Why Did the Chinese Revolution of 1911 Start?

The ineffectiveness of top-down reform and the disaster that was the Boxer Rebellion led many Chinese to the conclusion that the only viable option was an all-out revolution, which would involve toppling the existing order and establishing a new one that was modelled, if possible, after Japan’s system of government. Sun Yat-sen, also known as Sun Yixian, was the leader of the revolutionary movement. Born in 1866 and passing away in 1925, Sun Yat-sen was a republican and anti-Qing activist who gained increasing popularity among Chinese people living outside of China and Chinese students studying in other countries, particularly in Japan. In 1905, Sun established the Tongmeng Hui (United League) in Tokyo with Huang Xing (1874-1916), a well-known leader of the Chinese revolutionary movement in Japan, serving as his deputy. Sun was the founder of the organisation. This campaign, which was lavishly backed by Chinese monies from outside, also garnered political backing among regional military leaders and some of the reformers who had left China during the Hundred Days’ Reform. Both of these groups had previously been involved in China’s reform effort. The political philosophy of Sun was originally theorised in the year 1897, and it was first enunciated in Tokyo in the year 1905. Sun continued to modify his political philosophy until the early 1920s. It was based on something called the Three Principles of the People (san min zhuyi), which translates to “nationalism, democracy, and people’s livelihood.” The fundamental tenet of nationalism advocated for the overthrow of the Manchus and an end to the dominion of foreign powers in China. Sun’s objective of a democratically elected republican system of government was characterised as adhering to the democratic concept, the second fundamental. People’s livelihood, which is also often referred to as socialism, was aimed at assisting the ordinary people via the control of ownership of the means of production and land. This was done in an effort to benefit the people.

On October 10, 1911, dissatisfied modernised army forces whose plan to overthrow the Qing dynasty was discovered in Wuchang, the capital city of Hubei Province. This led to the outbreak of the Republican Revolution. It had been preceded by a string of failed revolutions and coordinated demonstrations around China. The uprising swiftly spread to adjacent towns, and Tongmeng Hui members all throughout the nation immediately stood up in support of the revolutionary forces in Wuchang. Late in the month of November, fifteen of the Qing empire’s twenty-four provinces had announced their independence from the centralised government. One month later, Sun Yat-sen made his way back to China from the United States, where he had been staying in order to solicit financial support from Chinese and American supporters living in other countries. At a ceremony held in Nanjing on January 1, 1912, Sun was formally installed as the temporary president of the newly established Chinese republic. However, the authority in Beijing had already been transferred to Yuan Shikai, the commander-in-chief of the imperial army. At the time, Yuan Shikai was the most powerful regional military leader. Sun gave succumbed to Yuan’s demand that China be unified under a government in Beijing headed by Yuan in order to forestall civil war and the possibility of intervention from outside powers, both of which would have been detrimental to the fledgling republic. The last Emperor of Manchuria, a toddler named Puyi, abdicated his throne on February 12, 1912. At a ceremony held on March 10 in Beijing, Yuan Shikai took the oath of office to become the temporary president of the Republic of China.

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