The Qing Dynasty ( AD 1644-1911 )

Fall of the Qing

qing dynastyWith the defeat of the Boxers, even the Empress Dowager realised that China was too weak to survive without reform. But, while the civil service examinations based on irrelevant 1000-year-old Confucian doctrines were abolished, other court-sponsored reforms proved to be a sham. Furthermore, by now secret societies aimed at bringing down the Qing Dynasty were legion, even overseas where they were set up by disaffected Chinese who had left their homeland.

To make matters worse for the Qing, in 1908 the Empress Dowager died and the two-year-old Emperor Puyi ascended to the throne. The Qing was now rudderless, and quickly collapsed in two events: the Railway Protection Movement and the Wuchang Uprising of 1911.

The railway incident began with the public Chinese sentiment that newly constructed railways should be in Chinese control, not in the hands of the foreigners who had financed and built them. Plans to construct lines to provincial centres using local funds soon collapsed, and the despairing Qing government adopted a policy of nationalisation and foreign loans to do the work. Opposition by vested interests and provincial leaders soon fanned violence that spread and took on an anti-Qing nature. The violence was worst in Sichuan, and troops were taken from the Wuchang garrison in Wuhan to quell the disturbances.

As it happened, revolutionaries in Wuhan, coordinated by Sun Yatsen's Tokyo-based Aliance Society, were already planning an uprising in concert with disaffected Chinese troops. With the garrisons virtually empty, the revolutionaries were quickly able to take control of Wuhan and ride on the back of the largescale Railway Protection uprisings to victory over all China.

Two months later representatives from 17 provinces throughout China gathered in Nanjing to establish the Provisional Republican Government of China. China's long dynastic cycle had come to an end.