The Nanjing Decade

The Nanjing Decade was a period of a relatively stable government in China between 1928 and 1937. 

During this time, China was led by Chiang Kai Shek and the Kuomintang, with their capital city based in Nanjing / Nanking. This is because The Northern Expedition had ended by 1928 and there was the need to start ruling collectively.

The Nationalist government faced several challenges, however, some of them were exceedingly difficult.

During the first year of its rule, Chiang struggled to subdue hostile warlords. This is linked with failing attempts to create a modern state, which was impacted by the government's lack of authority and control in many parts of China.

To outsiders in the West, Chiang Kai Shek embodied the new China– he was civilised, progressive and willing to embrace modern political and economies values of the West. However, in reality, there was little change within China.

 In early 1930, several warlords were jointly demanding for Chiang to resign as President of China. In May, tensions had risen and the Central Plains War broke out.

Chiang commanded the strong Nationalist army, which was made up of 600,000 men equipped with Western arms, and marched into central and northern China, easily defeating the outnumbered and more poorly equipped coalition of warlords within six months.

In the early 1920s, the Kuomintang followed the 'Three Aims' of Sun Yat Sen, which I ran over previously, and the 'Three Stages Model' .

In the first stage, the government would use military rile to defeat and overcome warlords, strengthening their authority and most importantly, national unity.

As part of the second stage, the country would be led by one person, like a dictatorship, except the people would be educated so they can participate in democratic elections, and achieve self-governance.

In the third and final stage, after six years of democratic education, China would become a constitutional democracy.

This sided with Sun Yat Sens aims of ruling people according to democratic value and social reforms. Education was one of the main goals to enlighten people politically.

However, after Sun Yat Sen passed away and Chiang Kai Shek came to power, the Kuomintang party structure and government became increasingly focused on the military, most likely due to Chiang's admiration of militarism and fascism.

In 1934, the Kuomintang government began increased censorship of media.

Chiang tried to depict himself as the new Sun Yat Sen, as if he was following in his footsteps and following his aims. However, Chiang believed in dictatorship, which violated Sun's ideologies.

This is why he would silence freedoms of expression and his opposition. He wanted to maintain this pretended image as it maintained and gathered more support than if he was portrayed as a fascist.

Meanwhile, China failed to develop in terms of human rights. The Kuomintang themselves argued that the rights of individuals were less important than the development of the nation.

Economic Policies

During the Nanjing Decade, the Nationalists introduced policies oriented towards economic development and modernisation, which would stimulate economic growth, industrialisation and modernisation. However, most of the time, the government lacked resources, authority and political will to achieve reformative successes.

Despite this, there were some areas of success, but most of these also contained elements of failure.

By the middle of the 1930s, the government revenue (which was mostly made from duties on opium sales) was only around 3% of the gross national product, which meant the government was facing a shortage of funds. This was due to their refusal to implement Western-style tax systems.

Additionally, in terms of the money they did have, they spent it very poorly as the Kuomintang spent around 47% of revenue on the military, purchasing arms internationally, and paying off warlord allies. 

In contrast, only 5% was spent on education and social welfare collectively, with the majority of that going towards the old-fashioned education system. Therefore, it is evident that they failed to improve the lives of the general population.