A series of political, economic, and military missteps led the Kuomintang to defeat and retreat to Taiwan in 1949, establishing an authoritarian that declared itself to be the sole legitimate ruler of all of China. However, since political liberalization began in the late 1970s, the Republic of China has transformed itself into a localized, multiparty, representative democracy.
Flag of the ROC
Early Republic of China
Founding of the Republic of China
The last days of the Qing Dynasty were marked by civil unrests and foreign invasions. Various internal rebellions caused millions of deaths, and conflicts with foreign powers almost always resulted in humiliating unequal treaties that forced huge sums of and compromised territorial integrity. In addition, there were feelings that political power should return to the majority Han Chinese from the minority Manchus. Responding to these civil failures and discontent, the Qing Imperial Court did attempt to reform the government in various ways, such as the decision to draft a constitution in 1906, the establishment of provincial legislatures in 1909, and the preparation for a national parliament in 1910. However, many of these measures were opposed by the conservatives of the Qing Court, and many reformers were either imprisoned or executed outright. The failures of the Imperial Court to enact such reforming measures of political liberalization and modernization caused the reformists to steer toward the road of revolution.
There were many revolutionary groups, but the most organized one was founded by Sun Yat-sen, a republican and anti-Qing activist who became increasingly popular among the overseas Chinese and Chinese students abroad, especially in Japan. In 1905 Sun founded the Tongmenghui in Tokyo with Huang Xing, a popular leader of the Chinese revolutionary movement in Japan, as his deputy. This movement, generously supported by overseas Chinese funds, also gained political support with regional military officers and some of the reformers who had fled China after the Hundred Days' Reform. Sun's political philosophy was conceptualized in 1897, first enunciated in Tokyo in 1905, and modified through the early 1920s. It centered on the Three Principles of the People: "nationalism, democracy, and people's livelihood". The principle of nationalism called for overthrowing the Manchus and ending foreign hegemony over China. The second principle, democracy, was used to describe Sun's goal of a popularly elected republican form of government. People's livelihood, often referred to as socialism, was aimed at helping the common people through regulation of the ownership of the means of production and land.
The Republican Era of China began with the outbreak of revolution on 10 October 1911, in , the capital of Hubei Province, among discontented modernized army units whose anti-Qing plot had been uncovered. This would be known as the Wuchang Uprising which is celebrated as Double Tenth Day in Taiwan. It had been preceded by numerous abortive uprisings and organized protests inside China. The revolt quickly spread to neighboring cities, and Tongmenghui members throughout the country rose in immediate support of the Wuchang revolutionary forces. On 12 October, the Revolutionaries succeeded in capturing Hankou and Hanyang.
However this euphoria over the revolution was short-lived. On 27 October, Yuan Shikai was appointed by the Qing Court to lead his New Armies, including the First Army led by Feng Guozhang and the Second Army led by Duan Qirui, to retake the city of Wuhan, which was taken by the Revolutionary Army on 11 October. The Revolutionary Army had some six thousand troops to fend off nearly fifteen thousand of Yuan's New Army. On 11 November, the Revolutionaries retreated from Wuhan to Hanyang. By 27 November, Hanyang was also lost and the Revolutionaries had to return to their starting point, Wuchang. However, during some fifty days of warfare against Yuan's army, fifteen of the twenty-four provinces had declared their independence of the Qing empire. A month later, Sun Yat-sen returned to China from the United States, where he had been raising funds among overseas Chinese and American sympathizers. On 1 January 1912, delegates from the independent provinces elected Sun Yat-sen as the first Provisional President of the Republic of China.
Because of the short period and fervor in which the provinces declared independence from the Qing Court, Yuan Shikai felt that it was in his best interest to negotiate with the Revolutionaries. Yuan agreed to accept the Republic of China, and as such most of the rest of the New Armies were now turned against the Qing Dynasty. The chain of events forced the last emperor of China, Puyi, to abdicate, on 12 February upon Yuan Shikai's suggestion to Empress Dowager Longyu, who signed the abdication papers. Puyi was allowed to continue living in the Forbidden City, however. The Republic of China officially succeeded the Qing Dynasty.
On 1 January 1912, Sun officially declared the Republic of China and was inaugurated in Nanjing as the first . But power in Beijing already had passed to Yuan Shikai, who had effective control of the Beiyang Army, the most powerful military force in China at the time. To prevent civil war and possible foreign intervention from undermining the infant republic, Sun agreed to Yuan's demand that China be united under a Beijing government headed by Yuan. On 10 March, in Beijing, Yuan Shikai was sworn in as the second Provisional President of the Republic of China.
The republic that Sun Yat-sen and his associates envisaged evolved slowly. Although there were many political parties each vying for supremacy in the legislature, the revolutionists lacked an army, and the power of Yuan Shikai began to outstrip that of parliament. Yuan revised the constitution at will and became dictatorial. In August 1912, the Kuomintang was founded by Song Jiaoren, one of Sun's associates. It was an amalgamation of small political groups, including Sun's Tongmenghui. In the national elections held in February 1913 for the new bicameral parliament, Song campaigned against the Yuan administration, whose representation at the time was largely by the , led by Liang Qichao. Song was an able campaigner and the Kuomintang won a majority of seats.
Some people believe that Yuan Shikai had Song assassinated in March; it has never been proven, although he had already arranged the assassination of several pro-revolutionist generals. Animosity towards Yuan grew. In April, Yuan secured the Reorganization Loan of twenty-five million pounds sterling from Great Britain, France, Russia, Germany and Japan, without consulting the parliament first. The loan was used to finance Yuan's Beiyang Army. On 20 May, Yuan concluded a deal with Russia that recognized special Russian privilege in Outer Mongolia and restricted Chinese right to station troops there. Kuomintang members of the Parliament accused Yuan of abusing his rights and called for his removal. On the other hand, the , which was composed of constitutional monarchists and supported Yuan, accused the Kuomintang of fomenting an insurrection. Yuan then decided to use military action against the Kuomintang.
In July 1913, seven southern provinces rebelled against Yuan, thus beginning the Second Revolution . There were several underlying reasons for the Second Revolution besides Yuan's abuse of power. First was that many Revolutionary Armies from different provinces were disbanded after the establishment of the Republic of China, and many officers and soldiers felt that they were not compensated for toppling the Qing Dynasty. Thus, there was much discontent against the new government among the military. Secondly, many revolutionaries felt that Yuan Shikai and Li Yuanhong were undeserving of the posts of presidency and vice presidency, because they acquired the posts through political maneuvers, rather than participation in the revolutionary movement. And lastly, Yuan's use of violence , dashed Kuomintang's hope of achieving reforms and political goals through electoral means.
However, the Second Revolution did not fare well for the Kuomintang. The leading Kuomintang military force of Jiangxi was defeated by Yuan's forces on 1 August and Nanchang was taken. On 1 September, Nanjing was taken. When the rebellion was suppressed, Sun and other instigators fled to Japan. In October 1913 an intimidated parliament formally elected Yuan Shikai President of the Republic of China, and the major powers extended recognition to his government. Duan Qirui and other trusted Beiyang generals were given prominent positions in cabinet. To achieve international recognition, Yuan Shikai had to agree to autonomy for Outer Mongolia and Tibet. China was still to be suzerain, but it would have to allow Russia a free hand in Outer Mongolia and and continuation of its influence in Tibet.
Yuan Shikai and the National Protection War
In November Yuan Shikai, legally president, ordered the Kuomintang dissolved and forcefully removed its members from parliament. Because the majority of the parliament members belonged to the Kuomintang, the parliament did not meet quorum and was subsequently unable to convene. In January 1914 Yuan formally suspended the parliament. In February, Yuan called into session a meeting to revise the Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China, which was announced in May of that year. The revision greatly expanded Yuan's powers, allowing him to declare war, sign treaties, and appoint officials without seeking approvals from the legislature first. In December 1914, he further revised the law and lengthened the term of the President to ten years, with no term limit. Essentially Yuan was preparing for his ascendancy as the emperor.
On the other hand, since the failure of the Second Revolution, Sun Yat-sen and his allies were trying to rebuild the revolutionary movement. In July 1914, Sun established the Chinese Revolutionary Party . Sun felt that his failures at building a consistent revolutionary movement stemmed from the lack of cohesiveness among its members. Thus, for his new party, Sun required its members to be totally loyal to Sun and follow a series of rather harsh rules. Some of Sun's earlier associates, including Huang Xing, balked at the idea of such authoritarian organization and refused to join Sun. However, they agreed that the republic must not revert back to imperial rule.
Besides the revolutionary groups associated with Sun, there were also several other groups aimed at toppling Yuan Shikai. One was the Progressive Party, the originally constitutional-monarchist party which opposed the Kuomintang during the Second Revolution. The Progressive Party switched their position largely because of Yuan's sabotage of the national parliament. Secondly, many provincial governors, who had declared their independence from the Qing Imperial Court in 1912, found the idea of supporting another Imperial Court utterly ridiculous. Yuan also alienated his Beiyang generals by centralizing tax collection from local authorities. In addition, public opinion was overwhelmingly anti-Yuan.
When World War I broke out in 1914, Japan fought on the Allied side and seized holdings in Shandong Province. In 1915 the Japanese set before the government in Beijing the so-called Twenty-One Demands. The Demands aimed to install Japanese economic controls in railway and mining operations in Shandong, Manchuria, Fujian, and pressed to have Yuan Shikai appoint Japanese advisors in key positions in the Chinese government. The Twenty-One Demands would have made China a Japanese protectorate. The Beijing government rejected some of these demands but yielded to the Japanese insistence on keeping the Shandong territory already in its possession. Beijing also recognized Tokyo's authority over southern Manchuria and eastern Inner Mongolia. Yuan's acceptance of the demands was extremely unpopular, but he continued his monarchist agenda nevertheless.
On 12 December 1915, Yuan, supported by his son Yuan Keding, of a new . This sent shockwaves throughout China, causing widespread rebellion in numerous provinces. On 25 December, former Yunnan governor Cai E, former Jiangxi governor Li Liejun , and Yunnan general Tang Jiyao formed the National Protection Army and declared Yunnan independent. Thus began the National Protection War . The Yunnan independence also encouraged other southern provinces to declare independence. Yuan's Beiyang generals, who were already wary of Yuan's imperial coronation, did not put up an aggressive campaign against the National Protection Army. On 22 March 1916, Yuan formally repudiated monarchy and stepped down as the first and last emperor of his dynasty. Yuan died on 6 June of that year. Vice President Li Yuanhong assumed presidency and appointed Beiyang general Duan Qirui as his Premier. Yuan Shikai's imperial ambitions finally ended with the return of republican government.
After Yuan Shikai's death, shifting alliances of regional warlords fought for control of the Beijing government. Despite the fact that various warlords gained control of the government in Beijing during the warlord era, this did not constitute a new era of control or governance, because other warlords did not acknowledge the transitory governments in this period and were a law unto themselves. These military-dominated governments were collectively known as the Beiyang government. The warlord era is considered by some historians to have ended in 1927.
World War I and brief Manchu restoration
After Yuan Shikai's death, Li Yuanhong became the President and Duan Qirui became the Premier. The Provisional Constitution was reinstated and the parliament convened. However, Li Yuanhong and Duan Qirui had many conflicts, the most glaring of which was China's entry into World War I. Since the outbreak of the war, China had remained neutral until the United States urged all neutral countries to join the , as a condemnation of Germany's use of unrestricted submarine warfare. Premier Duan Qirui was particularly interested in joining the Allies, because he would then use the opportunity to secure loans from Japan to build up his Anhui Clique army. The two factions in the parliament engaged in ugly debates regarding the entry of China and, in May 1917, Li Yuanhong dismissed Duan Qirui from his government.
Duan's dismissal caused provincial military governors loyal to Duan to declare independence and to call for Li Yuanhong to step down as the President. Li Yuanhong summoned to mediate the situation. Zhang Xun had been a general serving the Qing Court and was by this time the military governor of Anhui province. He had his mind on restoring Puyi to the imperial throne. Zhang was supplied with funds and weapons through the German legation who were eager to keep China neutral.
On 1 July 1917, Zhang officially proclaimed that the Qing Dynasty has been restored and requested that Li Yuanhong give up his seat as the President, which Li promptly rejected. During the restoration affair, Duan Qirui led his army and defeated Zhang Xun's restoration forces in Beijing. One of Duan's airplanes bombed the Forbidden City, in what was possibly the first aerial bombardment in East Asia. On 12 July Zhang's forces disintegrated and Duan returned to Beijing.
The Manchu restoration ended almost as soon as it began. During this period of confusion, Vice President Feng Guozhang, also a Beiyang general, assumed the post of Acting President of the republic and was sworn-in in Nanjing. Duan Qirui resumed his post as the Premier. The Zhili Clique of Feng Guozhang and the Anhui Clique of Duan Qirui emerged as the most powerful cliques following the restoration affair.
Duan Qirui's triumphant return to Beijing essentially made him the most powerful leader in China. Duan dissolved the parliament upon his return and declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary on 13 August 1917. German and Austro-Hungarian nationals were detained and their assets seized. Around 175,000 Chinese workers volunteered for labour battalions after being enticed with money, some even years before war was declared. They were sent to the , German East Africa, and Mesopotamia and served on supply ships. Some 10,000 died including over 500 due to U-boats. No soldiers were sent overseas though they did participate with the Allies in the Siberian Intervention under Japanese General Kikuzo Otani.
Constitutional Protection War
In September, Duan's complete disregard for the constitution caused Sun Yat-sen and the deposed parliament members to establish a new government in Guangzhou and the Constitutional Protection Army to counter Duan's abuse of power. Ironically, Sun Yat-sen's new government was not based on the Provisional Constitution. Rather, the new government was a military government and Sun was its Generalissimo . Six southern provinces became part of Sun's Guangzhou military government and repelled Duan's attempt to destroy the Constitutional Protection Army.
The Constitutional Protection War continued through 1918. Many in Sun Yat-sen's Guangzhou government felt Sun's position as the Generalissimo was too exclusionary and promoted a cabinet system to challenge Sun's ultimate authority. As a result, the Guangzhou government was reorganized to elect a seven-member cabinet system, known as the Governing Committee. Sun was once again sidelined by his political opponents and military strongmen. He left for Shanghai following the reorganization.
Duan Qirui's Beijing government did not fare much better than Sun's. Some generals in Duan's Anhui Clique and others in the Zhili Clique did not want to use force to unify the southern provinces. They felt negotiation was the solution to unify China and forced Duan to resign in October. In addition, many were distressed by Duan's borrowing of huge sums of Japanese money to fund his army to fight internal enemies. President Feng Guozhang, with his term expiring, was then succeeded by Xu Shichang, who wanted to negotiate with the southern provinces. In February 1919, delegates from the northern and southern provinces convened in Shanghai to discuss postwar situations. However, the meeting broke down over Duan's borrowing of Japanese loans to fund the Anhui Clique army and further attempts at negotiation were hampered by the May Fourth Movement. The Constitutional Protection War essentially left China divided along the north-south border.
May Fourth Movement
In 1917, China declared war on Germany in the hope of recovering its lost province, then under Japanese control. But, in 1918, the Beijing government signed a secret deal with Japan accepting the latter's claim to Shandong. When the Treaty of Versailles confirmed the Japanese claim to Shandong and Beijing's sellout became public, internal reaction was shattering. On 4 May 1919, there were massive student demonstrations against the Beijing government and Japan. The political fervor, student activism, and iconoclastic and reformist intellectual currents set in motion by the patriotic student protest developed into a national awakening known as the May Fourth Movement. The intellectual milieu in which the May Fourth Movement developed was known as the New Culture Movement and occupied the period from 1917 to 1923. The student demonstrations of 4 May 1919, were the high point of the New Culture Movement, and the terms are often used synonymously. Chinese representatives refused to sign the Treaty of Versailles, due to intense pressure from the student protesters and public opinion alike.
Fight against warlordism
The May Fourth Movement helped to rekindle the then-fading cause of republican revolution. In 1917 Sun Yat-sen had become commander-in-chief of a rival military government in Guangzhou in collaboration with southern warlords. In October 1919, Sun reestablished the Kuomintang to counter the government in Beijing. The latter, under a succession of warlords, still maintained its facade of legitimacy and its relations with the West. By 1921, Sun had become president of the southern government. He spent his remaining years trying to consolidate his regime and achieve unity with the north. His efforts to obtain aid from the Western democracies were ignored, however, and in 1920 he turned to the Soviet Union, which had recently achieved its own revolution. The Soviets sought to befriend the Chinese revolutionists by offering scathing attacks on "Western imperialism." But for political expediency, the Soviet leadership initiated a dual policy of support for both Sun and the newly established Chinese Communist Party . The Soviets hoped for consolidation but were prepared for either side to emerge victorious. In this way the struggle for power in China began between the Nationalists and the Communists.
In 1922 the Kuomintang-warlord alliance in Guangzhou was ruptured, and Sun fled to Shanghai. By then, Sun saw the need to seek Soviet support for his cause. In 1923, a joint statement by Sun and a Soviet representative in Shanghai pledged Soviet assistance for China's national unification. Soviet advisers — the most prominent of whom was an agent of the Comintern, Mikhail Borodin — began to arrive in China in 1923 to aid in the reorganization and consolidation of the Kuomintang along the lines of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The CCP was under Comintern instructions to cooperate with the Kuomintang, and its members were encouraged to join while maintaining their party identities.
The policy of working with the Kuomintang and Chiang Kai-shek had been recommended by the Communist Henk Sneevliet, chosen in 1923 to be the Comintern representative in China due to his revolutionary experience in the Dutch Indies, where he had a major role in founding the Partai Komunis Indonesia - and who felt that the Chinese party was too small and weak to undertake a major effort on its own .
The CCP was still small at the time, having a membership of 300 in 1921 and only 1,500 by 1925. The Kuomintang in 1922 already had 150,000 members. Soviet advisers also helped the Kuomintang set up a political institute to train propagandists in mass mobilization techniques and in 1923 sent Chiang Kai-shek, one of Sun's lieutenants from Tongmenghui days, for several months' military and political study in Moscow. After Chiang's return in late 1923, he participated in the establishment of the Whampoa Military Academy outside Guangzhou, which was the seat of government under the Kuomintang-CCP alliance. In 1924 Chiang became head of the academy and began the rise to prominence that would make him Sun's successor as head of the Kuomintang and the unifier of all China under the right-wing nationalist government.
Chiang consolidates power
Sun Yat-sen died of cancer in Beijing in March 1925, as the Nationalist movement he had helped to initiate was gaining momentum. During the summer of 1925, Chiang, as commander-in-chief of the National Revolutionary Army, set out on the long-delayed against the northern warlords. Within nine months, half of China had been conquered. By 1926, however, the Kuomintang had divided into left- and right-wing factions, and the Communist bloc within it was also growing. In March 1926, after thwarting a kidnapping attempt against him , Chiang abruptly dismissed his Soviet advisers, imposed restrictions on CCP members' participation in the top leadership, and emerged as the preeminent Kuomintang leader. The Soviet Union, still hoping to prevent a split between Chiang and the CCP, ordered Communist underground activities to facilitate the Northern Expedition, which was finally launched by Chiang from Guangzhou in July 1926.
In early 1927, the Kuomintang-CCP rivalry led to a split in the revolutionary ranks. The CCP and the left wing of the Kuomintang had decided to move the seat of the Nationalist government from Guangzhou to Wuhan. But Chiang, whose Northern Expedition was proving successful, set his forces to destroying the Shanghai CCP apparatus and established an anti-Communist government at Nanjing in . There now were three capitals in China: the internationally recognized warlord regime in Beijing; the Communist and left-wing Kuomintang regime at Wuhan; and the right-wing civilian-military regime at Nanjing, which would remain the Kuomintang capital for the next decade.
The Comintern cause appeared bankrupt. A new policy was instituted calling on the CCP to foment armed insurrections in both urban and rural areas in preparation for an expected rising tide of revolution. Unsuccessful attempts were made by Communists to take cities such as Nanchang, Changsha, Shantou, and Guangzhou, and an armed rural insurrection, known as the Autumn Harvest Uprising, was staged by peasants in Hunan Province. The insurrection was led by Mao Zedong, who would later become chairman of the CCP and head of state of the People's Republic of China.
But in mid-1927, the CCP was at a low ebb. The Communists had been expelled from Wuhan by their left-wing Kuomintang allies, who in turn were toppled by a military regime. By 1928, all of China was at least nominally under Chiang's control, and the Nanjing government received prompt international recognition as the sole legitimate government of China. The Kuomintang government announced that in conformity with Sun Yat-sen's formula for the three stages of revolution — military unification, political tutelage, and constitutional democracy — China had reached the end of the first phase and would embark on the second, which would be under Kuomintang direction.
The "Nanjing Decade" of 1928-37 was one of consolidation and accomplishment by the Kuomintang. Some of the harsh aspects of foreign concessions and privileges in China were moderated through diplomacy. In May 1930 the government regained the right to set its tariff, which before then had been set by the foreign powers to deprive China of revenue and domestic industrial development. The government acted also energetically to modernize the legal and penal systems, stabilize prices, amortize debts, reform the banking and currency systems, build railroads and highways, improve public health facilities, legislate against traffic in narcotics, and augment industrial and agricultural production. On 3 November 1935 the government instituted the fiat currency reform, immediately stabilizing prices and also raising revenues for the government. Great strides also were made in education and, in an effort to help unify Chinese society, in a program to popularize the Standard Mandarin language and overcome other Spoken Chinese variations. The widespread establishment of communications facilities further encouraged a sense of unity and pride among the people. On the other hand, political freedom was considerably curtailed than previous periods because of the Kuomintang's one-party domination through "political tutelage" and often violent means in shutting down anti-government protests.
Although the Kuomintang was nominally in control of the entire country during this period, large areas of China remained under the semi-autonomous rule of local warlords or warlord coalitions. The Kuomintang's rule was strongest in the eastern regions of China around the capital Nanjing, but regional warlords such as Feng Yuxiang and Yan Xishan retained considerable local authority. The Central Plains War in 1930 and the Japanese aggression in 1931 seemingly solved this situation as the regional authority were able to unite together under one common front along with the central government.
Second Sino-Japanese War
Few Chinese had any illusions about Japanese designs on China. Hungry for raw materials and pressed by a growing population, Japan initiated the seizure of Manchuria in September 1931 and established ex-Qing emperor Puyi as head of the puppet state of Manchukuo in 1932. The loss of Manchuria, and its vast potential for industrial development and war industries, was a blow to the Kuomintang economy. The League of Nations, established at the end of World War I, was unable to act in the face of the Japanese defiance. The Japanese began to push from south of the into northern China and into the coastal provinces. Chinese fury against Japan was predictable, but anger was also directed against the Republic of China government, which at the time was more preoccupied with anti-Communist extermination campaigns than with resisting the Japanese invaders. The importance of "internal unity before external danger" was forcefully brought home in December 1936, when Chiang Kai-shek, in an event now known as the Xi'an Incident was kidnapped by Zhang Xueliang and forced to ally with the Communists against the Japanese as a condition of his release.
The Chinese resistance stiffened after 7 July 1937, when a clash occurred between Chinese and Japanese troops outside Beijing near the Marco Polo Bridge. This skirmish not only marked the beginning of open, though undeclared, war between China and Japan but also hastened the formal announcement of the against Japan. Shanghai fell after a which ended after severe Japanese naval and army casualties. The capital of Nanjing fell in December 1937. It was followed by a series of mass killings and rape of civilians in the Nanjing Massacre.
The collaboration between the Kuomintang and CCP took place with salutary effects for the beleaguered CCP. The distrust between the two parties, however, was scarcely veiled. The uneasy alliance began to break down after late 1938, despite Japan's steady territorial gains in northern China, the coastal regions, and the rich Yangtze River Valley in central China. After 1940, conflicts between the Kuomintang and Communists became more frequent in the . The Communists expanded their influence wherever opportunities presented themselves through mass organizations, administrative reforms, and the land- and tax-reform measures favoring the peasants — while the Kuomintang attempted to neutralize the spread of Communist influence. Meanwhile northern China was infiltrated politically further more by the Japanese . Facilities such as Wei Huang Gong is an example.
In 1945, the Republic of China emerged from the war nominally a great military power but actually a nation economically prostrate and on the verge of all-out civil war. The economy deteriorated, sapped by the military demands of foreign war and internal strife, by spiraling inflation, and by Nationalist profiteering, speculation, and hoarding. Starvation came in the wake of the war, and millions were rendered homeless by floods and the unsettled conditions in many parts of the country. The situation was further complicated by an Allied agreement at the Yalta Conference in February 1945 that brought Soviet troops into Manchuria to hasten the termination of war against Japan. Although the Chinese had not been present at Yalta, they had been consulted; they had agreed to have the Soviets enter the war in the belief that the Soviet Union would deal only with the Kuomintang government. After the war, the Soviet Union, as part of the Yalta agreement's allowing a Soviet sphere of influence in Manchuria, dismantled and removed more than half the industrial equipment left there by the Japanese. The Soviet presence in northeast China enabled the Communists to move in long enough to arm themselves with the equipment surrendered by the withdrawing Japanese army. The problems of rehabilitating the formerly Japanese-occupied areas and of reconstructing the nation from the ravages of a protracted war were staggering.
See also: Wang Jingwei Government, Manchukuo
During World War II, the United States emerged as a major actor in Chinese affairs. As an ally it embarked in late 1941 on a program of massive military and financial aid to the hard-pressed Nationalist government. In January 1943 the United States and Britain led the way in revising their treaties with China, bringing to an end a century of unequal treaty relations. Within a few months, a new agreement was signed between the United States and Republic of China for the stationing of American troops in China for the common war effort against Japan. In December 1943 the Chinese Exclusion Acts of the 1880s and subsequent laws enacted by the United States Congress to restrict Chinese immigration into the United States were repealed.
The wartime policy of the United States was initially to help China become a strong ally and a stabilizing force in postwar East Asia. As the conflict between the Kuomintang and the Communists intensified, however, the United States sought unsuccessfully to reconcile the rival forces for a more effective anti-Japanese war effort. Toward the end of the war, United States Marines were used to hold Beiping and Tianjin against a possible Soviet incursion, and logistic support was given to Kuomintang forces in north and northeast China.
Through the mediatory influence of the United States a military truce was arranged in January 1946, but battles between the Kuomintang and Communists soon resumed. Public opinion of administrative incompetence of the Republic of China government was escalated and incited by the Communists in the against mishandling of a rape accusation in early 1947 and another national protest against monetary reforms later that year. Realizing that American efforts short of large-scale armed intervention could not stop the war, the United States withdrew the American mission, headed by General George C. Marshall, in early 1947. The Chinese Civil War, in which the United States aided the Nationalists with massive economic loans and weapons but no combat support, became more widespread. Battles raged not only for territories but also for the allegiance of cross sections of the population.
Belatedly, the Republic of China government sought to enlist popular support through internal reforms. The effort was in vain, however, because of the rampant corruption in government and the accompanying political and economic chaos. By late 1948, the Kuomintang position was bleak. The demoralized and undisciplined Kuomintang troops proved no match for the communist People's Liberation Army, earlier known as the Red Army. The Communists were well established in the north and northeast. Although the Kuomintang had an advantage in numbers of men and weapons, controlled a much larger territory and population than their adversaries, and enjoyed considerable international support, they were exhausted by the long war with Japan and in-fighting among various generals. They were also losing the propaganda war to the Communists, with the population weary of Kuomintang corruption and yearning for peace. In January 1949, Beiping was taken by the Communists without a fight, and its name changed back to Beijing. Between April and November, major cities passed from Kuomintang to Communist control with minimal resistance. In most cases, the surrounding countryside and small towns had come under Communist influence long before the cities. After Chiang Kai-shek and a few hundred thousand Republic of China troops and 2 million refugees, predominantly from the government and business community, fled from the mainland to the island of Taiwan , there remained only isolated pockets of resistance. In December 1949, Chiang proclaimed Taipei, Taiwan, the temporary capital of the Republic of China.
Republic of China on Taiwan
Tension between locals and mainlanders
After World War I, Taiwan reverted to Chinese rule and the Nationalists occupied Taiwan. The Republic of China appointed as the Chief Executive of Taiwan. He arrived in Taiwan on 24 October 1945 and received the last Japanese governor, Ando Rikichi, who signed the document of surrender on the . On the next day, Chen Yi proclaimed Taiwan Retrocession Day. The validity of the proclamation is subject to some debate however, with some supporters of Taiwan independence arguing that it is invalid, and that the date simply marks the start of a military occupation by the Republic of China.
During the immediate postwar period, the Chinese Kuomintang administration on Taiwan was viewed by some as being inept and corrupt. Many Taiwanese people were disillusioned with the incoming Kuomintang administration, which proved to be as harsh as Japanese imperial rule. Anti-mainlander violence flared on 28 February 1947 following an accidental shooting of a cigarette vendor by the police. The resulting 228 Incident became a pivotal event in the shaping of modern Taiwanese identity. For several weeks after the incident, many Taiwanese rebelled, participating in island-wide riots protesting the government's corruption and harsh rule. The governor, Chen Yi, while pretending to negotiate in good faith with leaders of the protest movement, called for troops from the mainland. The Kuomintang, allegedly fearing a Communist infiltration, assembled a large military force to quell the disturbance in Taiwan, in the process killing many and imprisoning thousands of others. Many of the Taiwanese who had formed home rule groups under the Japanese were the victims of the incident, as were civilian mainlanders who bore the brunt of vigilante retaliation. This was followed by martial law and the "white terror" in which many thousands of people were imprisoned or executed for their political opposition to the Kuomintang. Many victims of the white terror were Taiwanese elite--political leaders, wealthier families, intellectuals, etc. In addition, mainlanders were not spared either, as many had real or perceived associations with communists before they came to Taiwan. For example, some mainlanders who had joined book clubs on the mainland, deemed leftist by the government, were liable to be arrested and many served long prison sentences for these real or perceived threats.
Martial law, among other things, included sedition laws against supporters of communism or Taiwanese independence, leading to very substantial political repression. It also prohibited the formation of new parties . Second, because of the regime’s claim to rule all of China, the vast majority of the seats in the Legislative Yuan and National Assembly were held by those elected from Mainland constituencies in 1947 and 1948. The regime argued that these legislators should keep their seats until elections in their original constituencies were possible. Although supplemental elections that increased Taiwan’s representation in these bodies were held starting in 1969, the huge majorities of senior legislators continued through 1990, guaranteeing KMT control whether or not the party won on election day. More informally, the Islanders, or long-time Chinese residents of Taiwan , remained distinctly underrepresented in the top ranks of government and the party through the early 1990s, suggesting a significant limit to democratization.
Partially with the help of the China Aid Act of 1948 and the Chinese-American Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction, the Republic of China government implemented a far-reaching and highly successful land reform program on Taiwan during the 1950s. They redistributed land among small farmers and compensated large landowners with commodities certificates and stock in state-owned industries. These rural reforms, such as the 375 rent reduction program, were never implemented with much force on the mainland but were very successful in Taiwan.
Overall, although the reforms left some large landowners impoverished, others turned their compensation into capital and started commercial and industrial enterprises. These entrepreneurs were to become Taiwan's first industrial capitalists. Together with refugee businessmen from the mainland, they managed Taiwan's transition from an agricultural to a commercial, industrial economy.
Taiwan's phenomenal economic development earned it a spot as one of the four Four Asian Tigers, along with Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea, though as of late, much work remains in the on-going process of privatization of state-owned industries and in financial sector reforms.
The 1970s saw many switches in diplomatic recognition from the Republic of China to the People's Republic of China. After World War II, the Republic of China had been one of the founding members in the United Nations and held China's seat on the Security Council until 1971, when it was expelled by and replaced in all UN organs with the Communist People's Republic of China government. Since the 1980s, the number of nations officially recognizing the Republic of China has decreased to 24. The People's Republic of China refuses to maintain diplomatic relations with any government which formally recognizes the Republic of China, leading to a complex political status of Taiwan . United States troops were stationed in Taiwan after the victory of the Communists in China in order to aid in the defense of Taiwan against invasion by the People's Republic of China. The United States military continued to be stationed in Taiwan until diplomatic relations were broken with the Republic of China in 1979 but to this day maintains a significant intelligence presence.
Even though Chiang Kai-shek was first and foremost a dictator, he also slowly began democratization progress in Taiwan, beginning with the elections of local offices. He also reformed the top Kuomintang leadership, transforming the party from a Leninist organization to one with many factions, each with differing opinions. Chiang Ching-kuo, succeeding his father Chiang Kai-shek, accelerated to liberalize Taiwan's political system. Events such as the Kaohsiung Incident in 1979 highlighted the need for change and groups like Amnesty International were mobilizing a campaign against the government and President Chiang Ching-kuo. Chiang Ching-kuo, although a mainlander, pronounced that he was also a Taiwanese and also introduced many Taiwanese people into top echelons of the party. He also named Lee Teng-hui, a Taiwanese, as his vice president and likely successor. In 1986, the permission to form new political parties was granted, and the Democratic Progressive Party was inaugurated as the first opposition party. However, a political crisis appeared imminent as the Ministry of Justice filed charges against the DPP for violating martial law restrictions, but President Chiang defused it by announcing that martial law would end and that new political parties could be formed as long as they supported the Republican and renounced both communism and Taiwan Independence. The lifting of Martial Law Decree and the ban on veterans to visit their mainland relatives was approved in 1987; the removal of the ban on registration of new newspapers in 1988 was also a historical event.
After the 1988 death of Chiang Ching-kuo, his successor Lee Teng-hui continued to hand more government authority over to the native Taiwanese and to democratize the government. In 1990, Lee held the National Affairs Conference which led to the abolishment of the national emergency period the following year and paved the way for both the total re-election for the National Assembly in 1991 and the Legislative Yuan in 1992. Full democracy in the sense that citizens are able to select their legislators, not just local officials, in free and fair elections was achieved in 1991 when the senior legislators were forced to retire. In 1994, again under the urging of President Lee, the presidency of the Republic of China was changed via constitutional revision into a position popularly elected by the people on Taiwan.
Under Lee, Taiwan underwent a process of in which local culture and history was promoted over a pan-China viewpoint. Lee's reforms included printing banknotes from the Central Bank rather than the Provincial Bank of Taiwan and "freezing" the . Restrictions on the use of in the broadcast media and in schools were lifted as well.
However, democratization had its problems. During the early stages of the process, political parties were still banned, but independent candidates, some including those who had splintered off from the Kuomintang, were allowed to run for offices, provided that they would not receive any campaign funding from the party. As a result, many of these candidates resorted to borrowing money from businessmen, local elite, or even gangsters, in exchange for political and economic favors. This was the beginning of the "" phenomena in Taiwan in which dishonest politicians were backed by businessmen and criminal elements at the expense of the society. In opposition to this, some former Kuomintang members formed the to combat the Kuomintang, which had liberalized but had also introduced widespread corruption.
Another stage was reached when the first direct elections for the powerful president were held in 1996. Lee ran as the incumbent in Taiwan's first direct presidential election against DPP candidate and former dissident, Peng Ming-min, which prompted the People's Republic of China to conduct a series of missile tests in the Taiwan Strait to intimidate the Taiwanese electorate. The aggressive tactic prompted United States President Bill Clinton to invoke the Taiwan Relations Act and dispatch an aircraft carrier into the region off Taiwan's southern coast to monitor the situation.
For the Republic of China on Taiwan, political liberalization and democratization completed rather smoothly. The country transformed from an authoritarian state to developing fully democratic institutions without major incidents such as coups by either revolutionaries or reactionaries. This was because the Kuomintang itself stated that, in its political roadmap, one-party dictatorship must end and that the ultimate form of the government would be a constitutional democracy, provided that the system was ready for one. Therefore, democratization proceeded smoothly, without major changes to the constitution or massive restructuring of the government.
The marked the end of the Kuomintang's status as the ruling party. Opposition DPP candidate Chen Shui-bian won a three way race that saw the Pan-Blue vote split by independent James Soong and Kuomintang candidate Lien Chan. Chen garnered 39% of the vote. After the election, Soong formed the People First Party .
Chen Shui-bian was re-elected by a narrow 0.2% of the vote the over Kuomintang Chairman Lien, who had PFP Chairman Soong as his running mate. On the day before the election, both Chen and Vice President Annette Lu were in . Their injuries were not life threatening, but the incident is believed by Pan-Blue to have gained them enough sympathy to influence the result. That incident might also gave president Chen the ability of declaring martial emergency, which allegedly prevented the police and military, which were strongly Pan-Blue, from voting. Lien refused to concede, alleging voting irregularities. Kuomintang and PFP supporters held mass protests throughout the following weeks. Subsequently, Kuomintang and PFP took the case to the court. The High Court ordered a nation-wide recount and found no evidence to support the accusation made by Kuomintang and PFP. The Court decided that the election result was legitimate and valid.
During the legislative elections held on 8 December 2004, the Kuomintang-PFP dominated Pan-Blue alliance gained a slim majority in the elections which resulted into President Chen resigning as DPP chairman. The cabinet of Premier Yu Shyi-kun resigned, and Frank Hsieh assumed premiership on 25 January 2005.
In a move that some saw as a reaction to Chen's re-election, the People's Republic of China enacted a proposed that allows the use of force on Taiwan and the Republic of China government if it formally declares independence. However, this law was met with overwhelming protest from nearly all political parties and public figures of the Republic of China and disapproval from the western countries. Negotiations in January in Macau between the aviation authorities from both the Republic of China and People's Republic of China resulted in direct-cross strait charter flights between mainland China and Taiwan during the Lunar New Year Period. In a twist of events, President Chen and PFP Chairman Soong held a summit and the independence-leaning president indicated that eventual reunification with the mainland would be an option. Against the anti-secession law proposed by the People's Republic of China, President Chen held a video conference with the European Parliament in Brussels urging the European Union not to lift the arms embargo on the People's Republic of China.
Domestic politics during the Chen administration has largely been a political stalemate as the Kuomintang and PFP together hold a pan-Blue majority in the legislature. Among the many items that have made little progress due to the political stalemate are a stalled arms procurement bill, which would advance defense capabilities of the Republic of China through the purchase of weaponry, such as sub-hunting P-3 Orions, from the US government, and banking reform legislation, which would help in the consolidation of the many banks in the Republic of China, none of which hold even 10% shares of the local market. It is important to note that the president of the Republic of China, unlike the president of the United States, does not wield veto power, providing him with little to no leverage in negotiating with an opposition legislature, regardless of how slim the majority.
The constitution was further amended in 2005, creating a two-vote electoral system, with single member plurality seats and seats, and abolishing the National Assembly, transferring most of its former powers to the Legislative Yuan, and leaving further amendment voting to public referendums. The continues to reform, and it is likely there will be further reform to settle the power balance between the president and the . The issue of formally declaring the is also a constant constitutional question. Arms purchases to the United States are still a controversial political question, with the Pan-Green Coalition camp favoring the purchase, and the Pan-Blue Coalition opposing it. Recent allegations about inside the First Family have led to three recall motions votations in the Legislative Yuan aimed at ousting Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian. All of them have failed since the Pan-Blue Coalition lacks the two thirds majority required to complete the process and the political parties voted according to political lines. The first lady, Wu Shu-chen is accused of illegally using state funds for personal reasons, and she is on an ongoing trial. The president faces similar accusations to his wife, but is protected from prosecution by presidential immunity. He has promised to resign if his wife is found guilty.
In December 2006, municipal and mayoral elections were held in Taipei and Kaohsiung. The KMT retained a clear majority in the capital, while the DPP and the KMT obtained very close results in the southern city of Kaohsiung. Huang Chun-ying lost to Chen Chu by a margin of 0.14 percent, 378,303 votes to 379,417 votes, making Chen Chu the first female mayor of a special municipality in the Republic of China.In 2007, Taiwan applies for membership in the United Nations under the name "Taiwan", and is rejected by the General Assembly.
In the 2008 presidential election KMT candidate Ma Ying-jeou defeats DPP candidate Hsieh with 58.48% of the vote. Ma ran on a platform supporting friendlier relations with the mainland and economic reforms. Many voters boycott the referenda on whether and how to join UN so the level of voter participation required for referenda to be considered valid is not achieved.
* Duara, Prasenjit, , in ''Comparative Studies in Society and History'', Vol. 29, No. 1 , pp. 132-161, Cambridge University Press
* Schurmann, F. and Schell, O. ''Republican China'' .