THE MANCHU DYNASTY had continued to rule China since 1644, in spite of the cataclysmic Taiping rebellion of the middle years of the 19th century. The overthrow of the Manchu (Qing) Dynasty in 1911 in China began a period of instability that would last until the establishment of the Communist People's Republic in 1949. The revolution led to the establishment of the Chinese Republic in 1912 by Sun Yat-sen, who wrote in his autobiography, “in 1912 I assumed office, and ordered the proclamation of the Chinese Republic.”

Actual power was soon wrested from Sun by General Yuan Shih-k'ai, who, as head of the Peiyang Army, led the only modern fighting force in China. Unfortunately, Yuan's militarist bid for power led to the era of the tuchuns ...

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