O Level Revision : History - Revolution in China

China has the largest population in the world. Throughout   human   history   China   was   more advanced than other races. The Chinese were the first to make gun powder. They were the first to develop a form of paper. The  Chinese   studied   medicine,   mathematics, engineering and astronomy when primitive hunters roamed Britain. They sailed to Africa before the Europeans.


    Background to the  revolution 

    By 1900 China was a poor country due to.

    -     The feudal system.

    -     Imperialism.

    The  feudal system 

    • Feudalism is the same everywhere.
    • China was ruled by the Man Zhou Dynasty from 1644.
    • Power was in the hands of rich landlords.
    • They exploited the peasants.
    • Each peasant had to pay a landlord a part of his annual harvest.
    • Emperors and landlords lived in luxury.
    • Landlords kept grain and refused to share it with starving peasants.
    • Landlords had strong armies.
    • Peasants tried to overthrow the landlords but failed.


    • China was never a colony of a European power.
    • In China, Europeans were traders and missionaries.
    • The Europeans were after economic gain only.
    • The Europeans  divided  China  into  spheres  of influence.
    • Each European power received rights to do business in a particular area or part of a city like Shanghai, e.g. France and Britain shared the province of Yunnan.
    • The Europeans created a system of privileges for themselves.
    • The  Chinese  were  not  allowed  into  some  posh areas, e.g. in Shanghai the British put signs like ‘Dogs and Chinese not allowed.’
    • Europeans  made  huge  profits  from  trade  with China.
    • The Chinese did not like the Westerners, they called them foreign devils.
    • The  Chinese  accused  the  Europeans  of  stealing their wealth.
    • The Righteous and Harmonious Fists or Boxers Society, a secret society was formed in 1900.
    • The  society  organised  a  rebellion  to  chase  the foreigners away.
    • The Boxer Rebellion was crushed down.
    • A Chinese  Brotherhood  Society  was  formed  in 1905.
    • It wanted to build a powerful China.

    China  becomes a Republic

    • A Double Tenth Revolution began.
    • Sun Zhongshan was chosen as president of China in 1912 while he was fundraising abroad.
    • He formed a political party, the Guomintang(GMT) or Nationalist Party.
    • He put forward 3 principles:

    (i)   Nationalism – to unite the country and remove foreigners.

    (ii) Democracy  –  to  have  elections  and  a parliament.

    (iii) People’s livelihood – to improve the standard of living of the people through the provision of land to the peasants.

    Challenges faced by Sun Zhongshan:

    -     Had no strong army to defeat the warlords.

    -     Lacked money to fulfil the ideas.

    -     Failed  to  stop  the  civil  strife  among  the warlords.

    Sun Zhongshan resigned as president.

    Yuan Shih-Kai became the second president of the Republic of China.

    • Yuan Shih-Kai did not believe in the revolution.
    • He did not believe in democracy.
    • He believed that dictatorship was the key to China’s recovery.
    • The army supported Yuan Shih-Kai, which is why Sun Zhongshan handed over power to him.
    • Yuan was not interested in improving the people’s lives. He wanted personal power. He ignored the wishes of the majority.
    • In  1913 Yuan  forced  the  National Assembly  to make him life president.
    • In 1915 Yuan became the Emperor of China. He died in 1916.
    • A civil war of 1915 weakened China and Japan took advantage of that weakness.
    • Japan presented the infamous 21 demands. The demands aimed to give Japan control over China.
    • China suffered untold misery and humiliation.
    • China joined World War One in 1917 on the side of the Allies hoping to halt Japanese influence.
    • The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was formedin 19 21.
    • Mao Zedong  (Mao-tse  Tung),  a  CCP  member, formed the United Front with the GMT to bring unity in China.
    • Jiang Jieshi took over as GMT leader in 1925 after the death of Yuan Shih-Kai.
    • Jiang Jieshi was a nationalist and not a communist.
    • He did not trust the Communists.
    • The CCP organised workers in the cities to lead the revolution.
    • In Shanghai the CCP gained control over trade unions. In 1925 they organised more than 300 strikes.
    • In 1926 Jiang Jieshi began his famous Northern Expedition.
    • Jiang confronted the warlords and his troops werewel comed by peasants.
    • In 1927 Jiang’s troops advanced towards Shanghai and 600 000 workers went on strike to support them. By then Jiang no longer wanted help from the CCP.
    • Jiang was afraid that the CCP was becoming too powerful for his leadership. He directed his army to kill CCP members.
    • Thousands  of   CCP  members   were   killed   in Shanghai and other cities in 1927. This massacre marked the end of the CCP’s work in the cities.
    • CCP members fled to the mountainous rural areas –far away  from Jiang in 1927.

    The  struggle for poltical power  by the CCP 

    • The Communists believed that China had many peasants who were the most oppressed and were revolutionary.
    • China had very few workers – less than 2 million out of a population of 400 million.
    • The CCP needed majority support to overthrow feudalism and imperialism.
    • The majority were the peasants.
    • The CCP’s military strategy for the revolution was guerrilla warfare.
    • Mao believed that the CCP could defeat Jiang by building a strong army which had the support of the people.

    Mao Zedong and  the  guerrilla war

    • Mao said that a revolution is an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.
    • He believed in a war of liberation for China.
    • He said the basic principle of guerrilla warfare was the support of the people.
    • Mao said that in guerrilla warfare the people are the sea (water) and the guerrillas are the fish.
    • Without the support of the masses, the guerrillas would die.
    • Mao laid down rules for all Communist troops to observe in order to gain the support of the masses.

    The  three main rules of discipline

    (i)   Obey orders in all actions.

    (ii)  Do not take a single needle or a piece of thread from the masses.

    (iii) Turn in everything captured.

    The  eight points of attention

    (i)     Speak politely.

    (ii)    Pay fairly for what you buy.

    (iii)   Return everything you borrow.

    (iv)   Pay for anything you damage.

    (v)    Do not hit or swear at people.

    (vi)   Do not damage crops.

    (vii)  Do not take liberties with women.

    (viii) Do not ill-treat prisoners.

    Mao used these principles to get the support of the people.

    • Usually  the  guerrillas  were  fewer  than  theirenemies.
    • The guerrillas had poor weapons compared to their enemies.
    • In order to survive, the guerrillas had to avoid face to face battles.
    • Mao ordered them to :

    -     Fight when they were going to win.

    -     Run away if they were not going to win.

    -     Retreat when the enemy advanced.

    -     Harass the enemy when they were camped.

    -     Attack when the enemy was tired.

    • The key to victory was the justness of the cause for which one was fighting.
    • Those who fought for the freedom of their people were fighting a just war.
    • The CCP managed to get huge support.
    • Armed Communists forced the landlords to give land to peasants.
    • In 1934, Jiang launched an offensive against the Communists.
    • The CCP and its military wing the, Red Army, began the Long March to avoid being massacred.

    Long March

    • In 1934 Jiang started a full scale assault on the Communists.
    • Jiang bombed the Red Army using aeroplanes.
    • He besieged Hunan and Mao and his followers were entrapped.
    • 100 000 soldiers, peasants, women, children and craftsmen started the Long March on 16 October


    • The  aim  of  the  Long  March  was  to  reach  the backward and semi-desert province of Shensi.
    • It was a 10 000 kilometre march.
    • Many sympathised with the Communists.
    • Of 100 000 only 20 000 survived the Long March.
    • They faced many hardships like: 

    -     Being bombed by Jiang’s aeroplanes.

    -     Crossing 24 rivers.

    -     Climbing 18 mountains.

    -     They passed through snow, rain and hail.

    -     Shortage of food – they ate dogs, tree bark, horses, belts and shoes.

    • The  Long  March  took  the  revolution  closer  to victory.
    • The  Long  March  helped  to  strengthen  the  Red Army.
    • The Long March won the CCP many supporters in areas that they passed through.
    • In Yenan province they set up schools, clinics and cooperative farms.
    • There was little interference from the government.

    Japanese invasion

    • In the North, the CCP were faced with Japanese invasion.
    • They  appealed  to  the  GMT  to  combine  efforts against the invaders but the GMT refused.
    • However, Jiang was tricked into combining by one of his generals who staged the Sian Incident.
    • Jiang then became part of the Second United Front.
    • The United Front achieved little because the GMT did little fighting against the Japanese.
    • The GMT harassed the Communists more than the Japanese.
    • When World War II ended in 1945, the CCP and GMT began a war of mastery for China.
    • The CCP had great advantage over the GMT.
    • The  guerrilla   warfare,   the   Long   March,   the redistribution of land to peasants and their strict discipline had won them a lot of support.
    • The GMT was supported by the USA which wanted to stop the spread of communism.
    • On 1 October 1949 the CCP took control of the government.
    • When the CCP came to power they:

    -     Took land from the landlords and redistributed it among the peasants.

    -     Abolished the custom of feet binding for young girls.

    -     Abolished child-marriage and slavery.