Civil war and political situation

As mentioned previously Chiang Kai Shek by committing massacre over communists and workers in Shanghai betrayed KMT-CCP alliance and socialist ideas of Sun Yatsen. Chiang Kai Shek after capturing most of China seated in government in Nanjing in 1928. Still warlordism stayed and there was lack of law enforcement on captured territories. He promoted conservatism, right wing ideas,  patriarchal Confucian ideas… Officially Chiang Kai Shek promoted democracy and some noble Confucian values related to merits and education but he did not apply them.  Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek governed as dictator oppressed people, was taking large taxes and burnt temples. From his governance mostly suffered peasants and workers who were completely subordinated to new political, economic and military elite. Peasants and workers were exploited by excessive labor, big taxes and they lived poorly without any rights. They were often beaten, raped and robbed While top classes lived in luxury, while China was still humiliated and exploited by foreigners peasants and workers were dying from famine, exhaustion and illnesses. Still Chiang Kai Shek is mostly seen as negative figure but only little as positive figure because he managed to ease unequal treaties by gaining control over import and export tarifes ( since 1860 controlled by foreign powers) and did some effort in fighting Japanese soldiers in WWII. Other KMT members and soldiers are more respected as veterans of WWII. But mostly is condemned because of his harsh governance, ignorance of masses and opportunism. His main aim was to  defeat communists and rule instead to try to improve living conditions of people.

Nationalist soldiers looking for communists, source:…58831.60757.0.60932.….0…1.1.64.img..0.0.0.uA3JCFjejIQ#imgrc=Wb4CoulwSd36sM:

After betrayal in 1927( Shanghai massacre) communist guerillas were more intensively recruiting peasants and workers into their armies and started committing attacks on KMT officials and forces.  On 1st August 1927 in Nanchang was conducted large uprising by CCP commanded by Zhou Enlai. Nanchang was liberated from KMT but soon communist forces were expelled and withdrew into mountains. Their forces were much weaker and still smaller than nationalist forces. After few days CCP held revolutionary committee and agreed on revolution against nationalism, bourgeois , capitalism and imperialism. 1st August 1927 is regarded as day of beginning of Civil War, revolution and formation of Peoples Liberation Army( PLA). At that time it was called Chinese Workers and Peasants Red Army. This war in total took 4 million lives. Series of rebellions started around Changsha, Shantou and Guangzhou. Mao Zedong managed to capture some territory in Hunan and Jiangxi for short time in september 1927. This event is known as Autumn Harvest Uprising. Some left wing members of KMT joined Chinese Red Army too. In December 1927 CCP captured Guangzhou and established soviet commune there which lasted for 3 days only.

After end of northern expedition  China had one capital in Nanjing( controlled by right wing KMT) and in Wuhan( CCP and left wing KMT).  In 1930 broke out Central Plains War between different KMT factions commanded by Chiang Kai Shek and Feng Yuxiang. War was led in Henan but also in Gansu. Various Hui Muslim armies fought against each other too. At the end of 1930 Chiang Kai Shek defeated them.In 1931 Japan fabricated Mukden Incident about which we will speak later. This incident was used as excuse of Japan to invade China and occupy Manchuria. Chiang Kai Shek instead to fight Japan at that moment more decisively he aimed fighting communists more who were too far from Manchuria to intervene. This time full scale war between China and Japan was avoided for short time. CCP leadership was calling KMT for establishing united front against Japan until they conquer more of Chinese territories but KMT rightists rejected it.

In central, southern,  southeastern and southwestern provinces such as Hunan, Anhui, Hubei, Sichuan, Shaanxi, Jiangxi, Fujian, Gansu, Yunnan and Guizhou Red army was strengthening its positions and more or less controlled some territories. On 7th November 1931 in Ruijin( small town in Fujian province) Mao Zedong and CCP declared Chinese Soviet Republic. Mao Zedong was Chairman of Central Executive Committee and Head of State which was supported by Soviet Union only. At same time largest territorial unit in young Chinese Soviet Republic was Jiangxi Soviet region was established. Zhou Enlai was commanding Red Army which now counted 140 000 soldiers.  They fastly stabilized economy and state system which were much more efficient and stable than those controlled by Chiang Kai Shek. Leadership under Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai was trying to improve life of people and were introducing communist policies of abolishing private property and giving land to peasant communes. However both Jiangxi Soviet and Chinese Soviet Republic were short living since they were under constant threat of KMT forces and warlords who sided KMT since they did not want order as to warlords wartime and chaos is always suitable.


Since 1929 Chiang Kai Shek launched encircling campaigns against rising Red Army in various provinces such as Hunan, Anhui, Hubei, Sichuan, Shaanxi, Jiangxi, Fujian, Gansu , Yunnan and Guizhou. First 2  campaigns failed while 3rd was cancelled because of Mukden incident. But still despite Japanese invasion of Manchuria Chiang Kai Shek was launching campaigns against Chinese Soviet Republic and Jiangxi Soviet. In January 1932 KMT launches campaign on Jiangxi Soviet with aim to encircle it. Siege lasted until March 1932. This ended with communist victory despite that their forces were outnumbered and under armed. KMT sent 500 000 soldiers while PLA had there 70 000 soldiers. Second stage of fourth campaign started in July 1932 and lasted until October 1932. This time encircling was aimed on Hubei, Henan and Anhui and again ended in communist victory. But since PLA forces were outnumbered and underarmed despite maintaining strict discipline and loyalty it was hard to survive being encircled. In September 1933 fifth encirclement campaign started. It engaged 300 000 KMT soldiers against 140 000 Red Army soldiers. Jiangxi Soviet was encircled by KMT troops. Red Army was defending every centimeter bravely of their territory. But soon because of siege they had lack of supplies in terms of weapons, food and medicines. Aim of Chiang Kai Shek was to completely destroy strongest communist stronghold. In April 1934 PLA launched few counterattacks which finished by failure. In October 1934 communist leadership decided to break through encircling lines and escape instead to hold here position without enough supplies.  This is known as beginning of Long March. First 4 campaigns were finished with failure thanks to Mao Zedongs  guerilla tactics. He was sending smaller units as kind of counterattacks to approaching KMT forces which conducted ambushes and surprise  attacks. Fifth encirclement finished with victory for KMT as this time other communist leaders wanted direct confrontation what in opinion of Mao Zedong was too early. Mao Zedong was expelled from Central Committee because of disagreement with Zhu De, another core figure during initial phases of civil war. Mao understood well that PLA forces are not yet ready to fight directly against KMT.


Long March was large move and withdrawal of PLA forces from territories of Jiangxi Soviet in order to avoid complete defeat and capture by much larger KMT forces. PLA was under siege in Jiangxi Soviet for one year already exhausted with lack of weapons and food. It was not just withdrawing but first they had to push through enemy circles and avoid all ambushes and other attempts to be encircled during long journey to the northwest of China.  Aim was to reach new more safe territories of China Soviet Republic in todays Shaanxi , get out of encirclement, to refresh troops there and gain more supplies there before further revolutionary activities.Aim was to refresh and consolidate all Red Army factions and prepare for more direct confrontation with KMT.  Mostly by walk in one year PLA soldiers have passed 10 000 km from southeast to northwest passing over 24 rivers and 18 mountain ranges. Neither weather, neither terrains, lack of supplies and KMT attacks did not stop them thanks to PLAs heroism, loyalty and motivation to win and fight for people.  Thus in October about 100 000 soldiers and few thousand civilians fled away from Jiangxi what caused fall of Jiangxi Soviet. At Xiang river PLA had to break through KMT positions. PLA relied on weapons from killed KMT soldiers, on food from peasants and on more members in recruiting peasants on their way through countryside. They were often under attack and constant threat not only from KMT but from local warlords. PLA was also under bombings of KMT air force. PLA used to pass through sections between positions of KMT to try to gain as less damage as possible and avoided combat but sometimes they were noticed and attacked and also to push through and behind lines they had to storm the KMT positions. During November and December PLA had lost almost half of its troops because of lack of good decisions under some members of Central Committee. They were those who considered that PLA should attack positions of KMT during withdrawal instead to avoid combat and push through points where KMT forces are weakest or take some guerilla action as Mao Zedong was suggesting. By end of December they passed through Guangdong, Guangxi and  Hunan province. In January 1935 CCP leaders and Red Army entered Guizhou province and captured Zunyi town. They held a conference there in order to decide further what to do and how to prevent more losses. Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai already disagreed a lot with other leaders such as Bo Gu about moves since Bo Gu was suggesting return to Hunan where forces of KMT were too strong. Outcome was that party committee have chosen Mao Zedong as  important member of Military Commission , Zhang Wentian as General Secretary of CCP and Zhou Enlai. Thus these 3 figures became most influential in CCP. Mao Zedong even if he wasnt General Secretary still he de facto became most influential figure of CCP. Chief editor of Red Star( a CCP newspaper) Deng Xiaoping also attended conference.

Mao Zedong and Zhu De, source:

After Zunyi conference CCP and Red Army were under more rational and better organized leadership thus suffered less losses and avoided direct combat. Also they didnt focus much on recruiting new members while focused on maneuvring with current members. Now they were chased by nationalist forces which attempted to block their way many times and attacked them while they avoided direct battles.  Communist forces mostly interacted in Guizhou, Sichuan and Yunnan avoiding encirclements and battling on several river crossings when it was necessary. Mao Zedong faked attack on Guiyang in order to distract KMT forces while PLA troops pass as safe as possible into Yunnan. Most famous battle was at Luding Bridge in May 1935. It was a bridge of core importance for escape of Red Army. Its location is on Dadu river in Sichuan province. PLA troops were in danger of being encircled and destroyed completely. There were not enough boats for crossing river so they had to use damaged bridge. Best 22 soldiers were sent in advance to fight KMT regiment nearby bridge in order to secure safe passage for majority soldiers. Battle finished with victory and secure passing of communist forces. This battle is considered as most heroic battle of Long March.

Luding Bridge today, source:

In June 1935 in Sichuan Zhang Guotao a commander of another army section from Henan with 80 000 soldiers and met with Mao Zedong. He was always considered as opponent of Mao Zedong. Now they disagreed of further withdrawal tactics. Mao Zedong was suggesting of immediate withdrawal towards Shaanxi while Zhang Guotao was suggesting move towards southwest where were more KMT forces. His idea was to persuade there Sichuanese local minorities to join side of communists. Mao and Zhou Enlai considered this as irrational in such conditions under constant atempts of encircelement. Thus Mao and Zhou continued on their way and Zhang Guotao went to southwest. Until October PLA had passed through swamps of northern Sichuan and Gansu being attacked by KMT and Hui Muslim warlord forces from Ma Clique. By end of October Red Army forces have reached Yanan in Shaanxi province which were controlled by Gao Gang and Liu Zhidan. Red Army totally exhausted but have reached its aim. Only 7000 from  initial 100 000 participants of withdrawal have survived. In total Yanan was reached by 8000 combatants.  Still this is considered as victory and success by CCP because they avoided complete destruction and have survived its hardest times. Long March is  still  seen as a move which saved CCP, bravery, patriotism, loyalty and persistence. It is considered as one of major components of communist legitimacy in China. Except because bravery and patriotism CCP and PLA gained  trust among people because of their moral behavior. Mao Zedong issued a doctrine known as 8 Points of Attention in 1928 where he called on respectful behavior of soldiers towards civilians generally, peasants, prisoners, females,and property.  He banned harassing of women, torturing prisoners, damaging crops, swearing, seizing property of peasants and called for obeying orders, paying compensation for damage and giving property of landlords and warlords to central commanders. People never before in recent Chinese history experienced such soldiers since they got  used on brutal KMT soldiers and even more brutal and coercive warlord armies. Major commanders of Long March such as Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De,  Lin Biao, Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping and others. On another hand Zhang Guotao was considered as looser since he came with only 400 soldiers( from 80 000) especially because of mentioned irrationality. He was also accused that he planned a plot against Mao in Yanan and therefore expelled from party.

Map of Long March, source:
gathering of soldiers in Yanan
PLA in Yanan after end of Long March, source:

During 1936 CCP was holding order in some territories of Central China and reforming economy. It recovered its troops and got more supplies. Chiang Kai Shek sent large army commanded by Zhang Xueliang on communist territories in Shaanxi. His forces were in several invasions on Shaanxi defeated largely and he did not receive any aid from Chiang Kai Shek. In December 1936 Zhang kidnapped Chiang Kai Shek in Xian by his forces. Aim of that was to push Chiang Kai Shek to create new alliance with CCP because of new threat of Japan. This event is known as Xian incident.  By end of December Chiang Kai Shek agreed on Second United Front which was supposed to bring peace between CCP and KMT and unite forces against Japanese invasion which came true in July 1937. Before that CCP have created two armies- 8 Route Army and New Fourth Army which counted around only 50 000 members in 1937 and in 1940 700 000 members and were supposed to directly battle against Japanese. While other CCP armies were supposed to fight guerilla war against Japan. CCP formally abolished Chinese Soviet Republic and declared unity with KMT controlled ROC for a war time. But CCP and PLA held still control of their territories. Both CCP and KMT fought against Japan on their own without much direct cooperation while Chiang controlled divisions more focused on interacting against communists than fighting Japan. Alliance at beginning was tighter while later it was dissolved in 1941 when Chiang Kai Shek betrayed CCP again.

Mao and Zhou
Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai in Yanan, 1935, source:

Chinese Soviet Republic

As mentioned it was short lasting state founded in 1931 by Chinese Communist Party. It was generally one of the worlds first communist states. There were formally and in practice established and applied communist ideas mentioned in previous chapter. Immediate confiscation of property of big and middle landlords occurred and was given to the peasants. Peasant communes were established and all land was their public ownership and tools which they used. Education and healthcare were declared completely free. Their economy became centrally planned and was doing better than economy under territories controlled by Chiang Kai Shek. Army of this state was Chinese Red Army. National Bank was also established and currency of paper yuan, silver dollar and copper coins. Prime Minister was Mao Zedong. First capital was Ruijin in Fujian province. Jiangxi Soviet component was largest controlled territory of the CSR. Generally its territories were  different communist enclaves composed of Soviet units without much direct territorial connection. After fall of Jiangxi Soviet in 1934 and Long March CSR lost most of its territories. When  Long March ended Yanan  a seat of Shaanxi Soviet became capital of Chinese Soviet Republic .In 1937 Chinese Soviet Republic was formally abolished in name of anti Japanese alliance with KMT, but CCP and Red Army controlled Shaanxi and some other central areas until end of WWII and later and there they applied communist policies.

china soviet flag
Flag of Chinese Soviet Republic 
soviet china
Flag of Chinese Red Army



Politics and Economy of ROC

Chiang Kai Shek soon after Northern Expedition started to lose credibility. He officially proclaimed democracy, progressivity and modernization but most historians agree that there was only minor progress in modernization if there was at all. From capital Nanjing most of territories were hardly controlled because of CCP, warlords and big corruption of KMT officials. Chiangs reunification of 1928 was short lasting and already in 1931-1932 he controlled only eastern, southern, southwestern and some areas of central China. So basically it can be considered as failed reunification or at best partial reunification.  In politics Chiang introduced totalitarian ideology known as New Life Movement. He was trying to educate population about politics but was strictly repressing and imprisoning all who were not sharing his opinion or presented potential alternative to his regime. In 1934 Chiang initiated famous New Life Movement a civic organization which was promoting right wing and conservative values. It is often considered as reaction to May Fourth Movement and attempt to prevent any modern, liberal, socialist or foreign values. This movement was calling for revival of Confucian values but actually it was kind of mis interpretation and use of Confucianism in nationalist ultraconservative political ideas. Movement was promoting superiority of Chinese nation, absolute loyalty towards state at any cost, strict patriarchal values and strict hierarchy. Original Confucianism is based on merits, education, social harmony and loyalty towards state which is responsible to take care of all citizens. But regime was based on oppression, strict militarism  and created great social inequality and predisposition to most severe capitalism. Such ideology is by some scholars seen as version of ultranationalism and even fascism such as it was during that time in Germany, Italy, Japan and Spain.

The executive court was the actual government of the one-party state with the National Party (Kuomintang 國民黨) as ruling party. It consisted of a court head and nine ministries (bu 部) for national politics (neizhengbu 內政部), foreign affairs (waijiaobu 外交部), war (junzhengbu 軍政部), navy (haijunbu 海軍部), finance (caizhengbu 財政部), industry (shiyebu 實業部), education (jiaoyubu 教育部), traffic (jiaotongbu 交通部), and railways (tiedaobu 鐵道部). Further there was a health department (weishengshu 衛生署) and two commissions for Tibetian and Mongolian (Zang Meng weiyuanhui 藏蒙委員會), and for Chinese Overseas affairs (Qiaowu weiyuanhui 僑務委員會).

chiang and song
Chiang Kai Shek and Song Meiling, source:

In the Republic of China, especially after the foundation of the Nanjing government in 1928 the executive was organized in an executive court (xingzhengyuan 行政院), the legislative was in the hands of the legislative court (lifayuan 立法院), and the law was administered by the judicial court (sifayuan 司法院). Additionally, there were two courts in this five court system that were inherited from the imperial administration structure, especially the fifth of them, the censorial court (jianchayuan 監察院); the fourth court was the audit court (kaoshiyuan 考試院).  SOURCE:

Speaking de facto most of power in KMT controlled areas was in hands of Chiang Kai Shek and executive court which controlled all other branches of power.

Administratively state was divided on provinces and counties.

When it comes to economy it had very limited success and great disparity between regions was present. Some of more successful facts are that Central Bank of China was established what stabilized currency. There was partial improvement of infrastructure, industry, motorways, rails, electrification in some provinces and areas where KMT had bigger control.  Chiang took control of some tariffs in foreign trade what reduced impact of unequal treaties. But still Chinese economy was deeply exploited and its labor both by foreign and Chinese owners. In areas where KMT did not have control where warlords dominated it was impossible to implement any reforms and economy there was in poor condition. Most of KMT controlled province governors were quite corrupt and did not allow good development of industries and infrastructure since money was finishing in private hands. In communist controlled areas economy was doing much better as mentioned. Generally KMT government had lack of resources as it spent too much on army or state budget money was spent on private purposes. 47% of budget was spent on army while on education only 4%.  Nazi Germany was one of major economic partners of Chiang Kai Shek in 1930ies.  Opium was still illegally smuggled by bands, warlords and corrupt officials.


National Revolutionary Army of KMT had around 700 000 and later more soldiers. It was mostly equipped by homemade rifles and German rifles. Uniforms and helmets were mostly bought from Germany or USA.  They also imported tanks from Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and France. Artillery was often domestic. Air force in 30ies was gradually developing mostly Soviet and US fighters and bombers were bought or got as aid.

PLA mostly used domestic rifles and artillery. Also it often used Soviet equipment and rifles. When it had chance it seized and used other arms and equipment from KMT. PLA got airforce only in 1949.  Thats why PLA used initially guerilla tactics.

When it comes to education and healthcare situation wasnt changing much in comparison to previous decade. In bigger cities quality of both was better while in rural areas there was large lack of both. Education was still very limited for women especially higher one. Healhtcare was hardly affordable for majority of people as one labor salary wasnt enough to cover healthcare bills.

NRA soldiers


Here except traditional arts Western arts were present in bigger cities. Cinema was developing too. In 1931 first sound movie was developed known as Sing Song Girl Red Peony. Song of the Fishermen, Silkworms, The Goddess, Plunder of Peach and Plum, The Big Road were most famous movies of that time. In literature satirists and novelists appear. Leftist and feminist ideas were quite present in literature. Topics of relations between both sexes became very common. In 1930 in Shanghai Lu Xun founded a League of Left Wing writers which soon became illegal. They were writing about future under socialism and were promoting socialist and communist values. Fiction Wuxia was also developing during 1930ies.

Was highly censored and controlled by government in Nanjing.




Religion and philosophy

These areas have not experienced significant developments. Chiang Kai Shek accepted Christianity at beginning of 1930ies and considered Taoism and Buddhism as superstitions and was trying to prohibit and eradicate them.  Temples were often abolished, used as warehouses and even destroyed by warlord forces.

taoists 13930s
Taoist monks practicing martial arts, 1930s, source:

Generally speaking about society there were not much positive changes in comparison to period of 1920ies. There were large social and economic inequality gaps, poverty, harsh capitalism, lack of effective governance in majority of territories and oppression.


guangzhou 1
Guangzhou, source:
milk station Beijing 1930s
Beijing 1930s, source:

Other Regions

Japanese invasion of Manchuria-   ROC since establishment did not have full control of Manchuria it was nominally considered as part of China but actually was a Japanese colony. Imperial Japan was deeply inspired by militarism which reminded on European fascism and with imperialist aims. Japan of that time considered itself as most developed and civilized in Asia After WWI Japan was angry as it did not get what it wanted from Western powers. So it became revisionist power and aimed on further militarization and expansion. China was big, unstable and weak what was very attractive for Japan. Initially Manchuria was most attractive since of great strategic location on the sea, for balancing against Soviet Union and full of minerals and coal. It was easy to conquer because of lack of Chinese control over it. In September 1931 Japanese Imperial Army fabricated incident on Mukden rails near Mukden( todays Shenyang). Its soldiers set up an minor explosion but presented in Japan as Chinese diversion against Japanese rail company and rails in Manchuria. Japan used it as excuse to invade Manchuria. Japanese Kwantung Army set up an occupation in Manchuria and was supported by reinforcements from Japan. Manchuria almost fell without resistance and ROC government almost did not react since it saw more of priority to fight communists instead to defend its territories. CCP was suggesting to KMT to form anti Japanese alliance in 1931 but KMT rejected it.  PLA troops could not reach Manchuria  as they were too far and would be blocked by National Revolutionary Army. This act is often considered as betrayal of KMT.

japanese in manchuria
Japanese forces in Manchuria, 1931, source:

Japan formed a puppet state from Manchuria known as Manchukuo. It was formally established in 1932.  It  became constitutional monarchy based on Japanese model. Emperor was Puyi( now Emperor Kangde) a last emperor of Qing. Puyi was for long time eager to rule and he felt as ethnic Manchu so he was perfect for manipulation by Japanese.  Other state organs were State Council and Legislative Council. Manchus and Chinese worked in State Council and ministries. Han Chinese was prime minister. Manchus and Han Chinese too had top positions officially but each vice minister was Japanese. Commander of Japanese army in Manchuria was an Japanese ambassador to Manchukuo. He could also veto any decision of emperor.  Officially Japan and Manchukuo were allies but as it is obvious Manchukuo was just a puppet. Capital was Changchun and Manchukuo was divided on 4 provinces and later in 1941 on 19.

puyi manchuria
Puyi as emperor Kangde of Manchukuo, source:

State authorities were calling on peace, harmony and development. They were promoting friendship between Han Chinese, Manchu and Japanese people but it was just a mask for Japanese dominance, occupation and exploitation of resources.  Manchukuo got own Imperial Army which was subordinated to Japanese army.  Japan was investing in industry and infrastructure of new puppet state as most of revenue was going to Japanese hands.  Most of products and money were used for feeding Japanese war and military machinery. Japanese authorities saw Manchukuo as industrial zone for supplying Japanese army and serving its imperialist interests.CCP was secretly sending insurgents into Manchukuo which were organizing guerilla attacks between 1932 and 1938 mostly. They often allied with local Chinese movements of resistance which were often joined by Manchu population.  Guerillas often performed attacks on rails, factories and military posts. Both Japanese and Manchukuo imperial armies fought against these insurgents who counted around 100 000.  Japanese army was much more active as it considered Manchukuo Army as unreliable and wanted to keep it under its control.  In 1936 CCP agents in Manchukuo established Anti Japanese United Army composed of Han, Manchu and Korean people.  It was main force of resistance since it united all other anti Japanese movements in Manchuria.  By most people Manchukuo is seen as collaborationist government and its officials as traitors.  Manchukuo was recognized by Nazi Germany, Spain, Slovakia( 1941), Hungary, Romania,  Vichy France, Philippines, Bulgaria, Denmark and  Croatia and Finland. Basically governments which supported Axis powers recognized this state.

Map of China and Manchukuo, source:

Mongolia and Inner Mongolia

Outer Mongolia was not much used as term since in 1924 Peoples Republic of Mongolia existed.  Its government was mostly seeking good relations with USSR in order to avoid returning back to China. Soviet Union and China still did not recognize Mongolia as independent state but as part of Republic of China.  Mongolia was still just nominally part of China but de facto functioned as independent state. On its territory in 1939 large battle between Soviet Union and Japan occurred at Khalkin Gol as result of border incident between Mongolia and Manchuria.

As mentioned before Inner Mongolia was divided on several provinces. Japan incorporated some areas of Inner Mongolia into Manchukuo. Later more Inner Mongolian areas were occupied by Japan. Communist activists were quite present in Inner Mongolia and cooperated with local Inner Mongolian Peoples Revolutionary Party.

Mongol archers 1930s
Archers in Inner Mongolia, 1930s, source;


As mentioned before with establishment of ROC Tibet was still part of China but without direct control of Chinese government. It was like that because of lack of capacity to restore control over Tibet. Tibet functioned as isolated theocracy in which small clerical elite oppressed and kept population poor and enslaved. British spies were often trying to distance Tibet even more from ROC as they wanted to destabilize China further and expand its influence in world. In 1930 13th Dalai Lama ordered invasion on neighboring Xikang and Qinghai provinces because of dispute with 9th Panchen Lama who was exiled from Tibet. Chinese forces, Sichuan clique and Ma clique rapidly defeated invading Tibetan forces. Conflict lasted until 1932 and forces of Dalai Lama were severely defeated despite political and financial support from Britain. Still National Revolutionary Army and two warlord cliques did not have enough power and interest at that moment to enter Tibet and set up legitimate control.   In 1934 in  Tibetan inhabited Kham region of Xikang province there was launched Khamba rebellion led by local rich Pandatsang family. It was directed against Sichuan warlord clique and Dalai Lama. They also attacked retreating PLA forces during Long March. By 1935 rebellion was dissolved after many defeats.

Lhasa in 1930s
Tibet in 1930s, source:


As mentioned previously Xinjiang remained under very low control by ROC since 1912. Yang Zengxin was governor there since 1912. Among people tensions were quite low and were often interreligious marriages between Han, Uighur and Hui people. But political rivalry among core figures in Xinjiang,  Islamic movements, Chinese attempt to restore control legitimately and Soviet interests were creating instabilities. Governor Yang Zengxin was assassinated in 1928 by opponents when he recognized new government in Nanjing. New governor became Jin Shuren. In 1931 started a war in Xinjiang between ROC divisions, Ma clique on one side and on another Uighur separatists. National Revolutionary Army of ROC pretended to support Jin Shuren but actually wanted to overthrow him as he was too close to Soviet Union which was trying to distance Xinjiang from China. Uighur separatists declared East Turkistan Republic in 1933 with capital in Kashgar. Against them were fighting ROC divisions, Ma clique warlords, local governance of Xinjiang and Soviet Union. But also ROC divisions and Ma clique fought against Soviet Union and some Han and Hui militias commanded by provincial government since Soviet Union was striving to exercise further influence via its allies in local government. Mongol militias were on side of Soviet Union fighting there and Kyrgyz and Kazakh militias on side of Uighur East Turkestan Republic.  There were also Uighur loyalists of Soviet Union and local government and also loyalists of ROC. Biggest battle was at Kashgar in 1934 when Ma clique warlords defeated Uighur separatists. Soviet Union wanted to exercise more influence and invaded Xinjiang in January 1934 and were sided with remaining Russian White forces, some Uighur militias  and Mongol forces. Local Chinese warlord Sheng Shicai an ethnic Han was commanding Han militias and Uighur militias on side of Soviets. On side of China most active were Ma clique of Chinese Hui Muslims, some Republican divisions and Uighur loyalists. Most active against Soviet invasion was militia of Hui Muslims. By april 1934 Soviet forces were defeated and expelled from Xinjiang but civil war continued there. In 1937 new rebellion in Xinjiang started and warlord Sheng Shicai gained almost full control over Xinjiang with his Han and Uighur militiamen. He did not declare independence but expelled republican armies and pro republican Ma clique warlords. Because of Japanese invasion ROC could not send more troops.  Main islamic fundamentalist and Uighur separatists were Muhammad Bughra, Masud Sabri and Hoja Niyaz and they were rejecting Soviet cooperation with Sheng Shicai in Xinjiang.

International situation around China

Similarly like in previous decade China was still in unfavorable position and seen as easy target for imperialist interests. It had vast territory, fertile land and a lot of resources and of course great strategic location. ROC government was trying to survive on its own but also looking for good relations with other countries. During 1930ies it had quite close relations with Germany which was reemerging power. ROC believed relations with powerful country will secure it from potential invasions. Nazi Germany and ROC were close because of right wing ideology and fighting against communism. China was vulnerable and surrendered by Soviet Union from west and north, by Britain( via India) from south and Japan from northeast and east. Biggest weakness was that it had low control over bordering areas what was making it even more vulnerable and great chance for foreign manipulation and invasion. ROC was trying to avoid conflict with Britain and therefore did not initiate larger intervention in taking control over Tibet.  Britain was trying to pursue independence of Tibet and annex other Chinese regions into Tibet. Soviet Union was interested in bigger influence in Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia as we mentioned before.  Japan was most ambitious and merciless now when it comes to China. It wa fastest developing Asian economy and military power and with its rise of power its ambitions were rising too. Japan already almost without resistance occupied Manchuria and now was aiming to occupy most of Chinese coast and a lot of other Chinese territories. Japan aimed to become biggest power in Asia and have control over vast territories and seas. Japan and Soviet Union perceived themselves as rivals as a result of Russo-Japanese War. Soviet Union perceived Japan as a threat and therefore was strengthening military presence in Siberia and was supporting Mongolia on which it relied as an ally. Japan had Manchukuo to balance against Soviet Union as it was afraid Soviet revisionism as Russia lost a lot of territories after the war of 1905. Northern and northeastern Chinese territories were great opportunity for Soviet Union and Japan to Balance against each other and increase their power in order to gain better strategic position and secure themselves. Communist revolutionaries had most of support and closest ties with Soviet Union but Soviet Union was not supporting them completely. Soviet Union was also providing support to Republican forces as it did not trust much to both sides and wanted to use the chance of weak and disunited China and supported such situation as much as possible. Soviet Union realized that weak China suits it the most and used to trade with both sides and sometimes support one side more and sometimes another. Republican government was avoiding conflict with Soviet Union and Japan at any cost what is obvious from 1931 ( Mukden incident) and was not even able to control its territories and not to defend them. Communist forces were calling in case of any occupation on guerilla warfare. China was also member of League of Nations but it was largely underestimated by world powers and barely had any influence.




source of cover photo:


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