This year marks the centenary of the 1911 Revolution, the event that had far reaching consequences for the fate of the Chinese people. It brought an end to imperial rule in China and also represented the birth of Asia’s first republic. A hugely important milestone on China’s road to modernisation, it is also of remarkable significance for the development of global politics.
The first decade of the 20th century was a time of great upheaval in China. Revolutionary currents were never far from the surface as reformists and reactionaries struggled to gain the upper hand in the Qing government. After the war with the Eight-Nation Alliance, the Empress Dowager Cixi was finally persuaded to launch a series of political, economic, military and educational reforms. However, two policies announced by the Qing court in May 1911 – the formation of a new ‘imperial cabinet’ and the nationalisation of the railways – caused huge public resentment and drove many people to the revolutionary cause. The success of the Wuchang Uprising on 10 October 1911 started a chain reaction, and in less than two months 14 out of the 18 provinces within China’s main borders had declared independence. The imperial regime had been overthrown and replaced by a republican system, signifying a new era of modern China.