Republic of China

The republic that Sun Yat-sen and his associates imagined slowly came about. The

revolutionists lacked an army, and the power of Yuan Shikai began to outdo that of

parliament. Yuan revised the constitution at will and became dictatorship. In August 1912 a new political

party was founded by Song Jiaoren ( 1882-1913), one of Sun's associates. The party, the Guomindang was

an blend of small political groups, including Sun's Tongmeng Hui . In the national elections held in February

1913 for the new bicameral parliament, Song campaigned against the Yuan administration, and his party

won a majority of seats. Yuan had Song assassinated in March; he had already arranged the

assassination of several pro-revolutionist generals. Animosity toward Yuan grew. In the summer of 1913

seven southern provinces rebelled against Yuan. When the rebellion was suppressed, Sun and other

instigators fled to Japan. In October 1913 an intimidated parliament formally elected Yuan president of the

Republic of China, and the major powers extended recognition to his government. To achieve international

recognition, Yuan Shikai had to agree to autonomy for Outer Mongolia and Xizang. China was still to be

suzerain, but it would have to allow Russia a free hand in Outer Mongolia and Britain continuance of its

influence in Xizang.

In November Yuan Shikai, legally president, ordered the Guomindang dissolved and its members

removed from parliament. Within a few months, he suspended parliament and the provincial assemblies

and forced the promulgation of a new constitution, which, in effect, made him president for life. Yuan's

ambitions still were not satisfied, and, by the end of 1915, it was announced that he would reestablish the

monarchy. Widespread rebellions ensued, and numerous provinces declared independence. With opposition

at every quarter and the nation breaking up into warlord factions, Yuan Shikai died of natural causes in

June 1916, deserted by his lieutenants.

Nationalism and Communism

After Yuan Shikai's death, shifting alliances of regional warlords fought for control of the Beijing

government. The nation also was threatened from without by the Japanese. When World War I broke out

in 1914, Japan fought on the Allied side and seized German holdings in Shandong Province. In 1915 the

Japanese set before the warlord government in Beijing the so-called Twenty-One Demands, which would

have made China a Japanese protectorate. The Beijing government rejected some of these demands but

yielded to the Japanese insistence on keeping the Shandong territory already in its possession. Beijing also

recognized Tokyo's authority over southern Manchuria and eastern Inner Mongolia. In 1917, in secret

communiqu?s, Britain, France, and Italy assented to the Japanese claim in exchange for the Japan's naval

action against Germany.

In 1917 China declared war on Germany in the hope of recovering its lost province, then under

Japanese control. But in 1918 the Beijing government signed a secret deal with Japan accepting the claim to

Shandong. When the Paris peace conference of 1919 confirmed the Japanese claim to Shandong and

Beijing's sellout became public, internal reaction was shattering. On May 4, 1919, there were massive

student demonstrations against the Beijing government and Japan. The political fervor, student activism,

and iconoclastic and reformist intellectual currents set in motion by the patriotic student protest

developed into a national awakening known as the May Fourth Movement. The intellectual milieu in which

the May Fourth Movement developed was known as the New Culture Movement and occupied the period

from 1917 to 1923. The student demonstrations of May 4, 1919 were the high point of the New Culture

Movement, and the terms are often used synonymously. Students returned from abroad advocating social

and political theories ranging from complete Westernization of China to the socialism that one day would

be adopted by China's communist rulers.

Opposing the Warlords

The May Fourth Movement helped to rekindle the then-fading cause of republican revolution. In

1917 Sun Yat-sen had become commander-in-chief of a rival military government in Guangzhou in

collaboration with southern warlords. In October 1919 Sun reestablished the Guomindang to counter the

government in Beijing. The latter, under a succession of warlords, still maintained its facade of legitimacy

and its relations with the West. By 1921 Sun had become president of the southern government. He spent

his remaining years trying to consolidate his regime and achieve unity with the north. His efforts to obtain

aid from the Western democracies were ignored, however, and in 1921 he turned to the Soviet Union,

which had