The Republic of China was formed on January 1, 1912 with Dr. Sun Yat-sen becoming President. However, since Sun Yat-sen could not retain his power, China soon went into a prolonged period of differences and disintegration with several parts of the country being administered by rival military leaders or warlords. As a result, Sun Yat-sen decided to launch another revolution to reunify the country under his Nationalist Party. The Nationalist Party’s objective was to enhance the life of the peasants and poor workers. In 1921, a few scholars, motivated by the Russian revolution in 1917 and helped by the Soviet Union, formed the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in order to come up with drastic solutions to China’s problems. During 1924, the small CCP united with Sun Yat-sen much bigger Nationalist party to battle with the warlords. Following several successes, this alliance came to an end in 1927. During this period, there was a young general known as Chiang Kai-shek who gained the trust of Dr. Sun Yat-sen due to rescuing his life on one occasion. He developed close personal ties to Sun Yat-sen by means of common revolutionary activities.  As a result, he became Sun’s trusted military leader, and in August of 1923, he was sent to the Soviet Union to study the Soviet military system, the political indoctrination of the Red Army, and the methods of discipline in the Bolshevik Party for a 3 months period.  After his return, he was ordered to build a military academy at Whampoa, right outside Guangzhou. Chiang Kai-shek was later appointed as the head of the Nationalist Party in 1928. Prior to becoming involved with the revolution, he had joined a secret society, formed ties with the Green Gang (a powerful organized-crime syndicate located in Shangai), and acquired military training in Japan. Besides his skills as a military strategist, Chiang Kai-shek was very effective at forming alliances that later facilitated him to steer the factional politics of the Nationalist Party. Since 1924 onwards, Chiang Kai-Shek was appointed as the Supreme Commander of the Nationalist Party military. His experience in the Soviet Union not only gave him skills in military strategies, but also made him realize that Communism was not suitable for China and that the first United Front between the Chinese Nationalist Party and the Chinese Communist Party was a mistake. After Sun’s death, Chiang Kai-shek took the nearby city of Nanjing and declared it to be the real capital of the republic. Later, in 1928, his forces took Beijing (northern capital) and renamed it Beiping (Northern Peace) to denote that the political center was still in the south (Chaurasia, 2004).

Chiang Kai-shek betrayed his communist partners by negotiating with some of the country’s most authoritative remaining warlords, who aided him in suppressing the Communists. In 1927, with the assistance of the Green Gang, he conducted a violent elimination of Communist members in Shangai by incarcerating and killing some individuals who had helped bring the Chinese-run parts of the city to the Northern Expedition forces. He attempted to employ his armies to crush the trade unionists and Communists but it proved to be impossible. Chiang Kai-shek attempted in various times to surround the base areas and demolish the main clusters of remaining Communists. Some members of the organization were not discovered as they operated underground cells in cities held by the Nationalists, whereas others fled to rural Communist base areas. During the late 1934, the CCP was surrounded by Chiang Kai-shek’s army left their temporary headquarters in the southern province of Jiangxi and started a torturous trek northwards. In order to save their lives, the Communist Party had to move its headquarters further into the Chinese countryside.  In order to escape Chiang Kai-shek attacks, they were compelled to start a yearlong, 6,000 mile journey known as the Long March, which made them cross some of the furthest parts of China.   Sarcastically, this withdrawal produced the circumstances for the ultimate rise to power of the man who would direct the CCP to nationwide victory known as Mao Zedong who was born in 1893. He later became a Marxist and formed the local branch of the Chinese Communist Party in 1920. One year later, he was elected as the General Secretary for the CCP in Hunan. Subsequent to the death of Dr. Sun Yat-sen in 1925, he became a dynamic member of the Nationalist Party, the Kuomintang or KMIT, or Guomindang (GMD) (Fitzgerald, 1997).  He was among the junior originators of the Communist Party and was extremely considerate to China’s suffering peasants. During the end of 1927, Mao Zedong had led the remaining Communist forces who had survived attacks from the army of Chiang Kai-Shek to the rough border region linking the provinces of Hunan and Jiangxi. During this period, he began to form an army from groups including the peasants, vagabonds, as well as bandits. Mao Zedong started to rise to the top of the party leadership even as the CCP was located in the rural areas.  The 1934-1935 rambles ceased with the Communist forming a new base area in Shaanxi Province.  In October 1935, the CCP were secured and positioned in Yan’an where Mao Zedong combined his political and ideological control of the CCP.  He was selected party Chairman in 1943, a position he held until 1976.  Under his leadership, the CCP also executed land reform as well as other policies that profited the peasants in the areas under its control (Weir, 2006).

According to Meisner (2007), the start of World War II in 1937 brought several problems to China. Japan attacked China and their main intention was to take over the country.  The Communists and Nationalists were compelled to unite and join the Allied forces. The Japanese army drove Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government to the far Southwestern part of the country. As a result, the Nationalist were eliminated and ceased to be an active opponent against Japanese violence. On the other hand, the CCP base in Yan’an was on the front line against Japan’s troops.  Mao Zedong and the Communists effectively organized the peasants to employ guerilla warfare to fight the invaders. Following the end of World War II in 1945, the CCP had greatly extended its membership and had formed a solid military force of its own. It governed a huge part of the countryside in north China and had extensive support among the population. Quite the opposite, the Nationalists were removed from several parts of China and did not gain fame with the Chinese on account of economic negligence, political repression, corruption, and  failure to effectively resist the Japanese. Following Japan’s surrender, the Chinese Civil War promptly recommenced and the Communists gained an important victory over the U.S.-backed Nationalists. The United States continued to support the Nationalists during the Chinese civil war from 1946 to 1949. Initially, the Nationalists were powerful in strength compared to the Communist Chinese. However, since the Nationalists did little to promise future support to the Chinese peasants, they started to face massive shift of their soldiers to the ranks of Mao Zedong’s army.  As a result, Mao won control of China and Chiang Kai-shek and his supporters were compelled to flee to the island of Taiwan, 90 miles off the Chinese coast. On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong promulgated the commencement of People’s Republic of China.

Analysis of Mao Zedong

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Mao Zedong was a good leader since he promised the citizens that if they won, they would be reallocated land. This gained him support in several villages, because words had spread that bold land reform programs (in which landlords were denied of their holdings and even beaten or exterminated) had been happening for years in areas under the Communist Party’s control. According to Huang (1975), the Communists took advantage of the weaknesses of the Kuomintang or Chiang Kai-shek government. They won peasant support by proposing and instituting land reforms. In the countryside, millions of peasants, drawn to the Communists by promises of land and social justice, gathered to serve in Mao Zedong’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) (271). He had managed to remove the fears of city dwellers that were panicking from rampant inflation and raised the hopes of peasants who were expecting to receive their own land from redistributed landlord holdings. The Chinese Communists under the leadership of Mao Zedong had well-built and effective ideological and foreign policy leanings. Their links with the Soviet Union and the influence of the USSR on their approach to the United States were also vital, as they were able to gain more support from the USSR, resulting eventually to the Sino-Soviet alliance of 1950. Mao Zedong was proven to be a good leader as he had built a strong and unified party, army and base of support. Being a charismatic thinker, radiant strategist, and shrewd but wily political manipulator, he managed to take the Communists to victory in the Civil War and in 1949 united the nation and abolished most of the foreign-owned territories. Mao’s Communism party also owed its success to skill in adjusting to local conditions. As previously noted, by directing 80,000 of his followers on an heroic 6,200 mile march, through freezing temperatures, across harsh deserts to a northern base at Yenan, in Shensi province, identified as the Long March clearly exhibits his leadership skills. Even though the Long March which lasted for a year destroyed 90 percent of the marchers, it established Mao as the unquestionable leader of the communists. However, the main ground for the party’s survival and success was the Sino-Japanese war (Chor, 2002).  Additionally, he is widely remembered for inventing a new kind of guerilla warfare during the period of 1928 to 1930.  During the first stages of the Japanese invasion, the CCP used conventional force tactics. However, the outcome proved to be a disaster. As a result, they employed guerilla warfare strategy to fight with the Japanese forces. His strategy was divided into three stages. In the initial mobilization phase, the Communists sought to win the support of the population by ways of propaganda and efforts to destabilize the government. In the second stage, the communists carried out a prolonged war against the government and its security forces, attacking and devastating military, political and economic intentions wherever possible, but evading pitched battle. Finally in the third and critical stage, when the Communists had become extremely strong, they deserted guerilla tactics and implemented the techniques of conventional warfare to conquer the government and seize power. The major emphasis of Mao’s model of guerilla warfare was utilizing base areas and mobilizing the peasants with the support of the Eighth Route Army (Zedong, Tse-Tung, & Conners, 2009).

Analysis of Chiang Kai-shek

Chiang Kai-shek was a poor leader as he was unable to govern the country effectively in the late 1940s. Poor peasants showed antipathy towards high land taxes, high rents, steep interest rates, and government arrests. The Communist forces increased in strength while the larger Nationalist forces suffered, opening the way to Communist victory against the U.S.-supported Nationalists in 1949. The United States was unable to provide strong forces and reliable bases for the defeat of China due to the several weaknesses of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist armies, the failure of the United States to deliver and train large numbers of Chinese forces in view of Japan’s control of the main surface routes of supply, and the predominance Chiang’s Nationalists and Mao’s Communists bestowed to their fight with one another. Furthermore, Chiang Kai-shek was also not lucky since he had lost the confidence of the Chinese people. As noted earlier due to poor leadership, he was unable to handle the corruption and inflation that plagued the country. When Chiang Kai-shek removed the KMT’s rank of its Communist members, he also eliminated peasant supporters (Fenby, 2005).

During World War II, the Communists and Nationalists united against Japan as the common adversary, although there was little trust on either side. During the end of 1946, the Civil War began again in full blast. Three million Nationalist troops occupied the cities, whereas a million Communist guerillas occupied the countryside.  Chiang’s government weakened by poor administration skills and inefficiency, made no effort to enhance the group of the peasantry, a serious mistake that worked to the benefit of the Communists.  In the cities, middle-class Chinese, usually unreceptive to communism, were isolated by Chiang’s brutal suppression and his government’s inability to reduce the damaging rate of inflation or unravel the economic problems it created. With morale reducing in the cities, Chiang’s troops started to turn to the Communists. In various instances, whole divisions, officers as well as ordinary soldiers, shifted to the Communist side. During this period, they were triumphing in the field, laying siege to Nationalist garrisons and interrupting communications between them. The year 1949 resulted in the disintegration of Nationalist China as Chiang Kai-Shek and his overpowered government fled to Taiwan. Even though Chiang Kai-Shek had great talents, he was unable to offer an efficient administration and hence failed to stir up sympathy from the Chinese people. His redundant campaigns against the communists deteriorated away his energy and eventually resulted to his downfall. His failure is attributed to lack of revolutionary commitment and sincerity which expressed itself in various ways varying from factionalism to simple incompetence. As a matter of fact, almost all Chinese felt let down by Chiang Kai-shek’s use of defeated Japanese troops to fight Chinese Communist forces after World War II ended (Fenby, 2005).


Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek were raised in similar social backgrounds. They were the sons of well-to-do peasant families. The background of the two opponents was very similar; however, they differed in their leadership attributes.  Mao Zedong’s record until 1948 was a truly outstanding one. He had led a huge social revolution, had overpowered the Japanese invaders and the Nationalists, and had formed the People’s Republic of China, the world’s largest Communist state.  Mao Zedong knew that victory would be guaranteed only if decisive commitments were prevented in unfavorable circumstances. He realized that the concept of compulsory mobilization must be substituted with political mobilization. Moreover, he originated a united command by controlling, disciplining, and combining efforts with the partisan warfare of the people.  He achieved victory by upholding friendly forces and clearing up enemy forces. All these considerable achievements resulted from his good leadership skills. On the other hand, Chiang Kai-shek rose to the top of the Guomindang (GMD) by ruthless military ways, for instance, he intrigued and plotted with some of the worst figures in Chinese society so as to uphold himself in power. His reliance on scheming relations with fraudulent Chinese and foreign financiers effectively thwarted him from actually characterizing the Chinese people and rendered him incapable of pursuing the social change. As Huang (1975) confirms, “Chiang Kai-shek relied fully on the army as the source of all power” (272). All this was clearly depicted by his poor leadership skills. 

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