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The Chinese Civil war took place over a long period of time between 1927 and 1950. The war was interrupted when Japan invaded China in 1936 and by World War II. The war was fought between the nationalist government of China, also called the Kuomintang (KMT), and the Communist Party of China (CPC).
Dates: 1927-1936, 1945 - 1950
The Kuomintang was founded by Sun Yat-sen. The group was led by Chiang Kai-shek throughout the civil war. Important generals included Bai Chongxi and Chen Cheng.
The Communist Party of China, or CPC, was led by Mao Zedong. Other important leaders included second in command Zhou Enlai and generals Zhu De and Peng Dehuai.
Chiang Kai-shek by Unknown
Before the War
After the Qing Dynasty collapsed in 1911 there was a vacuum of power in China. Two major parties formed, the nationalist Kuomintang Party and the Communist Party (CPC). Some areas of the country were controlled by warlords. The Kuomintang and the CPC united for a time. They wanted to unify China. They both received help from the Soviet Union. Although they were somewhat united, they continued to have an internal rivalry between the two major parties.
The Civil War Begins
In 1927 the rivalry became a war. Chiang Kai-shek of the Kuomintang decided to get rid of the CPC. The Kuomintang killed and arrested many of the CPC leaders in what is today called the Shanghai Massacre. Mao Zedong of the CPC led an uprising against the Kuomintang called the Autumn Harvest Uprising. The uprising failed, but the civil war had begun.
Ten Years Civil War
Over the next ten years, from 1927 to 1936 the two sides fought. Mao Zedong led peasants and common people in uprisings against the Kuomintang. At the same time Chiang Kai-shek tried to put down the uprisings and eliminate Mao and the CPC Army.
The Long March
In 1934, Mao and the CPC army had to retreat from the Kuomintang. They went on a series of long marches that lasted an entire year, from October of 1934 to October of 1935. They traveled around 7,000 miles. They began the Long March at Jiangxi province in south China and finally stopped at the Shaanxi province of northern China. Out of around 80,000 soldiers that began the march, only 8,000 or so made it to the end.
Long March Survivors by Unknown
World War II
When the Japanese invaded China in 1937, the CPC and the Kuomintang once again united in order to defend their homeland. This uneasy alliance continued throughout World War II, but the two sides still hated and mistrusted each other.
The Civil War Renewed
After the end of World War II in 1945, the two sides resumed their civil war. With American support, Chiang Kai-shek took control of China's major cities. However, the CPC was heavily funded by the Soviet Union and quickly gained support in the rural areas.
The CPC launched an assault in Northern China where the Soviets had control. The Soviets helped them by letting them have the weapons left by the Japanese. For the first few years the United States tried to broker a peace between the two sides where the country would be split. However, neither side was willing to give in.
The End of the Fighting
By 1948 the CPC was gaining momentum. They continued to take nationalist cities and, with each victory, they were gaining support within the population of China. In October of 1949, the CPC captured Beijing. They declared victory and said that China was now under the rule of the People's Republic of China. The nationalists fled to the island of Taiwan where they established their own government called the Republic of China.
Facts About the Chinese Civil War
Even today both governments lay claim to being the legal government of China. In some ways the civil war is not over, but there hasn't been fighting for many years.
It was the third largest war in the history of the world after World War I and World War II.
It was during the Long March that Mao Zedong gained total control of the CPC as its primary leader.
Mao Zedong was a follower of Marxism. His version of communism is often referred to as Maoism today.