Emperor Pu Yi was removed from power – the last emperor of the Qing dynasty (also known as Manchu dynasty) and the last emperor China would ever possess. Sun Yat Sen became the first president of the Republic of China after revolution erupted. The people of China had blamed their troubles on their rulers resulting in the formation of the Chinese republic. However, the republic collapsed by 1916 and warlords (local generals) controlled the majority of China.
Today, we all know China as a communist nation. The events starting in the year 1912 can be described by an historian as those leading to the Communist Party taking control of China – but what caused the end to a long history of imperial rule and why did communism come to favour over democracy?
The basic overview of communism vs nationalism/democracy goes something like this…
When Sun Yat Sen died in 1925, Kuomintang (nationalist political party in the Republic of China, established in 1919) was divided; as well as China herself. The army commander Chiang Kai Shek had North and South East China, while the communists were in Central China. The communists were expelled from Kuomintang which led to organised riots. Both nationalists and communists fought for control of China during the 1920’s and 30’s. Mao Zedong became leader of the Communist Party in 1935, only two years before China was thrown into war with Japan, and Mao extended communist control over China. Civil war took place between 1945 and 1949, the communists won and Mao Zedong became chairman of the People’s Republic of China.
1945 was the year that the USA dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, forcing their surrender. While the Second World War had drawn Japanese troops out of China, the fighting had continued in the East, where the Japanese had invaded Manchuria in 1931. The communist forces had captured General Chiang and only released him once an end to the civil war was agreed on in order to join forces and defend against Japan. Of course, this didn’t last long. Despite this, in 1949 the communists had the support of China’s peasant majority and stronger military tactics; the Soviet Union supplying the communist weapons was also an aid to the eminent victory. The nationalist government became increasingly corrupt and unpopular with the Chinese people, while the communists appealed to larger numbers and were able to earn control of large areas of Northern China during the civil war. By December 1939, General Chiang and his supporters fled to the Chinese Island of Taiwan after the U.S. Army General George C. Marshal failed to sort out a peace arrangement. And so, the civil war was brought to an end. The People’s Republic of China was founded on October 1, 1949, Beijing became the new capitol and China allied itself with the Soviet Union (along with other communist powers).
During approximately 40 years of struggle, both nationalist and communist supporters died – around 60,000 communists died during the Long March alone. The death total of the Chinese revolution was 30 million - according to the Chinese government, that is.
China remains communist, despite events like the Tiananmen Square incident of 1989 as a part of a democracy movement (which of course resulted in multiple executions) and Mao Zedong’s death in 1976 (September 9th).
China’s problems with fitting into the modern world caused what an historian could describe as a domino effect setting off the end to imperial rule and a rivalry between communism and democracy which created the civil war. We know from events like the Vietnam War (in which the Vietcong were aided by China) that Mao Zedong formed one of, if not the first “people’s war” and that after all the inner commotion churning within China, it came out as a communist state. And this has been a very brief summary on how and why China became that communist state.