Although China can look back on several thousand years of history, modern China did not emerge until the middle of the 19th century. After numerous internal and external conflicts, the Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949, and it still controls the domestic and foreign policy of the People’s Republic of China to this day. China is now on its way back to becoming a world power and is already making a significant contribution to global development.
Independence Day: October 1, 1949 – Founding of the People’s Republic of China
Head of state: Xi Jinping (st. 2013)
Head of government: Li Keqiang (st. 2013)
Political system: People’s Socialist Republic
Democracy Status Index (BTI): Rank 81 of 137 (2020)
Corruption Index (CPI): Rank 80 of 198 (2019)
Decay and reconstruction
According to businesscarriers, the Republic of China, for its part, would prove to be a very unstable entity. At the beginning of 1912, Sun Yat-sen had to give up his presidential post to the militarily more powerful Yuan Shikai. This destroyed all political efforts to build a functioning democracy and banned the national party founded by Sun Yat-sen in 1912 (Guomindang / GMD). Sun Yat-sen had to flee into exile and in 1915 Yuan set about converting his military dictatorship into a new imperial dynasty. However, he did not succeed in doing this due to a lack of support in the ranks of his followers.
Yuan Shikai’s sudden death in mid-1916 left a power vacuum in China. As is so often the case in China’s history, the territory was divided into regional areas of influence of various military rulers (warlords). None of these were able to reunite China because the military rulers lacked both military means and political skill. Only when Sun Yat-sen, who had returned from exile in Japan, was able to begin building a powerful and politicized army in Canton in cooperation with the Soviet Union in the early 1920’s, the foundations for a military unification of mainland China were created. Sun Yat-sen would not live to see this again, however, as he died in the spring of 1925.
The military unification of China took place in the years 1926 to 1928 under the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek, the new military and political leader of the GMD, who chose Nanjing as the capital of the new republic.
In the meantime, with the help of agents of the Comintern, the Soviet Union had tried to build a communist party in China. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was founded in a secret session in Shanghai in mid-1921. In return for the military support of the Soviet Union, Sun Yat-sen had to allow communists to become members of the new government in Canton. In its early days, the CCP and GMD cooperated and formed the first united front.
This changed in 1927 when Chiang Kai-shek broke with the communists and massacred them in Shanghai. As a result, the communists had to retreat to the remote mountainous regions of southeast China, where Mao Zedong established the first communist proto-state on Chinese soil.
War with Japan and civil war
From then on, Chiang Kai-shek waged a civil war against the communists. The greater military threat, however, came from Japan, which annexed resource-rich Manchuria in 1931. Chiang Kai-shek, however, continued to focus his attacks on the communists, whom he forced to flee from their southeastern bases in 1934. This retreat is also known as the Long March. In 1936, with the help of a warlord, the communists managed to kidnap Chiang Kai-shek and force it into a new united front against the Japanese.
However, it was too late for successful cooperation, because on July 7, 1937, Japan attacked China and the Second Sino-Japanese War, which was so devastating for China, began. In rapid offensive operations, the Japanese conquered China’s most important urban centers by autumn 1938 and forced Chiang Kai-shek’s government to retreat to Chongqing in the Chinese hinterland.
Here, the Japanese soldiers, frustrated by the hard fighting and ideologically whipped up by racist propaganda, often made use of inhuman warfare. A representative example of this is the capture of Nanjing at the end of 1937, during which Japanese troops massacred the civilian population for several weeks.
Despite military support from abroad, the occupation of China by Chinese forces could not be actively ended. Only the Japanese surrender after the US dropped the atomic bombs in August 1945 ended the war in China.
Since the nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek and the communists under Mao Zedong could not agree on a common form of government after the end of the Japanese occupation, the civil war flared up again. The communists, who by now had a large army well versed in guerrilla tactics, were able to defeat the nationalist troops through strategic maneuvering and force Chiang Kai-shek to flee to Taiwan. After more than a hundred years, the time of wars on Chinese soil had come to an end.