|1. China’s Geography
The third largest country in the world (after Russia and Canada) and slightly larger than the United States (see the overlapped maps of China and the United States at http://www.chinapage.org/map/map.html), China is much bigger than its east and southeast Asian neighbors. Unlike the United States, which enjoys coasts on both sides of the north American continent, China has a coastline only on its east side, and the western part of China is covered with mountainous plateaus reaching as high as 3,000 feet above sea level. The highest peak, Mount Everest, could be as high as 29,029 feet. Only less than half of Chinese land is arable land, in the east, so the majority of the Chinese population concentrates on the eastern coast or nearby. Unlike most mountain ranges in the U.S. that go north—south, the Chinese mountain ranges largely go northeast—southwest, creating very different climates in different regions. Thus when it pours in north China, south China can be suffering from a severe drought, or vice versa.
2. History and Development of Civilization in China
China is one of the four most ancient civilizations in the world. (The other three are Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Indian.) Historically, China was one of the earliest developed civilizations in Asia. China is also the most continuous civilization in the world. Despite dynastic changes, China has also remained a unified political entity since 200 B.C. Other ancient civilizations, such as the Egyptians, Mesopotamians and Indians, all stopped using their ancient languages after a period of time, but the Chinese language has enjoyed continuity over at least four thousand years. China’s history of written records dates back to 4,000 years ago (the Chinese talk about a civilization of five thousand years). Paper was invented in China around 200 A.D., spread to west Asia around 800 A.D., and to Europe around 1,100 A.D. The Chinese also contributed the compass and gunpowder to world civilizations. Starting from around the 2nd century B.C., China had already established extensive trading networks with central, west Asian countries and peoples. The trade route extended as far as Rome. In the 19th century, German geographer Ferdinand Baron von Richthofen named this trade route “The Silk Road,” a name that has carried to this day. According to Kenneth Pomeranz, Chinese science and technology continued to be advanced until around 1800, when Europe started to surpass China in these areas.
3. A China-Centered World
In contrast to the warring states of central and east/southeast Asia, China seemed to tower above its neighbors and was able assimilate any military conquerors. The early development and dominance of Chinese civilization led to a Sino (China)-centric view of the world. China, or zhong guo in Chinese, literally means the “center of the world”, and this conceited view of the world was predominant among the leading Chinese.
Before 1550, that conceitedness did not block China from extensive communications with the outside world through trade and the foreign students who came to study the Chinese language and culture. The most notable exchange was perhaps a maritime expedition led by Zheng He between 1405-1433, with 317 ships and 27,870 men setting sail with silks, porcelain, and spices for trade, traveling across India, the Arabian Sea, then Aden and then Malindi in East Africa. After 1550, however, the Chinese government gradually shut down its international trade.
Even at the height of its international commerce, China did not often maintain an equal relationship with its trade partners, rendering them into tributary states---states that paid tributes and relied on Chinese military protection and political patronage. A tributary state was one that claimed it respected the Chinese civilization and would rely on Chinese military protection. It would send tributes to China annually to reconfirm its tributary status to China. In return, the Chinese emperor would also generously return gifts to the tributary states. Friendly tributary states historically included Annam (Vietnam), Korea, the Ryukyu Islands, and others. By the 1700s, China was very used to treating most states in contact with it (mostly its Asian neighbors) as tributary states.
Even states and peoples who fought China---barbaric neighbors that conquered China militarily---were often conquered by the Chinese culture to various extents later. They included the Huns, Mongols, Manchus, etc. The Mongols were not able to maintain their rule in China for long because they refused to be much assimilated into the Chinese culture. The Manchus were very successful in assimilating into the Chinese culture, therefore maintaining their rule from 1644 into the 20th century and perhaps could perpetuate their rule longer had the Westerners not come to China.
View Chinese History Time Line
4. The Qing Dynasty
Imperial dynasties ruled over a unified China from around 220 B.C. up to 1911. Periodically, the unification would disintegrate for various reasons, but it would invariably be restored. The last dynasty to rule over a unified China was called the Qing (Pure) Dynasty (1644-1911). It was established by the Manchus, a nomadic people who inhabited the northeastern borders of China (called Manchuria) and served as frontier guards in the Chinese army. The word Qing, meaning pure, sounds eerily Muslim, suggesting their connections with the Central Asian Muslim tribes, but like most previous foreign rulers in China, they quickly Sinicized, converting into Confucianism in China and becoming exemplary Confucian rulers, although succumbing from time to time to Buddhist influences. The Manchu emperors also inherited the Sino-centric view of the world, perhaps even more so than their Han (the largest ethnic group in China) counterparts because they felt they needed to act truly Chinese in order to consolidate their rule over the Chinese. In the 18th century, Manchu emperors encountered what later would turn out to be a more formidable foe than rebels or the Han (the majority of Chinese whom they ruled over)---the Europeans who were beginning to undergo the Industrial Revolution and were looking for overseas markets for their machine manufactured goods. Initially, Manchu emperors tried to ignore these European envoys for trade.
5. China Encounters the Europeans
Unlike previous visitors to China, the English who came for trade in the 19th century were not in a position to pay tribute to China. Britain was just undergoing an industrial revolution and in great need to open up markets around the world. Its advocacy of free trade clashed with the Chinese imperial system that emphasized self-sufficiency and feared the influence of robust international commerce and trade on the Chinese culture and society. As early as 1600, China limited trade with foreign countries to only the city of Canton, called the Canton System. There developed a class of Chinese merchants that specialized in trade between foreign merchants and Chinese merchants outside of Canton. They were called the compradors.
When Lord McCartney, envoy to King George III of England came to China seeking free trade in 1793, Emperor Qian Long treated him as yet another envoy from a country seeking to be a tributary state to China. Emperor Qian Long’s ignorance of England contrasted with the English familiarity with international navigation. Clashes between the two were almost inevitable. When Emperor Qian Long’s ministers asked Lord McCartney to kowtow to the emperor following the style of Chinese imperial ministers kneeling and touching the ground with one’s forehead), Lord McCartney curtsied, saying that was what he did to his king. This was just one of the few cultural clashes between the two. Lord McCartney brought many goods to China, mostly industrial machine made products, as a way to befriend the Chinese emperor and to show to the latter England’s recent developments, but Emperor Qian Long took the presents to be tributary goods. Emperor Qian Long turned down McCartney’s request for trade, not knowing that half a century later, China was going to pay heavily for it, with money and territorial concessions.
The First Opium War (1839-42)
In 1839, China and Europe clashed in a war over opium. The Chinese destruction of British opium, grown in India, (c.f. our drug war today) led to British government retaliation and declaration of war on China. Historically, Britain bought Chinese tea, silk, and Chinaware, but China, a self-sufficient economy as Emperor Qian Long (also spelled Chien Lung) alleged in 1793, bought little from Britain. Finally, Britain found a niche in the Chinese market: opium, which caused many Chinese, from the emperor's son to the pauper, to be addicted, leading to the Chinese banning of opium in 1839 and the First Opium War (1839-42).
After China was defeated by Britain in the war, China was required to do many things, including the following:
Pay Britain twenty-one million dollars.
Open five southern Chinese ports to Britain for trade.
Allow Britain one-sided most-favored nation status (which meant British goods in China would be subject to low tariffs while Chinese goods would be subject to high tariffs in Britain).
Allow British subjects extraterritoriality in China (meaning British subjects were not subject to Chinese law in China and could be tried by their British peers or expedited to Britain for trial).
The First Opium War was followed by a series of humiliating defeats of China by foreigners in the second half of the 19th century: the Second Opium War (1858-60); the Sino-French War (1884-85); the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), and finally, the retaliation of the Eight Allied Forces against China (1900-01).
The Second Opium War (1856-60)
After the First Opium War, despite the Chinese concessions to the British and later to other European countries, the British found insufficient change in China's attitude toward the foreign world, and hoped to expand British forces in northern China (the five treaty ports in the first treaty were all in the south). The murder of a French missionary and the seizure of a British ship were the timely pretexts that saw the launching of a joint Anglo-French military force that attacked and captured the city of Tianjin. Treaty negotiations followed and resulted in an agreement opening numerous new ports for trade, legalizing the opium trade, and making various other provisions as demanded by the westerners. By the terms of the Treaty of Tianjin (1858) the Chinese opened new ports to trading and allowed foreigners with passports to travel in the interior. Christians gained the right to spread their faith and hold property, thus opening up another means of western penetration. The United States and Russia gained the same privileges in separate treaties. The treaty was agreed to locally, but the Emperor’s court in Beijing refused to ratify it. This resulted in the British/French joint forces' seizure of Beijing, forcing the emperor Xianfeng (Hsian Feng) to flee the city, together with his queen and favorite concubine, the later empress dowager Cixi (Tzu Hsi). The emperor's summer palace was burnt down by Lord Elgin, commander of the British troops in Beijing. And the Chinese government had to agree to the content of the Treaty of Tianjin.
The Sino-French War (1883-1885)
The Sino-French War (1883-1885) was fought over Vietnam, traditionally a Chinese protectorate. It ended in Chinese failure and recognition of a joint protectorate in Vietnam between China and France.
The Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895)
The Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) was fought with Japan over Korea, traditionally a Chinese protectorate. It ended in Chinese failure and Japanese colonization of Korea and the Chinese province of Taiwan. In the Treaty of Shimonoseki signed at the end of the war, China had to pay an indemnity of 200,000,000 taels (about $200 million) to Japan and open the ports of Shashi, Chongqing, Suzhou, and Kangzhou to Japanese trade. The Triple Intervention (1895), secured by Russia, France, and Germany, subsequently required Japan to retrocede the Liaotung Peninsula to China in return for an additional indemnity of 30,000,000 taels.
The Boxer Uprising and the Eight Allied Forces Intervention 1900-1901
In 1900, a Chinese peasant movement called the Boxers started to target foreign missionaries and Chinese Christians. They called themselves I-ho ch'uan, or “Righteous and Harmonious Fists.” They practiced boxing skills that they believed made them impervious to bullets. It was a nativist, xenophobic movement tacitly supported by the Chinese government to leverage the foreign presence in China. For a moment, the Boxers besieged the foreign legations in Beijing, leading to the joint intervention of the troops of six European countries, plus Japan and the United States. The ultimate Boxer Protocol China signed with these foreign countries allowed the latter to station troops in China at key points. The Chinese government was to pay $330 million in gold to the countries involved to cover their war cost, plus many more fees in hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover other expenses incurred by the war.
6. A Change in China’s Self-Conception and Worldview
These wars shattered the Chinese conception of themselves and the outside world. Up to 1839, even in the letter to Queen Victoria by Commissioner Lin Tse-hsu, who was in charge of dealing with the sale of British opium in China, the view of the outside world had not changed significantly from half a century earlier, the time of Emperor Qian Long (Chien-lung). A closed, self-complacent, agrarian and self-sufficient Chinese economy finally encountered the taste of an aggressive, rapidly industrializing society that would not bow to any one else. It was a shock that would send reverberations throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. China's defeat in this series of wars, while fostering nationalism, would inflict a tremendous dent on the Chinese sense of cultural identity. Serious questionings of Chinese culture and government would eventually follow. Unlike the Japanese, who would strive to hold onto some "national essence," the Chinese, in the 20th century, would seek the destruction of such an essence, namely, Confucian learning: the systematic teachings by Confucius, a Chinese scholar who lived 2,500 years ago. They would also usher in a regime change: replacing the Manchu imperial government with a republic in 1911. In the 19th century, serious questionings of traditional Chinese practices were made and reforms were proposed.
7. Proposals for Reform
The 1895 Chinese Scholars' Petition for Reform
Upon hearing of China's defeat by Japan, formerly a country that had looked up to China, many Chinese scholars petitioned the Chinese government for reforms. Prior to 1895, limited reforms had been carried out, primarily in establishing naval shipyards and creating some sporadic schools, which specialized in engineering, translation, and interpretation.The effort was not nationwide because China did not have a nationwide educational system. The traditional form of education was private tutorials, and the Imperial Examination System used to select government officials was based primarily on a familiarity with classical Confucian texts on human cultivation.
The Imperial Examination System
From around 7th century A.D., China started a civil service examination whereby they selected government officials based on a variety of subjects, chiefly Confucian learning texts. By the time of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), only two subjects remained in the examination: a civics part, focusing on Confucian learning, and a military part (consisting of horse riding, archery, etc.) reserved only for Manchu men. Science and technology, although developed early in China, were ignored by the state. After the Western encroachments into China, more and more Chinese reformers advocated a reform of the imperial examination system, adding subjects such as mathematics and astronomy. Also, many petitioned for establishing government sponsored schools in China to teach Western subjects of science and astronomy. It was under such circumstances that emperor Guang Xu, the nephew of Empress Cixi and Emperor Xian Feng, the emperor who was forced to flee Beijing (Peking) during the Second Opium War and who died a year after the war came to an end in 1861, decided to launch a series of reforms in China.
The Hundred Day Reform (1898)
In 1898 Emperor Guang Xu, together with his advisers, formulated a series of reform proposals. This planning process, however, only lasted for around 100 days, and the emperor's aunt, Empress Dowager Cixi, expressed disagreement with some of the drastic measures of reform. Of six chief advisers of the emperor, four of them were beheaded, and two fled to Japan upon the decision of the empress dowager. The reform was aborted. Some of its decisions, however, were eventually carried out, such as establishing an imperial university in Peking (Beijing) to serve as the state's organ for an eventual educational reform and as a means to train government officials with a combination of Chinese and Western learning. Larger scale reform would be put underway after the Boxer Uprising in 1902.
8. Specific Strategies for Reform: Combining Chinese Culture and Western Learning
Besides the emperor's attempt to reform in 1898, in the face of Western encroachment, many Chinese called for reform and wrote treatises memorializing Emperor Guangxu, persuading him to reform, or they disseminated their ideas in the emerging newspapers and journals in the treaty-ports and other major Chinese cities. The question was how, specifically, how to maintain a degree of equality between China and the West while adopting Western knowledge and practices. Singling out culture, many decided that despite a vast disparity between China and the West militarily and economically, culture-wise China was an equal, if not superior to the West. As you may guess, many Chinese continued to share Emperor Chien Lung's China-centered view of the world, and reform to them was something forced upon them. Hence many agreed to a scheme of Western learning borrowing, called the ti (essence)/yong (application) formula: maintaining Chinese culture as the essence, and applying Western learning to solving the practical problems of the world.
What did ti/yong mean in the language of the reformers? Historically, ti (essence) and yong (application) were treated as two indispensable dimensions of the same thing. Ti was the essence of the thing while yong was its application, just as in Western philosophy, there was the division between the substance and the appearance of something, and according to Aristotle, you cannot have one without the other. However, in modern times, ti and yong were separated. Ti referred to Chinese learning, which primarily consisted of four branches related to the study of Confucian learning: history, literature, philosophy, and philology. Basic Confucian tenets of human behavior were upheld. Central to the essence of Chinese culture were certain values extracted from Confucian teachings, such as ren.
The Confucian idea of ren (benevolence, humaneness):
Just like love is central to Christianity, so ren (translated variously as benevolence or humaneness) was central to Confucian learning. It was the benchmark for a human being, hence its translation into "humaneness."
Ren referred to a system of proper behavior toward different people.
Ren and its implications:
To practice ren, one is loyal to the emperor, obedient to one’s father, respects the elderly and one’s senior, loves and cares for those who are junior, and proves trustworthy to one’s friends and peers. It is a system of interpersonal relationships.
To achieve ren one has to rid oneself of the tendency of free will and selfishness, and practice self-cultivation, such as through painting, music, and calligraphy.
Debates over the degree of Westernization in China:
In modern Chinese usage, since ti and yong were separated, Chinese learning (Confucian learning) could be the ti while Western learning became its application, the yong. The application of the ti/yong formula was a way to justify borrowing from Western culture and resolve the confusion the Chinese had in such borrowings, which raised questions such as, where does Chinese culture stand? and what about Chinese values when we borrow from Western values? The ti/yong forumula provided a much needed way to differentiate between the priorities of Chinese and Western culture so that borrowing from the latter would not negate the former.
The ti/yong dichotomy as an approach to cultural borrowing continued on and off throughout much of the 20th century. The initial decision to learn from the West in the late 19th century led to vast changes in Chinese society: the establishment of a modern school system in 1905; the overthrow of the imperial government in 1911 and the ushering in of a republic; and the introduction of modern Western medicine, science, politics, philosophy, history, literature and many other subjects that had initially been deemed not relevant to the building of Chinese strength and prosperity. By 1935, there was a formal declaration that equated Westernization with modernization, although that did not silence the debate over what aspects of Western culture was to be introduced into China either. The debate seemed to come to a stop in 1949, when the Chinese Communists took over the country, and declared that a particular branch of Western learning, Marxism, would be upheld in China because it emphasized paying attention to the particular issues of each society. But in the 1980s, China again opened up to the outside world, and the debate over Westernization continues to this day.
9. Late Qing Dynasty Reforms and the Republican Revolution of 1911:
After the series of defeats by Western powers, especially the defeat by eight allied countries in 1900, the Chinese government quickened its reforms, which were no longer confined to the scattered schools that taught Western learning and the factories/shipyards that manufactured Western style weapons and ships in the 19th century, but included a nationwide Western educational system from the primary to the tertiary in 1902. Co-education was also introduced, although its implementation in most parts of China was not realized until the 1920s. China also started to train its army in the Western way, and sent many imperial officials and students to the West to study foreign ways of science, technology, and politics. By 1910, the Chinese government was seriously considering establishing a parliamentary monarchy, although it was not ready to do it yet.
The Qing government’s many practices, however, irritated Chinese in many provinces. One of the things that angered the provinces most was their lack of any decision over who gets what business deals in their provinces. Railroad building was becoming a hotly contested business in central and eastern China. The Qing imperial government wanted to sell railroad rights to Western companies, as it borrowed heavy loans from Western countries. So the government nationalized all railroads in China. Chinese business people were irate at the loss of their own railroads. There were spontaneous movements in provinces such as Sichuan and Hubei in central China to prevent foreign companies from building railways in these provinces. When an uprising against the Qing government’s policy to nationalize railroads in Sichuan Province started in 1911, troops in Hubei Province were commissioned to go and put down the resistance. In October 1911, however, the troops in Wuchang, Hubei Province, in alliance with the local residents, rebelled against the Qing government, and were joined by many other Chinese provinces in southern and central China. By December 1911, most of southern China had declared independence from the Qing government. And a delegation from the independent Chinese provinces elected Sun Yat-sen, a long time revolutionary, as the first Chinese president in December 1911. The delegates also decided on January 1, 1912, as the beginning of the new Chinese republic. In March 1912, the first provisional constitution of the Republic of China was implemented, with a division of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.
The beginning of the republic also saw the beginning of the first modern political party in China, the Nationalist Party (Guomindang). Based on an anti-Manchu political alliance established in the late 19th century, the Nationalist Party, headed by Sun Yat-sen, was founded on three principles: nationalism, the people’s rights, and the people’s livelihood. Sun’s ideal vision was that every farmer in China could have a reasonably good livelihood and each would have his own plot of land to farm on. The Nationalist Party became the majority party in the first Chinese parliament.
10. The Republic’s Transition to Warlord Rule
In April 1912, however, Yuan Shi-kai, a former imperial minister of the Qing Dynasty, replaced Sun Yat-sen as the president. Yuan was a conservative Han Chinese whose role as president of a modern military academy in northern China won him the support of many military generals in the north who were formerly his students. Yuan thus enjoyed the support in the north that Sun Yat-sen, a Cantonese from Guangdong (Canton) Province in southern China, did not have. Yuan also claimed that he was the only one who could persuade the last Chinese emperor, Puyi, to abdicate, with the condition that Yuan himself had to be the president. Sun Yat-sen agreed to these terms and retired from his provisional presidency, but made one crucial change in the Chinese republican system. The original plan for the presidency, upon Sun’s insistence, gave the elected president predominant power in the government, with the right to appoint the prime minister. When he was to transfer power to Yuan, Sun decided on the cabinet system, with the prime minister in control of government who would come from the leader of the majority party in the parliament. Yuan’s initial decisions as president, however, shocked Sun and other republicans. Yuan forced the prime minister Tang Shaoyi to resign in order to better control parliament, and then he tried to intimidate a leading Nationalist Party member, Song Jiaoren, into becoming the next prime minister under his control. A staunch republicanist who believed in the cabinet system, Song refused to obey Yuan. When the Nationalist Party won the majority seats in the 1913 election, Yuan decided he needed to teach the Nationalist Party a lesson in obedience. In March 1913, while waiting for a train at the Shanghai Railway Station, Song Jiaoren was assassinated by a peddler hired by Yuan Shi-kai.
Song’s death led to what was called in Chinese history the “Second Revolution,” this time by the Nationalist Party and its allies against Yuan Shi-kai who tried to undermine the republic. Sun Yat-sen and his followers declared war on Yuan, and various provinces, including Jiangsu, Guangdong, Anhui, Hunan, and Fujian, as well as the city of Shanghai, declared independence from Yuan, but the Second Revolution was quickly suppressed by Yuan because the revolutionaries did not have sufficient support.
Yuan, however, felt his position was not secure and wanted to consolidate his power by restoring imperial rule. To get financial support Yuan relied more heavily on foreign loans than the Qing imperial government, giving rights of Chinese territories to foreign countries, especially to Japan, China’s largest creditor, as a condition to borrowing foreign loans. These practices led to greater condemnation of Yuan by a wide range of people in China. In 1915, Cai E (pronounced er), a military general from Yunnan Province, declared independence from Yuan’s government and declared war on Yuan, starting a nationwide war against Yuan’s imperial rule. In March 1916, three months after becoming the emperor, Yuan had to abdicate the throne. Yuan died in humiliation in June 1916.
Yuan’s death, however, did not lead to the restoration of republican rule. China simply fragmented into domains controlled by warlords. A president still nominally existed, but could no longer control the whole China. In 1917, conflict between president Li Yuanhong and prime minister Duan Qirui over whether China should participate in World War I led to the mediation of a warlord Zhang Xun who tried to restore imperial rule in China but was ousted in no time. Prime Minister Duan was a warlord over Anhui Province and was the one who ousted the warlord that tried to restore imperial rule. Duan attempted to monopolize the government without due parliamentary procedure, however.
Sun Yat-sen, the Nationalist leader, tried to restore the republic by declaring war on Duan but failed in 1918. Warlord rule would continue until 1928, with the country fragmented into regions controlled by various military strongmen.
11. The Formation of Two Modern Political Parties: The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Nationalist Party
In 1919, the Chinese again painfully realized that a political revolution was not enough. At the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, which imposed the terms of the victorious countries on the defeated in the wake of World War I, China, an ally of the victorious side, was asked to cede its territory Shandong Province, a former German colony, to Japan. The humiliation led to mass student demonstrations in Beijing on May 4, 1919, calling for a cultural transformation of China. Western culture and translations of everything Western flourished in China, including Marxism. Chinese Communism was born in the May 4th era.
The Communist Party
The first Chinese Communists mostly belonged to what one would refer to as the May Fourth era, named after an event in May 4, 1919 that resonated in later Chinese history. On May 4, 1919, thousands of students in Beijing poured into the streets to protest against the Chinese government’s decision to cede the Chinese territory of Shandong Province to Japan. The decision was to materialize in the Chinese delegation’s signature at the Versailles Peace Treaty, where a clause about the transfer of Chinese Shangdong Province from Germany to Japan had to be approved. The Chinese government’s decision was made under the pressure of Japan that, like China, participated in World War I on the side of the British and the Americans, and the U.S. and Britain, but the information was leaked out in Japan to Chinese students studying there, who then informed Chinese students in China and in France about the clause in the treaty. The outburst of anger of Chinese students was not only due to the fact that China continued to be treated as a second class country even after it sent paramedics, trench diggers, and cooks to the French front in World War I, but also because China, after various reforms, including the establishment of a republic, continued to be weak and manipulated by strong powers. Eventually the Chinese delegates at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 refused to sign the treaty, and Japan did not get Shangdong Province. But the event taught many educated Chinese a lesson, namely, to make China strong, it not only had to transform its technology and politics, but also its culture. Thus May 4th was also connected to what was called the New Culture Movement, a flurry of introduction of Western culture. They imbibed the ideas of humanism, individual values, science and democracy from the West. Many of them also came to accept Marxism, especially after the October 1917 Russian revolution because of all the Western countries in the world, the Soviet Union announced it would give up all the Chinese territories under its control back to China. The Chinese thought Marxism offered a solution for them to get out of their semi-colonial status and regain national independence. The Soviet Union, a Marxist state, indicated their independence to other Western powers and seemed to treat China more as an equal than other powers.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP, 1921-now) was therefore formed in the wake of the Russian revolution and a product of the May Fourth Movement of 1919. By 1921, according to the Treaty of Nanjing signed in the wake of the First Opium War in 1842, metropolitan Shanghai had developed into enclaves called International Concession, and the French Concession, patrolled by French, British, and other international police, and governed by board of trustees made up of various European countries, the U.S., and Japan. Only the southern part of Shanghai was governed by the Chinese municipal government of Shanghai. The existence of multiple governments in Shanghai created loopholes in Shanghai governance that allowed various political groups to thrive in that city. One of them was the Communists, who held their organization meeting in Shanghai on July 1, 1921, inside the French Concession. The Chinese warlord government was anti-Communist, but it had no supervision over the French concession, according to the clause of extra-territoriality in the Treaty of Nanjing and extended later to all foreigners in China. So the French were self-governing. Thus the Communists were able to complete their meeting, although in secret, without being arrested.
The early founders of the Communist Party, such as Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung), were inspired by Western science and democracy, gender equality, and other social values. They came to accept Marxism and socialism, eventually Communism mostly because of a sense of indignation against social injustice, which they felt could be addressed by a Communist system emphasizing egalitarianism.
At the beginning, the Communist Party was small and recruited largely from urban workers and intellectuals. As a political party, it also had to operate in secret because the Chinese government in Beijing was anti-Communist. To strengthen its base, it allied with the Nationalist Party in 1923.
The Nationalist Party
Another modern political party formed in the Chinese republic was the Nationalist Party (Guomindang, or GMD). Founded by Sun Yat-sen in 1912, and led by his like-minded republican colleagues, the party, however, came to comprise largely the urban middle-class, factory owners, bankers, professionals, and rural landlords. Although the Nationalists and the Communists were influenced by the Western political party system, they were not influenced by the Western idea of democratic pluralism. Therefore they were mutually exclusive, and made up temporary alliances only when they were most weak, such as between 1923 and 1927, and again during the war against Japanese invasion (1936-45). As soon as immediate external danger subsided, they would try to slash each other's throats. Both modern political parties treated their leaders similar to the way emperors were treated in history. Personal rule, rather than rule by law, characterized both parties. The mutual exclusion of the two parties led to the Nationalists' incessant hunt-downs of the Communists from 1927 to 1935, forcing the Communists eventually to abandon their base in the mountains of southeastern China and retreat for 6,000 miles across half of China in 1934-35, via Tibet, crossing marshlands and snow capped mountains, to Yenan in Shaanxi Province in northwestern China, where the Nationalists' defense was relatively weak. This event was called the Long March. In Yenan and later on, the Communists relied on the peasants and conducted land redistribution and rent reduction to amass greater support among the local population.
Meanwhile, the Nationalist Party government, bolstered by American support and relying on middle class/professionals/landlords in China, slowly conducted modern reforms in education, hygiene, and some more or less insignificant areas. In Nationalist controlled regions, the government favored the landlords and so the peasants were loaded with high rents and taxes. The Chinese war against Japanese invasion (Sino-Japanese war, 1937-45) shifted the balance between the Communists, who rapidly expanded their territories and recovered from their losses from 1935 by 1945, and the Nationalists, who suffered great losses through the regular warfare they conducted with the Japanese. After Japanese surrender in 1945, civil war erupted between the KMT and the CCP, and the CCP's land redistribution program won the hearts of the peasants, who comprised 90 per cent of the Chinese population. After CCP takeover of China, the Nationalists fled to Taiwan and established the Republic of China there, vowing to recover mainland China soon. The Communists established their one-party government in Beijing, called the People's Republic of China, and vowed to recover Taiwan Province from the Nationalists. Their confrontations in recent years have somewhat been abated by the extensive trade developed between them in the past 20 years, but tension still exists.
12. The Alliance of the CCP and the Nationalist Party, and the Northern Expedition
During the time when Yuan was president and emperor, Sun Yat-sen's Nationalist Party members were on the wanted list for Yuan's government. Sun retreated to Canton, and "rented" his base from a local warlord called Chen Jiongming whose goal was to establish the autonomy of Canton from the Beijing government. When Chen eventually found that Sun did not agree with him, Chen would attack Sun in 1922. In his weak position, Sun championed a policy of uniting with the Communists and the Soviet Union in 1923. Sun died in 1925 and his successor, a man called Chiang Kai-shek, continued the alliance with the Chinese Communists.
One of the outcomes of the alliance was a modern military academy established in Whampoa, Guangdong (Canton) Province. The Whampoa Academy trained numerous future Chinese military generals, both Nationalists and Communists. Chiang Kai-shek was the academy’s president, while Zhou Enlai, a Communist leader, following the Soviet style, was its political commissar.
In 1926, the Nationalists and the Communists were determined to end warlord rule and reunify China through a northward (or Northern) expedition from Canton. After they reached Shanghai, about half way through China, they parted ways. Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Nationalist Party, took the Communists by surprise on April 12, 1927, when thousands of Communists or Communist suspects were executed in Shanghai by the Nationalist troops. This was followed by a nation-wide hunt down for Communists by the Nationalists. From then on, the Communist movement, never very big from the start, went underground and turned to guerrilla warfare in the mountains of southeastern China. In 1928, The Nationalist Party declared China reunified and a new government, based in Nanjing (because Beijing was surrounded by too many suspect former warlords although they now pledged allegiance to the Nationalist government) and with the incorporation of only the Nationalist Party, was formed, appropriately called the Nationalist government.
Initially, Chinese Communists followed Russian Communism, which was at the center of the international Communist movement. As time went on, Chinese Communist leader Ma Zedong (Tse-tung) started to experiment with his own approach to Communism. Instead of focusing on the industrial workers, as traditional Marxists called for, and the Soviets practiced, Mao found great power and strength among the Chinese farmers, who comprised 90 percent of the Chinese population.
The Communist reliance on farmers' support was an innovation of Marxism. In China, the industrial working class and the industrial middle class remained small because Chinese national industry was no competition against imported foreign goods. The peasants were suffering from deep grievances of extremely heavy taxation, in some regions reaching 40-60 per cent of their income in the 1930s to 1940s. Many of them were tenant farmers. The Communist policy of land redistribution and reduction of taxes, therefore, were of enormous appeal to them. This policy was first championed by Mao Tse-tung, who eventually rose to top leadership in 1935. Through an investigation of the peasants' land redistribution and rent reduction movement in his native province of Hunan in 1926, Mao concluded the poor peasants should be the Communists' best supporters. His view, however, was initially ignored by top Communist leaders who had largely studied in Moscow and followed Stalin's policy on organizing industrial workers' strikes in the cities. These strikes were quickly and brutally suppressed by the police and troops of the Chinese government. It was after many failures of strikes in the cities that the Communist Party finally adopted Mao's view, allied with the peasants, and moved their bases to the countryside.
13. Women in Traditional Chinese Society
Historically, women were treated as second-class subjects of the emperor or non-entities. Many women did not have names, and when they got married, they would be referred to by their father's and their husband's last names. They had no legal rights. If a woman wanted to divorce a man, she could do so only when natal male relatives made the petition because she as a woman could not confront her husband.