The Republic of China () was the East Asian state that occupied the present-day territories of China, Mongolia and Taiwan at differing times between 1912 and 1949. As an era of Chinese history, it was preceded by the last imperial dynasty of China, the Qing dynasty. Its end was marked by the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War, which saw the division of the state. The losing Kuomintang retreated to the island of Taiwan, which it continued to call the “Republic of China”, today more commonly known as Taiwan. The winning Communist Party of China controlled the remaining territory on the mainland, and there founded the People’s Republic of China, more commonly known as China. The republic’s first president, Sun Yat-sen, served only briefly. His party, then led by Song Jiaoren, won a parliamentary election held in December 1912. However the army led by President Yuan Shikai retained control of the national government in Beijing. After Yuan’s death in 1916, local military leaders, or warlords, asserted autonomy. In 1925, the Kuomintang party started establishing a rival government in the southern city of Guangzhou. The economy of the north, overtaxed to support warlord adventurism, collapsed in 1927–28. General Chiang Kai-shek, who became Kuomintang leader after Sun’s death, started his military Northern Expedition campaign in order to overthrow the central government in Beijing. The government was overthrown in 1928 and Chiang established a new nationalist government in Nanjing. He later cut his ties with the communists and expelled them from the Kuomintang. There was industrialization and modernization, but also conflict between the Nationalist government in Nanjing, the Communist Party of China, remnant warlords, and the Empire of Japan. Nation-building took a backseat to war with Japan when the Japanese imperialists launched a full-scale invasion of China in 1937. During the prolonged large-scale war that rapidly spread across China, Japan invaded and occupied coastal areas and cut off China’s access to seaports, while the KMT government retreated from Nanjing first to Wuhan, then to Chongqing. While the war in China, which became part of the Pacific War, raged on, the Burma Road, and later the Ledo Road, were built to allow US “lend-lease” aid to reach the Chinese army in Burma. The Nationalists’ Y Force drove back the Japanese in Yunnan during a May–June 1944 offensive, but otherwise military results were disappointing. With the Japanese unconditional surrender in 1945, the Allies had finally achieved total victory, but the Cold War between the U.S. and Soviet Union led to renewed fighting between the KMT and the communists. In 1947, the Constitution of the Republic of China replaced the Organic Law of 1928 as the country’s fundamental law. In 1949, the Communists established the People’s Republic of China, overthrowing the Nationalists on the mainland, who retreated to Taiwan, and despite its vastly reduced territory, the Nationalist government continued to be recognized as the government of China by non-Communist states well into the 1970s.
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