Seminarski i Diplomski Rad

Perspectives on modern China

The topic to be covered in this paper is the dichotomous split between the KMT and the CCP, which ultimately led to two separate states, respectively the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the People’s Republic of China (mainland China). From the viewpoint of an outside observer, the struggle of ideology is a mainstay which has led to animosities even unto this very day. The clash between rightists and leftists ultimately led to a civil war which had culminated into two separate states in 1949. With Kaishek becoming the heir under Sun Yat-sen, the KMT tried to consolidate its power by strongman tactics, which ultimately engendered enmity among the Chinese populace. Mao Zedong, who was ultimately the champion of the Chinese peasants, had the mantle when it came to the formation of the new Chinese mainland state, the People’s Republic of China. Both Zedong and Kaishek were notorious despots, and certain austerity measures in both the mainland and Taiwan were initiated.
The clash between rightists and leftists has had global ramifications, obviously in the Occident, as well as in the world at large. Convergence of national unity was only during a period of nationalism in China. But the general climate among the Chinese elite was that of disdain for those on the left, with warlords and entities such as the “Green Gang” and the “Triads’ purging leftists. With the KMT consolidating its clout mostly in urban areas where economical and political formations were, many in the left were left to the wayside, usually in the countryside. However this paper wouldn’t even be written had the CCP been castigated only to that.
My intent on writing about the clash of ideologies in China is a formative step towards things such as “conflict resolution”, as well as honing my skills to be an astute policymaker. As has been evidenced in many of my previous assignments, I am a leftist. However my political sensibilities have been formalized by exchanges with others on all sides of the political spectrum. Dialogue can and should be a mainstay in politics. As political “game theory” would have it, there’s never been a better time to defuse tensions among the hegemony already in place and the aspiring nation that is China, in order to maintain a sort of balance so as to stop things from escalating into a huge fricassee.
My knowledge about this topic has been influenced by the lectures of this class. I’ve already been apprized of the political turmoil of the Orient in previous classes. Ultimately what had occurred in China has set the template for what has gone on in surrounding areas such as Indochina. What I would like to learn is the predisposition that the Chinese had when it came to their personal politics and whether private political sensibilities were truly emblematic when it came to the banners of ideology that they had been subject to.

Annotated Bibliographies

• Ku, Hung-Ting. 1979. “Urban Mass Movement: The May Thirtieth Movement in Shanghai”. Modern Asia Studies. pp. 197-216.

In this article, Ku first cites the KMT’s Constitutional reform of enlisting organizations into the ranks of the KMT, such as labor unions, schools and city councils. Merchants were especially endeared to not be complicit in the imperialist commerce. Ku cites the death of a Chinese worker by the Japanese during a strike by Chinese workers at a Japanese cotton mill. This elicited a response by Chinese students who mobilized a demonstration against the occupying coalition, which led to the arrest of 2 students who were sent to trial on May 30th, 1925. The KMT and CCP decided to organize a demonstration in solidarity with striking workers against the imperialist powers. 2,000 in all were enlisted to give public speeches to the public denouncing these actions on May 30th. In an effort to quell these speeches, the Settlement police made many more arrests which led violence to ensue. On that day, police fired on the demonstrators, leading to 13 deaths.
Ku cites the student mobilization as particularly tentative when it came to the unification of the country against the imperialists during China’s entry into nascent statehood. Whereas the KMT and the CCP have had a history of enmity, the May 30th Movement had the effect of cohesion. This in turn bolstered the workers’ unions and sent vast parts of urban areas to form a coalition against the imperialists. Since labor unions were largely a socialistic enterprise, CCP labor organizers like Li Li-san were outlawed and a certain Liu Hua was executed.
Ku states that this was one of the prime examples of comity the CCP and the KMT had. A broad coalition of the willing joined forces and this elicited empathy into the hearts of the common Chinese.

• Bedeski, Robert E. April-June 1971. “The Tutelary State and National Revolution in Kuomintang Ideology, 1928-31”. The China Quarterly. pp. 308-330.

In this article, Bedeski conjectures that the militarization of the PRC harkens back to a time of KMT one-party military rule. He however states that Mao is absolutely not the sort of Generalissimo that Kaishek cultivated himself to be. This segues to the comparison Bedeski makes in terms of the likeness of the KMT in the mainland and the CCP’s rule thereafter. The tutelary state that Bedeski writes about states that the KMT really did see itself as having a mandate to usher in statehood for China. “The KMT leadership viewed the act of founding a new political order as an enterprise of regeneration rather than creation. The resources to build a modern Chinese state were within the existing boundaries of the country, but desperately needed was the spirit and leadership to proceed with the revivification of China” (Bedeski, 1971, 317).
With Dr. Sun Yat-sen deemed the “Father of Modern China”, and with Kaishek envisaging himself to be the heir apparent, it seemed to the KMT as if a mandate for one-party rule without the CCP was justifiable. The ossification of ideology was obviously not partial by everyone in China. Hence the civil war.

• Kuo-tai, Hu. June 1989. “The Struggle Between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party on Campus during the War of Resistance, 1937-45”. The China Quarterly. pp 300-323

In this article, Kuo-tai emphasizes the struggle between the KMT and the CCP when it came to wooing intellectuals into their respective sides. The necessity of having an intelligentsia appealed to both entities so as to bolster credibility to possibly proselytize the population. He emphasizes that during the war, one way to vicariously engage in warfare was the intellectual debate between the KMT and the CCP students on university campuses. Using the annals of both Taipei and the mainland, he asserts that in terms of sloganeering and propaganda, the KMT found itself in an ambiguous position of not deftly adjusting to the regimen with which the CCP was dominating the rhetoric. Since the KMT was the party in power, all CCP methods of dispersal first had to be approved by the KMT, and this in turn led to the CCP’s recognition (outwardly), of the KMT’s legitimacy.
As war between the two sides escalated, a focus of Mao was the intellectuals whom he readily accepted as being beneficial to winning the war at large. With insurrection in the making, the CCP had decided to go underground after the New Fourth Army Incident of 1941, leaving it to pursue clandestine activities. This didn’t mean CCP students were being banished from campuses, however. Without exposing oneself as a CCP affiliate, students were encouraged to excel academically and join many student organizations.
Countermeasures by the KMT were intended to curb CCP expansions on campus. Where the CCP was bound to the confines of the underground, the KMT had absolute discretion to be in the public forefront. There were many in the People’s Political Council who were against the politicization of the universities. Kaishek went against the Council as not wanting to squash this dissent as being antithetical to the desired motives of the nation-building that was going on in China. In a series of strategies designed to curb CCP expansion, leftist staff and administration were banned, KMT party guidelines were indoctrinated to the students, and any possible dissent among the students who were deemed “reactionary” was to be met swiftly with a visit to the concentration camps. In all of this stifling of dissent, very little learning was actually going on.
Kuo-tai sums up that the KMT looked incredibly domineering and the burgeoning of intellect could not possibly occur under it’s auspices. The CCP had the youth “en masse”, and since the KMT was the party in power and held the reins when it came to authority, the CCP, stymied as it was, had years of experience behind them to subvert activities on campus. Since this was a civil war, vicariously matching wits with the enemy on an academic level was a boon for the CCP in the future.

• Bedeski, Robert E. July 1975. “The Evolution of the Modern State in China: Nationalist and Communist Continuities”. World Politics. pp, 541-568.

In this article, Bedeski conjectures on the very concept of statehood itself and imprints into the reader’s mind how key concepts such as political system and state applies to the Nationalist and ultimately the Communist regime. According to him, political systems are the “patterns” by which entities such as “empires, labor unions, and international alliances, as well as nation-states” have a sense of purpose and their respective “scope of coverage” (Bedeski, 1975, 542). Within the confines of this term, he makes it analogous to “organism” as it relates to biology; in that its incredibly broad. “State … refers to a set of elements that describe both objective phenomena and subjective aspirations in the political world”. Sovereignty is the “concentration of power”; that of a state to exercise its jurisdiction within its borders. As the “Century of Humiliation” would have it, China at a time was not at all privy to these concepts. There was no dispute between the KMT and the CCP when it came to procuring sovereignty for China, which was the ultimate goal. The dispute was over which political banner China would become a sovereign nation. Since the KMT was nominally the party in power, all avenues of life when it came to the harmonization of political statehood achieving its basic requirements for the average Chinese, the KMT simply could not formalize a true statehood. Kaishek, in his consolidation for power, (albeit to maintain China’s fledgling integrity), used methods which accrued enmity among the populace. Bedeski does defer to Kaishek and the KMT that they did procure for China certain sensibilities which were conducive for laying the foundations of a state. Ultimately that distinction went to the CCP.

• Wu, Tien-Wei. November 1969. “A Review of the Wuhan Debacle: The Kuomintang-Communist Split of 1927”. The Journal of Asian Studies. pps. 125-143.

In this article, Wu says that CCP members after the May 4th Movement, were nationalists first and communists secondly and readily joined the KMT under that distinction. He cites not only ideology and class distinction as being the catalysts for the KMT and CCP split, but cites by stating which group would control the great commission, ultimately leading to that dichotomous split. Kaishek was beleaguered by left-wing KMT members and the CCP at Wuhan. This led to 3 provinces – Hunan, Hupeh, and Kiangsi – privy to “agrarian revolution” (Wu, 1969, 126). The CCP was feeling its oats and openly defied him. In strongholds partial to the CCP, proletarian organizations such as labor unions announced strikes. In Wuhan, all of this was bolstered by anti-British resentment, and this led to mob violence there and involved running over a British concession. Since foreigners still had financial clout in China, anti-imperialists and entities such as labor unions were antithetical to Chiang’s interests in the long run. Not only did foreign firms leave, but many established Chinese merchants left in exodus. This culminated into vast swaths of the Chinese economy laying dormant and spiraled the country into a bigger deficit. It would have been all too easy for Chiang to deem these instances as being reactionary. However in Wuhan and in the 3 provinces, the pendulum swung towards left-leaning KMT and the CCP, who were able to mobilize the peasant population into their stead. Land nationalization, which was ultimately the CCP goal, was accruing enmity among the army as many of them were landholders. Infighting among these entities who were at times erstwhile allies led to civil strife and the call for de-escalation. Ultimately the Wuhan debacle was doomed to failure for the CCP. What was initially successful for them and the indoctrination of the peasants ultimately led to an economic standstill. Getting rid of the petty bourgeois in Wuhan was a great disservice. The rift between Kaishek and the leftist KMT led to the CCP being victorious. However upon entreating Shanghai, Kaishek was able to recoup and staged a purge against the communists. This was preceded by infighting between leftist KMT and the CCP. What was once a harmonization of these 2 groups turned into a rivalry. Getting the go-ahead from Moscow by Stalin for the CCP to take a bold move for power had failed miserably.
Wu states that the CCP was becoming a dominant force in the army and was able to make acquisitions for places such as Wuhan and instilling its mindset over there. With the leftist KMT still under the authority of Kaishek, this had brought about an insurrection with the CCP eventually. Ultimately the year 1927 was a formative year in China’s history, as the rift between the KMT and the CCP widened and a rivalry being formalized officially.

• Harrison, James P. October 1965. “The Ideological Training of Intellectuals in Communist China”. Asian Survey. pps. 491-502.

After receiving formal statehood of the mainland in 1949, the CCP was able to indoctrinate the masses. Mao, as has been mentioned earlier, sought out the intellectuals and conceded the point that revolution could not at all been successful had it not been for their collective intellects. As Harrison puts it, the teaching of history was one of the avenues in which the CCP could show the success of the revolution, and giving the Chinese population a dose of Marxist ideology. The teaching of history, done in an indoctrinating manner, showed the rationale of communism, the justification of ridding China of feudalism and imperialism, and the liquidation of class stratification. The studying of history ultimately was to give credence to the communist regime in China. Also by learning history, one would be able to avoid the mistakes of the past. History “is a social science devoted primarily to researching the class struggle. Because it is a science in the service of the class struggle, therefore the development of historical science cannot be separated from the class struggle (in contemporary life)” (Harrison, 1965, 494). Serving as subjects of inquiry were capitalistic leanings since the Ming dynasty, the West’s naked aggression when it came to imperialism, and of course the ruinous legacy of the rightist KMT. Harrison points out that during the “Hundred Flowers” campaign, many scholars were purged as rightists.
In his conclusion, Harrison stresses the need of the CCP to show history in line with that of the communist dialogue. The term class viewpoint is at the forefront of this work because it shows the intent of the CCP to reframe China’s history in order to achieve a consensus in the population of China to show why the CCP has the people’s mandate.

• Ching-yao, Yin. Hune 1981. “The Bitter Struggle Between the KMT and the CCP”. Asian Survey. pp. 622-631.

This article by Yin Ching-yao is highly partisan and one can tell that it is written from the viewpoint of a Taiwanese. He states that this rivalry is “beyond compromise” and makes the distinction between “Free China and Communist China” (Ching-yao, 1981, 622). “Free China” according to him, champions the prestige of Chinese culture and tradition, while the latter is largely a governing entity that is revising China according to Marxist and Leninist ideology. He recounts Dr. Sun Yet-sen’s thinking as per his “San Min Chu I” (Three Principles of the People). The “Principle of Nationalism” emphasizes the rights of nationals to be equals, the “Principle of the People’s Rights” places an emphasis on political rights, and the “Principle of Livelihood” emphasizes equal economic rights, according to the author. Taiwan is emblematic of these Principles. The mainland regime has disregarded them and thus been not privy to the same opportunities and wealth that the Taiwanese enjoy. He cites the Soviets as being a lesser evil in terms of the Western world in the eyes of many Chinese, specifically the intelligentsia. What had gone on in Russia could also be applicable to the case of China, hence the allure of Marxism. Since the Soviets were lobbying Yat-sen, many communists joined the KMT. However Ching-yao makes it a point to say that Yat-sen only accepted the Communists in an effort to swell the ranks of the Alliance. He says that it was the intent of the CCP to infiltrate the KMT to influence it and to instill its values. Citing the Sino-Japanese War, the CCP under the leadership of Mao were opportunists who had caused a fissure in the army so as to grab power, weakening the resolve of the country to engage in battle with the Japanese. By engaging in this perfidy, Ching-yao regards them as treacherous and cites the Battle of Pinhsingkwan as the only CCP engagement with the Japanese. Seemingly, he bristles at the concept of “reunification” with the mainland based upon the duplicitous manner in which the KMT was treated in China.
In closing, the author emphasizes the need of a nation to maintain the integrity of its culture, and rails the CCP as not having this feature. The author can envision reunification, but conveys the feeling that the mainland first needs to manage its own affairs, and can learn the lesson from Taiwan’s grasping of Yat-sen’s Principles that ultimately led to its prosperity.

• Sullivan, Lawrence R. March 1985. “Reconstruction and Rectification of the Communist Party in the Shanghai Underground: 1931-34”. The China Quarterly. pp. 78-97.

In this article, Sullivan points out to the reader the case of expatriate students who were at one time deemed counterrevolutionary by Mao in regards to the factionalism that was going on in the CCP during the civil war. Being forced underground led to seeking opportunities for visibility and relevance while facing the common enemy of the KMT. Mao’s quarrel with them seems to be predicated on an issue of effectiveness during the underground banishment, whereby he faults them with failure in procuring the interests of the CCP, specifically in urban areas.
After the dissolution of the Jiangsu Party Headquarters by the KMT in 1934, the viability of the CCP at large at the time was highly debatable. The expatriate students were free to return to the mainland from Russia only after Mao’s death. As a question of strategy, what led to a demoralizing defeat at the hands of the KMT, almost singlehandedly placed victory into the hands of the KMT. The point of contention here in this article is the insistence of Mao to view failure on that large of a scale as treacherous.
These articles largely show the relationship between the KMT and the CCP from the inception of the modern Chinese state to the mutual enmity that is shared by Taiwan and China up to this present day. From forming a coalition during the May 30th Incident, the KMT and the CCP relationship ultimately turned into a rivalry in which the ideology of sovereign China would have to be decided. Conniving collectively to regard the other as irrelevant or lacking in the necessary drive to land the commission of sovereignty was practiced by both the KMT and the CCP. I’ve provided in the literature many perspectives of these intricacies; Western academics as well as Chinese ones and an especially partial Taiwanese one.
The struggle to win hearts and minds is key when it comes to enshrining a brand new structure of government. This prompted both parties to endear themselves toward the people in intellectual debates over ideology. Procuring the support from the intelligentsia in alignment with dogmatic ideology was tantamount. The KMT methods of coercion on college campuses absolutely did not foster any sort of dialogue or debate. Since they were the party in power, assigning blame when it came to the impediment of progress in securing China’s future was very simple to do. If one contemplates Kaishek, who had no intention on democratizing and was concerned with keeping China’s rudimentary economy afloat, then antipathy towards leftists would indeed make sense. So ultimately, the politicization of the universities was a given. Mao also sought the justification of the CCP among intellectuals as key. One point of consensus is assured: both Kaishek and Mao tyrannized intellectuals. Kaishek did so because they were leftists and thus reactionary. And as has been evidenced by the “Hundred Flowers” campaign, Mao attacked scholars for being rightists.
Vying for power in periodic instances of intrigue simply did not go well for the CCP. Kaishek had at his disposal not only a regimented army, but had the benefit of complicit warlords as well. The swelling of the ranks of the army by the CCP was largely to secure interests, as has been recounted by Ching-yao. But as has been stated by Wu is that national identity was the pivotal factor in all aspects of Chinese society at the time. He has stated that they were nationalists firsts and communists secondly. According to Ching-yao, by engaging in perfidy, the Nationalist Army suffered heavy losses at the hands of the Japanese, and this ultimately led to a decimated and demoralized force that engaged with the CCP in combat only to lose to them. By being shunned into the underground harbored contempt on the behalf of the CCP after taking compromised advice from Stalin. Ultimately, when a country is in its inception, very little wiggle room is sought out for debates over ideology. This is very applicable to the KMT and CCP relationship.


The literature is evident of the intricate and delicate nature of the CCP and the KMT relationship. It is hotly contested even unto this very day between China and Taiwan. What was a vision of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, who envisioned the Republic as his child, had turned into a travesty. There is a point of contention when it comes to agreeing with others if China could suddenly become a nation-state modeled upon Western values right after leaving the Qing dynasty. Since China was privy to the West on that grand of a scale, it should come as no surprise that Western ideals and motifs would take hold in China. With the intensity and the velocity of the world changing, China could look with a certain affinity towards a country such as Russia that was just as archaic and make the collective destiny of progress their goal. Whenever any country has gone through the throes of revolutions, there has always been clashes when it came to ideology. It is a given. But in a country such as China, going through the motions of monarchy and then rightist and leftist political pursuits all within the first half of the 1900’s is an incredible portion to stomach. China is no exception.
What I’ve learned is that the average Chinese citizen is the one who has paid the ultimate price in terms of freedoms and amenities being taken away in the name of political dogma. Kaishek pilfered many Chinese merchants and had left them destitute all in order to fund his army. Mao’s ruinous economic redistribution policies can only be described as negligibly malthusian. The divide over ideology is going to be a mainstay in Chinese politics for years to come. What I’ve learned is that authoritarianism during a time of national crisis is simply untenable for the populace to even function from this literature review. Both Kaishek and Mao had developed personality cults in order to show the personification of the state as being for the people. Kaishek, I imagine, was the one who was probably the most haggard by it. Indoctrination, incessantly, is the daily regimen with which despotic regimes rule, whether rightist or leftist.
I hope that writing this assignment has elicited in me that by studying history, one is able to make inferences and analyze the mistakes of the past.



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