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Chinese Revolutions

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Chinese Revolutionary Destinations are important places in China's history from 1911 to 1949, when it cut ties with its long Imperial past and was founded as a republic which then evolved into today's modern communist state. This journey was forged by a great deal of war between the Chinese people as well as the invading Japanese Imperial army, and continues to define the world to this day.


The two thousand-year old imperial Chinese system collapsed in 1911, beginning with the Wuchang Uprising in what is now Wuhan. Sun Yat-Sen (孙中山, Sūn Zhōngshān) was not there at the start — he was in the US raising funds from overseas Chinese — but he quickly returned to China, led the Xinhai Revolution, and founded the Republic of China (中华民国 Zhōnghuá Mínguó).

Central rule collapsed in 1916 after Yuan Shih-kai (袁世凯), the second president of the Republic and self-declared emperor, passed away; China descended into anarchy, with various self-serving warlords ruling over different regions of China.

In 1919, student protests in Beijing gave birth to the "May Fourth Movement" (五四运动 Wǔ Sì Yùndòng), which espoused various reforms to Chinese society, such as the use of the vernacular in writing, as well as the development of science and democracy. The intellectual ferment of the May Fourth Movement gave birth to the reorganized Kuomintang (KMT) in 1919 and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), with its first meeting in the French Concession of Shanghai in 1921.

Chairman Mao on the Long March

After uniting much of eastern China under KMT rule in 1928, the CCP and the KMT turned on each other, with the CCP fleeing to Yan'an in Shaanxi in the epic Long March. During the period from 1922 to 1937, Shanghai became a truly cosmopolitan city, as one of the world's busiest ports, and the most prosperous city in East Asia, home to millions of Chinese and 60,000 foreigners from all corners of the globe. However, underlying problems such as civil unrest, famines and warlord conflict, still afflicted the vast countryside, particularly the more inland parts of the country.

Japan established a puppet state under the name Manchukuo in Manchuria in 1931, and launched a full-scale invasion of China's heartland in 1937. The Japanese initiated a brutal system of rule in Eastern China, culminating in the Nanjing Massacre of 1937. After fleeing west to Chongqing, the KMT realized the urgency of the situation and signed a tenuous agreement with the CCP to form a second united front against the Japanese. In 1941 and 1942, Japan attacked many territories in southeast Asia and Oceania (including Pearl Harbor, Singapore and Darwin), starting the Pacific War.

With the defeat of Japan at the end of World War II in 1945, the KMT and CCP armies manoeuvred for positions in north China, setting the stage for the civil war in the years to come. The civil war lasted from 1946 to 1949 and ended with the Kuomintang defeated and sent packing to Taiwan with the intention to re-establish themselves and recapture the mainland.

Mao Zedong officially declared the establishment of the People's Republic of China on 1 Oct 1949. After an initial period closely hewing to the Soviet model of heavy industrialization and comprehensive central economic planning, China began to experiment with adapting Marxism to a largely agrarian society.

According to the Communist Party, the Revolution had several phases, including the Cultural Revolution, which was initiated in 1966, and was ongoing to Mao's death in 1976; bringing China's revolutionary era to a total of 65 years. A power struggle between Hua Guofeng, Mao's anointed successor, and Deng Xiaoping would ensue after Mao's death, with Deng eventually emerging victorious in 1978. Deng would abandon a hardline communist policy and re-introduce capitalist elements to China during his years in office, kickstarting an economic boom and the rapid rise of China to one of the world's economic powerhouses.

To this date, Taiwan remains a vestige of the Republic of China. Neither of the two Chinese nations give official recognition to each other, and political relations are complicated. That said, both sides of the Taiwan Strait have developed close economic ties, with substantial Taiwanese investment in the mainland, and direct cross-strait flights having resumed in 2008.


Map of Chinese Revolutions
  • 1 Wuhan (武汉). Site of the 1911 Wuchang Uprising that led to the fall of the Qing Dynasty and the establishment of the Republic of China
  • 2 Shaoshan (韶山). Mao Zedong's hometown
  • 3 Guangzhou (广州). Site of the Whampoa Military Academy where both KMT and Communist leaders (Chiang Kai Shek, Zhou Enlai, Mao Zedong) trained and led troops and political study groups before the Northern Expedition of 1926-27.
  • 4 Nanjing (南京). Capital of China during the Republic of China period, and home to the presidential palace used by Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek. Also home to the mausoleum of Sun Yat-sen.
  • 5 Nanchang (南昌). Site of the Nanchang Uprising, the CCP's first armed uprising against the KMT government, which marked the beginning of the Chinese Civil War.
  • 6 Jinggangshan (井冈山). The first CCP rural base area after the 1927 crackdown by the KMT
  • 7 Ruijin (瑞金). Seat of the China Soviet Republic from 1929 to 1934
Site of the Zunyi Conference
  • 8 Zunyi (遵义). Site of the Zunyi Conference where Mao Zedong joined the Politburo Standing Committee
The Luding crossing today
  • 9 Luding (泸定). Site of a famous forced crossing of a high mountain river
  • 10 Yan'an (延安). Primary base area for the Communist Party from 1935 to 1945
  • 11 Fenghua (奉化). Birthplace of Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Republic of China from 1928-1949, following which he retreated to Taiwan following the communist victory and ruled until his death in 1975.
  • 12 Cuiheng (翠亨). Birthplace of Sun Yat-sen, father of the Republic of China.
  • 13 Huai'an (淮安). Birthplace of Zhou Enlai, the first premier of the People's Republic of China.
  • 14 Guang'an (广安). Birthplace of Deng Xiaoping, Mao's eventual successor who instituted market-oriented reforms that kickstarted China's rise to one of the world's major economic powers.

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