Implications of recent Chinese history on Chinese-Indian relations.
A hundred years may be a brief temporal punctuation for an ancient civilisation like China or India but the commemoration of the 1911 Xinhai revolution that overthrew the Qing dynasty in China may be deemed an event of tectonic proportion for Asia, in particular and the world by extension.
Two millennia of imperial rule had come to an end – and Asia's first republic was born. The 1911 Revolution began as an armed uprising on the evening of October 10, 1911, when Xiong Bingjun, a soldier in the New Army engineering battalion fired the first shot in Wuhan that signalled the start of the 1911 Revolution. Thus ended one of the most enduring autocratic regimes in the world, established by Emperor Qinshihuang in 221 BC. Successive emperors held the Chinese people in thrall for centuries and the last imperial dynasty was the Qing Dynasty, which came to power in 1644 AD and which the 1911 Revolution displaced .
However ownership of the 1911 revolution is bitterly contested between Beijing, capital of the People's Republic of China and Taipei that represents the Republic of China. In Beijing, President Hu Jintao extolled the 1911 Revolution and described it as "a thoroughly modern, national and democratic revolution." He also recalled the contribution of Sun Yat-sen, the leader of the revolution, as "a great national hero, a great patriot and a great leader of the Chinese democratic revolution."
President Hu noted that the 1911 Revolution had shook the world and ushered in unprecedented social changes in China. While the last assertion is accurate – that China rocked the global boat and has ushered in extraordinary socio-economic changes in a milieu that that had kept its people in servitude or deprivation of different type – Beijing's claims on 1911 and the reference to 'democracy' are untenable.
The Chinese Communist Party had little to do with 1911 and its credentials to being democratic are invalid. As the parallel celebrations in Taiwan have demonstrated, it was the Sun Yat-sen and Chiang-kaishek team that laid the foundations of the Republic of China and the transition from imperial rule to democracy – or a semblance of it that Asia's deeply entrenched feudal DNA has differently nurtured.
The Republic of China itself under the Chinese Nationalist Party was hardly the model democracy that 1911 had envisioned. Mainland China and ROC adopted different paths after the vicissitudes of World War-II, culminating in the triumph of Mao's Long March in 1949.
Ever since, Taipei and PRC have staked their exclusive claim to both Chinese nationalism and normative political identity.
A hundred years later, the two Chinas have evolved on different trajectories and clearly Beijing has impressive numbers on its side and the global endorsement of its brand. Diminutive Taipei is the more vibrant democracy – after the lifting of martial law in 1987 – and remains the intractable 'other' that Beijing has not been able to subsume or ignore.
Whether Beijing is celebrating 1911 and the birth of the democratic impulse in Asia, or 1949 – wherein the Communist Party morphed into the new imperial dynasty is moot and this is the point of relevance for India.
Anniversaries have their own import in the collective psyche of a society and states recall and embellish them in the pursuit of the abiding objective of monopolising power.