“Revolution in China” from “Chapter 22 East Asia Under Challenge---pages 732-735” in Glencoe World History Textbook
The Fall of the Qing:
After the Boxer Rebellion, the Qing Dynasty in China tried desperately to reform itself. Empress Dowager Ci Xi, who had long resisted suggestions from her advisers for change, now embraced a number of reforms in education, administration, and the legal system. A new educational system based on the Western model was adopted, and the civil service examination system was dropped. In 1909, legislative assemblies were formed at the local level. Elections for a national assembly were held in 1910.
But the reforms were too little and too late for the emerging, new elite, composed of merchants, professionals, and reform-minded landowners, soon became impatient with the slow pace of political change. They were angry when they discovered that the new assemblies were not allowed to pass laws, but could only give advice to the ruler. Moreover, the recent reforms had done nothing for the peasants, artisans, and miners, whose living conditions were getting worse as taxes increased. Unrest grew in the countryside as the dynasty continued to ignore deep-seated resentments.
The Rise of Sun Yat-sen:
The first signs of revolution appeared during the last decade of the nineteenth century, when the young radical Sun Yat-sen formed the Revive China Society. Sun Yat-sen believed that the Qing Dynasty was in a state of decay and could no longer govern the country. Unless the Chinese were united under a strong government, they would remain at the mercy of other countries. Although Sun believed that China should follow the pattern of Western countries, he also knew that the Chinese people were hardly ready for democracy.
Sun instead developed a three-stage reform process. The first stage would be a military takeover. In the second state, a transitional phase, Sun’s own revolutionary party would prepare the people for democratic rule. The final stage called for the establishment of a constitutional democracy.
At a convention in Tokyo in 1905, Sun united members of radical groups from across China and formed the Revolutionary Alliance, which eventually became the Nationalist Party (Guomindang).
Sun’s new organization advocated his Three People’s Principles, which promoted Nationalism, Democracy, and Livelihood. Although the new organization was small, it benefitted from the rising discontent generated by the Qing Dynasty’s failure to improve conditions in China.
The Revolution of 1911:
The Qing Dynasty was near its end. In 1908, Empress Dowager Ci Xi died. Her nephew, Guang Xu, a prisoner in the palace, died one day before his aunt. The throne was now occupied by China’s “last emperor”, the infant Henry Pu Yi.
In October 1911, the followers of Sun Yat-sen launched an uprising in central China. At the time, Sun was traveling in the United States. Thus, the revolt had no leader, but the government was too weak to react. The Qing Dynasty collapsed, opening the way for new political forces.
Sun’s party had neither the military nor the political strength to form a new government. The party was forced to turn to a member of the old order, General Yuan Shigai (YOO*AHN SHUR*GIE), who controlled the army.
Yuan was a prominent figure in military circles, and he had been placed in charge of the imperial army sent to suppress the rebellion. Instead, he abandoned the government and negotiated with members of Sun Yat-sen’s party. General Yuan agreed to serve as president of a new Chinese republic and to allow the election of a legislature. Sun himself arrived in China in January 1912, after reading about the revolution in a Denver, Colorado newspaper.
In the eyes of Sun Yat-sen’s party, the events of 1911 were a glorious revolution that ended 2,000 years of imperial rule. However, the 1911 uprising was hardly a revolution. It produced no new political or social order. Sun Yat-sen and his followers still had much to accomplish.
The Revolutionary Alliance was supported mainly by an emerging urban middle class, and its program was based largely on the Western liberal democratic principles. However, the urban middle class in China was too small to support a new political order. Most of the Chinese people still lived on the land, and few peasants supported Sun Yat-sen’s party. In effect, then, the events of 1911 were less a revolution than a collapse of the old order.
An Era of Civil War:
After the collapse of the Qing Dynasty, the military took over. Sun Yat-sen and his colleagues accepted General Yuan Shigai as president of the new Chinese republic in 1911, because they lacked the military force to compete with his army. Many feared that if the revolt lapses into chaos, the Western powers would intervene. If that happened, the last shreds of Chinese independence would be lost. However, even the general’s new allies distrusted his motives.
Yuan understood little of the new ideas sweeping into China from the West. He ruled in a traditional manner and even tried to set up a new imperial dynasty. The reformers hated Yuan for using murder and terror to destroy the new democratic institutions. The traditionalists, who had supported the Qing, hated Yuan for being disloyal to the dynasty he had served.
Yuan’s dictatorial efforts rapidly led to clashes with Sun’s party, now renamed the Guomindang or Nationalist Party. When Yuan dissolved the new parliament, the Nationalists launched a rebellion. The rebellion failed, and Sun Yat-sen fled to Japan.
Yuan was strong enough to brush off the challenge from the revolutionary forces, but he could not turn back history. He died in 1916, and he was succeeded by one of his officers. Over the next several years, China slipped into civil war as the power of the central government disintegrated and military warlords seized power in the provinces. Their soldiers caused massive destruction throughout China.
From “Chapter 25 Revolutionary Chaos in China---pages 836-841” in Glencoe World History Textbook
Nationalists and Communists:
Revolutionary Marxism had its greatest impact in China. By 1920, central authority had ceased to exist in China. Two political forces began to emerge as competitors for the right to rule China: Sun Yat-sen’s Nationalist Party and the Chinese Communist Party.
The Nationalists-Communist Alliance:
In 1921 a group of young radicals, including several faculty and staff members from Beijing University, founded the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the commercial and industrial city of Shanghai. Soviet Union agents soon advised the new party to join with the more experienced Nationalist Party.
Sun Yat-sen, leader of the Nationalists, welcomed the cooperation. He needed the expertise that the Soviet Union could provide. His anti-imperialist words had alienated the Western powers. In 1923, the two parties, Nationalists and Communists, formed an alliance to oppose the warlords and drive the imperialists powers out of China.
For over three years, the two parties overlooked their mutual suspicions and worked together. They formed a revolutionary army to march north and seize control over China. This Northern Expedition began in the summer of 1926. By the following spring, the revolutionary forces had taken control of all of China south of the Yangtze River.
Tensions between the parties eventually began to surface. Sun Yat-sen died in 1925, and General Chiang Kai-shek (JYAHNG KY*SHEHK) succeeded him as the head of the Nationalist Party. Chiang pretended to support the alliance with the Communists until April 1927, when he struck against them in Shanghai, killing thousands. After the Shanghai Massacre, the Nationalist-Communist Alliance ceased to exist.
In 1928 Chiang Kai-shek founded a new Chinese republic at Nanjing. During the next three years, he worked to reunify China. Although Chiang saw Japan as a serious threat, he believed that the Communists were more dangerous.
The Communists in Hiding:
After the Shanghai Massacre, most of the Communist leaders went into hiding in the city. There, they tried to revise the Communist Party among the working class. People were discontented and looking for leadership.
Some party members fled to the mountainous Jiangxi. They were led by the young Communist organizer, Mao Zedong or Mao Tse-tung (MOW DZUH*DUNG). Unlike most of the leading members of the Communist Party, Mao was convinced that a Chinese revolution would be driven by the poverty-stricken peasants in the country-side rather than by the urban working class.
Chiang Kai-shek now tried to root out the Communists of their urban base in Shanghai and their rural base of Jiangxi Province. He succeeded in Shanghai in 1931. Chiang Kai-shek then turned his forces against Mao’s stronghold in the Jiangxi Province. Chiang’s forces outnumbered Mao’s, but Mao made effective use of guerrilla warfare tactics, using unexpected methods like sabotage and deception to fight the enemy.
The Long March:
In 1934, Chiang’s troops, with their superior military strength, surrounded the Communist base in Jiangxi and set up a blockade of the stronghold. With the villages behind Chiang’s troops, no food or supplies could pass to the Communist base. Chiang even built small forts to prevent Communist raids, Mao’s army, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), broke through the Nationalist lines and began its famous Long March.
Both Mao and Chiang knew that unless Mao’s army could cross the Chang Jiang, it would be wiped out. Mao’s army began a desperate race. Moving on foot through mountains, marshes, rivers, and deserts, the army traveled almost 6,000 miles averaging 24 miles each day, to reach the last surviving Communist base in northwest China. All along those miles, Mao’s troops had to fight Chiang’s army.
The Long March was physically demanding. It took over a year. Many of Mao’s troops froze or starved. On survivor talked about eating their horses and wild vegetables when their grain was gone. Only one-tenth of Mao’s 90,000 troops reached the final destination.
Despite the great difficulty of the journey, the Long March was crucial for the Communists, because it helped to build support among the Chinese people. Unlike the Nationalist soldiers, who often abused and stole from the peasants, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers followed Mao’s instructions to treat the peasants with respect. Their behavior helped the PLCA to gain the support of the masses, which would prove to be key to eventual victory.
Mao’s leadership during the Long March also helped to establish him as the clear leader of the Communists
The New China:
Even while trying to root out Mao’s Communist forces with extreme brutality, at the same time, Chiang was trying to modernize China. He was an ally of the United States. And with their support, he began to modernize China with a massive road-building program and repaired and extended China’s railroad system. He opened up new factories, and ended many of the rights and privileges of the imperialist powers in China by ending their leases and extraterritorial status. He set up a national bank and improved education. All of this Westernization gained the support of the middle class for Chiang, but he mistakes and abuses of power alienated the intellectuals, political moderates, and the huge peasant class that made up 80% of China’s population. The peasants were frustrated that he made no real improvements for the rural areas, and that there was no redistribution of land and wealth. His repressive government did not allow freedom of the press or speech turned away the intellectuals and some of the Nationalists who believed in Sun Yat-sen’s vision for China.
Civil War and Its Aftermath:
Due to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and the Rape of Nanjing, the Chinese Civil War came to a halt, as both the Nationalists and Communist came together to fight the bigger threat of the Japanese. However, once World War Two ended, the Chinese Civil War resumed.
By 1945, there were two Chinese governments. The Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek based in the southern and central China supported by the United States. The Communist government, led by Mao Zedong, had its based in northern China and the support of the Soviet Union.
In the countryside, promises of land attracted millions of peasants to the Communist Party. Many joined Mao’s People’s Liberation Army. By the spring of 1949, the People’s Liberation Army had defeated the Nationalists. Chiang Kai-shek and his two million followers fled to the island of Taiwan.
The Communist Party, under the leadership of Chairman Mao Zedong, now ruled China.