Chapter 11 Summary

From 1860 to 1905, some Chinese provincial officials and the Qing court had tried to adapt a wide range of Western techniques and ideas to China’s proven needs. (ships, factories, new schools etc.) After the debacle of Boxer Uprising, the Qing tried to obtain elements of the constitutional structures which lie at the heart of Western power. In the 1850s, scholar officials such as Xu Jiyu had especially praised the flexibility and openness of the American congressional and presidential system, other scholars were drawn to the ideology of French Revolution. They also began to look at various examples of constitutional monarchy that might both strengthen the country and shore up their own dynasty. The first gesture made by empress dowager Cixi in the direction of constitutional reform was to build up a small study group of five princes and officials to travel to Japan, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and Italy to study their governments. The constitutional reform appears as following: In 1905, the court formally encouraged subcounty administrative offices which is designed by Zhao Erxun of Shanxi province with the foundation of baojia system. In 1906, Yuan Shikai established local self-government schools, and in 1907, he authorized an election for a council in Tianjin to set up a self-government bureau with abolishing baojia system altogether. Elsewhere in China, a parliamentary structure was set up with the acceptance of the budget, the armed forces, foreign policy, and the judicial system, the need for a working system of electoral government at the central, provincial, and local levels. The provincial assemblies were a startingly new institution and had a volatile effect on the political life. And it is clear that the Qing court had now effectively guaranteed any actions to strengthen its position to meet with sustained scrutiny.

With new technologies applied to China, the railways become the most troublesome. Although it had been pointed as main source of Western industrial development, the first stretch of railway built in China was bought by the governor and torn out in 1877. China’s most ambitious railway scheme, the Peking to Wuhan line was failed to lure enough active capital from Chinese shareholders. The foreign power, went ahead anyway and built railways in their areas of influence even if the Qing protested. In expansionist climate of the railways, China seemed to be a good target for railway investors. But a strong mood of nationalism had been growing in China. The aim for antiforeign boycotts was to raise money through local bonds so that Chinese could buy back the rail-road rights made available for foreign investors and thus regain complete control of their own transportation system. The main reason is firstly due to the growth of new heavy industries in China run by Chinese entrepreneurs. Secondly, the availability of a good deal of investment capital among the overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia. Thirdly, the success of a new generation of Western-trained Chinese engineers in handling even the most difficult problems of railway construction in harsh terrain. With the fundamental construction of the peasant armies, the genesis of a modern army for China, with high loyalty to replace the Manchus’s Eight Banners system, was firmly in place. Beginning in 1901, the Qing court made a concerted attempt to reorganize the armed forces and to develop what was termed “the New Army” At any level, Qing reorganization of the military was effective, by dispatching Qing forces to the region which was assertively independent in Tibet and overcame the logistical and transportation problems posed by the harsh terrain. But the army command structure was still fragmented. Early in 1909, to have Yuan Shikai removed from office on a trumped-up excuse of illness made Yuan angry and his loyal senior disaffected, which then made him became revolutionary anti-Qing societies that owed allegiance to the exiled Sun Yat-sen.

Having taste of the excitement of new opportunities, assemblymen, overseas students, women, merchants, urban workers, and troops in the New Army all pushed both local authorities and the central government to respond more forcefully to their calls for reform. But the Manchu’s position was difficult for not having clear military dominance over the country. And the extra collection of taxes used to raise the New Army had put people into angers. The first criticize of nationalism was by Kang Youwei, but as anti-Qing forces rose, he lost many of his supporters. As what Liang Qichao said, Chinese people were unprepared to assume democratic responsibilities. In 1906, a summary and partial translation of Marx’s Communist Manifesto appeared in Chinese. And the anarchists’ goals were to abolish authority and the military; to abolish all laws; to abolish class distinctions; and to abolish private property and capital. Finally, there was Sun Yat-sen himself, as head of the broad spectrum of “revolutionary” and anti-Qing group. They implacably opposed the Manchus as “nationalists”. Some were also determined socialists who wanted to move China away from what they saw as “feudal” past into a new and advanced level of development that would avoid the ills of the capitalist system. The mix of anger, frustration, dreams, and hard cash were supporting the exploitative force for revolutionary rhetoric and material inducements.

It seemed that the tension between ani-Qing group and the Qing court were setting up an explosion. The first troops to take action were in the Wuchang Eighth Engineer Battalion, who mutinied on the early morning of October 10 and seized the ammunition depot. The Qing court responded vigorously to the crisis, ordering the Minister of War to coordinate a counterattack on Wuhan with two divisions of Beiyang army troops. They summoned Yuan Shikai back from the “retirement” to which they had banished him in 1910. But Yuan was too canny to accept the appointment as military commander until he had a better sense of how the situation might develop. Thus, the Qing court had to authorize Yuan Shikai to rule as premier while the emperor presided ar audiences and state functions. But this seemed like a return to dowager Cixi, and the compromise was not a popular one. So, with a few simple word, eith no experience whatsoever in the arts and institution s of self-govrnment, the Chinese people were presented with the option of diversing their own future in a watchful and dangerous world.


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