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A History of China by Wolfram Eberhard

Sun Yat sen resigned in Nanking


Meanwhile

the revolutionaries set up a provisional government at Nanking (December 29th, 1911), with Sun Yat-sen as president and Li Yuean-hung as vice-president. Yuean Shih-k'ai now declared to the imperial house that the monarchy could no longer be defended, as his troops were too unreliable, and he induced the Manchu government to issue an edict on February 12th, 1912, in which they renounced the throne of China and declared the Republic to be the constitutional form of state. The young emperor of the Hsuean-t'ung period, after the Japanese conquest of Manchuria in 1931, was installed there. He was, however, entirely without power during the melancholy years of his nominal rule, which lasted until 1945.

In 1912 the Manchu dynasty came in reality to its end. On the news of the abdication of the imperial house, Sun Yat-sen resigned in Nanking, and recommended Yuean Shih-k'ai as president.

Chapter Eleven

THE REPUBLIC (1912-1948)

1 _Social and intellectual position_

In order to understand the period that now followed, let us first consider the social and intellectual position in China in the period between 1911 and 1927. The Manchu dynasty was no longer there, nor were there any remaining real supporters of the old dynasty. The gentry, however, still existed. Alongside it was a still

numerically small middle class, with little political education or enlightenment.

The political interests of these two groups were obviously in conflict. But after 1912 there had been big changes. The gentry were largely in a process of decomposition. They still possessed the basis of their existence, their land, but the land was falling in value, as there were now other opportunities of capital investment, such as export-import, shareholding in foreign enterprises, or industrial undertakings. It is important to note, however, that there was not much fluid capital at their disposal. In addition to this, cheaper rice and other foodstuffs were streaming from abroad into China, bringing the prices for Chinese foodstuffs down to the world market prices, another painful business blow to the gentry. Silk had to meet the competition of Japanese silk and especially of rayon; the Chinese silk was of very unequal quality and sold with difficulty. On the other hand, through the influence of the Western capitalistic system, which was penetrating more and more into China, land itself became "capital", an object of speculation for people with capital; its value no longer depended entirely on the rents it could yield but, under certain circumstances, on quite other things--the construction of railways or public buildings, and so on. These changes impoverished and demoralized the gentry, who in the course of the past century had grown fewer in number. The gentry were not in a position to take part fully in the capitalist manipulations, because they had never possessed much capital; their wealth had lain entirely in their land, and the income from their rents was consumed quite unproductively in luxurious living.


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