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Revolution of 1911: landmark in rejuvenation of Chinese nation

KANG PEIZHU, SHANG NANA | 2021-11-11 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

FILE PHOTO:  Stamps commemorating the 110th anniversary of the Revolution of 1911 on October 10, 2021

In his speech at the commemorative meeting marking the 110th anniversary of the Revolution of 1911, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Xi Jinping pointed out that after the Opium War of 1840, Western powers came to act with impunity on Chinese lands, and feudal rulers were rendered weak and ineffectual. “Gradually, China was reduced to a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society. With our country humiliated, our people subjected to great pain, and our civilization plunged into darkness, the Chinese people and nation suffered greater ravages than ever before. The heroic Chinese people, however, did not admit defeat. They kept fighting and exploring new ways to save the nation, and they demonstrated an unbending will and defiance in the face of brutality,” Xi said.  

Creating conditions for birth of CPC 
Throughout modern Chinese history, it was Sun Yat-sen who made the first call for “revitalizing China,” which was regarded as the first early voice that called for the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Revolutionaries represented by Sun Yat-sen launched the Revolution of 1911 (also called the Xinhai Revolution). The revolution began with the Wuchang Uprising, an armed rebellion against the Qing Dynasty rulers on October 10, 1911. Marking the fall of the rotten, decadent Qing government, it was a great, however arduous, moment that strove to realize national independence and people’s emancipation. The gunshot that soared in the sky of Wuchang City ushered in the prelude of the national democratic revolution in modern Chinese history. 
The revolution ended the autocratic monarchy and feudal society that ruled China for thousands of years. After the new provisional government led by Sun was established in Nanjing, which marked the creation of the Republic of China (1912-1949), the Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China was promulgated. The constitution created a loose political environment and social conditions for the birth of parties in the legal sense. As many as 300 different parties sprung up at that time. 
Attributed to revolution, residues of the feudalist culture were purged and people’s minds began to be liberated. This laid the social foundations for the extensive spread of schools of thought in China during the New Culture Movement and the May Fourth Movement periods that followed. Providing prerequisites for the spread of Marxism in China, the revolution also prepared preliminary and important conditions for the final birth of the CPC. 
Advancing early modernization 
The Revolution of 1911 advanced the course of early modernization in China. The “golden period” for the development of a capitalist economy appeared following the revolution. The Nanjing Provisional Government set up the Ministry of Industry and the Ministry of Economy, and promulgated policies and measures conducive to national revitalization. All these greatly promoted the development of a capitalist economy during the Republic of China period. According to the first census conducted on industrial development in 1933, the total capital possessed by 2,435 China-funded factories amounted to 406 million yuan, and all together, there were more than 0.49 million workers employed. Compared with the economic trend in the late Qing Dynasty and the early Republic of China period, the total capital had increased by about three times, which reflected the remarkable achievements made in the capitalist economic modernization during the Republic of China era. Though the path of modernization sought by the Revolution of 1911 ended ultimately in failure, it offered historical experience which was drawn on by the CPC in attempting another differentiated path of socialist modernization. 
Awakening of the Chinese nation
Before the Revolution of 1911, the people who had long been deprived of the right to participate in politics were numb and even servile about the surrounding social environment and political affairs. After the revolution, people became intellectually active, no longer passive in their mentality, and took more initiative in participating in political affairs. The awakening of their ideology could be seen in the diplomatic movement that broke out in 1915 in Beijing to resist the Twenty-one Demands (claims made by the Japanese government for special privileges in China during World War I). One of the large-scale assemblies attracted about 300,000 people to join, at a time when the total population of Beijing was 800,000. In Tianjin, several large assemblies each drew more than 100,000 people, while the total population of the city was no more than 700,000. It can be said that the Revolution of 1911 enlightened the Chinese nation in improving their self-consciousness. 
In addition, the occurrence of the Revolution of 1911 struck a heavy blow against the imperialist powers. An important event that marked national awakening in the Asian lands, the revolution also exerted extensive and profound influence on the national liberation movements in other Asian countries. The awakening of Asia in the early 20th century further acted as the origin of the revolutionary storm that later swept the whole world. As Lenin commented, the awakening of Asia, together with the struggle of the European proletariat in seizing power, marked a new stage in global history that was created in the early 20th century. 
Kang Peizhu and Shang Nana are from the School of Marxism at Peking University. 
Edited by BAI LE