The Kuomintang (National People's Party) was established in 1912 by Sun Yat-sen and Song Jiaoren. When the party was suppressed in 1913 Sun Yat-sen and his military commander, Chiang Kai-Shek, escaped to Japan.

With the help of advisers from the Soviet Union the Kuomintang gradually increased its power in China. In 1924 it adopted the "Three Principles of the People" (nationalism, democracy and social reform).

Sun Yat-sen died on 12th March 1925. After a struggle with Wang Ching-Wei, Chiang Kai-Shek eventually emerged as the leader of the Kuomintang. He now carried out a purge that eliminated the communists from the organization. In 1928 the reformed Koumintang captured Beijing and was able to establish a government in Nanjing.

When the Japanese Army invaded the heartland of China in 1937, Chiang was forced to move his capital from Nanking to Chungking. He lost control of the coastal regions and most of the major cities to Japan. In an effort to beat the Japanese he agreed to collaborate with Mao Zedong and his communist army.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Chiang and his government received considerable financial support from the United States. General Joseph Stilwell, head of American Army Forces in China, Burma and India (CBI), disagreed with this policy, arguing that Chiang Kai-Shek was an inept leader and was ignorant of the fundamentals of modern warfare. Stilwell was accused of being pro-communist and in October 1944 Stilwell was recalled to the United States and was replaced by General Albert Wedemeyer.

During the Second World War the communist forces were well led by Zhu De and Lin Biao. As soon as the Japanese surrendered, the communists began a war against the Nationalists. The communists gradually gained control of the country and on 1st October, 1949, Mao announced the establishment of People's Republic of China. Chiang Kai-Shek and the remnants of his armed forces fled to Formosa (Taiwan).

Primary Sources

(1) Su Kaiming, Modern China (1985)

In February 1923, Sun Yat-sen returned to Guangzhou where he immediately set up a headquarters of a new revolutionary government. Soviet Russia sent Michael Borodin (1884-1951) and some military advisers to help him, and a provisional central committee of the Kuomintang which included a number of Communists was organized.

The Chinese Communist Party held its Third National Congress in Guangzhou in June 1923, and the question of forming a revolutionary united front with the Kuomintang was discussed. The congress affirmed Sun Yat-sen's contribution to the Chinese revolution and resolved to help him in reorganizing the Kuomintang and establishing cooperation between the two parties.

The gap between Sun Yat-sen and the West continued to widen. When he threatened in December to seize the customs revenues in the port of Guangzhou, the powers staged a naval demonstration to preserve the status quo. Thwarted, Sun angrily stated, "We no longer look to the Western powers.

Our faces are turned toward Russia."

In January 1924, Sun Yat-sen called the First National Congress of the reorganized Kuomintang in Guangzhou. Among the Communists who attended were Li Dazhao, Mao Zedong and Qu Qiubai (Chu Chiu-pai, 1899-1935). The congress adopted the anti-imperialist, anti-feudal policy advanced by the Communists, agreed to absorb individual Communists and Socialist Youth League members into the Kuomintang, and decided to reorganize the Kuomintang into a revolutionary alliance of workers, peasants, the petty-bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie. In this way, new blood was infused into the ranks of the Kuomintang and Sun Yat-sen became the leader of a revitalized revolutionary movement.

(2) Qi Wen, China (1979)

In 1923, the Chinese Communist Party decided to establish a revolutionary united front. It helped Sun Yat-sen reorganize the Kuomintang (the old Tong Meng Hui was reorganized into the Kuomintang after the Revolution of 1911). With the formation of the Kuomintang-Communist united front, the Chinese Communist Party mobilized the masses on a broad scale, and the revolutionary situation developed vigorously. It continued to rise after the death of Sun Yat-sen in 1925. Organized and energized by the Party, the revolutionary forces swept away the reactionary forces in Guangdong, and in 1926 the Northern Expeditionary War began. Supported by the masses, the revolutionary army defeated the counter-revolutionary armies of the Northern warlords and occupied central and south China. The worker-peasant movement grew rapidly throughout the country.

Seeing that the warlord regime they supported was tottering in the sweep of the revolutionary tide, the imperialist forces hastily looked for new agents and finally picked Chiang Kai-shek who had worked his way into the position of Commander-in-Chief of the National Revolutionary Army". In April 1927, at a crucial moment in the forward advance of the Northern Expeditionary War, Chiang staged, with the active support of the big bourgeoisie and landlord class, a counter-revolutionary coup d'etat against the Chinese Communist Party and the revolutionary people.

(3) Zhong Wenxian, Mao Zedong (1986)

In June 1923 Mao Zedong attended the Third National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, which adopted the policy of cooperation with the Kuomintang, then led by Dr Sun Yat-sen, for the purpose of forming a national anti-imperialist and anti-feudal united front to include all democratic classes. The congress also decided that all members of the Communist Party were to join the Kuomintang as individuals. Elected a member of the Central Executive Committee by the congress, Mao Zedong began to play a role in the work of the central leadership. After the Kuomintang-Communist cooperation was brought about, he was elected an alternate member of the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang at its First and Second National Congresses, held in January 1924 and January 1926.

(4) Sun Yat-sen, letter to the Kuomintang (1925)

For 40 years I have devoted myself to the cause of the people's revolution with but one end in view: the elevation of China to a position of freedom and equality among the nations. My experience during these 40 years has convinced me that to attain this goal we must bring about an awakening of our own people and ally ourselves in common struggle with those people of the world who treat us as equals.

(5) Sun Yat-sen, letter to Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Communist Party (1925)

I leave behind me a party which, as has always been my wish, will be bound up with you in the historic work of the final liberation of China and other exploited nations from the imperialist order. By the will of fate, I must leave my work unfinished and hand it over to those who, remaining true to the principles and teachings of the party, will show themselves to be my true followers.

Taking leave of you, dear comrades, I want to express the hope that the day will come when the U.S.S.R. will welcome a friend and ally in a mighty, free China, and that in the great struggle for the liberation of the oppressed peoples of the world, both these allies will go forward to victory hand in hand.

(6) Mao Zedong, interviewed by Edgar Snow in Red Star Over China (1936)

In April the counter-revolutionary movement had begun in Nanjing and Shanghai, and a general massacre of organized workers had taken place under Chiang Kai-shek. The same measures were carried out in Guangzhou. On May 21 the Xu Kexiang Uprising occurred in Hunan. Scores of peasants and workers were killed by the reactionaries. Shortly afterward the 'Left' Kuomintang at Wuhan annulled its agreement with the Communists and 'expelled' them from the Kuomintang and from a Government which quickly ceased to exist.

Many Communist leaders were now ordered by the Party to leave the country, go to Russia or Shanghai or places of safety. I was ordered to go to Sichuan. I persuaded Chen Duxiu to send me to Hunan instead, as secretary of the Provincial Committee, but after ten days he ordered me hastily to return, accusing me of organizing an uprising against Tang Shengzhi, then in command at Wuhan. The affairs of the Party were now in a chaotic state. Nearly everyone was opposed to. Chen Duxiu's leadership and his opportunist line. The collapse of the entente at Wuhan soon afterward brought about his downfall.

(7) Su Kaiming, Modern China (1985)

After setting up his military headquarters at Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi Province, Chiang Kai-shek considered himself strong enough to defy the authority of the revolutionary Nationalist government at Wuhan, which was then dominated by Kuomintang left-wingers (including Mme. Sun Yat-sen) and Communists. In January 1927, he demanded that the government be moved from Wuhan to Nanchang, where he was in complete control. In reply, the central committee of the Kuomintang at Wuhan took away his leading positions in the party, government and army in an attempt to prevent him from seizing all power.

Bankers from Shanghai, politicians representing various warlord governments and the agents of foreign imperialists all converged on Nanchang to offer Chiang their help. In secret talks he was promised a loan of 60,000,000 Chinese dollars if he would break with the Communists and the Soviet Union and suppress the peasants and workers. Chiang quickly agreed.

In the early hours of April 12, 1927, thousands of thugs from the underworld Green Gang came out of the International Settlement disguised as workers to attack the workers' armed militia. Pretending to oppose "internal dissension among the workers", Chiang Kai-shek ordered his troops to disarm the workers and occupy the headquarters of the General Trade Union, where a spurious union composed of underworld figures was immediately set up. Next day the Shanghai workers called a mass rally and demanded the return of their weapons. Unaware that Chiang Kai-shek had turned against the revolution, they went to the General Headquarters of the Northern Expeditionary Army to present their petition, only to be mowed down by machine-gun fire. The blood of hundreds of workers stained the rain-washed streets of Shanghai red.