The end of imperial rule was followed by nearly four decades of major socioeconomic development and sociopolitical discord. The initial establishment of a Western-style government—the Republic of China—was followed by several efforts to restore the throne. Lack of a strong central authority led to regional fragmentation, warlordism, and civil war. The main figure in the revolutionary movement that overthrew imperial rule was Sun Yat-sen (1866–1925), who, along with other republican political leaders, endeavored to establish a parliamentary democracy. They were thwarted by warlords with imperial and quasi-democratic pretensions who resorted to assassination, rebellion, civil war, and collusion with foreign powers (especially Japan) in their efforts to gain control.
Ignored by the Western powers and in charge of a southern military government with its capital in Guangzhou, Sun Yatsen eventually turned to the new Soviet Union for inspiration and assistance. The Soviets obliged Sun and his Guomindang (Nationalist Party). Soviet advisers helped the Guomindang establish political and military training activities. But Moscow also supported the new Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which was founded by Mao Zedong (1893–1976) and others in Shanghai in 1921. The Soviets hoped for consolidation of the Guomindang and the CCP but were prepared for either side to emerge victorious. The struggle for power in China began between the Guomindang and the CCP as both parties also sought the unification of China.
A major political and social movement during this time was the May Fourth Movement (1919), in which calls for the study of “science” and “democracy” were combined with a new patriotism that became the focus of an anti-Japanese and antigovernment movement. Sun’s untimely death from illness in 1925 brought a split in the Guomindang and eventually an uneasy united front between the Guomindang and the CCP.
Dr. Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925) was a the reformer and revolutionary who spent his life trying to bring down the corrupt Qing dynasty and replace it with a democratic government. He is revered by both Communist mainlanders and Nationalist Taiwanese as the father of 20th century China. Sun Yat-sen's picture is on Chinese banknotes.
Sun, whose original name was Sun Wen, advocated "the Three Principles of the People: nationalism, democracy and the people's livelihood." Regarding nationalism, Sun aimed to guarantee people's political rights, including the right to vote, establish parliamentary democracy and ensure the separation of administrative, legislative and judicial powers.
Sun Yat-sen was born in Guangdong province on November 12, 1866 into a farming family. He studied for a few years in Chinese schools. At the age of 13 he moved to Hawaii, where his elder brother had emigrated. He studied there at a boarding school run by the Anglican Church. Sun Yat-sen later moved to Hong Kong. He spent more than a decade there, was baptized as a Christian and graduated from the the Hong Kong College of Medicine in 1892. He practiced medicine briefly in 1893.
Sun was guided partly by his Christian beliefs. As a teenager he spoke out against China’s slavery, ancestor worship and idolatry. In a speech in 1912 he said "the essence" of the revolution "could be found largely in the teachings of the church." Sun was a patriot who wanted to make China strong and self reliant using both modern technology and China’s human and natural resources. He was also a great admirers of rebels who formed secret societies and risked their life fighting against the Qing dynasty.
In 1905, Sun developed a coherent guiding philosophy that became the guiding ideology for the secret society through which he carried out his activities. The "Three Principals of the People" combined elements of nationalism, socialism and democracy and asserted that government should be "of the People, by the People and for the People." His goals were first to end the Qing dynasty, kick out the foreign occupiers and develop a government with a strong central leadership based on socialist principals. Democracy would emerge, he believed, when China was ready for it.
Sun's political philosophy was conceptualized in 1897, first enunciated in Tokyo in 1905, and modified through the early 1920s. It centered on the Three Principles of the People (san min zhuyi): "nationalism, democracy, and people's livelihood." The principle of nationalism called for overthrowing the Manchus and ending foreign hegemony over China. The second principle, democracy, was used to describe Sun's goal of a popularly elected republican form of government. People's livelihood, often referred to as socialism, was aimed at helping the common people through regulation of the ownership of the means of production and land. [Source: The Library of Congress]
Good Websites and Sources on Early 20th Century China Sun Yat-sen Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Time Asia time.com ; My Grandfather Sun Yat-sen Asia Week ; May 4th Movement Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Chiang Kai-shek Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; New York Times Obituary New York Times ; Time Magazine Person of the Year 1937 time.com ; Madame Chiang Kai-shek Wellesley Site wellesley.edu ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Soong Sisters Wesleyan College wesleyancollege.edu
Links in this Website: QING DYNASTY factsanddetails.com/china ; EUNUCHS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; OPIUM WARS PERIOD factsanddetails.com/china ; OPIUM AND ILLEGAL DRUGSfactsanddetails.com : FOREIGNERS AND CHINESE IN THE 19TH AND 20TH CENTURIES factsanddetails.com/china ; factsanddetails.com/chinaTAIPING REBELLION, BOXER REBELLION, EMIGRATION AND WARS IN CHINA factsanddetails.com/china ; EMPRESS DOWAGER CIXI, LAST EMPEROR AND ATTEMPTED REFORMS factsanddetails.com/china ; SUN YAT-SEN AND ATTEMPTS AT CHINESE DEMOCRACYfactsanddetails.com/china ; WARLORDISM AND CHIANG KAI-SHEK factsanddetails.com/china ; EARLY COMMUNISTS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; MAO, HIS EARLY LIFE, TACTICS AND REVOLUTION Factsanddetails.com/China ;
Good Websites and Sources on Empress Dowager Cixi: Court Life During the Time of Empress Dowager Cixi etext.virginia.edu; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Cixi’s Luxurious Life xinhuanet.com ; Book on Cixi royalty.nu ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; The Last Emperor Puyi Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Time Asia time.com ; Hartford Courant hartford-hwp.com/archives; Puyi Biography royalty.nu/Asia
Good Chinese History Websites: 1) Chaos Group of University of Maryland chaos.umd.edu/history/toc ; 2) Brooklyn College site academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu ; 3) Wikipedia article on the History of China Wikipedia 4) China Knowledge chinaknowledge.de ; 5) China History Forum chinahistoryforum.com ; 6) Gutenberg.org e-book gutenberg.org/files ; 7 ) WWW VL: History China vlib.iue.it/history/asia 20th Century History China History Virtual Library
Sun Yat-sen Early Political Activity
Sun operated out of Hong Kong, then a center of revolutionary activity against the imperial government. He led his first insurrection against the Qing dynasty in 1895 in southeast China. It failed and at the request of the government, Sun was kicked out of Hong Kong by the British. He sought refuge in Japan.
Sun Yat-sen organized a secret revolutionary society and led or inspired periodic uprisings in southern China, all of which failed due to poor planning and lack of weapons. Sun himself narrowly avoided capture and certain execution several times.
Sun spent much of his life in exile—in Hawaii, Japan and Southeast Asia—with a big price on his head. He traveled widely in Europe and the United States trying to secure money and drum up support for his cause and his uprisings. Sun was very persuasive and committed to his goals. He was able to raise large amount of money, mostly from overseas Chinese in North America and Southeast Asia.
Republican Revolution of 1911
The Qing Dynasty was brought down by a highly organized revolutionary movement with overseas arms and financing and a coherent governing ideology based on republican nationalism. Failure of reform from the top and the fiasco of the Boxer Uprising convinced many Chinese that the only real solution lay in outright revolution, in sweeping away the old order and erecting a new one patterned preferably after the example of Japan.
Sun Yat-sen was then a republican and anti-Qing activist who became increasingly popular among the overseas Chinese and Chinese students abroad, especially in Japan. In 1905 Sun founded the Tongmeng Hui (United League) in Tokyo with Huang Xing (1874-1916), a popular leader of the Chinese revolutionary movement in Japan, as his deputy. This movement, generously supported by overseas Chinese funds, also gained political support with regional military officers and some of the reformers who had fled China after the Hundred Days' Reform. [Source: The Library of Congress]
“The republican revolution broke out on October 10, 1911, in Wuchang, the capital of Hubei Province, among discontented modernized army units whose anti-Qing plot had been uncovered. It had been preceded by numerous abortive uprisings and organized protests inside China. The revolt quickly spread to neighboring cities, and Tongmeng Hui members throughout the country rose in immediate support of the Wuchang revolutionary forces. By late November, fifteen of the twenty-four provinces had declared their independence of the Qing empire. A month later, Sun Yat-sen returned to China from the United States, where he had been raising funds among overseas Chinese and American sympathizers. On January 1, 1912, Sun was inaugurated in Nanjing as the provisional president of the new Chinese republic. But power in Beijing already had passed to the commander-in-chief of the imperial army, Yuan Shikai, the strongest regional military leader at the time. To prevent civil war and possible foreign intervention from undermining the infant republic, Sun agreed to Yuan's demand that China be united under a Beijing government headed by Yuan.
On February 12, 1912, the 6-year-old child emperor of the Qing Dynasty abdicated, ending more than 2,000 years of imperial rule in China. On March 10, in Beijing, Yuan Shikai was sworn in as provisional president of the Republic of China.
Wuchang Uprising and Xinhai Revolution and Their Legacy
Robert Saiget of AFP wrote: “When the army of the Qing Dynasty turned its guns on the state on October 10, 1911, it signalled the end of 2,000 years of imperial rule in China and the promise of a democratic republican government.The first shots were fired in Wuchang part of today's city of Wuhan sparking battles between imperial forces and rebel soldiers during which 16 other regions declared independence in what has come to be known as the Xinhai Revolution. The Wuchang Uprising led to the establishment of the Republic of China by revolutionary Sun Yat-sen's Nationalist Party, which fought under the banner of nationalism, democracy and the people's livelihood. [Source: Robert Saiget, AFP, October 10, 2011]
China marked the centennial of the Wuchang Uprising with the release of "1911", a big-budget historical movie directed by Jackie Chan, and a new museum in the central metropolis of Wuhan where it began. But the celebrations were muted, particularly compared with those that marked the 90th birthday in July of the ruling Communist Party. That, say experts, is because of the troublesome connotations with democracy and Taiwan. October 10, the day the Wuchang Uprising began, is celebrated as Taiwan's national day.
"The (Communist) party will play up the ability of the people to throw off the yoke of imperialism, that the people have stood up, and day by day China is becoming a superpower," Willy Lam, an expert on Chinese politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told AFP. "But they will not want to discuss the democratic element. The emphasis is on wealth of the people and international power."
Cutting of the queue in 1911 Beijing believes it is heir to Sun's legacy and argues that a dramatic rise in living standards during the past 30 years of economic reform is the fruit of his revolution. But the ideological battle between the Nationalists and Communists continues over whether the Xinhai Revolution ushered in a truly republican form of government in China.
"The eruption of the Xinhai Revolution overthrew several thousand years of imperial rule and has had a huge impact on the psychology of the Chinese people," historian Lei Yi of the China Academy of Social Sciences told AFP. "The Communist Party believes that they are continuing the spirit of the Xinhai Revolution and that the Nationalists betrayed the revolution."
Qin Yongmin, a Wuhan resident who was released last year from a 12-year jail term for subversion, argues that the revolution only replaced one dictator with another. "I do not have a very high appraisal of the Xinhai Revolution," Qin, who was jailed in 1998 after calling for multi-party democracy in China as chairman of the outlawed China Democracy Party, told AFP. "The imperial system was removed, but a totalitarian dictator stepped in. Mao Zedong was not an emperor, he was worse than an emperor, he was more of a dictator than the emperor."
At an official event commemorating the centennial in Beijing, Chinese President Hu Jintao said the Communist Party is "the most faithful successor" to the spirit of the Xinhai Revolution. Hu then called on Taiwan to work toward reunification, urging China and Taiwan to "heal the wounds of the past and work together to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation." In the run-up to the anniversary, China's state-run newspapers carried front-page articles on the 1911 uprising, but avoided any mention of its democratic aims. Chan's film, "1911", is similarly quiet on the subject.There have also been reports of academic events being cancelled or pressure placed on their organisers to avoid reference to the contemporary implications of the revolution's aims. The Wall Street Journal argued that “with the ideological heritage of communism neutralized by cronyism and corporatism, the CCP insists that the revolutions of 1911 and 1949 were powered by the elusive stuff of ‘nationalism.’"
"Wuhan has always been proud of the Wuchang Uprising and its contribution to China's development, but the people are actually very indifferent to it," said retiree Guo Xinglian as he strolled in a park near where the uprising began. "Today a lot of people think the Communist Party is more corrupt than the Qing Dynasty, but they also know that the Communist Party is very strong and any attempt at an uprising will be crushed."
Background Behind the Wuchang Uprising and Xinhai Revolution
Pamela Kyle wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “China has a long history of uprisings against corrupt officials, high rents and foreign trespass. From the end of the 19th century, the Chinese demonstrated and occasionally rebelled against territorial seizures by foreign powers, the intrusion of foreign goods into Chinese markets, the foreign monopoly on railroads, official corruption and military incompetence. This resistance became a resource for those attempting to concentrate the fire of public discontent on the Qing court. [Source: Pamela Kyle, Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2011]
Traditional Chinese society was skilled in organizing the resources necessary for sustaining civil action—and uncivil if needed—against the government. The power of the Chinese public to mobilize fuels reform and creativity in China, while marking some real limits to government abuse. This continues to define the Chinese identity in the 21st century. Yet it is so loathed by the Chinese Communist Party that even the phrase "civil society" is banned online and in print.
The 1911 revolution was also international in origin and orientation. Its leading figures, including Sun Yat-sen, had been raised at the margins of traditional China, or had spent their entire adult lives abroad—whether in the British colony of Hong Kong, the United States and its Pacific possessions, the European colonies of Southeast Asia, or the cities and universities of liberal Meiji Japan. They were accustomed to legal protections on political speech, the idea of impartial government and the prospect of democracy.
After being banished from the Qing territories in the 1890s, reformers and revolutionaries traveled to or published in the Chinese communities of the Pacific, Latin America, North America and Europe to raise money for their cause. Not surprisingly, when the new republic was erected, its international orientation persisted, though it lost some credibility as Japan became financially and militarily more predatory. Nevertheless, collaborative relations with the United States, the Soviet Union and Europe (including the despatch of more than 100,000 men to support British and French armies in World War I) remained a defining element of the first Chinese Republic, and in many forms persisted in the P.R.C. until the late 1950s.
China was part of the Qing empire, ruled by foreign invaders, the Manchus. The Chinese themselves had no armies, no defined boundaries and above all no concept of national sovereignty. At the end of the 19th century, as in the cases of many peoples entering the twilight of the great land empires, Chinese leaders arose who claimed the banner of nationalism. Their opposition to the Qing, British and French empires was clear enough. What was unclear was the basis of this nationalism once the Qing fell and the assaults of foreign empires withered away.
Reforms Before the 1911 Revolution and Failures Afterwards
Sebastian Veg wrote in the The China Beat, “China’s 1911 Revolution ushered in a constitutional monarchy, rapidly followed by the proverbial “first Republic in Asia,” with Sun Yat-sen as its short-lived first president. Although political change had been expected, the revolution itself came as something of a surprise at the end of a decade of political reforms known as the “New policy” by the Manchu court, which had already largely transformed the organization of the Chinese state. The abolition of the century-old system of civil service examinations, the election of various provincial-level assemblies (albeit by a very small franchise) which fostered the power of the local gentry, the establishment of modern schools and universities, and the influx of western commodities and techniques under the motto “Chinese learning as substance, Western learning as function” all took place during the last years of Qing rule. When the revolution finally occurred, it came as the icing on the cake of an incremental institution-building process that had taken place over the preceding decade. [Source: Sebastian Veg, The China Beat, October 10, 2011. Sebastian Veg is the director of the French Centre for Research on Contemporary China (Hong Kong). He has published a monography on Lu Xun and European modernism, and his current research interests are in the area of literature and intellectuals in modern and contemporary China.]
However, the top-down reforms launched by the court throughout the 1900s were at the same time being outpaced by the growing radicalization of China’s intellectuals, many of whom spent this decade in Japan. While Kang Youwei’s idea of a constitutional, Confucian monarchy had appeared as revolutionary in 1898, by 1911 Kang was seen by most progressive thinkers and activists as a hopeless and eccentric reactionary. Even Liang Qichao, one of the most prominent and widely-read advocates of constitutionalism and an admirer of the British system, was outflanked by the cultural and political vanguard represented by activists like Zhang Binglin (Zhang Taiyan), the editor of the influential Minbao, published in Tokyo. Zhang and many of his followers, in particular the group known as the “Tokyo anarchists”, criticized what they saw as the pro-Western bias in the institution-building process and advocated a different kind of democracy, rooted in social equality and inspired by archaic and often esoteric Chinese thinkers.
The 1911 revolution, whether because of the initial weakness of its proponents or through a series of unlucky historical coincidences, rapidly led to the restoration of Yuan Shikai to the imperial throne. The long-anticipated democratic system and the greater social and civic equality that was to result from it remained elusive, prompting a decade of soul-searching among China’s intellectuals. The most famous product of these reflections was without doubt Lu Xun’s Ah Q, the epitome of a revolutionary who is unequipped and unable to become a citizen. How were China’s Ah Qs to be made into citizens? This became the foremost preoccupation of the country’s intellectual elite for many years, setting them apart from the world of power politics. The New Culture movement, with its emphasis on education and individual autonomy, was followed by cultural agendas that became increasingly utopian as politics became more cynical and polarized. When Duan Qirui sent his troops into Beijing, Lu Xun’s brother Zhou Zuoren took his Beijing University students to study in the countryside, emulating the Japanese “New Village movement.” As Chiang Kai-shek massacred supposed communist sympathizers, Liang Shuming set up utopian rural schools in China’s remote backwaters. “Real” democracy was always seen as outside the corrupt institutions of party politics; however, the utopian vision of “fostering citizens” never led to the desired changes in the political system. Similarly to Weimar Germany, the Republic of China was a time of great freedom and intellectual ferment, but also a Republic without republicans, a regime whose institutions no one was prepared to invest in.
In this manner, mistrust of institutions remained strong among critical Chinese intellectuals for most of the century, and was notably instrumentalized to great effect by Mao during the Cultural Revolution – which is not to say that “organic” intellectuals did not crave recognition from the state when the opportunity arose. However, it was only after the beginning of Reform and Opening up that the Chinese elite again warmed to the theme of institution building: throughout the 1980s – a decade of intellectual ferment and political reform in many ways similar to the 1900s – the feeling dominated that an institutional compromise was possible between inner-Party reformers and idealistic intellectuals. After the violent crackdown of the 1989 student movement, a similar pattern emerged: rather than embarking on an uncertain long march through the institutions, many of China’s foremost critical thinkers once again took refuge in other realms: academia, legal activism, grassroots civil society organizations, personal investigations of recent history, documentary films, or emigration. Only Liu Xiaobo, loyal to the spirit of the 1980s, reaffirmed his commitment to formulating an institutional alternative, demonstrated most clearly in the Charter 08 he co-authored. On the whole, however, institutional reform was seen as both hopeless and useless (a point tragically demonstrated by Liu’s arrest) and the real battles were elsewhere.
It took almost one century from the fall of the Bastille until French citizens of all political stripes could to come together at the funeral of Republican icon Victor Hugo, a sign, according to historian François Furet’s famous pronouncement, that “Revolution had entered port.” This has not happened in China. To the contrary, the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, with its carefully crafted historical narrative, took great pains to avoid sketching out a possible political consensus on how to define the nation in the 20th century, closely confining itself to the cultural bric-a-brac of its “5,000-year history.” This absence of even a minimal consensus on the nature of the Chinese polity speaks eloquently to the open legacy of 1911. One hundred years on, the divide between an institutional apparatus that seems less and less amenable to reform and an aspirational form of democracy that has not yet found a satisfactory institutional translation on the Chinese mainland remains as deep as ever.
Sun Yat-sen and the End of the Qing Dynasty
The Nationalist Revolution of 1911, which included the Wuchang Uprising and Railway Protection Movement, toppled the Qing dynasty. The Qing dynasty collapsed mainly due to weakness from within Qing government. Even though Sun wasn't in China when the Qing dynasty collapsed he played a part in the revolution by inspiring revolutionaries with his philosophy and putting pressure on the Qing government with the rebellion he inspired.
On October 10, 1911, seventeen provinces formed a provisional government in Nanjing. Sun was selected as its provisional leader. Realizing he needed military support Sun formed an alliance with the military leader Li Yuanhong. On January 1, 1912 Sun was sworn in as the President of the newly formed Republic of China. He established a government based on the "Three People's Principle"
Amidst the anarchy that followed the collapse of Qing Dynasty, Sun made the bold decision of transforming his revolutionary society into a mainstream political party. The result: the Kuomintang (KMT or Nationalist Party), which emerged as the dominant political party in China. The Kuomintang won in China's first ever national elections in 1913 but didn’t hold on to power for long. The republic that Sun Yat-sen and his associates envisioned evolved slowly. The revolutionists lacked an army, and the power of Yuan Shikai began to outstrip that of parliament. Yuan revised the constitution at will and became dictatorial.
Sun Yat-sen Hands Loses Power to the Warlords
Sun's power and charisma unfortunately was not enough to overcome the military muscle of China's divided warlords and the remnants of the Manchu army and forge China into a true nation. With the preservation of the republic taking precedence over his own ambitions, Sun relinquished power after only three months to Gen. Yuan Shih-kai, a commander in the Manchu Army who promised to get the Manchu's to surrender and install a republican government.
Yuan Shih-kai had helped Sun's Nationalists to force the Manchu abdication. Once in power Yuan reneged on his promise and set about shoring up his power by murdering political opponents, ignoring the new constitution, ruthlessly putting down local uprisings and later named himself emperor of a new dynasty.
After Yuan Shih-kai's death in 1916 the country once deteriorated into anarchy as fragmented states ruled by warlords fought for control.
Republican China and Yuan Shikai
After the death of the Empress Dowager and the abdication of Puyi, China descended into an anarchy in which a weak republican government fought for control of the country against local warlords. The predecessors of the Communist party that existed at this time consisted of discussion groups at Beijing University who argued over points in the Communist Manifesto.
In August 1912 a new political party was founded by Song Jiaoren (1882-1913), one of Sun's associates. The party, the Kuomintang (Guomindang or KMT--the National People's Party, frequently referred to as the Nationalist Party), was an amalgamation of small political groups, including Sun's Tongmeng Hui. In the national elections held in February 1913 for the new bicameral parliament, Song campaigned against the Yuan administration, and his party won a majority of seats. Yuan had Song assassinated in March; he had already arranged the assassination of several pro-revolutionist generals. Animosity toward Yuan grew. In the summer of 1913 seven southern provinces rebelled against Yuan. When the rebellion was suppressed, Sun and other instigators fled to Japan. In October 1913 an intimidated parliament formally elected Yuan president of the Republic of China, and the major powers extended recognition to his government. To achieve international recognition, Yuan Shikai had to agree to autonomy for Outer Mongolia and Xizang. China was still to be suzerain, but it would have to allow Russia a free hand in Outer Mongolia and Britain continuance of its influence in Xizang. [Source: The Library of Congress]
“In November Yuan Shikai, legally president, ordered the Kuomintang dissolved and its members removed from parliament. Within a few months, he suspended parliament and the provincial assemblies and forced the promulgation of a new constitution, which, in effect, made him president for life. Yuan's ambitions still were not satisfied, and, by the end of 1915, it was announced that he would reestablish the monarchy. Widespread rebellions ensued, and numerous provinces declared independence. With opposition at every quarter and the nation breaking up into warlord factions, Yuan Shikai died of natural causes in June 1916, deserted by his lieutenants. [Ibid]
May 4th Movement
On May 4, 1919, there were massive student demonstrations against the Beijing government and Japan. The political fervor, student activism, and iconoclastic and reformist intellectual currents set in motion by the patriotic student protest developed into a national awakening known as the May Fourth Movement. The intellectual milieu in which the May Fourth Movement developed was known as the New Culture Movement and occupied the period from 1917 to 1923. The student demonstrations of May 4, 1919 were the high point of the New Culture Movement, and the terms are often used synonymously. Students returned from abroad advocating social and political theories ranging from complete Westernization of China to the socialism that one day would be adopted by China's communist rulers. [Source: The Library of Congress]
For More See article KANG YOUWEI, SELF-STRENGTHENING MOVEMENT, HUNDRED DAYS' REFORM AND MAY 4TH MOVEMENT
Sun Yat-sen, the Kuomintang and the Communists
After his ouster, Sun attempted to build a stronger political and military base. In 1914, while in Japan, he married his personal secretary, the American-educated Soong Ching-ling. She was 21 and he was 50. She held radical political views and was one of the Soong Sisters. See Madame Chiang Kai-shek.
Sun Yat-sen and
Chiang Kai-shek at Whampoa By 1923, Sun established himself in Canton with the backing of local military and political leaders and created the National Revolutionary Army, which welcomed both Chiang Kai-shek and the Communists. He served again briefly as the president of China and desperately sought help from the Western powers who turned their backs on him because they were preoccupied with the aftermath of World War I. The Russian Bolsheviks were only willing to help out though and they infiltrated China with Communists.
Sun made a deal with Communist leader Adolfe Joffe at the Communist International on January 26, 1923 that allowed the Chinese Communist party to join the Kuomintang if they abandoned their Marxist goals and worked under Nationalist leadership. In accordance with the deal Communist party members were allowed to keep their Communist party membership and their weapons.
The Communist party at this time was relatively small. Sun reasoned he could use the Communists to help him mobilize the Chinese masses in the countryside. Sun was convinced that he could keep the Communists in line with his organization. The Soviet Union agreed to secretly supply the Kuomintang with military advisers, arms, ammunition and political advisors that helped him strengthen the Kuomintang. They also helped Sun found the Whampoa Military Academy with Chiang Kai-shek as its superintendent.
Sun Yat-Sen Tries to Unite China and Turns to the Soviet Union for Help
The May Fourth Movement helped to rekindle the then-fading cause of republican revolution. In 1917 Sun Yat-sen had become commander-in-chief of a rival military government in Guangzhou in collaboration with southern warlords. In October 1919 Sun reestablished the Kuomintang to counter the government in Beijing. The latter, under a succession of warlords, still maintained its facade of legitimacy and its relations with the West. By 1921 Sun had become president of the southern government. He spent his remaining years trying to consolidate his regime and achieve unity with the north. [Ibid]
“Sun’s efforts to obtain aid from the Western democracies were ignored, however, and in 1921 he turned to the Soviet Union, which had recently achieved its own revolution. The Soviets sought to befriend the Chinese revolutionists by offering scathing attacks on "Western imperialism." But for political expediency, the Soviet leadership initiated a dual policy of support for both Sun and the newly established Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The Soviets hoped for consolidation but were prepared for either side to emerge victorious. In this way the struggle for power in China began between the Nationalists and the Communists. [Ibid]
Sun Yat-sen's Death
Sun's plan was to expand out of Canton and link up with supporters in northern China and unify China. In 1924, he was invited by northern military leaders for discussions in Beijing on the reunification of China. Sun was very ill when he arrived in Beijing. Doctors discovered he had malignant liver cancer. He died on March 12, 1925 at the age of 59 and his efforts to form a lasting democratic China were nipped at the bud.
Sun's body was used as a political symbol. It was preserved and kept in a temple just outside Beijing. Loudspeakers played recordings of his speeches and images of Sun were flashed on a screen as crowds came to look at the body.
After he became head of the Kuomintang Chiang Kai-shek ordered construction of an immense mausoleum for Sun in the new capital of Nanjing and transported his body there with great fanfare. Sun's philosophy became the guiding ideology of the Kuomintang and later Taiwan.
Ideology of the Early Chinese Nationalists and Forging China Into a Nation
Pankaj Mishra wrote in The New Yorker, “A central theme is the essays in the academic collection A Critical Introduction to Mao edited by Timothy Cheek, is Mao’s “Sinification” of a European tradition of revolution. Mao belonged to a Chinese generation of activists and thinkers who developed a fierce political awareness at the end of a long century of internal decay, humiliations by Western powers and by Japan, and failed imperial reforms. “ [Source: Pankaj Mishra, The New Yorker, December 20, 2010]
“Whatever their ideological inclinations,” Mishra wrote, “they all believed in a version of Social Darwinism—the survival of the fittest applied to international relations. They worried about the social and political passivity of ordinary Chinese, and were electrified by the possibility that a strong, centralized nation-state would protect them from the depredations of foreign imperialists and domestic warlords.” As Sun Yat-sen, China’s first modern revolutionary, explained in a speech shortly before his death, in 1925, “If we are to resist foreign oppression in the future, we must overcome individual freedom and join together as a firm unit, just as one adds water and cement to loose gravel to produce something as solid as a rock.” [Ibid]
“Others took on the arduous task of welding a defunct empire into a nation-state, most prominently Chiang Kai-shek, whose urban-based Nationalist Party first brought a semblance of political unity to postimperial China. But it was Mao who, helped by a savage Japanese invasion and Chiang Kai-shek’s ineptitude, came up with an ideologically like-minded and disciplined organization capable of enlisting the loyalty and passions of the majority of the Chinese population in the countryside.” [Ibid]
More enduringly, Mao provided a battered and proud people with a compelling national narrative of decline and redemption. As he stressed shortly before the founding of the People’s Republic, “The Chinese have always been a great, courageous and industrious nation; it is only in modern times that they have fallen behind. And that was due entirely to oppression and exploitation by foreign imperialism and domestic reactionary governments.” This would change: “Ours will no longer be a nation subject to insult and humiliation. . . . We will have not only a powerful army but also a powerful air force and a powerful navy.”
On a speech about chnage in China, William Kirby, the historian who heads Harvard’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, said: “If China is to define in some measure the twenty-first century,” he said, “it is because of its recovery and rise in the twentieth century.” In other words, China was awakening a century ago—and it is still awakening today. As in the last century, that process is bound to be more protracted and erratic than we predict. [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker website, March 19, 2011]
Intellectual Foundations of Chinese Modernity
In The Intellectual Foundations of Chinese Modernity Edmund S. K. Fung synthesizes an enormous range of intellectual materials generated during China’s Republican period, dating primarily from the May Fourth period (1915-1923) to 1949. In a review of the book Leigh K. Jenco, Assistant Professor of Political Science, National University of Singapore, wrote on China Beat: “Fung argues that intellectuals of this era confronted the same crisis of modernity with which intellectuals, in both East and West, continue to wrestle today. These Republican conversations, he claims, provide the foundational vocabulary through which contemporary Chinese elites debate the direction of their society. “ [Source: Leigh K. Jenco, China Beat, May 3 2011]
“The broad scope of Fung’s analysis belies his somewhat simplistic organization of thinkers and debates into an inadequate (and sometimes unhelpful) liberal-conservative-socialist trichotomy. He draws repeated attention to how thinkers and themes continually reappeared in diverse conversations, transcending the very labels he uses to describe them. As Fung effectively argues in Chapter 1, the Westernized radicalism of Chen Duxiu and other May Fourth thinkers betrays an unexpectedly conservative resistance to cultural pluralism and historical change, possibilities embraced by the so-called “conservative” thinkers examined in Chapters 2 and 3. In Chapter 3 Fung points out that conservative impulses in China were not opposed to modernity but in fact saw tradition as an important part of modern development. [Ibid]
“One of the strongest elements of the book is Fung’s discussion in Chapters 4 and 5 of the statist elements of liberalism and related ideologies in China. Rather than interpret Chinese liberals’ emphasis on the need for strong state power as an aberration or misinterpretation of “true” liberalism, Fung uses the work of political theorists such as Stephen Holmes to show that extreme individualism did not necessarily always win out over socialist economic policies and strong nationalist states within such liberal thought.” [Ibid]
“By the end of the book...the author himself declares the “ultimate” triumph of Marxism and Mao Zedong thought over “all other schools of thought”—implying a historical discontinuity that troubles his depiction of a continuous, “ongoing conversation” between contemporary and Republican-era intellectuals struggling with the stakes of modernity....Given the domination of Marxism in China for most of the twentieth century it remains unclear how Republican thought would necessarily be foundational for these or other conversations.” [Ibid]
Although the Chinese Communist Party’s own record of elitism is well-known, Marxist theory in principle nevertheless introduced into Chinese intellectual debate awareness of inequality, class conflict, and materialist social science that interrogated the agents and direction of modernity in contemporary China. Some consideration of these intellectual challenges to elite thinking in the 1930s and 1940s would have contextualized intellectual insistence on moral leadership, possibly helping to identify more clearly continuities between the Republican-era conversations about modernity and those of their later, communist counterparts. Despite this oversight, in its rich detail and extensive command of source materials Fung’s book remains an excellent contribution to scholarship on Republican-era Chinese discourse. It ranks alongside Chester C. Tan’s Chinese Political Thought in the Twentieth Century as a definitive guide to the ideas and debates of that sorely neglected but important era. [Ibid]
Book: The Intellectual Foundations of Chinese Modernity by Edmund S. K. Fung (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010)
Image Sources: 1) Sun Yat-sen, Ohio State University; 2) Sun Yat-sen, Columbia University; 3) Cutting queue,and 4) May 4th, Ohio State University; 5) Whampoa, Wikipedia
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2008 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated January 2013