On February 12, 1912, the Qing Dynasty ended. On that date, Empress Dowager Longyu, adopted mother of the young emperor Puyi, and the boy’s father, Prince Chun, agreed on behalf of Puyi to abdicate the throne in favor of the new Republic of China.
But emperors are never easy to be rid of and to make sense of the circumstances of Puyi’s abdication, we thought it best to consult the galactic experts in emperor removal: The Rebel Alliance of George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy.
Here then is the Star Wars guide to emperor removal.
“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. …We must be cautious.”
That’s a pretty good description of the Qing court circa 1911. Reformers and revolutionaries may have breathed a little easier when the death of the Empress Dowager Cixi ended her near half-century grip on power. Unfortunately, she took the sitting emperor with her into the great beyond and left behind the three-year-old son of her closest flunky to mind the dragon throne. The result was a crisis of poor leadership, cronyism, incompetence, and corruption that made the denizens of the Mos Eisley Space Cantina look like paragons of civic virtue.
The result was a loss of confidence in the leadership of the Qing court, especially on the part of local and provincial elites. Attempts by the central government to increase its power over the provinces, including nationalizing railways and other industry, only made thing worse.
“Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?”
There were numerous groups in China at the time hoping to take advantage of the widespread discontent with Qing rule. Perhaps the most well-known organizer of revolutionary societies and cells was Sun Yat-sen, titular leader of an alliance of revolutionary groups committed to the overthrow of the Qing court and the establishment of a republic.
The problem was that for all of his skills as a fundraiser, organizer, and spin doctor, Sun was a horrible revolutionary. Almost every uprising in which Sun played a leadership role failed spectacularly. He just wasn’t a man of action.