Wenran Jiang: 100 Years of Revolution in China

Wenran Jiang is an associate professor of political science at the University of Alberta and a senior fellow at the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada.

On Sunday, China celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution. A century is just a flash in the perpetual flow of history, but an age for individual human beings. When the republican revolution swept across China in 1911, overthrowing the Qing dynasty, the country had been in a miserable condition of mass starvation, internal rebellion and foreign invasion for much of the previous century.

Optimism accompanied the abolition of the 2,000-year-old imperial system. Sun Yat-sen, who led the revolution and the Nationalist party, set out three grand national goals: achieving independent nationhood through expelling foreign occupiers, establishing a democratic republic and restoring China to prosperity by nurturing the people’s welfare.

But the Chinese people had to struggle for generations more to realize elements of these dreams. Local warlords and their rivalries replaced the young republic weeks after the fall of the imperial system; foreign powers took advantage of the internal turmoil and strengthened their spheres of influence; Japan, the only Asian country to succeed in modernizing itself quickly, steadily and brutally occupied China and much of Asia in its own quest for empire. Sun passed away in 1925 with his dreams dashed. And one of the world’s oldest civilizations faced a pivotal crisis of survival.

As it turned out, it wouldn’t be the Western democratic model admired by Sun and his followers but Leninism, born out of the Russian Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, which inspired Mao Zedong and his fellow young Communists...

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