After the Boxer Protocol, came the end of Imperial China - this meant that the people were no longer governed by the ‘Son of Heaven’, and thus left with no other form of guidance. In a way, they were forced to look at other options. One option was a political philosophy, Three People’s Principles, developed by Sun Yat-sen to make China a free, prosperous, and powerful nation. This led to the emergence of the Nationalist party, also known as the Kuomintang. However, instead of devoting interests towards this ‘unification’ of one nation through Nationalism, democracy, and the livelihood of the people, China had experienced widespread instability in a rift between the Chinese people and the Nationalists that governed them. War provided the means by which the Communist Party could enter Chinese political life; its war record made its Communist ideology legitimate. It was legitimate in the sense that the Chinese Communist Party came to power on the basis of a loyal constituency of about 100 million peasants during the war, and that this citizenry was still further expanded as a result of Japan’s defeat and the Communists’ successful discrediting on Nationalist grounds of the semi-exiled government of Chiang Kai-shek during and after the war (Johnson 2000). Ultimately, the reason why the newly created Communist Party had triumphed over Nationalism was due to the fact that they had capitalized on the demoralization and dissatisfaction of the Chinese population. The Communist Party appealed to the common folk – it offered to meet the needs of the people for leadership in organizing resistance to the invader and in alleviating war-induced anarchy in the rural areas.
The leader of the Nationalist party was Sun Yat-sen who believed in reclaiming China from the warlords to return peace and stability to the populace. His efforts were never realized because following his death Chiang Kai-shek became the new leader of the KMT, one who wanted to “eliminate the cancer of Communism.” He accomplished this through what would come to be known as ‘The Shanghai Purge’. His aim was to rid the entire country of Communists and thus commenced a campaign of absolute bloodshed. By doing this, he destroyed all relations with the Communist party and any hopes of national prosperity. Ironically, the Nationalist parties thus publicized a disregard for peace in China.
Not only were there domestic problems among the Chinese populace themselves, but they faced invasion from the foreign as well. Leading up to the start of the second Sino war, Nationalist armed forces were in heavy conflict with Communist Chinese forces, where they exhausted the bulk of their man power in defeating the Communists. Communist priorities were to ‘go North to fight the Japanese’, whereas Nationalists failed to acknowledge the pending Japanese invasion. On July 7, 1937 when the war broke out, it came as a shock to both the Nationalists and their grand leader of China, Chiang Kai-shek, whose policy was “first internal pacification before external resistance” (Johnson 2000). This policy clearly demonstrates the Chinese inability to prepare for an inevitable invasion. The Nationalists remained pessimistic on defeating the Communist forces, while completely ignoring a far worse situation – the quickly advancing Japanese troops. This ignorance in disregarding a national emergency was far greater than the quest to rid China of the Communists. Such a selfish act caused the public to lose yet more faith in the Nationalist Party.
The Communist party was led by Mao Zedong who had become heavily influenced by the theories of Marxism which prompted him to join the Chinese Communist Party. He quickly gained the position as the Party’s leader, and as such he swiftly took advantage of the unstable relationship between that of the farmers and Nationalists, by gaining the support of the predominantly poor citizens. Taken from an excerpt of The Chinese Peasant and Communism, Professor...
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