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Thread: Two Republics in China

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    Two Republics in China

    Part One: The First Republic—The Republic of China

    Chapter 1. 1911: How the Last Dynasty Crumbled and Warlords Took Over
    Rebellion in Wuchang City

    A long line of imperial dynasties had held sway over all (or parts) of China from 2100 BCE to 1911. China was a world unto itself for much of these 4,000 years, but history went off its tracks when the British came in. Smoking opium had been a serious crime in China, but for the British opium was big business. And they made it far bigger by slaughtering and pillaging, overwhelming the Chinese by 1842 and forcing them to open up their nation to foreign trade. Soon, British merchants flooded the market with opium grown in India, and millions, perhaps more than 10 million, Chinese were hopelessly addicted. China was reeling and the Qing Dynasty was on the ropes.
    The Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) had been established by the Manchus, people that had originated in northeastern China (Manchuria). Although some of their ancestors had periodically been in power in ancient times, it was the Han people that were (and are now) the largest ethnic group in China. The Han could not bear the oppression of these Manchus, whose officials, the Mandarins, were increasingly corrupt. As the Qing Dynasty sank into misery, the Han rose up in a series of rebellions hoping to overthrow the rulers and regain the imperial throne. In an era when some of the ambitious young elite were already studying abroad and learning modern ways, the imperial leaders still maintained a traditional army using ancient weaponry including lances and spears. So the overthrow was easy enough—but what next? Read on, and we’ll see.

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    Always an interesting period of Chinese history. If my memory serves me correct, was the Sack of Peking by the British one of the results of the various Opium Wars?

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    that's the result of the Yihetuan. no British army went to Peking during two opium wars, both of which happened before the time of empress dowager Cixi.

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    Sun Yat-sen (1866–1925) was a revolutionary vanguard and he organized the National Party for the purpose of revitalizing the nation. After a few uprisings were brutally put down, the last successful rebellion broke out in Wuchang City of Sichuan Province, westward along the Yangtze River, upstream from Shanghai. In May of 1911, the Qing government had nationalized or appropriated two railways that were private Chinese companies, without giving the owners any compensation, and then sold them to foreigners. Needless to say, the local people wanted to defend their rights. The most violent reactions took place in Sichuan Province. The Qing government did have a New Army too (trained in the use of guns and cannons), and they sent them in. But in this division, many soldiers and even officers were actually members of the revolutionaries. So some leaders of the National Party planned a rebellion in the army.
    A regiment was camped at the north gate of Wuchang City. Around 6 o’clock, on the 10th of October, many rebellious soldiers marched toward the armory in the city with the intention of seizing it. At that time, in the camp a platoon leader was making his rounds to check on the soldiers and he found that many were absent. He also saw the squad leader was lying on his bed, so he yelled at him, “What are you doing? You want to rebel?” (That’s a Chinese way of putting down one’s subordinates.) The squad leader never had thought much of his platoon leader, so he replied insolently, “You said I’d rebel. Now I’m rebelling.” A soldier standing nearby simply shot the platoon leader dead.
    Now the battalion leader came in and he was shot dead, too. Seizing this opportunity, the National Party’s point man in the new army, who was the leader of another squad, declared a rebellion and called for his men to take up their arms right then and there.
    Soldiers from many different camps came to their aid, the number reaching more than 3,000. They controlled a cannon field and attacked the governor’s residence under the command of Wu Zhaoling, an officer in the eighth battalion. They called themselves the Revolutionary Army. The governor escaped to a warship on the river. The Revolutionary Army occupied the city.
    Revolutionaries in Hanyang and Hankou cities also raised the banner of rebellion. On the 11th of October, the Revolutionary Army took over Hanyang City and on the 12th day, they occupied Hankou City. Three cities in a row.

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    The Establishment of the Republic of China.
    Then the Revolutionary Army founded the military government and asked Li Yuanhong (1864–1928) to be the governor, and they declared the new state to be the Republic of China. At the beginning of November, at the proposal of Song Jiaoren (1882–1913) and some others, a constitution was drafted and called “The Temporary Constitution of Republic of China.” It had seven chapters and sixty articles. The government consisted of the governor, the congress and the court. People were granted democratic rights, the right to own private property, and the right to do business. The government decided that the 10th of October should be the national day for the Republic of China.
    From the 18th of October to the 27th of November, the Revolutionary Army put up strong resistance against the army of the Qing government, which was massive. During those 41 days, most of the provinces declared their independence; only four provinces close to Peking, the capital (now called Beijing), still supported the Qing Dynasty. The governors of the independent provinces controlled the local army and became warlords.
    All the independent provinces formed their own military governments. On the 1st of November, the Qing government appointed Yuan Shikai (1859–1916) premier. On the 1st of December, the Revolutionary Army and Yuan signed a truce. On the 2nd of December, the united army of Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces occupied Nanking. On the 12th of December, representatives from all 14 independent provinces gathered in Nanking for a meeting. On the 17th of December, the representatives elected Li Yuanhong as the General Marshal and Huang Xing (1874–1916) as the Vice General Marshal.
    On the 1st of January, 1912, the temporary government of the Republic of China established Nanking as its capital, breaking away from the Qing power base in Peking, and elected Sun Yat-sen as the temporary president.

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    The Establishment of the Republic of China.
    Then the Revolutionary Army founded the military government and asked Li Yuanhong (1864–1928) to be the governor, and they declared the new state to be the Republic of China. At the beginning of November, at the proposal of Song Jiaoren (1882–1913) and some others, a constitution was drafted and called “The Temporary Constitution of Republic of China.” It had seven chapters and sixty articles. The government consisted of the governor, the congress and the court. People were granted democratic rights, the right to own private property, and the right to do business. The government decided that the 10th of October should be the national day for the Republic of China.
    From the 18th of October to the 27th of November, the Revolutionary Army put up strong resistance against the army of the Qing government, which was massive. During those 41 days, most of the provinces declared their independence; only four provinces close to Peking, the capital (now called Beijing), still supported the Qing Dynasty. The governors of the independent provinces controlled the local army and became warlords.
    All the independent provinces formed their own military governments. On the 1st of November, the Qing government appointed Yuan Shikai (1859–1916) premier. On the 1st of December, the Revolutionary Army and Yuan signed a truce. On the 2nd of December, the united army of Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces occupied Nanking. On the 12th of December, representatives from all 14 independent provinces gathered in Nanking for a meeting. On the 17th of December, the representatives elected Li Yuanhong as the General Marshal and Huang Xing (1874–1916) as the Vice General Marshal.
    On the 1st of January, 1912, the temporary government of the Republic of China established Nanking as its capital, breaking away from the Qing power base in Peking, and elected Sun Yat-sen as the temporary president.

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    On the 12th of February, 1912, the last emperor of the Qing dynasty, Fu Yi (1906–1967, his English name: Henry) abdicated and the last dynasty ended, and with it ended the entire imperial system which had begun long ago and had lasted in much the same form for 2,000 years. But the imperial family still lived in the Forbidden City inside Peking.
    The new republic had its national flag with five colors signifying the unity of five major tribes in China. They were the Han tribe, the Mandarin tribe, the Mongolian tribe, the Muslin tribe, and the Tibetan tribe, represented by horizontal bars of red, yellow, blue, white and black.
    But the designs of the national flag for the Republic of China changed a few times, until the design was chosen which eventually became the national flag, now still used in Taiwan: red background with a blue rectangle in the upper left corner, inside of which there is a 12-cornered white star.
    With the establishment of the Republic of China, men cut off their queues, or braided pigtails, and wore short hair, more Western style. This style of shaving the front of the head and wearing the hair in a braid was originally imposed as a sign of submission demanded by the first Manchu Emperor. When they invaded the southern territories and occupied the lands of the Han tribe, they forced them to comply, too. If anyone refused to shave his front hair, he would be beheaded. The famous slogan was “Your hair or your head.” For that reason, there had been a slaughter in Yangzhou city at that time, lasting for 10 days. Since the Revolution was victorious, now the pigtail had to go.

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    On the 12thof February, 1912, the last emperor of the Qing dynasty, Fu Yi(1906–1967, his English name: Henry) abdicated and the last dynastyended, and with it ended the entire imperial system which had begunlong ago and had lasted in much the same form for 2,000 years. Butthe imperial family still lived in the Forbidden City inside Peking.
    The new republic had itsnational flag with five colors signifying the unity of five majortribes in China. They were the Han tribe, the Mandarin tribe, theMongolian tribe, the Muslin tribe, and the Tibetan tribe, representedby horizontal bars of red, yellow, blue, white and black.
    But the designs of thenational flag for the Republic of China changed a few times, untilthe design was chosen which eventually became the national flag, nowstill used in Taiwan: red background with a blue rectangle in theupper left corner, inside of which there is a 12-cornered white star.
    With the establishment ofthe Republic of China, men cut off their queues, or braided pigtails,and wore short hair, more Western style. This style of shaving thefront of the head and wearing the hair in a braid was originallyimposed as a sign of submission demanded by the first Manchu Emperor.When they invaded the southern territories and occupied the lands ofthe Han tribe, they forced them to comply, too. If anyone refused toshave his front hair, he would be beheaded. The famous slogan was“Your hair or your head.” For that reason, there had been aslaughter in Yangzhou city at that time, lasting for 10 days. Sincethe Revolution was victorious, now the pigtail had to go.

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    At the same time, women were freed of the custom of binding their feet; in fact, a major campaign was waged to discourage it. That custom had originated more than 1,000 years ago and affected all but the lowest workers, who could hardly afford to cripple themselves. (The Manchu Emperor had tried to ban it in 1664 but few paid any heed, as beauty, after all, comes at a price.) Now the revolution redefined some of the ideals of femininity and definitively freed women from the agony of crushing their feet.
    The Qing Dynasty had persisted for almost 300 years. Why didn’t it last longer? It was certainly not the fault of the last emperor, who was only three years old when he was put on the throne. The Qing Dynasty had degenerated over time, as most of them do, and corruption had grown worse and worse in the reign of Empress Dowager Cixi (1835–1908), his flamboyant grandmother, the subject of my earlier book Empress Dowager Cixi (Algora, 2002).
    In the long history of China, two different women had managed to rule the country for tens of years. The first one was Empress Wu the Great, during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907). She read a great deal and trained herself as a politician and ruler. She ruled the country well (Empress Wu the Great, Algora, 2008). But Empress Dowager Cixi was no diplomat, no politician, and no wise ruler. She adopted wrong-headed policies. She came into power because of her status as the empress dowager. In her hands, the mansion of the great empire crumbled just like a house whose wooden beams and pillars are eaten through by white ants. The last emperor would not have been able to support it any more, no matter what.

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    At the same time, women were freed of the custom of binding their feet; in fact, a major campaign was waged to discourage it. That custom had originated more than 1,000 years ago and affected all but the lowest workers, who could hardly afford to cripple themselves. (The Manchu Emperor had tried to ban it in 1664 but few paid any heed, as beauty, after all, comes at a price.) Now the revolution redefined some of the ideals of femininity and definitively freed women from the agony of crushing their feet.
    The Qing Dynasty had persisted for almost 300 years. Why didn’t it last longer? It was certainly not the fault of the last emperor, who was only three years old when he was put on the throne. The Qing Dynasty had degenerated over time, as most of them do, and corruption had grown worse and worse in the reign of Empress Dowager Cixi (1835–1908), his flamboyant grandmother, the subject of my earlier book Empress Dowager Cixi (Algora, 2002).
    In the long history of China, two different women had managed to rule the country for tens of years. The first one was Empress Wu the Great, during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907). She read a great deal and trained herself as a politician and ruler. She ruled the country well (Empress Wu the Great, Algora, 2008). But Empress Dowager Cixi was no diplomat, no politician, and no wise ruler. She adopted wrong-headed policies. She came into power because of her status as the empress dowager. In her hands, the mansion of the great empire crumbled just like a house whose wooden beams and pillars are eaten through by white ants. The last emperor would not have been able to support it any more, no matter what.

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    The Ambition of Yuan Shikai
    How Yuan became president of the Republic of China
    When the Republic of China set its capital in Nanking on the 1st of January, 1912, Sun Yat-sen was elected temporary president and Li Yuanhong was elected vice president. At that time, the Emperor had not abdicated yet. The battle between the Revolutionary Army and the Qing army was still going on. The new army of the Qing government was organized and trained by Yuan Shikai (1859–1916), its commander. Yuan had a scheme of his own and began seeking a truce with the Revolutionary Army. Then he set his sights on the position of the President of the republic and forced the Emperor to abdicate.
    Sun Yat-sen had no army that he himself had organized to support him. He had been elected temporary president owing to his reputation as a firm revolutionary against the Qing Dynasty. The Revolutionary Army was controlled by the governors (warlords) of the separate provinces; they signed an agreement with Yuan and refused to fight Yuan for Sun Yat-sen. Therefore, Sun Yat-sen had to give in. He resigned, and he nominated Yuan for president on the 15th of February. Accordingly, Yuan was named temporary president of the republic. As a rule, the president ought to live in the capital, which was Nanking, not Peking where Yuan lived. Yuan refused to come south because he could not bring his army south and would instead be controlled by the Revolutionary Army. After negotiations, the Revolutionary Army had to give in and let Yuan take office in Peking. But the congress was still in Nanking, controlled by the national Party.

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    The Ambition of Yuan Shikai
    How Yuan became president of the Republic of China
    When the Republic of China set its capital in Nanking on the 1st of January, 1912, Sun Yat-sen was elected temporary president and Li Yuanhong was elected vice president. At that time, the Emperor had not abdicated yet. The battle between the Revolutionary Army and the Qing army was still going on. The new army of the Qing government was organized and trained by Yuan Shikai (1859–1916), its commander. Yuan had a scheme of his own and began seeking a truce with the Revolutionary Army. Then he set his sights on the position of the President of the republic and forced the Emperor to abdicate.
    Sun Yat-sen had no army that he himself had organized to support him. He had been elected temporary president owing to his reputation as a firm revolutionary against the Qing Dynasty. The Revolutionary Army was controlled by the governors (warlords) of the separate provinces; they signed an agreement with Yuan and refused to fight Yuan for Sun Yat-sen. Therefore, Sun Yat-sen had to give in. He resigned, and he nominated Yuan for president on the 15th of February. Accordingly, Yuan was named temporary president of the republic. As a rule, the president ought to live in the capital, which was Nanking, not Peking where Yuan lived. Yuan refused to come south because he could not bring his army south and would instead be controlled by the Revolutionary Army. After negotiations, the Revolutionary Army had to give in and let Yuan take office in Peking. But the congress was still in Nanking, controlled by the national Party.

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    In February 1913, the congress elected Song Jiaoren to be the Premier of the cabinet. At that time, Yuan had Zhao Binjun as his premier. However, on the 20th of March, Song was assassinated at the railway station in Shanghai. When the assassin was caught, evidence on his person linked him to Zhao—actual letters between Zhao and the assassin, no less. So the national Party drew the conclusion that Yuan was behind it. Zhao resigned under pressure from the press. Duan Qirui (1865–1936) was appointed to take over the office of the premier.
    After the assassination, Sun Yat-sen, who was at the time on a visit in Japan, came back to Shanghai and summoned a meeting of the national Party. He suggested avenging Yuan with armed force, though some other leaders like Huang Xing tended to appeal to less violent conduct.
    On the 26th of April, Yuan asked for a syndicate loan of 25 million British pounds from the lending consortium in China consisting of England, France, Germany, Russia and Japan. The national Party thought that the loan request was illegal, as it would require approval by the congress first. In May, Li Liejun, the governor of Jiangxi province, Hu Hanming, the governor of Guangdong province, and Bo Wenwei, the governor of Anhui province, declared their opposition to the loan. The three governors were all members of the national Party. In June, Yuan gave orders to remove the three from their positions as governors. On the 3rd of July, Yuan sent the sixth division of his new army to Jiangxi province.

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    In February 1913, the congress elected Song Jiaoren to be the Premier of the cabinet. At that time, Yuan had Zhao Binjun as his premier. However, on the 20th of March, Song was assassinated at the railway station in Shanghai. When the assassin was caught, evidence on his person linked him to Zhao—actual letters between Zhao and the assassin, no less. So the national Party drew the conclusion that Yuan was behind it. Zhao resigned under pressure from the press. Duan Qirui (1865–1936) was appointed to take over the office of the premier.
    After the assassination, Sun Yat-sen, who was at the time on a visit in Japan, came back to Shanghai and summoned a meeting of the national Party. He suggested avenging Yuan with armed force, though some other leaders like Huang Xing tended to appeal to less violent conduct.
    On the 26th of April, Yuan asked for a syndicate loan of 25 million British pounds from the lending consortium in China consisting of England, France, Germany, Russia and Japan. The national Party thought that the loan request was illegal, as it would require approval by the congress first. In May, Li Liejun, the governor of Jiangxi province, Hu Hanming, the governor of Guangdong province, and Bo Wenwei, the governor of Anhui province, declared their opposition to the loan. The three governors were all members of the national Party. In June, Yuan gave orders to remove the three from their positions as governors. On the 3rd of July, Yuan sent the sixth division of his new army to Jiangxi province.

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    Under instructions from Sun Yat-sen, Li Liejun declared the independence of Jiangxi province on the 12th of the same month, and formed a separate headquarters from which to oppose Yuan. On the 15th, Huang Xing reached Nanking and declared the independence of Jiangsu province. Quite a few provinces followed suit.
    On the 22nd of July, the national Army from Jiangsu province fought a battle with Yuan’s army at Xuzhou of Shandong province and was defeated. The national Army was conquered in some other places, too. Then all the independent provinces had to rescind their declarations of independence. Yuan issued orders to arrest Sun Yat-sen and Huang Xing, who had already escaped to Japan. This event was called the Second Revolution, but it ended in failure.
    On the 6th of October, the congress held a session in Peking and the congressmen were forced to elect Yuan Shikai as president and Li Yuanhong as vice president of the republic. Yuan took the official oath on the 10th of October.

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