After reading this article you will learn about:- 1. Chinese Civilization: The Rulers and the Ruled 2. China in the First Half of the 20th century 3. The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia 1917 and Its Impact on China 4. Emergence of Chiang Kai-She as the Leader of China and Others.
Chinese Civilization: The Rulers and the Ruled:
The Chinese civilization can legitimately claim to be one of the oldest civilizations of the world. It is even older than the Greek, Babylonian and Egyptian civilizations, and by that standard, it is much older than the rise of Christian civilization.
By a conservative estimate, China has a history of nearly 7000 years behind it. Several dynasties ruled over China during this long period. The rule of the Chou dynasty was noteworthy because during it the famous Chinese philosopher Confucius lived in China and his Confucianism provided a unifying glue to the Chinese mind.
In the 12th century, the Chou dynasty came to replace the Shangs. Under the Chou dynasty, China came to be a prosperous country and Confuciousism became its popular religion (philosophy). However, the decline of the Chou dynasty gave rise to the internal wars among different dynasties which came to power in different regions of China.
The Hans, the Swis, the Tangs, and the Mings ruled its different parts in different periods of history of China. This phase of Chinese history came to an end in the late 17th century when in 1661, the Manchu dynasty came to rule China by overthrowing the Ming rulers.
The Manchu dynasty ruled China, the Middle Kingdoms, from 1661 to 1911 and was responsible for consolidating China. Manchu rulers brought Tibet under their control in 1700, Mongolia in 1760 and Sin kiang in 1789. However, this expansionism was not accompanied by the establishment of an efficient and honest internal administration.
Extravagance, corruption and intolerance were the key features of the Manchu rule. The situation was naturally exploited by European colonial powers.
The Russians in Manchuria, the Germans in Shantung, the Britishers in Yangtez valley, and Japan and France in several other areas of China, were successful in creating their respective areas of influence. They were successful monopolizing trade and in exploiting the resources and people of China.
The British victory in the Opium Wars of 1841 and 1858 led to the exploitation of the Chinese in a bigger way. In 1895, Japan attacked China and inflicted a defeat upon this ancient civilization, and established Japanese influence over China, particularly in Korea. The defeat, however, proved to be a blessing in disguise for China since it made them realize the need to secure the freedom of their nation from foreign interventions.
They began forcing the Chinese rulers to be strong and efficient. The Boxer Revolt (1895-1990) was guided by such an objective. The Boxers, led by their leader Dr. Sun Yat Sen, attacked the foreign legations in China and the Chinese who had got converted to Christianity.
This revolt, however, produced more determined interventions in China. The European armies reached Peking. The USA advocated the need for protecting the integrity, peace and safety of China. The Russians disliked European interventions in China but they decided to occupy Manchuria. The Boxer Revolt was crushed, and China came to be further suppressed.
On September 7, 1901 the Boxer Protocol was signed which compelled China to indemnify a substantial amount of money to the foreign powers and to vest the control of certain ports to the ‘Allied’ for safeguarding trade and commerce. The Boxer Revolt thus got crushed. However, the Boxer spirit came to enlighten the minds and hearts of the people of China.
China in the First Half of the 20th century: The Rise of Nationalism and Revolutionary Spirit:
The Japanese victory over Russia in 1905 encouraged the Chinese to think, plan and act for overthrowing the weak and inefficient Manchu rulers and the foreign exploiters. In 1908, an internal reform movement was initiated by the people, and by 1911, it got developed into an anti-Manchu movement.
To begin with, the Manchu regime in the Southern China collapsed and Dr. Sun Yat Sen came to be the Provisional President of China. He, however, failed to extend his authority over other parts of China.
Another leader, Yuam Shih Kai was in a position to establish another Republic in some parts of China. In 1912, he managed to secure the abdication of the 6-year old Chinese Emperor. Sun Yat Sen resigned his Provisional President ship for strengthening the hands of Yuan Shih Kai as the President of China.
Yuan Shih Kai initiated the process of national development and for this secured a foreign loan of $ 25 million. This loan, however, made China further dependent upon foreign nations.
In 1914, the First World War broke out. In the name of strengthening China, President Yuan proclaimed himself to be the Emperor of China. This move was opposed by the Chinese people led by Dr. Sun Yat Sen as well as by Japan because the latter did not want China to have a strong centralized government.
For strengthening her position and for utilizing the opportunity provided by the western powers (which were engaged in the First World War and were not in a position to secure fully their interests in China) Japan presented a Charter of 21 demands to China.
This Japanese Charter was an attempt to establish its control over China with its vast natural resources. China had to accept 15 out of 21 Japanese demands and it came under the strong influence of Japan. The failure of Emperor Yuan to prevent this development made him very unpopular, and upon his death in 1916, China was again declared to be a republic.
Former Vice-President Li-Yuan Hung came to be the President and he was backed by the Kuomintang—the nationalist party Dr. Sun Yat Sen. This development, however, was accompanied by an increased influence of the big landlords in Chinese politics.
The Weakness of the Chinese Rulers:
The end of the First World War in 1918, and the subsequent Paris Peace Conference did not result in any gain for China because the major powers recognized Japanese influence in the Pacific as well as over China. Japan was permitted to acquire from defeated Germany the Kiaochow area in the Shantung Province of China.
This decision was strongly resented by the Chinese, and in 1922 the Japanese were compelled to return Kiaochow to China. But this development did not help China to be a secure and powerful nation. Yuan regime was blamed for the weakness of China.
Upon his death in June 1916, a former Vice-President Li Yuan Hung became the President of the Republic and established the unity of the nation under the leadership of Kuomintang.
In the years that followed, Sun Yat Sen, the founder of the Kuomintang came to be accepted as the most powerful Chinese leader. In 1921, he was elected the President of the Republic at Canton. However, economic backwardness, internal problems, the threat posed by Japan and the growing influence of Communism in China, kept his regime weak.
The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia 1917 and Its Impact on China:
The success of the Bolshevik Revolution (1917) in Russia and the rapid all-round development that Socialist Russia started registering, greatly influenced a large number of Chinese. Even several leaders of the Kuomintang were greatly influenced by this development.
The organisation of the Communist Party of China at Shanghai in 1921 provided a platform to the leftists for joining hands. They were highly impressed by the Russian representative in China, Mr. Joffe.
Dr. San Yat Sen accepted the potential of the Russian to help China in tiding over her problems and in consolidating the country. As such, he entered into an alliance with it and the COM intern in 1923. The alliance was guided by the objective of securing Soviet guidance and help for effectively controlling the problems that China was facing as well as for harmonizing the growing conflict between the Kuomintang and the Communists.
The Russians accepted the alliance for they saw in it an opportunity to promote socialist revolutions in colonial and semi-colonial countries like China. On the one hand, Russia started providing military and economic help to China and on the other hand, its political advisors were sent to China.
Soviet advisors Borodin and General Blucher were sent to China, the former as the political and the latter as the military advisor.
A process of change was initiated in China. The Kuomintang agreed to admit communists as individuals in the national mainstream. The communists, however, used the opportunity to gain strength and popularize revolutionary principles and tactics.
Under the new alliance, while Borodin persuaded Dr. San Yat Sen to reorganize the Kuomintang on the Communist pattern, Blucher helped China to establish the Whamber Military Academy. Chiang Kai Sheik, the trusted lieutenant of Dr. Sen was sent to Russia for receiving military training, and on return was made the head of this military academy.
Emergence of Chiang Kai-She as the Leader of China:
Dr. Sun Yat Sen died in 1925 and Chiang Kai-Sheik became the undisputed leader of the Kuomintang. He was by temperament a staunch nationalist and an anti-communist. He was greatly disturbed by the attempts being made by the communists to transform the nationalist revolution into a class war.
In 1927, he decided to crush the communists. As the first step, he expelled Borodin from China. Chiang was quite successful in his mission particularly because of a lack of clear cut direction and the absence of good leadership in the communist camp.
Chiang Kai Sheik devoted his attention to the need for the unification of China. After consolidating his leadership and influence in the Kuomintang, he resigned his military post and established a new national government in October 1928 at Canton.
A National People’s Convention was held in May 1931 and a provisional constitution was adopted for securing the three objectives set forth by the late Dr. San Yat Sen. These were: People’s Government, People’s Livelihood and People’s Nationalism.
Hindrances faced by Chiang Kai Sheik:
Chiang would have been very successful in achieving these objectives but for three hindrances:
(1) The strength that the communists had gained under the dynamic leadership of Mao Tse-tung,
(2) The threat posed by Japan which compelled Chiang to accept an alliance between the Kuomintang and the Communists for safeguarding the national interests of China, and
(3) The widespread corruption in the Chinese administration.
5. The Kuomintang and the Communists of Mao:
The communists under Mao decided to adopt guerilla tactics for attacking the Kuomintang. For securing the revolutionary goal they began getting an active help from the Chinese peasants. Mao’s call for land reforms in favour of small land owners made him and his communist ideology quite popular.
The decision to shift the area of communist activity from urban to rural areas further gave strength to his drive for securing a revolution in China.
When the need arose for meeting the menace of Japanese imperialism, which had become very alarming with the Japanese occupation of Manchuria in 1931, Chiang was compelled to make an alliance with the Communists.
When the Second World War broke out and Japan decided to join the Axis powers, Chiang decided to join the Allied powers with two objectives:
First to meet the challenge posed by Japanese imperialism and expansionism, and secondly to secure Western help to meet the growing menace of the Communists.
The second objective had become equally important because Mao’s Communists were using the alliance to weaken the Kuomintang and to strengthen their strongholds with the help they were getting from the Russians.
The Success of Mao’s Communists:
The Second World War period was utilized by the communists to fortify their positions in China. With active Soviet support and rapidly growing popularity in the rural areas, the communists under the leadership of Mao, emerged as a strong and disciplined guerilla force committed to secure revolution against the Kuomintang regime. In 1946, a civil war broke out in China.
The Kuomintang of Chiang, despite full American material and moral support, failed to maintain its regime. Mao’s communists forced Chiang and his followers to flee to Formosa, a Chinese island. On October 1, 1949, China came fully under the control of the Communists who proclaimed the establishment of the People’s Republic of China—a socialist state under the Chairmanship of Mao tse Tung.
A new epoch opened in the history of China.
The Communist Revolution in China and Role of Mao Tse-tung:
Within four years of the end of Second World War, China experienced a successful socialist revolution in October 1949. The growing power of the Communist Party of China compelled Chiang Kai Sheik to seek a compromise between the Nationalists (Kuomintang) and the Communists. But the attempt proved to be a failure.
The Communists came out with three major demands in return for a compromise. These were:
(i) Resignation of Chiang Kai Sheik;
(ii) Making a new constitution for China; and
(iii) As an ad-hoc arrangement, the establishment of an interim government involving all the political parties for the running of administration.
These conditions were not acceptable to Chiang Kai Sheik and this made a compromise impossible. The Communists backed by the Red Army then intensified its operations and got involved in capturing power in various parts of China. Soon it successfully established its control over Nanking and Shanghai.
In October 1949, the Red Army established its rule over the strategically important city of Canton. The death bell sounded for the Government of Chiang Kai Sheik. Realising his inability to meet the challenge of the Communists and their Red Army, Chiang decided to run away and take shelter in Formosa (Taiwan).
He declared Taiwan as the real China, the nationalist and democratic China, and began running the Government of China from Taiwan.
The Chinese mainland, however, came fully under the control of the Communists. On October 1, 1949 they declared China to be a socialist state—the People’s Republic of China. Thus, China emerged as a socialist country on the world map through a socialist revolution organised, spearheaded, controlled and maintained by the Communist Party of China acting under the leadership of Mao Tse-tung.
Mao’s thoughts, actions and leadership together constituted the strength which was needed for securing a successful Socialist Revolution in China.
Revolution Post Socialist Revolution (October 1949):
Legacy of the coming of communist revolution in China was an event of utmost importance both for the Chinese as well as for the world at large. It signalled the march of socialism into Asia. It gave a big boost to the Soviet image in world politics as the emergence of communist China gave a big strength and prestige to the Soviet policy of spreading communism in other parts of the world.
The awakening of China after centuries of slumber, its determination to secure its rightful and due place in the world, and its commitment to deal firmly with alien exploiters came to be a major development in international relations. The world began viewing with interest the developments in China, and many countries began pondering over the issue of establishing their relations with Communist China.
For the people of China, the coming of Communist Revolution gave rise to the hope and expectation for an end of their poverty, under-development, weakness of their state and economic problems. The country got united as a unified state under the control of a single party and single leadership.
However, the formation of Nationalist China (Taiwan/Formosa China) with a democratic government enjoying full protection under the American security umbrella, came as a highly taxing development.
The inability of Communist China (Mainland China) to secure a seat in the UNO (Nationalist China —Taiwan, under US protection, continued to enjoy the UN membership as real China with a veto power status in the UN Security Council) made the Chinese people and leaders very annoyed with the USA.
They decided to pursue a hard line policy towards the USA and almost all other non-socialist countries. The Peoples Republic of China entered into a highly friendly cooperative and security alliance with the (erstwhile) USSR and began criticising almost every other country, including India.
For running the administration of China in the post-revolution years the Communist Party, acting under the supreme leadership of Mao Tse Tung and Chou in Lai, adopted a common programme and organised a provisional administration, pending the making, adoption and inauguration of a constitution for the Peoples Republic of China.
The provisional government of China lost no time in initiating a process of land reforms, nationalization of industries, development through centralized and organised planning, commune system, spreading of education and widespread socio-economic reforms. The provisional government worked for about 5 years.
In 1954, the first constitution of Peoples Republic of China was adopted and implemented. The Constitution was designed to secure the establishment of a fully socialist state in China based on the principles of socialization of Economy, Peoples Democracy, Peoples Dictatorship and Supremacy of the Chinese Communist Party.
The Chinese Revolution set into motion the process of state-building, nation-building, socialism-building, and rapid socio-economic modernisation and development in tune with the ideology of communism as interpreted, adopted and supplemented by the ideas and programmes of Mao.
Since 1949, the political system of the People’s Republic of China has been operating as a socialist political system—a political system which operated under the supreme guidance and ideology of Mao Zhedong until his death in 1976. Thereafter, for some time it worked under the influence of its new leader Hua-Guo-Feng. However, it was a short lived affair, The Chinese political system witnessed the rapid fall of Huo-Kuo Feng and the consequent rise of the leadership of Deng Xiaoping.
He became the strongman of China and remained so till 1997, when Ziang Zemin emerged as his successor. Five years later, Mr. Hu Jintao replaced Ziang Zemin as general secretary of the CPC and became the President of China in March 2003. Currently, fourth generation of Chinese Communist leadership has been ruling China.
The Chinese political system still bears the impact of the Revolution of 1949. This is true despite the fact that since mid-1970’s, several big economic and political changes have been coming into it. The revolution towards the development of a socialist society working under the communist leadership continues to be the objective.
The movement for the restoration of democracy continues to be present but in a weak form. China has now adopted Market Socialism in place of Socialism. Its economy has adopted the principles of free trade, competition and liberalisation. However, its political system continues to live with one party rule i.e. political authoritarianism under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.
China continues to be ruled by the Communist Party of China, in fact by the top leadership of this all-embracing all-powerful single monolith party. China continues to live with an authoritarian system, one-party-one leadership rule system. However, China has been now adopting competitive economy in the grab of market socialism or competitive-socialist economic model of development.
The revolutionary legacy of China is still the most formidable determinant of Chinese political system. Several big changes were affected in the Post-Mao years (Post-1976), and several new changes have now appeared on the Chinese political horizon. China continues to march on the road towards development and prosperity. It continues to be ruled by the Communist Party of China.
It is still a communist authoritarian political system, despite the fact of having registered a substantial economic liberalisation—the Socialist-market economy or market socialism. Chinese economy has come to be the fastest developing economy in contemporary times. Economic liberalisation has started paying rich dividends. However, its impact on Chinese political system is yet to get materialized.