The end of the Qing dynasty
The people living in China started to grown weary of the outdated and incompetent (The Opium Wars, the Sino Japanese War) dynasty and they craved the modernization of the west. The dynasty was also revealed as corrupt to its citizens during The First Sino-Russian War.
A revolutionary, called Sun Yat Sen (or Sun Yixian) organised these feelings by setting up the Revive China Society whilst exiled in Honolulu (Hawaii) in 1894. He later joined forces with other anti-monarchy groups to form the Tongmenghui (1905) – a group dedicated to overthrowing the Qing Dynasty.
The failing dynasty made several attempts to regain
support, such as “The 100 Days Reform”, initiated by Empress Dowager Cixi through the rule of her nephew, Zaitian (Guangxu Emperor). It brought many of the changes that Cixi had previously stood in the way of, such as:
- new departments to oversee police, education, law , communication and foreign affairs
- economic reforms, encouraging capitalism
- a westernised criminal code
- lifted bans on Manchu – Han marriages
- banned slavery, foot binding and opium smoking
However, it was too little, too late, too insincere– and the reforms did little to quell dissent, and instead made it easier for it to increase.
The spark that ignited the fire came in 1911, when it was announced that two privately owned railways would be nationalised to help finance the Boxer Protocol Reparations.
Many local businessmen had invested their own money in these railways, and they would have huge losses if it became nationalised, so the news triggered heavy protesting across Sichuan, with The Railway Protection Movement organising strikes and demonstrations.
The Sichuan government tried to quell dissent via military intervention, but this worsened the situation and Beijing was forced to back down and remove the Sichuan governor for his actions. However, another load of soldiers was sent in shortly after, this time from the New Army.
Unfortunately for the Qing dynasty, the New Army was compromised by republicans and their sympathisers – as well as large groups of radical students, workers unions and secret literary societies who were stockpiling weapons in preparation for an uprising in nearby Wuchang (in the Hubei province). On the 10th of October, 1911, one of the bombs being stored accidently went off and, facing discovery, the Wuchang New Army regiment set the plan into action and rebelled against their superiors – a mutiny.
The rebels stormed government buildings, arresting loyalists and gaining control of Wuchang before declaring Hubei a republican government on the 11th of October.
Their success encouraged many other rebellions and many cities followed in their steps. Government forces reclaimed a few cities (including Wuchang), but the dynasty was fast falling apart.