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The Republic of China, The Nationalist and Communist Revolutionary Movements

Henry Pu Yi, Chinese revolutionaries, urban intellectuals, Green Gang, bloody purge

After Yuan outlawed the KMT parliamentary party in 1913, Sun Yat-sen worked to build the revolutionary movement, eventually establishing a KMT base in Guangzhou. Sunís ideas became more anti-imperialist during this period. In speeches and writings he stressed that China could not be strong until it rid itself of imperialist intrusions and was reconstituted as the nation of the Chinese people. Other forms of revolution also attracted adherents. Marxism gained a following among urban intellectuals and factory workers in China, particularly after the success of the Communists in the Russian Revolution of 1917. In 1921 the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was organized in Shanghai.

During the warlord period after the death of Yuan Shikai, most Western powers dealt with whichever warlord had control of Beijing and ignored the revolutionaries. By contrast, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR, or Soviet Union), through the Comintern (an international Communist organization), offered to help the Chinese revolutionaries. Believing that the KMT had the best chance of succeeding, the Comintern instructed CCP members to join Sun Yat-senís KMT. In 1923 Sun agreed to accept Soviet advice in reorganizing the crumbling KMT party and army and to admit Communists into the KMT as part of a united-front policy.

Despite Sun's death in 1925, the rejuvenated KMT launched the Northern Expedition in 1926 from its base in Guangzhou. The expedition, an attempt to rid China of warlords and reunify the country under KMT rule, was led by the young general Chiang Kai-shek, who had been trained in Japan and Moscow and had been in charge of the KMTís military academy. Communists aided the advance of Chiang Kai-shek's army by organizing peasants and workers along the way. However, the alliance between the two groups was fragile because the KMT drew its strength from wealthy intellectuals and landowners, while the Communists advocated redistribution of wealth. In 1927, as the KMT army approached Shanghai, Chiang ordered members of the Green Gang, a Shanghai underworld gang, to kill labor union members and Communists, whom he feared were becoming too powerful. The alliance ended, and the KMT began a bloody purge of the Communists.

From 1927 to 1937 the KMT under Chiang ruled from Nanjing. Chiang's foremost goal was to build a strong modern state and army. He employed many Western-educated officials in his government, and progress was achieved in modernizing the banking, currency, and taxation systems, as well as transportation and communication facilities. However, China remained fragmented. While a small, Westernized elite and an industrial force developed in the cities, the vast majority of people were poor peasants in the countryside. The rural economy suffered from continued population growth and from the collapse of some local industries, such as silk production and cotton weaving, due to foreign competition. Chiang's highest priority was not improving the lives of peasants but gaining full military control of the country. Many regions remained under warlords, the Communists controlled some areas, and the Japanese were encroaching in North and Northeast China.

The Chinese Communists had gone underground after they were purged from the KMT in 1927 and had organized areas of Communist control. The most successful group settled in the countryside near the border between Jiangxi and Fujian provinces in an area they called the Jiangxi Soviet. From there, the group mobilized peasant support and formed a peasant army. One of the top leaders of the Jiangxi Soviet was Mao Zedong. Mao was from a peasant family in Hunan but was educated through the new school system. After graduating from a teacherís college in Hunan, he went to Beijing, where he became involved with Marxist discussion groups. In the 1920s, when most of the early CCP members were organizing workers in the cites, Mao worked in the countryside, developing ways to mobilize peasants.

Chiangís army attempted four extermination campaigns against the Jiangxi base, all of which failed against the Communistsí guerrilla tactics. In the fifth campaign in October 1934, the KMT encircled the base. Eighty thousand Communists broke out of the KMT encirclement and started what became known as the Long March. For a year, the Communists steadily retreated, fighting almost continuously against KMT forces and suffering enormous casualties. By the time the 8,000 survivors had found an area where they could establish a new base, they had marched almost 9,600 km (6,000 mi), crossing southern and southwestern China before turning north to reach Shaanxi province. This triumph of will in the face of incredible obstacles became a moral victory for the Communists. For the next decade the CCP made its base at Yanían, a city in central Shaanxi.

Although the KMT had forced the Communists to flee, they still faced a major threat from Japan. In 1922 Japan had agreed to return the former German holdings in Shandong to China, but it continued to expand its dominance in Manchuria. In 1931 the Japanese retaliated for an alleged instance of Chinese sabotage by extending military control over all of Manchuria. Chiang Kai-shek knew his armies were no match for Japanís and ordered the KMT to withdraw without fighting. In 1932 Japan established the puppet state of Manchukuo in Manchuria and made Henry Pu Yi, the last emperor of the Qing dynasty, its chief of state. Early in 1933 eastern Inner Mongolia was incorporated into Manchukuo.

As Japanese aggression intensified, popular pressure mounted within China to end internal fighting and unite against Japan. Chiang, however, resisted allying with the Communists until late 1936, when he was kidnapped by one of his own generals. During his captivity at Xi'an (Sian) in Shaanxi Province, Chiang was visited by Communist leaders, who urged the adoption of a united front against Japan. After his release, Chiang moderated his anti-Communist stance, and in 1937 the KMT and CCP formed a united front to oppose Japan.



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