Feature image depicts a battle between the Qing Dynasty army (in blue waving the flag with a dragon) and the Republic of China army (in yellow waving the flag with a yellow sun)

Fall of the Qing Dynasty

The Republic of China’s story begins with the deterioration of the Qing Dynasty. The stubborn Qing leadership chose not to modernize, even as the rest of the world began adopting superior technologies. Starting in the mid-1800s, foreign nations began using their advantages in military technology to bully China into “unfair treaties,” such as the First (1839-1842) and Second Opium Wars (1856-1860), the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), and the Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901). China had to not only accept unfair trade deals but also pay reprimands and lose significant territory: Hong Kong to the United Kingdom, Taiwan to Japan, and Korea (a tributary state of the Qing Empire) to become independent.

The weak Qing leadership and inability to modernize did not go unnoticed among the Chinese citizens. Rising tensions led to a massive civil war known as the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864). Qing government reforms enabling more exposure to the outside world backfired; the Chinese men allowed to study abroad often returned to China as even more determined advocates for a revolution against the Empire.

Signing of Treaty of Shimonoseki
According to the terms of the Treaty of Shimonoseki signed at the end of the First Sino-Japanese War, China recognized Korea’s independence and ceded Taiwan to the Japanese Empire.

Contributing to their discontent, many citizens regarded the Qing leadership as a foreign power from whom they must one day reclaim China because northern Manchus had established the Qing Dynasty. It did not matter that, in reality, the Manchus were primarily a mix of Mongols and Jurchens – two groups who had historically ruled significant portions of China (see Yuan Dynasty, Jin Dynasty).

Wuchang Uprising

On October 9th of 1911, an accidental bomb explosion by revolutionaries preparing weaponry drew local police to Wuchang’s Russian Settlement. In the house, the police found a list of revolutionaries’ names. Following this discovery, the revolutionaries decided that they needed to strike immediately. After they attacked and overwhelmed imperial forces in Wuchang on October 10th, the success spread quickly. Other provinces joined in the rebellion and declared independence from the Qing Empire.

The ROC still celebrates October 10th (Double Ten Day) as National Day.

After news of the Wuchang Uprising reached Dr. Sun Yat-sen in Denver, he returned to China in December. Meanwhile, Yuan Shikai, the leader of the Qing Empire’s strongest army, made a strategic decision to negotiate between the Qing leadership and the revolutionaries.

On December 28th, Empress Dowager Longyu called for a National Convention that would mark the beginning of formal negotiations with the revolutionaries. The following day, Dr. Sun became the provisional president of the Republic of China. His official inauguration took place on January 1st of 1912. 

However, because Dr. Sun lacked the necessary military strength to defeat the Qing Empire by force, the newly founded Republic of China negotiated with Yuan Shikai, promising him the presidency if he could remove the Qing emperor. Soon, Dr. Sun Yat-sen resigned as President of the newly founded Republic of China and relinquished the position to Yuan Shikai.

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