||Early Years of the Republic (1912-1928)|
The New Revolutionaries
During the years of warlord rule after 1916, many young Chinese joined revolutionary groups and parties, hoping this way to improve their country. Over the years, these movements include: The May Fourth Movement, Communism, and the Northern Campaign.
The May Fourth movement
The first was a protest movement against the peace treaties, which ended the Great War of 1914-18. It began on 4 May 1919 and is therefore known as the May Fourth movement. China had joined the Great War in 1917 on the side of the Western allies. Nine hundred thousand Chinese labourers were taken to France, Turkey and Africa to work for the allied armies in "labour battalions". All German ships in Chinese ports were seized and all German enterprises were shut down.
After the war Chinese representatives took place in the Paris peace conference. One of the issues was whether the Germans should continue having control of the port of Kiaochow that the Japanese had seized before the start of the war. The Japanese had also imposed the "21 demands"* to increase their influence over China. The Chinese expected to be given back Kiaochow, and for Japan to withdraw it's 21 demands. They obtained neither of these.
When the news got to China on the 4th May 1919, students started huge demonstrations in the streets. This spread to the labourers and workers who started boycotting their jobs and soon the country was on its knees. The May 4th movement added strength to a new party called the New Tide, which had already begun in 1916. It aimed to get rid of old ideas and concepts. It wanted to have a more simple and universal writing so that everybody in China could read and write. It also wanted to do away with foreign powers in China, although it did not mind using foreign ideas for doing so.
Communists and the Goumindang
One set of foreign ideas that had reached China was communism. A movement that had been started by Karl Marx in the 19th century and aimed to create a classless society where there is no private-property and everyone is equal. In 1918 an assistant librarian at the Beijing University named Mao Zedong started a society for the study of Marxism, which quickly became very popular, and lots of people came to the meetings. In 1921 the members started the Chinese Communist Party.
Meanwhile Sun Yatsen was reorganising his party, the Goumindang (People's National Party). Sun's three principles for a new society were National freedom; Democratic government; and the people's livelihood. He planed on taking over the country and liberating it from foreign power. But to do this he had to use foreign support. However the Western powers such as Britain refused to support him.
Demoralised he turned to the USSR where a communist government had taken power. Russia helped Sun by sending him Abram Joffe, one of their best diplomats, to help him reorganise the Goumindang. With Abram Joffe's help, Sun Yatsen reorganized the Goumindang on Russian communist lines. It became a mass party, run with strict discipline, with party members having to show total obedience to the party's decision. Sun invited members of the communist party to join them. Because although their motives were not the same, they had one common goal: revolution.
In 1923 the Russian government sent two more agents, Michael Borodin and General Galen. The general's job was to improve the Goumindang army so it could conquer the rest of China. He sold Sun Russian rifles and he set up an officer-training academy in Haungpu. In charge of the academy was Sun's Brother in law, Chiang Kaishek.
The Northern Campaign
On March 1925 Sun Yatsen died of Cancer. While other Goumindang leaders fought over who would take his place, Chiang Kaishek became Commanding General of the Army. By this time his military academy had turned out about 500 officers and was ready to take over China. In July 1926 Chiang Kaishek began the march towards the north. He sent forwards political agents to obtain support in the Warlord-Sick people. The going was very easy; most of the smaller warlord's armies mutinied and joined the Goumindang.
One of the Goumindang armies led by Communists conquered Hankow and set up a government there in September 1926. Another Goumindang army conquered Nanjing early in 1927 and set up a Nationalist government. The peasants in the poor communities welcomed the armies, believing that they would bring better times ahead, but where they were not welcomed warmly Chang Kaishek did not hesitate to use cash to win support.
Now that the Communists and the Goumindang had conquered most of China the alliance between them broke down. As the Goumindang prepared to enter Shanghai there was a Communist rebellion inside the city, and the workers took over the city under Zhou Enlai. When the Goumindang entered Shanghai they rounded up all the Communists and killed them in the streets. Later on in the year, Chang's men also massacred the Communists in Guangzhou, killing hundreds in the streets and forcing even more to flee for their lives.
After being expelled from the cities, the communists escaped to Jiangxi in the Hunan province. Chiang Kaishek in control of the cities and head of the government in Nainjing now got ready to conquer the rest of China.