The Fall of the Qing Dynasty (1900-1912)
Most of the enemies of the Manchu Empire after the nineteenth century, were led by Sun Yatsen, a good-looking 34 year old doctor. Doctor Sun Yatsen had been educated in an American school in Hawaii and therefore he was Christian. He had spent many years of his life traveling the world. He saw how advanced technologically other countries were and realized how weak China was. He found that the only way for China to come out of its stall was for it to become a republic on European lines and getting rid of the Manchu's who opposed any change at all costs. By 1911 he had tried to start a revolution ten times but had not succeeded.
In 1908 the 73-year-old empress Dowager Cixi died. Her successor as ruler of China was her nephew, a 2-year-old boy named P'u Yi, who was given the title of Emperor. The Manchu dynasty was clearly in trouble. A regent ruled in his place, Prince Chun. Chun sided with the conservatives in the court, giving the most conservative of the Manchu prince's high positions, and he dismissed many powerful and able officials including Yuan Shikai, a very important general.
In 1911 China entered a period of economic difficulty and discontent. The harvests failed in all the central areas of the country and this caused most of the distress among the peasants. The wealthier classes were not happy either; the government was taxing them heavily to get money for the new army.
On September 1911 a rebellion against the government began in Sichuan Province after police fired on a crowd of demonstrators, killing many of them. Sun Yatsen and his followers immediately went to Sichuan to help spread the rebellion.
On the 10th October soldiers from the new army left their base in Wuchang and joined the rising. From there the rebellion spread throughout central and southern China. The Manchu's tried to deal with the rebellion by recalling Yuan Shikai from retirement. This didn't help because he sided with the rebels who elected him president. In exchange he convinced the emperor and the regent to form a republic.
Finally on 12th February 1912 Emperor P'u Yi stepped down from the Dragon throne of the Manchu's. The edict of abdication that was issued said: "Today the people of the whole empire have their minds bent on a republic, the southern Provinces having begun the movement, and the northern generals having subsequently supported it. The will of providence is clear and the people's wishes are plain. How could I, for the glory and honor of one family, oppose the wishes of teeming millions? Wherefore I, with the Emperor, decide that the form of government in China shall be a Constitutional Republic."
Early Years of the Republic (1912-1928)
The New Revolutionaries
During the years of warlord rule after 1916, many young Chinese joined revolutionary groups and parties, hoping this way to improve their country. Over the years, these movements include: The May Fourth Movement, Communism, and the Northern Campaign.
The May Fourth movement
The first was a protest movement against the peace treaties, which ended the Great War of 1914-18. It began on 4 May 1919 and is therefore known as the May Fourth movement. China had joined the Great War in 1917 on the side of the Western allies. Nine hundred thousand Chinese labourers were taken to France, Turkey and Africa to work for the allied armies in "labour battalions". All German ships in Chinese ports were seized and all German enterprises were shut down.
After the war Chinese representatives took place in the Paris peace conference. One of the issues was whether the Germans should continue having control of the port of Kiaochow that the Japanese had seized before the start of the war. The Japanese had also imposed the "21 demands"* to increase their influence over China. The Chinese expected to be given back Kiaochow, and for Japan to withdraw it's 21 demands. They obtained neither...