Revolutions are profoundly influenced by the character of ruling classes. The entrenched localism of the gentry power made it inevitable that the Chinese revolution, in contrast to the revolutions of France and Russia, would come from the outlying areas to the center rather than the reverse …Franz Schurmann
Like The Russian and the French Revolutions, the Chinese Revolution was launched by the breakdown of an autocratic and semibureaucratic Old Regime. And it culminated in a New Regime more centralized, mass-incorporating, and in many ways more fully rationalized and bureaucratic than the prerevolutionary Old Regime. In all three Revolutions, moreover, peasants provided the major insurrectionary force to transform old class relations. In France and Russia, social-revolutionary changes depended upon the occurrence of peasant revolts. Nevertheless, revolutionary state organizations were built up with the aid of primarily urban popular support and imposed through administrative hierarchies upon the rural areas. The postrevolutionary states in France and Russia both were (despite many differences) professional-bureaucratic regimes. In the Chinese Revolution, however, peasants ended up providing both the revolutionary insurrectionary force and the organized popular basis for the consolidation of revolutionary state power. And the result was a revolutionary New Regime uniquely devoted to fostering widespread participation and surprisingly resistant to routinized hierarchical domination by bureaucratic officials and professional experts.
The reasons for these differences that set the Chinese Revolution apart from the French and the Russian lie, as they did for each of the other cases, in the particular characteristics of the social-revolutionary situation and the surviving legacies of the Old Regime. After the fall of the Imperial state in China, gentry landlords remained entrenched in the rural localities, and warlords held sway at provincial and regional levels. Hence revolutionary state-builders faced formidable obstacles. Ultimately, the Chinese Revolution could be completed only when some revolutionary leaders learned to tap the enormous insurrectionary, productive, and political energies of the peasant majority.
The Social-Revolutionary Situation After 1911
Once the facade of Imperial authority was stripped away through the overthrow of the Manchus, state power in China devolved entirely into those regional, provincial, and local centers wherein it had been accumulating for decades. In a sense this situation resembled what happened in France in 1789 and in Russia in 1917.