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The Nationalist government (Chinese: 中華民國國民政府; pinyin: Zhōnghuá Mínguó Guómín Zhèngfǔ) refers to the government of the Republic of China between 1927 to 1948, led by the Kuomintang (KMT) party. The name derives from the Kuomintang's translated name "Nationalist Party". The government was in place until the Government of the Republic of China under the newly promulgated Constitution of the Republic of China was established in its place.
After the outbreak of the Xinhai Revolution on October 10, 1911, revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen was elected Provisional President and founded the Provisional Government of the Republic of China. To preserve national unity, Sun ceded the presidency to military strongman Yuan Shikai, who established the Beiyang government. After a failed attempt to install himself as Emperor of China, Yuan died in 1916, leaving a power vacuum which resulted in China being divided into several warlord fiefdoms and rival governments. They were nominally reunified in 1928 by the Nanjing-based government led by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, which after the Northern Expedition, governed the country as a single-party state under the Kuomintang, and was subsequently given international recognition as the legitimate representative of China.
The Blue Sky with a White Sun became the state emblem of China after 1928
The oldest surviving republic in East Asia, the Republic of China was formally established on 1 January 1912 in mainland China following the Xinhai Revolution, which itself began with the Wuchang Uprising on 10 October 1911, replacing the Qing Dynasty and ending over two thousand years of imperial rule in China. Central authority waxed and waned in response to warlordism (1915–28), Japanese invasion (1937–45), and the Chinese Civil War (1927–49), with central authority strongest during the Nanjing Decade (1927–37), when most of China came under the control of the Kuomintang (KMT) under an authoritarian single-party state. At the end of World War II in 1945, the Empire of Japan surrendered control of Taiwan and its island groups to the Allied Forces, and Taiwan was placed under the Republic of China's administrative control. The legitimacy of this transfer is disputed and is another aspect of the disputed political status of Taiwan.
After World War II, the civil war between the ruling Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China resumed, despite attempts at mediation by the United States. The Nationalist Government began drafting the Constitution of the Republic of China under a National Assembly, but was boycotted by the communists. With the promulgation of the constitution, the Nationalist Government abolished itself and was replaced by the Government of the Republic of China. Despite that, the Kuomintang was defeated in the civil war in 1949 and moved the constitutional government to Taiwan.
After Sun's death in March 1925, Chiang Kai-shek became the leader of the KMT. Four months later on 1 July 1925, the Nationalist Government of the Republic of China was established in Guangzhou. The following year, Chiang led the Northern Expedition through China with the intention of defeating the warlords and unifying the country. Chiang received the help of the Soviet Union and the Chinese Communists; however, he soon dismissed his Soviet advisors. He was convinced, not without reason, that they wanted to get rid of the KMT (also known as the Nationalists) and take over. Chiang decided to strike first and purged the Communists, killing thousands of them. At the same time, other violent conflicts took place in the south of China where the Communists fielded superior numbers and were massacring Nationalist supporters. These events eventually led to the Chinese Civil War between the Nationalists and Communists. Chiang Kai-shek pushed the Communists into the interior as he sought to destroy them, and moved the Nationalist Government to Nanjing in 1927. Leftists within the KMT still allied to the communists had established a rival Nationalist Government in Wuhan two months earlier, but soon joined Chiang in Nanjing in August 1927. By the following year, Chiang's army had captured Beijing after overthrowing the Beiyang government and unified the entire nation, at least nominally, marking the beginning the Nanjing Decade.
According to Sun Yat-sen's "Three Stages of Revolution" theory, the KMT was to rebuild China in three phases: the first stage was military unification, which was carried out with the Northern Expedition; the second was "political tutelage" which was a provisional government led by the KMT to educate people about their political and civil rights, and the third stage was constitutional government. By 1928, the Nationalists, having taken over power militarily and reunified China, started the second phase, promulgating a provisional constitution and beginning the period of so-called "tutelage". The KMT was criticized as instituting totalitarianism, but claimed it was attempting to establish a modern democratic society. Among others, they created at that time the Academia Sinica, the Central Bank of China, and other agencies. In 1932, China sent a team for the first time to the Olympic Games. Historians, such as Edmund Fung, argue that establishing a democracy in China at that time was not possible. The nation was at war and divided between Communists and Nationalists. Corruption within the government and lack of direction also prevented any significant reform from taking place. Chiang realized the lack of real work being done within his administration and told the State Council: "Our organization becomes worse and worse ... many staff members just sit at their desks and gaze into space, others read newspapers and still others sleep." The Nationalist government wrote a draft of the constitution in 5 May 1936. Mass killing under the nationalists were common with millions of people killed. Notable mass killings include deaths from forced army conscription and the White Terror.
The Nationalists faced a new challenge with the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, with hostilities continuing through the Second Sino-Japanese War, part of World War II, from 1937 to 1945. The government of the Republic of China retreated from Nanjing to Chongqing. In 1945, after the war of eight years, Japan surrendered and the Republic of China, under the name "China", became one of the founding members of the United Nations. The government returned to Nanjing in 1946.
After the defeat of Japan during World War II, Taiwan was surrendered to the Allies, with ROC troops accepting the surrender of the Japanese garrison. The government of the ROC proclaimed the "retrocession" of Taiwan to the Republic of China and established a provincial government on the island. The military administration of the ROC extended over Taiwan, which led to widespread unrest and increasing tensions between local Taiwanese and mainlanders. The shooting of a civilian on February 28, 1947 triggered an island-wide unrest, which was brutally suppressed with military force in what is now known as the 228 Incident. Mainstream estimates of casualties range from 18,000 to 30,000, mainly Taiwanese elites. The 228 incident has had far-reaching effects on subsequent Taiwan history.
From 1945 to 1947, under United States mediation, especially through the Marshall Mission, the Nationalists and Communists agreed to start a series of peace talks aiming at establishing a coalition government. The two parties agreed to open multiparty talks on post-World War II political reforms via a Political Consultative Conference. This was included in the Double Tenth Agreement. This agreement was implemented by the Nationalist Government, who organized the first Political Consultative Assembly from January 10–31, 1946. Representatives of the Kuomintang, Communist Party of China, Chinese Youth Party, and China Democratic League, as well as independent delegates, attended the conference in Chongqing. However, shortly afterward, the two parties failed to reach an agreement and the civil war resumed. In the context of political and military animosity, the National Assembly was summoned by the Nationalists without the participation of the Communists and promulgated the Constitution of the Republic of China. The constitution was criticized by the Communists, and led to the final break between the two sides. The full-scale civil war resumed from early 1947.
After the National Assembly election, the drafted Constitution was adopted by the National Assembly on December 25, 1946, promulgated by the National Government on January 1, 1947, and went into effect on December 25, 1947. The Constitution was seen as the third and final stage of Kuomintang reconstruction of China. Chiang Kai-shek was also elected as the 1st President of the Republic of China under the constitution by the National Assembly in 1948, with Li Zongren being elected as Vice-President. The Nationalist Government was abolished on May 20, 1948, after the Government of the Republic of China was established with the presidential inauguration of Chiang. The Communists, though invited to the convention that drafted it, boycotted and declared after the ratification that not only would it not recognize the ROC constitution, but all bills passed by the Nationalist administration would be disregarded as well. Zhou Enlai challenged the legitimacy of the National Assembly in 1947 by accusing KMT hand-picked the members of the National Assembly 10 years earlier and thus could not have legal representation of the Chinese people.
Headquarters of the Nationalist Government in Nanjing
The Nationalist Government governed under a dual-party state apparatus under the ideology of Dang Guo, effectively making it a single-party state.
In February 1928, the Fourth Plenary Session of the 2nd Kuomintang National Congress held in Nanjing passed the Reorganization of the Nationalist Government Act. This act stipulated that the Nationalist Government was to be directed and regulated under the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang, with the Committee of the Nationalist Government being elected by KMT Central Committee. Under the Nationalist Government were seven ministries – Interior, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Transport, Justice, Agriculture and Mines, Commerce in addition institutions such as the Supreme Court, Control Yuan and the General Academy.
With the promulgation of the Organic Law of the Nationalist Government in October 1928, the government was reorganized into five different branches or Yuan, namely the Executive Yuan, Legislative Yuan, Judicial Yuan, Examination Yuan as well as the Control Yuan. The Chairman of the National Government was to be the head-of-state and commander-in-chief of the National Revolutionary Army. Chiang Kai-shek was appointed as the first Chairman of the Nationalist Government, a position he would retain until 1931. The Organic Law also stipulated that the Kuomintang, through its National Congress and Central Executive Committee, would exercise sovereign power during the period of political tutelage, and the KMT's Political Council would guide and superintend the Nationalist Government in the execution of important national affairs, and that the council has the power to interpret or amend the organic law.
The NRA during World War II
The National Revolutionary Army (NRA) (traditional Chinese: 國民革命軍; simplified Chinese: 国民革命军; pinyin: Guómín Gémìng Jūn; Wade–Giles: Kuo-min Ke-ming Chün), pre-1928 sometimes shortened to 革命軍 or Revolutionary Army and between 1928 and 1947 as 國軍 or National Army was the Military Arm of the Kuomintang (KMT) from 1925 until 1947, as well as the national army of the Republic of China during the KMT's period of party rule beginning in 1928.
Originally organized with Soviet aid as a means for the KMT to unify China against warlordism, the National Revolutionary Army fought major engagements in the Northern Expedition against the Chinese Beiyang Army warlords, in the Second Sino-Japanese War against the Imperial Japanese Army, and in the Chinese Civil War against the People's Liberation Army.
During the Second Sino-Japanese War, the armed forces of the Communist Party of China were nominally incorporated into the National Revolutionary Army (while retaining separate commands), but broke away to form the People's Liberation Army shortly after the end of the war. With the promulgation of the Constitution of the Republic of China in 1947 and the formal end of the KMT party-state, the National Revolutionary Army was renamed the Republic of China Armed Forces (中華民國國軍), with the bulk of its forces forming the Republic of China Army, which retreated to Taiwan in 1949.
Boat traffic and development along Suzhou Creek, Shanghai, around 1920
After the Kuomintang reunified the country in 1928, China entered a period of relative prosperity despite civil war and Japanese aggression. In 1937, the Japanese invaded and laid China to waste in eight years of war. The era also saw the first boycott of Japanese products.
Chinese industries continue to develop in the 1930s with the advent of the Nanjing decade in the 1930s, when Chiang Kai-shek unified most of the country and brought political stability. China's industries developed and grew from 1927 to 1931. Though badly hit by the Great Depression from 1931 to 1935 and Japan's occupation of Manchuria in 1931, industrial output recovered by 1936. By 1936, industrial output had recovered and surpassed its previous peak in 1931 prior to the Great Depression's effects on China. This is best shown by the trends in Chinese GDP. In 1932, China's GDP peaked at 28.8 billion, before falling to 21.3 billion by 1934 and recovering to 23.7 billion by 1935. By 1930, foreign investment in China totaled 3.5 billion, with Japan leading (1.4 billion) and the United Kingdom at 1 billion. By 1948, however, the capital stock had halted with investment dropping to only 3 billion, with the US and Britain leading.
However, the rural economy was hit hard by the Great Depression of the 1930s, in which an overproduction of agricultural goods lead to massive falling prices for China as well as an increase in foreign imports (as agricultural goods produced in western countries were "dumped" in China). In 1931, imports of rice in China amounted to 21 million bushels compared with 12 million in 1928. Other goods saw even more staggering increases. In 1932, 15 million bushels of grain were imported compared with 900,000 in 1928. This increased competition lead to a massive decline in Chinese agricultural prices (which were cheaper) and thus the income of rural farmers. In 1932, agricultural prices were 41 percent of 1921 levels. Rural incomes had fallen to 57 percent of 1931 levels by 1934 in some areas.
In 1937, Japan invaded China and the resulting warfare laid waste to China. Most of the prosperous east China coast was occupied by the Japanese, who carried out various atrocities such as the Rape of Nanjing in 1937 and random massacres of whole villages. In one anti-guerilla sweep in 1942, the Japanese killed up to 200,000 civilians in a month. The war was estimated to have killed between 20 and 25 million Chinese, and destroyed all that Chiang had built up in the preceding decade. Development of industries was severely hampered after the war by devastating conflict as well as the inflow of cheap American goods. By 1946, Chinese industries operated at 20% capacity and had 25% of the output of pre-war China.
One effect of the war was a massive increase in government control of industries. In 1936, government-owned industries were only 15% of GDP. However, the ROC government took control of many industries in order to fight the war. In 1938, the ROC established a commission for industries and mines to control and supervise firms, as well as instilling price controls. By 1942, 70% of the capital of Chinese industry were owned by the government.
Following the war with Japan, Chiang acquired Taiwan from Japan and renewed his struggle with the communists. However, the corruption of the KMT, as well as hyperinflation as a result of trying to fight the civil war, resulted in mass unrest throughout the Republic and sympathy for the communists. In addition, the communists' promise to redistribute land gained them support among the massive rural population. In 1949, the communists captured Beijing and later Nanjing as well. The People's Republic of China was proclaimed on 1 October 1949. The Republic of China relocated to Taiwan where Japan had laid an educational groundwork.