How did the Communists gain control of China?

The Qing/Machu Dynasty was weakening in the early 1900s and was eventually overthrown in the Wuchang Uprising of 1911, marking the end of Chinese rule by dynasties.

The reasons for the weakening and eventual collapse include:

  • Weakened by Japan in 1st Sino-Japanese War in late 1800s

  • Suffered by Western Imperialism in China in late 1800s

  • China was failing to modernise

The Republic of China was eventually established in Nanjing in 1912 with the First Provisional President being Dr Sun Yat Sen.

Who was Dr Sun Yat Sen?

He was one of the leading figures of opposition to the Dynasty. Although he was not directly involved in the Wuchang Uprising, he had tried to overthrow the Government 10 times since 1905 and had failed each time.

Sun Yat Sen was in an alliance with Yuan Shikai, who had been a General in the Manchu Dynasty. They made an agreement. The agreement would mean that if Yuan Shikai was able to make Emperor Pu Yi abdicate, he would become the President.

Yuan Shikai became President in March 1912, but in December 1915 he declared himself Emperor, upsetting the Chinese who despised being ruled by Emperors. He was forced to abdicate as emperor in March 1916, again becoming President, before he died in June.

The Nine Year period following his death is known as the Warlord Era. The Imperial Army would be required to pledge allegiance to the Emperor. However, at this time, the armies were led by Warlords, who were unwilling to pledge allegiance to Yuan Shikai. As a result, rule and control of the Army was extremely fragmented and there was a lack of Centralised Leadership.

During the Warlord period, Sun Yat Sen set up a revolutionary Government from Guangzhou to Guangxi with the aim of re-establising the rule of the Republic in China. His movement is known as the Kuomintang. However, he sadly passes away in 1925 from cancer. The power that he held is passed onto General Chiang Kai-Shek, who held much of the military power of the Kuomintang.

From 1921 until Sun Yat Sen's death, there was a high degree of collaboration between the Chinese Nationalists (Kuomintang), the Soviet Union and the Chinese Communist Party with the aim of deciding how China could unify. The Chinese Civil War essentially begins in 1927 when Chiang Kai-shek begins to take power over the various 'factions' of China and go after the Communists & Warlords.

Meanwhile, in 1931, the Manchurian Crisis occurs. This is yet another area of China that Japan has taken as they took Formosa and Korea during the First Sino-Japanese War.

The occupation of Manchuria lasts until 1937 when the Second Sino-Japanese War commences.

The Second Sino-Japanese War coincides with World War two, and the USA enters the War on the side of the Allies (with China) when Japan bombs Pearl Harbour.

In response, the US drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, ending the War in the Pacific.

The Long March

By 1934, the Communists are almost defeated as they are surrounded by the Nationalists and forced to retreat in what is known as the Long March.

The Communist Party's Military marched through extremely tough terrain towards the North-West of China.

They march from the province of Jiangxi to Yan'an in Shaanxi.

During the Long March, Mao Zedong was able to create a greater role as a leader, enabling him to take control of the Communist Party of China.

During the Sino-Japanese War / WW2, there was a break of full-scale Civil War in China as they focused on fighting the Japanese, however, it resumed following the defeat of Japan.

By 1949, the Communist Party was able to defeat Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang, forcing them to retreat to the island of Formosa, establishing the Nationalist Government of Taiwan.

Reasons for increased support for Communist Party:

  • Increased support from the Rural population

  • The Communists were able to expand their strength by fighting the Japanese invaders

  • The party controlled around 100 million people and had an experienced army and had created an alliance between peasants, workers, the middle class, and smaller-scale capitalists. This meant that their power and influence continued to spread.