The Chinese Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT), is a conservative party that currently rules Taiwan. In recent years it has supported pan-Chinese nationalism, democracy, Chinese reunification, and capitalism under the doctrine of the "three principles of the people." The Nationalists ruled China from 1927 until 1949 and then moved to Taiwan. The name translates literally as "China's national people's party." It has had strong support from American conservatives since the 1930s.
The party was founded in 1912 by Song Jiaoren. It dissolved in 1913, but was reestablished in 1919 by Sun Yat-sen. After Sun's death, the party launched the "Northern Expedition," defeated the warlords of the Beiyang clique, and established a central government for China in Nanjing. From 1927 to 1975, the party was led by Chiang Kai-shek. When the Nationalists were defeated by the Communists in 1949, the party, together with most government officials, much of the army, anti-communist political activists and many business and cultural leaders evacuated to Taiwan. Until 1971, the UN and most non-communists governments recognized the Nationalist government in Taipei as the legitimate government of China. In 1991, the Nationalists withdrew their claim to territory on the mainland. KMT leader Ma Ying-jeou was elected Taiwanese president in 2008 and reelected in 2012.
The party is a member of the International Democrat Union.
Founded in 1912 by Sun Yat-sen, the KMT rejected the old incompetent and Qing dynasty and sought to modernize China along Japanese and Western lines. The KMT helped topple the Qing emperor and promoted modernization along Western lines. The party played a significant part in the first Chinese first National Assembly where it was the majority party. However the KMT failed to achieve complete control. The post of president was given to old-guard general Yuan Shikai (1859-1916) as reward for his decisive support for the revolution. Yuan Shikai was a warlord uninterested in modernization and abused his powers, over-riding the constitution and trying to shut down poltiical opposition. In July 1913, the KMT staged a 'Second Revolution' to depose Yuan. This failed and the following crack down by Yuan led to the dissolution of the KMT and the exile of its leadership, mostly to Japan.
Yuan Shikai tried and failed to make himself emperor of China. When Yuan Shikai died unexpectedly in 1916, China fractured into many regions controlled by warlords; this warlord era lasted about ten years.
Warlord period: 1916-26
When Yuan died, however, civil war broke out and regional warlords ruled amid chaos. The opium trade returned, irrigation failed, famine killed millions. Central rule was elusive. China sided with the Allies against Germany during World War I, and offered some limited assistance. The goal was hoping to obtain return of the cities that Germany controlled in China. Instead, the Treaty of Versailles gave that land to Japan. Feeling betrayed, the Chinese angrily demonstrated against that decision with the May Fourth Movement, which the Nationalists supported.
In exile, Sun Yat-sen and other former Nationalists founded several revolutionary parties under various names but with little success. These parties were united by Sun in 1919 as the "Chinese Nationalist Party." The word "Chinese" was added to the name of the reorganized party to distinguish it from the original. The new party returned to Guangzhou in China in 1920 where it set up a government but failed to achieve control of all of China. After the death of Yuan Shikai in 1916, China fractured into many regions controlled by warlords.
After 1919 the Soviets based in Moscow energetically promoted Communism, and for a while formed an alliance with the KMT. Mao Zedong, founded the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1921 in Shanghai. The KMT, in precarious position, accepted Soviet money and military advisors in China. The Soviets made the CCP join the KMT, thus forming the First United Front. The KMT gradually increased its geographical controls from its Canton base. Sun Yat-sen died in 1925.
Chiang Kai-shek unites China
Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975) became the KMT strongman and military leader. In 1926 Chiang led a military operation known as the "Northern Expedition" against the warlords that controled much of the country and defeated them. Next, Chiang tried to destroy the Communists. In Shanghai, the leading city, in 12 April 1927 he purged and often executed the Communists in the KMT. The Northern Expedition proved successful and the Nationalist government gained control throughout China (except Manchuria) in 1927, with Chiang as leader. The capital of China was moved to Nanjing, a city near Shanghai that previously served as capital for the Ming dynasty and for Sun Yat-sen in 1912.
The party was always concerned with strengthening Chinese identity at the same time it was discarding old traditions in the name of modernity. In 1929, the KMT government suppressed the textbook Modern Chinese History, widely used in secondary education. The Nationalists were concerned that, by not admitting the existence of the earliest emperors in ancient Chinese history, the book would weaken the foundation of the state. The case of the Modern Chinese History textbook reflects the symptoms of the period: banning the textbook strengthened the Nationalists' ideological control but also revealed their fear of the New Culture Movement and its more liberal ideological implications.
The KMT tried to destroy the Communist party of Mao Zedong, but was unable to stop the invasion by Japan, which controlled most of the coastline and major cities from 1937 to 1945. Chiang Kai-shek secured massive military and economic aid from the United States, and in 1945 became one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, with a veto. The KMT governed most of China until it was defeated in civil war by the Communists in 1949.
The collapse of the KMT regime can in part be attributed to the government's economic policies, which triggered capital flight among the businessmen who had been the KMT's strongest supporters. The cotton textile industry was the leading sector of Chinese industry, but in 1948, shortages of raw cotton plunged the industry into dire straits. The KMT government responded with an aggressive control policy that directly procured cotton from producers to ensure a sufficient supply and established a price freeze on cotton thread and textiles. This policy failed because of resistance from cotton textile industrialists, who relocated textile facilities and capital to Hong Kong or Taiwan around the end of 1948 and early 1949 when prices soared and inflation spiraled out of control. Their withdrawal of support was a shattering blow to the morale of the KMT.
Chinese Civil War
Civil war broke out between the Communist and Guomindang in 1930. Mao Zedong trained peasants in guerrilla warfare. But Chiang’s army surrounded Mao’s, and in 1934 forced Mao’s army to go on the Long March, which was a 6,000-mile retreat to northwestern China. Few made it back alive--the survivors controlled the Communist party since 1949.
Second Sino-Japanese War
- Main article: Second Sino-Japanese War
Meanwhile an aggressive Japan invaded Manchuria, an independent warlord-controlled area of northeast China rich in iron and coal deposits needed by Japanese industry and in March 1932 set up the puppet state of Manchukuo. On 24 February, 1933, the League of Nations adopted a resolution calling for the non-recognition of Manchukuo, however the Soviet Union nonetheless did recognize Manchukuo and sold Japan the Chinese Eastern Railway in 1935. This Manchurian invasion was the beginning of World War II in Asia and is commonly referred to as the Mukden Incident. Japan followed this with an invasion of China in 1937 along the Yangtze River. The Chinese civil war stopped temporarily to defend against the Japanese invasion. The Soviet Union brought 30 thousand Red army troops to Mongolia and stationed them along the southern and south-eastern border of Mongolia on the pretext of having found the Japanese plan of military occupation of Mongolia". At the same time, the Soviet leadership gave instructions to carry out mass arrests and the execution of several ten thousands of Mongolian government, party and army cadres on the pretext of "rooting out the spy organization."
The Nationalist Chinese government led by Chiang Kai-shek received aid from the United States to fight against the Japanese, but in reality they used that money to prepare for civil war against the communists led by Mao Zedong. After the war, the communists (from the northwest) attempted to conquer the Nationalists (from the southwest). Civil war raged from 1946 to 1949. Due to many desertions by soldiers from the Nationalist army to the communists, Mao prevailed by October 1949. Mao had promised land for the peasants and renamed the country the People’s Republic of China. Jiang fled with Nationalists to the island of Taiwan, and continued to claim sovereignty over all of China, a stance which the United States supported until Richard Nixon reversed course in 1971.
In Taiwan: 1949-present
After KMT moved to Taiwan since 1949, Chiang Kai-shek declared the martial law. which banned the communists. Chiang then re-elected four times by the un-elected National Assembly until he died in 1975. His son Chiang Ching-kuo successed him and ended the martial law in 15 July 1987. Chiang died on 13 January 1988, Lee Teng-hui became the new president. On 23 March 1996, Lee Teng-hui became the first president democratically elected by the Taiwanese people. The KMT lost power from 2000 to 2008. On 22 March 2008, Ma Ying-jeou was elected as president. Since the KMT back to power, the KMT endorses the "three noes" policy as defined by Ma Ying-jeou – no unification, no independence and no use of force.
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- The event is also known as the Shanghai Massacre of 1927. See Tien-wei Wu, "A Review of the Wuhan Debacle: the Kuomintang-Communist Split of 1927." Journal of Asian Studies 1969 29(1): 125-143