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A Modern History of China – Part 3 – Changing Governments and the Warlord Era

Changing Governments

When Sun Yat Sen returned from America (where he had been fundraising), the republicans finally pulled everything together. Sun Yat Sen was elected as the provisional (temporary) president before a compromise was agreed to between him and Yuan Shikai, arranging for him to become president in return for military recognition of the republic and help getting the Qing Dynasty to step down.fgdsg.jpg

The Qing dynasty was left without a military and, when the Guangxu Emperor and Empress Dowager Cixi died, in the hands of the 2 year old Emperor Xuantong (Henry Puyi). It was also weak from years of losing wars and the recent reforms which, by trying to regain support, had reduced their power over the country.     Yuan Shikai persuaded Puyi to abdicate when he was only 6 years old, and came to power on the 13th of February, 1912.

However, the China Shikai inherited was weak and over in the provinces, warlords started to fight for influence. Elections in early 1913 also saw the Kuomintang (nationalist party/government) and their leader, Sun Yat Sen, gain huge support. Shikai started targeting his opposition and, after the suspicious death of the party’s chairman (all links leading to Yuan Shikai), Sun Yat Sen fled to Japan, where he called for a second revolt – this time against Yuan Shikai.                                                                                                              Yuan crushed the revolt along with any hopes for democracy. Two years later, in 1915, he declared himself president for life and announced the start of a new Hongxian dynasty with him as emperor.

However, the citizens of China, who had spent so long trying to get rid of the dynasty, and even Shikai’s former generals, were unhappy with the idea of another dynasty, and widespread opposition forced Shikai to step down after just 86 days of dynasty. Many demanded he resigned from his role as president after this, but his death three months later removed the need for it.


The Warlord Era (1916 – 1928)

The death of Yuan Shikai brought a whole new problem to China. In his wake, he left a huge power vacuum and, due to the lack of a united, national army (see The New Army), Untitled.jpgit was easy for local generals to seize control of provinces and use their power to challenge the authority of the republic. These generals were known as warlords, and the 12 years of fighting between them for influence of other provinces became known as the Warlord Era.

The era saw a lot of fighting over provincial influence, and many warlords were corrupt and reckless, seeking personal gain through opium trade, tax, printing money, stealing and violence.

That said, some warlords had a positive impact on China, like Yan Xishan – who tried to reform China for good, improving and modernising his area via changes such as education for girls and banning foot binding.

There was technically still a central government in Beiyang / Beijing – but in reality this was just a front for whichever Warlord had control so that they could benefit from foreign trade and tax (it was recognised as legitimate by foreign powers!).



Posted in China, interesting, learn something new, Post, Posts, Uncategorized

A History of Modern China – Part 2

The end of the Qing dynasty

BOX 2.jpgThe 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 BOX 3.jpg
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 ManchuHan 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.


Railway Protests

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 BOX 1.jpgdissent 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.