Experiment in Democracy
At the late of Qing, China has been in a period of chaos. A lot of natural disasters happened during 1911 which destroyed the countryside and made a lot of people homeless. Moreover, because of the continuous invasion of foreign countries and the sign of the unequal treaty, the burden of people became heavier. To overthrew the autocratic monarchy of the Qing Dynasty and established a republican system of government, the first revolution happened on October 10, 1911, in Wuchang.
During the period from October 11, 1911, to January 1, 1912, the Revolutionary Alliance made a lot of high achievement which fifteen provinces such as Hunan and Guangdong announced their independence from the Qing government. Moreover, the anti-Qing forces advocated the formation of the central provisional government which in Nan Jing. Sun Yat-sen, who the founder of Chinese Alliance, became a temporary president on January 1, 1912. However, after the abdication of the last Qing emperor on February 13, Yuan Shikai replaced the position of Sun Yat-sen for the reason of the weakness of the national bourgeoisie.
According to the Provisional Constitution which “guaranteed all Chinese and minority peoples equality and protection of persons and property under the law” (p264) drafted by Song Jiaoren on March 11, 1912, the Chinese began to prepare for their first national elections. There were two chambers in the Parliament: one was the Senate which chosen by the provincial assemblies; the other was the House of Representative which elected by local people. However, there was some restriction on the election system, which included restrictions on gender, property, and education — also, the limitation deprived women and the poor of their right to vote. Even though the national elections held in 1912, but the results were announced in January 1913. From then on, the Revolutionary Alliance showed up as Guomingdang.
In March 1913, Song Jiaoren who was China’s newly elected representative was killed in Shanghai. People suspected that Yuan Shikai was behind the assassination, “since the trail of evidence let to the secretary of the cabinet and the provisional premier.” (p266)
In July 1913, other Guomingdang delegates planned to gain control over Yuan Shikai, but their force was defeated. Therefore, Yuan forced the member of parliament to elect him as president and ordered the dissolution of the Guomintang in May 1913.
The Rule on Yuan Shikai
During the rule of Yuan Shikai, foreign countries started to find a way to continue to maintain and protect their financial control over China. For example, Britain began to worry about the autonomy of Tibet. On October 7, 1913, Yuan Shikai did acknowledge Tibetan autonomy because he wanted to win international recognition for his regime. However, either the cabinet or the Parliament did not agree with the decision. After the ban of Guomindang by Yuan, the Congress adjourned because of the shortage of a quorum. Yuan Shikai gave a political conference organized by his men from the cabinet. At the first political conference, he replaced the Provisional Constitution by “constitutional compact” which gave him unlimited power over war, finance, foreign policy, and the right of citizens.
To prepare some of Yuan’s reform, he continued to work for the development of an independent judiciary for China. Also, to reform China’s penal system, “Yuan authorized an active prison-building program, the improvement of the sanitary condition in prisons, provision of work facilities for prisoners, and attempts at moral reform of criminal(p270)” which significantly changed the cruel treatment in Qing dynasty. Moreover, in education, Yuan Shikai advocated to abolish the Jinshi examination, establish new schools, actively support students to study abroad, and promote all free new schools. In the development of the economy, Yuan ordered to raise the crop yields by irrigation and flood control, develop new strains of livestock, plant more trees and built railways. Those made China avoid some press from many foreign countries during the First World.
On January 18, 1915, Japanese put forward Twenty-one Demand requests directly to President Yuan Shikai. From January to April, Yuan Shikai ordered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to negotiate with Japan. On the one hand, he secretly and gradually leaked the contents, hoping to win British and American support against Japan. But at last, Yuan Shikai still accepted Twenty-one Demand because China was still too weak on the military, therefore, cannot resist Japan’s attack.
In 1916, Yuan Shikai announced that he would be a new emperor for China in Peking. However, many people strongly condemned his actions. Therefore, he had to renounce the title of emperor and let Duan Qirui take power. In June of the same year, Yuan Shikai passed away. China has entered the era of warlords’ fighting.
Militarists In China and Chinese In France
After the 1911 Revolution, the Qing Emperor abdicated, the Republic of China founded, and then the South and North China fell into warlords. Also, Yuan Shikai’s death marked the beginning of the warlord melee. Beijing has been under the control of several members of the armed forces, and the obedience of provincial, local forces to these soldiers was often limited to words. After Yuan Shikai’s death, Duan Qirui became Prime Minister and received significant support from other senior commanders of the old Beiyang.
During the First World War, the French and British governments organized the importation of Chinese laborers with long-term contracts to sustain the war. Every Chinese laborer employed by the British gets 20 Mexican dollars for travel and an ID card with the number, name, and family name on his wrist. Although Chinese workers employed by the British were not supposed to be involved in “military activities” in principle, they obeyed military orders and were relocated along the Atlantic coast. “There were given such tasks as uploading military cargoes at the docks, building barracks and hospitals, digging trenches, and handling ammunition in the railway marshaling yards. (P276)” Chinese men in France were in great dangers. Their camps were bombed by German planes, and they were blown up by bombs when they were cleaning bodies in the field. Therefore, the Chinese have a significant contribution to the World War.
(Au: Miaoxin Cheng)