Last modified on September 19, 2023, at 19:45

Nationalist Party

Chinese Nationalist Party
Party leader Wu Den-yih
Parliamentary leader
Founded 1919
Political ideology Conservatism
Political position Centre-right
International affiliation International Democrat Union and Centrist Democrat International
Color(s) blue

The Chinese Nationalist Party, or KMT, was China's ruling party from 1927 until 1949. Led by Chiang Kai-shek, the party fled to Taiwan when the Chinese Communists gained control of the mainland. Chiang continued to lead the party in Taiwan until his death in 1975. They party supports pan-Chinese nationalism, democracy, Chinese reunification, and capitalism under the doctrine of the "three principles of the people." The party had the support of the United States for many years beginning in the 1930s. The abbreviation "KMT" stands for "Kuomintang," an obsolete romanization of the party's Chinese name.

Nationalist Party
Traditional Chinese 國民黨
Simplified Chinese 国民党
The party has its roots with the Tongmenghui, a secret society founded by Sun Yat-sen in 1905. In 1912, this society combined with several smaller groups to form the Nationalist Party. Led by Song Jiaoren, the party won a majority of the seats in the National Assembly election that year. Song was assasinated and his party dissolved in 1913. In 1919, Sun created the "Chinese Nationalist Party" to replace it. The party has continued in this form to the present. After Sun's death in 1925, the party launched the "Northern Expedition" under Chiang's leadership. Chiang defeated the warlords of the Beiyang clique and established a central government for China in Nanjing.

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. The U.S. recognized the Taipei as the government of China until 1979. 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 and the Centrist Democrat International.

In China

Several anti-monarchist societies met in Tokyo under Sun's leadership to create the Tongmenghui on 20 August 1905. The group opposed the Qing dynasty and sought to modernize China along Japanese and Western lines. After the imperial government was toppled, a national election was scheduled in 1912. To contest this election, the Tongmenghui and several other groups combined to create the Nationalist Party. This party was led by Song Jiaoren. The party played a significant part in the National Assembly, where it was the majority party.

In March 1913, Song was assassinated at Shanghai Railway Station. The gunman worked for a Shanghai underworld figure. Historians have concluded that the government of President Yuan Shikai (1859–1916) was responsible.

Warlord period: 1913–1926

In July, the KMT staged a 'Second Revolution' to depose Yuan. This failed and the following crackdown by Yuan led to the dissolution of the KMT and to the exile of its leadership, mostly to Japan. To deal with the uprising, Yuan gave China's military governors emergency powers. This marked the beginning the Warlord Era of Chinese politics.

Yuan tried and failed to make himself emperor of China. He died unexpectedly in 1916. China fractured into regions led by various military governors. This warlord era lasted for about ten years. 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 the 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 a 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 controlled much of the country and defeated them. Next, Chiang tried to destroy the Communists. In Shanghai, the leading city, on 12 April 1927 he purged and often executed the Communists in the KMT.[1] 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 the 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

For more detailed treatments, see Second Sino-Japanese War and Chinese Communist collaboration with Japanese war criminals.

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."

Two wars

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 the embargo by the Democrat president Harry S. Truman and the infiltration of the Communist members into the Nationalist army and the US governments, Mao stole the nation by October 1949. Mao had tricked the farmers that land will be given to the peasants and de facto separated China into two parts: the Mainland and Taiwan. The mainland has been renamed as the People's Republic of China. Jiang was forced into retreat with Nationalists to the island of Taiwan, imposing strong anti-Communistic policies, and continued to claim sovereignty over all of China, a stance which the United States supported until Richard Nixon reversed course under the influence of Kissinger 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 succeeded him and ended the martial law on 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. However, the KMT has been gradually losing its ground of Anti-Communism by putting too much emphasis in pursuing Unification and inability to withstand the infiltration of the Communist Party Regime of the Mainland China.[2]


  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
  2. Gomez, Christian (November 27, 2018). Taiwan's Pro-Independence Party Loses to Pro-China Kuomintang Party. The New American. Retrieved November 27, 2018.


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Online resources