In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Guomindang (1912–1949)

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • The Guomindang as a Party State and Chinese Modern Political Culture
  • The Early Years and the First United Front
  • The Nanjing Decade
  • The Guomindang during the War of Resistance against Japan
  • The 1946–1949 Civil War
  • Ideology and Organization
  • Party’s Relations to Chinese Society and Its Economic and Social Policies
  • Propaganda, Education, and Cultural Activities
  • Foreign Relations and Party Activities Abroad

Chinese Studies Guomindang (1912–1949)
Guido Samarani, Laura De Giorgi
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 November 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920082-0138


Studies on the Chinese Nationalist Party, the Zhongguo Guomindang (GMD), have focused on some fundamental questions. The first has concerned its political and ideological roots. The GMD was built in 1912 when Sun Yat-sen directed the transformation of the Tongmenghui into a centralized, democratic political party. In 1913, however, the ex-Qing minister and general, Yuan Shikai, became the president of the Republic of China and ordered the dissolution of the GMD. In 1919 the GMD was revived by Sun, but only in 1923 did the party reaffirm its role. In the early Republic, the GMD developed in a political culture in which factions and personal connections were fundamental, causing large disagreement about its policy and ideology. In the early 1920s, Comintern representatives helped to reorganize the GMD in a Leninist-style party, setting basic approaches for bilateral cooperation, to include the recently established Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The GMD was restructured and a modern military force was created. The party’s ideology was, on the contrary, rather homegrown: the Three People’s Principles were elaborated into a political platform that targeted warlordism and imperialism. From 1926 on, the Guomindang, with the support of the Soviet advisers and the CCP, brought the warlord era to an end and, to a great extent, unified China; after Sun’s death in 1925, Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi) rose to national power. The second area of investigation has concerned GMD’s performance in state building and governance. In 1928, after the end the Northern Expedition and the GMD-CCP split, Chiang and the GMD established a national government in Nanjing, which lasted about ten years (1928–1937, the so-called Nanjing decade), before the start of China’s war of resistance against Japan. The war years (1937–1945) saw the GMD-CCP United Front, which was largely ineffective; the relocation of the capital to Chongqing; and the birth of a collaborationist government headed by Wang Jingwei. In the late 1940s, a final battle between the GMD and the CCP resulted in the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 and in the retreat of the Guomindang to Taiwan. Scholars have debated on the GMD’s capacity, arguing either that the modest but definite successes in unification and a variety of modernization projects would in the long run have produced a stable and prosperous country, had not the Japanese invaded China, or, on the contrary, emphasizing how GMD regime’s authoritarianism, corruption, and incompetence as well as Chiang’s policy produced a demoralizing effect on the party and a growing dissatisfaction within society. For many decades, studies on the GMD have been informed by the Cold War–era divisions and the basic orientations of Chinese historiography during the Maoist period. Recently new trends have emerged offering deeper insights into several questions, which include a more reliable evaluation of Chiang Kai-shek’s role.

General Overviews

General histories of the Guomindang (GMD) are scarce in Western languages since scholars often have preferred to focus on limited periods or problems of the party’s development and historical experience, as in the GMD’s role in Chinese state building (Ch’ien 1950, cited under The Guomindang as a Party State and Chinese Modern Political Culture) and in setting a blueprint for the future state developments under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) (Bedeski 1981, also cited under The Guomindang as a Party State and Chinese Modern Political Culture). The history of the GMD before the 1924 reorganization has been dealt with thoroughly in Yu 1966, which, even several decades after publication, still preserves its validity due to the richness and detailed information. On the contrary, Chinese scholars, both in Taiwan and in mainland China, have been extensively engaged in editing and producing scholarly work on the GMD’s general history. Actually, history of the party (dangshi) usually has been written by the party itself, which organized its Party History Committee (Zhongguo Guomindang zhongyang weiyuanhui dangshi weiyuanhui) in the 1940s. The Committee has been put in charge of the collection and preservation of the documents that have been the basis of standard histories and reference works about the GMD, edited by party historians, such as in Li 1994, which reflects the official chronology and interpretation of events, or illustrated histories (Zhongguo Guomindang zhongyang weiyuanhui dangshi weiyuanhui 1985), which offer rich visual material. In mainland China, historians’ interest for the GMD dates to the late 1980s when the archival resources on the Republican era began to be systematically explored. Ma, et al. 1988 is one of the 1980s works that still retains its validity. A detailed chronology on GMD history is Chen 1993, while information about GMD important figures can be found in Liu and Zhang 1991. The most important recent work on GMD’s history is the result of the cooperation of several People’s Republic of China (PRC) research centers and offers a rich perspective of PRC scholarship on the topic (Yu and Zhu 2001). Cui 2007 and Yang 2008 are worth mentioning as representative of PRC’s recent scholarship, while Liu 2014 is a useful example of Chinese historians’ work to offer reference works for research. Outside the sinophone scholarly sphere, Japanese historians have been among the most interested in the topic, thanks also to the huge collection of documents on the Republican era preserved in Japanese archives and libraries. Nozawa 1974 has been a pioneering work with regard to this, though it is mainly focused on the period of the national revolution.

  • Chen Xingtang 陳興唐, ed. Zhongguo Guomindang da shidian (中國國民黨大事典). Beijing: Zhongguo huaqiao chubanshe, 1993.

    A very useful research tool prepared under the supervision of the Second Historical Archives of Nanjing. Provides a rather accurate and detailed chronology of the events related to the GMD and Sun Yat-sen from 1866 to 1989.

  • Cui Zhiqing 崔之清. Guomindang zhenzhe yu shehui jiegou zhi yanbian (1905–1949) (国民党政治与社会结构之演变 [1905–1949]). Beijing: Shehui kexue chubanshe, 2007.

    A detailed analysis of the changes in the political structure and social composition of the Nationalist Party, in three volumes, from the origins to its transformation in a mass organization to the “involution” during the Civil War.

  • Li Yunhan 李雲漢. Zhongguo Guomindang shishu (中國國民黨史述). 5 vols. Taibei: Zhongguo Guomindang zhongyang weiyuanhui dangshi weiyuanhui, 1994.

    A fundamental work written by one of the most authoritative scholars in the field. The first three volumes basically cover the birth of the first societies created by Sun Yat-sen in the late Qing period till the 1949 defeat and retreat to Taiwan; the fourth volume concerns the reorganization of the party and the government in Taiwan, while the fifth provides a very useful list of documents.

  • Liu Jizeng 刘继增, and Zhang Baohua 张葆华, eds. Zhongguo Guomindang mingren lu (中國國民黨名人錄). Wuhan, China: Hubei Renmin chubanshe, 1991.

    A useful collection of nearly one thousand short biographies of GMD’s personalities, plus charts of main GMD organizations.

  • Liu Weikai 刘维开, ed. Zhongguo Guomindang zhiming lu 1894–1994 (中国国民党职名录 1894–1994). Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2014.

    A useful directory of Guomindang officers, in two volumes, compiled by the Chinese Academy of Social Science, Institute of Modern History.

  • Ma Qibin 馬齊彬, Zhang Tongxin 張同新, and Li Jiaquan 李家泉, eds. Zhongguo Guomindang lishi shijan, renwu, ziliao jilu (中國國民黨歷史事件人物資料輯録). Beijing: Jiefangjun chubanshe, 1988.

    It was the first official compilation of information about the Guomindang history published in the People’s Republic of China with the contribution of the main experts from Chinese universities and research centers. It covers also the post-1949 period. Still useful as a research tool.

  • Nozawa Yutaka 野沢豊, ed. Chūgoku kokumin kakumeishi no kenkyū (中国国民革命史の研究). Tokyo: Aoki Shoten, 1974.

    A fundamental work in the field of Japanese studies on the Chinese national revolution, written by one of the pioneers of the studies on modern China in Japan.

  • Yang Kuisong 杨奎松. Guomindang de lian Gong yu fan Gong (国民党的“联共”与“反共”). Beijing: Shehui kexue wenxue chubanshe, 2008

    Based on rich archival research in the PRC, the book is mainly focused on Guomindang’s relations with the Chinese Communist Party from the early 1920s to the end of the Civil War.

  • Yu, George T. Party Politics in Republican China: The Kuomintang 1912–1924. Berkeley, and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1966.

    DOI: 10.1525/9780520330146

    George Yu’s volume was considered at that time a very pioneeristic and fundamental work; in the early twenty-first century, it is still largely considered an excellent work.

  • Yu Keli 余克禮, and Zhu Xianlong 朱顯龍, eds. Zhongguo Guomindang quanshu (中國國民黨全書). 2 vols. Xi’an, China: Shaanxi renmin chubanshe, 2001.

    An impressive work, prepared by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, which offers a short history of the party, a long list of key terms and events, a historical chronology regarding the party, and a final list of hundreds of short biographies of leaders and people related to the GMD.

  • Zhongguo Guomindang zhongyang weiyuanhui dangshi weiyuanhui 中國國民黨中央委員會黨史委員會, ed. Zhongguo Guomindang yu Zhonghua minguo (中國國民黨與中華民國). Taibei: Zhongguo Guomindang zhongyang weiyuanhui dangshi weiyuanhui, 1985.

    A volume that contains hundreds of photos related to the history of the GMD from the origins to the mid-1980s.

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