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Chinese Communists and Guomindang Forces Relationship

Info: 2622 words (10 pages) Essay
Published: 19th Dec 2017 in History

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This paper seeks to analyze the political situation in the formative years of the Chinese republic in order to understand reasons for a breakdown of the relationship between the Chinese communists and the Guomintang forces. This paper will examine from the collapse of Qing dynasty, the early days of the major political parties, the role played by Russia and the eventual breakout of war to conclude three reasons behind the failed relationship between the Chinese Communists and Guomindang forces , which are difference in ideology, the power hungry nature of the leaders and the suspicion and mistrust between the leadership.

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The last dynasty of china’s ruling monarchy collapsed in the year 1912, this dynasty was referred to as the Qing dynasty. The main reason for the collapse was lack of popular support from the people and pressure from the public who wanted change .This resulted in rebellion that was later joined by political leaders and the army. The ruler at the time, known as P’u Yi, finally stepped down; an action that signified the end of the monarchy. After the end of the Qing dynasty, China was left with a chaotic situation where separate regions were controlled by army generals who were particularly strong in the Northern region. These generals were referred to as warlords. What made China’s situation critical at that point was that there but no national leader who could unify the country. None of these army generals was strong enough to control the entire country and thus their sphere of influence was limited to the geographical regions where they were located. [1] 

During the chaotic years of warlord rule many young Chinese joined the different movements such as the Northern campaign, the Fourth of May movement and Communism. The leaders of these movements wanted to bring changes to China at whatever cost and some of the options they had at the time, included adopting foreign ideas. One of the main ideas that gained popularity was communism as the idea of a classless society at the time seemed very appealing to most Chinese revolutionaries and political leaders. Mao Zedong then a librarian at the University of Beijing formed a society through which interested parties could study and discuss Marxist ideals, this society became hugely popular and the members later formed the Chinese communist party [2] .

At about the same time, Sun Yat-sen a politician and China’s foremost nationalist leader at the time was organizing his party known as Guomindang or the People’s National Party. Sun’s ideals for the new Chinese republic were of a democratic government for the people, National freedom and livelihood for the nation’s poor. In order to defeat and overthrow the warlords who held most of the country, Sun Yat-sen, using his political party Kuomintang, sought for assistance from major foreign powers of the time, his efforts were however ignored by western countries. Thus in 1921 he turned to Russia where a communist government had taken over power. 2

Russia responded by offering support to both Guomindang and the communist party an act which was the essence of the struggle for political power between the two parties. As a way of boosting both parties Russia sent representatives to help re organize Guomindang and the communist party of china along the lines of the Russian communist party.1 These efforts culminated in the declaration of 1923 where Russia pledged her support for the unification of China and the two political parties declared their cooperation. The coming together of Guomindang and the communist party of China gave birth to what was referred to as the First United Front. 8

With Russia’s help Sun Yat-sen reorganized his party along the lines of Russian communist party. The party Guomindang grew into a mass party, where all decisions made by the party leaders were final. It was also run along very strict disciplinary lines. 3 Sun invited members of the communist party then still a small party to join Guomindang in their individual capacity, as both parties had a common goal. During this time Russia also offered military support to Guomindang. They brought in officers to train party members and those of the communist party who had joined sun’s Guomindang.3 Russia also offered weapons and ammunitions. Later a military academy was also developed to train and impart military skills to officers. 1

This Military academy was headed by Chiang Kai-shek who had risen to prominence in the party and was Sun Yat -Sen’s likely successor. The purpose of the Military support offered by Russia, was to help their two allies the communist party and Guomindang, to defeat the warlords who were mainly located in the North of the country and in the process to unify China into one Republic. But before an attack on the warlords could be launched Sun Yat-sen died of heart attack in 1925. [3] 

A few months after the Death of Sun, Chiang Kai-shek who was the commander of the revolutionary army launched the ‘Northern campaign’. However at the same time the Guomindang party was facing tumultuous times, the party had split into two factions, one left wing and the other right wing. The influence of the communist party was also growing within the Guomindang. In response to this and other happenings, Chiang Kai-shek curtailed the participation of communist party members in the leadership of Kuomintang. He also imposed himself as the leader of the revolutionary army. 6

The campaign against the Northern warlords was quite successful; within a few months the revolutionary army had captured most of the northern territory and imposed governments there. Most of the poor peasants in the country side welcomed the revolutionaries as the believed they represented the chance of better days ahead. But as the power of the Guomindang grew the more discontent the communist party became. [4] 

By the time the revolutionaries had conquered most of China the alliance that existed between them disintegrated. Several incidents resulted in a worsening situation. As the Guomindang were about to enter Shanghai city, there was a rebellion from communist members within the city, the response of the Guomindang soldiers when they finally entered Shanghai, was to arrest and round up the members of the communist party and then proceed to massacre them. Later in another incident, the Guomindang party revolutionary soldiers carried out another massacre of communist party members in Guangzhou, killing several hundred in the process. In response the communists who were being purged from the Kuomintang, retreated to the rural countryside and launched an uprising which was led by Mao Zedong. This uprising was easily suppressed by Chiang Kai-shek’s forces [5] .

In 1928 the Guomindang formed a government that was given international recognition in Nanjing as the government of the Republic of China. Chiang Kai-shek also formally became the chairman of the party. Using his influence among the elite and the military power that he had Chiang Kai-shek was able to maintain a dictatorial grip on the party and to defeat those within and without the party who opposed him. He tried to form a modern state but most accused him of abandoning the ideals on which his party was formed. [6] 

On the other hand the Chinese communist party which had almost been crushed by the Guomindang began to rebuild, they recruited peasants from the countryside to join their ranks with an aim of forming an ‘army for the people’ which was to win the revolution against the Guomindang. [7] 

In 1931 Japan seized Manchuria and installed a puppet regime led by P’u Yi, the last ruler of the Qing dynasty. This resulted in strong anti Japan sentiment within China. Chiang Kai-shek who held the dominant military power within china opened a second front to engage the Japanese, but still gave most of his attention to crushing the Chinese communist party .To this effort the Guomindang launched a series of encirclement campaigns meant to wipe out the communist party’s resistance. Of the five campaigns the first three were failures while the fourth and fifth were quite successful resulting in huge loses to life on both sides. But the Chinese communist party, cornered in the city Jiangxi of was severely depleted and its leadership opted for a retreat to shangxi an event which is referred to as the ‘long march’. [8] 

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The march was brutal to the Chinese communist party’s ranks; many tens of thousand were lost along the way due to desertion, attack by enemy soldiers, disease and hunger. But the positive aspect of the ‘long march’ to the party was that, it brought together members who would later come to form the top leadership and decision making body of the Chinese communist party. This included names such as Mao Zedong, Zhu De, Liu Shoqi, Lin Biao, Deng Xiaoping and Zhou Enlai. Another important aspect is that during the long march a meeting of the top leaders established Mao Zedong as the top most leader of the party and with the responsibility to lead on all issues regarding overall strategy for the movement. [9] 


After careful analysis it can be established that, the main reasons behind the failed relationship between the Chinese Communists and Guomindang forces can be attributed to a number of factors; first was the difference in ideology between the two parties. The Chinese communist party was of the belief that the fledging Chinese republic would be better off if ruled under a communist ideology almost similar to what existed in the united soviet socialist republic. On the contrary the Guomindang’s vision was formed by Sun Yat-sen who was a well traveled man who had studied in Hawaii in the United States. Sun had a vision of the new China as a democratic country where the citizens were free of foreign influence and where they were free and able to earn a living, a form of capitalist society so to speak. This view had been acquired through his travels as a result of the economic progress and developments that he had seen in the western world. Mao Zedong on the other hand came from a peasant family; his view of china was that it was society where the upper class ruled and lorded over the poor masses, he felt that a classless society would be the best way to move China from the inequality and poverty that was endemic of the poor class. This was the basis through which the two leaders adopted and embraced divergent ideologies that eventually resulted in the failed relationship between their parties.

Another reason for the failure of the relationship between Guomindang and the Chinese communist party was the power hungry nature of the leaders of these parties. Through out the period when there was a relationship and close interaction between the two parties, one can easily spot incidences where the leaders a good example being Chiang Kai-shek, were primarily interested in being the supreme rulers of a unified China. This was a goal that the two sides were ready to follow at all costs even if it meant massive loss of lives. This in fact was the main reason for such a bitter fall out between two groups that were once collaborators. No one, among the leaders of the two sides was ready to put this ambition aside, instead they carried on with a brutal war with a body count running into the millions just so that they could end up the un opposed rulers of the new republic. Even when the Japanese invaded Manchuria and installed a puppet regime, wish should have been sure because for a true patriot to put any internal differences aside, the war between the two protagonists did not come to an end. Not until one of the sides (Guomindang) was vanquished in war did bloodshed and violence cease in China.

Another crucial aspect that contributed to failure in the relationship between the two parties was the Russia factor. From the start when Sun Yat-sen approached the Russians for help after being ignored by western countries, they opted to adopt a dual policy in which they supported both the communist party of China and the Kuomintang, This decision was cunning as it was selfish as Russia itself a fledging republic at the time, wanted to peddle it’s influence with the two major political players in China at the time, Such a decision was likely to result in conflict at one point or the other, this for a fact was inevitable. It cannot be overlooked that Russia initially gave more support in the form of political strategists, weapons and military aid to the Guomindang. This was so because the party under Sun Yat-sen at that time was larger, stronger and had a wider national appeal as compared to the communist party of China. But once the tide began to change during the war and the communists gained an upper hand on the battlefield, Russia switched its support from Guomindang to the Chinese communist party. In a sense it can be concluded that Russia was more interested in spreading its sphere of influence through the adoption of its national ideology in China, to achieve this, it was ready to influence both sides acting as a catalyst to the failure of the relationship that existed between them as long as it achieved its ends. [10] 

Lastly point to note that led to the failure of the relationship between Guomindang and the communist party was the high level of suspicion and mistrust between the leadership of the two parties. In the early part of the alliance between the two parties, Guomindang was much stronger and had a far larger number of members as compared to the Chinese communist party which was a small growing movement at the time, Instead of a situation where the two parties would work together for the greater good of China, Guomindang part leadership would not trust the communists and the communists in return did not have trust in their fellow nationalists, instead Guomindang adopted a policy where communists could only join their party or train in their military academy as individuals and not as members of their own party, they also continuously undermined the communist party leadership due to its weak position and due to the high level of mistrust between the two sides.

These according to my analysis are the main reasons why there was a failure in relationship between the Chinese communists and the Guomindang party.


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