The Chinese revolution marks, in short, a great, decisive step in the onward march of human progress.
Today’s installment concludes The Chinese Revolution of 1912,
the name of our combined selection from Robert Machray, R.F. Johnston, and Tai-Chi Quo. The concluding installment is by Tai-Chi Quo. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed a selection from the great works of seven thousand words. Congratulations!
Previously in The Chinese Revolution of 1912.
The entire civilized world, as well as China, is to be heartily congratulated upon the glorious revolution which has been sweeping over that vast ancient empire, and which is now practically assured of success. “Just as conflagrations light up the whole city,” says Victor Hugo, “revolutions light up the whole human race.” Of no revolution recorded in the world’s history can this be said with a greater degree of truth than of the present revolution in China. It spells the overthrow of monarchy, which has existed there for over forty centuries, and the downfall of a dynasty which has been the enemy of human progress for the last two hundred and seventy years. It effects the recognition and establishment of personal liberty, the sovereignty of man over himself, for four hundred and thirty-two million souls, one-third of the world’s total population.
The Chinese revolution marks, in short, a great, decisive step in the onward march of human progress. It benefits not only China, but the whole world, for just as a given society should measure its prosperity not by the welfare of a group of individuals, but by the welfare of the entire community, so must humanity estimate its progress according to the well-being of the whole human race. Society can not be considered to be in a far advanced stage of civilization if one-third of the globe’s inhabitants are suffering under the oppression and tyranny of a one-man rule. Democracy can not be said to exist if a great portion of the people on the earth have not even political freedom. Real democracy exists only when all men are free and equal. Hence, any movement which brings about the recognition and establishment of personal liberty for one-third of the members of the human family, as the Chinese revolution is doing, may well be pronounced to be beneficial to mankind.
But is it really true and credible that conservative, slumbering, and “mysterious” China is actually having a revolution, that beautiful and terrible thing, that angel in the garb of a monster? If it is, what is the cause of the revolution? What will be its ultimate outcome? What will follow its success? Will a republic be established and will it work successfully? These and many other questions pertaining to the Chinese situation have been asked, not only by skeptics, but also by persons interested in China and human progress.
There can be no doubt that China is in earnest about what she is doing. Even the skeptics who called the revolution a “mob movement,” or another “Boxer uprising,” at its early stage must now admit the truth of the matter. The admirable order and discipline which have characterized its proceedings conclusively prove that the revolution is a well-organized movement, directed by men of ability, intelligence, and humanitarian principles. Sacredness of life and its rights, for which they are fighting, have generally guided the conduct of the rebels. The mob element has been conspicuous by its absence from their ranks. It is very doubtful whether a revolution involving such an immense territory and so many millions of people as are involved in this one could be effected with less bloodshed than has thus far marked the Chinese revolution. If some allowance be made for exaggeration in the newspaper reports of the loss of lives and of the disorders that have occurred during the struggle, allowance which is always permissible and even wise for one to make, there has been very little unnecessary bloodshed committed by the revolutionists.
Although anti-Manchu spirit was a prominent factor in bringing about the uprising, it has been subordinated by the larger idea of humanity. With the exception of a few instances of unnecessary destruction of Manchu lives at the beginning of the outbreak, members of that tribe have been shown great clemency. The rebel leaders have impressed upon the minds of their followers that their first duty is to respect life and property, and have summarily punished those having any inclination to loot or kill. Despite the numerous outrages and acts of brutality by the Manchus and imperial troops, the revolutionaries have been moderate, lenient, and humane in their treatment of their prisoners and enemies. Unnecessary bloodshed has been avoided by them as much as possible. As Dr. Wu Ting-fang has said: “The most glorious page of China’s history is being written with a bloodless pen.” Regarding the cause of the revolution, it must be noted that the revolt was not a sudden, sporadic movement, nor the result of any single event. It is the outcome of a long series of events, the culmination of the friction and contact with the Western world in the last half-century, especially the last thirty years, and of the importation of Western ideas and methods into China by her foreign-educated students and other agents.
During the last decade, especially the last five years, there has been a most wonderful awakening among the people in the empire. One could almost see the growth of national consciousness, so rapidly has it developed. When the people fully realized their shortcomings and their country’s deplorable weakness as it has been constantly brought out in her dealings with foreign Powers, they fell into a state of dissatisfaction and profound unrest. Filled with the shame of national disgrace and imbued with democratic ideas, they have been crying for a strong and liberal government, but their pleas and protests have been in most cases ignored and in a few cases responded to with half-hearted superficial reforms which are far from satisfactory to the progressives. The Manchu government has followed its traditional laissez faire policy in the face of foreign aggressions and threatening dangers of the empire’s partition, with no thought of the morrow. Until now it has been completely blind to the force of the popular will and has deemed it not worth while to bother with the common people.
Long ago patriotic Chinese gave up hope in the Manchu government and realized that China’s salvation lay in the taking over of the management of affairs into their own hands. For over a decade Dr. Sun Yat-sen and other Chinese of courage and ability, mostly those with a Western education, have been busily engaged in secretly preaching revolutionary doctrines among their fellow countrymen and preparing for a general outbreak. They collected numerous followers and a large sum of money. The revolutionary propaganda was being spread country-wide, among the gentry and soldiers, and even among enlightened government officials, in spite of governmental persecution and strict vigilance. Revolutionary literature was being widely circulated, notwithstanding the rigid official censorship.
Added to all this are the ever important economic causes. Famines and floods in recent years have greatly intensified the already strong feeling of discontent and unrest, and served to pile up more fuel for the general conflagration.
In short, the whole nation was like a forest of dry leaves which needed but a single fire spark to make it blaze. Hence, when the revolution broke out on the memorable 10th of October, 1911, at Wu-Chang, it spread like a forest fire. Within the short period of two weeks fourteen of the eighteen provinces of China proper joined in the movement one after another with amazing rapidity. Everywhere people welcomed the advent of the revolutionary army as the drought-stricken would rejoice at the coming rain, or the hungry at the sight of food. The great wave of democratic sentiment which had swept over Europe, America, and the islands of Japan at last reached the Chinese shore, and is now rolling along resistlessly over the immense empire toward its final goal — a world-wide democracy.
This ends our selections on The Chinese Revolution of 1912 by three of the most important authorities of this topic:
- The Situation in the Far East by Robert Machray published in a magazine article.
- by R.F. Johnston.
- by Tai-Chi Quo.
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