Chinese Language Blog

Foundations of the PRC – Part One Posted by on Oct 6, 2010 in Culture

In a country with a history as long as China’s, how is it that this nation just celebrated its 61st birthday on October 1?  While China’s history goes back thousands of years, the modern day China, known as the People’s Republic of China (中华人民共和国 – Zhōng huá rén mín gòng hé guó) was officially founded in 1949.  For many outsiders, China is a mystery wrapped in an enigma.  Understanding the foundation of modern China can help to unwrap a layer or two of the mystery that is China.

In 1911, imperial China came to an end with the fall of the Qing Dynasty (清朝 – Qīng cháo).  Corruption in the government, mixed in with anger amidst Han Chinese about being ruled by the Manchu minority eventually resulted in the Xinhai Revolution (辛亥革命 – Xīn hài gé mìng) and the eventual ousting of the Emperor.  After the revolution, the Republic of China (中华民国 – Zhōng huá mín guó) was founded, and on January 1, 1912, Sun Yat-Sen (孙逸仙 – Sūn yì xian) was inaugurated as president in Nanjing, vowing to “overthrow the despotic Manchu government, consolidate the Republic of China and plan for the welfare of the people.”  However, Yuan Shikai (袁世凯 – Yuán shì kǎi) had already gained power up north in Beijing.  Sun eventually agreed to Yuan’s request for the country to be united under Beijing rule, and as such, Yuan was sworn in as the second Provisional President of the ROC.

In August of 1912, the Kuomintang (中国国民党 – Zhōng guó guó mín dǎng) was established by Song Jiaoren (宋教仁 – Sòng jiào rén).  The goal of the KMT was to check the power of Yuan.  The KMT gained popularity, and they actually won by a decisive margin in the first National Assembly of 1912.  Yuan, of course, was not too fond of this.  As such, he began blatantly ignoring parliamentary decisions, and it is believed he had Song assassinated in 1913.

After the assassination, Yuan managed to obtain a loan of twenty-five million pounds sterling from Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and Japan.  He did this without consulting the Parliament at all.  Obviously, this really upset some folks in the Parliament.  KMT members of the Parliament were outraged, and they called for the removal of Yuan.  On the other hand, Yuan accussed them of attempting an insurrection.  As a result, the Second Revolution (二次革命 – Èr cì gé mìng) began.

The revolution was poorly planned and poorly executed, and it ended up being a huge loss for the KMT.  Sun Yat-Sen – and many other leaders of the KMT –  ended up fleeing to Japan in defeat.  Afterwards, Yuan dismissed the KMT and dissolved Parliament.  He then declared himself emperor in December 1915…

From there, things only get more interesting.  Stay tuned for the rest of the turbulent history of China in the early 1900’s!

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.

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