The oldest surviving republic in East Asia, the Republic of China was formally established on 1 January 1912 in mainland China following the Xinhai Revolution, which itself began with the Wuchang Uprising on 10 October 1911, replacing the Qing Dynasty and ending over two thousand years of imperial rule in China. Central authority waxed and waned in response to warlordism (1915–28), Japanese invasion (1937–45), and the Chinese Civil War (1927–49), with central authority strongest during the Nanjing Decade (1927–37), when most of China came under the control of the Kuomintang (KMT) under an authoritarian one-party state.[1]

At the end of World War II in 1945, the Empire of Japan surrendered control of Taiwan and its island groups to the Allied Forces, and Taiwan was placed under the Republic of China's administrative control. The legitimacy of this transfer is disputed and is another aspect of the disputed political status of Taiwan.

After World War II, the civil war between the ruling Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China resumed, despite attempts at mediation by the United States. The Nationalist Government began drafting the Constitution of the Republic of China under a National Assembly, but was boycotted by the communists. With the promulgation of the constitution, the Nationalist Government abolished itself and was replaced by the Government of the Republic of China. Following their loss of the Civil War, the Nationalist Government retreated moved their capital to Taiwan while claiming that they were the legitimate government of the mainland.


After Sun's death on 12 March 1925, four months later on 1 July 1925, the Nationalist Government of the Republic of China was established in Guangzhou.

The following year, Chiang Kai-shek became the de facto leader of the KMT. Chiang led the Northern Expedition through China with the intention of defeating the warlords and unifying the country. Chiang received the help of the Soviet Union and the Chinese Communists; however, he soon dismissed his Soviet advisors. He was convinced, not without reason, that they wanted to get rid of the KMT (also known as the Nationalists) and take over.[2] Chiang decided to strike first and purged the Communists, killing thousands of them. At the same time, other violent conflicts took place in the south of China where the Communists fielded superior numbers and were massacring Nationalist supporters. These events eventually led to the Chinese Civil War between the Nationalists and Communists. Chiang Kai-shek pushed the Communists into the interior as he sought to destroy them, and moved the Nationalist Government to Nanjing in 1927.[3] Leftists within the KMT still allied to the communists had established a rival Nationalist Government in Wuhan two months earlier, but soon joined Chiang in Nanjing in August 1927. By the following year, Chiang's army had captured Beijing after overthrowing the Beiyang government and unified the entire nation, at least nominally, marking the beginning the Nanjing Decade.

Nanjing Decade and War with Japan

Organisational chart of the KMT regime (1934).

According to Sun Yat-sen's "Three Stages of Revolution" theory, the KMT was to rebuild China in three phases: the first stage was military unification, which was carried out with the Northern Expedition; the second was "political tutelage" which was a provisional government led by the KMT to educate people about their political and civil rights, and the third stage was constitutional government.[4] By 1928, the Nationalists, having taken over power militarily and reunified China, started the second phase, promulgating a provisional constitution and beginning the period of so-called "tutelage".[5] The KMT was criticized as instituting totalitarianism, but claimed it was attempting to establish a modern democratic society. Among others, they created at that time the Academia Sinica, the Central Bank of China, and other agencies. In 1932, China sent a team for the first time to the Olympic Games. Historians, such as Edmund Fung, argue that establishing a democracy in China at that time was not possible. The nation was at war and divided between Communists and Nationalists. Corruption within the government and lack of direction also prevented any significant reform from taking place. Chiang realized the lack of real work being done within his administration and told the State Council: "Our organization becomes worse and worse ... many staff members just sit at their desks and gaze into space, others read newspapers and still others sleep."[6] The Nationalist government wrote a draft of the constitution on 5 May 1936.[7] Mass killing under the nationalists were common with millions of people killed. Notable mass killings include deaths from forced army conscription and the White Terror.[8]

The Nationalists faced a new challenge with the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, with hostilities continuing through the Second Sino-Japanese War, part of World War II, from 1937 to 1945. The government of the Republic of China retreated from Nanjing to Chongqing. In 1945, after the war of eight years, Japan surrendered and the Republic of China, under the name "China", became one of the founding members of the United Nations. The government returned to Nanjing in 1946.

Post-World War II

After the defeat of Japan during World War II, Taiwan was surrendered to the Allies, with ROC troops accepting the surrender of the Japanese garrison. The government of the ROC proclaimed the "retrocession" of Taiwan to the Republic of China and established a provincial government on the island. The military administration of the ROC extended over Taiwan, which led to widespread unrest and increasing tensions between local Taiwanese and mainlanders.[9] The shooting of a civilian on 28 February 1947 triggered an island-wide unrest, which was brutally suppressed with military force in what is now known as the February 28 Incident. Mainstream estimates of casualties range from 18,000 to 30,000, mainly Taiwanese elites.[10][11] The 28 February Incident has had far-reaching effects on subsequent Taiwan history.

From 1945 to 1947, under United States mediation, especially through the Marshall Mission, the Nationalists and Communists agreed to start a series of peace talks aiming at establishing a coalition government. The two parties agreed to open multiparty talks on post-World War II political reforms via a Political Consultative Conference. This was included in the Double Tenth Agreement. This agreement was implemented by the Nationalist Government, who organized the first Political Consultative Assembly from 10–31 January 1946. Representatives of the Kuomintang, Communist Party of China, Chinese Youth Party, and China Democratic League, as well as independent delegates, attended the conference in Chongqing. However, shortly afterward, the two parties failed to reach an agreement and the civil war resumed.[12] In the context of political and military animosity, the National Assembly was summoned by the Nationalists without the participation of the Communists and promulgated the Constitution of the Republic of China. The constitution was criticized by the Communists,[13] and led to the final break between the two sides.[14] The full-scale civil war resumed from early 1947.[15]

After the National Assembly election, the drafted Constitution was adopted by the National Assembly on 25 December 1946, promulgated by the National Government on 1 January 1947, and went into effect on 25 December 1947. The Constitution was seen as the third and final stage of Kuomintang reconstruction of China. Chiang Kai-shek was also elected as the 1st President of the Republic of China under the constitution by the National Assembly in 1948, with Li Zongren being elected as Vice-President. The Nationalist Government was abolished on 20 May 1948, after the Government of the Republic of China was established with the presidential inauguration of Chiang. The Communists, though invited to the convention that drafted it, boycotted and declared after the ratification that not only would it not recognize the ROC constitution, but all bills passed by the Nationalist administration would be disregarded as well. Zhou Enlai challenged the legitimacy of the National Assembly in 1947 by accusing KMT hand-picked the members of the National Assembly 10 years earlier and thus could not have legal representation of the Chinese people.


Headquarters of the National Government in Nanjing

The National Government governed under a dual-party state apparatus under the ideology of Dang Guo, effectively making it a one-party state; however, existing parties continued to operate and new ones form. After the end of the Second World War, and particularly after the passage of the constitution in 1946, the National Government was reconstituted to include multiple parties, in preparation of full democratic government to come.

In February 1928, the Fourth Plenary Session of the 2nd Kuomintang National Congress held in Nanjing passed the Reorganization of the National Government Act. This act stipulated the National Government was to be directed and regulated under the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang, with the Committee of the Nationalist Government being elected by KMT Central Committee. Under the National Government were seven ministries – Interior, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Transport, Justice, Agriculture and Mines, Commerce in addition institutions such as the Supreme Court, Control Yuan and the General Academy.

With the promulgation of the Organic Law of the National Government in October 1928, the government was reorganized into five different branches or Yuan, namely the Executive Yuan, Legislative Yuan, Judicial Yuan, Examination Yuan as well as the Control Yuan. The Chairman of the National Government was to be the head-of-state and commander-in-chief of the National Revolutionary Army. Chiang Kai-shek was appointed as the first Chairman of the National Government, a position he would retain until 1931. The Organic Law also stipulated that the Kuomintang, through its National Congress and Central Executive Committee, would exercise sovereign power during the period of political tutelage, and the KMT's Political Council would guide and superintend the National Government in the execution of important national affairs, and that the council has the power to interpret or amend the organic law.[16]

Human Rights violations

KMT troops rounding up Communist prisoners.

The Nationalist government of China has been accused of mass killings, as Rudolph Rummel estimates the Nationalist government of China is responsible for between 6 and 18.5 million deaths He attributes this death toll to a few major causes for example:[8]


The NRA during World War II

The National Revolutionary Army (NRA) (traditional Chinese: 國民革命軍; simplified Chinese: 国民革命军; pinyin: Guómín Gémìng Jūn; Wade–Giles: Kuo-min Ke-ming Chün), pre-1928 sometimes shortened to 革命軍 or Revolutionary Army and between 1928 and 1947 as 國軍 or National Army was the Military Arm of the Kuomintang (KMT) from 1925 until 1947, as well as the national army of the Republic of China during the KMT's period of party rule beginning in 1928.

Originally organized with Soviet aid as a means for the KMT to unify China against warlordism, the National Revolutionary Army fought major engagements in the Northern Expedition against the Chinese Beiyang Army warlords, in the Second Sino-Japanese War against the Imperial Japanese Army, and in the Chinese Civil War against the People's Liberation Army.

During the Second Sino-Japanese War, the armed forces of the Communist Party of China were nominally incorporated into the National Revolutionary Army (while retaining separate commands), but broke away to form the People's Liberation Army shortly after the end of the war. With the promulgation of the Constitution of the Republic of China in 1947 and the formal end of the KMT party-state, the National Revolutionary Army was renamed the Republic of China Armed Forces (中華民國國軍), with the bulk of its forces forming the Republic of China Army, which retreated to Taiwan in 1949.

The military was formed through bloody and inhumane forced conscription campaigns; these campaigns are described by Rudolph Rummel as thus:[8]

"Then there was the process of conscription. This was a deadly affair in which men were kidnapped for the army, rounded up indiscriminately by press-gangs or army units among those on the roads or in the towns and villages, or otherwise gathered together. Many men, some the very young and old, were killed resisting or trying to escape. Once collected, they would be roped or chained together and marched, with little food or water, long distances to camp. They often died or were killed along the way, sometimes less than 50 percent reaching camp alive. Then recruit camp was no better, with hospitals resembling Nazi concentration camps like Buchenwald. Probably 3,081,000 died during the Sino-Japanese War; likely another 1,131,000 during the Civil War – 4,212,000 dead in total. Just during conscription."


A currency bill from 1930, early ROC
Boat traffic and development along Suzhou Creek, Shanghai, around 1920

After the Kuomintang reunified the country in 1928, China entered a period of relative prosperity despite civil war and Japanese aggression. In 1937, the Japanese invaded and laid China to waste in eight years of war. The era also saw the first boycott of Japanese products.

Chinese industries continue to develop in the 1930s with the advent of the Nanjing decade in the 1930s, when Chiang Kai-shek unified most of the country and brought political stability. China's industries developed and grew from 1927 to 1931. Though badly hit by the Great Depression from 1931 to 1935 and Japan's occupation of Manchuria in 1931, industrial output recovered by 1936. By 1936, industrial output had recovered and surpassed its previous peak in 1931 prior to the Great Depression's effects on China. This is best shown by the trends in Chinese GDP. In 1932, China's GDP peaked at 28.8 billion, before falling to 21.3 billion by 1934 and recovering to 23.7 billion by 1935.[17] By 1930, foreign investment in China totaled 3.5 billion, with Japan leading (1.4 billion) and the United Kingdom at 1 billion. By 1948, however, the capital stock had halted with investment dropping to only 3 billion, with the US and Britain leading.[18]

However, the rural economy was hit hard by the Great Depression of the 1930s, in which an overproduction of agricultural goods lead to massive falling prices for China as well as an increase in foreign imports (as agricultural goods produced in western countries were "dumped" in China). In 1931, imports of rice in China amounted to 21 million bushels compared with 12 million in 1928. Other goods saw even more staggering increases. In 1932, 15 million bushels of grain were imported compared with 900,000 in 1928. This increased competition lead to a massive decline in Chinese agricultural prices (which were cheaper) and thus the income of rural farmers. In 1932, agricultural prices were 41 percent of 1921 levels.[19] Rural incomes had fallen to 57 percent of 1931 levels by 1934 in some areas.[19]

In 1937, Japan invaded China and the resulting warfare laid waste to China. Most of the prosperous east China coast was occupied by the Japanese, who carried out various atrocities such as the Rape of Nanjing in 1937 and random massacres of whole villages. In one anti-guerilla sweep in 1942, the Japanese killed up to 200,000 civilians in a month. The war was estimated to have killed between 20 and 25 million Chinese, and destroyed all that Chiang had built up in the preceding decade.[20] Development of industries was severely hampered after the war by devastating conflict as well as the inflow of cheap American goods. By 1946, Chinese industries operated at 20 percent capacity and had 25 percent of the output of pre-war China.[21]

One effect of the war was a massive increase in government control of industries. In 1936, government-owned industries were only 15% of GDP. However, the ROC government took control of many industries in order to fight the war. In 1938, the ROC established a commission for industries and mines to control and supervise firms, as well as instilling price controls. By 1942, 70 percent of the capital of Chinese industry were owned by the government.[22]

Following the war with Japan, Chiang acquired Taiwan from Japan and renewed his struggle with the communists. However, the corruption of the KMT, as well as hyperinflation as a result of trying to fight the civil war, resulted in mass unrest throughout the Republic[23] and sympathy for the communists. In addition, the communists' promise to redistribute land gained them support among the massive rural population. In 1949, the communists captured Beijing and later Nanjing as well. The People's Republic of China was proclaimed in Beijing on 1 October 1949. The Republic of China central government relocated in Taipei on 7 December 1949, to Taiwan where Japan had laid an educational groundwork.[24]

Former Sites

Almost all of the former sites of the nationalist government are headquartered in the city of Nanking, the capital at the time, with only one exception.

Name Image Location Construction Date Description
Headquarters of the Nationalist Government Entrance to the Former ROC Presidents Residence(5616558734).jpg No.292 Changjiang Road, Xuanwu District, Nanjing 1870-1930s The complex were served as Viceroy of Liangjiang's Office in Qing dynasty, and as the Presidential Palace in 1948.
Executive Yuan (1928) Administration-building-of-KMT.JPG No.19 Dongjian Road, Xuanwu District, Nanjing 1920s The building, serving as the Executive Yuan from 1928 to 1937, is now a part of the Presidential Palace complex.
Executive Yuan (1946) 南京国民政府行政院旧址2016.jpg No.252-254 Zhongshan North Road, Gulou District, Nanjing 1930 The building was the headquarter of the Ministry of Railways at first, then the site of Executive Yuan from 1946-1949. After the communists took over Nanjing, it became a building of PLA Nanjing Political College.
Executive Yuan (1949) LiZhiShe Historical Sites3.JPG Zhongshan East Road, Xuanwu District, Nanjing 1929 It was the site of Lizhi She in 1930s. In 1949, the Nationalist Government decided to move the Exevetive Yuan into this building. The building now served as a part of Zhongshan Hotel.
Legislative Yuan (1928) Legislative Yuan (1928) in Nanjing, Nov 2017.jpg No.273 Baixia Road, Qinhuai District, Nanjing It was the site of the "Mistress House". The Nationalist Government chose the house to become the seat of Legislative Yuan in 1928
Legislative Yuan (1946) & Control Yuan Former Legislative Yuan & Control Yuan in Nanjing 2011-10.JPG No.105 Zhongshan North Road, Gulou District, Nanjing 1935 The building was Nanjing City Hall during the Japanese occupation. After the Second World War, it became the offices of Legislative Yuan and Control Yuan. Now it is Nanjing Soldiers' Club.
Judicial Yuan's Entrance Former Gate of Ministry of Justice in Nanjing 01 2013-04.JPG No.251 Zhongshan Road, Gulou District, Nanjing 1935 The building was destroyed by fire in April, 1949. Only the gate remains.
Examination Yuan Wumiao Kaoshiyuan.JPG No.41-43 Beijing East Road, Xuanwu District, Nanjing 1930s The building is now served as Nanjing City Government Offices and the Committee of Nanjing, CPPCC.
Supreme Court 国民政府最高法院旧址,2017年11月.jpg No.101 Zhongshan North Road, Gulou District, Nanjing 1933 The building was also served as the Supreme Prosecutor Office
Military Affairs Commission Wangfeige, Xu Garden, Oct 2017.jpg No.292 Changjiang Road, Xuanwu District, Nanjing 1870s This house was built in 1870s, after Taiping Rebellion. In 1930s, Chiang Kai-shek chose it to be one of the headquarters of the Military Affairs Commission. The house is located in the Presidential Palace complex and becoming a popular tourist attraction now.
National Resource Commission Former Committee of Resources in Najing 2011-10.JPG No.200 Zhongshan North Road, Gulou District, Nanjing 1947 The building is now an office building of Nanjing Tech University
Ministry of Economic Affairs 国民政府经济部旧址,2017年11月.jpg No.145 Zhongshan East Road, Xuanwu District, Nanjing The building is now served as the office of Nanjing Sports Bureau.
Central Bank 上海外滩15号,2017年11月.jpg No.15 East-1 Zhongshan Rd, Huangpu District, Shanghai 1899-1902 This was the only institution not headquartered in the city of Nanking. Once being the Shanghai branch of Russo-Chinese Bank, this building now becomes Shanghai Foreign Exchange Trading Center.
Ministry of Health 南京国民政府卫生部旧址2016年8月.jpg No.305 Zhongshan East Road, Xuanwu District, Nanjing 1931 The building was in the site of National Central Hospital complex. It is Nanjing General Hospital of Nanjing Military Command now.
Ministry of Education 原国民政府教育部旧址2016.jpg Chengxian Street, Xuanwu District, Nanjing The building is now occpied by some governmental officials.
Ministry of Transportation & Communications Nanjing Political College 1.JPG No.303-305 Zhongshan North Road, Gulou District, Nanjing 1932-1934 Opposite was the site of the Executive Yuan. After the communists took over Nanjing, it became a building of PLA Nanjing Political College.
National Assembly Hall (1936) Auditorium of Southeast University 01 2012-09.JPG No.2 Sipailou, Xuanwu District, Nanjing 1930s Before the National Theatre of Drama and Music was completed, the National Assembly was held in the Auditorium of National Central University.
National Assembly Hall (1946) Nanjing Great Hall of the People front.JPG No.264 Changjiang Road, Xuanwu District, Nanjing 1935 The building was served as the National Theatre of Drama and Music. After the World War II, it became the meeting place of the National Assembly. It was the site of 1948 presidential election and the birthplace of the Constitution. So this building played an important role in modern history of China.
Residence of the Chairman (1946) Mei-ling Villa, Nov 2017 (2).jpg Purple Mountain, Xuanwu District, Nanjing 1931-1934 Also known as "the Red Hill Mansion" and "Mei-ling Villa", the building was one of the main residences of Chiang & Soong in Nanking after the WWII. And it became one of the official residences of the President of the ROC from 1948 to 1949.

When the city of Nanking was not captured by the Nationalist Government, they chose the following buildings as their headquarters.

Name Image Location Construction Date Description
Nationalist Government in Canton (1925) The former site of the Guangzhou National Governmen.jpg No.118 Yuehua rd, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou In 1925, the Nationalist Government was established here. Today, all the buildings inside were demolished except the gate.
Nationalist Government in Wuhan (1926) 南洋大楼1.jpg No.708, Zhongshan Avenue, Wuhan 1917-1921 It was also called Nanyang Tobacco Building. In 1926, the National Revolutionary Army took control of Wuhan. Then, the officials of KMT chose Nanyang Tobacco Building to become the seat of the Nationalist Government.
Nationalist Government in Chungking (1939) Zhengxielitang.jpg Yuzhong District, Chongqing In the period of Second Sino-Japanese War, this building was served as the headquarters of the Nationalist Government until they moved back to Nanking. The building was demolished in the 1980s.

See also



  1. ^ Roy, Denny (2003). Taiwan: A Political History. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. pp. 55, 56. ISBN 0-8014-8805-2. 
  2. ^ Fenby 2009
  3. ^ "南京市". 重編囯語辭典修訂本. Ministry of Education, ROC. 民國十六年,國民政府宣言定為首都,今以臺北市為我國中央政府所在地。(In the 16th Year of the Republic of China [1927], the National Government established [Nanking] as the capital. At present, Taipei is the seat of the central government.) 
  4. ^ (Fung 2000, p. 30)
  5. ^ Chen, Lifu; Ramon Hawley Myers (1994). Hsu-hsin Chang, Ramon Hawley Myers, ed. The storm clouds clear over China: the memoir of Chʻen Li-fu, 1900–1993. Hoover Press. p. 102. ISBN 0-8179-9272-3. After the 1930 mutiny ended, Chiang accepted the suggestion of Wang Ching-wei, Yen Hsi-shan, and Feng Yü-hsiang that a provisional constitution for the political tutelage period be drafted. 
  6. ^ (Fung 2000, p. 5) "Nationalist disunity, political instability, civil strife, the communist challenge, the autocracy of Chiang Kai-shek, the ascendancy of the military, the escalating Japanese threat, and the "crisis of democracy" in Italy, Germany, Poland, and Spain, all contributed to a freezing of democracy by the Nationalist leadership."
  7. ^ 荆, 知仁. 中华民国立宪史 (in Chinese). 联经出版公司. 
  8. ^ a b c R.J.Rummel. "CHINA'S BLOODY CENTURY". 
  9. ^ "This Is the Shame". Time Magazine. 1946-06-10. 
  10. ^ "Snow Red & Moon Angel". Time Magazine. 1947-04-07. 
  11. ^ "Taiwan Timeline – Civil War". BBC News. 2000. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  12. ^ Inc, Time (1956). LIFE, Truman, China and History. 40. Time Inc. 
  13. ^ 评马歇尔离华声明,周恩来选集上卷,1947-1-10
  14. ^ 首都卫戍司令部,淞沪重庆警备司令,分别致电函京沪渝中共代表,所有中共人员限期全部撤退,重庆:大公报,1947-3-1
  15. ^ Westad, Odd Arne (2003). Decisive encounters: the Chinese Civil War, 1946–1950. ISBN 0-8047-4478-5. 
  16. ^ Wilbur, Clarence Martin. The Nationalist Revolution in China, 1923–1928. Cambridge University Press, 1983, p. 190.
  17. ^ Sun Jian, pg 1059–1071
  18. ^ Sun Jian, pg 1353
  19. ^ a b Sun Jian, page 1089
  20. ^ Sun Jian, page 615-616
  21. ^ Sun Jian, page 1319
  22. ^ Sun Jian, pg 1237–1240
  23. ^ Sun Jian, page 617-618
  24. ^ Davison, Gary Marvin. A short history of Taiwan: the case for independence. Praeger Publishers. p. 64. ISBN 0-275-98131-2. Basic literacy came to most of the school-aged populace by the end of the Japanese tenure on Taiwan. School attendance for Taiwanese children rose steadily throughout the Japanese era, from 3.8 percent in 1904 to 13.1 percent in 1917; 25.1 percent in 1920; 41.5 percent in 1935; 57.6 percent in 1940; and 71.3 percent in 1943. 


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Preceded by
Beiyang government
Nationalist government
Succeeded by
Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China
(on Mainland China 1949–1954)
Government of the Republic of China
(on Taiwan 1949–present)
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