China to mark 100th anniversary of 1911 revolution

A lot of attention will be paid to the 1911 revolution, when thousands of years of imperial succession gave way to the modern form of government.
The Revolution of 1911
Popular blogger and amateur historian Xiong Feijun, coining newfangled terms like "Princeling Cabinet" (taizidang neige) with relish, concluded that the revolution started as a mass incident (qunti shijian) – another resonant word in the 21st century – which had gotten out of control and then snowballed into something too big to be contained.
Other historians have found a striking parallel between the move by the Qing court to nationalize the railways and the recent trend of "state advancing, private sector retreating," in which state-owned enterprises redoubled their dominance in the economy through easy access to credit and favorable government policies. The private sector, struggling to stay afloat in the financial crisis, was no match with the state behemoth.

Other than a vague idea of republicanism, the revolutionaries were disorganized and lacked mobilization skills. Ten attempts at revolution had failed and many believed that the Manchu dynasty could easily last for another 50 years. Then one day, they woke up and found the empire was no more.

Victory as something that fell unexpectedly on the laps of the revolutionaries and the defenders of the old order retreated from the stage in haste. A political science professor commented wryly that despite loud proclamations of loyalty to the emperor, martyrs were hard to find after the fall of the Qing dynasty. For many people in the countryside, China without an emperor had been unthinkable. But after 1911, life went on. The sky did not fall.

As then, a large part of the elite now realize the system is ineffective. Finding disturbing parallels 100 years ago only deepens their anxiety. History is not a feel-good business.

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