The 1911 Chinese Revolution History


The 1911 Chinese Revolution

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Between the 16th and the 18th century, China rated as having one of the most productive and urbane economies in the whole world. The Chinese people benefitted from a high standard of living than most people in the world and the Qing Dynasty was responsible for all of this. However, when the population of china tripled from 150 million in the 16th century to 450 million in the 19th century, the standards of living changed, thus prompting a change in the political and social state of the nation (Xing, 2010). The Chinese political state started to diminish gradually during this time and the industrialized western states took advantage of this situation to entice China into the newly forming world economy.

Soon, internal upheavals started taking place and this combined with the western aggression led to the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911, as the country was pressured into its establishment as a republic (Etō, & Harold, 2008). Sun Yat-sen, one of China’s famous nationalist revolutionaries, led the country to become a republican government hence the collapse of the Chinese dynastic systems. Consequently, this saw the transformation of empires into modern-nation states and a complete change in the practice of politics in China.

This Paper discusses the Chinese revolution of 1911. Relevantly, the paper discusses Sun Yat-Sen’s opinions on nationalism and differentiates between a modern nation state and an empire. The paper also discusses the political impact of modern nation states on the Chinese imperial territory.

The 1911 Chinese Revolution

After facing defeat to the west, the Qing dynasty was unable to control foreign intrusion into the state. The state also suffered when trying to adjust to the new world ways as it was forced to do away with traditional governance and embrace a modern form of governance. Under the rule of Qing, China soon started to adopt the western technologies that came along with the need for modernizing this state, as this was crucial for economical advancement for the state (Etō, & Harold, 2008). However, the Chinese were not so keen on this idea of modernization, as it forced them to do away with traditions that formed the core of their cultures. Soon enough rebellions started arising as the Chinese people rejected this idea of modernization. To keep the state under control, the Qing dynasty used its political power to suppress these uprisings and mostly employed brutality to prevent rebellious groups from forming and disrupting the social state of the nation (Etō, & Harold, 2008).

In 1911, China experienced a revolution that changed the entire course of its being. This revolution saw the Qing dynasty being overthrown and led to the establishment of China as a republican state. For the most part, this revolution was viewed as a reaction to the bad leadership embraced by the Qing dynasty. The Qing dynasty had overtly, illustrated that it was unsuccessful in its attempt to modernize the state of China without directly subjugating the Chinese culture and was aggravated by ethnic resentment against the Manchu community, which was the ruling community at the time. This revolution consisted of a number of anti-Qing upheavals comprising of members from different Chinese communities who worked closely with other anti-Qing members that were in exile at the time (Etō, & Harold, 2008). Led by various revolutionary strongmen such as Sun Yat-sen, the Chinese revolution of 1911 ended with the abdication of the imperial rule and the inauguration of the republican statute.

Sun Yat-sen on Nationalism

As literature on Chinese history explains, the 1911 Chinese revolution supported the modern political discourse of nationalism. The objective in this case was to do away with suppression by other foreign nations and encourage the formation of a national state. Sun Yat-Sen was leader of the revolution and was also a great supporter of nationalism, as he viewed it as a crucial component in the Chinese political scene. Accordingly, Sun Yat-sen developed the “Three Principles of the People”, which was his personal, political philosophy on what China needed to do to become a liberated, powerful, and affluent nation (Bergère 1994). Sun Yat-sen’s three principles of the people included nationalism, democracy and the livelihood of the people.

Sun Yat-Sen’s opinion on the importance of nationalism to the new China was based on his belief that a nation should be defined as a group of different people, from different communities united as one by a common purpose. With this view, Sun intended to free China from imperialist domination and lead it to a state of nationalism that surpassed most states in the world. Sun Yat-sen also believe that, for the Chinese to achieve this state of nationalism, they needed to embrace a “Chinese-nationalism” as opposed to a “tribal-nationalism” (Bergère 1994). This meant that the different ethnicities of china namely, Han, Tibetans, Muslims, Mongols, and Manchus needed to unite as one. Most anti-Qing groups at the time had sworn vengeance on the Manchu community, and he urged them to avoid such aggression as it only affects the social state of the nation. His opinion on nationalism emphasized the importance of the Chinese people living peacefully with each other and embracing a form of national consciousness (Bergère 1994).

His argument was the concept of nationalism needed to be employed by people who were ready to share common language, religion, customs, and even blood. In essence, Sun Yat-sen’s concept of nationalism strived to maintain independence while at the same time spreading China’s indigenous civilization for the greater good of achieving ideal unity(Bergère 1994).

Difference between a Modern Nation State and an Empire

When explaining the globalization of the world, historical literature defines an empire as a territorial state, which involved different people from different provinces pledging loyalty to one central form of government. Empires were founded in such a way that the government composed of a ruling dynasty in the country. However, most empires went against this rule, and instead, expressed loyalty to theocracies, oligarchies, militaries, or tribal communities. Empires were specifically created to provide internal and external security for their subjects and work towards providing an environment where a cultural and economic life would excel.

A modern national-state, on the other hand refers to a political community, which comprises of an independent and organized government. Modern-national states were created to ensure the maintenance of cultural self-identity and promote the concept of nationalism. Accordingly, the modern nation-state is charged with the responsibility of creating conducive environment for the growth of a modern market economy (Xing, 2010). This means that the government in a modern state has to work towards the assurance that the country always has enough money to for the sustenance of a modern market economy.

The main differences between modern national-states and empires relate to the rulers and heads of state, as well as, the function of the governments in each setting. While emperies were ruled by dynasties, modern nation-states are ruled by different leaders coming from different ethnic backgrounds (Pomerantz-Zhang, 1992). In modern national-states, authority is derived from the people as the government works towards ensuring a good economic environment is provided for all regardless of their ethnic backgrounds. Empires, on the other hand did not derive authority from their subjects, and instead, the people ruled by such empires had to adhere to the laws provided by the dynasties.

Political Impact of the Modern Nation State on the Chinese Imperial Territory

When China became a republic, the political impact of the new modern nation-state on the Chinese imperial territory could not be overlooked. This is because the new form of governance dictated that politics be carried out in a different way from it was before. These political impacts can be summarized into three basic concepts including, the democratic organization, and encouraging self-rule (Xing, 2010).

Because China was struggling towards the achievement of modernization like other western countries, it had to embrace the concept of democratic organization, which was one of the key components in western politics. Territorial empires did not embrace this democratic organization, and for that reason, democracy was never practiced in china. With relation to democratic organization, the former territorial empires were forced to embrace both the power of governance and the power of politics (Pomerantz-Zhang, 1992). The power of governance dictated the form of administration that the new modern china would embrace. The territorial empires only acknowledged the traditional Chinese administration, and with the introduction of the new modern-states the administration was constituted of a five-branch government to serve the people (Xing, 2010). Different people from different communities were also allowed to serve in the new modern-state government, hence forcing territorial empires to embrace the concept of the power of politics. Unlike before, people were allowed to convey their political opinions and the national assembly represented them.

Another political impact of modern national-states on the territorial empires related to self-rule and self-governance. While the previous territorial empires ruled in favor of theocracies, oligarchies, militaries, or tribal communities, the introduction of the new modern national-states changed this form of leadership and instead encouraged self-rule, which was rule for all (Xing, 2010). For the different Chinese communities to be properly represented by the government, they had to be included in the government, unlike the previous way of ruling where only a specific tribe or family line was allowed to rule. This rule even saw the introduction of the five-color flag to represent that china’s government served all communities and not just one like in the previous dynasties. This allowed the country to form a government that served all people that lived within its borders, ensuring that their interests are protected at all times.


The transition of China from a territorial empire to a modern national-state is regarded as a significant component in the history of China. This is because this transition saw a revolutionary uprising that literally changed the form of governance in the country making it one of the most industrialized countries in the world today. This struggle from imperialism allowed china to become a republic state thus promoting democracy and nationalism as the core components of governance in the state.






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Xing, L. (2010). The Rise of China and the Capitalist World Order. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.

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