1920s: The Kuomintang Party /
Sun Yat Sen & Chiang Kai Shek
In the early to mid 1920s, the Russian Comintern helped to persuade a union between the Kuomintang and Chinese Communist Party. The parties of China were willing for this to happen as they knew a United China was necessary to solve their problems.
Although the KMT was not a communist party, Sun Yat Sen saw the benefits of working together.
As a result of the union, Sun Yat Sen sent Chiang Kai Shek to Moscow to receive military training so he would be able to head an academy for the KMT in Whampoa. Additionally, he had received military training in Japan ahead of the first world war.
Despite being the two main leaders of the Kuomintang, Sun Yat Sen and Chiang Kai Shek came from opposite background and had some very different beliefs.
On the one hand, Sun Yat Sen was the son of a peasant farmer, and he spent much of his life in the West and had grown accustomed to their methods of education, industry, political ideologies, and so on. His beliefs are intertwined with his “Three Principles”, which were supposed to shape and be the aims of the Kuomintang Party.
Firstly, he believed that China should develop into a strong, independent country that was free from the interference of foreign powers and respected by them. Therefore, his first principle was nationalism.
Secondly, he wished for China to adopt a democratic government, similar to those in the West. He was against the rule of dynasties, warlords and the like. He believed in order to fulfil this aim, China would need to revolutionise their education system. Therefore, his second principle was democracy.
Thirdly, Sun Yat Sen wanted to make society in China more equal, removing a clear class system by improving the lives of peasants and the working class. To do this, he would improve the education system and it’s availability, while also educating and adopting more efficient and advanced agricultural methods. This principle is most used in arguments to support the fact that Sun Yat Sen was a socialist. However, although he wished to redistribute land to peasants, unlike the communists, he was opposed to confiscation property from the wealthy. Therefore, this was his third principle—social and economic reform.
On the other hand, Chiang Kai Shek was born into a wealthy family. Unlike Sun Yat Sen, he had grown up in a traditional Chinese / Asian society as he was educated in China and Japan. He believed in preserving Chinese culture, such as their system of Government, through one powerful leader. In the future, Chiang becomes the President of China, and he takes very much the position of a dictator.
However, Chiang Kai Shek and Sun Yat Sen had one common belief in nationalism.
Why did support for the Kuomintang (KMT) increase
It reflected the growth of Chinese nationalism among the people who sought freedom and independence
The views of Sun were in line with the aspirations of students and intellectuals
KMT offered prospect of ending chaos caused by warlords (warlords increased as they were unchecked by the collapsed Manchu Dynasty)
Collaboration with the communists and the Soviets broadened the appeal to the KMT