Updated: Aug 28
This is the first article in a series on the history of communism in China.
Before the 1900s, China had been ruled by emperors for thousands of years.
Saturated as it was with ancient traditions—and the fear of foreign influence—China’s political structure remained largely the same during this time. As a result, while the rest of the world continued moving forwards, China began to fall behind.
When war broke out in 1839 over the Opium trade, China found that its army was unable to compete with the modernised British military. And, after other countries began to pick at their territories, Chinese scholars realised that their great country would soon be destroyed if it refused to modernise.
The End of the Monarchy
A protest movement against China's long-standing monarchy broke out in 1911 because Chinese citizens were dissatisfied with the leadership of the current rulers—the Qing Dynasty.
The four-month rebellion that resulted was brief. However, it resulted in the last Emperor of China renouncing his throne—ending the 267 years of the Qing Dynasty and the 2000-year-old imperial system in China.
In 1912, China officially became a republic. The nation's first president, a man by the name of Sun Yat-Sen, was loved by his people. Yat-Sen had travelled the world and seen modernised countries that were thriving—and he had similar visions for his home country.
Instability and Corruption
However, the abolition of the old monarchy now left significant power in the hands of China's soldiers and generals, and before long the warlords had established their own monarchy in competition with the new republic.
To prevent civil war, Yat-Sen relinquished his position as president. China's new ruler, Yuan, was a strong, but corrupt leader.
The generals and officials who had been so helpful in overthrowing the imperial system now began to preside over the people and abuse their power. Before long, many started wishing for an emperor once again.
Still determined to see his beloved country thrive, Sun Yat-Sen reached out to Russia for help because they too had recently overthrown their monarchy.
Joseph Stalin, the new Russian leader, was all too happy to help, and in 1923 he sent special representatives to help rebuild Sun Yat-Sen's political party—the Nationalist Party of China (the Kuomintang).
The Rise of Communism in China
Sun Yat-Sen began looking towards Russian Communistic ways of thinking as the solution to China's problems, and the Kuomintang eventually began taking on the practices and ways of Communism.
In 1924, a weak alliance was formed between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)—who had also been inspired by the Russian Revolution and had founded themselves on the ideology of Marxism-Leninism in 1921.
However, despite his visions for the Kuomintang, Sun Yat-Sen died prematurely in 1925. He never saw his party return to power.
Chiang Kai-Skek, a man of the Christian faith, became the new leader of the Kuomintang Party, and under his leadership, the Kuomintang grew quickly.
Alongside the Communist Party, the Kuomintang decided it was finally time to deal with the troublesome warlords, who, by ruling over large areas of land, prevented the formation of a permanent central government system.
Eventually, the two parties successfully overthrew the warlords. However, peace was still not forthcoming.