CHINESE REVOLUTION

  • China had a long history of national unity and since the mid-seventeenth century had been ruled by the Manchu or Ch’ing dynasty.
  • However, during the 1840s, the country moved into a troubled period of foreign interference, civil war and disintegration, which lasted until the communist victory in 1949.
  • The last emperor was overthrown in 1911 and a republic was proclaimed. The period 1916 to 1928, known as the Warlord Era, was one of great chaos, as a number of generals seized control of different provinces.
  • A party known as the Kuomintang (KMT), or Nationalists, was trying to govern China and control the generals, who were busy fighting each other. The KMT leaders were Dr Sun Yat-sen, and after his death in 1925, General Chiang Kai-shek.
  • The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was founded in 1921, and at first it co-operated with the KMT in its struggle against the warlords.
    • As the KMT gradually established control over more and more of China, it felt strong enough to do without the help of the communists, and it tried to destroy them.
    • The communists, under their leader Mao Zedong, reacted vigorously, and after escaping from surrounding KMT forces, they embarked on the 6000-mile Long March (1934-5) to form a new power base in northern China.
  • Civil war dragged on, complicated by Japanese interference, which culminated in a full-scale invasion in 1937. When the Second World War ended in defeat for the Japanese and their withdrawal from China, the KMT and the CCP continued to fight each other for control of China.
  • Chiang Kai-shek received help from the USA, but in 1949 it was Mao and the communists who finally triumphed. Chiang and his supporters fled to the island of Taiwan (Formosa). Mao Zedong quickly established control over the whole of China, and he remained leader until his death in 1976.

REVOLUTION AND WARLORD ERA

A) Background to the revolution of 1911

  • In the early part of the nineteenth century China kept itself very much separate from the rest of the world; life went on quietly and peacefully with no great changes.
  • However, in the mid-nineteenth century China found itself faced by a number of crises.
    • The prolonged period of relative peace had led to a rapid increase in the population. This made it difficult to produce enough food for subsistence, forcing many peasants to turn to robbery and banditry as a means of survival.
    • The ensuing chaos encouraged foreigners, especially Europeans, to force their way into China to take advantage of trading possibilities. The British were first on the scene, fighting and defeating the Chinese in the Opium Wars (1839-42).
  • Opium Wars:
    • Opium Wars were two armed conflicts in China in the mid-19th century between the forces of Western countries and of the Qing dynasty, which ruled China from 1644 to 1912.
    • The first Opium War (1839–42) was fought between China and Britain, and the second Opium War (1856–60), also known as the Arrow War, was fought by Britain and France against China.
    • First Opium War (1839–42):
      • The Opium Wars arose from China’s attempts to suppress the opium trade.
      • Foreign traders (primarily British) had been illegally exporting opium mainly from India to China since the 18th century, but that trade grew dramatically from about 1820 (it helped in trade balance which was in favour of China).
      • The resulting widespread addiction in China was causing serious social and economic disruption there.
      • In March 1839 the Chinese government confiscated and destroyed more than 1,400 tons of the drug—that were warehoused at Canton (Guangzhou) by British merchants.
      • Hostilities broke out when British warships destroyed a Chinese blockade of the Pearl River estuary at Hong Kong and occupied the city in May 1841. Subsequent British campaigns over the next year were likewise successful against the inferior Qing forces. The British captured Nanjing (Nanking) in late August 1942, which put an end to the fighting.
      • Peace negotiations proceeded quickly, resulting in the Treaty of Nanjing, signed on August 29. By its provisions:
        1. China was required to pay Britain a large indemnity,
        2. cede Hong Kong Island to the British, and
        3. increase the number of treaty ports where the British could trade and reside from one (Canton) to five. Among the four additional designated ports was Shanghai.
      • The British Supplementary Treaty of the Bogue (Humen), signed October 8, 1843, gave
        • British citizens extraterritoriality (the right to be tried by British courts) and
        • most-favoured-nation status (Britain was granted any rights in China that might be granted to other foreign countries).
        • Other Western countries quickly demanded and were given similar privileges.
    • After suffering its first defeat to the West in the First Opium War the Qing court struggled to contain foreign intrusions into China.
    • The second Opium War (Arrow War, 1856-1860) :
      • In the mid-1850s, while the Qing government was embroiled in trying to quell the Taiping Rebellion (1850–64), the British, seeking to extend their trading rights in China, found an excuse to renew hostilities.
      • In early October 1856 some Chinese officials boarded the British-registered ship Arrow while it was docked in Canton, arrested several Chinese crew members, and allegedly lowered the British flag.
      • Later that month a British warship began bombarding Canton.
      • In December Chinese in Canton burned foreign factories there, and tensions escalated.
      • The French decided to join the British military expedition, using as their excuse the murder of a French missionary in the interior of China in early 1856.
      • After delays in assembling the forces in China (British troops that were en route were first diverted to India to help quell the Indian Mutiny), the allies began military operations in late 1857. They quickly captured Canton, deposed the city’s intransigent governor, and installed a more-compliant official.
      • In April 1858 allied troops in British warships reached Tianjin and forced the Chinese into negotiations. The treaties of Tianjin, signed in June 1858, provided
        • residence in Beijing for foreign envoys,
        • the opening of several new ports to Western trade and residence,
        • the right of foreign travel in the interior of China, and
        • freedom of movement for Christian missionaries.
      • In further negotiations in Shanghai later in the year, the importation of opium was legalized.
    • Following defeat in the Second Opium War, the Qing tried to modernize by adopting certain Western technologies through the Self-Strengthening Movement from 1861.
  • Taiping Rebellion (1850-64):
    • Taiping Rebellion (1850-64) spread all over southern China. It was partly a Christian religious movement and partly a political reform movement, which aimed to set up a ‘Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace’ (Taiping tianguo).
    • The movement was eventually defeated, not by the Manchu government troops, which proved to be ineffective, but by newly-formed regional armies.
    • The failure of the government forces was a serious blow to the authority of the Ch’ing dynasty.
  • First Sino-Japanese War:
    • It was conflict between Japan and China that marked the emergence of Japan as a major world power and demonstrated the weakness of the Chinese empire.
    • The war grew out of conflict between the two countries for supremacy in Korea.
    • Korea had long been China’s most important client state, but its strategic location opposite the Japanese islands and its natural resources of coal and iron attracted Japan’s interest.
    • The situation was made tensewhen the Tonghak rebellion broke out in Korea, and the Chinese government, at the request of the Korean king, sent troops to aid in dispersing the rebels.
      • The Japanese sent 8,000 troops to Korea.
      • Chinese tried to reinforce their own forces, further inflaming the situation.
    • War was finally declared on August 1, 1894.
      • Although foreign observers had predicted an easy victory for the more massive Chinese forces, the Japanese had done a more successful job of modernizing, and they were better equipped and prepared.
      • Japanese troops scored quick and overwhelming victories on both land and sea.
      • By March 1895 the Japanese had successfully invaded Shandong province and Manchuria and had fortified posts that commanded the sea approaches to Beijing. The Chinese sued for peace.
    • In the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which ended the conflict:
      • China recognized the independence of Korea.
      • China ceded Taiwan, the Liaodong Peninsula in Manchuria.
      • China agreed to pay a large indemnity
      • China agreed to give Japan trading privileges on Chinese territory.
    • This treaty was later somewhat modified by Russian fears of Japanese expansion, and the combined intercession of Russia, France, and Germany forced Japan to return the Liaodong Peninsula to China.
    • China’s defeat encouraged the Western powers to make further demands of the Chinese government.In China itself, the war triggered a reform movement.
  • Hundred Days’ Reform (1898):
    • Following the Sino-Japanese War, a series of clubs sprang up across China urging reform on the Western model.
    • In all, the emperor issued more than 40 edicts, which if enacted would have transformed every conceivable aspect of Chinese society.
      • The old civil service examination system based on the Chinese Classics was ordered abolished, and
      • a new system of national schools and colleges was established.
      • Western industry, medicine, science, commerce, and patent systems were promoted and adopted.
      • Government administration was revamped, the law code was changed, the military was reformed, and corruption was attacked.
    • The attack on corruption, the army, and the traditional educational system threatened the privileged classes of traditional Chinese society.
      • Conservative forces rallied behind the empress dowager, Cixi; with the army on her side, she carried out a coup d’état and imprisoned the emperor in his palace.
    • Although some moderate reform measures, such as the establishment of modern schools, were retained, the examination system was reestablished and most of the reform edicts, which had never been enacted anyway, were repealed.
  • Boxer Rebellion:
    • The Boxer Rebellion was an anti-imperialist, anti-foreign, and anti-Christian uprising that took place in China between 1899 and 1901, toward the end of the Qing dynasty. It was initiated by the Militiaknown as the Boxers, for many of their members had been practitioners of Chinese martial arts.
    • In response to reports of an armed invasion by Eight Nation Alliance of American, Austro-Hungarian, British, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Russian forces to lift the siege, the initially hesitant Empress Dowager Cixi supported the Boxers and on June 21 issued an Imperial Decree declaring war on the foreign powers.
    • On August 14, 1900, that force finally captured Beijing, relieving the foreigners and Christians besieged there.
    • While foreign troops looted the capital, the empress dowager and her court fled, leaving behind a few imperial princes to conduct the negotiations. A protocol was finally signed in September 1901, ending the hostilities and providing for reparations to be made to the foreign powers.
  • More territory was lost to Japan as a result of the Japanese victory in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-5), and China was clearly in a sorry state.
  • In the early years of the twentieth century thousands of young Chinese traveled abroad and were educated there. They returned with radical, revolutionary ideas of overthrowing the Manchu dynasty and westernizing China. Some revolutionaries, like Dr Sun Yat-sen, wanted a democratic state modeled on the USA.

B) Revolution of 1911 or Xinhai Revolution or Double Ten Revolution:

  • Chinese Revolution, (1911–12) was a revolution that overthrew China’s last imperial dynasty Qing (or Manchu) dynasty in 1912, and established the Republic of China (ROC).
  • The revolution was named Xinhai because it occurred in 1911, the year of the Xinhai of the Chinese calendar.
  • The government tried to respond to the new radical ideas by introducing reforms, promising democracy and setting up elected provincial assemblies.
    • However, this only encouraged the provinces to distance themselves still further from the central government, which was now extremely unpopular.
  • All through the 19th century the dynasty had been declining, and, upon the death of the empress dowager Cixi (1908), it lost its last able leader.
  • In 1911 the emperor Puyi was a child, and the regency was incompetent to guide the nation. The unsuccessful contests with foreign powers had shaken not only the dynasty but the entire machinery of government.
  • The revolution arose mainly in response to the decline of the Qing state, which had proven ineffective in its efforts to modernize China and confront foreign aggression, and was exacerbated by ethnic resentment against the ruling Manchu minority.
  • The revolution consisted of many revolts and uprisings and most provinces quickly declared themselves independent of Beijing.
  • A provisional republican government had been set up at Nanjing, and the archrevolutionist Sun Yat-sen (the leader of the United League) had returned from abroad and had been elected provisional president.
  • The government, ruling on behalf of the child emperor Puyi, in desperation sought help from a retired general, Yuan Shikai, who had been commander of the Chinese Northern Army, and still had a lot of influence with the generals.
    • He was made premier.
    • However, the plan backfired: Yuan, who was still only in his early fifties, turned out to have ambitions of his own. He did a deal with the revolutionaries – they agreed to his becoming the first president of the Chinese republic in return for the abdication of Puyi and the end of the Manchu dynasty.
  • A provisional constitution was promulgated in March 1912 by the Nanjing parliament, and in April the government was transferred to Beijing.
    • This marked the beginning of China’s early republican era (1912–16).
    • With the support of the army, Yuan ruled as a military dictator from 1912 until 1915.
  • The republic, established with such startling rapidity and comparative ease, was destined in the succeeding decades to witness the progressive collapse of national unity and orderly government.
  • Twenty-One Demands (1915):
    • Meanwhile the Japanese sought to take advantage of the upheaval in China and the outbreak of the First World War.
    • A few days after the war began they demanded that Germany should hand over all their rights in the Chinese Shantung peninsula to Japan.
    • This was followed up in January 1915 by Japan’s Twenty-One Demands to China. These were divided into five groups:
      • First they wanted Chinese approval of Japan’s concessions in Shantung (seized from the Germans), including the right to build railways and to begin new mines.
      • Expanding Japan’s sphere of influence in southern Manchuria and eastern Inner Mongolia, to include rights of settlement and extraterritoriality, appointment of financial and administrative officials to the government and priority for Japanese investments in those areas.
      • Control of the Hanyeping mining and metallurgical complex in central China.
      • Barring China from giving any further coastal or island concessions to foreign powers.
      • China should accept Japanese ‘advisers’ in political, economic and military matters and must allow the police forces in some large cities to be jointly organized by Japanese and Chinese.
  • As soon as the demands became public there was a wave of anti-Japanese feeling and a boycott of Japanese goods.
  • Yuan delayed accepting the demand until the Japanese eventually agreed to drop the final (fifth) group.
    • An agreement accepting the rest was signed on 25 May 1915.
    • In fact the agreement made very little difference to the situation: it simply restated the concessions that Japan already had.
    • It was group five of the demands that revealed Japan’s motives. Acceptance of those would have reduced China almost to a colony or a protectorate of Japan.
  • However, Japan had another strategy in mind: they knew that Yuan had developed a desire to become emperor, and in return for his acceptance of the demands, they secretly promised that they would support him in his ambitions. A new emperor who owed his position to Japanese support would he an excellent alternative method of controlling China.
  • In December 1915 it was announced that it there was to be return to the monarchy in the person of Yuan itself, who would become emperor on 1 January 1916.
    • This turned out to he a fatal mistake: most people saw the ending of then republic as a backward step, and his support dwindled rapidly.
    • The army turned against him and forced him to abdicate. He died in October 1916.

C) The Warlord Era (1916-28)

  • The abdication and death of Yuan removed the last person who seemed capable of maintaining some sort of unity in China.
  • The country now disintegrated into literally hundreds of states of varying sizes, each controlled by a warlord and his private army. As they fought each other, it was the ordinary Chinese peasants who suffered hardships.
  • However two important positive developments took place during this period.
  • May the Fourth Movement:
    • The May the Fourth Movement began on that date in 1919 with a huge student demonstration in Beijing, protesting against the Warlord and against traditional Chinese culture.
    • The movement was also anti-Japanese; especially when the 1919 Versailles settlement officially recognised Japan’s right to take over Germany’s concession in Shantung province.
    • Though Japan promised to return control of Shantung to China eventually—it did so in February 1922—the Chinese were deeply outraged by the Allied decision to favor Japan at Versailles. It was this humiliation at the hands of Japan that seemed to stir up the whole country to support the movement.
    • Thousands of university students went on strike at the failure of the government to protest strongly enough at Versailles.
    • There was a boycott of Japanese goods. This was popular with Chinese industrialists who benefited from the boycott: they supported the students, many of whom have been jailed, while factory workers and railway workers went on strike in sympathy.
    • It was a remarkable show of mass patriotism.
    • The government finally had no choice but to give way: the students were released: the ministers, who had signed the Twenty-One Demands agreement in 1915 were sacked and the Chinese delegation at Versailles refused to sign the peace treaty.
  • Problem of warlords and modernisation of Chinese culture:
    • The other problems addressed by May the Fourth Movement- the need to tame the warlords, and the desire to modernise Chinese culture – took longer to achieve.
    • However, as the Kuomintang or Nationalist Party gradually grew stronger, they succeeded in bringing the warlords under control by 1928.
    • Chinese culture was partly based on the teachings of the 5th Century BCE Chinese philosopher, Confucius.
      • He had developed his philosophy during a period of anarchy in China and it was designed to solve the problems of how best to organize society so that all could live in peace.
      • He stressed the necessity for loyalty in all relationships and for the strict upbringing of children. ‘Let the ruler be a ruler, the subject a subject, the father a father, and a son a son.’
      • If people acted properly according to their place in society, then the moral integrity and social harmony of the nation would be restored.
    • For centuries Chinese emperors and rulers had embraced Confucianism because it justified their autocratic and conservative rule.
    • After the 1911 revolution and May the Fourth 1919, some writers began to produce questioning and challenging works calling for modernization in politics, science and individual rights in place of traditional Confucianism. But the practical effect of these writings was limited:
      • The warlords were totally unmoved by this new thinking,
      • Chiang’s Nationalists suppressed intellectual and political freedom after they had set up their government in Nanjing in the late 1920s.
      • They even promoted Confucianism because of its conservatism and because it was a good means of distinguishing themselves from Mao and the communists.
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