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