Periods of Chinese History
Prehistory: Revolution Against the Manchus -
The Wuchang Uprising -
Sun Yat-sen's Provisional Government of Nanjing -
Rise and Fall of Yuan Shikai -
The Period of the Warlords -
The Rise of the Communists -
Chiang Kai-shek and the Northern Expedition -
The Nanjing Government and the Suppression of Communism -
The War Against Japan -
Civil War and "Liberation"|
The Qing Dynasty 清, founded in 1644 by the Non-Chinese Manchu federation, has lead China to glory and prosperity during the 18th century. With the advent of Western merchants, followed by troops supporting their market expansion into China, the high-balance civilization of Qing China was challenged in a way that proved more and more the inability of the Manchu government to cope with the technically superior West and its aggressive colonialist behaviour. Even the self-strengthening movement of the highest bureaucrat nobility could not alter the backwardness of Qing China against the Western imperialists. The lost war of 1895 against Japan - an Asian nation that had been able to reform itself - and the shameful defeat during the Boxer Uprising in 1900 convinced Chinese intellectuals that reform (gaige 改革) was not the way to resolve China's problems. The only way to save China from further exploitation was the overthrow of the corrupt and unable Manchu goverment: revolution (geming 革命).
The military uprising that took place on October 10, 1911 in Wuchang 武昌 (a part of modern Wuhan 武漢/Hubei) was lead by some revolutionary soldiers of the local New Army (xinjun 新軍) as reaction on the nationalization of the Sichuan railway, was immediately answered by many provincial troops among China. One of the leaders of the Wuchang uprising (Wuchang qiyi 武昌起義), Li Yuanhong 黎元洪, was chosen as governor (dudu 都督) of the independent Hubei military government, and from this area, the outline for a provisional national government was promoted that sould be administered from Nanjing. Sun Yat-sen (Sun Wen 孫文 or Sun Zhongshan 孫中山), the prominent leader of the Chinese revolutionaries, should act as president (dazongtong 大總統) of the republican government. In January 1912 Sun Yat-sen took over presidency over the Republic of China (Zhonghua minguo 中華民國), introduced the solar calendar, fixed 1912 as the first year of the Republic (similar to the traditional reign mottos of the emperors), and fixed a new national flag with five colors.
The adminstration of the provisional republican government in Nanjing followed the separation of powers of modern Western style republics. The ministers of the republic came partially from Sun Yat-sen's Tongmenghui 同盟會, partially from the Constitutionalist Party Lixianpai 立憲派, the most famous minister being education minister Cai Yuanpei 蔡元培. The legislation was in the hands of the Legislation Court or Upper House (Canyiyuan 參議院), representants from the provinces. In the eyes of communist historians, the year 1912 is interpreted as the end of the "feudal age" and the beginning of the age of bourgeois rulership after a bourgeois revolution (1911 was the year xinhai 辛亥 according to the traditional Chinese calendric system, the revolution is hence called Xinhai geming 辛亥革命). The new republican government acknowledged the unequal treatises (bupingdeng tiaoyue 不平等條約) signed between the Qing government and the foreign powers, and took over the foreign debts of the Qing government. But instead of resuming relationships with the new government of China, many foreign states supported the northern potentate Yuan Shikai 袁世凱. Under the pressure of Yuan Shikai president Sun Yat-sen retreated from his office, fled to Japan together with his right hand Huang Xing 黃興, and the mighty ruler of the north, Yuan Shikai, took over presidency.
Yuan Shikai (1859-1916; old: Yuan Shih-k'ai) 袁世凱 was military governor of Korea during the last few decades of the Qing Dynasty and one of the mightiest persons of the late Qing empire after the dead of Li Hongzhang 李鴻章 as governor (zongdu 總督) of Zhili Province 直隸 (modern Hebei) and commander of the Beiyang Standing Army (Beiyang (Changbei) Jun 北洋常備軍). With the Qing government in disturbance after the Wuchang uprising, the Beiyang Army took over the de facto power within the state. After initial negotiations with the interim government at Nanjing Yuan Shikai accepted the new government of the revolutionary parties but only with himself as president. On February 12, 1912 he forced the six years old Xuantong Emperor 宣統 Puyi 溥儀 to retreat. Three days later, Sun Yat-sen conferred the office of president to the potentate Yuan Shikai to save the young Republic of China. Sun Yat-sen who wanted to build a cabinet renamed and reorganized his party, the Tongmenghui 同盟會 "Alliance Society", to Guomindang 國民黨 "National People's Party" (in the Chiang Kai-shek era translateable as "Nationalist Party"). Yuan Shikai meanwhile expelled the Guomindang members from the cabinet and forced them to withdraw to the south. The party member Song Jiaoren 宋教仁 was murdered, and the constitutionalist leader Liang Qichao 梁啟超 was stimulated to found the Jinbudang 進步黨 "Progress Party" as a counter force to the Guomindang. With the help of foreign capital Yuan Shikai's army suppressed a second revolutionary movement of Sun Yat-sen (Erci geming 二次革命) in 1913, dissolved the parliament (guohui 國會) and the executive court to create his own "participating" court (canzhengyuan 參政院) and his own cabinet with Tang Shaoyi 唐紹儀 as premier - who soon left the cabinet and entered the Guomindang -, as a legitimization of his dictatorship. To achieve international support for his plans to mount the imperial throne, he accepted the Twenty-one Articles (Ershiyitiao 二十一條) that Japan had imposed onto China. On December 11, 1915 he had himself proclaimed emperor by a puppet parliament, with the reign motto Hongxian 洪憲, the cabinet or state council ( 國務院) was renamed to the old style "Hall of government affairs" (zhengshitang 政事堂). In the same month, not only the republican parties, but also many military leaders like Duan Qirui 段祺瑞, Feng Guozhang 馮國璋, Cai E 蔡鍔, and Tang Jiyao 唐繼堯, rose their weapons against the imperial dictator in a struggle called "war to protect the nation" (huguo zhanzheng 護國戰爭). Many provincial leaders of southern China declared the independance of their province from Yuan Shikai's empire. Yuan unexpectedly died on June 6, 1916.
The years from the death of Yuan Shikai until the the unification of China by Chiang Kai-shek 蔣介石 (Jiang Jieshi) are called the period of the Beiyang warlords (Beiyang junfa 北洋軍閥), their administration is called the Beiyang government (Beiyang zhengzhi 北洋政治).
The succession of Yuan Shikai is signified by several powerful groups of generals called warlords (junfa 軍閥) that made alliances or fought against each other. The most powerful person of the first phase was Duan Qirui 段祺瑞 who installed a new parliament (Anfu guohui 安福國會) in 1918 and made Xu Shichang 徐世昌 president. In a short interlude of 1917 Zhang Xun 張勛 wanted to reinstall the last emperor of Qing 清 (Zhang Xun fubi 張勛復辟). While most of the warlords reigned over the northern part of China, the forces of the Guomindang were still prevalent in the south. In June 1917 Sun Yat-sen established a military government (da yuanshuai fu 大元帥府) in Guangzhou with Tang Jiyao 唐繼堯 and Lu Rongting 陸榮廷, their mission being the protection of the constitution (hufa 護法). When Lu Rongting seized the power and founded the Guizhou military clique (Guixi 桂系; Tang Jiyao commanded the Yunnan Clique Dianxi 滇系) Sun Yat-sen fled to Shanghai. In the north, three other military cliques dominated the political order: Duan Qirui's Anhui Clique (Wanxi 皖系), Zhang Zuolin's 張作霖 Fengtian Clique (Fengtianxi 奉天系; in modern Liaoning), and Feng Guozhang's 馮國璋 Zhili Clique (Zhixi 直系) that was taken over in 1919 by Cao Kun 曹錕, Wu Peifu 吳佩孚, and Sun Chuanfang 孫傳芳. In 1920 the Anhui Clique that was accused of collaborating with Japan was defeated by Cao Kun and should further play no important role in the question of who reigned the northern capital Beijing. The two other groups, the Zhili and Fengtian Cliques, had two clashes in 1922 and 1924. After the first war in 1922 Zhang Zuolin declared his independence, followed by many military governors of the south that reigned independently from the center in Beijing that was dominated by Cao Kun's Zhili Clique. After Cao Kun had made the puppet parliament elect him as president in 1924, the governor of Zhejiang, Lu Yongxiang 盧永祥, created an alliance with Zhang Zuolin and Sun Yat-sen. Wu Peifu sent out Sun Chuanfang, governor of Jiangsu, to subdue the rebellion of Lu Yongxiang, and at the same time Zhang Zuolin attacked Beijing with the support of marshal Feng Yuxiang 馮玉祥. After the victory of the Fengtian Clique Duan Qirui was made president and proclaimed a provisional government (linshi zhizhengfu 臨時執政府). He did not install a cabinet but directly controlled the ministries and accepted the Qing time unequal treatises that imposed heavy financial burdens upon the Republican governments, in order to achieve international support.
The period of the warlords can thus be divided into four parts: the government of Yuan Shikai 1912-1916, the domination of the Anhui Clique 1916-1920, the domination of the Zhili Clique 1920-1924, and the domination of the Fengtian Clique 1924-1928.
Under the impression of the October Revolution in Russia and the May Fourth Movement (wu-si yundong 五‧四運動) the Communist Party of China (Zhongguo gongchandang 中國共產黨, short: Zhonggong 中共) was founded on July 1, 1921 under the guideline of the Moscow-lead Communist International (Comintern; Gongchan guoji 共產國際). Founding members were Chen Duxiu 陳獨秀, Li Dazhao 李大釗, Zhang Guotao 張國燾, Dong Biwu 董必武, Li Da 李達, and Mao Zedong 毛澤東 (?). Goal of the communist party was the guidance of workers, peasants, and soldiers to the socialist revolution, the abolition of private ownership of production equipment, the takeover of the state power and the construction of the dictatorship of the proletariate, the abolition of social classes, and the realization of communism. With the 2nd national congress (Zhonggong dierci quanguo daibiao dahui 中共第二次全國代表大會) the communist party began systematically to organize worker strikes that were bloodily suppressed in 1922, and in 1925 in Shanghai and Guangzhou (May 30, wu-sa can'an 五‧卅慘案 and wu-sa yundong 五‧卅運動, followed by huge strikes throughout the country and in Hong Kong, Sheng-Gang da bagong 省港大罷工). In 1923 when Sun Yat-sen started to reorganize the Guomindang and installed a military government in Guangzhou, the Soviet advisors A.A.Yoffe (Chinese: Yuefei 越飛) and M.M. Borodin (Chinese: Baoluoting 鮑羅廷) proposed the Guomindang and the Communist Party to unite in a front against the Beiyang government (Guo-Gong hezuo 國共合作), and double membership of the parties became thus quite common for communists. Sun Yat-sen had lost his faith in the will of the western powers to cooperate with China and more and more leaned towards the Soviet Union. After Chiang Kai-shek seized the power of the Guomindang and had achieved first successes in the Northern Expedition the communists were expelled from the Guomindang, and on April 12, 1927 a workers movement in Shanghai was brutally suppressed by Chiang Kai-shek (Si-yi'er zhengbian 四‧一二政變), and he as well as Wang Jingwei 汪精衛 began to purify the Guomindang (qingdang qugong 清黨驅共) from communist and leftist members like Song Qingling 宋慶齡, widow of Sun Yat-sen, and ended the first alliance between the Guomindang and the Communists.
In 1924 Sun Yat-sen reorganized the Guomindang in Guangdong and hold the first national congress (Guomindang diyici quanguo daibiao dahui 國民黨第一次全國代表大會) during that he newly stressed the Three Principles of the People (sanmin zhuyi 三民主義: nationalism, democracy, people's livelihood - minzu zhuyi 民族主義, minquan zhuyi 民權主義, minsheng zhuyi 民生主義 - and actually anti-imperialism). Within the united front with the Communist Party, he followed three principles of politics (sanda zhengce 三大政策): alliance with the Soviet Union (lian Su 聯蘇), with the Communist Party (lian Gong 聯共), and supporting peasants and workers (fuzhu nonggong 扶助農工). As military base for the party served the new founded Huangpu military academy (in the West known as Whampoa; Huangpu junxiao 黃埔軍校) with Chiang Kai-shek and Liao Zhongkai 廖仲愷 as directors. In the hope to reunite China Sun Yat-sen traveled to Beijing where he wanted to organize a parliament with the help of Zhang Zuolin and Feng Yuxiang. Because he intended not further to accept the Twenty-one Articles imposed by Japan Sun Yat-sen was internationally not acknowledged. He suddenly died on March 12, 1925 in Beijing.
In the year 1925 the Guomindang was able to gain control over the southernmost part of China after defeating the warlord Chen Jiongming 陳炯明 and the Yunnan and Guizhou Cliques in the eastern conquest campaign (Guomin gemingjun dongzheng 國民革命軍東征). After the sudden death of Sun Yat-sen the dominating persons of the party were Wang Jingwei 汪精衛, Liao Zhongkai, Hu Hanmin 胡漢民, Tan Yankai 譚延闓, Lin Zuhan 林祖涵, Chen Gongbo 陳工博, Gan Naiguang 甘乃光, Yang Paoan 楊匏安, and Xu Chongzhi 許崇智 that were members of the central executive committee (zhongyang zhixing weiyuanhui 中央執行委員會) after the foundation of the newly proclaimed Republican Government ((Guangzhou) Guomin zhengfu 廣州國民政府). With the domination of the right wing, the three political guidelines of Sun Yat-sen to cooperate with the Communists were soon refused. After the second national congress in early 1926 Chiang Kai-shek became the prominent person of the party and forced Wang Jingwei to leave the country. Nonetheless, the cooperation with the Communist party was still intact and should be kept during the first phase of the Northern Expedition (Beifa zhanzheng 北伐戰爭) that was initiated in July 1926 to conquer the northern parts of China that were controlled by several warlords (junfa 軍閥).
Wu Peifu 吳佩孚 controlled the region from Zhili 直隸 (modern Hebei) down to Hunan, Sun Chuanfang 孫傳芳 the region from Anhui and Jiangsu down to Fujian and Jiangxi, Zhang Zuolin 張作霖 Jingzhao 京兆 (Beijing) and Fengtian 奉天 (east of modern Liaoning), while the Guomindang controlled Guangxi and Guangdong (Liangguang 兩廣). Except these, the warlord Yan Xishan 閻錫山 controlled Shanxi, Feng Yuxiang 馮玉祥 Gansu and Suiyuan 綏遠 (modern Inner Mongolia), and Tang Jiyao 唐繼堯 Yunnan. Feng and Yan later supported the Guomindang. The highest generals of the Guomindang National Revolution Army (Guomin geming jun 國民革命軍, or Beifajun 北伐軍 "Northern Expedition armies") were Chiang Kai-shek, Li Jishen 李濟深, Bai Chongxi 白崇禧, Deng Yanda 鄧演達, and the writer Guo Moruo 郭沫若. The Soviet advisor V.K. Blyukher (Chinese: Jialun 加倫) assisted the Guomindang army, and some communist troops took part in the Northern Expedition. In June 1926 Jiangxi could be conquered, as ideologic historians claim, only with the help of the communist Ye Ting 葉挺, in July Hunan, the important city of Wuhan fell in october after the fierce battle of the Dingsi Bridge 汀泗橋. The capital of the Guangzhou administration was immediately shifted to Wuhan and taken over by Wang Jingwei 汪精衛, while Chiang Kai-shek who did not yet totally control the Guomindang preferred Nanchang 南昌/Jiangxi. Nanjing had been occupied in March 1927, after the provinces Fujian, Zhejiang, and Shanghai fell into the hands of the National Revolution Army. Meanwhile, Feng Yuxiang with his National Army (Guominjun 國民軍) had conquered the regions of Gansu and Shaanxi. The question of a real contribution of communists troops under Deng Xiaoping 鄧小平 and Zhou Enlai 周恩來 shall not be discussed here. A workers movement in Shanghai was brutally suppressed by Chiang Kai-shek, and he began to purify the Guomindang from communist members, and ended the first alliance between the Guomindang and the Communists. In the summer of 1927 the unity of China was not achieved: Chiang Kai-shek ruled in Nanjing (Ning 寧), Wang Jingwei in Wuhan (Han 漢), the and the Xishan Group (Xishan huiyi pai 西山會議派) of the Guomindang under Xie Chi 謝持 and Lin Sen 林森 in Shanghai (Hu 沪). The warlord Zhang Zuolin reigned in Beijing. The power of Sun Chuanfang and Wu Peifu was crushed, but Zhang Zuolin with his Anguo army (Anguojun 安國軍; "Army Pacifying the Country") was still a mighty potentate in northern China.
In June 1927 Zhang Zuolin constituted a new government and took over the administration as marshal to unite the last forces of the northern warlords. When Zhang Zuolin saw that he could not further withstand the Guomindang troops, he left Beijing and planned to escape to Shenyang. On the way, his train exploded by a Japanese (?) bomb, and Zhang Zuolin died near Huanggutun (hence called "Huanggutun incident" Huanggutun shijian 皇姑屯事件). His son Zhang Xueliang 張學良, the "Young Marshal", submitted the National Revolution army and Northeast China "changed its flag" (Dongbei yi zhi 東北易幟). Nominally, the greatest part of China was now reunited under the control of the Guomindang. Nanjing being the capital, Beijing was renamed Beiping 北平 "Northern Peace".
The Guomindang government of Wuhan that still followed the united front with the Communists was represented by Sun Ke 孫科, Xu Qian 徐謙, Wang Jingwei, Tan Yankai, Li Zongren 李宗仁, Tang Shengzhi 唐生智, and Song Ziwen 宋子文 (T.V. Song), two ministers were members of the Communist Party. In April 1927 Chiang Kai-shek proclaimed an second Guomindang government in Nanjing (Nangjing guoming zhengfu 南京國民政府), but in June Wang Jingwei united his government with that of Chiang Kai-shek. Again in october, a war between Chiang Kai-shek and Tang Shengzhi consolidated the power of the Nanjing government after Tang was defeated and Cheng Qian 程潛 separated from the Wuhan government.
In 1928 Chiang Kai-shek restructured his government and took over the position of chairman of the republican government and of commander-in-chief of army, navy, and airforce ("generalissimo", da yuanshuai 大元帥). His central government, lead by one party, the Guomindang, was structured in five courts (see political system of the Republic), and his government was internationally acknowledged as the representant of China.
In 1929 Jiang was able to destroy the Guizhou Clique (Guixi 桂系) under Li Zongren 李宗仁 and Bai Chongxi 白崇禧, and in 1930 he could finally dominate the military forces of the Guomindang after the fierce war against the last warlords, Yan Xishan 閻錫山, and Feng Yuxiang 馮玉祥 in northern China.
From now on, the political and military activities of Chiang Kai-shek concentrated on the destruction of the Communists. In fact, his politics show some facets of so-called "fascist" regimes, and the main point of this type of regime that experienced a highlight during the begin of the 1930es , an ideology that is oriented towards a glorious past, was invented by Chiang in his new life movement (xin shenghuo yundong 新生活運動) with the stress of Confucian virtues and the veneration of the exemplarious Confucian literate Zeng Guofan 曾國藩, a 19th century politician and literate. But instead of carrying out political and social reforms, Chiang interpreted his rule as a tutelage phase for the Chinese people to prepare them for democracy. Furthermore, he was overoccupied with the duty of extincting the Communists, and the capital needed for his campaigns and anti-communist activities was brutally seized from industrial and financial circles.
Chiang's first strike against the Communist Party had taken place in Shanghai in 1927, later in Guangzhou with the bloody suppression of workers strikes and demonstrations, and at the same time with the defeating of Mao Zedong's Autumn Harvest Uprisings in Jiangxi province. Meanwhile, the basis of the Communist Party had shifted from the workers in the cities to the peasants in the countryside (a theory supported, if not created, by Mao Zedong). Mao Zedong was able to unite several rural soviets (suweiai) that had been founded in the mountainous area of Jiangxi. Other soviets
Between 1937 and 1945 Japan conquered large parts of China, impending the Second World War (Shijie dier da zhanzheng 世界第二大戰爭) on East Asia. Not supported by any Western power, at least until 1941, China had to fight alone against the technically superior Japanese, and at the same time, had to overcome the internal struggles between the nationalists (Chiang Kai-shek) and the communists (Mao Zedong) in order to fight the intruder in a united front. Only from 1941, when Japan attacked territories of Great Britain and the United States, the Japanes activities war theatre in China relaxed somewhat. The war of resistance against Japan (Kang Ri zhanzheng 抗日戰爭) became one of the heroic episodes in Chinese history and was claimed as successful operation by both nationalists and communists.
The first act of Japan as a successor of the Western imperialist (diguozhuyi 帝國主義) powers came in 1894 when the Chinese fleet was defeated by a modernized Japanese naval fleet, the so-called War of the Jiawu Year (Jiawu zhanzheng 甲午戰爭). Taiwan was ceded to Japan. The second step came when the Western states were engaged in the First World War and neglected their colonies and spheres of interest in the Far East. In 1915 Japan forced Yuan Shikai to sign a treaty with twenty-one-articles that allowed Japan to take over the former German colonies, free movement of Japanese (traders and salesmen), concessional territories at Lüshun 旅順 (Port Arthur) and Dalian 大連 (Japanese: Dairen)/Liaoning on the Liaodong Peninsula 遼東半島, the management of the railways and many ironworks (like Hanyeping 漢冶萍) in the northeast, and the right to advision in political, military and financial issues. In September 1931 (the so-called incident of September, 18, Jiu-shiba shijian 九 ‧ 十八事件) the Japanese Kantō army ("Guandong" 關東) occupied southern Manchuria and made this northern part of China (Huabei 華北 "Northern China") a Japanese colony. Already at this stage of the conflict it became clear that Chiang Kai-shek opted for the continuation of his policy of "encirclement" (weijiao 圍剿) and destruction of the communists and not for a war of resistance against Japan. The communists meanwhile began to recruit special military units for the resistance, the United Resistance Army of the Northeast (Dongbei kang Ri lianjun 東北抗日聯軍), and the Heroic Resistance Army of the Northeast (Dongbei kang Ri yiyongjun 東北抗日義勇軍). The reasons for this military engagement of Japans are manifold, although the communist historians only reduce it to the need of raw materials for the advanced Japanese capitalist industry. This theory totally neglects the internal reasons of the general militarisation of Japanese life and politics whose representants, the highest military, had a need for combat engagement - similiar to the Europeans in August 1914. A further point are ideological reasons that - in the shape of a political symptom that is sometimes called "Tenno-Fascism" - pursued the erection of a Japanese empire that ruled over a sphere of prosperity in East Asia. This point clearly contradicts the communist viewpoint that argues that Japan as an imperialist power only strove to exploit the occupied countries. The self-understanding of Japan as a cultured and advanced nation at that time is therefore not unlike that of the traditional Chinese empires that saw themselves as propagator of wealth and civilisation.
With the indicent at the so-called Marco Polo Bridge (Lugouqiao 盧溝橋) on July 7 in 1937 (the so-called "Seven-seven indicent" Qi-qi shijian 七 ‧ 七事件), the military engagement of Japan in China began. Already in 1936 especially the communist party voted for a united front against the Japanese aggressor. Because Chiang Kai-shek did not pursue a similar policy but instead continued to fight the communists, a group of generals under the command of Zhang Xueliang 張學良, son of the warlords Zhang Zuolin 張作霖, took Chiang Kai-shek prisoner when he stayed in Xi'an 西安/Shaanxi and forced him to consent to a united front (tongyi zhanxian 統一戰線) and cooperation (Guo-Gong hezuo 國共合作) with the Communist Party against the Japanese aggressor (the so-called Xi'an indicent [Xi'an shibian 西安事變] of December 12, 1936).
In August the highest command of the communist Revolutionary Army (Gemingjun 革命軍) restructured the 1st, 2nd and 4th Workers and Peasant Army (Gongnongjun 工農軍) and created the 8th Route Army (Balujun 八路軍; of the National Revolution Army (!), i.e. a sub-army of the Guomindang government) under the command of the famous Marshal Zhu De 朱德. This army later constituted the core of the People's Liberation Army (Renmin jiefang jun 人民解放軍). The southern groups of communist armies were united as New 4th Army (Xinsijun 新四軍).
The Japanese armies quickly advanced, expecially from the East coast in the Song-Hu 淞滬 area (Shanghai and westwards) and captured the Chinese Republic's capital Nanjing where parts of the Japanese occupants indulged in most cruel atrocities against the capital's population, known as the Nanjing massacre (Nanjing da tusha 南京大屠殺) from December 1937. The government had withdrawn to the west, to Wuhan, that has been a Guomindang base since the Northern expedition. In September Chiang Kai-shek convoked all important political parties to participate in a national defence conference (guofang huiyi 國防會議) and tried to unite all national forces, especially the communists, for a common fight of resistance against the Japanese aggressor. A "participating conference" (canzhenghui 參政會) was created, communist representants were invited, but it soon became clear that both parties, the Guomindang and the communists, had different views of how to repel the intruders. The most important battles at that time were fought for the railway between Beiping (Beijing) and Shanghai (Jing-Hu huizhan 京滬會戰), the battle for Xuzhou 徐州/Jiangsu, and the fight for Wuhan. A first victory for the Chinese side was achieved at Pingxin Pass 平型關/Shanxi in September 1937. Already at this early stage of the war it became clear that the Japanese were able to occupy cities while the countryside stayed largely in the hands of Chinese troops (as operational base, genjudi 根據地). Of strategic importance for both sides were therefore the communication lines between the cities: the fight for the railways. Although the Japanese armies had occupied China's northwest and the most part of the Eastcoast, a three-month blitzkrieg to conquer China was made impossible. Instead, the Japanese forces were drawn into a protracted war (chijiuzhan 持久戰) against the Chinese, especially communist guerilla-like troops.
In October 1938 Wuhan and Guangzhou (Canton)/Guangdong fell into the hands of the Japanese, the national government withdrew to Chongqing. From the next year on the Japanese airforce started to bomb the larger Chinese cities in the west that were not reached by the ground forces. A part of Guomindang politicians at this point decided to surrender to the Japanese. Their leader, Wang Jingwei 汪精衛, was made chairman of a national government in Nanjing, as puppet of the Japanese occupants. His government is usually called the "Usurpatorious Nationalist Government of Wang Jingwei" (Wang wei guomin zhengfu 汪偽國民政府).
Chiang Kai-shek meanwhile saw that the communist armies had large parts of the countryside in their hands. He therefore altered his policy of cooperation and issued the new politic of "dissolving, repulsing, containing and opposing communism" (rong Gong, fang Gong, xian Gong, fan Gong 溶共,防共,限共,反共). His new attacks against units of the communist armies are known as "wiping away" the communists (fan Gong moca 反共摩擦). But the Eight Route Army was able to repell the troops of Hu Zongnan 胡宗南, Yan Xishan 閻錫山 and Shi Yousan 石友三 that tried to conquer Shaanxi and to occupy Yan'an 延安, the stronghold of the Communist Party,in 1938. In 1940 Chiang Kai-shek directed the units of the Eight Route Army and the New Fourth Army that laid south of the Yellow River 黃河, to withdraw to the north - a command which they, of course, did not obey. In January 1941 Guomindang troops encircled and attacked communist troops in southern Anhui province (Wannan shibian 皖南事變) and so ended the second period of cooperation between the Guomindang and the Communist Party. Chiang Kai-shek's main argument was that the Communist Party did not purely fight against the Japanese occupants, but instead started with politicial indoctrination and other policital activities in the area its troops had liberated (jiefangqu 解放區). Especially after the communist victory against the Japanese and their puppet regime in the "Hundred Regiments Battle" (baituan dazhan 百團大戰) from August to December 1940 the Guomindang began to fear the rising power of the Communist Party.
After Japan had attacked the United States fleet in December 1941 China and her representant Chiang Kai-shek became part of an international united front against the Japanese. With new efforts the Japanese army around Changsha 長沙/Hunan was defeated in a large battle in February 1942, and shortly thereafter Chiang Kai-shek built the Chinese Expeditionary Army (Yuanzhengjun 遠征軍) to relieve the British at the Burma front. Chiang Kai-shek was rewared with financial and material aid and was invited to participate in the Cairo Conference of the Allies (tongmengguo 同盟國) in November 1943 where the plans for the period after the war were laid.
In the last phase of the war the exhausted Guomindang troops of the south lost the great operation of the Japanese to win control over the communication lines in the south, culminating in the so-called Henan-Hunan-Guangxi battle (Yu-Xiang-Gui zhanyi 豫湘桂戰役) in 1944 which cost the Guomindang government the control over several provinces. The United States dispatched General Herli ("Heerli" 赫爾利) to assist the Guomindang general staff and to reunite the military forces of the Guomindang and the Communist Party to a united fight - which was never acheived. In May 1945 both parties started to claim to have liberated China from the Japanese, a standpoint that should immediately lead into the full-fledged military conflict of both parties against each other. In August, two days after the Hiroshima bomb was dropped, the Soviet Union declared war to Japan and started to occupy Manchuria from where the Soviet troops later took immense booty with them - to the damage of the People's Republic. On September 9, the commanding Japanese general in China, Okamura Yasuji ("Gangcun Ningci") 岡村寧次, signed the capitulation.
Eight years of war had totally exhausted the Chinese economy and had made China's people willing to accept any peace under what conditions however. But peace only came in 1949.
The last phase of the war between the Communists and the Guomindang is called the "Liberation" (jiefang 解放) by the Communists, or as the "Third Revolutionary Civil War" (disanci guonei geming zhanzheng 第三次國內革命戰爭). Still today, the army of the People's Republic is called the Liberation Army (Jiefangjun 解放軍). In Taiwan the war against the Communists is seen as the suppression of a rebellion that could simply not be lead to a victory (kanluan shili 戡亂失利). Both sides, Communists and the Guomindang, charge each other guilty for having lost the chance to create a peaceful, reunited and democratic China after more than twenty years of war. End of August 1945 Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek met in Chongqing for peace talks, and both parties were backed by one of the superpowers, Mao by Stalin, and Chiang by the USA. Still during their talks and shortly after both sides had signed common general outlines, clashes between the Liberation Army and the National Revolution Army took place. Communist historiography always stresses the willingness of the Communists, the "democratic parties" (ge minzhudang 各民主黨), and "the whole people of China" to vote for peace during new negotiations in Chongqing in January and February 1946. George C. Marshal was sent as special commissioner to Chongqing to act as mediator between both sides ("Maxieer" diaochu 馬歇爾調處), and during the Moscow conference of December 1945 (Interim Meeting of Foreign Ministers) the SU, Great Britain and the USA expressed their regrets about the continuing civil war in China. Guomindang historiographers accuse Marshal of one-sidedly sympathizing with the Communists, and by urging for a cease-fire, giving them a chance to occupy the whole northeast of China, a territory where still parts of the Soviet army were stationed but that soon left after them a political vacuum. Chiang Kai-shek was even renounced military help for eight months when two politicians, including the literatus Wen Yiduo 聞一多, were assassinated in July 1946 in Kunming/Yunnan.
Without any deeper reason, represantants of the other parties were injured by Guomindang military in February, among these Guo Moruo 郭沫若. In March during a party congress in Nanjing, the Guomindang refused to incorporate other parties, and a few months later massacred some petitioners, causing the the Xiaguan massacre.
2000 ff. © Ulrich Theobald · Mail