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What was the Chinese Revolution of 1911?

We explain what was the Chinese Revolution of 1911 or the Xinai Revolution, its causes, consequences and main events.

What was the Chinese Revolution of 1911?

The Xinhai Revolution, the First Chinese Revolution or the Chinese Revolution of 1911 was the nationalist and republican revolt that emerged in Imperial China in the early twentieth century. He overthrew the last Chinese imperial dynasty , the Qing dynasty, establishing the Chinese Republic instead.

This insurrection was known as Xinhai because 1911, according to the Chinese calendar, was the year of the mother branch of Xinhai (“metal pig” in Chinese). Although studied as the same movement, the Xinhai Revolution actually consisted of numerous uprisings and revolts.

The so-called Wuchang Uprising of October 10, 1911, the event that triggered and precipitated the revolution, is considered its starting point . He had international support given that Sun Yat-sen, an antitrust revolutionary and father of modern China, was currently in exile in the United States.

Background of the Chinese Revolution of 1911

1911 Xinhai Chinese Revolution Background Opium Wars
The Opium Wars and other conflicts had weakened the Chinese feudal system.

The history of Imperial China during the nineteenth century was complicated, with abundant foreign interference that sought to profit from opium and that unleashed the First and Second Opium Wars against Britain and France, in which China always left very badly.

The same happened with the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895 and then with the Boxer Uprising (1899-1901). These conflicts greatly punished the Chinese people and demonstrated the deficiencies of the ruling feudal system , very technologically late with respect to the rest of the world .

China’s opening to foreign innovations (factories, banks , machinery, etc.) was at the same time an opportunity to modernize the agricultural system , and an affront to traditional Chinese methods and customs, so that it was never fully achieved. The task of stabilizing the nation.

However, European influences brought republican ideas , which were embraced by Sun Yat-sen and his nationalist party, the Kuo-Min-Tang, which would begin formal functions in 1911.

Causes of the Chinese Revolution of 1911

The main cause behind the outbreak of the Revolution has to do with the conditions of misery and backwardness in which Chinese society, especially the peasantry , lived in the feudal society that sustained the monarchy in government .

To this is added the constant interference of foreign powers in local politics, imposing conditions that only favored their interests and concessions, as well as their commercial privileges. This resulted in numerous internal outbursts that were brutally repressed by the aristocracy , which led them to operate in a clandestine and highly organized manner.

The explosion of the rebellion, however, was due to the misuse of resources by the Beijing government, destined to complete the Hukwang railroad tracks in central China, which unleashed an immediate malaise among the population .

Coincidentally, a conspiracy on the march was discovered in the army of Wuchang, due to the outbreak of a bomb in the city of Hankou in 1911. The conspirators, instead of surrendering, resisted forcefully to the authority and thus lit the fuse revolutionary that spread throughout China, rising against the authority of the Qing.

Consequences of the 1911 Chinese Revolution

On October 11 the revolutionaries took Hànyáng and the next day Hànkôu. As the revolts were common in southern China, the authorities took longer than they should to react and, when they did, commissioning the work of appeasing the military Yuan Shikai, hero of the Sino-Japanese War, it was impossible to quell the uprising.

Twelve points of claim were sent to the Qing by promoting a parliamentary system, and thus Yuan Shikai himself assumed the position of Prime Minister of the Qing Empire. Achieving a consensus among the people was impossible, and on November 30, 1911, the Chinese Republic was proclaimed in Nanjing , whose first president was Sun Yat-sen, back from the United States.

Subsequently, on February 12, 1912, the last Emperor Qing, the boy Puyi or Emperor Xuantong, abdicated under the pressure of the Prime Minister himself, who in exchange for his cooperation became President of the Republic.

In March 1912 the Republican Constitution was promulgated, calling for parliamentary elections within a period of ten months. Thus the 2000-year tradition of an Imperial China died, and the ephemeral Republic of China was born, from whose nationalist values come both the People’s Republic of China (mainland), and the Republic of China (Taiwan).

Another important consequence was the creation of the Chinese nationalist party (Kuomintang) by Sun Yat-sen, which would play an important role in the Chinese Civil War to come.

Imperial resurgence

1911 Chinese Revolution Xinhai Yuan Shikai
Yuan Shikai proclaimed himself emperor in 1916 but had to resign shortly after.

In 1913, when the elections were held as dictated by the Constitution, the then president, the military Yuan Shikai, refused to leave power and ruled de facto. In 1915 he restored the imperial character to his government, pretending to be a new personal dynasty.

On January 1, 1916 Yuan Shikai ascended the throne, although just three months later he was forced to resign to power . He died on June 6 of that same year, abandoned by his followers.

China Timeline in a sight

I The origins

Archeology places the semi-legendary Xia dynasty between the 21st and 18th centuries BC. The bronze civilization was born during the Shang dynasty (18- 1025 BC) and was perpetuated with the Zhou (1025-256 BC).

H.H. V-III BC: period of the Warring Kingdoms, marked by political disunity and cultural flourishing with Confucius.

II Imperial China and the Mongol conquest

221-206 BC: Qin Shi Huangdi founded the Qin empire and unified the whole of the Chinese kingdoms.

206 BC-AD 220: The Han dynasty extended its empire to Manchuria, Korea, Mongolia, Vietnam, and central Asia. He founded the Mandarin, revalued Confucianism, controlled the Silk Road, and opened the country to foreign influences (Buddhism).

220-581: period of territorial fragmentation and wars.

581-618: the Sui dynasty reunified the country and had the Grand Canal built.

618-907: The Tang developed an excellent administration and continued their military expansion under the Tang Emperors Taizong (627-649) and Tang Gaozong (650683).

960-1279: the Song ruled a territory much less extensive than that of the Tang; the “barbarians of the North” created the Liao empires (947-1124) and) in (1115-1234). Chinese scientific and technical civilization was much more advanced than that of the West. The Mongols defeated the Song and conquered the country.

1279-1368: the Mongol dynasty of the Yuan ruled China; the country revolted commanded by Hongwu, founder of the Ming dynasty.

III The China of the Ming and the Qing

1368-1644: the Ming reestablished tradition and established autocratic practices. Yongle conquered Manchuria.

1573-1620: reign of Wanli; the decline of the Ming dynasty began.

1644: the Manchus invaded the country and founded the Qing dynasty, which reigned until 1911 and established its dominance over a territory more extensive than ever (protectorate in Tibet, 1751; progression in Mongolia and Central Asia).

XIX century

Weakened by economic and social problems, militarily fragile, China had to cede sovereignty over some ports to Westerners.

1839-1842: Opium War. 1851-1864: insurrection of the Taiping.

1875-1908: Empress Ci Xi came to power. China, defeated by Japan (1894-1895), had to cede Liaodong and Taiwan. Russia, Germany, Great Britain and France divided the country.

1900 : rebellion of the Boxers.

IV The Republic of China

1911-1937: the republic was established (1911), presided over by Yuan Shikai. The Guomindang nationalists, led by Sun Yat-sen and later by Chang Kai-shek, broke with the communists (1927), who won the N at the end of the “Long March” (1934-1935).

1937-1945: Japanese occupation.

1945-1949 : after Japan capitulated, the civil war pitted nationalists and communists against each other.

 The People’s Republic of China until 1976

1949 : creation of the People’s Republic of China, led by Mao Zedong. The nationalists fell back to Taiwan.

1956 : Mao launched the “Hundred Flowers” campaign; great ideological debate.

1958 : the “Great Leap Forward” imposed the collectivization of land and the creation of popular communes, but it was an economic failure.

1960 : the USSR called in its experts and blocked large industrial projects.

1966-1976 : Mao promoted the Cultural Revolution. During ten years of upheaval, the administrative and political authorities were dismissed by the students, organized as Red Guards, and by the army.

1969 : border incidents with the USSR.

1971 : admission of the People’s Republic of China to the UN, where it replaced Taiwan, and rapprochement with the United States.

The new orientations

1976 : death of Mao; arrest of the “Gang of Four”.

1977 : Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiaoping launched a program of economic reforms, opening to the foreigner, and revision of Maoism.

1979 : armed conflict with Vietnam.

1980-1987: reforms continued. The growth of the private sector generated corruption, sharp increases in prices and unleashed (1986) a serious social crisis.

1987: Zhao Ziyang, appointed leader of the party, ceded the leadership of the government to LiPeng.

1988: Yang Shangkun was appointed president of the republic.

1989 : Gorbachev’s visit to Beijing normalized relations with the USSR. The students and the people demanded the liberalization of the regime. Deng Xiaoping called in the army against the protesters in Beijing’s TianC3anmen Square. Zhao Ziyang was dismissed and replaced by Jiang Zemin.

1991 : China normalized its relations with Vietnam.

1992 : the Communist Party officially joined the socialist market economy. China normalized its relations with South Korea.

1993 : Jiang Zemin, president of the republic.

1997 : death of Deng Xiaoping. Britain returned Hong Kong to China.

1999: Portugal restored Macao to China.

2001-2002: the country saw its position on the international scene strengthened (allocation of the 2008 Olympic Games to Beijing and the 2010 World Expo to Shanghai;

entry into the WTO).

2003 : Hu Jintao succeeded J. Zemin as president of the republic.

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