China: 3000 Years of History, 50 Years of Revolution. Robert Louzon 1998

Chapter II: The First Revolution (1901-1928)

Sun Yat-sen

Think of our coolies, stripped to the waist, hacking roads out of mountains. Do not think of our philosophers. – George Yeh [1]

It was just over 100 years ago, in 1853, that the British inaugurated the first railway line in India. In an article printed immediately afterwards in the New York Daily Tribune, Marx announced that this first railway was the start of the economic transformation of India which would in turn lead to its social and political transformation. [2]

You are obliged to build railways, said Marx to the British ‘millocracy’, because you want to obtain Hindu cotton at the cheapest possible price, and because you then want to convey it to the ports of embarkation by the speediest and most economic means. So you build railways, but to make them run you have then to set up in India itself workshops for maintenance and repair; you have to introduce mechanisation and modern technique into a country which was hitherto purely agricultural and backward. Now ‘once you have introduced mechanisation into the means of transport in a country that possesses coal and iron, you cannot prevent its manufacture’. Thus, whether you like it or not, you are transforming India into a new Britain, and this will mean a radical change in all the relations between the two countries.

During the 100 years that have unfolded since then, this dialectic has become progressively realised. From the very fact of its colonisation, India has become economically similar to the metropolitan country, and by the same token the colonisation has lost its basis. The very development of colonisation leads to the negation of colonisation.

What was true for India has equally been the case for China. Europe opened up China by force to its commerce and its industry. As in the case of India, it made China not only an agricultural and commercial country, but an industrial one as well. Europe’s capital and technicians built railways there, introduced a great textile industry, exploited the coal-fields, and built great furnaces. The natural and necessary result of this has been that new China, modern China, industrial China, has not ceased trying to rid itself of its masters.

Such then is the first characteristic of the history of this second phase of the European domination, in China as in India; the introduction of the industrial revolution into these countries gave rise to the will to free themselves from Europe and provided them with the means to do so; that is why during the last 50 years the entire political and even the social life of Asia was to be dominated by the war against Europe, no longer a war to return to the past, as in the time of the Sepoys and the Boxers, but to open up the future.

It follows that along with their struggle against foreign domination, the nationalist movements of the two countries were to struggle for an internal revolution, for the transformation of social relations within their ancient societies. Gandhi fought the caste system as much as he did British domination, [3] and Sun Yat-sen founded a republic in the oldest empire in the world.


Before reviewing the principal phases of this joint struggle, let us first justify our assertion as regards the industrialisation of India and China.

The industry that was the first in Europe to experience the ‘industrial revolution’, the industry that was for decades the typical industry, was the textile industry. It was the same in the Far East. It was through spinning and weaving that the factory system penetrated and spread, in China as well as in India.

India contains two textile industries, that of cotton and that of jute. The cotton industry is for the most part concentrated on the western coast in Bombay, close to the clayey and fertile black earth of the north-west of the Deccan, the ‘regur’, on which cotton thrives best. That of jute is in the north-east of India, at Calcutta, alongside the delta of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, in the lands where the plant grows.

In this classic land of the domestic system, hand-spinning disappeared decades ago; as far as weaving is concerned, if it is true that there are still handlooms in use, the number of mechanical looms in operation has increased no less rapidly, from 9139 in 1879 to 154 292 in 1925.

The same is true of jute: all handicraft work has disappeared. The jute industry is one of the most concentrated industries that there is: even the cultivation of the plant takes place on huge agricultural estates.

However, a country that only has a textile industry is a country only half industrialised. To be a real industrial country, it is also necessary to possess the second great industry: a metalworking industry.

For this, in the first place coal is necessary. India does have coal. It is not coal of the best quality, nor of enormous quantities, but it is sufficient to supply a national industry. Between the two world wars, India’s coal production reached about 20 million tons – that is, about half of France’s production during the same period. On the other hand, as India also possesses iron ore deposits not far from its coal and sometimes even mixed up with it, and is also one of the great world producers of manganese, a metal indispensable in the production of steel, a metallurgical industry was possible there, and so there was one. In 1909, a veritable city of steel arose in the shape of Jamshedpur, to the south-west of Calcutta, with great furnaces, steel works, coking kilns, etc., a city that can be compared to Le Creusot, and which employs 50 000 workers.

It is a remarkable fact that nearly all these industries, with the possible exception of jute, have from their beginnings been almost exclusively in the hands of Indians, not of Britons, or of other Europeans. Almost the whole of Bombay’s textile industry belongs to Indians, and the company that built Jamshedpur is the Tata company, which is exclusively Indian.

It is the same thing in China. Just as in India, an important textile industry exists there, Shanghai occupying the place of Bombay, whilst the iron centre of Hanyang on the middle reaches of the Blue River alongside Hankou, is the counterpart of the Indian Jamshedpur.

The Chinese textile industry, however, is on a smaller scale than that of India, because unlike India, China is not a great producer of cotton, especially good quality cotton. On the other hand, the Chinese metal industry has a very great future before it, for the reason that China’s coal-fields and iron ore deposits are far more extensive than those of India. The existence of coal-fields capable of producing a billion tons of coal has already been ascertained – a quantity, in other words, half as great as that which the USA is known to possess, the USA being the richest coal country in the world, whose subsoil has of course been much better explored than that of China, which also has a milliard tons of iron, almost as much as the famous American deposits of Lake Superior. And we should add to this the fact that China is the greatest world producer of tungsten, a metal as necessary to the production of high quality steel as manganese is to the production of ordinary steel.

Finally, as in India, the modern industry of China has from the first been in the hands of native capitalists, and not of Europeans. Just as the foundation of Jamshedpur was the exclusive work of Indians, that of Hanyang was the exclusive work of the Chinese. As regards the textile industry, the position is not so bright; of the 3.5 million cotton spindles possessed by China round about 1925, the Chinese themselves owned no more than two million, but more than a million others were owned by the Japanese, with the remaining few hundred thousand being shared out amongst the Europeans.

The ‘concessions’ that Europe had extracted at knife point in order to establish its factories in reality served as incubators for hatching out a great native industry, which was already provided with such modern utilities as electricity, tramways, etc. It must also be said that they afforded a certain measure of protection against the exactions of the mandarins.

If we compare the rhythm with which the two countries have become industrialised, we should note that both of them made a rapid leap round about 1920.

The first mechanical spinning machine for cotton in India dates back to 1818, but it was not until the end of the nineteenth century that it is possible to speak truly of an Indian industry and a Chinese industry, with an otherwise quite slow development. But the First World War came along in 1914, which had the effect of an immense catalyst in the East. Europe’s absence from the world markets throughout the entire war, and even for some years after it owing to the great destruction it wrought, left a complete void. It was the task of the Far East to fill it. The industry of Asia then took a sudden leap forward, the extent of which may be judged by these two figures: during the years 1910-14, British India with great difficulty produced 300 000 tons of yarn; in 1922, it produced 760 000 tons of it! The leap forward in all the other branches of industrial production was just as sharp.

This swift forward movement in industrialisation was also to be found at the same time in the evolution of the movements of national liberation, a fact that confirms that these latter were merely a reflection of the former. Just like the industrialisation, the All-India Congress in India [4] and the Guomindang in China originated before 1914, and had by then even achieved some success, especially the Guomindang, but it was only after 1918 that the two great parties of national liberation became strong enough to engage in the decisive struggle that was to free India from the British, and in China to liquidate both the ‘unequal treaties’ and the last remnants of the imperial regime.

As usual, this economic revolution and its political result were to give rise to an entire thought world that prolonged and strengthened them, and which is well summed up, so it seems to me, in the words I have put under the title of this chapter, which were said to Robert Payne some years ago by an important Guomindang figure who is, or was, I believe, one of Chiang Kai-shek’s ministers.

It was in this same spirit that an old Chinese professor, speaking with the enthusiasm of a youth, made the following declaration to the same Robert Payne:

Many years ago, I came upon Dr Sun Yat-sen’s book on the development of China... I was impressed by its lofty vision and the extraordinary way – it was extraordinary to my eyes – in which Sun Yat-sen regarded the earth of my country. It opened my eyes to the fact that there may be more wealth under the earth than in the top-soil; and I began to take an interest in metallurgy, mineralogy and geology. These are the great things in modern China, and it is from this point that modern China really begins. We are making plans for the future now. The renovation of the country goes hand in hand with the war. We have selected sites, built the road-beds, studied communications – in our mind’s eye we can see the great chain of factories spreading over China. There are 14 areas for development. There are six great areas for power. And though to you these words may mean nothing, they mean a great deal to us. We are working carefully. We have made contracts with American firms for the extension of our rolling-stock – all our communications will be got from America. Our shipyards will multiplied by 100; our foundries will be multiplied by 300; our cotton mills will eventually supply the whole of China. In 20 years time, though we are poor now, we shall be rich; and when that day comes we will no longer have to import on the scale that we imported before. China, with her tremendous manpower, her skill, her enthusiasm and the riches of her land, will become a great power. [5]

So be it.

‘Young China’

We now come to the events. Political power in India was exercised by the British, so the struggle for independence was purely and simply a struggle to abolish British domination over India. It was not the same in China. Even if the burden of Europe weighed heavily upon China, at any rate the country was not directly subject to the political domination of any European state; officially it remained independent, and the rights acquired by the Europeans on Chinese territory, whether as concessions or as leases, had at any rate been acquired by treaties in good and true form with the assent of the legitimate sovereign. China’s dependence on Europe was thus solely the consequence of the weakness of its own state, which had been unable to resist European claims; it therefore followed that the path of liberation must first of all pass through a transformation of the internal political regime. A preliminary condition for the removal of the ‘unequal treaties’ was the removal of the emperor, or rather of the entire mandarin-imperial regime that had existed in the country for more than 2000 years, and its replacement by a modern state of the European type, as only such a state would be strong enough to deal with the Europeans on equal terms. Thus it was the revolution that appeared to Chinese patriots as the first task to be accomplished.

It was this revolution, aimed solely at the modernisation of China by the Europeanisation of its state, that the Guomindang achieved. Its aim is comparable to the Russian Revolution of February 1917, and so it may be called the first Chinese Revolution, as the February Revolution was the first Russian Revolution.

However, again like the Russian Revolution, and in general terms like all great movements, the revolutionary activity of the Guomindang was preceded by a prologue. The prologue was played out during the preceding period, a little before the Boxer uprising.

We have seen that in June 1898, three years after the severe defeat of China by Japan, the young Emperor Guang Xu had promulgated a number of reforms – reforms that remained valid only for the length of a morning due to the coup d'état that was the empress’ immediate answer to them. It must be borne in mind that these reforms as such did not come ex abrupto into the mind of the emperor.

On the morrow of the Franco-British war against China, that is to say, in the 1860s, a certain number of Chinese, intellectuals for the most part, had understood, as their fellow Asiatics the Japanese, who had grasped the point on a wider scale, that Asia could escape from Europe only on condition that it imitated Europe. This current of thought, which could be compared mutatis mutandis to that which inspired the Russian liberals round about the accession of Alexander II, of whom Herzen is the best known, [6] crystallised around the personality of one man, Kang Youwei, who had brought out a book, Japan’s Renewal, in which he presented the modernisation of the neighbouring kingdom, then in the full flood of development, as an example to be followed by China. [7] Very soon a group of disciples formed itself around this master, and a party was created that called itself ‘Young China’.

The activity of this party consisted almost solely of addressing ‘memorials’ to the emperor, beseeching him to ‘reform’ the political administration of China. These memorials remained unanswered until one day, after being forced to hand over great territories on lease to the Russians, the British and the French, the emperor, whose tutor had formerly induced him to read Kang Youwei’s books, secretly summoned him to the palace, made him a ministerial secretary, and soon filled the council with his disciples. Less than three-and-a-half months later, the whole lot of them became victims of the massacre of 29 September, from which Kang himself escaped only by a precipitous flight.

This event is important from a general point of view, for it confirms that great political and social movements that emerge in history and are crowned with victory are often preceded by more modest movements which meet with defeat.

It is also important from another more particular point of view, which is that it was in the reforming Young China movement that Sun Yat-sen first made his appearance.

Another significant detail to be borne in mind is that Kang Youwei, like Sun Yat-sen, and his principal collaborators, was a Cantonese. Bearing in mind that no other part of China had been open to Europeans before the last century, we should recall that Canton possessed the trading stations of practically all of the great European powers ever since the seventeenth century. It was doubtless this prolonged contact with Europe, rather than to any racial characteristics of the Chinese of the south, that made Canton the cradle and, until the final victory, the fortress of the republican movement.

It was after the experiences of 1898 and 1900 – in other words, after the empress’ coup d'état that showed that there was no hope of achieving reforms through court circles, and after the defeat of the Boxers that showed that even if old China was still strong enough to resist reforms by a palace coup, it was not strong enough to resist the foreigner – that the national revolutionary movement properly so-called began. It set itself the aim of dethroning the emperor, because whilst ever there was an emperor, the modernisation of China, and consequently its liberation from Europe, would not be possible.

The struggle was to continue for a quarter of a century. In its first phase, the empire was to be overthrown; in its second, amid the confusion of anarchy, an entirely new regime was to be elaborated.

The Assemblies of ‘Notables’

The French Revolution had as its fundamental cause the need to establish in France, and generally throughout Europe, a political and social regime that would allow the development of the productive forces resulting from the Industrial Revolution; the Chinese Revolution had as its aim the institution of a political and social regime in China that would allow the establishment and development of these same forces. It is therefore not surprising that these two revolutions, being of the same nature, should have unfolded along parallel lines, at least to begin with.

In the first place, both of them had the same agent; they were above all the work of the bourgeoisie; the merchants and the intelligentsia were the joint leaders of the movement that ended in the fall of the Chinese empire. The events themselves, moreover, followed quite closely the course taken by those that unfolded in France a little over a century earlier.

The prologue that we have just seen, with the Emperor Guang Xu summoning into office the reformer Kang Youwei, is the equivalent of the decision of Louis XVI to take on Turgot as his minister. [8] Similarly, as the court of Versailles, to ward off the storm gathering on the horizon, attempted to gain time by convoking an assembly of notables and promising them the States-General for which all were clamouring in five years’ time, so also the court of Beijing tried to gain time by introducing an assembly of provincial notables and promising them a parliament in nine years. But here as there, in Asia as in Europe, at the beginning of the twentieth century as at the end of the eighteenth, these dilatory methods only resulted in accelerating the development of the conflict.

The Dowager Empress who had caused the reformers to be murdered and who had stirred up the Boxer movement, after their defeat was herself obliged to play the rôle of reformer! However, she could only limit herself to making promises and only allow herself more or less superficial gestures.

It was only after her death came about in 1908 that the new imperial regent (the father of the new emperor, who was two years old, and brother of the former emperor) was obliged to carry out the most important of the promises made by the deceased empress – the convocation of assemblies of elected notabilities. [9]

Since the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, there was no turning back. Japan’s victory over Russia demonstrated in the most striking fashion that the modernisation of this Asiatic state had not only made it capable of vanquishing China, but had even made it capable of defeating a great European power. Thanks to the magic of European political institutions, for the first time for centuries yellow people had defeated whites. This was a proof so manifest, and a demonstration so irrefutable of the superiority of the modern state that it was not in anyone’s power to prevent the Chinese drawing the obvious conclusions. There are events in the face of which all falsehoods, all manoeuvres, all propaganda and even all the most forceful blows are rendered quite powerless.

That is why in October 1909, the elected assemblies, exclusively elected by the ‘notables’, were brought together in each of China’s provinces. Not only were the lists of electors carefully drawn up so as to include only socially privileged people, but their functions were also closely defined; so it was, for example, that even in purely local matters their deliberations could be annulled by a simple veto of the representative of the central authority. They were then, more or less, what appeared to be sleeping assemblies, or mere house meetings.

But they were nothing of the kind. The first act of these provincial assemblies was to exceed their prescribed functions by calling vigorously for the convocation of a parliament, and when a little later they were forced to call a national consultative assembly consisting of 100 delegates from the provincial assemblies and 130 government representatives in Beijing, this ‘provisional senate’ carried on a fierce and unrelenting struggle against the court, aiming in particular to get a government formed responsible to itself.

This struggle between the monarch and the assemblies, in the course of which every time he was pressed too far the monarch ceded something, but then immediately tried to take it back by wily interpretations, [10] is, as we can see, closely reminiscent of the behaviour of Louis XVI when he came to grips with the States General and the Constituent Assembly.

The Sworn Confederacy

But an assembly does not of itself dispose of any force. It has to be supported by an external force, which will often drag it further than it wishes to go.

In France this external, ‘physical’ force, was the Parisian people. It was thanks to the state of quasi-permanent rebellion maintained by the Parisian people from 14 July to 10 August that the assemblies ended up winning, and after having ceded everything, and then having attempted to take it all back, Citizen Capet had to abandon everything, even his head, without any possible hope of getting anything back. [11]

In China, the people of Beijing could not offer the ‘Provisional Senate’ the support that the French assemblies found amongst the people of Paris. Beijing, an administrative city and a centre of luxury, was neither commercial nor industrial, and, moreover, as one of the last places open to Europeans, of all China’s cities, it was the one where the reformist movement was at its weakest. The physical force that was to support the assembly and press it on to victory had therefore to be found elsewhere than in the capital; it had to come from the provinces, and more particularly from ‘China abroad’ – in other words, from the rich and numerous Chinese colonies which had by now been established throughout the whole of the Far East. The organiser of this force was Sun Yat-sen. [12]

Whereas the Parisian violence was almost entirely spontaneous, the outcome of collective action in the face of events, in accordance with the centuries-old traditions of the country, revolutionary violence in China could only be the result of a slow, painstaking and careful organisation.

Thus, as we have already said, Sun Yat-sen was a Chinese from Canton province; the son of a coolie, and himself a coolie in his childhood, he had been one of the first students in the faculty of medicine founded in Hong Kong by the British, and since before 1900 had belonged to the ‘Young China’ group. He was part of the ‘left’ of this group, which means that he was one of those who believed that they should not limit themselves to addressing ‘memorials’ to the emperor, but that ‘a certain degree of violence is necessary’. That is why, after 1895, when the first requests of the reformers had been left unanswered, Sun organised an uprising in Canton. But this was a total failure, and Sun had to make a speedy exit from China. It was therefore from abroad, from Britain to begin with, and then mostly from Japan, that Sun organised the party, or, more precisely, the secret society, of the ‘carbonari’ type, which was to put an end to the imperial regime.

In 1901, Sun created a preparatory association, the Guomindang, or ‘Party of the Nation’s Mandate’, [13] which attempted several insurrectionary movements, but without success. No doubt taking the view that his party was constituted on principles that were too rigid and on bases that were too narrow, in 1908 Sun based it within a sort of Popular Front including all the reformist elements, which took the name of the ‘Sworn Confederacy’. It was this Sworn Confederacy that made the revolution, Sun providing it with a programme and money, and his collaborators in China, notably Huang Xing, [14] assuring its technical organisation.

In order to rally everybody, all who wanted to put an end to the existing regime, a simple slogan was necessary, easy to understand and evocative. Just as Gandhi did, Sun Yat-sen sought for a slogan in the traditions of his own country. It was upon the old Hindu tradition of respect for life and the rejection of violence that Gandhi based his policy of passive resistance and non-collaboration; it was upon the old national sentiments of the Chinese, and their horror of the barbarian, that Sun found the flag under which he was going to be able to gather all those who wanted ‘things to change'!

The dynasty which had now reigned over China for over 250 years was an alien dynasty, a dynasty of barbarians, the Manchu dynasty. Obviously, it had become very sinicised, and its administration in no way differed from that of the Chinese emperors; but it was nonetheless of Manchu descent. Hence ‘Down with the Manchus'!

Such was the simple and convenient slogan of the Sworn Confederacy. ‘The racial struggle against the Manchus is the first duty of the Chinese’, declared Sun in his programmatic speech in Tokyo as early as 1907, and when the first military uprising took place in 1911, the first proclamation issued and drawn up by the Sworn Confederacy said: ‘The population is persecuted by the Manchus and plunged into a sea of sorrows. The Manchus are not of our race. We want to destroy them, and all their traitors and thieves along with them... Let us unite, so that we can win back our China!’

Such was the objective proposed to the people by the reformers; it was not a social objective, or even a political objective properly so-called, but a purely national objective.

Money was provided in abundance by the Chinese abroad. All the Chinese colonies of Indo-China, Malaya and Indonesia responded with alacrity to Sun’s appeals for funds. In fact, their members were mainly merchants, often great international traders in close contact with the Europeans who then ruled the majority of the countries where they were established; and they could not fail to be for a revolution which, under the cover of a national revolt, was actually the revolution of their class. For with the victory of the Sworn Confederacy, it would be their class that would come to power in the motherland, and the economic development that it could not fail to promote would further extend the range of their dealings, which largely consisted of commercial operations between China and the other countries of the Far East.

There remained the internal organisation of the conspiracy. This was very quietly prepared. All the great cities had their ‘lodges’, with a stock of arms and a whole series of instructions on the sequence of operations that were to take place in the event of an insurrection (there were even manifestos already printed for distribution).

More important still was the composition of the lodges. These not only included industrialists, merchants and members of the liberal professions, but also a great many high governmental functionaries (about half of the provincial governors were in it, so it seems) including (and this is most interesting) a good number of generals and senior officers. All these lodges were subject to the authority of a central lodge, which had its seat first at Canton, but then, after the collapse of a coup d'état in this city at the beginning of 1911, in the Blue River region, at Hankou and Chengdu.

With such an organisation and with such cards to play, the Sworn Confederacy could be sure of success. Although some 10 or so attempted insurrections between 1908 and 1911 had successively collapsed, the hour of victory had of necessity to sound. That hour came on 10 October 1911.

The Army’s Intervention

However unpopular it may be, and however powerful may be the forces opposed to it, a government can always hold out so long as it can safely rely on the army behind it. But the day the loyalty of the latter is shaken, so is the government. If the French Revolution began on 14 July 1789, it is because on that day French soldiers took part in the capture of the Bastille, [15] and if we have quite recently seen a Belgian government and its king surrender in 24 hours, it is because the troops who had been set to ‘maintain order’ in Liège opened their ranks to the demonstrators. [16]

The Chinese revolution began on 10 October 1911 in the same way, because the garrison of Wuchang revolted on that day.

The head of China is difficult to place, but its heart is undoubtedly to be found in the middle reaches of the Blue River, where that river converges with its principle tributary, the Han River. There, separated from each other by the two rivers, are three great cities: Wuchang, an administrative city and the provincial capital, Hankou, the Blue River’s greatest port (where maritime navigation comes to an end, 900 kilometres from the sea), and Hanyang, an industrial city where there are blast furnaces.

On 10 October 1911, when the garrison at Wuchang had just received the order to repair to the nearby province of Sichuan in order to quell a violent disturbance resulting from a plan by the state to repurchase railway concessions formerly granted to companies of notables, a bomb exploded at Hankou. The governor, suspecting a plot, proceeded to order arrests and had four men beheaded. A plot did indeed exist, and in fact it was none other than the garrison commanders themselves who were in charge of it. They judged it prudent to make the first move: they alerted their troops and made them march illico [17] on the palace of the governor, who had just enough time to flee. The whole three-city agglomeration, Wuchang, Hanyang and Hankou, thus fell into the hands of the rebellious troops and their generals, in other words into the hands of the Sworn Confederacy.

The movement spread like wildfire. Apart from in the north, every province, either in agreement with its governor or against his will, declared its independence of the central power, and whilst for a time some of the troops remained loyal to the emperor (they even reoccupied Hanyang, but not Wuchang), others responded to the order to march upon the rebels by mutinying themselves; profiting from this unexpected support, the ‘provisional Senate’ in Beijing increased its pressure on the court. With the army, it had lost its only point of support. It only remained for it to attempt a manoeuvre, the final manoeuvre of those who have lost the game: to parley for terms.

Unlamented Abdication

To do this, it appealed to a typically Chinese person, a Chinese of the old type: Yuan Shikai. [18]

Yuan Shikai was a Chinese general and politician who had already earned a massive reputation for duplicity. As Commander-in-Chief of the Province of Beijing during the 1890s, he posed as a reformer by modernising the equipment and organisation of his troops, but as soon as the empress decided to put to death the reformers and dethrone the emperor, it was he who was charged with this operation. Then again assuming his mask as a ‘progressive’, he took the initiative in the various proclamations in which the empress ‘promised’ reforms.

He was removed from the government after the death of the empress, but as soon as the October events took place, he was hastily recalled by a tearful court, which begged him to save the throne and the dynasty. After making a slight show of refusal, Yuan finally accepted the proposal and set to work. But it was not in order to save the emperor: it was to put himself in his place.

His artifice was simple. He proceeded to obtain for himself from the court a series of concessions that would progressively deprive it of all its powers, and thanks to this, to enable him to represent himself to the revolutionaries as the man who had helped them to attain their aims easily, and therefore the ideal man to be placed at the head of the new regime. Did not the Han, Tang, Song and Ming dynasties each have a ‘soldier of fortune’ as a founder? Why should not the next dynasty have a ‘professional soldier’ as its first emperor?

The revolutionaries on their part were by no means inactive. Of the 18 provinces which made up the Chinese nation, the 14 that had declared their independence sent delegates to Shanghai to form a ‘central government of the republican provinces’, the presidency of which was assumed by Sun Yat-sen after he returned from exile in December.

It was consequently with this assembly of provincial delegates and the government that issued from it that Yuan Shikai undertook to negotiate, however much the ‘Provisional Senate’ in Beijing for its part attempted to secure the fulfilment of the imperial promises about granting a constitution.

Subject therefore to pressure from three sides, from the republicans in Shanghai, from the constitutionalists in Beijing, and finally from its own henchman Yuan Shikai, who conducted the whole orchestra, the imperial house found itself obliged to yield one position after another, as all regimes condemned by social development are bound to do, at all times and in all latitudes.

On 30 October, 20 days after the Wuchang uprising, the court had already in fact remitted all its powers into the hands of Yuan; on 2 November, a constitution drawn up by the Beijing senate was put into operation; on 6 December, the Regent was dismissed by the rescript of an empress who had to be sought out expressly for this purpose; on 28 December, the throne accepted in veiled terms the establishment of a republic ‘if the people so wish'; on 5 January 1912, Nanjing, which had now become the seat of the central government of the rebel provinces, solemnly proclaimed the republic; and finally, on 2 February, the emperor abdicated with the following declaration, which is not without a certain element of grandeur:

By reason of the uprising of the republican troops, the other provinces having responded to the movement, the Empire has seethed like a boiling cauldron, and the people find themselves in destitution. On that account, special orders were given to Yuan Shikai to dispatch officials to discuss with representatives of the republican army the general situation, and the opening of a national assembly which would determine the form of government to be installed. Already two months have passed, and no basis of agreement has been found. The South and the North being separated from each other, the course of trade has been interrupted and hostilities prolonged. As long as the form of government is undecided, the people cannot have peace. At this moment, the popular sentiment of the nation as a whole is in favour of a republic. The southern provinces have been the first to embrace this cause, and all the generals of the North have followed their example. The Will of Heaven may become manifest in the acceptance of these popular sentiments. How could we, for the glory of a single family, oppose the desire of millions of people? ... We entrust the sovereign power to the people, and we pronounce for a republican form of constitutional government.

It was understood that the emperor would remain the ‘great pontiff’, that he would continue to reside in Beijing, and that the republic would supply him with an income.

Thus the revolution, at least in its first chapter, when it was only a question of destroying what existed, had required less than four months. For the first time in their history, the Chinese were without a sovereign; they were now to experiment with one of those rare things that they had never tried before, a republic in other words, a political regime that had been brought to them ready-made from the West, very much as it had brought them during the preceding decades the technique that supports it.

The Effacement of Sun and His Party

With the abdication of the emperor, there therefore began the second phase of all revolutions, that during which it is necessary to build. This second phase began with a dramatic turn of events.

The republic had become China’s legal regime. This republic already had a president, a man who had been nominated as such before the emperor’s abdication by the assembly of the provinces in revolt: Sun Yat-sen. It was he, these provinces, the Nanjing assembly, the Sworn Confederacy who were the victors in the conflict, not Yuan Shikai, whose only rôle was to transmit their wishes to the imperial court and as far as possible save the face of the defeated regime. Now the first act of these victors was to efface themselves!

In fact, on 15 February, Sun Yat-sen relinquished the presidency, and the Nanjing assembly unanimously nominated in his place Yuan Shikai as the republic’s provisional president. Then the assembly itself dispersed to await the result of the elections that were to take place under the terms of the constitution.

The sudden disappearance from the political scene of men who had victoriously accomplished a change of regime is a rare event in history, and one that is always rather difficult to understand. Sun Yat-sen’s abdication is reminiscent of Sulla’s abdication, [19] and its causes are equally enigmatic.

Like Sulla, Sun had assured the institution of a new constitution, and, like Sulla, it is possible that he wanted to see how this constitution would function on its own without him. No more than his Roman predecessor, Sun was no vulgar politician, who sought only to enjoy power; he intended to work for the future. Now the best way to find out whether what you have done can function after your death is to see how it functions whilst you are still alive, but when you are not working it.

However, it would seem that there were more powerful motives behind Sun’s decision, that can be found in the speeches he made just after his resignation, and above all in what he set himself to do. The general theme of his speeches was that the political revolution had been accomplished, but something much more difficult remained to be done, the social revolution:

Some years ago a number of us met in Japan and formed the ‘Chinese Revolutionary Society’. We then adopted three great principles: the supremacy of the Chinese race, the government of the people by the people, and the supremacy of the people in the production of wealth. The first two aims have been attained by the abdication of the Manchu dynasty. We now have to make the economic revolution... If at the beginning of our Chinese republic’s career we neglect to defend ourselves against the establishment of capitalism, then in the very near future a new despotism, a hundred times more terrible than that of the Manchu Dynasty, awaits us, and rivers of blood will become necessary to deliver ourselves from it.

Very true! But we cannot see how abandoning power can be a means of helping to realise the third of the proposed aims.

To my mind, the real reason for Sun’s resignation is that this man, who had just devoted 20 years of his life to politics, simply did not believe in politics. Or rather, he only regarded it as a secondary matter, the main thing for him being technology. What seemed to be the essential task for him, upon which all else depended, was to modernise China in a technical sense, to provide it with the entire equipment, factories, railways, etc., which alone could make it the equal of the European powers. If until now he had been occupied with politics, it was solely because it had first been necessary to overthrow the obstructions of a political order that were opposed to industrial development. Now that these obstacles had been removed, he proceeded to devote himself to the essential task of China’s economic development.

That is why he hastened to accept the office of ‘Plenipotentiary Commissar for the Railways’ which Yuan offered him. [20] It was a rather vague title, and its functions were ill-defined, but precisely on that account it would permit him to intervene in all questions concerning mining concessions, in the establishment of new factories, in the foundation of banks, and so on. From now on, as a Frenchman who saw him at the time – 1913 – said, Sun was a mixture of ‘a prophet and a businessman’.

This idea of concentrating effort on China’s industrialisation not only inspired Sun himself, but his disciples as well. ‘It was thought that we made a revolution to establish a republic’, said a member of Sun’s party to a French resident in China also at this time: ‘No way! The republic is not an end in itself. We now want to cast aside the useless, encumbering vestiges of a dead civilisation so that the people will have the utmost freedom to apply themselves to enterprises that are productive of wealth.’ [21] And this is why, 20 years after Sun’s death, the old Chinese professor could still say to Robert Payne that it was after reading one of Sun Yat-sen’s books that he applied himself to the study of ‘metallurgy, mineralogy and geology’.

This was doubtless also partly the reason why China today has given its allegiance to Russia, hoping that ‘planning’ methods and forced accumulation will secure for it a more rapid industrialisation than those of traditional capitalism. [22]

Military Anarchy

If, as we have just seen, Sulla’s abdication had apparently nothing in common with Sun’s preoccupations, and if it differed profoundly from his in this respect, the self-effacement of the two men nonetheless had identical consequences in the short term.

When a political force has led a movement to its successful conclusion, and this force then suddenly disappears without meeting opposition from another force, whether it be a question of a reactionary movement like Sulla’s or a revolutionary movement like Sun’s, a gap is created in the political life of the country. The fallen regime has no forces wherewith to support its reappearance, and the victorious regime cannot subsist through lack of vital figures. We then pass into what has been appropriately called a period of ‘anarchy’: there is nothing around which the forces of order may arrange themselves. This ‘anarchy’ goes on as long as the work is not taken up again, or at least modified, either by those who have abdicated, or by their successors.

After the abdication of Sulla, Rome experienced anarchy until 30 years later Caesar gathered the succession to Sulla into his hands; [23] after the resignation of Sun Yat-sen, China passed through 15 years of anarchy until the day when Sun’s party, starting out from Canton, reconquered the whole of China, and once more made it into a state.

This Chinese anarchy was essentially a military anarchy. We have seen how the military played a most important rôle in the development of the events which forced the abdication of the Manchu dynasty, but the rôle played by the armed forces in a revolution, however decisive it may be, generally has no influence at all over the revolution’s future if the civilian revolutionary elements, who in fact always make up the revolution’s driving force, continue to play their part, because they represent the force that issues from the needs of society at the appropriate point. Arms always give way to the toga, [24] even if they do not take account of it; they are never, apart from in periods of complete decadence, any more than an instrument of the toga. But a toga there must be, and where was the toga now? Sun Yat-sen’s resignation and the fading away of the Nanjing assembly meant the disappearance of the entire civilian element in the revolution; the military were left on their own, and from then on they could do nothing else than take power themselves. This is what they did, and soon there was anarchy. In most of the provinces, all the power passed to the provincial military head.

So long as Yuan Shikai was alive, China could at least put on a show of unity, because all the military governors supported Yuan, who, like them, was a military man, and because his will to ‘maintain order’ and eliminate parliament suited the need for authority typical of all military men. On the other hand, Yuan, who had no other support than the army, dared not displease the provincial leaders, and consequently had to leave them to do whatever they liked in the provinces. Moreover, his ambition, a childish ambition, to call himself ‘emperor’, was to destroy him, and after his death the anarchy became total; there did not even remain the appearance of a Chinese state.

Let us take up again the course of events. In 1913, in accordance with the newly-established constitution, a parliamentary election took place.

The ‘Sworn Confederacy’, the Popular Front that had been founded with the sole aim of having the Manchus removed, had no further reason for existence after their abdication, so it broke up into several parties, the most important of which were the Gonghedang or ‘Republican Party’, which was the party of the moderates, royalists who had accepted the republic and soldiers, and the party of Sun Yat-sen, to which he again gave, slightly modified, the name of the first party that he had founded, the Guomindang (with min in the place of ming), or ‘National Peoples Party’.

How were the elections of 1913 held? We do not know much, but it is certain that it was the Guomindang that emerged from them with a small overall majority.

This was hardly to the liking of Yuan and his generals. So after ensuring his own re-election as president by the new assembly by means of corruption and violence (by during the count surrounding the parliament building with a cordon of troops with orders not to allow any of the deputies out until he had been elected), Yuan Shikai took the pretext of certain disturbances that had arisen in some of the southern provinces to dissolve the Guomindang and ‘purge’ parliament. All the MPs and senators of the Guomindang, to the number of 400, were declared deprived of their credentials; and shortly afterwards, in December 1913, the parliament, unable even to muster the quorum necessary for its deliberations, was purely and simply dissolved.

From this moment on, Yuan governed alone, along with just such councils nominated by himself as were required to provide a pseudo-parliamentary façade. This regime lasted until his death, that is, two-and-a-half years, but his death would only have come about later on if he had not made the same mistake as Caesar and Cromwell.

Absolute power was not enough for him; he also wanted the title. Caesar had himself offered the crown, and Cromwell the title of king; [25] Yuan Shikai had himself invited to be emperor, the first emperor of a new dynasty, a Chinese dynasty this time, and no longer a barbarian one. He went even further along that road than his two illustrious predecessors, both of whom had turned down the proposal at the last minute; he announced in fact that ‘obedient to the will of the people’ the monarchy would be re-established, and that he would be emperor starting from 1 January 1916.

But if men readily admit that the ancient forms of power, even those they have overthrown, may be re-established, they do not allow it under the old labels. Augustus in Rome certainly enjoyed powers greatly superior to those of the ancient kings, but as he only exercised these powers wearing the labels of consul, tribune, etc., the Romans continued to consider themselves as a republic; [26] in the same way Stalin was a more absolute despot than was any Romanov, but because he did not assume the title of Tsar and maintained the label of Soviet power, the Russian people and the greater part of the European proletariat pretended not to see that Tsarism had been re-established. Caesar, Cromwell and Yuan, on the other hand, wanted to deck themselves out in the old titles, such titles as corresponded to their real position, which resulted in immediate death for one of them, and such a loss of prestige for the other two that only an early death saved them from downfall.

The re-establishment of the empire on behalf of Yuan Shikai led to an uprising throughout most of the southern provinces, and to such a degree of hostility almost everywhere that on 23 February 1916, after less than two months of his reign, the new emperor resumed his simple title as president of the republic, and died in mysterious circumstances two months later in June 1916; it was said that he had committed suicide.

Yuan’s death led to the disappearance of all trace of a central power. The military chiefs of the provinces, the ‘dujun’ as they were called, each exercised sovereign power over his own state without reference to Beijing, and what was more serious, fighting amongst themselves, for there were always two or three of them, more ambitious than the others, who fought to extend their states, and sometimes one or other of them thought it advantageous to enter Beijing in order to have nominated there a pseudo-president of a republic that continued not to exist. [27] For a whole decade, all the world’s newspapers were full of the conflicts that took place between Zhang Zuolin, the dujun of Manchuria, [28] Feng Yuxiang the ‘Christian General’, [29] Wu Peifu, [30] who dominated Beijing, etc. Military anarchy held full sway. There was no ideal, and therefore no order.

Canton Rekindles the Flame

It was the Guomindang, which came back to life after its voluntary self-effacement in 1912 and the hard blow dealt it by Yuan Shikai in the following year, that put an end to this anarchy.

In August 1917, a year after Yuan’s death, the members of the parliament that had been dissolved in 1913, or at any rate those of them who had been ‘purged’ on account of their links with the Guomindang, reassembled in Canton, the old stronghold of the revolutionary movement, and there justifiably declared themselves the only legal power.

In fact, they could not for the time being attempt to establish their authority over the whole of China, but they could make an effort to do so over the provinces of the south. That is why they elected a ‘Directory’ with Sun Yat-sen at its head, and several ministers dependent on him, all these together forming the ‘Government of the Provinces of South-Eastern China’.

This government was to have a very troubled life, because there were not only dujun in the north, they were in the south as well. In the other provinces apart from Canton, the power of the Directory was for the greater part of the time more theoretical than real; and even in Canton the intervention of the neighbouring dujuns, or of even the Cantonese generals themselves, on two occasions (1919 and 1922) forced the Directory to cease to exist, with Sun Yat-sen fleeing to take refuge with the British in Hong Kong. [31] However, the regime always rose again from the ashes, for it represented the only real republican organisation, and it alone could lay claim to those principles and exercise its legitimacy.

Not only was it reborn, but each time it was reborn it appeared with increased strength and the ability to assert itself more widely. In 1921, its parliament transformed itself into a national assembly for the whole of China, and Sun Yat-sen assumed the title of President of the Republic; in 1922, after their second return, Sun and his collaborators made active preparations for the attainment of their great objective: the reconquest of the whole of China from the dujun.

A great movement, patriotic and social at the same time, of which Malraux has traced a vivid and impressive picture in his Les Conquérants, [32] was launched to support the strike of the Chinese dockers of Hong Kong against their British bosses by a boycott of all that came from Hong Kong. This action, which was crowned with success, created an atmosphere of patriotic unity, as well as a taste for the struggle and the euphoria of victory that were necessary to rally around the government and the Guomindang all those whom they were going to need for the adventurous campaign that they were planning, and to inspire them with the necessary enthusiasm.

Simultaneously, a military academy [33] was created for the purpose of training cadres for a truly modern army, capable of victoriously opposing those mercenary bands which any adventurer disposing of sufficient resources could raise almost anywhere in China, and which made up the ‘armies’ of the dujun.

The Triumphal March

On 12 March 1925, Sun Yat-sen died. But the regime of Canton was by now sufficiently consolidated and the military preparations were so far advanced that the Guomindang could go ahead without its leader.

In 1926, the signal for the great march northward was given, and its first objective, as in 1911, was the heart of China: the agglomeration of the three cities of Wuchang, Hankou and Hanyang. The three cities were captured on 8 September. From then onwards, the success of the campaign was a foregone conclusion, and even though it only proceeded slowly, it was no more than a formality. The troops of the Guomindang, commanded by Chiang Kai-shek, the former Director of the Canton Military Academy, [34] descended the Blue River, taking Nanjing on 22 March 1927, and entering Shanghai a few days later. The following year was the turn of the Yellow River: in May 1928, Shandong was occupied; and on 2 June, Beijing was evacuated by the most powerful of the dujun, the warlord of Manchuria, Zhang Zuolin, who two days later was blown up with the train taking him back to Manchuria.

The unity of China was thus restored, and it was restored under the form of a republic. It was restored by the same organisation, albeit under a different name, which had launched the revolution of 15 years earlier, and which, having become little more than a corpse, [35] had reappeared with total success. If Sun’s resignation in 1912 was due to his conviction that China was not yet mature enough for a republic, and that it was first of all necessary to go through the experience of a ‘transitional’ regime, he was not mistaken. Fifteen years of a ‘transitional’ regime had led China to regard the Guomindang as the only possible power.

In 1928, it could be said that the Chinese state was rebuilt. Its capital was the old Chinese city of Nanjing, and no longer Beijing, the creation of the barbarians, the city of the Khitan, the Mongols and the Manchus!

It was, to tell the truth, a state that was not a republic in the sense in which we understand the word, because no election had ever taken place there. It was a type of state that does not fit in with the categories of our traditional Western institutions. Aristotle did not define it. [36] It was not a democracy, nor an aristocracy, nor a dictatorship. It was the state of a party, a party that recruited to itself by cooption and derived its power from itself alone, whilst nonetheless at the same time claiming to be the nation’s real representative, and therefore possessing the right to govern without the need of any delegation. It was consequently a form of state identical with that installed in Russia by the Bolsheviks.

It was also a state in which many of the governors, especially those in the distant provinces like Yunnan, Sichuan and Guangxi, in fact enjoyed a great measure of independence, but at least they did not make war amongst themselves, and did not wage it against the central power either.

It was at any rate a state, a Chinese state intent on being a ‘modern’ state.

By the fact that the Chinese state was now rebuilt, the occupation of Beijing by the troops of the Guomindang thus completed the revolution begun in 1911, which in contrast with what was to follow, we can call the Chinese bourgeois revolution.

But in fact even before this revolution had ended, another was on its way.


1. Remarks made by Dr George Yeh of the Chinese Ministry of Information to Robert Payne, Chunking Diary, London, 1945, p9.

2. Karl Marx, ‘The Future Result of the British Rule in India’, 22 July 1853, New York Daily Tribune, 8 August 1853. It is possible that, like many of the articles in the New York Daily Tribune signed by Marx, this article had not been written by Marx, but by Engels. [Author’s note] We have simply translated directly from the French here, as the English of the Moscow version is quite execrable. See K Marx and F Engels, The First Indian War of Independence, 1857-1859, Moscow, 1975, p32. [Editor’s note]

3. Mohandas Karamchand ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi (1869-1948) not only inspired the Indian Congress movement, but led a struggle against the caste system on behalf of the Untouchables.

4. The idea to found the All-India National Congress in 1885 came from a British civil servant. Until the First World War, it only made progress among the upper and middle classes.

5. The conversation took place on 20 November 1943: Robert Payne, Chunking Diary, London, 1945, pp464-5. [Author’s note]

6. Aleksandr I Herzen (Yakovlev, 1812-1870) inspired a generation of revolutionaries in Russia to rise against Tsar Alexander II (1855-81) by disseminating his magazine Kolokol (The Bell) with its cry ‘To the People!’.

7. Kang Youwei (1858-1927) came from Guangdong. After addressing repeated memorials calling for reform to the court, he was finally appointed a counsellor by the Emperor Guang Xu in June 1898.

8. The French monarchy was faced with a mounting financial crisis at the end of the American War of Independence. In 1774, Louis XVI appointed the famous political economist Anne Robert Jacques Turgot (1727-1781) as Controller-General of Finance. He brought in free trade in corn, and abolished statute labour. Fearing that his reforms were undermining the whole political system, Louis XVI dismissed him in 1776.

9. The National Consultative Assembly was convened in Beijing in 1910 by the Imperial regent, Zai Feng (1908-1912). Louzon is comparing it here with the Assembly of Notables convened in Paris in February-May 1787 by Louis XVI.

10. For example, the regent finally agreed to accept the institution of a government responsible to the senate, but insisted that this government must be composed of members of the imperial family, who in this capacity would only be responsible to the emperor! [Author’s note]

11. ‘Citizen Capet’ was the legal name of King Louis XVI (1779-1792) once he had lost his powers and title as a result of the French Revolution.

12. Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925), the founder of Chinese nationalism, was the son of a Guangdong peasant sent as a youth to Honolulu, who trained as a doctor in Hong Kong, and devoted his life to organising rebellion against the Manchus.

13. A ‘Mandate of the Nation’ as opposed to the Mandate of Heaven. [Author’s note] The ‘Mandate of Heaven’ was the supposed authority upon which the Chinese emperors based their power. When a dynasty had begun to fall, it was considered that Heaven had withdrawn its mandate. [Editor’s note]

14. Huang Xing (1874-1916), Sun Yat-sen’s lieutenant, set up the Hua Xing Hui (Society for the Revival of the Chinese Nation) in Changsha in 1904. The raid he led in October 1911 sparked off the famous ‘Double Tenth’ Revolution.

15. Only when two regiments of mutinous soldiers turned up with their cannon were the Parisian insurgents able to storm the Bastille on 14 July 1789.

16. King Leopold III of Belgium (1934-1951) had surrendered to the Germans rather than join his exiled government in London, and spent the war years in Switzerland. When he returned to Brussels, an insurrection broke out in Liège and spread throughout the industrial districts of Flanders and Wallonia. After the shooting of three of the strikers at Grâce-Berleur, the Liège Central Strike Committee launched an appeal to arm the people, and a great march on the capital began, joined by workers from the Borinage, Antwerp and Ghent. When it became obvious that the monarchy could not rely on the support of its armed forces, the king stepped down on 11 August 1950, and was replaced by his son Baudouin a year later.

17. ‘On the spot’ (Latin).

18. Yuan Shikai (1859-1916) was commander of the small modernised section of the Manchu army stationed around Beijing. His dictatorship was so discredited by its acceptance of the Japanese ‘Twenty-One Demands’ in January 1915 that other warlords rebelled against him. He died of urenia, brought on by nervous prostration, not suicide as implied by Louzon.

19. Lucius Cornelius Sulla (138-78BC) was appointed dictator of Rome under the Lex Valeria after the Social War in 82BC. After reorganising the state and enacting new legislation, he resigned his office two years later.

20. It recalls the conduct of Cárdenas, the greatest democratic president Mexico ever had: when he left the presidency, he asked to be appointed Commissar General of Irrigation, because irrigation seemed to him to be Mexico’s main problem, and he did not, so it seems, cease doing his utmost in this capacity. [Author’s note] Lazáro Cárdenas del Rio (1895-1970) was a reforming president of Mexico who finally retired from politics in 1945 in order to promote cooperative agriculture, and ran the electricity scheme in the state of Guerrero from 1961 onwards. [Editor’s note]

21. Albert Maybon, La République chinoise, Paris, 1914, pp172-3. [Author’s note] The conversation to which Maybon refers was with a representative of the League of Sworn Brothers in Hong Kong. [Editor’s note]

22. The reference here is to Stalin’s forced industrialisation of the USSR by means of the Five-Year Plans from 1928 onwards.

23. Gaius Julius Caesar (100-44BC) restored order to Rome by assuming the office of Dictator after his defeat of Pompey.

24. By ‘toga’, Louzon means the legitimate civil power. Although ancient Rome was a warlike imperialist state, it was governed by the senate, whose members wore the toga as their badge of office.

25. Caesar was assassinated by republican senators after he had been offered the crown in 44BC. Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) became Lord Protector in 1653 after the execution of Charles I, and twice refused the crown, though he obtained the title of ‘His Highness’ with the right to nominate his successor in 1656.

26. Octavianus Caesar (63BC-14AD) assumed the title of Augustus in 27BC after the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium. From 23BC, he consolidated his rule as emperor by combining a number of offices and powers, so as not to appear to violate the republican constitution of Rome.

27. One of these militarists, Zhang Xun, even allowed himself the luxury of restoring the former Manchu emperor to his throne. But an alliance of the other dujun prevented this restoration from lasting for more than 13 days in July 1917. [Author’s note] Zhang Xun, the military governor of Anhui, restored Pu Yi to his throne on 1 July, but he was driven out 12 days later by another Anhui warlord, Duan Qirui. [Editor’s note]

28. Zhang Zuolin (1873-1928), the ‘Old Marshal’, was the warlord of Manchuria and northern China.

29. Feng Yuxiang (1882-1948) was a northern Chinese warlord. He is famous for baptising his soldiers with a hosepipe.

30. Wu Peifu (1874-1939) was warlord over the area of Henan, Hubei and Hunan in central China, as well as being a protégé of the British.

31. Sun Yat-sen was first forced to resign by the local warlords in 1919. After his return to power, General Chen Jiongming (1887-1933), the supposed republican governor of Guangdong, attempted to arrest him again in February 1922, and he only saved his life by a rapid flight.

32. Les Conquérants by André Malraux (1901-1976) was a vivid novel about the Chinese revolution published in 1928. See LD Trotsky, ‘The Strangled Revolution’, 9 February 1931, Leon Trotsky on China, New York, 1976, pp501-10.

33. The Huangpu Military Academy was opened in 1924 to train the officers of the Guomindang army for the march north to defeat the warlords. Its first principal was Chiang Kai-shek.

34. Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975) was a son-in-law of Sun Yat-sen, and a wealthy stockbroker. He was President of China from 1927 to 1949, when he was overthrown on the mainland by Mao Zedong. After that, he continued to be President of the Nationalist Chinese regime on Taiwan.

35. Bourgeois historians are often laughably blind. This, for example, is what was written by one Valentin in a book entitled the Avènement d'une république [The Coming of a Republic] which appeared in 1926, and was therefore written shortly before the start of the march of the Cantonese towards the North: ‘The Guomindang still exists, but it seems to have had its day and shown its impotence... From the national party that it had been, it is more and more tending to becoming a provincial party... It is thanks to the regiments from Yunnan that Doctor Sun can still look like a leader, can put his enemies on the wrong track, and again dream of a power that had been unceasingly declining... The population is tired of this endless struggle for more than three years against the North, with much beating of drums, which has all too well demonstrated the lack of military value of the present Cantonese army and the incapacity of Doctor Sun to organise the slightest expeditionary force.’ [Author’s note] Ferdinand Valentin, L'avènement d'une république, Paris, 1926, pp285-6. [Editor’s note]

36. On Aristotle, see note 10, Part I, Chapter II. The reference is probably to his Politics, or perhaps the Aqhnaiwn Politeia [Athenaion Politeia].