Monday, October 10, 2011

Chinese Revolution Centennial

Today is the centennial of the "Double 10" Revolution, or Xinhai Revolution, which began in the tri-city of Wuhan, China and spread throughout China in late 1911. Appropriately, there's an epic historical film coming out in China to commemorate the anniversary:


(It's oddly appropriate that many of the trailers on Youtube are in Japanese. Japanese adventurers played key roles in the 1911 and 1913 Revolutions.)

One hundred years ago, the last imperial dynasty of China was overthrown in a revolution that began by accident. Several soldiers of the modernized Chinese "New Army", who had been planning a nationalist revolt against the Manchu Qing emperor, inadvertently started the revolution when they blew up a Wuhan apartment where they had been mixing bomb ingredients. Their comrades in the revolutionary group knew that the accident would implicate them and get them executed for treason.What ensued was a three-way war between the New Army revolutionaries, the Manchu and Green Standard troops of the old armies loyal to the Emperor, and the elite divisions of Yuan Shikai's Beiyang Army.Huang Xing, a Hunanese revolutionary, rose to lead the rebel army. The loyalist troops succeeded in recapturing two of the three cities at Wuhan, but the rebels captured Nanjing, the strategic southern capital of the Empire. As the revolution went on, what had been a battle between the Han revolutionaries and the Manchu government became negotiations between the Han loyalist general Yuan Shikai and the southern revolutionaries for who would control the new Republic.

Dr. Sun Yat-sen was made the President of the Provisional republican government, but in exchange for making the young emperor abdicate, Yuan Shikai succeeded him. Sun Yat-sen was named minister of railroads, and Huang Xing got the title of Minister of War, but his southern army was kept starving and poorly supplied by the northern leader Yuan. Parliamentary leader Song Jiaoren was mortally wounded by an assassin at the Shanghai train station, blatantly linked to the northern faction.  It was not long before a new, Second Revolution began in the southern provinces against the quasi-dictatorship of Yuan Shikai. This revolution ended badly for the rebels, who failed to take Wuhan, the important railway junction of Xuzhou (where in 1949 the pivotal battle for between Communists and Nationalists would take place) and the port of Shanghai.

Many of the important early revolutionary figures of China died not long after the 1913 revolution. Huang Xing died in 1916, as did Sun's lieutenant and Chiang Kai-shek's mentor Chen Chimei. Yuan Shikai died in 1916 after trying to have himself proclaimed Emperor. In his wake many lesser warlords and militarists tried to vie for supreme control of China. There was even an attempt to restore the Emperor in 1918. Although the Xinhai Revolution didn't establish a stable democratic government in China, there was no turning back the clock to the days of the emperors. New leaders, including Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong, experienced and participated in the events of the republican revolution and took its lessons into their future activities.