(CHINA in REVOLUTION, to 1927 – continued)

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CHINA in REVOLUTION, to 1927 (5 of 7)

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Communists annoy Chiang Kai-shek

Sun Yat-sen remained a respected revolutionary among many Chinese, and in 1920 he resurrected the party of revolution that had been founded in 1911, of which he had been recognized as president. It was now called the Guomindang and would be known as the Chinese Nationalist Party. China was divided politically among various warlords, and there was still a government in Beijing. In May 1921 that government signed a treaty with Germany that renounced "its special rights, interests and privileges" in China and canceled its Boxer indemnity. The Beijing government signed similar treaties with Hungary and Turkey.

Britain denied recognition of the Guomindang as the central ruling authority in China, and frustrated by lack of support from the governments of the United States and France, Sun Yat-sen described these two republics as representing the old model of republicanism and Russia as the new model.

The Communist International, or Comintern, centered in Moscow, had told China's Communists that they should collaborate with Sun's Guomindang party. The Comintern criticized China's Communists for failing to associate with the masses and for studying Marx and Lenin as they had once studied Confucius – the Comintern believing in political activity and social action as in Marx's statement about changing the world rather than contemplating it. Moscow saw Sun Yat-sen as China's leading anti-imperialist and that anti-imperialism was the target that would attract the greatest support in China. China's little Communist Party had its doubts about working with a non-communist group, but it went along with the Comintern and joined the Guomindang, agreeing to obey its rules and to act as individuals rather than as a block.

Sun Yat-sen was impressed by the willingness of the Communists to cooperate, and in January 1923 he and Moscow signed an agreement. The Russians promised Sun arms and advisors, and the Russians agreed that Chinese conditions did not require a Soviet-style solution. Despite Sun's alliance with Communists he saw his goals for China as being attainable without class struggle. He continued to be feted by wealthy Chinese businessmen, who liked the idea of China regaining its sovereignty and not being at a disadvantage with foreign business concerns. And Sun was speaking at universities and describing Britain

In November 1923, Sun was able to return to Guangzhou (Canton) in Southern China, where his Guomindang became the local power, and there with the help of Russian advisors and Russian money he began an academy for training military officers in modern warfare. The commandant of the academy was a young man named Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi), a nationalist and opponent of the foreign controls that remained in China. The academy's officer in charge of political education was a young Communist who had been educated in France: Zhou Enlai.

The Guomindang sent Chiang Kai-shek to Moscow for four months, and there Chiang gave a talk on Sun's work in China's revolution, a talk attended by Chinese Communist students. After the talk, young Communists peppered Chiang with disagreements, finding fault with his views on revolution and throwing questions at him such as: did not Marx say this, and did not Russia's experience prove that. Chiang countered that his talk was not about Russia but about China and that they should learn more about their own country. And the students accused Chiang of errant nationalism – in other words, not being sufficiently internationalist.

When Chiang returned to Guangzhou he found the city swarming with Russian advisors. He wrote to a friend, describing "the Russian Party" as "lacking in sincerity" and that only about thirty percent of what the Russians said was believable. He described the Chinese students in Russia as having slandered Sun Yat-sen and wrote that the aim of the Communists was to take over China rather than cooperate with Sun's movement. What they call internationalism, he added, was nothing but German-style imperialism, and he lumped the Russians together with the English, the Americans, French and Japanese, describing them as imperialists all.

The Russians persuaded Sun to expel from the Guomindang some who had become critical of them. Chiang was not among those targeted, but Chiang suspected that soon he would be. Then he was distracted from his differences with the Communists as Sun's movement in Guangzhou was attacked by a private army fighting on the side of merchants around Guangzhou who had grown hostile to the Guomindang. Chiang led the drive that defeated the merchants' army, while maintaining his position in good standing within the Guomindang and with Moscow's agents. And he continued working with the agent Michael Borodin in preparation for a military advance north that Sun Yat-sen had been planning – a war to unite China under Guomindang leadership.

On March 12, 1925, Sun Yat-sen died of cancer, and the Guomindang hailed Sun as a great national hero. Sun's death exacerbated differences of opinion about what the Guomindang stood for, but these differences were temporarily obscured by a common nationalist fervor. Students and labor unionists were directing their energies against British and Japanese commercial interests in China and a boycott of British and Japanese goods. Workers in China were suffering low wages, long hours and other miserable conditions. note22  A strike for higher wages at a Japanese-owned cotton mill in Shanghai resulted in the mill's management committing brutalities against strike supporters, and there, in May, British police in China fired on and killed demonstrators. In June, British troops used force to suppress a strike in Hankow and again fired upon demonstrators. Chinese hostility toward the British and Japanese exacerbated nationalist passions among Guomindang activists. Political activists tied up Hong Kong for months with boycotts and numerous strikes. Patriotic students flocked to the Guomindang and many into the Communist Party. China's Communist Party has been described as growing from around 200 in 1922 to about 20,000 at the end of 1924. Chiang Kai-shek was also swept up in the indignation against the British and Japanese. Momentarily he felt unity with the Communists against a common enemy, and he sent his son to Moscow to study military science.


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