The rereads the events of 1911 and introduces my key research question. In addition, it asserts the innovativeness of the methodology, the sources, and the lens used in this book.
Chapter One articulates the old regime and its collaborative model between the elite and the state in Sichuan. A rich and self-sufficient region, Sichuan was only fully incorporated into the Qing Empire in the 1850s. Soon after, the collaborative model between the elite and the state was called into question as population growth, foreign invasions, and various new tasks a strained Qing central government had to fulfill generated enormous tension in local society, eroding the established power configurations and destabilizing the old regime.
Chapter Two examines the most formative intellectual influences on the Sichuan constitutionalists. Like their cohorts from other provinces, the Sichuan constitutionalists took Liang Qichao as their spiritual leader. Most of them had studied at H
Chapters Three identifies and examines the economic background of the Sichuan constitutionalists and the implication of "rights" in the economic sphere. Acting on the rhetoric of rights, the constitutionalists of Sichuan took over the Chuan-Han Railway Company, but ended up exacting more taxation from Sichuan's people .
Chapters Four identifies and examines the political orientation of the Sichuan constitutionalists. Legitimized by the late-Qing constitutional reform and using the same rhetoric of rights, these constitutionalists strove to be the true power holders of the newly enhanced state. Via the Sichuan Provincial Assembly, they obtained both a political reputation that was unmatched by any other group and a solid organizational foundation..
Chapter Five scrutinizes the rhetoric created by the Sichuan constitutionalists as they took their struggle to the streets. By deploying political concepts like the rights of the nation, constitutionalism, and the rights of the people, and by creating a common purpose "to protect the railway and break the treaty," the movement leaders drew ordinary people into collective action. Combining a new political repertoire with old cultural symbols, they effectively mobilized people from different walks of life against powerful opponents.
Chapter Six analyzes the mechanisms by which the Railway Protection movement spread beyond the provincial capital and throughout the entire province. Unlike in most other provinces, in which the 1911 Revolution took place in the cities and happened in a matter of days, the movement in Sichuan involved tens of thousands of people throughout the province and spanned more than six months. How was solidarity created within the movement? What were the social networks and cultural symbols of the movement?
Chapter Seven chronicles the expansion and division of the revolution. During the revolution, the newly crafted political culture with rights at its core was practiced by a large group of activists; this lent the revolution strength and legitimacy.
Chapter Eight explores the end of the revolution. In Sichuan, the emergence of popular sovereignty as a new source of power created opportunities for nonactivists to join the revolution and control its politics. This chapter suggests that it was precisely the valorization of the people and the public opinion that prevented the creation of a stable constitutional order.
The Conclusion evaluates the long-term impact of the revolution. Marking the rise of a new political consciousness, thousands of men and women gained firsthand experience in the public arena: they talked, read, and listened in new ways; they voted, protested, and joined political parties. After 1911, the old, imperial political culture was abandoned in favor of a popular republicanism in which elected assemblymen, students, intellectuals, and other members of society collaborated and competed in creating a new Chinese nation.