Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Does 1911 count as a revolution?

The PRC's revolution was successful in 1949. Was the 1911 revolution a worthy precursor?

From Sun to Mao to now
ONE hundred years ago on October 10th, a mutiny in the central Chinese city of Wuhan triggered the collapse of China’s last imperial dynasty. In Taiwan, which separated from the mainland in 1949 after a civil war and still claims to be the rightful heir of the republic founded in 1911, the anniversary will be celebrated with a parade, including a display of air power. But in China there are mixed feelings….

China and Taiwan have long disputed each others’ claims to be the heir of the 1911 revolution. Sun Yat-sen, regarded as the revolution’s leader, is officially revered on both sides of the Taiwan Strait…

Some Chinese scholars say the revolution did little for China except to usher in chaotic warlordism, followed by authoritarian government. Such accusations have some merit. China did indeed slide into disarray, warlordism and insurrection after 1911. Any hopes of a democratic republic were overwhelmed by efforts to bring the country under control, which the Communist Party achieved in 1949…

The Communist Party maintains that the 1911 revolution was justified, but finds itself in a quandary. Another star-studded film released earlier this year to mark its own 90th birthday stirred audiences in an unintended way. The film, covering the period from the revolution of 1911 to the Communist Party’s founding in 1921, prompted numerous comments on Chinese internet forums about the lessons it offered for rebelling against bad government. Interesting idea.

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