Politics and government
The government of China is founded on the 1948 Constitution of the Republic of China, according to the Three Principles of the People based on the teachings of Sun Yat-sen as well as the principle of National Democracy.The National Assembly of China (國民大會 Guómín Dàhuì) is the highest state organ of the Republic of China. Its consists of about 2,500 delegates which are elected for four-year terms through a multi-tiered representative electoral system. Theoretically, the National Assembly is the supreme law-making institution. However, in practice the Assembly usually acts as a powerless rubber-stamp parliament for decisions already made by the Chinese Nationalist Party.
The President of the Republic of China (總統 Zǒngtǒng) is the head of state of China and nominal commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The President is elected by the National Assembly every four years from among its members. Under the 1948 Constitution, the office of President is largely ceremonial and symbolic with limited powers and functions. In practice, however, the Presidency can be a powerful office if it is occupied by an influential individual within the political system such as the First Secretary of the Chinese Nationalist Party.According to the 1948 Constitution, the National Government of China (國民政府 Guómín Zhèngfǔ) consists of five branches (五院 wǔyuàn; Five Yuans), namely the Executive Yuan, Legislative Yuan, Control Yuan, Judicial Yuan and Examination Yuan. All members of the Five Yuans are elected by and responsible to the National Assembly from among its members every four years, except for Legislative Yuan which is elected every two years.
The Executive Yuan (行政院 Xíngzhèngyuàn) is the executive branch of National Government and is presided by the Prime Minister of China (總理 Zŏnglĭ). Its consists of the Prime Minister as its presiding officer, two Deputy-Prime Ministers, Ministers of State and various heads of state commissions. The composition of the Executive Yuan is determined by the recommendation of the President of the Republic and is approved by the majority of the Assembly.
The Legislative Yuan (立法院 Lìfǎyuàn) is elected every two years by the National Assembly from among its members. The Yuan exercises the legislative powers and acts on the behalf of the National Assembly in the interim of the parliamentary sessions. Although the Legislative Yuan has a function to exercise the powers of Assembly while the latter is not in session, the Yuan has no power to censure and supervise the other branches of the government. Such powers are specially vested on the Control Yuan.
The Control Yuan (監察院 Jiāncháyuàn) is based on the traditional Chinese censorate and has powers to supervise and inquire the other branches of the government. While the Constitution has bestowed the power to act on the behalf of the National Assembly on the Legislative Yuan, in fact the Control Yuan has more power regarding it. The Control Yuan has the powers to censure and impeach the members of other branches of National Government, including the Prime Minister, and is considered the strongest branch within the Government.
The Judicial Yuan (司法院 Sīfǎyuàn) is the highest judicial body in the Republic of China. The President and Vice-President of the Judicial Yuan and fifteen Justices form the Council of Grand Justices. They are appointed by the National Assembly based on the recommendation from the President of the Republic. The highest court, the Supreme Court, consists of a number of civil and criminal divisions, each of which is formed by a presiding Judge and four Associate Judges, all appointed for life.
The Examination Yuan (考試院 Kǎoshìyuàn) is in charge of validating the qualification of civil servants in the Republic of China. It is based on the old imperial examination system used in pre-Republican China. While in theory the Examination Yuan has least importance compared with the other branches, in practice the Yuan has functions to maintain the civil service under the control of Chinese Nationalist Party as well as to ensure the effectiveness and to eliminate inefficiency of national bureaucratic system.
Chinese Revolution (1911–1912)
Disillusioned by the failure of the Qing Dynasty’s attempt to reform and modernize China, the revolutionary movement against the ruling dynasty emerged by the late 19th century. Different with other political organizations before the failed Hundred Days Reform, this movement advocated the overthrow of Manchu’s Qing rule and the restoration of Han Chinese rule in China. Many of early Chinese revolutionary movements were founded by overseas Chinese, such as the Furen Literary Society in Hong Kong and the Revive China Society in Hawaii.In 1905, the Tongmenghui was founded in Tokyo after the merger between the Revive China Society, the China Revival Society, and the Restoration Society. Sun Yat-sen (孫中山 Sūn Zhōngshān), a republican and anti-Qing activist, was elected as its leader. This organization soon was increasingly popular between the younger people, especially the students. When the Tongmenghui was established, more than 90% of its members were between 17 and 26 years of age. Tongmenghui was also popular among the overseas Chinese communities, especially in Malaya, who was financially funding the organization.
A series of uprisings, started from the First Guangzhou Uprising in 1895, was launched by the revolutionaries against the Qing government. The uprisings prior to 1911 was always successfully suppressed by the government due to lack of the participants and a coordination. It was not until the Wuchang Uprising in Wuhan on October 10, 1911, the revolutionary wave swept throughout China and many people started to show their support to the revolutionaries.Alerted by this situation, the Qing Court ordered Yuan Shikai on October 27, 1911 to lead his New Army to retake Wuhan. Outnumbered by the New Army, the revolutionaries retreated to Hanyang and, finally, to Wuchang where they would fight against the New Army for about 50 days. During this battle, more than a half of all Chinese provinces already declared its independence from Qing, including Tibet and Outer Mongolia. On November 1, 1911, the Qing Court appointed Yuan as new Prime Minister who would briefly led the short-lived Qing constitutional government.
With much of the provinces that declared its independence from Qing, Yuan sent Tang Shaoyi as his representative to negotiate with the revolutionaries in Wuhan where the revolutionaries choose Wu Tingfang as their representative. They agreed that Yuan Shikai would force the Emperor to abdicate in exchange for the southern provinces' support of Yuan as the president of the Republic. To prevent civil war and possible foreign intervention from undermining the infant republic, Sun Yat-sen agreed to Yuan's proposal to unify China under Yuan Shikai's Beijing government.
On January 1, 1912, Sun officially declared the establishment of the Republic of China and was inaugurated in Nanjing as the first Provisional President. On February 12, 1912, the child Emperor Puyi and Empress Longyu finally abdicated following the threat and pressure from Yuan. Following the agreement between him and Sun Yat-sen, Yuan Shikai was sworn as the second Provisional President of the Republic of China in Beijing on March 10, 1912, starting the period of Beiyang Government
Beiyang Regime (1912–1928)
Yuan Shikai's era (1912–1916)On August 25, 1912, the Nationalist Party (國民黨 Guómíndǎng), popularly known as the Kuomintang, was founded by Song Jiaoren, one of Sun's associates. It was an amalgamation of small political groups, including Sun's Tongmenghui. The 1912-1913 National Assembly elections gave over half the seats and control of both houses to the Kuomintang, where the second largest party was the Progressive Party (進歩黨 Jìnbùdǎng), led by Liang Qichao.
As a supporter for the parliamentary republic system, Song Jiaoren was widely regarded as a primary candidate as new Prime Minister after the election. However, Song was assassinated while traveling with a group of friends to Beijing on March 20, 1913, less than two weeks before the assembly convened. An investigation showed the assassination was arranged by the incumbent Prime Minister, Zhao Bingjun. Amid Yuan's denial, the Nationalists still suspected Yuan has a higher responsibility to the assassination. Because of the lack of evidence, Yuan was never officially implicated.Nevertheless, the tensions between the Kuomintang and Yuan continued to intensify. Following Yuan's authorization of $100 million of "reorganization loans" from a variety of foreign banks to finance his Beiyang Army, the Kuomintang became highly critical of Yuan's use of power that independent from the Assembly. In July 1913, seven southern provinces rebelled against Yuan and the Second Revolution which was mainly staged by the Kuomintang faction under Sun Yat-sen's leadership was begun. Due for being ill-prepared, this revolution was unsuccessful and forced Sun to flee to Japan.
Through the bribes and threats from military that surrounded the Assembly building, the National Assembly finally elected Yuan as formal President of the Republic of China on October 10, 1913. Yuan then outlawed the Kuomintang on November 1913 and its members of parliament was expelled from the Assembly. Without a quorum after the expel of Kuomintang MPs, the Assembly was unable to convene and finally, was declared on permanent recess by Yuan on January 10, 1914. On May 1, 1914, Yuan convened his own Constitutional Conference that produced a "constitutional compact" that gave the presidency the unlimited powers. Yuan justified these actions by stating that representative democracy had been proven inefficient by political infighting.On December 12, 1915, Yuan proclaimed himself Emperor of the newly established Empire of China under the era name of Hongxian. The universal opposition against Yuan now formed throughout China, not only from the old Kuomintang revolutionaries, but also from their former rival political organization, the Progressives, under Liang Qichao, which already opposed Yuan's abuse of power since the ban on the Kuomintang in 1913.
The increasing centralization under the Imperial government by abolishing the provincial system also triggered the opposition from the local military governors. Following the advice from Liang Qichao, the Yunnan clique under former Yunnan governor, Cai E, declared the independence of Yunnan on December 25, 1915 which started the National Protection War (護國戰爭 Hùgúo Zhànzhēng) against Yuan's government. Similar anti-Yuan sentiment was also emerging even among Yuan's Beiyang clique in the north following Yuan's coronation. Pressured by the widespread opposition, Yuan finally renounced his title as Emperor and restored the Republic on March 22, 1916.
Warlord era (1916–1927)
In June 5, 1916, Yuan died from uremia. Li Yuanhong appointed as new President of China and Duan Qirui as the Premier. However, Li and Duan soon had a conflict over China's entry to the World War I. Duan insisted on joining the war while Li were opposed. Li Yuanhong removed Duan from office and called for national military support. With German funds and arms, a monarchist general, Zhang Xun, took the opportunity. He then occupied the capital and forced Li to dissolve parliament, in attempt to restore the Qing Dynasty on July 1, 1916. This restoration only to being repressed by Duan later. Li resigned as president and was succeeded by Feng Guozhang.Emerged as the the most powerful leader in China, Duan established the new government and organized the new senate along with Liang Qichao. China eventually entered the World War I as the part of Allies on August 1917. Sun Yat-sen and and former parliament members that had been deposed during the Manchu Restoration responded Duan's unconstitutional action by forming a rival government in Guangzhou, and then in Shanghai, and organizing the Constitutional Protection Movement against the Beiyang Government with the backing of the Yunnan clique and the Old Guangxi clique.
When Duan's loans from foreign banks to finance his Anhui forces were exposed, the May Fourth Movement sparked throughout the country on May 4, 1919. The students, merchants, and workers in Beijing and other larger cities across China went on strike, protested against corruption and nepotism that hampered the government. The movement played a significant role in the history of China as it radicalized the Chinese intellectual thought such as the introduction of Marxism and rise of the New Culture Movement. During this period of national unrest, Sun Yat-sen re-established the Kuomintang on October 1919 in South China.The conflict between Duan's Anhui clique and the rival Zhili clique under Cao Kun and Wu Peifu for control of the Beijing government led to the break of Zhili-Anhui War on July 14, 1920. The Anhui clique was defeated by the Zhili forces and their ally, the Fengtian clique from Manchuria. Duan stepped down from the power and retired as an ordinary citizen. Despite assumed the national power, the Zhili clique had an uneasy relationship with the Fengtian clique of Chang Tso-lin, led to their military conflicts in 1922 and 1924.
Meanwhile in the south, Sun Yat-sen proclaimed himself as the Grand Marshal of his own military government in 1921. Following the May Fourth Movement, Sun slowly also getting disillusioned with Western democracy. With assistance from the Soviet Union and the Comintern, Sun started to re-establish the Kuomintang as a Leninist party despite its non-Communist nature and also permitted the newly-rising Chinese Communist Party joined the party membership while maintaining their separate party identities. Sun was also able to develop the military power needed for against the North. He established the Whampoa Military Academy with Chiang Kai-shek as the commander of the National Revolutionary Army.
Northern Expedition (1926–1928)After Sun's death in March 12, 1925, Chiang launched the Northern Expedition in July 1926 and rapidly defeated the armies of Zhili clique. In April 1927, Chiang Kai-shek purged the Communists from his National Revolutionary Army and caused a split between the Kuomintang's left and right wings. The leftists, led by Wang Jingwei in Wuhan, condemned Chiang's purge. Chiang, however, subsequently established his own government in Nanjing in April 1927 and the expedition was put on halt.
The situation gave Chang Tso-lin, the warlord of Fengtian clique, an opportunity to take control of the Beiyang Government personally as the Grand Marshal of the Republic of China in June 18, 1927. Under Chang, the civil service began to improve and start functioning again. The navy and army ministries were merged to create the Ministry of Military Affairs.
Following the Nationalists’ defeat in Xuzhou, Chiang resigned from his position as the Chairman of the Nanjing Government and moved to Shanghai. Li Zongren as new leader of the Nanjing Government attempted to negotiate the possible reconciliation with the Wuhan Government. Wang Jingwei, upon the end of negotiations, ordered the purging of all Communists from his government, resulted to a military coup by the Communists in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province. As a result, the Wuhan Government became destabilized and strengthened the Nanjing Government on the other side. On January 2, 1928, the Wuhan government finally reconciled itself with Nanjing and the Northern Expedition restarted in February 1928.
The Nationalists swept across the remains of Zhili Clique forces and reached the Yellow River in mid-April, 1928. Yan Xishan's forces successfully occupied Beijing in June 1928 and renamed the city as "Beiping" or "Northern Peace". Chang evacuated himself to Fengtian and retained a government in exile led by Premier Pan Fu. However, many of its civil servants, had already switched over to the Nationalist government. In December 1928, Chang finally accepted the jurisdiction of the Nationalist Government by replacing all banners of the Beiyang Government in Manchuria to the Nationalist one. Chang was recognized by the Nationalist government as "vice-leader" of China in return for his allegiance to the Nationalists.
Central Plains War (1930)At the end of the Expedition, the NRA consisted of five army groups: Chiang's Whampoa clique, Chang Tso-lin's Fengtian clique, Feng Yuxiang's Guominjun, Yan Xishan's Shanxi clique, and Li Zongren's New Guangxi clique. Chiang did not have direct control of the other three so he considered them to be threats.
In February 1929, Li Zongren fired pro-Chiang governor of Hunan but Chiang objected and the two clashed in March, leading to Li's defeat and temporary expulsion from the KMT. Chiang then briefly regained the position as the Chairman of National Government. Feng Yuxiang tried to rebel against Chiang's government on May 19, only to find that half of his army defected through bribery. From October to February, fighting resumed with Chang Tso-lin, Wang Jingwei of left-wing Wuhan faction and Lin Sen of right-wing Western Hills faction of Kuomintang joining the opposition.
In May 1930, the Central Plains War erupted, pitting Chiang against the Beiping coalition of Yan Xishan, Feng Yuxiang, Li Zongren, Chang Tso-lin, and Wang Jingwei. Battles in the north were generally in Henan and Shandong and battles in the south were mainly in the area of Yuezhou, Changsha and Hunan province. With the assistance of its air force, Chiang's Central Army struck with several major offensives. The Northwest Army, however, crushed Chen Cheng and Chiang's forces in Gansu at the end of May, and Chiang was captured as he was inspecting the front line.
Nanjing Regime (1930–1945)
Yan-Wang Administration (1930–1932)After the coalition's victory, Yan Xishan convened the Enlarged Party Conference and set himself as new Chairman of the National Government while Chang Tso-lin as the Vice-Chairman and Wang Jingwei as the Chairman of Executive Yuan. On other side, as the losing party, Chiang was expelled from the Party's leadership and was positioned as the Director of Whampoa Military Academy in December 1930.
During this decade, China entered a period of relative prosperity. The Nationalist Government started to modernize the legal and penal systems, stabilize prices, amortize debts, reform the banking and currency systems, build railroads and highways, improve public health facilities, legislate against traffic in drugs and augment industrial and agricultural production. On the other hand, political freedom was considerably curtailed due to the Kuomintang's political tutelage.Although the Nanjing government claimed all of China proper, Mongolia, Tibet, Manchuria and Uyghurstan under its jurisdiction, in fact the government rule was only strongest in the eastern regions around the capital Nanjing. Large areas of China remained under the semi-autonomous rule of local warlords, provincial military leaders or warlord coalitions as Yan wanted to get the support from his fellow warlords. All cliques now wore the Zhongshan suit and had the Kuomintang party membership while ruling independently in the name of Kuomintang.
The regional cliques such as the Fengtian clique in Manchuria, Shanxi clique in Shanxi, Ma clique in the Northwest, and New Guangxi clique in the South retained considerable local authority, while other regions were independent from Nanjing and under control of foreign powers, such as the Soviet Union in Outer Mongolia and Uyghurstan and the British Empire in Tibet. Almost bankrupted after the Central Plains War, China had no choice other than retreated its forces from northern Korea and Manchuria following the Second Sino-Japanese War (1931–1932).As Yan-Wang administration getting unpopular, Chiang Kai-shak re-emerged again to political arena with the backing from his Whampoa clique colleagues, the traditionalist Central Club clique, the technocratic Political Study Clique, and the Green Gang criminal organization. CC and Political Study cliques itself were the main opposition against Yan Xishan and Feng Yuxiang that they viewed as "leftists" and financially backed by the Soviet. Yan resigned from his office on 1932 after China's defeat on the Second Sino-Japanese War and Chiang's influence was virtually restored.
However, Chiang was unable to get re-elected as the Chairman of National Government as Hu Hanmin's rightist Western Hills faction and Wang Jingwei's leftist Reorganizationist faction successfully placed the senior statesman, Lin Sen, as the new Chairman. Chiang instead became the Chairman of Executive Yuan, replacing Wang. However, Lin's lack of political ambition made him more as a figurehead, while Chiang exercised the actual power on government.
Sino-German Cooperation (1933–1941)Chiang then started to accelerate the industrialization and modernize the military of China with the help of Nazi Germany. Germany then sent some military advisers to help the development of the National Revolutionary Army. The anti-communist NSDAP and the anti-communist KMT were soon engaged in close cooperation with the Germans training Chinese troops and expanding Chinese infrastructure, while China opened its markets and natural resources to Germany.
By 1936, China had only about 16,000 miles (25,750 km) of railways, far lower than the 100,000 miles (160,000 km) that Sun Yat-sen had envisioned for his ambition of a modernized China. In addition, half of these were in Manchuria, which was already lost to Japan and out of the Kuomintang control. However, the series of Sino-German agreements between 1934 and 1943 was greatly accelerating the railway construction in China. Major railroads were built between Nanchang, Zhejiang and Guizhou. These fast developments were made possible because Germany needed efficient transportation to export raw materials, and because the railway lines served the Chinese government's need to build an industrial center south of the Yangtze, in the south-central provinces.
In July 1937, Japan and China engaged in a confused, sporadic skirmishing battle which later escalated into a full-scale one in the Southern Hebei Demilitarized Zone and fought near the Xingcheng city walls, later known as the Battle of Xingcheng Wall. Japanese government's reluctance to escalate the conflict into full-scale war with China again after the 1930 war and Germany's war mediation forced Japan to withdraw its troops from Hebei. On September 22, 1938, Japan and China reluctantly signed a non-aggression pact after pressures from Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, where China recognized the territorial integrity of Manchuria and Korea.
On November 12, 1937, the new Constitution of the Republic of China was adopted by the National Assembly and went into effect on January 1, 1938. Chiang was elected by the Assembly as the President of the Republic of China, replacing Lin Sen on November 27, 1937. According to the constitution, President's term was increased from four to six years and granted the power to convene extraordinary sessions of the Assembly and the right to veto a bill that passed by the Legislative Yuan. While the adoption of new constitution legally ended the political tutelage of the Kuomintang, in fact the constitution established an authoritarian presidential system that centered on Chiang Kai-shek's figure.
World War II (1941–1945)When France fell under Axis occupation on June 25, 1940, China still used the Sino-Vietnamese Railway in French Indochina and the Burma Road in British Burma to transport materiel and fuel imported from Germany and Iran. By August 1940, a plan to invade Indochina had been considered after the intelligence report of Japan's attempt to isolate China by invading the Dutch East Indies. After failed to negotiate with the French, on November 1, 1940, Chiang ordered the Chinese troops in Guangxi to march to French Indochina, helped by the amphibious assaults from Hainan Island. The French resisted, resulted to the Battle of Hanoi on November 1–24. When Hanoi fell on November 25, 1940, the French retreated farther south until was utterly defeated on February 4, 1941.
Chinese invasion to French Indochina prompted the Japanese to invade the Dutch East Indies from the Japanese South Pacific on March 13, 1941, resulted to the economic isolation of China from its main oil exporters in Southeast Asia. When the news of German invasion of the Soviet Union reached China, Chiang decided to nullify the non-aggression pact and retake Manchuria by force. On July 7, 1941, Chiang declared war on Japan. Full-scale battles soon broke out across Sino-Manchurian borders on July 8–23. On August 1, 1941, Chiang deployed the German-developed Chinese air forces, dubbed as the "Luftwaffe of the East", to bomb Kwantung.With the Fall of Kwantung on August 10, 1941, China unexpectedly able to overrun Manchuria by October 1941. The Chinese continued to move into the Korean Peninsula on November 11, 1941 to chase the retreating Japanese forces. Seoul fell under Chinese occupation on January 12, 1942. However, the Chinese forces was halted from moving further into the tip of Peninsula by the Army of Korea at the famous Battle of Hongcheon on January 20 to February 28, 1942. Unable to move closer into the southern Japan, Chiang ordered the Chinese troops to stop the campaign temporarily.
In December 1941, China entered into military alliance with Thailand. After Japan officially joined the Allies in March 1942, Chiang sent Premier H.H. Kung to Berlin. China then formally joined the Axis Powers on April 12, 1942 with Germany, Italy and Spain. On April 24, 1942, China invaded British Hong Kong as a symbolic declaration of war on the British and other Allied nations. However, China did not want to renounce its non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union like what it did to Japan before to avoid forming a northern front war with the Soviet Union which would wastes the military resources of Chinese army. Despite his anti-communism, Chiang still considered Japan, not the Soviet Union, as the primary enemy of China.On May 7, 1942, the Chinese army invaded Burma from Yunnan to secure the supply line from the Indian Ocean. The Chinese, helped by the Thai forces from southwest and Burmese insurgents led by Aung San, were able to drive the British out of Burma and temporarily retreat to Bengal, British India (now East Pakistan) in January 1943. The lengthy invasion of Burma, however, cost the Chinese army with heavy losses both on the number of soldiers and the military logistics. It would soon proved to be the disastrous factors when the Japanese forces launched the massive counterattacks in mid-1943.