Republic of China (1912–1949)

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Republic of China

Chunghwa Minkuo
Zhōnghuá Mínguó
Flag of the Republic of China 1912-1928.svg
Flag of the Republic of China.svg
Top: Flag
Bottom: Flag
Twelve Symbols national emblem of China.svg
National Emblem of the Republic of China.svg
Top: Emblem
Bottom: Emblem

Flag anthem: 《中華民國國旗歌》
"National Flag Anthem of the Republic of China"
Republic of China (orthographic projection, historical).svg
Location and maximum extent of territory claimed by the Republic of China (1945)
  •   Territory controlled by ROC
  •   Territory claimed by ROC
Capital Peking (1912–1927)
Nanking (1927–1937, 1946–1949)
Chungking [lower-alpha 2] (1937–1946, 1949)
Canton (1949)
Chengtu (1949) [lower-alpha 3]
Largest city Shanghai
Official languages Standard Chinese
Recognised national languages Tibetan
and other languages
Official script
See Religion in China
Demonym(s) Chinese [1]
Sun Yat-sen (first, provisional)
Li Zongren (last in Chinese mainland, acting)
Tang Shaoyi (first)
He Yingqin (last in Chinese mainland)
National Assembly
Control Yuan
Legislative Yuan
Historical era 20th century
10 October 1911 [lower-alpha 4] –12 February 1912 [lower-alpha 5]
1 January 1912
  Beiyang government in Peking
1912–1915, 1916–1928
 Joined the League of Nations
10 January 1920
  Nationalist government in Nanjing
1946–1950 [lower-alpha 6]
7 July 1937 [lower-alpha 7] –2 September 1945 [lower-alpha 8]
24 October 1945
  People's Republic of China proclaimed
1 October 1949
7 December 1949
191211,077,380 km2 (4,277,000 sq mi)
19469,676,204 km2 (3,736,003 sq mi)
Time zone UTC+5:30 to +8:30 (Kunlun to Changpai Standard Times)
Driving side right [lower-alpha 9]
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Flag of China (1889-1912).svg 1912:
Qing dynasty
Flag of Japan (1870-1999).svg 1945:
Japanese Taiwan
Mongolian People's Republic
Flag of the Mongolian People's Republic (1945-1992).svg
People's Republic of China
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg
Republic of China on Taiwan Flag of the Republic of China.svg
Today part of

The Republic of China (ROC), commonly known as China, was a sovereign state based in mainland China between 1912 and 1949, prior to the relocation of its government to the island of Taiwan. At a population of 541 million in 1949, it was the world's most populous country. Covering 9.6 million square kilometers (3.7 million mi2), it consisted of 35 provinces, 1 special administrative region, 2 regions, 12 special municipalities, 14 leagues, and 4 special banners. This period is sometimes referred to as the Republican Era [2] or the Mainland Period. [3]


The Republic was declared on 1 January 1912 after the Xinhai Revolution, which overthrew the Qing dynasty, the last imperial dynasty of China, ending 5,000 years of monarchy in China. Sun Yat-sen, the founder and its president served only briefly before handing over the position to Yuan Shikai, the leader of the Beiyang Army. Sun's party, the Kuomintang (KMT), then led by Song Jiaoren, won the parliamentary election held in December 1912. However, Song was assassinated on Yuan's orders shortly after and the Beiyang Army, led by Yuan, maintained full control of the Beiyang government, who then proclaimed himself Emperor of China from 1915 before abdicating not long after due to popular unrest. After Yuan's death in 1916, the authority of the Beiyang government was further weakened by a brief restoration of the Qing dynasty. Cliques in the Beiyang Army claimed individual autonomy and clashed with each other during the ensuing Warlord Era.

In 1921, the KMT established the national government in Guangzhou, supported by the fledgling Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The economy of Northern China, overtaxed to support warlord adventurism, collapsed between 1927 and 1928. General Chiang Kai-shek, who became the Chairman of the Kuomintang after Sun's death in 1925, started the Northern Expedition in 1926 to overthrow the Beiyang government, which was accomplished in 1928. In April 1927, Chiang established a nationalist government in Nanjing and massacred Communists in Shanghai. The latter event forced the CCP into armed rebellion, marking the beginning of the Chinese Civil War.

China experienced some industrialization during the 1930s but suffered setbacks from conflicts between the Nationalist government in Nanjing, the CCP, remaining warlords, and the Empire of Japan. Nation-building efforts yielded to fight the Second Sino-Japanese War, when the Imperial Japanese Army launched an offensive against China in 1937 which turned into a full-scale invasion that lasted until the surrender of Japan at the end of World War II in 1945 and regained control of the island of Taiwan and the Pescadores.

Shortly after, the Chinese Civil War between the KMT and CCP resumed, leading to the 1946 Constitution of the Republic of China replacing the 1928 Organic Law [4] as the Republic's fundamental law. Three years later, in 1949, nearing the end of the civil war after, the CCP established the People's Republic of China on the mainland, with the nationalists moving their capital several times from Nanjing to Guangzhou, followed by Chongqing, then Chengdu and lastly, Taipei though the government controls Taiwan and other smaller islands from 1949 onwards, Hainan until 1950 and Tibet until 1951.

The ROC was a founding member of the League of Nations and later the United Nations (including its Security Council seat) where it maintained until 1971. It was also a member of the Universal Postal Union and the International Olympic Committee.


The official name of the state on the mainland was the "Republic of China", but it has been known under various names throughout its existence. Shortly after the ROC's establishment in 1912, the government used the short form "China" (Zhōngguó ( 中國 )) to refer to itself, "China" being derived from zhōng ("central" or "middle") and guó ("state, nation-state"), [lower-alpha 10] a term that developed under the Zhou dynasty in reference to its royal demesne, [lower-alpha 11] and the name was then applied to the area around Luoyi (present-day Luoyang) during the Eastern Zhou and then to China's Central Plain before being used as an occasional synonym for the state during the Qing era. [6]

"Republican China" and "Republican Era" refer to the "Beiyang government" (from 1912 to 1928), and "Nationalist government" (from 1928 to 1949). [8]



Sun Yat-sen proclaiming the establishment of the ROC in 1912 Republic of China proclaimtion.png
Sun Yat-sen proclaiming the establishment of the ROC in 1912

A republic was formally established on 1 January 1912 following the Xinhai Revolution, which itself began with the Wuchang Uprising on 10 October 1911, successfully overthrowing the Qing dynasty and ending over two thousand years of imperial rule in China. [9] From its founding until 1949, the republic was based on mainland China. Central authority waxed and waned in response to warlordism (1915–28), a Japanese invasion (1937–45), and a full-scale civil war (1927–49), with central authority strongest during the Nanjing Decade (1927–37), when most of China came under the control of the authoritarian, one-party military dictatorship of the Kuomintang (KMT). [10]

In 1945, at the end of World War II, the Empire of Japan surrendered control of Taiwan and its island groups to the Allies; and Taiwan was placed under the Republic of China's administrative control. The communist takeover of mainland China in 1949, after the Chinese Civil War, left the ruling Kuomintang with control over only Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu, and other minor islands. With the loss of the mainland, the ROC government retreated to Taiwan and the KMT declared Taipei the provisional capital. [11] Meanwhile, the Communist Party of China took over all of mainland China [12] [13] and founded the People's Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing.


Yuan Shikai (left) and Sun Yat-sen (right) with flags representing the early republic Chinese republic forever.jpg
Yuan Shikai (left) and Sun Yat-sen (right) with flags representing the early republic

In 1912, after over two thousand years of imperial rule, a republic was established to replace the monarchy. [9] The Qing dynasty that preceded the republic had experienced instability throughout the 19th century and suffered from both internal rebellion and foreign imperialism. [14] The ongoing instability eventually led to the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, whose attacks on foreigners resulted in the invasion by the Eight Nation Alliance. China signed the Boxer Protocol and paid a large indemnity to the foreign powers: 450 million taels of fine silver (around $333 million or £67 million at the then current exchange rates). [15] A program of institutional reform proved too little and too late. Only the lack of an alternative regime prolonged the monarchy's existence until 1912. [16] [17]

The Chinese Republic grew out of the Wuchang Uprising against the Qing government, on 10 October 1911, which is now celebrated annually as the ROC's national day, also known as "Double Ten Day". On 29 December 1911, Sun Yat-sen was elected president by the Nanjing assembly, which consisted of representatives from seventeen provinces. On 1 January 1912, he was officially inaugurated and pledged "to overthrow the despotic government led by the Manchu, consolidate the Republic of China and plan for the welfare of the people". [18] Sun lacked the necessary military strength to defeat the Qing government by force. As a compromise, the new republic negotiated with Yuan Shikai the commander of the Beiyang Army , promising Yuan the presidency of the republic if he were to remove the Qing emperor by force. Yuan agreed to the deal, and the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty, Puyi, was forced to abdicate in 1912. Song Jiaoren led the Kuomintang Party to electoral victories by fashioning his party's program to appeal to the gentry, landowners, and merchants. Song was assassinated on March 20, 1913 at the behest of Yuan Shikai. [19]

Yuan was elected president of the ROC in 1913. [14] [20] He ruled by military power and ignored the republican institutions established by his predecessor, threatening to execute Senate members who disagreed with his decisions. He soon dissolved the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party, banned "secret organizations" (which implicitly included the KMT), and ignored the provisional constitution. An attempt at a democratic election in 1912 ended with the assassination of the elected candidate by a man recruited by Yuan. Ultimately, Yuan declared himself Emperor of China in 1915. [21] The new ruler of China tried to increase centralization by abolishing the provincial system; however, this move angered the gentry along with the provincial governors, who were usually military men. Many provinces declared independence and became warlord states. Increasingly unpopular and deserted by his supporters, Yuan abdicated in 1916 and died of natural causes shortly thereafter. [22] [23] China then declined into a period of warlordism. Sun, having been forced into exile, returned to Guangdong province in the south with the help of warlords in 1917 and 1922, and set up successive rival governments to the Beiyang government in Beijing, re-establishing the KMT in October 1919. Sun's dream was to unify China by launching an expedition against the north. However, he lacked the military support and funding to turn it into a reality. [24]

Meanwhile, the Beiyang government struggled to hold onto power, and an open and wide-ranging debate evolved regarding how China should confront the West. In 1919, a student protest against the government's weak response to the Treaty of Versailles, considered unfair by Chinese intellectuals, led to the May Fourth movement, whose demonstrations were against the danger of spreading Western influence replacing Chinese culture. It was in this intellectual climate that the influence of Marxism spread and became popular, leading to the founding of the Communist Party of China in 1921. [25]

Nanjing decade

Major Chinese warlord coalitions during the "Nanjing Decade". Chinese civil war map 02.jpg
Major Chinese warlord coalitions during the "Nanjing Decade".
With help from Germany, Chinese industry and its military were improved just prior to the war against Imperial Japan. Sino-german cooperation.png
With help from Germany, Chinese industry and its military were improved just prior to the war against Imperial Japan.

After Sun's death in March 1925, Chiang Kai-shek became the leader of the Kuomintang. In 1926, Chiang led the Northern Expedition with the intention of defeating the Beiyang warlords and unifying the country. Chiang received the help of the Soviet Union and the Chinese Communists. However, he soon dismissed his Soviet advisers, being convinced that they wanted to get rid of the KMT and take control. [26] Chiang decided to purge the Communists, killing thousands of them. At the same time, other violent conflicts were taking place in China: in the South, where the Communists had superior numbers, Nationalist supporters were being massacred. Such events eventually led to the Chinese Civil War between the Nationalists and Communists. Chiang Kai-shek pushed the Communists into the interior and established a government, with Nanking as its capital, in 1927. [27] By 1928, Chiang's army overthrew the Beiyang government and unified the entire nation, at least nominally, beginning the so-called Nanjing Decade.[ citation needed ]

According to Sun Yat-sen's theory, the KMT was to rebuild China in three phases: a phase of military rule during which the KMT would take over power and reunite China by force; a phase of political tutelage; and finally a constitutional, democratic phase. [28] In 1930, the Nationalists, having taken power militarily and reunifying China, started the second phase, promulgating a provisional constitution and beginning the period of so-called "tutelage". [29] Criticized for instituting authoritarianism, the KMT claimed it was attempting to establish a modern democratic society. Among other things, it created the Academia Sinica, the Central Bank of China, and other agencies. In 1932, China for the first time sent a team to the Olympic Games. Campaigns were mounted and laws passed to promote the rights of women. The ease and speed of communication facilitated focusing on social problems, especially those of remote villages. The Rural Reconstruction Movement was one of many that took advantage of the new freedom to raise social consciousness.[ citation needed ] The Nationalist government published a draft constitution on 5 May 1936. [30]

During this time a series of wars took place in western China, including the Kumul Rebellion, the Sino-Tibetan War, and the Soviet Invasion of Xinjiang. Although the central government was nominally in control of the entire country during this period, large areas of China remained under the semi-autonomous rule of local warlords such as Feng Yuxiang and Yan Xishan, provincial military leaders, or warlord coalitions. Nationalist rule was strongest in the eastern regions around the capital Nanjing. The Central Plains War in 1930, the Japanese aggression in 1931, and the Red Army's Long March in 1934 led to more power for the central government, but there continued to be foot-dragging and even outright defiance, as in the Fujian Rebellion of 1933–34.[ citation needed ]

Historians such as Edmund Fung argue that establishing a democracy in China at that time was not possible. The nation was at war and divided between Communists and Nationalists. Corruption and lack of direction within the government prevented any significant reforms from taking place. Chiang realized the lack of real work being done within his administration and told the State Council: "Our organization becomes worse and worse... many staff members just sit at their desks and gaze into space, others read newspapers and still others sleep." [31]

Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945)

China had been resisting the Japanese aggression since 1931. "China-First to Fight - NARA - 513567.tif
China had been resisting the Japanese aggression since 1931.

Few Chinese had any illusions about Japanese desires on China. Hungry for raw materials and pressed by a growing population, Japan initiated the seizure of Manchuria in September 1931 and established the ex-Qing emperor Puyi as head of the puppet state of Manchukuo in 1932. The loss of Manchuria, and its potential for industrial development and war industries, was a blow to the Kuomintang economy. The League of Nations, established at the end of World War I, was unable to act in the face of Japanese defiance.

The Japanese began to push south of the Great Wall into northern China and the coastal provinces. Chinese fury against Japan was predictable, but anger was also directed against Chiang and the Nanking government, which at the time was more preoccupied with anti-Communist extermination campaigns than with resisting the Japanese invaders. The importance of "internal unity before external danger" was forcefully brought home in December 1936, when Chiang Kai-shek, in an event now known as the Xi'an Incident, was kidnapped by Zhang Xueliang and forced to ally with the Communists against the Japanese in the Second Kuomintang-CCP United Front.

Chinese resistance stiffened after 7 July 1937, when a clash occurred between Chinese and Japanese troops outside Beiping (Later Beijing) near the Marco Polo Bridge. This skirmish led to open, although undeclared, warfare between China and Japan. Shanghai fell after a three-month battle during which Japan suffered extensive casualties in both its army and navy. The capital, Nanking, fell in December 1937, which was followed by mass murders and rapes known as the Nanking Massacre. The national capital was briefly at Wuhan, then removed in an epic retreat to Chongqing, the seat of government until 1945. In 1940, the Japanese set up the collaborationist Wang Jingwei regime, with its capital in Nanking, which proclaimed itself the legitimate "Republic of China" in opposition to Chiang Kai-shek's government, although its claims were significantly hampered due to its being a puppet state controlling limited amounts of territory.

The United Front between the Kuomintang and the CCP had salutary effects for the beleaguered CCP, despite Japan's steady territorial gains in northern China, the coastal regions and the rich Yangtze River Valley in central China. After 1940, conflicts between the Kuomintang and Communists became more frequent in the areas not under Japanese control. The Communists expanded their influence wherever opportunities presented themselves through mass organizations, administrative reforms and the land- and tax-reform measures favoring the peasants and, the spread of their organizational network, while the Kuomintang attempted to neutralize the spread of Communist influence. Meanwhile, northern China was infiltrated politically by Japanese politicians in Manchukuo using facilities such as the Wei Huang Gong.

After its entry into the Pacific War during World War II, the United States became increasingly involved in Chinese affairs. As an ally, it embarked in late 1941 on a program of massive military and financial aid to the hard-pressed Nationalist Government. In January 1943, both the United States and the United Kingdom led the way in revising their unequal treaties with China from the past. [32] [33] Within a few months a new agreement was signed between the United States and the Republic of China for the stationing of American troops in China as part of the common war effort against Japan. The United States sought unsuccessfully to reconcile the rival Kuomintang and Communists, to make for a more effective anti-Japanese war effort. In December 1943, the Chinese Exclusion Acts of the 1880s, and subsequent laws, enacted by the United States Congress to restrict Chinese immigration into the United States were repealed. The wartime policy of the United States was meant to help China become a strong ally and a stabilizing force in postwar East Asia. During the war, China was one of the Big Four Allies of World War II and later one of the Four Policemen, which was a precursor to China having a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. [34]

In August 1945, with American help, Nationalist troops moved to take the Japanese surrender in North China. The Soviet Union—encouraged to invade Manchuria to hasten the end of the war and allowed a Soviet sphere of influence there as agreed to at the Yalta Conference in February 1945—dismantled and removed more than half the industrial equipment left there by the Japanese. Although the Chinese had not been present at Yalta, they had been consulted and had agreed to have the Soviets enter the war, in the belief that the Soviet Union would deal only with the Kuomintang government. However, the Soviet presence in northeast China enabled the Communists to arm themselves with equipment surrendered by the withdrawing Japanese army.

Post-World War II

In 1945, after the end of the war, the Nationalist Government moved back to Nanjing. The Republic of China emerged from the war nominally a great military power but actually a nation economically prostrate and on the verge of all-out civil war. The problems of rehabilitating the formerly Japanese-occupied areas and of reconstructing the nation from the ravages of a protracted war were staggering. The economy deteriorated, sapped by the military demands of foreign war and internal strife, by spiraling inflation, and by Nationalist profiteering, speculation, and hoarding. Starvation came in the wake of the war, and millions were rendered homeless by floods and unsettled conditions in many parts of the country.

On 25 October 1945, following the Surrender of Japan, the administration of Taiwan and Penghu Islands were handed over from Japan to China. [35] After the end of the war, United States Marines were used to hold Beiping (Beijing) and Tianjin against a possible Soviet incursion, and logistic support was given to Kuomintang forces in north and northeast China. To further this end, on 30 September 1945 the 1st Marine Division, charged with maintaining security in the areas of the Shandong Peninsula and the eastern Hebei province, arrived in China. [36]

In January 1946, through the mediation of the United States, a military truce between the Kuomintang and the Communists was arranged, but battles soon resumed. Public opinion of the administrative incompetence of the Nationalist government was incited by the Communists during the nationwide student protest against the mishandling of the Shen Chong rape case in early 1947 and during another national protest against monetary reforms later that year. Realizing that no American efforts short of large-scale armed intervention could stop the coming war, in early 1947 the United States withdrew the American mission, headed by Gen. George Marshall. The Chinese Civil War became more widespread; battles raged not only for territories but also for the allegiance of sections of the population. The United States aided the Nationalists with massive economic loans and weapons but no combat support.

The Nationalists' retreat to Taipei: after the Nationalists lost Nanjing (Nanking) they next moved to Guangzhou (Canton), then to Chongqing (Chungking), Chengdu (Chengtu) and Xichang (Sichang) before arriving in Taipei. Movement KMTretreat.svg
The Nationalists' retreat to Taipei: after the Nationalists lost Nanjing (Nanking) they next moved to Guangzhou (Canton), then to Chongqing (Chungking), Chengdu (Chengtu) and Xichang (Sichang) before arriving in Taipei.

Belatedly, the Republic of China government sought to enlist popular support through internal reforms. However, the effort was in vain, because of rampant government corruption and the accompanying political and economic chaos. By late 1948 the Kuomintang position was bleak. The demoralized and undisciplined National Revolutionary Army proved to be no match for the Communists' motivated and disciplined People's Liberation Army. The Communists were well established in the north and northeast. Although the Kuomintang had an advantage in numbers of men and weapons, controlled a much larger territory and population than their adversaries, and enjoyed considerable international support, they were exhausted by the long war with Japan and in-fighting among various generals. They were also losing the propaganda war to the Communists, with a population weary of Kuomintang corruption and yearning for peace.

In January 1949, Beiping was taken by the Communists without a fight, and its name changed back to Beijing. Following the capture of Nanjing on 23 April, major cities passed from Kuomintang to Communist control with minimal resistance, through November. In most cases the surrounding countryside and small towns had come under Communist influence long before the cities. Finally, on 1 October 1949, Communists led by Mao Zedong founded the People's Republic of China. Chiang Kai-shek declared martial law in May 1949, whilst a few hundred thousand Nationalist troops and two million refugees, predominantly from the government and business community, fled from mainland China to Taiwan. There remained in China itself only isolated pockets of resistance. On 7 December 1949, Chiang proclaimed Taipei, Taiwan, the temporary capital of the Republic of China.

During the Chinese Civil War both the Nationalists and Communists carried out mass atrocities, with millions of non-combatants killed by both sides. [37] Benjamin Valentino has estimated atrocities in the civil war resulted in the death of between 1.8 million and 3.5 million people between 1927 and 1949, including deaths from forced conscription and massacres. [38]


The first Republic of China national government was established on 1 January 1912, in Nanjing, and was founded on the Constitution of the ROC and its Three Principles of the People, which state that "[the ROC] shall be a democratic republic of the people, to be governed by the people and for the people." [39]

Sun Yat-sen was the provisional president. Delegates from the provinces sent to confirm the government's authority formed the first parliament in 1913. The power of this government was limited, with generals controlling both the central and northern provinces of China, and short-lived. The number of acts passed by the government was few and included the formal abdication of the Qing dynasty and some economic initiatives. The parliament's authority soon became nominal: violations of the Constitution by Yuan were met with half-hearted motions of censure. Kuomintang members of parliament who gave up their membership in the KMT were offered 1,000 pounds. Yuan maintained power locally by sending generals to be provincial governors or by obtaining the allegiance of those already in power.

When Yuan died, the parliament of 1913 was reconvened to give legitimacy to a new government. However, the real power passed to military leaders, leading to the warlord period. The impotent government still had its use; when World War I began, several Western powers and Japan wanted China to declare war on Germany, in order to liquidate German holdings in China.

In February 1928, the Fourth Plenary Session of the 2nd Kuomintang National Congress, held in Nanjing, passed the Reorganization of the Nationalist Government Act. This act stipulated that the Nationalist Government was to be directed and regulated under the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang, with the Committee of the Nationalist Government being elected by the KMT Central Committee. Under the Nationalist Government were seven ministries – Interior, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Transport, Justice, Agriculture and Mines, and Commerce, in addition to institutions such as the Supreme Court, Control Yuan, and the General Academy.

Nationalist government of Nanking - nominally ruling over entire China during 1930s Nationalist government of Nanking - nominally ruling over entire China, 1930 (2675972715).jpg
Nationalist government of Nanking – nominally ruling over entire China during 1930s

With the promulgation of the Organic Law of the Nationalist Government in October 1928, the government was reorganized into five different branches, or yuan, namely the Executive Yuan, Legislative Yuan, Judicial Yuan, Examination Yuan as well as the Control Yuan. The Chairman of the National Government was to be the head-of-state and commander-in-chief of the National Revolutionary Army. Chiang Kai-shek was appointed as the first Chairman, a position he would retain until 1931. The Organic Law also stipulated that the Kuomintang, through its National Congress and Central Executive Committee, would exercise sovereign power during the period of "political tutelage", that the KMT's Political Council would guide and superintend the Nationalist Government in the execution of important national affairs, and that the Political Council has the power to interpret or amend the Organic Law. [40]

Shortly after the Second Sino-Japanese War, a long-delayed constitutional convention was summoned to meet in Nanking in May 1946. Amidst heated debate, this convention adopted many constitutional amendments demanded by several parties, including the KMT and the Communist Party, into the Constitution. This Constitution was promulgated on 25 December 1946 and came into effect on 25 December 1947. Under it, the Central Government was divided into the presidency and the five yuans, each responsible for a part of the government. None was responsible to the other except for certain obligations such as the president appointing the head of the Executive Yuan. Ultimately, the president and the yuans reported to the National Assembly, which represented the will of the citizens.

Under the new constitution the first elections for the National Assembly occurred in January 1948, and the Assembly was summoned to meet in March 1948. It elected the President of the Republic on 21 March 1948, formally bringing an end to the KMT party rule started in 1928, although the President was a member of the KMT. These elections, though praised by at least one US observer, were poorly received by the Communist Party, which would soon start an open, armed insurrection.

Foreign relations

Before the Nationalist government was ousted from the mainland, the Republic of China had diplomatic relations with 59 countries, such as Australia, Canada, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Panama, Siam, Soviet Union, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Vatican City. Most of these relations continued at least until the 1970s, and the Republic of China remained a member of the United Nations until 1971.

Administrative divisions

Provinces and Equivalents of the Republic of China (1945) [41]
Period Name (Current Name) Traditional
Pinyin AbbreviationCapitalChineseModern equivalent (if applicable)
Antung (Andong)安東Āndōng安 ānTunghwa (Tonghua)通化Now part of Jilin and Liaoning
Anhwei (Anhui)安徽Ānhuī皖 wǎnHofei (Hefei)合肥
Chahar (Chahar)察哈爾Cháhār察 cháChangyuan (Zhangjiakou)張垣(張家口)Now part of Inner Mongolia and Hebei
Chekiang (Zhejiang)浙江Zhèjiāng浙 zhèHangchow (Hangzhou)杭州
Fukien (Fujian)福建Fújiàn閩 mǐnFoochow (Fuzhou)福州
Hopeh (Hebei)河北Héběi冀 jìTsingyuan (Baoding)清苑(保定)
Heilungkiang (Heilongjiang)黑龍江Hēilóngjiāng黑 hēiPeian (Bei'an)北安
Hokiang (Hejiang)合江Héjiāng合 héChiamussu (Jiamusi)佳木斯Now part of Heilongjiang
Honan (Henan)河南Hénán豫 yùKaifeng (Kaifeng)開封
Hupeh (Hubei)湖北Húběi鄂 èWuchang (Wuchang)武昌
Hunan (Hunan)湖南Húnán湘 xiāngChangsha (Changsha)長沙
Hsingan (Xing'an)興安Xīng'ān興 xīngHailar (Hulunbuir)海拉爾(呼倫貝爾)Now part of Heilongjiang and Jilin
Jehol (Rehe)熱河Rèhé熱 rèChengteh (Chengde)承德Now part of Hebei, Liaoning, and Inner Mongolia
Kansu (Gansu)甘肅Gānsù隴 lǒngLanchow (Lanzhou)蘭州
Kiangsu (Jiangsu)江蘇Jiāngsū蘇 sūChingkiang (Zhenjiang)鎮江
Kiangsi (Jiangxi)江西Jiāngxī贛 gànNanchang (Nanchang)南昌
Kirin (Jilin)吉林Jílín吉 jíKirin (Jilin)吉林
Kwangtung (Guangdong)廣東Guǎngdōng粵 yuèCanton (Guangzhou)廣州
Kwangsi (Guangxi)廣西Guǎngxī桂 guìKweilin (Guilin)桂林
Kweichow (Guizhou)貴州Guìzhōu黔 qiánKweiyang (Guiyang)貴陽
Liaopeh (Liaobei)遼北Liáoběi洮 táoLiaoyuan (Liaoyuan)遼源Now mostly part of Inner Mongolia
Liaoning (Liaoning)遼寧Liáoníng遼 liáoShenyang (Shenyang)瀋陽
Ningsia (Ningxia)寧夏Níngxià寧 níngYinchuan (Yinchuan)銀川
Nunkiang (Nenjiang)嫩江Nènjiāng嫩 nènTsitsihar (Qiqihar)齊齊哈爾The province was abolished in 1950 and incorporated into Heilongjiang province.
Shansi (Shanxi)山西Shānxī晉 jìnTaiyuan (Taiyuan)太原
Shantung (Shandong)山東Shāndōng魯 lǔTsinan (Jinan)濟南
Shensi (Shaanxi)陝西Shǎnxī陝 shǎnSian (Xi'an)西安
Sikang (Xikang)西康Xīkāng康 kāngKangting (Kangding)康定Now part of Tibet and Sichuan
Sinkiang (Xinjiang)新疆Xīnjiāng新 xīnTihwa (Ürümqi)迪化(烏魯木齊)
Suiyuan (Suiyuan)綏遠Suīyuǎn綏 suīKweisui (Hohhot)歸綏(呼和浩特)Now part of Inner Mongolia
Sungkiang (Songjiang)松江Sōngjiāng松 sōngMutankiang (Mudanjiang)牡丹江Now part of Heilongjiang
Szechwan (Sichuan)四川Sìchuān蜀 shǔChengtu (Chengdu)成都
Taiwan (Taiwan)臺灣Táiwān臺 tái Taipei 臺北
Tsinghai (Qinghai)青海Qīnghǎi青 qīngSining (Xining)西寧
Yunnan (Yunnan)雲南Yúnnán滇 diānKunming (Kunming)昆明
Special Administrative Region
Hainan (Hainan)海南Hǎinán瓊 qióngHaikow (Haikou)海口
Mongolia Area (Outer Mongolia)蒙古Ménggǔ蒙 méngKulun (now Ulaanbaatar)庫倫Now part of the State of Mongolia. As the successor of the Qing dynasty, the Nationalist government claimed Outer Mongolia, and for a short time under the Beiyang government occupied it. The Nationalist government recognised Mongolia's independence in the 1945 Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship due to pressure from the Soviet Union but that recognition was rescinded in 1953 during the Cold War. [42]
Tibet Area (Tibet)西藏Xīzàng藏 zàng Lhasa 拉薩
Special Municipalities
Nanking (Nanjing)南京Nánjīng京 jīng(Chinhuai District)秦淮區
Shanghai (Shanghai)上海Shànghǎi滬 hù(Huangpu District)黄浦區
Peiping or Peking (Beijing)北平Běipíng平 píng(Xicheng District)西城區
Tientsin (Tianjin)天津Tiānjīn津 jīn(Heping District)和平區
Chungking (Chongqing)重慶Chóngqìng渝 yú(Yuzhong District)渝中區
Hankow (Hankou, Wuhan)漢口Hànkǒu漢 hàn(Jiang'an District)江岸區
Canton (Guangzhou)廣州Guǎngzhōu穗 suì(Yuexiu District)越秀區
Sian (Xi'an)西安Xī'ān安 ān(Weiyang District)未央區
Tsingtao (Qingdao)青島Qīngdǎo膠 jiāo(Shinan District)市南區
Dairen (Dalian)大連Dàlián連 lián(Xigang District)西崗區
Mukden (Shenyang)瀋陽Shěnyáng瀋 shěn(Shenhe District)瀋河區
Harbin (Harbin)哈爾濱Hā'ěrbīn哈 hā(Nangang District)南崗區


The Republic of China retained hereditary nobility like the Han Chinese nobles Duke Yansheng and Celestial Masters and Tusi chiefdoms like the Chiefdom of Mangshi, Chiefdom of Yongning, who continued possessing their titles in the Republic of China since the previous dynasties.


Beiyang Army troops on parade Beiyang Army.jpg
Beiyang Army troops on parade

The military power of the Republic of China was inherited from the New Army, mainly the Beiyang Army, which later split into many factions and attacked each other. [43] The National Revolutionary Army was established by Sun Yat-sen in 1925 in Guangdong with the goal of reunifying China under the Kuomintang. Originally organized with Soviet aid as a means for the KMT to unify China against warlordism, the National Revolutionary Army fought many major engagements: in the Northern Expedition against Beiyang Army warlords, in the Second Sino-Japanese War against the Imperial Japanese Army, and in the Chinese Civil War against the People's Liberation Army.[ citation needed ]

The NRA during World War II Kmtarmy.JPG
The NRA during World War II

During the Second Sino-Japanese War, the armed forces of the Communist Party of China were nominally incorporated into the National Revolutionary Army, while remaining under separate command, but broke away to form the People's Liberation Army shortly after the end of the war. With the promulgation of the Constitution of the Republic of China in 1947 and the formal end of the KMT party-state, the National Revolutionary Army was renamed the Republic of China Armed Forces, with the bulk of its forces forming the Republic of China Army, which retreated to Taiwan in 1949 after their defeat in the Chinese Civil War. Units which surrendered and remained in mainland China were either disbanded or incorporated into the People's Liberation Army. [44]


Boat traffic and development along Suzhou Creek, Shanghai, 1920 SuzhouCreekOld2.jpg
Boat traffic and development along Suzhou Creek, Shanghai, 1920
A 10 Custom Gold Units bill, 1930 10 Custom Gold Units 1930.JPG
A 10 Custom Gold Units bill, 1930

In the early years of the Republic of China, the economy remained unstable as the country was marked by constant warfare between different regional warlord factions. The Beiyang government in Beijing experienced constant changes in leadership, and this political instability led to stagnation in economic development until Chinese reunification in 1928 under the Kuomintang. [45] After this reunification, China entered a period of relative stability—despite ongoing isolated military conflicts and in the face of Japanese aggression in Shandong and Manchuria, in 1931—a period known as the "Nanjing Decade".

Chinese industries grew considerably from 1928 to 1931. While the economy was hit by the Japanese occupation of Manchuria in 1931 and the Great Depression from 1931 to 1935, industrial output recovered to their earlier peak by 1936. This is reflected by the trends in Chinese GDP. In 1932, China's GDP peaked at 28.8 billion, before falling to 21.3 billion by 1934 and recovering to 23.7 billion by 1935. [46] By 1930, foreign investment in China totaled 3.5 billion, with Japan leading (1.4 billion) followed by the United Kingdom (1 billion). By 1948, however, the capital investment had halted and dropped to only 3 billion, with the US and Britain being the leading investors. [47]

However, the rural economy was hit hard by the Great Depression of the 1930s, in which an overproduction of agricultural goods lead to falling prices for China as well as an increase in foreign imports (as agricultural goods produced in western countries were "dumped" in China). In 1931, Chinese imports of rice amounted to 21 million bushels compared with 12 million in 1928. Other imports saw even more increases. In 1932, 15 million bushels of grain were imported compared with 900,000 in 1928. This increased competition lead to a massive decline in Chinese agricultural prices and thus the income of rural farmers. In 1932, agricultural prices were at 41 percent of 1921 levels. [48] By 1934, rural incomes had fallen to 57 percent of 1931 levels in some areas. [48]

In 1937, Japan invaded China and the resulting warfare laid waste to China. Most of the prosperous east coast was occupied by the Japanese, who committed atrocities such as the Nanjing Massacre. In one anti-guerilla sweep in 1942, the Japanese killed up to 200,000 civilians in a month. The war was estimated to have killed between 20 and 25 million Chinese, and destroyed all that Chiang had built up in the preceding decade. [49] Development of industries was severely hampered after the war by devastating civil conflict as well as the inflow of cheap American goods. By 1946, Chinese industries operated at 20% capacity and had 25% of the output of pre-war China. [50]

One effect of the war with Japan was a massive increase in government control of industries. In 1936, government-owned industries were only 15% of GDP. However, the ROC government took control of many industries in order to fight the war. In 1938, the ROC established a commission for industries and mines to supervise and control firms, as well as instilling price controls. By 1942, 70% of Chinese industry was owned by the government. [51]

Following the war with Japan, Chiang acquired Taiwan from Japan and renewed his struggle with the communists. However, the corruption of the KMT, as well as hyperinflation as a result of trying to fight the civil war, resulted in mass unrest throughout the Republic [52] and sympathy for the communists. In addition, the communists' promise to redistribute land gained them support among the large rural population. In 1949, the communists captured Beijing and later Nanjing. The People's Republic of China was proclaimed on 1 October 1949. The Republic of China relocated to Taiwan where Japan had laid an educational groundwork. [53]

See also


  1. Modified version used in 1921–28.
  2. As wartime provisional capital during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
  3. The government was transferred to Taipei on 7 December 1949. Chengtu was captured on 27 December.
  4. Wuchang Uprising started.
  5. The last monarch of the Qing dynasty, Xuantong Emperor abdicated, Qing dynasty formally ended.
  6. Chinese Communist Revolution.
  7. Marco Polo Bridge Incident started.
  8. Surrender of Japan at the end of World War II.
  9. Left hand drive until 1946.
  10. Although this is the present meaning of guó, in Old Chinese (when its pronunciation was something like /*qʷˤək/) [5] it meant the walled city of the Chinese and the areas they could control from them. [6]
  11. Its use is attested from the 6th-century Classic of History, which states "Huangtian bestowed the lands and the peoples of the central state to the ancestors" (皇天既付中國民越厥疆土于先王). [7]

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Feng Yü-hsiang was a warlord and leader in Republican China from Chaohu, Anhui. He served as Vice Premier of the Republic of China from 1928–30. He was also known as the Christian General for his zeal to convert his troops and the Betrayal General for his penchant to break with the establishment. In 1911 he was an officer in the ranks of Yuan Shikai's Beiyang Army but joined forces with revolutionaries against the Qing dynasty. He rose to high rank within Wu Peifu's Zhili warlord faction but launched the Beijing Coup in 1924 that knocked Zhili out of power and brought Sun Yat-sen to Beijing. He joined the Nationalist Party (KMT), supported the Northern Expedition and became blood brothers with Chiang Kai-shek, but resisted Chiang's consolidation of power in the Central Plains War and broke with him again in resisting Japanese incursions in 1933. He spent his later years supporting the Revolutionary Committee of the Kuomintang.

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Retreat of the Republic of China to Taiwan Republic of Chinas retreat from Mainland China to the Island of Taiwan

The retreat of the Republic of China to Taiwan, also known as the Kuomintang's retreat to Taiwan or "The Great Retreat" refers to the exodus of the remnants of the internationally recognized Kuomintang-ruled government of the Republic of China to the island of Taiwan (Formosa) in December 1949 toward the end of active battles in the Chinese Civil War. The Kuomintang, its officers and approximately 2 million troops took part in the retreat; in addition to many civilians and refugees, fleeing the advance of the Communist People's Liberation Army.



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For works on specific people and events, please see the relevant articles.

Historiography and bibliography