USM Open Source History Text: The World at War: World History 1914-1945Main MenuIntroduction: A Mural as WindowOn Diego Rivera's Detroit IndustryThe World Around 1914, Part I: the Journey of Young GandhiThe World Around 1914, Part II: The Era of Nationalism and Imperialism (1848-1914)The First World WarThe Long Russian Revolution (1917 – 1929)The Decline of the West? Europe from 1919 – 1929A New Middle East: The Rise of the Middle East State SystemChina Between Qing Collapse and WWIILatin America Between Boom and Bust (1911-1929)Africa Under Colonial Rule: Politics and Race from 1914‐1939The United States from The First World War to the Great DepressionThe Great DepressionThree Varieties of Radicalism in the 1930s: Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, and Imperial JapanThree Responses to Modernity: Ho Chi Minh, Ibn Saud, and Getulio VargasThe Second World WarSeth Rogoff5f001fc099cd635507b143be056702764af6929c
Sun Yat-sen (second from left) and his four bandits
Competing loci of power emerged in China in the final years of the Qing Dynasty, representing very different ideas about the Chinese past and the potential ways forward. The most significant source of power in this context was in the military. The Manchu leadership had undertaken a process of reorganizing the Chinese military in the first years of the twentieth century, and though these reforms (modeled, like Japan’s, on European and especially German innovation) were able to produce some victories for the Qing in actions like the Tibetan campaign, they also created a new class of military leaders with tenuous loyalties to the state. New leaders tended to be sympathetic with reformist or even revolutionary movements, believing that the Qing Dynasty had led China into a state of deep humiliation. The military reform also alienated the older core of generals, who still maintained their bases of power within their units. Increasingly, soldiers were loyal to their individual units and generals within the larger Qing military structure rather than to the emperor or state. Generals, in other words, were precariously close to becoming area warlords.
In addition to the military challenge, the emperor also faced rising resistance from urban intellectuals and workers, many of whom adopted various types of Western political ideologies. Some Chinese chose for a European-style nationalism, whose rhetoric was national renaissance and an end to foreign domination of Chinese domestic affairs. Others were motivated by more radical ideologies, like communism in its Marxist form (though remember that this is well before the Russian Revolution), anarchism, variants of socialism, and democratic republicanism. The only element that these radical and reformist groups could agree on was that they wanted to get rid of Qing rule. Eventually, they were able to put aside some of their ideological differences and form what was called the Revolutionary Alliance under the leadership of the long-time dissident Sun Yat-sen.