When Chiang Kai-Shek became KMT (Chinese Nationalist Party) leader in 1925, he sought to re-unify China by military means. His Northern expedition of 1927–28 led to the capture of Beijing and the subjugation of the local warlords – temporarily. In truth, KMT control was fragile outside of its south-eastern power base. Chiang’s attempts to extend re-unification were bedevilled by incessant conspiracies and rebellions. He achieved a further victory over feuding warlords in the Central Plains War (1930), pacifying Henan and Hubei, then focused upon the growing Southwestern Communist insurgency. A revolt in Fujian was crushed (1934) and by 1936, Guizhou and Guangxi were nominally under KMT’s sway. Throughout this period, Japan was extending its grasp in the north, annexing territory to its puppet state of Manchukuo. After KMT and Japanese forces clashed in 1937, the Japanese first seized Beijing then marched on Nanking, whose fall would be accompanied by a notorious massacre of civilians, forcing the KMT government into exile.
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