Chinese Democracy

Chinese Democracy

China During the 1920s


In the period following the turn of the 20th century, China experienced a push against European colonization. There was a movement of Chinese democracy and other European ideologies that started to grow during this period. Socialism in the 1920s came out of the movement that would eventually become the cornerstone of the Communist Revolution of the 1940s. The invasion of Japan would be the reason that the Chinese Revolution had the 1930s. 


Learning Objectives

  • Analyze the role of the Great Depression on Chinese culture.
  • Evaluate the impact of the Japanese invasion on China.
  • Evaluate the role of the Japanese invasion on the political divisions within China.


Key Terms / Key Concepts

Nanjing Decade: an informal name for the decade from 1927 (or 1928) to 1937 in the Republic of China; a period that began when Nationalist Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek took Nanjing from Zhili clique warlord Sun Chuanfang halfway through the Northern Expedition in 1927 and declared it the national capital, despite the left-wing Nationalist government in Wuhan


The Nanjing Decade


During the Nanjing Decade of 1928 – 37, the Nationalists attempted to consolidate the divided society and reform the economy. The KMT was criticized for instituting totalitarianism, but claimed it was attempting to establish a modern democratic society by creating the Academia Sinica (today’s national academy of Taiwan), the Central Bank of China, and other agencies. In 1932, China sent its first team to the Olympic Games. Laws were passed and campaigns mounted to promote the rights of women. Improved communication also allowed a focus on social problems, including those of the villages (for example the Rural Reconstruction Movement). Simultaneously, political freedom was considerably curtailed because of the Kuomintang’s one-party domination through “political tutelage” and the violent shutting down of anti-government protests.

At the time, a series of massive wars also took place in western China, including the Kumul Rebellion, the Sino-Tibetan War, and the Soviet invasion of Xinjiang. Although the central government was nominally in control of the entire country, large areas remained under the semi-autonomous rule of local warlords, provincial military leaders, or warlord coalitions. Nationalist rule was strongest in the eastern regions around the capital Nanjing, but regional militarists retained considerable local authority.


The Fall of the Republic and Its Legacy: Taiwan


The bitter struggle between the KMT and the CPC continued, openly or clandestinely, through the 14-year-long Japanese occupation of various parts of the country (1931 – 1945). The two Chinese parties nominally formed a united front to oppose the Japanese in 1937 during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937 – 1945), which became part of World War II. Following the defeat of Japan in 1945, the war between the Nationalist forces and the CPC resumed after failed attempts at reconciliation and a negotiated settlement. By 1949, the CPC had established control over most of the country. When the Nationalist government forces were defeated by CPC forces in mainland China in 1949, they retreated to Taiwan along with Chiang and most of the KMT leadership, as well as a large number of their supporters. The Nationalist government had taken effective control of Taiwan at the end of World War II as part of the overall Japanese surrender, when Japanese troops in Taiwan surrendered to Republic of China troops.

Until the early 1970s, the Republic of China was recognized as the sole legitimate government of China by the United Nations and most Western nations, refusing to recognize the People’s Republic of China. However, in 1971, Resolution 2758 was passed by the UN General Assembly and “the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek” (and thus the ROC) were expelled from the UN and replaced as “China” by the PRC. In 1979, the United States switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing. The KMT ruled Taiwan under martial law until the late 1980s, with the stated goals of vigilance against Communist infiltration and preparation to retake mainland China. Therefore, political dissent was not tolerated.

Since the 1990s, the ROC went from one-party rule to a multi-party system thanks to a series of democratic and governmental reforms implemented in Taiwan. The first election for provincial governors and municipality Mayors was in 1994. Taiwan held the first direct presidential election in 1996.

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