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Republic of China

January 1, 1912 was set as the First Year of the Republic of China. Sun Yat-sen was officially inaugurated and pledged “to overthrow the despotic Manchu government, consolidate the Republic of China and plan for the welfare of the people.”  Li Yuanhong was the provisional vice president. The banner of Five Races Under One Union became the national flag. The five stripes on the flag represented the five major nationalities (Han, Manchus, Mongols, Tibetans, and Muslim) of the Republic of China. The provisional capital is Nanjing.

Realizing that he didn’t have sufficient military support to overthrow the Qing dynasty and didn’t want to drag the country into a lengthy warfare, Sun agreed to resign the presidency in favor of Yuan Shikai, the then imperial general to exchange his push for the emperor’s abdication. On January 20, Wu Tingfang, the acting Premier of the Nanjing Provisional Government officially delivered the imperial edict of abdication to Yuan Shikai. After Yuan received the promise, he started to use all kinds of means to either persuade or threaten Empress Dowager Longyu to abdicate in exchange of the lives of the royal family. On February 12, 1912, the last Emperor Puyi, who was only six year old then and Empress Dowager Longyu, accepted the terms and abdicated. The royal families were still allowed to continue living in their palace, the Forbidden City. Thus, the Qing dynasty, which had been governing China since 1644, ended its rule and also marked the end of more than 2000 years of imperial rule in China.

Imperial edict for abdication

Imperial edict for adbication

If Yuan went to the south to become the president of the provisional government as the revolutionaries promised him before, he would have to give up his northern military power base. He had no intention to do it at all. Instead, he used the Dong’anmen gate mutiny, in which thousands of people were killed to intimidate the revolutionaries and made it clear that the new government had to be in Beijing, instead of Nanjing. On March 10, 1912, Yuan Shikai was sworn in and became the second provisional president of the Republic of China in Beijing. Five Races Under One Union was still the national flag.  The Song to the Auspicious Cloud became the anthem.

New government announcement

New provisional government announcement

The first National Assembly election took place in February, 1913. According to the voting results, Song Jiaoren was supposed to become the prime minister. However, he was assassinated in Shanghai on March 20. Yuan Shikai was alleged to be responsible for the killing because Song was a strong advocate of parliamentary system, which was not in Yuan’s interest at all. Sun Yat-sen, with his party, Guomingdang, began the second revolution against Yuan, but was not successful. On October 6, 1913, Yuan was elected by the National Assembly to officially become the president of the Republic of China. Brazil was the first county to acknowledge the Republic of China. The United States acknowledged it later.

Inauguration ceremony of the first parliarmentary meeting of the Nanjing provisional government.

Assassination of Song Jiaoren

R. Keith Schoppa, Twentieth Century China. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Republic of China