Early Chinese History Dynasties Republic of China
Early Yunnan History Communist China China Today


Yunnan seldom played a vanguard role in Chinese history. However, after Yuan Shikai had declared himself the new emperor of China, Yunnan was the first Chinese province to reply in open revolt. Other provinces followed, and Yuan Shikai's armies moved south to subdue the rebellious provinces. Alas, while the campaign proceeded, Yuan Shikai suddenly died. Subsequently, Sun Yatsen was re-installed as head of the republican movement, now organized in the Nationalist Party, the Kuomintang.

Though the Kuomintang at that time was the only nation-wide political, and military, force, power in many a province and city was actually held by a local warlord. During the 1920's, establishing itself as single authority all over China became the principle concern of the Kuomintang; it was, therefore, no surprise that the military factions within the Kuomintang were calling the shots. Correspondingly, upon the death of Sun Yatsen by cancer in 1925, it was one of the Kuomintang's military leaders, General Chiang Kaishek, who took the reigns.

However, in the 1920's a b was emerging in China. Aided by the newly established communist government in Moscow, the Chinese Communist Party was founded in Shanghai in 1921. In order to keep the course of history in accordance with communist dogma, which demands a nationalist revolution before a socialist revolution, Russian Comintern advisors insisted that the CCP first work in the frame of the Kuomintang government.

However, recognizing the communist threat and regarding it as more serious than any other internal conflict, Chiang Kaishek soon engaged in a policy of massacring communist forces whenever there was an opportunity. Still, the CCP was under pressure from the Comintern to try a variety of forms of cooperation with nationalist forces, and furthermore, to go by the book in centering their revolutionary efforts in the cities.

Both policies were disastrous to the CCP. Mao Zedong was the communist leader who saw most clearly the ill effects, Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy had on the cause of a social revolution in China, and, out of practical need, he offered alternatives, thereby setting the foundations of Maoism.

Maoism departed from communist orthodoxy in declaring peasants and the countryside, not industrial workers and the cities, as the appropriate base for a social revolution in China. Apart from this new political ideology, practical needs also gave birth to a Maoist school of thought with regard to military tactics. As the communist forces were outnumbered by far, and out-equipped as well, by Chiang Kaichek's Kuomintang, and as the communists were confronted with Chiang Kaichek's policy of extermination, the communist forces, under the guidance of Mao, adopted a guerrilla strategy, based on constantly harassing Kuomintang forces rather than attempting victory in pitched battle. When confronted with a vastly superior Kuomintang force, the communist retreated from their central Chinese bases and, in October 1933, took to their 8000-kilometer Long March to the Northwest of the country.

From the middle of the 1930's to the middle of the 1940's, the internal conflict between the Kuomintang and the communists was temporarily put on hold because of the Japanese expansion into Chinese territory. The Chinese communists didn't want to engage into civil war because they didn't want to weaken any force they thought could oppose the Japanese annexation of China. Similarly, the World War II allied forces, especially the Soviet Union and the US didn't want Chiang Kaishek to waste Chinese military power in internal conflict but rather have all forces directed against the Japanese.

Chiang Kaishek, however, was in the correct belief that the Americans could handle the Japanese alone, and while not pursuing the communists as eagerly as in the beginning of the 30's, he still considered them his primary enemies. Therefore, rather than using Allied military assistance to put up a fight against the Japanese, he stashed away arms and financial means, and preserved his forces, for the time after the Americans would have defeated the Japanese.

Accordingly, soon after the defeat of Japan and the end of World War II, China was engulfed in a full-fledged civil war. It was won in 1949 by the communists, with Chiang Kaishek and the remnants of the Kuomintang fleeing to Taiwan where they were protected from annihilation by an US naval blockade.

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