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THE OVERTHROW of the Manchu (Qing) Dynasty in 1911 in China led to the establishment of the Chinese Republic in 1912 by Sun Yat-sen. As Sun wrote in his autobiography, “in 1912 I assumed office, and ordered the proclamation of the Chinese Republic, the alteration of the lunar calendar, and the declaration of that year as the First Year of the Chinese Republic.”

However, actual power was wrested from Sun by General Yuan Shih-k'ai, the first of the tuchuns (warlords) whose armies would plague China like locusts for over a decade. The period had searing impact on Sun, whose republic was paid scant attention to by the Western powers or Japan. At the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919 after World War I, the United States in ...

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