China and Japan: Intervention and Invasions 1927–41

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Map Code: Ax01527

After the collapse of the Qing Dynasty, the new republic soon resorted to martial law, before disintegrating into an unstable network of warlord-run fiefdoms. In 1926 Chiang Kai-Shek, successor of the ex-republican president, moved against the warlords from his Guangdong base. His army, the Kuomintang (KMT), had Soviet advisers, and by 1928 he had re-established the nucleus of a unified China centred on Nanking. However, China’s peripheral provinces remained under warlord control. In Manchuria, a Japanese garrison first assassinated the local ruler then confected a terrorist act as pretext for invasion (1931), establishing the puppet state of Manchukuo. The KMT sought to extend its control, but was hampered by regional rebellions, and a mounting Communist insurgency. The KMT’s attempt to crush the Communists was eluded by the ‘Long March’ (1933–34), a 6,000-mile (10,000-km) trek from southeastern to northwestern China. Then, in 1937, the Japanese launched an invasion of the Chinese republic, seizing its capital in the infamously brutal ‘Rape of Nanking’.

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