Conflict to reconciliation and continued oscillation: Recipe of Chinese resurgence

With the fall of the Quing dynasty, a National Party emerged in 1912. It was more westernised in its approach. While this party was initially a revolutionist group to overthrow the monarchy but it later became the official political party of China once China became a republic in 1912 adopting a new behavioural pattern of ‘change while in power’.

By Maj Gen Ashok Kumar, VSM (Retd)

The Chinese, both as people as well as their Government, have been very difficult to understand more so by those who look at them with the current day prism while ignoring their historical legacies, value system or absence of the same and a particular way of China doing its business including business of Governance.

In fact once the Quing Dynasty was replaced by the Republic of China (ROC) in Jan 1912, a new era was ushered in bringing an end to a long spell of monarchy which had ruled the country through dynasties once the power of a previous ruler was diminished. The change of 1912 was a departure from the Kingship rule that lasted till 1911. Its evolution thereafter has a major contributory factor in the attitudinal shaping of the current day Chinese Government which has not only manifested itself in the way China deals with India but also with its other neighbours.

With the fall of the Quing dynasty, a National Party emerged in 1912. It was more westernised in its approach. While this party was initially a revolutionist group to overthrow the monarchy but it later became the official political party of China once China became a republic in 1912 adopting a new behavioural pattern of ‘change while in power’. While the National Party has no direct linkages to the current day Chinese Government, it certainly has played a role in shaping the latter’s behaviour indirectly.

Since the Nationalist Party was evolving, Yuan Shikai, attempted to take foreign loans as per his vision for the growth and prosperity of the newly founded republic but the party did not approve the proposal. It resulted in Yuan Shikai killing the chairman of the Nationalist Party and assuming power which merely lasted until 1916 as it neither had approval of the Nationalist party cadres nor of the Chinese people in general. Japan and other stakeholders were also opposed to him. In fact, in 1915, Japan had put forward its famous ‘twenty one demands’ having far reaching consequences to diminish the Chinese power. Though this resulted in dislike for Japan, which was a rising power, the brief power of Yuan Shikai embedded the ‘seed of power struggle’ which is evident in the current day approach of Xi  Jinping attempting to wrest the power for lifetime.

With waning power of Yuan Shikai and his ultimate death in 1916 followed by the intervention from Japan, China shifted to the warlord era for almost a decade which thereafter resulted in the creation of the Communist Party of China in 1921. This could have also happened due to the famous Fourth May movement of 1919 as the Treaty of Versailles resulted in German colonies not returning to China resulting in alienation of the Chinese people from all walks of life. Since the Nationalist party was in some way supportive of Japan, the people also turned against it and thus a new party was born in less than two years’ time of the fourth  May movement of 1919. A critical analysis indicates a trend of the Chinese people to DUMP SOMEONE EVEN IF THEY ARE ITS SAVIOUR which is what happened to the Nationalist Party which had freed them from the Monarchy in 1911. The same behaviour was manifested by the Chinese towards India despite India championing its cause for independence in the current form, assimilation of Tibet, membership of UNSC and multiple other assistance. But in bargain, China returned the favour by breaking our trust and backstabbing us in 1962.

On one hand, the Communist Party of China was born based on Marxist philosophy and at the same time, the Nationalist Party also consolidated itself with Russian support, defeated some warlords and created a somewhat better organised and unified China. While till this stage both the parties were concerned about the unification of China, once Chiang Kai-Shek became the leader of the Nationalist Party, he championed himself  as the sole unifying factor for China and therefore he attacked the Communist Party of China. It was at this point that the major seeds of discord were sown between the two parties which eventually lead to Chiang Kai-Shek being exiled from mainland China resulting in present day Taiwan.

The attacks on growing cadres of the Communist Party of China continued which resulted in the famous ‘Long March’ of communists starting on 01 Oct 1934 led by Mao Zedong who became the founder of current day China in 1949. He was pretty weak earlier which forced him to undertake this ‘Long March’ in 1934. This long march saved the Communist Party after they marched  close to 9000 kms and were left with only approximately 10,000 soldiers having started with almost 90,000 soldiers initially. This was a historic retreat of Mao Zedong and communists undertaken in a year’s time to avoid losses and destruction from the Nationalist Army of Chiang Kai-Shek and warlords. In the process, Mao Zedong had sown THE SEED OF RESPECTING STRENGTH WHEN FACING THE ADVERSARY which even the current day China displayed in its border conflicts with Russia as well as with Vietnam. While the Long March was very treacherous, it won a lot of respect for Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. Supporters swelled up in big numbers which resulted in new clashes with the Nationalist Army in the days which followed.

While capacity building by both the armies viz Nationalist Army  and the Red Army was continuing in addition to vying for the same space in the power matrix, everything changed with Japan attacking China in 1937 resulting in large scale destruction and massacre. This created conditions for reconciliation of both the parties of China and they united against Imperialist Japan of that time.

The opposition of Japan continued by both the parties. While Nationalist Party was being supported by the ‘Allied Powers’, the Communist Party too continued gaining popularity with each passing day with continued increase in the number of its soldiers. While they were opposing Japan together, their primary differences and dislike for each other’s leaders was also getting stronger. It is due to this reason that when Japan surrendered, thus ending the Second World War, both these parties of China who had opposing ideologies of somewhat Democracy vs Communism came to the fore and it resulted in the commencement of the famous Civil War of 1946. This civil war resulted in the Nationalist Party of Chiang Kai-Shek losing to the Communist Party. Not only this, he fled to Taiwan, an island nation away from mainland China for the safety of his supporters and himself. Since the Nationalist Party believed in somewhat Democracy, it thrives in some ways even today in present day Taiwan.

Being the victor of the Civil War, Mao Zedong established the People’s Republic of China which is the present day China. It was done on 01 Oct 1949 almost two years after Indian independence.

The period of 1911 to 1949 has special significance in the history of China as on one hand, it terminated the powerful Quing Dynasty, thus ending the long era of dynastic rule but it also attempted experimenting with democratic form of Governance as well as communist resurgence resulting in the win of Communism. It was an era of confrontation to cooperation between two opposing thoughts. Though the Chinese accepted Communist form of the Government only on 01 Oct 1949 which has strengthened itself to reach the current day format, the party and the people have adopted the following way of doing things which has not changed much till date:

Changing the stated value system when in ‘power’.

Continuous focus on power struggle.

Dump the saviours also when the need is met.

Respect the strength of the adversary and yield when needed.

Join hands with opponents with apparent common cause while continuing with the ulterior aim of defeating even the collaborator.

Accept hard conditions when it is likely to give positive results in the long run.

Don’t forget the adversaries even after change of generations.

In addition to the above, the current day China has developed some other characteristics like a focused approach on expansionism being one of them which will be evident after dissecting its historical facts from 01 Oct 1949 till date.

(The author is a Kargil war veteran and defence analyst. He is a visiting fellow of CLAWS and specializes in neighbouring countries with special focus on China. He tweets @chanakyaoracle Email: trinetra.foundationonline@gmail.comViews expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited).

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