Hsinhai Revolution

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Hsinhai Revolution


a bourgeois revolution in the period 1911–13 in China, which led to the overthrow of the Manchu (Ch’ing) dynasty and the proclamation of the Chinese republic. The revolution broke out in the year hsinhai of the old Chinese calendar—hence its name.

The Hsinhai Revolution stemmed from the historical necessity of destroying the yoke of the foreign Manchu monarchy, which preserved the feudal order in China’s political and socioeconomic life, and from the historical necessity of ending the dominance of foreign imperialism. The moving forces of the revolution were the national bourgeoisie, the urban petite bourgeoisie, the peasantry, the workers, and the liberal landowners. The revolutionary organization T’ung-meng Hui played a prominent part in preparing the revolution.

The revolution broke out on Oct. 10, 1911, with a victorious revolt by troops in the city of Wuch’ang. By the end of November 1911, Manchu rule had been overthrown in 15 provinces of South, Central, and North China. The revolutionary wing of the bourgeoisie was economically weak and politically immature, and as a result, representatives of the liberal bourgeoisie and liberal landowners came to power in many provinces.

The Manchu court was in a difficult position. On the advice of Chinese feudal reactionaries and Anglo-American diplomats, it installed in power General Yüan Shih-k’ai, a prominent Chinese feudal lord and creator of the reactionary Peiyang (northern) army. On Nov. 2, 1911, Yüan was declared prime minister and commander in chief of the army. He initiated a policy of maneuvering between the Ch’ing dynasty and the revolutionaries, a policy well suited to the interests of the Chinese feudal-comprador reaction and international imperialism. On Dec. 18, 1911, the leaders of the republican camp officially opened negotations in Shanghai with the Yüan government. On Dec. 26, 1911, Sun Yat-sen, the principal leader of the Tung-meng Hui, returned to China from emigration. On December 29, delegates from the rebellious provinces met in Nanking and chose Sun Yat-sen to be the provisional president of the Chinese republic; he took office on Jan. 1, 1912.

The imperialist powers did not recognize the Nanking government. They refused to hand over the income due the government from the Chinese maritime customs, which they controlled, and they threatened the government with direct armed intervention. The conciliatory majority of the revolutionary camp demanded that Sun Yat-sen yield the presidency to Yüan. The proletariat had no independent political role, and there was no active peasant movement in the country.

On Feb. 12, 1912, the Manchu emperor abdicated, and on Feb. 13, 1912, Sun Yat-sen yielded to external and internal counterrevolutionary pressure and resigned, leaving the presidency on Apr. 1, 1912. On Feb. 15, 1912, the Nanking assembly elected Yüan provisional president.

Relying on international imperialism and Chinese reactionary forces and exploiting the liberals’ support and the bourgeois democrats’ weakness, Yüan began preparations for the establishment of a personal military dictatorship. The Tung-meng hui and its successor—the Kuomintang, created in August 1912—lacked the support of the broad popular masses; their reliance on the bourgeois-democratic provisional constitution, ratified by the Nanking assembly on Mar. 10, 1912, as a means of averting a military dictatorship, could not save the revolution from defeat. At the end of March 1913, on Yüan’s secret instructions, Sung Chiao-jen, the Kuomintang candidate for prime minister, was assassinated. On Apr. 27, 1913, in defiance of the will of the parliament, the Yüan government, in an attempt to strengthen its finances, signed an agreement with an imperialist banking consortium to borrow £25 million. This was the beginning of an undisguised government coup. Sun Yat-sen called on the people to rise aginst the Yüan government, but in August 1913 the Peiyang forces crushed the revolt. Yüan Shih-k’ai then established a feudal-military dictatorship in China.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.