In 1911 and 1912 the Imperial Government was overthrown and China was proclaimed a republic. Western people interpreted the Revolution through the perspective of the European and American experience. The Emperor’s advisor wrote:
“It can not be denied, however, that the social system under which the Chinese people have lived for untold ages has in some ways made them more fit for self-government than any other people in the world. It would be well if Europeans — and especially Englishmen — would try to rid themselves of the obsolete notion that every Oriental race, as such, is only fit for a despotic form of government. Perhaps only those who have lived in the interior of China and know something of the organization of family and village, township and clan, are able to realize to how great an extent the Chinese have already learned the arts of self-government. It was not without reason that a Western authority (writing before the outbreak of the revolution) described China as “the greatest republic the world has ever seen.”
While China’s present government would have the world believe that the thousands of years of experience and thought have no further relevance for today’s behavior, I suggest this may not be so. China’s history may be more relevant to the unfolding decades of the 21st. century than most people think.
For more information, this series on the Revolution comes from three different authors with three different perspectives.