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HomeLearnHistoryThe Chinese Revolution

The Chinese Revolution

As all human advancement is distinguished by some kind of revolution, that is a fundamental change in an established system, the Chinese Revolution reflects the same characteristic. A social revolution, for instance, establishes a new social order; a political revolution results in a new political system; and a technological revolution caters to us new lifestyles.

People become revolutionaries after many years of suffering under an established system. Upheavals, led by these people, do not regard any existing values and usually becomes violent.

Chinese revolution was not a single event, but a series of upheavals, uprisings and rebellions, mostly leading to violence. To understand the nature of Chinese Revolution it is important here to go through the famous definition of Revolution provided by Mao Zedong under whom CCP (Chinese Communist Party) made the government by formally establishing the People ’s Republic of China. He said, “Revolution is not a dinner party, nor an essay, nor a painting, nor a piece of embroidery; cannot be advanced softly, gradually, carefully, considerately, respectfully, politely and modestly. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.”

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Events leading to the Chinese Revolution

A series of political upheavals took place in China, between 1911 and 1949, that consequentially led to the Chinese Revolution. First, in 1911 the imperial dynasty ruling over China at that time was overthrown.

The Chinese revolution of 1911, a nationalist revolt, was led by two men, Dr. Sun Yat Sen and General Chiang-kai-Shek. There were ten attempts in all at Chinese revolution mostly in the southwest provinces.The revolution in fact started with the rebellion in Szechwan.

The imperial government took over the railways and the students took to streets on 24 August 1911, demanding a delay in takeover . A violent conflict between troops and the protesters broke out in which thirty two people were killed.

The revolution of 1911, as an ingredient to the Chinese Revolution, was unusual because it was initiated by the conservative and wealthy gentry, and not by the poor. The leaders of the uprising did not want to dislodge the imperial government; they rather wanted their financial concerns fulfilled. When they realized that the imperial government was not ready to even negotiate with them, they rebelled.

It was from the very beginning the desire of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, who later was honoured by getting the most prestigious designation, a leader of a Chinese revolution gets, of the founding father of the Republic of China, to overthrow the Manchu dynasty. After ten unsuccessful attempts he finally emerged successful in 1912 when Emperor Pu Yi was dethroned.

Sun Yat Sen, who believed in strong ideals, joined hands with general Chiang Kai-Shek, a military leader, and formed a new party namely the Nationalist Party which in 1913 won a majority of seats in the national Assembly.

After the death of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen in 1925, Chiang Kai-Shek took the charge and became commander in chief of the new Nationalist Army and led the Chinese National Party, that was also called Kuomintang, for almost five decades. He functioned as the head of State of the Chinese Nationalist Government between 1928 and 1949.

Chiang Kai-Shek led an expedition known in history as the Northern Expedition that resulted in the reunification of most of China under a National Government based in Nanjing. Although, Kai-Shek presided over a modest programme of reform in China, almost all resources of the government were employed on fighting internal opononents, including the Communist.

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Kuomintang Party or National People’s Party

It was established in 1912 by Sun Yat-Sen. In 1913 when the party got suppressed, Sun Yat-Sen and his military commander, Chiang Kai-Shek, eloped to Japan. With the assistance Soviet Union’s advisers the Kuomintang gradually enhanced its power in China. Chiang Kai-Shek became head of the Kuomintang, the party got engaged in a bitter civil war with the communists.

Warlord Period

The period from 1916 to 1930 s is famously known as the Warlord Period in the history of the republic of China. It was a period when the country was divided among military rulers. The Warlord Era, true to its name, was characterized by constant warfare, dragged China into an interminable economic and political instability. The Warlords maintained total control over their regions by their personalaemies. Although they dominated Chinese politics during the early years of the Republic of China, their rule ended rather abruptly of 1928.

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May 4th Movement of 1919

In the modern Chinese history, this movement as a part of the Chinese Revolution, deserves special mention because it was the first mass movement. It began as a patriotic eruption against foreign imperialists and warlords. On 4th May 1919, about 5,000 University students protested the Versailler Agreement that awarded the former German leasehold of Jiaozhou to Japan.

The Chinese Civil War

From 1927-1949 the Chinese Civil War continued between the Communist and the Nationalists. Communists wanted to make China like Soviet Union, for which they had the support of many poor people, and the Nationalists wanted to make China like the United States of America in which they had got the support of not only USA and UK but  also the support of the richer people and the Chinese who lived in Urban areas. The Communists were led Mao Zedong and the leader of the nationalists  was Chiang-Kai-Shek.

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People’s Republic of China Established

The People’s Republic of China was formally established on 1 October, 1949 with its national capital at Beijing. The creation of a people’s democratic dictatorship, to be led by the CCP (Chinese Communist Part), was announced by Mao Zedong.

The Cultural Revolution and its background

The Cultural Revolution, the parallel revolution of the Chinese Revolution, was in fact a struggle for power within the Communist Party of China. It transformed into a widespread social, political and economic violence. A large section of society fell into chaos that eventually dragged the entire country to the brink of Civil War.

The political changes after the communist takeover in 1949 resulted in sweeping social changes. In the process of the consolidation of the power and authority of the Communists, the houses of the former ruling classes were confiscated, and any items that did not comply to Mao’s values were destroyed.

In 1957, Mao Zedong proposed an increase in the industrial growth and to accomplish it he began the ‘great leap forward’ by setting up special communes, that were units of administration, in the countryside. These communes used collective labour and mass mobilization of peasants to enhance the production of steel and to increase agricultural production. However this did not work and the ‘great leap forward’ failed.

The Cultural Revolution, proving to be an offshoot of Chinese Revolution, of all other things, was a method to regain control of the party after the disastrous ‘great leap forward’ that led to a significant loss of Mao’s power to his rival Liu Shaoqi.

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