The Oxford Biblical Studies Online and Oxford Islamic Studies Online have retired. Content you previously purchased on Oxford Biblical Studies Online or Oxford Islamic Studies Online has now moved to Oxford Reference, Oxford Handbooks Online, Oxford Scholarship Online, or What Everyone Needs to Know®. For information on how to continue to view articles visit the subscriber services page.

Related Content

Related Overviews

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

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


Northern Expedition

See all related overviews in Oxford Reference »


More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • History
  • Contemporary History (post 1945)


Show Summary Details


National Revolutionary Army

Quick Reference


A Chinese army organized by Sun Yat‐sen. It became the military arm of the Guomindang, though relations were always tense. Large contingents were provided by local warlords, and the loyalty of these troops remained with their sponsors, rather than with the Guomindang. None the less, its Guomindang officers became the power base of Chiang Kai‐shek, who succeeded Sun as army leader in 1925. Once its reorganization, which had started in 1924 with the creation of the Whampoa Military Academy, was complete, the NRA set out on the Northern Expedition, in the hope that it would be able to recruit further numbers along the way. Indeed, army strength increased from 150,000 in 1926 to 600,000 in early 1928, and to over two million in 1930. However, this was a source of weakness as well as strength, as its heterogeneity increased. Unlike the Communist Red Army, which was tied together by strict discipline and a common ideology, most of its individual contingents remained interested primarily in their own profit, so that the NRA was prone to corruption and graft, as well as lack of coordination. Thus, despite its superior strength (three million soldiers in 1946) it was unable to prevail in the Chinese Civil War (1946–9).

Reference entries