The course of history was inevitable
After the founding of Xingzhonghui (Restore China Society) in 1894, members of the revolutionary party headed by Sun Yat-sen organized uprisings and assassinations in their march toward the revolution. They grew steadily and later established Tongmenghui (China Revolutionary Alliance), and even though some of them left Sun Yat-sen, they remained dedicated to their cause of overthrowing the monarchy.
The purpose of the revolutionary party was to overthrow the Qing government through armed force. But before the Wuchang uprising, members of the revolutionary party had hardly made any headway toward that goal. According to Sun Yat-sen, the revolutionary party had organized 10 major uprisings before the Wuchang uprising, but they didn't succeed for lack of support from a wide range of people.
In April 1911, the revolutionary party members tried to start the Huanghuagang uprising after acquiring huge funds and well-trained troops led by Huang Xing. The insurrectionary army was valiant enough to take over the official residence of the Guangdong and Guangxi governor-general, but failed in its final mission because of lack of local people's support.
Later, in October, the constitutionalist gentries in Hubei province backed the uprising, drawing more support from across the country. The Qing government's moves to establish an imperial cabinet and nationalize the railways not long before the uprising triggered the decisive change.
The two Qing government moves were aimed at retaking power and concentrating resources in the hands of Manchu elites. If the two policies succeeded, the constitutionalist Han people would have lost the power and resources they had acquired. The revolutionary party succeeded because it understood the contradiction between Manchu nobles in the Qing government and the Han constitutionalists and used it to lead the revolution.
Nevertheless, the timing of the revolution was accidental. In fact, if Hubei's top official had not been Ruicheng, the uprising would not have succeeded. After Ruicheng got the list of names of the revolutionist party members by chance, he wanted to crush the uprising by beheading three revolutionary soldiers and hanging their heads on the town gate as a warning to others. But rumors that Ruicheng would kill the rebels according to the order in the name-list spread quickly and prompted even more soldiers to rebel. Moreover, if Ruicheng hadn't run away, it's hard to say whether the rebel soldiers could take over his official residence in such a short time, because his troops were greater in number and perhaps better trained. Even the rebel soldiers admitted that they might have failed if they hadn't taken over Ruicheng's residence before dawn.
But even if the Wuchang uprising hadn't succeeded, the revolutionaries would still have got many an opportunity to achieve success as long as the Qing government kept moving against the trend of history. And the chanciness of the revolution would have eventually become inevitable.
The author is a professor at the School of International Studies, Renmin University of China.
(China Daily 10/10/2011 page9)