China’s Reformers and Revolutionaries | Sun Yat-sen and Kang Youwei
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China’s Reformers and Revolutionaries | Sun Yat-sen and Kang Youwei

September 22, 2019

The last decades of the Qing empire saw the
concurrent rise of a strong reform movement and the first truly modern Chinese revolutionary
party – the Guomindang of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. This week we’ll look into the background
of the important reformers and revolutionary movements within China, that eventually toppled
the Qing dynasty. To be fair: this video is centred more around
Sun Yat-sen, as the most important reform movements have already been covered in two
previous videos. Sun Yat-sen’s story however, well, the man
certainly lived an adventurous life to say the least. -intro- The Reformers After the 100 days’ of radical reforms under
the Kuang-hsui emperor in 1898, Empress Dowager Cixi launched her conservative coup d’etat. Those reformers that managed to flee to Japan,
established the ‘society of protecting the emperor’. Their goal was to realize a constitutional
monarchy under emperor Kuang-hsu, under house arrest still, and the incremental creation
of a parliament. China ought to modernize and it needed the
full support of its nation. A constitutional monarchy was China’s best
bet to successfully modernize. Kang Yu-wei, together with Liang Chi-chao,
the principal architects of the 100 days of reform, managed to flee to Japan. They received much support from young Chinese,
many of whom studied in Tokyo and Kyoto. Due to educational reforms on the Chinese
mainland, Kang’s ideas found support from the new Chinese intelligentsia, schooled under
the new system. What exactly were these ideas by Kang that
met so much resistance by the Qing and support among the young intelligentsia? Kang reinterpreted many Confucian classics. He interpreted a passage in the Book of Rites
as prescribing linear growth and evolution. Three stages he defined were (1) disorder,
(2) Approaching Peace and Small Tranquillity, and (3) Great Peace and Great Unity. Based on this analysis, China was currently
moving from a period of disorder towards approaching peace and small tranquillity. Kang, in essence, managed to align old Chinese
texts with Western theories of evolution and progress. This is very important, as reform in China
ought to be based on the classic texts and Confucian thought that so many civil servants
and gentry were schooled upon. Part of the gentry, especially merchants and
middle class citizens living in urban areas longed for modernisation. Chinese emigrant communities and capitalists
longed for a stronger state that was able to protect their interests. At any rate, Kang stayed for a time at Prince
Okuma’s, the founder of the Japanese progressive party. He had been Japan’s prime minister, albeit
brief in 1898, and was the author of the Okuma doctrine. In essence, this doctrine propagated the notion
that due to Japan modernizing before China, it owed the country a debt of aiding it with
its process of modernization and guaranteeing its freedom. Inukai, a follower of Okuma went to great
lengths to have Chinese political exiles and revolutionaries meet each other. Inukai even managed to issue a meeting between
Kang Yu-wei and the founder of the revive China society: Dr. Sun Yat-sen. Kang refused to meet Sun unless he’d pledge
his allegiance.. And the two men had fundamentally different
notions of reformist thought. Sun considered a revolutionary necessary in
order to establish a republic, while Kang vowed his loyalty to the Kuang-hsu emperor. Collaboration wasn’t likely… but Sun Yat-Sen,
he would become very important in China’s history for the decades to come. The Revolutionaries After 1905 the considerable moderate group
of reformers would be surpassed in popularity by a much more radical organisation, lead
by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. So, what exactly were their objectives, and
who was Sun Yat-Sen? Well, like Kang Yu-Wei, Sun Yat-Sen too was
originally from Canton, although from early on he had travelled all over the world. Canton, traditionally at the centre of Western
imperialism in China, harbored groups of Chinese with strong anti-Western, and anti-Qing feelings,
as the Qing had been ‘unable to protect the Chinese against the Westerners’. Whereas Kang was educated based on Confucian
classics, Sun Yat-Sen received an entirely Westernized education. The Sino-French war, also known as the Tonkin
war, and China’s defeat of 1885 sparked his patriotism after experiencing the war
up close. Sun Yat-Sen was ambivalent during his early
life, however, asking himself whether he wanted to reform China or lead a revolution… It boiled down to one question: did China
have to be destroyed for it to be built up? Though not fruitful, Sun Yat-Sen attempted
to receive Li Hung-chang’s advice about, and support for his reform ideas. Li Hung-Chang was the military leader of anti-Taiping
forces during the rebellion and notable proponent of the self-strengthening movement during
the 1860s and 70s. Li was convinced the usage of Western weaponry
and military tactics would be necessary, to safeguard the traditional Chinese values and
rebuild Chinese strength and power, in order to prevent further Western influences… ‘use
the barbarians to control the barbarians’, as they said. Interestingly enough, this stood in stark
contrast with Sun Yat-Sen’s conviction, who attempted to convince Li that the wealth,
strength and power of Western powers was not due to their gunboats and weaponry, but thanks
to their education and the belief that people ought to develop fully to their capability. Free markets and usage of land, the developed
codes of law were among other things. Li did not even bother to grant Sun an audience
as Sun persistently argued in favour of these reasons. Bitter and disappointed, in 1894 in Honolulu,
Hawaii, he founded the ‘revive China society’, a radical anti-Manchu secret organization. Its 112 members swore to expel the Manchu
and install a federal republic. In 1895, together with 3000 sympathizers,
Sun attempted to seize control of Canton. The whole rebellion was badly organized and
had inadequate weaponry and funding. Qing authorities got wind of it, rounded as
many revolutionaries up as they could and forty-eight were to be executed. Sun fled the country, now officially living
as a revolutionary in exile. From Hong-Kong Sun went to japan and the United
States, eventually travelling to Europe. Imperial agents attempted to kidnap Sun multiple
times throughout these years. One of the more famous, and admittedly clumsy,
attempts was a kidnap attempt in London where Sun was locked up by Qing agents in the Chinese
Legation in London. The goal was to ship him back to China, have
him stand trial and have him executed. He was freed however and the botched abduction
turned him into somewhat of a celebrity around Europe. Sun traveled all over Europe and the United
States, refining his political thought and views. While in exile, the conservative coup against
the emperor by Empress Dowager Cixi and the humiliating Boxer Protocol of 1901 only grew
Sun’s prestige, while that of the dynasty dwindled. Sun now seeked support from the same groups
that Kang Yu-wei was seeking support from. This shaped a bitter rivalry between the two
men, whose political views, as we touched upon before, were far apart, though both condemned
by Beijing. One such supporter was Charlie Soong. His three daughters, would play a major role
in Chinese politics during the next century. Ching-ling married Sun Yat-sen, only to join
the Communists under Mao Zedong after Sun’s death and Mei-ling married Chiang Kai-shek,
the leader of the Guomindang and staunch opponent of Mao’s communists. I promise you will hear more about them in
a future video. Sun Yat-Sen’s Program Sun Yat-Sen’s political program encompassed
three main points which I will elaborate a bit upon. The first was the principle of nationalism. Sun Yat-Sen wanted to liberate the Chinese
from the ‘foreign’ Manchu domination. Due to political and strategic reasons, Sun
did not resist the foreigners and, on multiple occasions, explicitly confirmed he would comply
with treaty agreements the Qing had signed. After all, Sun’s revolution would have no
chance of success if he turned on the Western powers. The second principle was the ‘the people’s
power’, and it encompassed the gradual implementation of western-style democracy. The first stage after the revolution would
be a military-style dictatorship, the second phase an ‘incremental democracy’ and the
last phase would be the implementation of a proper democracy. The institutions within the state would consist
of five powers – the Montesquieu’s Trias Politica (legislative, judiciary and executive
powers) supplemented with two traditionally Chinese institutions: a control (audit branch)
and an examination branch, in order to select civil servants. Lastly, the third principle is translated
as ‘people’s welfare and livelihood’. A government for the people, if you will. It was the social-economic part of Sun’s
program. Emphasis was put on, among others, John Stuart
Mill’s theory that the value of land would increase due to industrialisation. This increase in value should, via taxing
the land, be distributed among the Chinese population. It would be the solution to social inequality. Interestingly enough, these three principles
remain, as of today, the credo of China’s nationalist party in Taiwan. The Tongmenghui In 1905, under Japanese encouragement, Sun
Yat-Sen was brought into contact with Huang Hsing and others of the Hunan group. They would go on to establish the Guomindang
in 1911 but for now, in Tokyo in 1905 the T’ung-meng Hui (the Revolutionary Alliance)
was established. Sun was its chief executive, Huang Hsing was
the second in command and other prominent revolutionaries were assigned to key posts. The Tung-meng Hui had offices all over the
world, from Brussels to Singapore, and though it had around a thousand members, it had branches
in seventeen Chinese provinces. The Tung-meng Hui was becoming a force to
be reckoned with. Republican and socialist ideas, in line with
Sun’s ideology, were distributed via the official Tung Meng Hui journal, the people
(min-pao). Liang Chi-chao and Kang Youwei’s ideas of
reform and a constitutional monarchy, following Japan’s example, were vigorously attacked. It was argued that China would be able to
surpass the West, if only a few strong men took control of the country. Interestingly enough, Japan was used as an
example for this point of view as well. Sun’s three-stage program for democracy
was backed by the magazine. Though it seemed a bit simplistic, it was
more appealing than the moderate views of a benevolent monarch. At any rate, after the Kuang-shu emperor suspiciously
passed away in 1908, one day before Empress Dowager Cixi died and the three-year-old Pu-yi
ascended to the throne, well, there was barely a case to be made in favour of that theory
anyway. Throughout the years there were several setbacks
the revolutionaries suffered. Sun instigated 10 rebellions between 1906
and 1911. All of them failed. In 1907, Sun Yat-Sen was expelled from Japan
after repeated requests by the Qing to the Japanese government. Both Sun and Huang Hsing settled in Hanoi,
French Indo-China and orchestrated six rebellions in China while residing there. The French realized these revolutionaries
were inspiring the Vietnamese to stage their own uprisings, and expelled them as well. In 1909, after four years of barely any results
but many casualties, be it due to failed rebellions or government crackdowns, foreign financial
aid in support of the revolution dwindled. Once again, Sun embarked on a fundraising
campaign to Europe and the United States. Some other members, dissenting from the Tung-meng
hui, resorted to anarchism. It was Wang Chin-wei who tried to bomb the
prince regent Chun. His assassination attempt failed and he was
arrested and imprisoned. Nevertheless, anti-Qing sentiment among the
Chinese population kept increasing. Huang Hsing figured subverting troops of the
imperial army had the best chance of succeeding. An army revolt in Canton in 1910 however,
was suppressed. Another Canton rebellion a year later was
doomed; when Huang’s troops tried to seize government buildings, one of the battalions
mistook another group of their soldiers for imperial soldiers, and a firefight between
the two groups of revolutionaries ensued. It did garner widespread sympathy and is memorialized
with a large concrete obelisk that honoured the 72 revolutionaries that lost their lives. Now, Sun instigated 10 rebellions right? Well, across China, in 1909 there were 113
documented rebellions. Most instigated by hungry peasants. The next year, there were 285. I think these numbers clearly portray the
instability of the country. Most rebellions occurred around the region
were the Taiping rebellion waged 50 years before. Conclusion Still, riots elsewhere broke out without a
revolutionary ideology at the basis. The peasant peace riots in Hunan in 1910 and
eventually the provincial railway protection movement that swept Szechwan in 1911 contributed
to the erosion of Qing stability and control. It was the railway controversy that would
directly contribute to the sequence of events that would lead to the demise of the Qing
dynasty. I felt it was only right to provide a bit
of background to the revolutionary movement that played a crucial part in this Xinhai
revolution. Next week I’ll cover that revolution, oddly
enough sparked by accident, and the abdication of Pu-yi, the last emperor, marking the demise
of the Qing dynasty which had now truly lost its mandate of heaven. If you want to know how the situation got
up to this point in China, check out the playlist on the screen right now. It details the collapse of China’s Qing
dynasty from the Opium Wars all the way to the abdication of Pu-yi, over half a century
later. Thank you for watching this video and if you
have any questions, comments or suggestions, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. Don’t forget to subscribe, see you next

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