Civil Strife in China from 1900

The civil strife began with the end of Manchu China from 1898, with the 100 Days reforms. These reforms made changes to civil service, education and reorganized China’s industrial lines to adapt to the west. These changes were made mainly made to stave off criticism and respond to extension in 1890 of foreign enclaves and China’s defeat against the Japanese in 1895.

Although the going under of the emperor, he was still trying to show that he had power, but empress Cixi overawed the emperor and dismissed all of his reformist supporters. Cixi then gave support to the Boxers, a group of anti-western societies practiced in martial arts, to massacre the westerners in China. They were ordered to attack international settlements in Beijing, but were unable to gain regional support. The western powers raised an international army and defeated the Boxers.

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After this incident, the western powers gave China severe penalties: they had to pay 450 million to repair destroyed arsenals and fortifications. Also, international troops were permanently stationed in Beijing. The Royal Dynasty was allowed to continue their reign, but was humiliated and ineffective.

Reforms were reintroduced to promote the imperial government, but the costs alienated the commercial and financial interests.

Meanwhile, revolutionary ideas were making way among Chinese living in Japan. In 1905 the Alliance League, the predecessor of the Guomindang, was formed by Sun Yatsen, whose belief it was that China could only modernize if she became a republic and used western political and economic concepts. His ideas were called ‘the 3 Principles of the People’: 1. Nationalism- to restore China’s position as a sovereign state

2. Democracy- in sense of national rather than personal freedom

3. People’s Livelihood- development of national capital or government

owned enterprises to protect industry

Sun Yatsen realized he was using western ideas, but was making them appropriate for China.

In 1908, China’s fate changed within one day. The emperor and Cixi both died, leaving China in the hands if the two year old Pu Yi.

The first sign of revolution came on the 10th October 1911, the so called Double Tenth, in Wuhan, where troops refused to obey orders to suppress a group of dissidents. By the end of November, all but three of China’s provinces south of Beijing had declared themselves independent of central control. Delegates from rebellious provinces met in Nanjing to declare the foundation of the Chinese Republic, inviting Sun Yatsen to be President.

The Manchu government called back Yuan Shikai to lead Beijing army against rebels, but Yuan started negotiating with rebels instead to gain power.

He offered the republicans a deal: if he could be president, he would use his authority and power to convince Manchu’s to step down from Chinese rule without further resistance. The Regent was forced to agree or face more bloodshed, so the official abdication announced that mandate of heaven passed from imperials to republicans.

This was however, only a partial revolution. There was no constitution and there were still some imperial officers who kept their post.

The Alliance League then declared itself a parliamentary party and changed it’s name to Guomindang. It remained in the south, hoping that Yuan would come to help set up new government, but Yuan remained in Beijing. He was forced to fund his government through foreign loans. The Guamindang used this act to try and criticize him, but all opposition was crushed.

In November 1913, Sun Yatsen fled to Japan, hoping to concentrate on restructuring Guomindang as disciplined, centrally directed body. Yuan consolidated his power by banning parliament and parties, including GMD. He also abolished regional assemblies which were set up in 1912. In 1915 he then announced that he would restore imperial title and accept it for himself.

Yuan’s acts aroused fierce opposition, a few provinces declared themselves independent from Beijing and some generals in Beijing defected. Yuan was forced to renounce throne in March 1916 and three months later he died.

After his death, he left a republican government that was split between rival factions, without loyalty of the army. This way China slid further into confusion and fragmentation.

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