- Year of publication: 2011
- Source: Show
- Pages: 3-6
- DOI Address: -
The Xinhai Revolution from the Viewpoint of Chinese History
This is not a study of history where the meticulous author attempts to present the course of events. It is rather an exercise in political science of searching the reasons behind certain decisions, events and processes. The Author comes to the conclusion that the original reason why the Xinhai Revolution took place was mainly domestic, not international. Isolationist China could not catch up with the rest of the modern world, and already in the early 19th century she became outdated in both political and economic terms. It was China’s isolationism, immense pride and negation of the outside world which later brought about the Opium Wars, and the constant decline of the Manchu Qing Dynasty. Thus, internal instability, starting from the Taiping Revolt, and external intervention of foreign powers were, of course, also important, but secondary in this course of history.
The Xinhai Revolution, initiated by the so-called Wuchang Incident happened by accident but brought about, in effect, a revolutionary change, terminating the Chinese Empire and initiating a republican model of governing. Unfortunately, the collapse of imperial power was not followed by domestic stability. On the contrary, the warlords’ activities and Yuan Shikai’s attempt to restore the Monarchy were a series of fatal deeds and mistakes. China has become divided and remains so – until today. However, it is to be noted, that recently the different opinions concerning Xinhai between the two main opponents on the Chinese scene in 20th century, the Communist Party of China and the Nationalist Party of Guomindang, as well as across the Taiwan Strait, seem to be getting closer to each other. Is this a sign of China’s final unification which was one of the dreams of the “father” of the Xinhai Revolution, dr Sun Yat-sen? It is too early to come to such a conclusion, but the process – again – is worth being observed. One hundred years after Xinhai the whole Chinese community (diaspora) is closer to each other than any time before in the past since the Empire collapsed. That’s why Xinhai seems to be more important than ever before.
Particular Character of the Xinhai Revolution and its Paradoxes
The Xinhai Revolution of 1911 constitutes a turning point in Chinese history: it put an end to the native imperial system, and introduced to China a Western republican system instead, together with the new Han-Chinese nationalism (also inspired by the West).
Unfortunately, the experiment of an accelerated westernization failed, as it happened in post-colonial Africa and in numerous post-Soviet republics. The state collapsed and China suffered from chaos, poverty, and even more brutal oppression by foreign powers. The successful re-building of the state had been initiated only in 1949 under the Communist regime. The new political course initiated in 1978 was to some extent close to that outlined by Sun Yat-sen: national solidarity was propagated instead of class struggle and economic development of China instead of the “world revolution”. National aims, including unification of all Chinese territories, have been adopted, and accelerated westernization was combined with a return to some national traditions. The great emphasis was put on building up new modern infrastructure and borrowing modern science and technology from the West, whereas Western political ideas were treated with suspicion. One could also notice some Sun Yat-sen’s influences in the contemporary Chinese foreign policy.
The author compares the Xinhai Revolution with the French Revolution referring to some of R. Bin Wong’s concepts, but he also adds other differences. He indicates that instead of „the right versus the left cleavage”, the main controversy in China concerned the attitude towards native heritage and westernization. He also analyses the transformation of traditional identities and the evolution of a new nationalism.
The Symbol of Sun Yat-sen and the Political Memory of the Lower Classes in Modern China
Dr. Sun Yat-sen is a statesman of great influence in modern China. With the inauguration of the National government in Nanking, a movement of worshiping Sun Yat-sen spread throughout the country and penetrated into the daily living space, through commemoration, mass education and symbols, and thus “Sun Yat-sen” was constructed as a political symbol of the state, which had a significant impact on all of its citizens, including the lower classes. The lower classes formed political memory of Sun Yat-sen. Political memory is essentially the representation of social ideas and an important foundation for building and sustaining a sociopolitical system. Therefore, in order to gain legitimacy, the modern nation-state is particularly enthusiastic in shaping a national political memory to encourage its people to form a national and ethnic identity, and to implement an effective rule by means of soft power. The spread of Sun Yat-sen’s symbol allowed the grassroots, who were entirely excluded from politics during the imperial era, to understand the political discourse and form a common political memory. The grassroots’ political memory of Sun Yat-sen’s symbol has its own characteristics and reflects utility and practicality, which makes it different from the elite’s political memory. The public pays more attention to Sun’s doctrine of the People’s Livelihood and Nationalism. Furthermore, the grassroots’ political memory of Sun Yat-sen’s symbol is intertwined with traditional memory, because it is impossible to completely abandon traditional beliefs during the transition of Chinese society from a traditional to a modern one, especially among the middle and lower classes, whose traditional beliefs are deep-rooted. Due to the KMT’s growing importance on domestic scene, Sun Yat-sen was shaped into a mythological figure known by the grassroots, and became an important part of their political memory. The grassroots’ political memory of Sun Yat-sen is an important embodiment of Chinese modernity. As in the past, there was no political figure who could have made such a deep penetration into the civil society and everyday life under the operation of state power. Therefore, the social memory of Sun Yat-sen’s symbol effectively integrates national thought, and its nationalist connotations, into a common base for the convergence of social memory, and promoted national identity and the construction of the Republic of China.
The Issue of Chinese Nationalism until the Establishment of the People’s Republic of China
The text on the Chinese nationalism provides a systematic insight into Chinese concepts, tradition and practice related a nation intertwined with statehood throughout the history as well as their implications for the present and the future. It allows the reader to comprehend a complex weave of interdependence between China’s unique past as a major regional power considering itself to be the center of the universe with all other entities conceptually reduced to a status of vassals or subordinates. It explains the dramatic confrontation between that self-confidence of the Chinese empire and the harsh reality of foreign powers’ intrusion and intervention for more than 100 years from 1840 onwards.
The first part of this text deals with China’s philosophy of the state and governance, its perception of the world, its treatment of other nations and nationalities within its realm, both close and distant, throughout recorded history, and the shocking experience of consecutive defeats at the hands of foreigners resulting in conception of nationalistic and even xenophobic tendencies and views at the turn of the 19th and the 20th century.
The ideas of modern nationalism based mainly on foreign concepts put into the framework of China’s own conditions played a major role as a nail in the coffin of the Qing Empire, being the ideological premises of the Xinhai Revolution. Those ideas also greatly contributed to formation of more radical concepts of a nationalist state later envisioned and implemented by Mao Zedong and his communist government. The second part of the text – to be published in the 2012 issue of „Asia-Pacific” – will dwell extensively on the latter topic.
Great Powers and the Chinese Xinhai Revolution
Before the Xinhai Revolution, no foreign power was interested in the overthrowing of the Manchu dynasty. The powers supported the status quo in China in order to advance their own trading and other interests. But the republican revolutionary movement was strongly pro-Western, being identified with various non-government, especially British, groups and institutions.
After the Wuchang uprising Sun Yat-sen attempted to solicit the aid of the British in London. At the same time Japan, a British ally, was prepared to intervene on the side of the Manchus. Although some Japanese sympathized with the revolutionaries, the Saionji Kimmochi’s government wanted to establish a position of preferential influence in Manchuria and dreamt about a pro-Japanese constitutional monarchy. But these goals were impossible to achieve without British consent.
Finally both the revolutionaries and the Manchus accepted general Yuan Shikai as a moderate and relatively progressive president of the new Republic of China. Britain’s role during the negotiations seems to be decisive. Sir John Jordan, His Majesty’s minister in Peking, who mediated and brought about a cessation of hostilities, felt that Yuan (his personal friend) was competent and could be expected to improve the situation. Jordan also overcame Japanese anti-Yuan sentiments. Britain and Japan, the two most powerful foreign powers in China, persuaded other powers (which adopted a wait-and-see attitude) to accept the republic.
Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Discourses of China’s Position in the Family of Nations
This paper examines Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s discourse of China’s position in the family of nations in the context of the intellectual atmosphere of modern China. Sun first described the Chinese in 1907 as slaves of both the Manchu government and the imperialists in 1907 („double slavery” – shuangchong nuli). Then he thought China as a „half-independent country” (banduli guo) in 1919, and he returned his theory of the Chinese as the slave of the imperialists in 1923. Although Sun formulated different discourses, his basic concern was how to promote the nationalism of his fellow countrymen and how to make them support his revolution. The author also proposes that our studies of Sun Yat-sen’s theory of nationalism should take the approach of “ideas in context”, so we can look at it from a different perspective.
Challenges of Chinese Diplomacy at the Dawn of the Republican Era
In the paper the author assumes that modern Chinese diplomacy has faced double-edge dilemmas: from the constructivist perspective the dilemma of being self (Chineseness) among other nations, and secondly, from an institutional point of view, the dilemma of the efficient bureaucracy. As analyzed in the paper, both dilemmas were rotted in the post-Opium War collapse of the Qing dynasty. The situation in 19th century made the Chinese aware of not being the Middle Kingdom. China was forced to accept the Westphalian system, and follow the Western pattern of international relationship. The contact with other forced the new member of the state centered system to forge a new identity. Until then the Chinese failed to describe the World by differentiation between nation states, but rather by cultural supremacy. The second challenges was bureaucracy related. The Western powers forced the Chinese government to operate on the same level as themselves. As the outcome of clashes between the West and China, the Chinese established quasi Foreign Ministry (Zongli Yamen). To the point, as concluded in the paper, the clashes with the West shaped China principles of noninterference and nonalignment in foreign policy.
Chinese Diaspora Worldwide – the Evolution of a Phenomenon
This article aims to outline the characteristics of the evolution of Chinese diaspora/emigration over the centuries and to introduce the key terms currently existing in the literature. The author tries to outline the basic differences between terms such as huaqiao, huaren, huayi, haiwai huaren and jingwai huaren, and to illustrate how the evolution of terminology reflected the changes in state policy towards overseas Chinese. The paper also presents the factors that determined the scale and direction of emigration from the Middle Kingdom from the legendary eastbound travels by sea at the time of the first Chinese emperor Qin Shihuang, through the period when Chinese workers (coolies) were being caught and sold by the Westerners in the nineteenth century, until the recent newspaper headlines reporting on the tragic consequences of smuggling Chinese people to Western Europe and the United States.
Particular attention was paid to the description of the multidimensional transformation to which the Chinese diaspora/emigration was subject in the twentieth century. Its turning point was the year 1979 when – after 30 years of an almost complete ban on leaving the PRC – the door for emigration was reopened. The author – following the trends in the scientific literature on contemporary overseas Chinese – makes a distinction between “old” (before 1979) and “new migrants” (after 1979) from China and points out the crucial differences between them.
The article ends with reflections on the future of the Chinese citizens/ foreigners of Chinese descent living outside China in the context of Beijing’s current policy, which – since the 1990s – is increasingly seeking to win the favor of the overseas Chinese in order to broaden the global sphere of China’s economic and cultural influence.
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