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Guomindang State

The Guomindang State

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During 1912 and 1949, China was ruled by the Guomindang political party. Also known as the Chinese National People's Party and the Kuomintang political party, the Guomindang Party was a nationalist political organization whose members advocated participatory democracy through parliamentary rule. This period of China's history is known as the Guomindang state.

The Guomindang party was formally established in 1912 by Sung Chiao-jen. Led by Sun Yat-sen, the Guomindang successfully incorporated the interests of several smaller opposition groups and sought to succeed the Revolutionary Alliance, a temporary political body organized after the fall of the Manchu Empire, as the nation's primary political body. However, the Guomindang faced significant opposition. China's new president, Yuan Shih-kai, did not agree with the Guomindang's politics. The Guomindang faced broader opposition from the Communist Party. The rival political parties engaged in a series of military conflicts and the Guomindang state was not formally recognized until 1928, when the Guomindang military successfully captured Beijing and ousted the remaining communists from power.

The Guomindang victory in Beijing did not ensure peace. The communists retreated but continued to resist the Guomindang state. Japan invaded China in 1937, causing further complications and draining the resources of the Guomindang. The communist rebels eventually overthrew the Guomindang state in 1949, forcing the party's members to retreat to Taiwan.

The Guomindang, while appearing politically strong during its height, had a weak foundation based solely on military structure, and very little experience or presence within government itself. In fact, according to historian Hung-mao Tien, the Guomindang's attempts at governance were insufficient and ineffective due to their inability to integrate political ideology and administrative duty. For example, the Guomindang's education policy is an excellent example of their inability to integrate true reform and political presence.

The Guomindang's platform was the basis for their success and the reason behind the numbers they achieved in the period between 1927-1937. Their education policy serves as an excellent example of how they drew the people in with ideology, but failed to bring forth lasting change in the long run. According to Colin Mackerras, the Guomindang's education policy was based on the following:

  1. The promotion of nationalism in China
  2. Growth of national strength through the eradication of illiteracy and equal opportunities in education for all citizens

Educational goals could not be met due to the size of the administration (too large), lack of inspiration for change, and a corrupt foundation. Thus, any educational gains made during the period were more likely reactions to modernization and outside cultural forces, such as conflicts with Japan. In fact, this conflict with Japan is indicative of how China, within its nationalistic spirit, reacted to events during the Guomintang reign.

The nationalism of the Guomintang period in China included the typical characteristics of past Chinese nationalism: in peaceful times, there are often "internal struggles" within the nation. As soon as foreign invasions occur, however, the nation will surely unite. China never initiates aggression. This has been proven over thousands of years of Chinese history, and especially in recent centuries. Yet China is inclined to powerful passive resistance to aggression. It is for this reason that China has survived the invasions of various international powers and never yielded. Therefore, this nation is sensitive to international currents of anti-Communism and hegemonic politics, and when confronted with such sentiments, is prone to respond with a narrow kind of nationalism.

Just as Chinese national pride has been a natural outgrowth of China's long and rich historical tradition, the nationalism of Chinese leaders also has derived from the injustices China suffered in more recent history, in particular, China's domination by foreign powers from the nineteenth century until the end of World War II. During this time, which China refers to as "the century of shame and humiliation," the formerly powerful imperial government devolved to what China calls "semicolonial" status, as it was forced to sign unequal treaties and grant foreigners special privileges of extraterritoriality. Foreign powers divided China into spheres of influence. Most debilitating and humiliating was the foreign military threat that overpowered China, culminating in Japan's invasion and occupation of parts of China in the late 1930s. The bitter recollection of China's suffering at the hands of foreign powers was a source of Chinese nationalistic sentiment that served as the foundation of the Guomindang party.

In 1927, the tenuous peace in the Far East established with the Versailles Treaty began to crumble. The Soviet encourage collaboration between Chinese Communist Party and the Guomintang dissolved when the Guomintang attacked and crushed CCP strongholds. The Guomintang quickly established a nationalist warlord-like rule, not entirely free of the CCP threat. However, first and foremost, it must be remembered the Guomintang government was intensely nationalistic and could not be trusted not to rebel against foreign influences.

This volatile nature of the party is illustrated aptly in the Northern Expedition of 1929. The Northern Expedition was prior to the separation of the communist and nationalist parties in China. It was the last joint effort of the two sides in their goal to take over Northern China. The Northern Expedition was a movement by the joint parties of nationalists and communists to take down warlords in the northern part of China. One of the only reasons the communists and nationalists stayed together to fight this war was due to the fact that the Soviets, who supplied the communist with their weapons, commanded the communists to obey the rules set down by the nationalist. After the Northern Expedition had successfully completed its mission, the nationalists began to massacre all communists and even members of its own party that would not stand strongly behind the Guomintang right wing. Lu Xun writes the following concerning the bloodshed, China is being devoured by tigers and wolves, yet no one cares. This government authorization to deny opposing groups political rights and identity recognition is responsible for perpetuation of ethnic conflict. While governments may not be blamed for the creation of conflict, their encouragement of categorization through nationalist ideology gives the dominant group the psychological authorization for communal violence. When the subordinate group responds with violence, heavy punishment further enforces the idea that the perpetrators are viewed by the government on different levels.

When the government is controlled by a nationalistic group, the process of enemy creation and dehumanization can be institutionalized.Even in proclaimed democracies, discriminatory policies can effectively eliminate minority group voices as a part of political discourse. However, inclusion of all of the people encompassed in the territorial boundaries conflicts with the nationalist nature of the government in that assimilation would poison the “chosen” element of inclusion and political control. Thus this type of militancy creates a paradox in ideology.

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Guomindang State Research Papers

Guomindang State Research Papers discuss China during 1912 and 1949, when China was ruled by the Guomindang political party.

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