‘900s and the Republican Period between 1911-1916.


Qing Dinasty Map between the end of the '800s and early '900s.

Qing Dinasty Map between the end of the ‘800s and early ‘900s.

The Domestic Stuation in the Qing State Around the beginning of the 900:

The ruling family is having hitches in ruling the country on several fronts. First of all in containing the riots spreading around the provinces, then in trying to get consensus from most local elites (more influent locally then the central power), and finally by finding themselves in an ideological context which is increasingly linked to nationalism that saw in the Qing invaders. Qing dinasty infact is of Manchu enticity, despite the fact that in today China Manchu are regarded as part of the Chinese population and mostly incorporated between the Hans, at that time still was regarded as an external ruling elite.

Since the end of the  800s there are two new winds of change which are going to influence China in the new century:
The concept of progress: The idea of ​​the cyclical nature of time, typical of the Chinese classic philophical system, is now waning to let space to new and modern concept of progress, which pushes away the tradion of going in search of the lessons from the past and embrace technology and modernity.

In this period assume a leading role the figure of Kang Youwei, a philosopher who revises the Confucian doctrine by stating that Confucius had faith in the man who can look at the progress and the future, because this man will be aimed in reaching a golden age” characterized by peace, equality and cohesion.
Concept of Nation:  Which has vary definitions, starts to spread between the intellectuals and the ruling classes.  The Confucian idea of the nation wasn’t focused on ethnic elements, on  history, and so forth, but on the behaviors typical of the Confucian man. Whover adopts such a values could be called Chinese, by this definition even the Qings were Chinese.
But at the beginning of the ‘900s a new concept of the nation aroses to create a sense of belonging to a country which as the lowest common denominator among the Chinese, the Manchu. The old Confucian concept allowed the Manchu to rule for centuries but is not rejected.

Chinese associations begin to mobilize around the world to actively take part in the fate of the country.

Concept of Darwiniang Social Progress: The story evolves through competition and efforts, it is a struggle for survival where only the fittest survive. This concept extends to social groups, and finally to the nations and innovative policy programs are designed.
Modernization process: China divided between the life in the rural areas and in the metropolis. The abandonment of the meritocratical system of the national examinations which did not allows new opportunities of self-development for those who deserved in rural areas (still most of the country).
The foreigners presence in coastal areas by the other hand encouraged the foundation of modern hospitals, schools and public works.
This is the time when Shanghai becomes a metropoly thanks of his location.
In Shanghai the elite is composed by both foreigners Chinese, mostly gentry and merchants, who persue innovative programs such as investiments in rural areas supported by  foreign or local bureaucracies (schools, railways, accedemies, etc.) and even project Erasmus for students abroad.
When in 1898 the Qings go against the reform projects to modernize the Country and to the intellectuals going abroad new intellectuals starts to gather, one of these intellectuals is Sun Yatsen.

Sun Yatsen


Sun Yatsen was the first modern revolutionary and reformer of the Chinese modern society.

Sun Yatsen becomes leader of the reform movements and he draws the Three Principles of the People“:
1National Independence;
2-Power of the people (or democracy);
3-Being of the people (especially the agrarian reform);
Educated by Western missionaries, in 1884, To create his first HongKong sect.
By having the Chinese emperial institutions as an enemy Sun flees to London, where is shortly captured by agents Qing in the Chinese embassy trapped with a pretext. Thanks to the pressure of the British government, the press and his allies he is soon released.
After this episode he makes of been a reformist his profession.
In 1904-1905 the War between Japan and Tsarist Empire for control of Manchuria.
Japan defeated a Western power and achieves a new image of an Asian progressive and powerful nation. Feared and respected, Japan became a model for China and at the same time it indicates a failure to be able to defend its own borders.
In 1905, its inability ​​inability touch another dark memory on the international stage when the State of Californian imposes a limit for Chinese immigration in the American territory.
Also in 1905, borns the “League” through the union of Chinese associations in Europe and in Japan, which sees Sun Yat-sen as leader.
In the meantime more insurretion whose aim was to overthrow the dynasty.
In 1911, for a combination of events (mostly random), one of many uprisings succeeded in his intent, and it will be remembered as “XinHaior Double 10” (because it took place on 10.10.1911).
Between Hunan and Hubei supported by local elites of the South the revolt no longer recognized the power of the Qing.
Between the reasons of th riots there are the imperial decree of nationalization in 1910 of of the railways made by the Western consortia by promising revenues to the local governments. Escluded the local elite from the earning resentiment arises.
In Sichuan an indipendent army control the area and soon China Is split between North and South.


A picture of the last Qing Emperor Piyi in young age, before the Japanese invasion and creation of Manchuguo.

Yuan Shikai Competes for the Power

Yuan Shikai become prime minister Qing, assume control of the army and had the task of managing the crisis.
Yuan is a very traditional but also enjoyed the support of the northern elitesHe wanted to maintain the traditional culture on the one hand and on the other to strengthen China militarily and economically.

In January 1st 1912, is proclaimed  the Republic of China based in Nanjing with Sun Yat-sen in his place as chairman.
Nanjing was not only the center of revolutionary movements but it was also symbolically important as the last capital of the last Chinese dynasty, the Ming.
It is reached an agreement to bring down the Qing, entrusting Yuan Shikai asthe head of the country and the capital to be moved back to Beijing (where he enjoyed greater support for the northen elites). The Manchu emperor Puyi was still just a child, therefore the Qing elite couldn’t react promptely to the desmissal from the power.

By December 1912 are organized democratic elections for representatives in parliament, Yuan Shikai becames the  Chairman of the Parliament until 1916 (the year of his death), and a new Government is established.


A caricature from the French “Le Petit Journal” dated March 1912, with the comment “Yuan Shikai cut off his braid. Braid was the simbol imposed to Han Chinese by the Manchu rulers during the Qing dinasty.

These election were not universal suffrage based, creating dissatisfactions in the femmine intellectual elite.
Several parties take parte to the election, including the “Chinese Nationalist Party”  (a.k.a. GuoMingTang or CNP). At the head of the CNP is Chen Jiaoren, who is elected Premier.
However, Chen is assassinated by order of Yuan Shikai who turned out to be afraid of PNC. Chen was eliminated that shortly that he couldn’t even being able to go to Beijing to be officially appointed Premier.
It follow the Second Revolution“, a revolt against Yuan Shikai, who takes military power, suppresses the revolt and create a dictatorship.
With the control over the army loyal only to him, Yuan is able to control the rest of the provinces.
In the past Yuan  had worked out a plan of innovation  but he is forced to leave it behind  because of his new political position. Instead he creates a modern army, whom leaders wil became the famous War Lords at the time of his death.
In this brief time he mangaes to introduce a compulsory education system, basic modern but with strong references to Confucianism.
Having access to international loans he claims to reframe the public institutions but in fact he uses them to reinforce the army (Loan Restructuring“i.e. ).
By 1915, under the shadow of foreign pressures he attempts to establish a new empire to tie the country again. Whit a ceremony is appointed emperor, but it will result to be an unfortunate political plan.
He takes control over the information as a response to new antitraditional  movements called “Movement New Culturethat places great emphasis to the Individual Liberty and in strong opposition to Confucianism.
A new political-committed literature characterized by the use of modern language become more popular between the intellectuals and  Marxism makes its appearance in China.
In 1916, the warlords take control of the territories splitted after Yuan Shikai’s death.


In the Next Paragraph the Post-Republican Period.

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