Events of the Chinese Civil War

A Communist leader addressing survivors of the Long March.

Starting in earnest in 1927, the Chinese Civil War was a conflict fought between the Nationalist Party known as the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China under the leadership of Mao Zedong.

During the first decade, it was sporadically fought between the two sides, each being supported by foreign powers. The Kuomintang was funded and supported by Western powers, while the Communists were backed by the Soviet Union.

By the late 1930s, the civil war was brought to an abrupt halt when Japan attacked the nation, starting the Second Sino-Japanese War, which led into World War II. After the defeat of Japan, the war resumed and lasted four years, until the Kuomintang was relegated to control over Taiwan as the Republic of China, while the Communists governed the mainland as the People’s Republic of China.

Foundations of the Chinese Civil War

The foundations of the Chinese Civil War stemmed from the events of 1911 Revolution. The Qing Dynasty and the last emperor of China lost their power and were thrown out in favor of a modern government. This was short-lived however, as a number of warlords seized control of sections of the country.

By the 1920s, the Kuomintang took control of the government, garnering support from the Soviets and pushing for full unification. At the same time, the Communist Party began to rise to power. 1926 saw the onset of the Northern Expedition, an effort by the National Revolutionary Army to overthrow the remaining warlords. By 1928, they were successful, but the Communists and other factions began to fracture the national unity.

Nanchang Uprising and the Invasion of Japanese Forces

The Chinese Civil War itself began with the Nanchang Uprising. Forces from the Communist factions joined with a number of peasants in the city of Nanchang, seizing control. The Kuomintang responded by laying siege to the area for five days before Communist forces withdrew to the Jinggang Mountains.

By 1930, Mao Zedung had established a Soviet Chinese Republic in various southern areas of the Central Plains. In response, the Kuomintang launched five encirclement campaigns over the next ten years. Finally, in 1937, the Japanese invaded Manchuria, bringing the first part of the civil war to an end. The rival forces merged to fight the foreigners in what became known as the Second United Front.

Communist Takeover of Mainland China

At the end of World War II, the region of Manchuria was occupied by the military of the Soviet Union. After the defeat of Japan, the Kuomintang and the Communists immediately resumed their war. With the Soviet control of Manchuria, the Communists were now in a stronger position to wage war against the Nationalist forces.

Over the next four years, the Communist forces were able to force the Nationalists from the mainland into Taiwan. Although there was no real treaty establishing an end to the fighting, by 1950 the war was essentially over.