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The Kuomintang of China (KMT), also known as the Chinese Nationalist Party and Guomindang, is a conservative party currently active in the Republic of China on 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 Kuomintang of China (Traditional Chinese: 中國國民黨; Simplified Chinese: 中国国民党; Hanyu Pinyin: Zhōngguó Guómíndǎng; Initials: KMT or GMD) ruled China 1927-48 and then moved to Taiwan. The name translates as "China's National People's Party" and was historically referred to as the Chinese Nationalists. It has had strong support from American conservatives since the 1930s.

The Party was initially founded in 1912, by Sun Yat-sen. It dissolved in 1913, then was restarted in 1919 by Sun Yat-sen, and became the ruling party in China. After Sun's death, the party was dominated from 1927 to 1975 by Chiang Kai-shek. Though the KMT lost the civil war with the Communist Party, the KMT together with most government officials, much of the army, and many business and cultural leaders escaped to Taiwan, and took control there in 1949.

The Kuomintang is a member of the International Democrat Union.

In China

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 th 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 KMT supported.

In exile, Sun Yat-sen and other former KMT members founded several revolutionary parties under various names but with little success. These parties were united by Sun in 1919 under the title "The Kuomintang of China". The new party returned to Canton (now translated as 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 strong man. In 1926 Chiang led a millitary operation known as the "Northern Expedition" against the warlords that controled much of the country and defeated them. Next, Chiang tried to destroy the Chinese Communists. In Shanghai, the leading city, in April 1927 he purged and often executed the Communists in the KMT.[1] The Northern Expedition proved successful and the KMT party came to power throughout China (except Manchuria) in 1927 with Chiang the unelected strong-man or dictator. The capital of China was moved to Nanjing in order to be closer to the KMT's strong base in southern China.

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, 1937-1945. 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 CCP 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 for the next 60 years.

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."

Kuomintang's Two Wars

The Nationalist Chinese 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.


  • Barnett, A. Doak China on the Eve of Communist Takeover. (1963) online edition
  • Bedeski, Robert E. State-Building in Modern China: The Kuomintang in the Prewar Period. (1981). 181 pp.
  • Bergere, Marie-Claire. Sun Yat-Sen (1998), 480pp, the standard biography
  • Bodenhorn, Terry, ed. Defining Modernity: Guomindang Rhetorics of a New China, 1920-1970. (2002). 288 pp. ISBN 0-89264-161-4
  • Boorman, Howard L., ed. Biographical Dictionary of Republican China. (Vol. I-IV and Index. 1967-1979). 600 short scholarly biographies excerpt and text search
  • Botjer, George. A Short History of Nationalist China, 1919–1949 (1979). 312pp
  • Carroll, Anne W. "Who Lost China", ;;Faith and Reason (Spring 1989)online
  • Epoch Times. On the Unscrupulous Nature of the Chinese Communist Party, The Epoch Times, 2005. online
  • Fairbank, John K., ed. The Cambridge History of China, Vol. 12, Republican China 1912-1949. Part 1. (1983). 1001 pp.
  • Fairbank, John K. and Feuerwerker, Albert, eds. The Cambridge History of China. Vol. 13: Republican China, 1912-1949, Part 2. (1986). 1092 pp.
  • Fenby, Jonathan. Chiang Kai Shek: China's Generalissimo and the Nation He Lost (2004), 592pp excerpt and text search
  • Hille, Kathrin. "Resurgent KMT must confront its dark past," Financial Times December 6, 2007 online
  • Hood, Steven J. The Kuomintang and the Democratization of Taiwan. (1997). 181 pp. online from Questia
  • Hsiung, James C. and Steven I. Levine. China's Bitter Victory: The War with Japan, 1937-1945 (1992) online from Questia
  • Perleberg, Max. Who's Who in Modern China (From the Beginning of the Chinese Republic to the End of 1953): Over Two Thousand Detailed Biographies of the Most Important Men Who Took Part in the Great Struggle for China, Including Detailed Histories of the Political Parties, Government Organisations, a Glossary of New Terms Used in Contemporary Chinese (1954) online from Questia
  • Pye, Lucian W. Warlord Politics: Conflict and Coalition in the Modernization of Republican China (1971) online from Questia
  • Rigger, Shelley. Politics in Taiwan: Voting for Democracy (1999) online edition
  • Sharman, Lyon. Sun Yat-Sen His Life and Its Meaning: A Critical Biography. (1968) online from Questia
  • Spence, Jonathan D. The Search for Modern China (1991), 876pp; well written survey from 1644 to 1980s excerpt and text search; complete edition online at Questia
  • Taylor, Jay. The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-Shek and the Struggle for Modern China (2009), 722 pp. highly favorable scholarly biography
  • Taylor, Jay. The Generalissimo's Son: Chiang Ching-kuo and the Revolutions in China and Taiwan. (2000). 496 pp.
  • Thornton, Richard C. China: A Political History, 1917-1980 (1982) online edition
  • Wachman, Alan M. Taiwan: National Identity and Democratization (1994) online edition
  • Yu, George T. Party Politics in Republican China the Kuomintang, 1912- 1924 (1966) online from Questia
  • Zanasi, Margherita. Saving the Nation: Economic Modernity in Republican China. (2006). 320 pp.

Primary sources

  • Esherick, Joseph W., ed. Lost Chance in China: The World War II Despatches of John S. Service. (1974). 409 pp.

Online resources


  1. 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