To say that China has an oldand dark past is quite the understatement. I could write another ten pages onthe absolute cataclysmic events that took place during the dynasties which fillthe very land of China with blood. However, this time around I will discuss theevents leading up to and post Taiping Rebellion, one of the worst civil wars inhistory. This rebellion was the turning point for the people of China in termsof their stance as a society. Policies as well as government was in questionagain, and this allowed reform to happen leading up to the Communist Revolutionof 1949.
China was bound to have a rebellion sooner or later inthe late 1800’s. Problems the country had were compounded by natural disasters onlygod could explain, including droughts, famines, and floods. Government neglectof the public and their needs was also in part responsible for this and otherdisasters.
Unfortunately, the Qing administration did little to relieve thewidespread misery caused by them. There were economic tensions, militarydefeats, and anti-Manchu protests that soon enveloped everyone in fear andunrest. Although many thought this was to be a grand revolution, it utterlyfailed in the end. The Taiping Rebellion finally was put down by Qing armiesassisted by British army regulars and American mercenaries, but it had left theQing dynasty weak and in shambles. Due to this the people within Chinese societywere now questioning the government and what the future would entail. Fast forward about 60 years and enter the ChineseCommunist Party, founded in 1921 in Shanghai. Some of those within the partywere some of China’s smartest thinkers who wanted to modernize the country.
Most wanting the abolition of the feudal-Confucian system for the unificationof China. The system and social structure was very old for its time and beggedfor change, “the gentry class (landlords who sometimes were also localofficials) was an obstacle to modernization” (Roger, 86). This higher classdominated the peasants, who made up the vast majority of the population. Almostall of them lived in poverty and died in it due to the recurrent famines. Theurban workers “about 2 million out of an estimated population of some 300million in 1918” (Roger, 116). These workers even in a city environment weremostly unskilled and lived in similar circumstances as the peasants. Thus,social reform became a priority, coming behind national unity and independence,because reformers saw them as the basic principles modern China should be builton. One of those reformers was a man by the name of Sun Yat-sen, who came tolead the strongest movement for reform and unity, “Sun was born near Canton; hewas raised by his elder brother in Hawaii and graduated as a medical doctor inHongkong in 1892.
Two years later, however, he began to devote himself topolitical work for the overthrow of the Qing dynasty His goal was to create astrong, unified, modern, Chinese republic” (Fitzgerald, 73). As Yat-sen’sinfluence grew over the country he started to look out to others for helpreestablishing a new government. Ignoring the west for obvious reasons, heturned to Moscow where early Soviet relations began and communism within Chinawas just under the horizon.
Sun Yat-sen’s primary goal was the reunification of the country.To do this, he had to accomplish two key objectives: defeat the Chinesewarlords and force out the foreign powers. But first, he had to make the KMT aneffective, political and military force. To do this, he needed outside help butsince he received no help from any of the foreign powers, so he turned to theComintern. “The Soviet Union supported Sun Yat-Sen’s KMT. The Soviets agreed togive Sun military, political, and organizational help” (Fitzgerald, 85). Thishelped Sun tremendously and inMay of that year, official diplomatic relations were established.
The Sovietgovernment then fulfilled some of its earlier promises by “giving up the oldRussian concessions in Tianjin and Hankow, as well as paying the outstandingpart of the indemnity for Chinese losses incurred by Russian action” (Uhalley, 180). These Soviet moves cost Moscow verylittle and increased Chinese reputation toward the USSR. However, Russia hadplans to use its communist influences to take China over and have it obey tothe Russian government i.e. Stalin, “ordered the CCP to join the KMT and manyleading communists did so, including Mao and Zhou Enlai. The goal was tostrengthen and, at the same time, infiltrate the KMT..
. The peak of CCP-KMTcooperation came in the years of the Nationalist Revolution, in 1925-27” Thiswas the great campaign launched against the warlords of central China by ChiangKai-shek in 1926 (Fitzgerald, 122). This was the catalyst for China to finallycome together and because of that the country unified about half of itscitizens by 1927.
Meanwhile, the warlords who loosely allied with Chiang, stillruled large parts of China and there was no land reform. Many citizens becamealienated from Chiang by the end of this period because “he did not introducedemocratic reforms” (Uhalley, 236). On the contrary, he seemed to favor his owndictatorship, and to see fascism as a desirable model of government. Yetanother perfect example communism will never work. Anyways, At this time thecommunist movement needed new reform and a new face. It was during this periodthat Mao came to the rescue and redirected Chinese communism from the workersto the peasants who, after all, made up the vast majority of the population.Mao changed the communist goal in China from a workers’ revolution to a peasantrevolution.
Something that he saw as the first step toward a socialistrevolution.Asthis revolution came into reality the communists started to carry out landreform. This really meant distributing the land equally, as in landlords andricher peasants were to get less than the others. So of course, it never workedthat way because landlords and rich peasants kept more land in return forsupporting the communists. Despite that, the communists obtained solid supportfrom the peasants, for whom land reform concerned the most.
This truly showedhow dependent the vast majority of Chinese society was on not only itsgovernment but its reforms. That was the key to the communist’s success, thevery nature of their reforms was moderate but crucial enough to cause such animpact on society. Citizens who were even still treated unequally, had tocontinue to support the communist movement. Thistime period between the rebellion and revolution was a tremendous feat to adaptto say the least. For a country to go through so many political and societalchanges, it’s no wonder the majority of the population let these reformshappen. Anyone who was anyone was willing for change, any kind of change forthe better. It was that perfect moment that brought a small movementcatapulting up into a full political revolution.
A revolution that had theSoviet Union involved and even the United States. It only goes to show thatbeing in the right place at the right time can really be the catalyst forchange.