Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 2

Tom Robinson How influential was Sun Yatsen in the downfall of the Qing Dynasty?

The downfall of the Qing dynasty occurred over a period of years as the power they commanded was slowly eroded due to several factors. Whilst many argue that there is a stronger case that the failed Manchu reforms and increased taxation, as well as the growing discontent of the peasantry caused by natural disasters, played a much larger role in the eventual downfall and installation of a Chinese Republic than Sun Yatsen, his personal intelligence, revolutionary ideas and general recognition across China proved crucial in the downfall of the Qing Dynasty. It was his inspiration and guidance to those affected by the aforementioned factors that allowed the revolution of 1911 to be successful. Sun Yatsen was educated abroad as a doctor and had experienced two principles of Western society: democracy and republicanism. Whereas China had a feudal, undemocratic government ruled by a few select elite (composed of those who had excelled in traditional Confucian studies), the West at the beginning of the 20th century, was a beehive of democracy and equality where modern ideas excelled and society was advancing much quicker than in Yatsens own country of China. His experiences abroad had shaped his political philosophy: in order to modernise, China had to become a republic. The Tongmenghui (Alliance league) is a prime example of his efforts to bring social and political change in China through a revolutionary group: the official alliance was formed in 1905 and in the run up to the 1911 revolution, Sun Yatsen became known as the father of the nation. This nickname demonstrates just how influential Sun Yatsen was in the ideological downfall of the Qing: the rise of nationalism in China required a leader, and it was obvious that the Empress Dowager or the Emperor would not facilitate this need. Sun Yatsen, therefore, is shown to be the one the people of China looked up to when they considered a modernised, free China. Though many criticise him for being an ideological intellectual whose ideas were not understood by the plebiscite, it is clear that his simple slogans that were founded on his Three Principles of the People provided a clear message that gave the general revolutionaries those who were prepared to rebel against whatever facet of the Qings unpopular actions a clear, singular aim that was succinct. Moreover, his influence on the general masses made the dream of a republican China an attainable reality, and thus, it is quite clear that Sun Yatsens role in the downfall of the Qing Dynasty is hard to ignore. There were however, both weakness of Sun Yatsen and other factors to consider when looking at the Qings downfall. One must take into account that Sun Yatsen was in exile for most of the revolutionary period. His anti-governmental views unsurprisingly made him an outlaw (especially after the uprising in Guangzhou) and thus, although he often returned to Japan as his revolutionary headquarters - it is clear that his immense influence was mainly in the form of ideas whereas others such as Yuan Shikai directly influenced the downfall of the Qing dynasty from within China. At Wuhan, on 10th October 1911, Shikais troops were ordered to stand down and not suppress the rebels. Shikai had used his position as a trusted, Qing general to double-cross the very dynasty that had dismissed him from their court. This single mutiny is often regarded as the catalyst, and start, of the successful revolution that would result in the downfall of the Qing dynasty. The prominent event demonstrates just how influential the provincial armies were in the downfall of the Qing. Sun Yatsen may have inspired the revolution, but it is questionable whether the Qing would have fallen without the betrayal of the provincial armies in particular Yuan Shikais Beiyang army that (not coincidentally) had a Western-style of fighting thus rendering it the most powerful military force in China. Another key reason for the demise of the Qing dynasty can be found in the reforms brought in by the Qing to ensure, ironically, that the provinces would not gain enough power to claim independence principally nationalisation. In response to the sudden boom of the railway industry

Tom Robinson between 1895 and 1911, foreign powers saw this as an excellent opportunity for investment which allowed for a prosperous industry that led to provinces gaining significant amounts of capital (as they owned the railways). The Manchu Dynasty, concerned with the idea of political and financial independence occurring, instated nationalisation of the railways thus removing the chance of provinces becoming too powerful. The resultant increase in tax, caused by increased debts to the West, caused outrage amongst the commercial class in China and, arguably, initiated revolutionary thoughts in a growingly powerful class of society. The uproar caused by the nationalism programme gave many new people the incentive to join others already revolting, thus considerably adding to the revolution that caused the downfall of the Qing dynasty in 1911. Another consideration one has to judge is the timing of natural disasters and the ensuing poverty caused by it in China by 1911. The flooding of the Yangtze river in 1911, as well as continual poor harvests from the end of the 19th century through the first decade of the 20th, caused grain prices to rise at the same time as the peasants were being taxed to fund unpopular reforms in China by the Qing. The growing resentment of the peasants, the greatest demographic force in China, is obviously a huge factor in any revolution and the discontent caused by these natural disasters meant that the idea of revolution, in particular Sun Yatsens idea of revolution, was appealing to those who were suffering in acute poverty because of the Qing Dynastys failure to protect them. Thus, as in many other revolutions in the history of the world, the catalyst caused by natural disasters played a major role in the downfall of the Qing, as it gave the peasants a reason to fight and to join other revolutionary bodies in the pursuit of a new, radically reformed China. To conclude, it is obvious that Sun Yatsens actions alone would not have revolutionised China and caused the downfall of the Qing dynasty. Factors such as the flooding of the Yangtze and continual poor harvests, the nationalisation programme of the Qing courts as well as the power, and ideological persuasion, of the provincial armies all intertwined to form a powerful revolution. However, without the plans and ideology of Sun Yatsen these factors that affected different sectors of Chinese society the peasants, commercials, army etc. would have been isolated and ineffective. Rather, Sun Yatsens prominence on the national stage (despite his physical absence from China) unified these individual revolutionary groups into a formidable force that was inevitably going to cause the downfall of the Qing dynasty. Without Sun Yatsen, perhaps revolution would still have occurred, but to what extent would it have been successful? Sun Yatsens Tongmenghui provided an architecture from which all revolutionaries could build their attacks even those whose ideologies were far removed from Sun Yatsen (namely Yuan Shikai). Therefore, Sun Yatsens influence in the downfall of the Qing Dynasty was phenomenal as it provided the unification that the successful revolution required.