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China - Second Revolution of 1913

For some months after the Republic was organized with Yuan Shih K'ai as President, the elements opposed to him had the idea that it was possible to eliminate him without resort to arms. They controlled the National Council. But as time passed, Yuan Shih K'ai more and more outfinessed the radicals in the struggle for power between the Executive and parliament. It was realization of this fact that enabled demagogues to swing the Koumingtang toward rebellion. In this they were retarded by the attitude of Sun Yat Sen, who did not then approve any project to resort to arms against Yuan. Nevertheless, Huang Hsing, Chen Chi-mei, and their lieutenants continued secretly to plot rebellion, and to lay plans for a revolt. On September 29, a mandate was issued ordering the suppression of the secret societies that had come into existence in all parts of the country, and which were the centers of political intrigue against the government. The agitation for a 'second revolution' began to assume definite form late in 1012, when the radical native press in central and south China openly presented it as a possible alternative to submitting to the autocracy of Yuan Shih K'ai.

In the spring of 1913, i.e. considerably more than a year later than it should have occurred, the first republican parliament with a large Southern majority met in Peking in spite of the assassination of their leader Sung Chiaojen at Shanghai under Yuan Shih-kai's orders. Not only was there this majority, but by virtue of the provisional constitution, which was the law of the land, the Southern leaders believed that they could effectively control Yuan Shihkai by reducing him to a figurehead. Quickly disillunionized by his signature without parliamentary endorsement of the great Reorganization Loan, which gave him the one thing he needed to secure open mastery-money, they nevertheless held to their point for several months, only inciting open rebellion in the end because they saw that force was still the only argument.

An event of great significance was the assassination at Shanghai on March 21, 1913, of Sung Chiao-jen, a Kuomingtang leader who was shot at the railway station when he was about to leave for Peking. A connection of Ying Kuishing, a secret agent of the Government, was established with the crime, which gave occasion for the Koumingtang press to accuse Yuan Shih K'ai of having instigated the murder. From that time the attitude of the Koumingtang was openly hostile toward the President. The new Assembly (parliament) met in April and it soon became evident that it would clash with the Government.

From that time the attitude of the Koumingtang was openly hostile toward the President. The new Assembly (parliament) met in April and it soon became evident that it would clash with the Government. The Koumingtang had almost as many seats as all other parties combined, but the Government was stronger than it had been in the previous Council. A number of important matters demanded attention from parliament, but the members found too many things to wrangle about to transact business. Several weeks were consumed before presiding officers could be elected, and the Koumingtang candidates won. The attack on the Government in parliament centered on the foreign loan policy. Everything proposed by the Government was strongly criticized. Many sessions were disorderly, and a few were riotous. It was evident that the stability of the Government depended on the outcome of the struggle between the Executive and the Assembly. Public opinion, which in the first months of the Republic had been with parliament, was veering toward the Executive. In that situation, the radical Koumingtang leaders saw themselves and their party facing defeat.

By the end of June it was evident that an outbreak was imminent. The issue was joined chiefly over the question of a foreign loan. The new government was in dire need of funds and could not immediately obtain them in sufficient amounts from taxation. A combination of foreign capitalists, representing Great Britain, France, Germany, the United States, Russia, and Japan, offered to make a loan. It was to be a large one and was to be secured by a lien on Chinese revenues, principally the income from the salt monopoly. It involved increased political as well as financial control and evidently compromised still further Chinese independence. So prominent was the political side that President Wilson refused to give official backing to the American capitalists, and these withdrew, leaving the loan to be made by the representatives of the five powers. The Southern radical party was opposed to the loan, and obstructed its ratification by the national assembly. Finally, in the spring of 1913, Yuan signed it on his own authority, without the sanction of the assembly.

At once a rebellion broke out in the South, in an attempt to depose the president who, it was alleged, had sold his country to the foreigner. On July 10, 1913, the second revolution began. The campaign was short and inglorious. The South, ill-furnished with munitions and practically penniless, and always confronted by the same welltrained Northern Divisions who had proved themselves invincible only eighteen months before, fought hard for a while, but never became a serious menace to the Central Government owing to the lack of co-operation between the various Rebel forces in the field.

This trumpery affair of July and August, 1913, commonly called the Second Revolution, which was over in a few weeks thanks to the military strength of the North, further weakened the South by allowing the Northern divisional generals, who had hitherto not been in office south of the Yangtsze, to occupy the whole line of provincial capitals running from Wuchang (Hankow) to the sea. By the end of the revolt the North was therefore considerably stronger than it had been in 1912. Not only were fourteen out of twenty-one provinces openly in its hand-forming a solid block of territory from the Amur to a point south of Shanghai-but portions of the remaining seven provinces were menaced, making the Southern outlook as black as it could be.

The fighting was of great interest from a military standpoint especially from the fact, that armies, equipped with all the auxiliaries of modern warfare, adopted tactics very much on the lines of the " good old days." The hostile outposts, who were facing one another, were even on the night before the fighting began fraternising together until, at a given signal they changed themselves into rabid enemies who slayed each other with terrible hate and enmity. But the Government troops, who were under the command of Admiral Tseng Yu Cheng, were fighting according to the rules of modern tactics. Field telephone and wireless telegraphy, modern entrenchments, wire entanglements and various other tactical auxiliaries were used by them in a way, which shows that the lessons of European warfare had not been altogether ignored, and that these lessons will be taken to heart in the near future. But reformations go slow in details. The rebels had good subaltern officers but absolutely useless leaders. Notwithstanding the most modern equipment in the matter of guns, etc., they lacked leaders with the necessary knowledge to use them successfully. Their intelligence service was of no use to them, as it was most badly organized, while that of Admiral Tseng Yu Cheng worked excellently and effectively against the rebels.

The rebels had very good material at their command considering the fact that their soldiers mostly had only a very scanty military training, mostly of only two or three days. Therefore the work they did, remains admirable to a certain extent. The rebel soldiers, partly consisting of runaway coolies, boys, jailbirds, etc., showed after they had conquered the fear when in the outer zone of the fire, a great calmness during the fight, which did not leave them when under heavy artillery and infantry fire. The men were very willing and did excellent work even under very bad conditions, viz., bad food and great heat, while the Northern officers sometimes had trouble with their men, who sometimes declined to do sappers' and miners' work, especially when it happened that the commissariat did not work satisfactorily and the food was bad, even sometimes declining to fight. The Artillery of the Government troops was excellently trained and shot according to the rules of modern artillery, while I often had occasion to note, that the rebel artillerymen approached their guns with a certain mistrust and, when firing, were only ambitious that they "went off." Indirect shooting was mostly unknown to them. The equipment was about the same on both sides, mostly Mauser rifles or rifles of about the same pattern but Chinese and Japanese make.

The infantry ammunition used by the Northerners was modern, mostly smokeless powder, with "S" bullet, by the rebels the old Mauser cartridge with the old-fashioned nickle-mantle projectile, smokeless but often even old black powder of indifferent quality. The various branches of the armies, viz: commissariat, sanitary and ammunition supply were generally in a very bad plight. It very often happened, that during the fights in the open country even small units suffered from hunger for several days, whereas the commissariat could have been arranged very easily, as the hinterland was generally cleaned of any enemies.

The sanitary service, as far as the military branch goes, was in a very bad and sad condition. The Chinese Army doctors, who were only in a few cases trained after European fashion, were sometimes unable even to dress a slight shot, not to speak of serious cases. Dressing material was lacking generally and all the accessories of the modern war-surgery were not to hand. The army doctors had sometimes modern bags with instruments but the latter were rusty and partly of no use. And even if they had been in a good condition, there were not the men to use them.

The men were willing, very frugal and gallant, and observed strict discipline, notwithstanding their military training being very slight. The same can be said of the Government's troops, but it must be noted, that their discipline slackened from the moment they got the upper hand of the rebels. They knew very well that, so long as they were besieged, their only safety lay in keeping the strictest discipline amongst themselves, but when they changed into attackers, discipline was forgotten and too often became a lazy gang which did not recognise the commands of the officers and often bullied the civilians, plundering their houses, and maltreating their prisoners. Yuan Shih K'ai outthought and outmaneuvered his opponents. Li Lieh-chun, former Tutuh of Kiangsi, led the rebel forces in the Kiukiang district. His troops occupied the forts at the entrance to the Po Yang lakes. Nanking went over to the rebels, but attacks on the arsenal at Shanghai failed, because of the spirited defense made by Admiral Tseng Ju-cheng. The govrnment forces gradually got the upper hand, and by September the rebellion collapsed. Early in August Sun Yat Sen, Huang Hsing, and other prominent Koumingtang leaders fled to Japan.

The outstanding features of the rebellion were: (a) Chinese opinion was with the Government and against reform by revolution; (6) a revulsion of sentiment among foreign residents in China, who had been sympathetic to the younger reformers, but who now perceived the dangers of radicalism, and that the political situation was a choice between Yuan Shih K'ai or chaos; (c) the revelation that Japan was intriguing in a disturbing way in China's internal politics. On October 6 Yuan Shih K'ai was formally elected by the National Assembly under the new constitution, and Li Yuan Hung was elected Vice-President. On November 4 a mandate dissolved the Koumingtang as a seditious organization. The immediate effect of this action was to unseat about half of the members of the Assembly, making a quorum impossible, and leaving the Executive in substantial control of the central government.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:27:17 ZULU