Republic of China - History of China
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Republic of China

Empress Longyu
Empress Longyu

Empress Cixi of the Ch'ing Dynasty in China died in 1908 AD, and her niece, Empress Longyu, took power. Longyu had been married to the Guangxu Emperor, but he was also dead, and they had no sons, so Longyu ruled in the name of her nephew Puyi. But everyone knew the Ch'ing Dynasty's army was lame, and everyone was tired of waiting for the Ch'ing rulers to bring democracy and modern times to China. Only three years after Longyu took power, there was a revolution. Like many democratic revolutions, it transferred power from women back to men.

Sun Yat-Sen
Sun Yat-Sen (1925)

Sun Yat-Sen was the leader of the revolution. He was a doctor who wanted China to be more modern and democratic - and more colonialist - more like European countries and the United States. But the new Republic of China was too weak to keep power, and there was a lot of civil war. After seeing how horrible World War I was, and how badly Europeans and Americans treated the new Chinese Republic, by 1919 Chinese leaders didn't think European and American ideas were so great anymore. In Russia, they had just had a Communist revolution, and the ideas of Lenin and Trotsky looked more exciting.

Chiang Kai-Shek
Chiang Kai-Shek

With Russia's help, Sun Yat-Sen began to form a Communist government in China. Sun Yat-Sen died in 1925, and his general Chiang Kai-Shek took over. But Chiang Kai-Shek hated the Communists and pushed them out. Then in 1931 Japan, thinking that China was very weak, invaded China. This turned into World War II. Everyone was busy fighting the Japanese until 1945. When Japan lost World War II, the Japanese army had to leave China, and immediately Chiang Kai-Shek and the Communists began fighting each other again.

Mao Tse-Tung
Mao Tse-Tung

But this time, the Communists were stronger and they won. The leader of the Communists was Mao Tse-Tung. Mao called his new government the People's Republic of China. Like Empress Cixi and Sun Yat-Sen, Mao also wanted to modernize China. Mao's government was strong enough to force China to modernize. With the help of Russia, Mao forced China's factories to make modern weapons and tools. Russia showed China how to make modern steel so they could finally build railways. Mao forced farmers in China to use tractors and combines. But it was hard for the government to get everything right. Sometimes they made bad choices. Millions of people in China starved to death. But Mao did make China into a powerful, modern country. Nobody would be able to invade China anymore.

After Mao died in 1976, China's government allowed people to make more choices for themselves. People could own their own farms again. Today China is a powerful country with modern cities, but almost three out of four people in China still live pretty much the same way they did hundreds of years ago, farming small farms with oxen or with their own hands and eating millet or rice.

More about the History of China

Bibliography and further reading about the history of China:

Chinese History
Ming Dynasty
Ch'ing Dynasty
Opium Wars
Empress Cixi
People's Republic
Ancient China
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Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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