Meddelelsen kom fra Kejserpaladset i Beijing den 12. februar 1912. Den kun seks-årige kejser Puyi havde abdiceret.
»Det står klart, at majoriteten af folk er indstillet på at etablere et republikansk form for styre,« stod der i meddelelsen. Det var dog ikke i Den Forbudte By i Beijing, at man havde skrevet beskeden. Den var blevet leveret fra Nanjing, hvor Dr. Sun Yat-sen havde udråbt Republikken Kina, og samtidig gjort den sydlige storby til den nye republiks hovedstad.
Dermed var der sat punktum for 2.000 års kinesisk kejseredømme. Men det kunne faktisk være sket 50 år tidligere, argumenterer historikeren Stephen Platt i en by bog. For det var tæt på, at det voldelige Taiping oprør i 1860 havde væltet det svage Qing dynasti.
Som Jeffrey Wasserstrom skriver i sin anmeldelse i Wall Street Journal:
Hong Xiuquan (1814-64), the “Heavenly King” who was the movement’s supreme leader, strove to transform China by fulfilling a quasi-Christian millenarian prophecy. A frustrated scholar who had been exposed to a missionary tract while preparing to take the all-important civil-service examination that would secure him a post in the official bureaucracy, Hong went into a trance after failing the grueling test and awoke convinced that he was Christ’s younger brother, selected by God to save China from rule by barbarian “demons,” his term for the Manchu members of the Qing royal family.
Stephen Platt’s “Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom” is an impressive, gracefully written account of the war that ensued. Like many historians of our War Between the States, Mr. Platt presents stirring accounts of battles and finely etched portraits of military commanders. On the insurgent side, the commanders included figures like Chen Yucheng (aka the “Brave King”), who started his life in poverty and ended it near the top of the Taiping hierarchy. Ranged against Chen were men such as Li Hongzhang, a famous military modernizer, and Li’s mentor, Zeng Guofan. A shrewd strategist torn by competing loyalties—to his family, his home province of Hunan and the dynasty he served—Zeng did more than anyone else to topple Hong’s Taiping Kingdom. Mr. Platt’s richly textured portrait of this complex, conflicted official is one of the strengths of the book.
Regeringen i Beijing har ikke glemt oprøret dengang for 150 år siden, og vi kan også stadig lære af det til at forstå Kina i dag, skriver Stephen Platt i en kronik i New York Times, hvor han trækker trådene op til 2012:
Beijing has learned its lessons from the past. We see this in the swift and ruthless suppression of Falun Gong and other religious sects that resemble the Taiping before they became militarized. We can see it in the numbers of today’s “mass incidents.” One estimate, 180,000 in 2010, sounds ominous indeed, but in fact the sheer number shows that the dissent is not organized and has not (yet) coalesced into something that can threaten the state. The Chinese Communist Party would far rather be faced with tens or even hundreds of thousands of separate small-scale incidents than one unified and momentum-gathering insurgency. The greatest fear of the government is not that violent dissent should exist; the fear is that it should coalesce.
The rebellion holds lessons for the West, too. China’s rulers in the 19th century were, as they are today, generally loathed abroad. The Manchus were seen as arrogant and venal despots who obstructed trade and hated foreigners. All romance was on the side of the Taiping rebels, who at the onset were heralded abroad as the liberators of the Chinese people. As one American missionary in Shanghai put it at the time, “Americans are too firmly attached to the principles on which their government was founded and has flourished to refuse sympathy for a heroic people battling against foreign thralldom.”
Læs hele kronikken, hvor han også spørger, om Kina er på vej mod en revolution i dag, og om Vesten egentlig – hvis man tænker tanken til ende – har lyst til at se en revolution bryde ud i Kina i dag.