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Revolution remembered

China Daily

Aside from traditional holidays, this is one of the few commemorations shared on both sides of the Taiwan Straits.

The 100th anniversary is a suitable occasion to pay tribute to the forefathers of Chinese republicanism, and reflect on the nation's pursuit of and march toward modernity, no matter which side of the Straits one is on.

October 10 is only one of the hundreds of days of uprisings that constituted the Revolution of 1911, which actually extended from March 1910 to January 1912 when the interim government of the newborn Republic of China came into being.

But it represents a watershed in the history of modern China. It put an end to 2,000 years of autocratic monarchy on Chinese soil, and gave birth to the very first democratic republic throughout Asia. The rebellion against oppression by the absolute monarchy and foreign imperialists also served as a wake-up call to all Asian nations suffering colonialist rule. In that sense, it deserves a very special place in the history of subsequent national liberation movements in the region.

Despite the scholarly dispute over whether the revolution was a success or a failure, it is worth all the praise it has garnered for the earthshaking changes it introduced. It brought our nation into a brand-new epoch that made it possible for us to be where we are today. For the first time in 2,000 years, the fall of a feudal dynasty was not followed by another essentially look-alike regime. In addition to setting up the republican model of governance, it exposed and awoke the ancient civilization to the modern ideas of democracy, providing a powerful antidote for traditional values in support of autocracy.

For its overthrow of the imperial regime, the founding the republic, and kick starting the process of political democratization in modern China, the Revolution of 1911 has every reason to be judged a tremendous success. The ensuing vicissitudes should in no way compromise its status in this regard.

The success, however, was not a complete one, which is why it has been considered a failure by mainstream historians. But the modern China the revolution envisaged, and the blueprint drawn up have exerted far-reaching impacts on our nation's fumbling for rejuvenation ever since. Dr Sun Yat-sen's nation-building scheme, composed of roadmaps for cultural renovation, industrialization, and civil rights enhancement, was not only an outcome of political romanticism, it identified some of the fundamentals for rebuilding China, and thus remains an invaluable reference for the nation's current modernization drive.

China is no longer what it was 100 years ago. But some of the goals our revolutionary forefathers put forward and fought for remain unattained.

To quote the famous line from Dr Sun's will, the revolution has not succeeded yet, we still need to work hard.

(China Daily 10/10/2011 page8)