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Communist Party

Sun Yat-sen (1866—1925) Chinese Kuomintang statesman

Chiang Kai-shek (1887—1975) Chinese statesman and general, President of China 1928–31

Yuan Shikai (1859—1916)

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Early history (1912–49)

Also known as the Chinese Nationalist Party, its origins go back to the end of the Qing dynasty. In April 1912 Song Jiaoren and Sun Yat-sen reorganized and merged several revolutionary organizations into the Chinese Revolutionary Party. Outlawed by Yuan Shikai in 1913, Sun set up a government in Guangzhou (Canton) of the ‘Republic of China’ in 1917 as a rival to the regime in Peking. In 1918, he himself was forced to leave for Shanghai, where he transformed the Chinese Revolutionary Party into the Guomindang on 10 October 1919. He was able to return to Guangzhou in 1920. Having sought Western aid in vain, he received support from the Soviet Communist Party, and in 1923 entered an alliance with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The party was reformed on Leninist principles of democratic centralism, which remained the party's organizational principle until the 1990s. Communists were admitted into the party, which held its first conference in January 1924. It claimed leadership in the nationalist struggle to unite the country and to rid it of all foreign influence. Its ideology was based on the ‘Three People's Principles’: nationalism, people's rights, and people's livelihood.

Under Chiang Kai-shek's leadership from 1925, it was encouraged and strengthened by the successful conduct of the Northern Expedition, which allowed the KMT to form a government in Nanjing (Nangking). Boosted by this. Chiang dissolved the alliance with the CCP in April 1927. Success in the Northern Expedition, however, also strengthened the KMT's military wing, the National Revolutionary Army. As the party grew, Chiang lost his ability to control its various factions, though his leadership remained undisputed. Apart from internal friction, the KMT was also weakened by constant warfare, first against the Communists, and then against the Japanese. After World War II, it resumed its fight against the Communists in the Chinese Civil War. By 1949, the KMT was defeated by a well-organized Communist movement and by popular resentment against the corruption within the KMT's own ranks.

Taiwan (from 1949)

The leaders of the KMT retreated to Taiwan, where it remained the ruling party claiming to represent the whole of China. It retained its authoritarian, Leninist structure, being dominated by a clique of KMT officials originally from the mainland. Its rigid policies were only carefully relaxed under Chiang's successor from 1975, his son Chiang Ching-kuo, who chose a native Taiwanese, Lee Teng-hui, as his deputy. Tensions within the party continued, however, since Chinese members continued to have a disproportionate influence over the party. In 2000, the KMT's candidate, Vice-President Lien Chan, lost the presidential elections to Chen Shui-bian. It opposed Chen's drives towards formally declaring independence from mainland China, and underlining this claim by emphasizing Taiwan's cultural distinctiveness. The KMT was unable to stop a growing popular identification with Taiwanese culture, and narrowly lost the 2004 presidential elections.

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