The 1911 Revolution in China is usually considered a failure. Changing the perspective of judgement from the national level to the local level permits a reassessment. Enough information is available from Chinese memoirs, contemporary newspapers, and foreign consular reports to make the new judgement somewhat secure if attention is focused on one particular location—Swatow.

The old administration was overthrown by expeasants led by deracinated rural intellectuals. They took power in the name of modern merchants. These merchants easily pushed the young radicals out because the ideology of the radical prevented them from using force against the wealth and status of the merchants. Rural disorder of the ex-peasants and republican election victorier for the radicals forced the urban merchants to rely on foreign election victories for the radicals forced the urban merchants to rely on foreign wealth and rural power to maintain law and order needed for trade and to maintain their own urban power base. Armed peasants and the young radicals were suppressed or bought off. Power fell to rural warlords and other political allies in urban enclaves. Only a rejoining of radical intellectuals and ex-peasants could offer China a revolution instead of just another bloody cycle.

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