HST 504 – Week 10
Washington Treaty system
Imperial Way Faction
Sino-Japanese War (known also as the Second Sino-Japanese War)
Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere
China Reawakened: The Growth of Chinese Nationalism in the 1920s
China did not emerge as a stronger state from the First World War.
German colonies, for instance, were not returned to China but rather became spoils of war.
Unequal treaties and the Open Door policy made sure that foreigners would retain a powerful
voice in China’s domestic affairs.
Worse yet, China’s main East Asian rival had grown in power considerably.
The Empire of the Rising Sun, as Japan was nicknamed, had made territorial, political and
economic claims on Beijing already before 1914.
During the Great War, Tokyo’s Twenty-One Demands revealed the extent of Japanese
aspirations on the mainland.
After the war, the League of Nations was to protect China from outside aggression, at least until
its domestic political situation could be stabilized enough for the Chinese to take the reins of
Although the Chinese Republic remained a weak and fragmented state, changes were brewing
after the conclusion of the Paris Peace Settlement.
The May Fourth Movement signalled a major transformation in Chinese society, which would no
longer stay idle as foreigners partitioned the country.
The postwar period witnessed the emergence of powerful ideological-political groups.
Two of them would define the future of China: Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Party (the
Kuomintang, KMT) and the Mao Tse-tung’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
In the latter half of the 1920s, Kai-shek managed to consolidate the entire political spectrum into a
He then launched what became known as the Northern Expedition, which ended the rule of local
warlords and unified the entire country under a single government.
Under the KMT’s tutelage, China began to re-establish its sovereignty.
The new government, for example, modernized the legal and penal codes; introduced economic,
banking and financial reforms; and promoted Mandarin as the national language. The reunification of China between 1926 and 1928 had two main consequences. Firstly, it
stimulated resentment against foreign interference.
By the late 1920s, there was growing hatred especially towards the Japanese who followed the
most aggressive foreign policy against Beijing.
The Northern Expedition witnessed the eruption of violence against outsiders.
Secondly, as soon as the KMT established rule, it launched an undeclared war on the
For the next two decades, China’s politics became defined by the battle between the Nationalists
and the Communists.
Such ideological squabbles significantly weakened Beijing’s ability to modernize and industrialize.
Moreover, it opened the door once again to foreign intervention.
Tokyo, for instance, became concerned particularly about the growing Communist influence,
given that the Soviet Union was an important regional player.
It seemed that unless the Japanese acted quickly, the Soviets could