Chinese Language Blog

China – From the Last Emperor to Mao Zedong Posted by on Jul 21, 2011 in Culture

Way back in October 2010, I decided to set out on writing a condensed history of China from the last emperor to Mao Zedong. With little knowledge of that time period myself, I was curious to learn more about Chinese history and in turn share some of my findings with our readers. Little did I know that in the short time period of 1919-1949, a whole lot went on in China. A good seven months and twenty blog posts later, I finally got to the finish line. As it can be hard to dig up old blog posts on here sometimes, I’ve gone through the trouble of organizing the entire history lesson into a series of links and short descriptions:

Part One – The fall of the Qing Dynasty, the start of the Republic of China, and the beginnings of the Kuomintang.

Part Two – Sun Yat-sen and the KMT fail in the Second Revolution, resulting in Yuan Shikai taking over. Also, the 21 Demands from Japan, the National Protection War, and the death of Yuan Shikai.

Part Three – China’s position in World War I, the reinstatement of Puyi as Emperor, and his subsequent fall. Duan Qirui declares war on Germany and Austria-Hungary in the North, and Sun Yat-sen establishes a new government in the South.

Part Four – Different cliques jostle for position in an unstable China. Also, the New Culture Movement and the May Fourth Movement and Japanese control of previously German held territories. Marxism and Leninism start to appeal to Chinese scholars.

Part Five – The spread of Marxism and the foundation of the China Communist Party (CCP). Also, the Zhili-Anhui War, Zhili-Fengtian War, and the reformation of the KMT with Sun Yat-sen.

Part Six – Li Yuanhong takes over as president again, while Xu Shichang and Sun Yat-sen resign from their positions. The Soviet Union helps Sun and the KMT, and the Whampoa Military Academy is founded. Sun announces his Three Principles for uniting China, and Chiang Kai-shek comes into the picture. Another Zhili-Anhui War goes on, and the Nationalist Army is formed.

Part Seven – Chiang takes over the KMT, and the Nationalists set up in Guangzhou. Up north, there is the Anti-Fengtian War, and Japan attacks the KMT. Many power struggles go down, and the National Revolutionary Army is founded to destroy warlord China.

Part Eight – The Northern Expedition begins to unify China under the KMT. With some assistance from the CCP and the Soviets, the NRA has great success. However, the April 12 Tragedy changes many people’s minds about Chiang. The Chinese Civil War begins, and a newcomer named Mao Zedong leads an army of peasants against the KMT.

Part Nine – Chiang “unifies” China and the Nanjing Decade begins. However, the Communists organize and plan to overthrow the government, and internal conflicts damage the KMT. Mao and other Communists establish the Chinese Soviet Republic, which Chiang tries to destroy.

Part Ten – All about Mao – a short biography about the Great Helmsman, China’s most famous and influential revolutionary.

Part Eleven – Mao and the CCP begin the Long March across China – a 12,500 km hike lasting over 370 days. The long and harsh march had a devastating effect on the CCP, but they made it and began planning and regrouping.

Part Twelve – Mao’s Three Rules for Discipline and Eight Points for Attention. Also, the rise of his People’s Liberation Army and the decline of the KMT forces. Chiang is kidnapped in the Xi’an Incident and the KMT and CCP once again come together to fight against Japan.

Part Thirteen – Problems with Japan intensify, and the Second Sino-Japanese War begins. The Battle of Shanghai (the first of 22 major battles) lasts for three months. Chiang’s military strategy comes into question, and Western aid never arrives for China.

Part Fourteen – After a victory in Shanghai, the Japanese invade the city of Nanjing. The next six weeks represent the darkest point in China’s history, and come to be known as the Nanjing Massacre.

Part Fifteen – Wuhan becomes the center of China, and the Japanese again attempt to invade. Chiang floods the Yellow River in order to delay the Japanese, which has adverse side effects. Japan also suffers major losses during these battles.

Part Sixteen – The KMT again moves, this time to Chongqing. Massive Japanese air raids ensue, which are devastating for China. CCP and KMT forces but heads yet again with the New Fourth Army Incident, which is written about by writer Shen Dehong.

Part Seventeen – Tensions between the KMT and CCP prove to be too much, and the Second United Front ends. Mao outlines a plan to seize power from Chiang. After Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, the US supplies plenty of aid to China, and China wins the third Battle of Changsha.

Part Eighteen – Mao and the CCP gain popularity and support in China, while Chiang has problems with an American general. Japan launches Operation Ichi-Go, which results in upwards of 500,000 Chinese casualties. The US starts to lose faith in Chiang, and starts to recognize the importance of Mao and the CCP.

Part Nineteen – The US drops the atomic bomb on Japan, and the Japanese surrender to the KMT. Mao and Chiang meet with others to discuss peace, while their armies continue to fight. Meanwhile, the Soviets go behind Chiang’s back to help Mao and the CCP, and the US boosts its assistance to the KMT. The final phase of the Civil War begins.

Part Twenty – Early on in the final stage of the war, the KMT captures the CCP capital of Yan’an. Mao and the CCP keep going, though, and eventually capture all of Manchuria. A series of successful campaigns drives the Nationalists off of the Mainland, and Mao Zedong proclaims the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949.

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.


  1. Steven C. Poling Jr.:

    China has the most complicated 20th century history of any nation, IMHO.

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