A universal guide for China studies

Chinese History - Republic of China 中華民國 (1911-1949)

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Republic of China

period before (Qing)
-- Taiwan ROC
next period (PRC)
The 37 years of the Republic of China were a short, but very turbulent and decisive period of Chinese history. The chances for a thorough political and social change were missed by internal turmoil (warlordism, civil war) and external challenge (Japanese aggression).
In the political sphere China was dominated by half a dozen of warlords and strong militarists, and even the dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi) 蔣介石 after 1927 was never able to dominate whole China. Political base and philosophical background of these warlords stretched royalism to revolutionary ideologies with democratic targets that could never be fulfilled. The lack of democracy in the early decades of the "Republic" was due to the lack of democratic consciousness of most parts of the ruling class. With the "bourgeois" revolution of 1911a Western style administration system was introduced by Sun Yat-sen (Sun Zhongshan) 孫中山 but without preparing the wider part of the population for this change. Under Chiang's dictaturship finally it were militarists and the financial circles of the metropoles Shanghai and Guangzhou that controlled the politics of Republican China.
But at the same time intellectuals clearly demonstrated the need for a mental and a political change. During the May Fourth Movement (Wu-si yundong 五四運動) Confucianism again was denounced as the cause for China's backwardness compared to the Western states and Japan that replaced the old colonial powers; writers gave up the old Classical Chinese language and wrote in vernacular modern Chinese; artists and writers sought new themes and expressed the problems of their time in hitherto unknown ways and media; democratical parties were founded, the Communist Party (Gongchandang 共產黨) was founded; in the cities the upper classes felt attracted by the Western culture of the "Golden Twenties". In the countryside meanwhile the Chinese peasants suffered under the pressure of the landowning gentry like centuries before.
The decisive intuition of some Communist leaders like Mao Zedong 毛澤東 was that China had to be reformed the countryside, and only guerilla warfare the countryside against Chiang Kai-shek could create a new China ripe for changes. The war against the aggression of the Japanese militarists (Kang Ri zhanzheng 抗日戰爭) gave the Communists the chance to become strong enough to vanquish the forces of Chiang Kai-shek and to destroy the traditional chains of China - at least a great part of them.
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