Warlords, nationalists and communists (1912-36)
After the collapse of the empire, the problem of the renewal of China v. a. with the question of maintaining the unity of the state. In February 1912, Sun Yat-sen, elected Provisional President of the Republic of China on January 1, 1912, was forced to resign to Marshal Yuan Shikai.
After the Guomindang led by Sun Yat-sen (GMD, also Kuo-min-tang, KMT, German National People’s Party) tried in vain to enforce its claims to government in the course of a “second revolution”, Yuan Shikai banned the GMD and left it elect himself president for life in 1914. In 1915 his attempt to found a new dynasty in China failed. a. the resistance of the provinces, in which strong forces pressing for autonomy were stirring. In 1915, according to aceinland, under the ultimate pressure, China had to accept to a large extent the “21 demands” of Japan, which granted this great influence in northern China. China then formally entered World War I in 1917 against Germany in order to be able to represent his concerns more successfully in peace negotiations, however, in 1919 he was disappointed in his expectations.
After the death of Yuan (1916) the central power disintegrated. China now became the scene of constant civil wars between the leaders of regional military groups. These “warlords”, among whom Zhang Zuolin (Chang Tsolin), Feng Yuxiang (Feng Yü-hsiang) and Wu Peifu (Wu P’ei-fu) stood out, struggled v. a. for power in northern China. In southern China, which distanced itself from rival military groups, Sun Yat-sen endeavored to build a revolutionary system of government with a focus on Guangzhou.
From a demonstration by Beijing students on May 4, 1919 against the transfer of sovereignty rights of formerly German “leased areas” in the Shandong province to Japan, the fourth – based on (Western) European ideas (national independence, social reforms, cultural renewal) May movement, which subsequently spread to other large cities, e.g. B. Guangzhou and Shanghai, invaded. She turned vehemently against the Confucian traditions, especially in her function as the ideal basis of imperial China. Chen Duxiu (Ch’en Tu-hsiu), one of its intellectual leaders, attacked traditional values: obedience (at the family and state level), reverence (for old age), politeness and rites, as well as forced marriage and the practice of crippling women to cripple their feet.
After initial failures, Sun Yat-sen built a revolutionary system of government in Guangzhou from 1923 with the help of the Soviet Union and the Comintern and formed an alliance with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), whose members also joined the GMD. The GMD itself was transformed into a cadre party according to the Marxist-Leninist model by Mikhail Borodin (* 1884, † 1951), an adviser sent by the Comintern. The Soviet General W. Blücher advised the GMD government on the establishment of an army. In 1924 a military academy was founded in Huangpu (“Whampoa” near Guangzhou) under the direction of General Chiang Kai-shek and his deputy Zhou Enlai (Chou En-lai) trained the military cadres of the GMD Army.
Under the command of Chiang, the “northern campaign” against the “warlords” of the north began in 1926, supported by the communists. By the spring of 1927, the GMD troops had advanced as far as the Yangtze and at that time controlled almost all of central and southern China. After the conquest of Shanghai (April 1927), Chiang Kai-shek switched off the communists, whose influence in the GMD movement had grown strongly, in a bloody action and established a national government in Nanking (Nanjing); the communists went underground. With the successful continuation of the war in 1927/28 against the military rulers of the north, Chiang Kai-shek provided the unity of China essentially restored (capture of Beijing 1928). Manchuria surrendered in 1928, but Mongolia, Sinkiang (Xinjiang) and Tibet remained virtually independent.
The system of government in Nanking (Nanjing), in which Chiang Kai-shek became the dominant figure, soon gained widespread international recognition. Domestically, the government tried to revive the country’s economy, including. through the abolition of internal tariffs, currency reform and expansion of the transport network, however, essentially left the oppressive living and income conditions for the largest part of the population, the farmers, in place: a lease system that was often determined by arbitrarily set rent, small property with low profitability, technically outdated building methods, poor hygiene and disaster risk management (e.g. in the event of floods). The illiteracy rate remained high (90%). In defense of communist influences, Chiang sought Kai-shek to revive Confucian traditions.
After its forcible elimination from the alliance with the GMD (1927), the CCP embarked on a new political course: guerrilla warfare against the government system of Nanking (Nanjing), formation of councils in the countryside based on the Soviet model and implementation of an agrarian revolution where power was held could achieve. Thus, since 1927, a communist rule was established in Jiangxi Province under the leadership of Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung).
In 1931 the communists founded the Chinese Soviet Republic with the capital Ruijin (Juichin). There they expropriated the land of the large landowners and distributed the land among the small farmers. In five “extermination campaigns,” Chiang Kai-shek forced the CCP to give up its rule in Jiangxi. After a long march (1934–35) through western China, on which Mao was able to strengthen his position in the party, the remnants of the communist armed forces reached Shaanxi Province and built Yan’an into their central base.
With the occupation of Manchuria by Japan, the Republic of China faced a great external threat. In 1932 Japan proclaimed the state “Manzhouguo” (Manchukuo) under its protectorate and in 1934 declared it an empire under the last Qing emperor, Pu Yi (P’u-i). A League of Nations commission under Lord Lytton condemned the Japanese attack (Lytton report). Chiang Kai-shek After his capture by mutinous officers and communists in the “Xi’an Incident” in 1936, he was forced to enter into an anti-Japanese alliance with the CCP shut down. As part of this “second united front”, Zhou Enlai represented the communist side in the government in Nanking (Nanjing).
Second Sino-Japanese War and Civil War (1937-49)
The military “incident at the Marco Polo Bridge” (July 7, 1937) near Beijing sparked the second Sino-Japanese War without a declaration of war. Around 20 million Chinese lost their lives in it. After the capture of Beijing and Tientsin (Tjanjin) in July 1937, Japanese troops advanced south. They occupied Nanking (Nanjing) in December 1937, where they massacred the residents and prisoners of war for weeks (about 300,000 deaths). In October 1938 they captured Hankou (now part of Wuhan) and Guangzhou (Canton). From 1939 the fighting froze into a positional war. In the following years it merged with the Second World War.
While the national government of Nanking withdrew under the impression of the Japanese advance to Chongqing, Wang Jingwei (Wang Ching-wei) formed a Japan-friendly counter-government in Nanking that declared war on the USA and Great Britain and in return for the (only formal) renunciation of Japan obtained his extraterritorial rights in China. Chiang Kai-shek, allied with the USA, Great Britain and France, achieved their renunciation of their special rights in China and the recognition of China as a permanent member of the Security Council of the UN, created in 1945. During the Second World War, the CCP expanded its territory and area of operation with the help of its ever-expanding “People’s Armed Forces”. Shortly before the collapse of Japan, the USSR entered the war against Japan, occupied Manchuria, and helped the CCP take power there (1945).
After the failure of American mediation efforts under the leadership of General G. Marshall between the GMD regime and the communists, civil war broke out again in 1946. With military support from the Soviet Union, the communist “People’s Liberation Army” conquered Manchuria from northern China (Battle of Suzhou, 1948) and, by the end of 1949, the rest of China. Chiang Kai-shek, President of the Republic from the entry into force of the 1948 Constitution, withdrew with the rest of his troops to Taiwan in 1949, from where they claimed rule over all of China. Against the background of the East-West conflict, his government was able to maintain the international position it had won in World War II for a long time.