Revolution in China

Chinese Revolution

In the early 1900s, China was ripe for revolution. China had faced years of humiliation at the hands of outsiders. Foreign countries controlled China’s trade and economic resources. Many Chinese believed that modernization and nationalism held the country’s keys for survival. They wanted to build up the army and navy, to construct modern factories, and to reform education. Yet others feared change. They believed that China’s greatness lay in its traditional ways.

Nationalists Overthrow Qing Dynasty

Among the groups pushing for modernization and nationalization was the Kuomintang or the Nationalist Party. Its first great leader, Sun Yixian. In 1912, Sun’s Revolutionary Alliance, a forerunner of the Kuomintang, succeeded in overthrowing the last emperor of the Qing dynasty. The Qing had ruled China since 1644. In 1912, Sun became president of the new Republic of China. 

In 1912, Sun became president of the new Republic of China. He held the post for just six weeks. Sun hoped to establish a modern government based on the “Three Principles of the People”:

  1. Nationalism—an end to foreign control
  2. People’s rights—democracy
  3. People’s livelihood—economic security for all Chinese.

Despite his lasting influence as a revolutionary leader, Sun lacked the authority and the military support to secure national unity.

Sun turned over the presidency to Yuan Shikai, a powerful general. By 1913, he was ruling as a military dictator.  After Yuan died in 1916, chaos reigned. Civil war broke out as one rival group battled another.

In 1917, the government in Beijing, hoping for an Allied victory, declared war against Germany. For China’s participation, some leaders mistakenly believed that the thankful Allies would return control of China to the Chinese. Under the Treaty of Versailles, however, the Allied leaders gave Japan the territories and privileges that had previously belonged to Germany.

During the First World War, Japan captured the Shantung Province from China. After the War, at the Peace Conference at Versailles China wanted to get back her territory of Shantung province. But the allied countries gave Shantung to Japan.

The May Fourth Movement

When news of the Treaty of Versailles reached China, outrage swept the country. Mao Zedong a young school teacher who had studied at Beijing University, supported the student protesters. He would later become China’s greatest revolutionary leader, sometimes called “The Great Helmsman.” The demonstrations spread to other cities and exploded into a national movement. It was called the May Fourth Movement. Workers, manufacturers, shopkeepers, and professionals joined the cause.

The Communist Party in China

In 1920, small groups of young intellectuals were meeting in Shanghai and Beijing University to discuss Marx’s revolutionary beliefs. They viewed the Soviet Union under Lenin as a model for political and economic change. In 1921, a group met in Shanghai to organize the Chinese Communist Party. Mao Zedong was among its founders. While the Communist Party was forming, Sun Yixian and his Nationalist Party set up a government in south China. Like the Communists, Sun became disillusioned with the Western democracies that refused to support  his struggling government. Sun decided to ally the Kuomintang with the newly formed Communist Party. Sun used Lenin’s blueprint for organizing his party along Bolshevik lines. Lenin preached worldwide revolution. He seized the opportunity to help China’s Nationalist government. In 1923, Lenin began sending military advisers and equipment to the Nationalists in return for allowing the Chinese Communists to join the Kuomintang. Several Chinese Nationalist leaders traveled to Moscow for military training. After Sun Yixian died in 1925, Jiang Jieshi, formerly called Chiang Kai-shek, headed the Kuomintang. Jiang put aside his differences with the Communists. The Nationalists nearly wiped out the Chinese Communist Party. In 1928, Jiang became president of the Nationalist Republic of China. Great Britain and the United States both formally recognized the new government. The Soviet Union, as a result of the Shanghai massacre, did not. Jiang’s treachery also had long-term effects. The Communists’ deep-seated rage over the massacre erupted in a civil war that would last until 1949. Jiang did nothing to improve the life of China’s rural peasants. As a result, many peasants threw their support to the Chinese Communist Party. To enlist the support of the peasants, Mao divided land that the Communists won among the local farmers. Communist leader Mao Zedong had survived Jiang’s bloody rampage by fleeing to the countryside. He had already begun to develop his own brand of communism. Lenin had shown that a Marxist revolution could take place in a largely rural country, but he had based his organization in Russia’s cities.

In 1924 Dr. Sun Yat Sen passed away. The leadership of the Chiang Kai Shekassumed kuomintang party.

  • The unity between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China, which had been built under the leadership of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen for the complete independence and unification of China. This unity had been broken after the death of Sun Yat-Sen and a civil war started in China between the Kuomintang under the leadership of Chiang Kai-Shek and the Communist Party of China, whose most important leader was Mao Zedong.
  • After the Japanese invasion of China, the two parties and their armies cooperated for some time to resist the Japanese aggression. However, the conflicts between the two never ceased.

The Kuomintang under Chiang Kai-Shek was a party, which mainly represented the interests of capitalists and landlords.

The Communist Party, on the other hand, was a party of workers and peasants.

  • In the areas under Communist Party’s control, the estates of landlords had been expropriated and the land distributed among the peasants. Because of the policies pursued by the Communist Party, it gradually had won over millions of Chinese people to its side. The Communist Party had also organized a huge army called the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
  • After the defeat of Japan and the driving out of the Japanese forces from China, the civil war again broke out. The government of the United Stated gave massive aid to Chiang Kai Shek, but by 1949 his armies were completely routed.

Civil War Rages in China

By 1930, Nationalists and Communists were fighting a bloody civil war. Mao and other Communist leaders established themselves in the hills of south-central China. Mao referred to this tactic of taking his revolution to the countryside as “swimming in the peasant sea.” He recruited the peasants to join his Red Army. He then trained them in  guerrilla warfare. Nationalists attacked the Communists repeatedly but failed to drive them out. In 1933, Jiang gathered an army of at least 700,000 men. Jiang’s army then surrounded the Communists’ mountain stronghold. Communist Party leaders realized that they faced defeat. In 1934, the Communist forces fled. They began a hazardous, 6,000-mile-long journey called the Long March.

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Japan’s Invasion Suspends the Civil War

In 1931, as Chinese fought Chinese, the Japanese watched the power struggles with rising interest. Japanese forces took advantage of China’s weakening situation. They invaded Manchuria, an industrialized province in the northeast part of China. This attack signaled the onset of World War II in Asia.

  • In 1937, the Japanese launched an all-out invasion of China. Massive bombings of villages and cities killed thousands of Chinese. The destruction of farms caused many more to die of starvation. By 1938, Japan held control of a large part of China. The Japanese threat forced an uneasy truce between Jiang’s and Mao’s forces. The civil war gradually ground to a halt as Nationalists and Communists temporarily united to fight the Japanese.

Jiang further agreed to promote changes outlined in Sun Yixian’s “Three Principles of the People”—nationalism, democracy, and people’s livelihood..

  • When the Japanese invaded China in 1937, a bitter civil war was raging between the Nationalists and the Communists. During World War II, the political opponents temporarily united to fight the Japanese. With the war’s end, however, they resumed their fight for control of the country.

Internal Struggles

  • Under their leader, Mao Zedong, the Communists held a stronghold in northwestern China. From there, they mobilized Chinese peasants for guerrilla war against the Japanese in the northeast. Thanks to their efforts to teach literacy and improve food production, the Communists won the peasants’ loyalty.
  • By 1945, Mao’s Red Army controlled much of northern China. Meanwhile, the Nationalist forces under Jiang Jieshi, whose name was formerly spelled Chiang Kai shek, dominated southwestern China. Protected from the Japanese by rugged mountain ranges, Jiang gathered an army of 2.5 million men.
  • Between 1942 and 1945, the United States sent the Nationalist army at least $1.5 billion in aid to fight the Japanese. Instead of benefiting the army, however, these supplies and money often ended up in the hands of a few corrupt officers. In addition, Jiang’s army actually fought few battles against the Japanese. Instead, the Nationalist army saved its strength for the coming battle against Mao’s Red Army. As soon as the Japanese surrendered, the Nationalists and Communists resumed their civil war.

Involvement of the United States

Renewed civil war lasted from 1946 to 1949. At first, the Nationalists enjoyed a considerable advantage. Their army outnumbered the Communists’ army by as much as three to one. And the United States provided nearly $2 billion more in aid.

  • The Nationalist forces, however, did little to win popular support. With China’s economy collapsing, thousands of Nationalist soldiers deserted to the Communists. In spring 1949, China’s major cities fell to the Red forces one by one. Mao’s troops were well trained in guerrilla warfare. But they were also enthusiastic about his promised return of land to the peasants.
  • With the remnants of his troops, Chiang Kai Shek went to Taiwan (Formosa), an island which had been occupied by Japan after she had defeated China in 1895.

On 1st October 1949, the People’s Republic of China was proclaimed and the Communist Party of China under the leadership of Mao Zedong Came to power.

  • The victory of the Communist revolution in China was a world-shaking event. The most populous country in the world had come under communist rule. Besides the socialist countries of Europe, there were now two mighty powers in the world —communist parties ruled the Soviet Union and China -Which.

Imperialism was further weakened in Asia as a result of the Chinese revolution. The establishment of the People’s Republic of China was a defeat for the United-States.

USA refused to recognize the government of China for over two decades. According to the United States, the legal government of China was that of Chiang KaiShek in Taiwan (Formosa).Because of the US attitude, the most populous country in the world was denied even membership of the United Nations for over two decades.

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