|The Republic of China (1912 - 1949)|
After the fall of the Qing Dynasty, China ushered in the period of the Republic of China which was, after years of struggle, established by Dr. Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925), the leader of the Revolutionary League of China. Ever since the Wuchang Revolution, nearly all provinces quickly responded to it, which placed the Qing government in increasingly desperate straits. On January 1, 1912, Dr. Sun proclaimed the founding of the Republic of China in Nanjing and was made the Provisional President, marking the end of more than two thousand years of monarchical rule. However, with the support of foreign powers and his Beiyang Army, Yuan Shikai (1859-1916) forced Dr. Sun to abdicate the presidency to him and on March 10, 1912 became the President in Beijing. From then on, China was plunged into a period of warlordism by the Beiyang (northern) warlords controlled by the Beijing government. On one hand, Yuan sought foreign support and, on the other, exercised dictatorship over the country. After Yuan's failure in a monarchy restoration attempt in 1916, the Wan (Anhui Province) faction led by Duan Qirui, the Zhi (Hebei Province) faction by Feng Guozhang and Cao Kun, and the Feng (Liaoning Province) faction by Zhang Zuolin successively took over the control of the Beijing government. At that time, foreign powers increased their encroachment and looting upon China and years of warfare among warlords again put China in turmoil.
During the period of warlordism, Dr. Sun strove hard for the accomplishment of real democratic republicanism while intellectuals (Chen Duxiu, Hu Shi, etc.) started launching ideological and cultural enlightenment programs. Once the May Fourth Movement took place in 1919, different ideologies like communism emerged in China. In July 1921, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was established. Having obtained the support from the Soviet Union and the Comintern, the CCP pushed Dr. Sun to reorganise the Nationalist Party of China (Kuomintang or KMT), realising the first cooperation between the two parties and sparking off the great national revolution. On April 12, 1927 when the Northern Expedition forces gained victory after victory, Chiang Kai-shek staged the "April 12th coup d'etat" in Shanghai to clear the CCP members out of the KMT Party and established the Nanjing Nationalist Government. In July, Wang Jingwei likewise staged the "July 15th coup d'etat" in Wuhan, which ended the Nationalist-Communist co-operation. It started the Nanjing Government (KMT) period of the Republic of China. While reorganising the KMT and oppressing the CCP, Chiang continued the Northern Expedition against Zhang Zuolin who was eventually killed in a bombing at Huanggutun, Shenyang in July 1928. On December 29, the latter's son, Zhang Xueliang, announced his decision to serve the Nanjing Government which finally achieved a temporary success in the unification of China.
Meanwhile, the CCP, in resisting the KMT's oppression, organised armed revolts and established the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army with villages as bases. Mao Zedong gradually became the CCP leader and developed his theory of "seizing sovereignty by besieging cities with villages and armed forces." In November 1931, the Soviet Republic of China was founded and Mao was appointed the President. Having crushed the few power factions of the KMT, Chiang mounted a massive, all-sides attack toward the CCP and the Red Army who were forced to take the Long March after their fifth failure in breaking through the KMT enclosure.
Earlier in the same year, the Japanese had already staged the "September 18th Incident", occupied Northeast China, established a puppet Manchukuo and continued their encroachment upon China. The whole country requested the Nanjing Government to launch a war of resistance against Japan. Chiang, however, insisted on summoning up all forces to first deal with the CCP. After the 1935 Northern China Incident, Chiang revised his military policy and strategy, and started to negotiate with the CCP for the preparation of the war against Japan. The 1936 "Xi'an Incident" led to the end of the civil war between the CCP and the KMT. In July 1937, Japan launched the "Lugouqiao Incident" which provoked the War of Resistance against Japan. The CCP and the KMT cooperated for the second time.
Both the KMT forces and the CCP forces (the Eighth Route Army and the New Fourth Army), fighting together in different battle fields, contributed significantly in their own ways in consuming the Japanese forces and slowing down their march. Though the Wang Jingwei group of the KMT once defected to Japan, Chiang persisted in fighting the anti-Japanese war. On August 15, 1945 Japan proclaimed her unconditional surrender and China finally won the War. Nevertheless, an all-out civil war broke out in June 1946, which eventually ended with KMT forces' major defeats and the People's Liberation Army taking over Nanjing. On October 1, 1949, the People's Republic of China was established in Beijing and in December, the Republic of China removed to Taiwan.
(Authored by Professor Peng Ming, the People's University; translated by Xu Fangfu, Associate Professor of English, The Petroleum University)