To leading up to and post Taiping Rebellion, one

To say that China has an old
and dark past is quite the understatement. I could write another ten pages on
the absolute cataclysmic events that took place during the dynasties which fill
the very land of China with blood. However, this time around I will discuss the
events leading up to and post Taiping Rebellion, one of the worst civil wars in
history. This rebellion was the turning point for the people of China in terms
of their stance as a society. Policies as well as government was in question
again, and this allowed reform to happen leading up to the Communist Revolution
of 1949.

            China was bound to have a rebellion sooner or later in
the late 1800’s. Problems the country had were compounded by natural disasters only
god could explain, including droughts, famines, and floods. Government neglect
of the public and their needs was also in part responsible for this and other
disasters. Unfortunately, the Qing administration did little to relieve the
widespread misery caused by them. There were economic tensions, military
defeats, and anti-Manchu protests that soon enveloped everyone in fear and
unrest. Although many thought this was to be a grand revolution, it utterly
failed in the end. The Taiping Rebellion finally was put down by Qing armies
assisted by British army regulars and American mercenaries, but it had left the
Qing dynasty weak and in shambles. Due to this the people within Chinese society
were now questioning the government and what the future would entail.

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            Fast forward about 60 years and enter the Chinese
Communist Party, founded in 1921 in Shanghai. Some of those within the party
were some of China’s smartest thinkers who wanted to modernize the country.
Most wanting the abolition of the feudal-Confucian system for the unification
of China. The system and social structure was very old for its time and begged
for change, “the gentry class (landlords who were also local officials) was an
obstacle to modernization” (Roger, 86). This higher class dominated the
peasants, who made up the vast majority of the population. Almost all of them
lived in poverty and died in it due to the recurrent famines. The urban workers
“about 2 million out of an estimated population of 300 million in 1918” (Roger,
116). These workers even in a city environment were mostly unskilled and lived
in similar circumstances as the peasants. This obviously made social reform a
priority, coming behind national unity and independence, because reformers saw
them as the basic principles modern China should be built on. One of those
reformers was a man by the name of Sun Yat-sen, who came to lead the
strongest movement for reform and unity, “Sun was born near Canton; he was
raised by his elder brother in Hawaii and graduated as a medical doctor in
Hongkong in 1892. Two years later, however, he began to devote himself to
political work for the overthrow of the Qing dynasty. His goal was to create a
strong, unified, modern, Chinese republic” (Fitzgerald, 73). As Yat-sen’s
influence grew over the country he started to look out to others for help
reestablishing a new government. Ignoring the west for obvious reasons, he
turned to Moscow where early Soviet relations began and communism within China
was just under the horizon.

            Sun Yat-sen’s primary goal was the reunification of the country.
To do this, he had to accomplish two key objectives: defeat the Chinese
warlords and force out the foreign powers. But first, he had to make the “KMT
an effective, political and military force.” (Fitzgerald, 83).  To do this, he needed outside help but since
he received no help from any of the foreign powers, so he turned to the
Comintern. “The Soviet Union supported Sun Yat-Sen’s KMT. The Soviets agreed to
give Sun military, political, and organizational help” (Fitzgerald, 85). This
helped Sun tremendously and in
May of that year, official diplomatic relations were established. The Soviet
government then fulfilled some of its earlier promises by “giving up the old
Russian concessions in Tianjin and Hankow, as well as paying the outstanding
part of the indemnity for Chinese losses incurred by Russian action” (Uhalley, 180). These Soviet moves cost Moscow very
little and increased Chinese reputation toward the USSR. However, Russia had
plans to use its communist influences to take China over and have it obey to
the Russian government i.e. Stalin, “ordered the CCP to join the KMT and many
leading communists did so, including Mao and Zhou Enlai. The goal was to
strengthen and, at the same time, infiltrate the KMT… The peak of CCP-KMT
cooperation came in the years of the Nationalist Revolution, in 1925-27” This
was the great campaign launched against the warlords of central China by Chiang
Kai-shek in 1926 (Fitzgerald, 122). This was the catalyst for China to finally
come together and because of that the country unified about half of its
citizens by 1927. Meanwhile, the warlords who loosely allied with Chiang, still
ruled large parts of China and there was no land reform. Many citizens became
alienated from Chiang by the end of this period because “he did not introduce
democratic reforms” (Uhalley, 236). On the contrary, he seemed to favor his own
dictatorship, and to see fascism as a desirable model of government. Yet
another perfect example communism will never work. Anyways, At this time the
communist movement needed new reform and a new face. It was during this period
that Mao came to the rescue and redirected Chinese communism from the workers
to the peasants who, after all, made up the vast majority of the population.
Mao changed the communist goal in China from a workers’ revolution to a peasant
revolution. Something that he saw as the first step toward a socialist
revolution.

As
this revolution came into reality the communists started to carry out land
reform. This really meant distributing the land equally, as in landlords and
richer peasants were to get less than the others. So of course, it never worked
that way because landlords and rich peasants kept more land in return for
supporting the communists. Despite that, the communists obtained solid support
from the peasants, for whom land reform concerned the most. This truly showed
how dependent the vast majority of Chinese society was on not only its
government but its reforms. That was the key to the communist’s success, the
very nature of their reforms was moderate but crucial enough to cause such an
impact on society. Citizens who were even still treated unequally, had to
continue to support the communist movement.

This
time period between the rebellion and revolution was a tremendous feat to adapt
to say the least. For a country to go through so many political and societal
changes, it’s no wonder the majority of the population let these reforms
happen. Anyone who was anyone was willing for change, any kind of change for
the better. It was that perfect moment that brought a small movement
catapulting up into a full political revolution. A revolution that had the
Soviet Union involved and even the United States. It only goes to show that
being in the right place at the right time can really be the catalyst for
change.