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THE CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY DURING THE ERA OF THE - page 8 / 48

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collaboration through providing class-based analyses of the internal forces within the GMD.

The CCP was a direct product of the intellectual ferment that accompanied the anti- imperialist demonstrations commonly referred to as the May Fourth Movement (1919). Its longer term origins lay in the collapse of the imperial system and the social and political vacuum that followed its fall. The seemingly innocuous Wuchang Uprising brought down the Qing dynasty and despite attempts at restoration, the imperial system was finished. The question for intellectuals interested in the nation’s future was now what sort of system should govern China and bring into the "modern world?" This has been the key question underlying the upheavals and events of twentieth century history in China. With the collapse of the dynasty and with no obvious successor, the logic of the situation demanded a Republic. However, initial attempts under Yuan Shikai failed to establish a predictable and effective system of parliamentary rule. At the same time, the authority of the center fragmented and warlordism increased. The nominal government in Beijing continued to rule and was accorded the respect of the foreign governments but it was influenced by the shifting fortunes of a number of powerful political cliques. At the time of the May Fourth Movement, Beijing politics was dominated by Duan Qirui and the Anhui Clique. Duan and his supporters enjoyed the full support of the Japanese, a fact that further undermined Duan’s credibility during the nationalist May Fourth Movement that marked a high point of anti-Japanese sentiment. This movement broke out with protests against the Versailles agreement ceding the German concession of Shandong to Japan. The indignation that this aroused led to a 3,000 strong demonstration on the streets of Beijing on 4 May 1919. The demonstration began peacefully but ended with the arrest of 32 demonstrators. Duan’s embarrassment was increased when it was revealed that the Versailles decision was based partly on agreements signed between his government and the Japanese. Concern about Duan’s growing power also caused his enemies in the Fengtian and Zhili cliques to combine forces to act against him and ouster him. Thereafter power in Beijing was generally shared between these two cliques.

During this same period, Soviet Russia stepped up its interest in China. However, from summer 1918 to early 1920, Siberia was the main theater of war against its remaining opposition and this hampered attempts at contacts. In fact, it was not until early 1920 that Russia sent its first representative to China to conduct investigations and make contacts. The 1919 Karakhan Declaration, which appeared to renounce the former czarist privileges in China, was particularly influential in China. It was easy for the Russians to make such sweeping generous gestures as, given the situation in the east of the country, they were in no position to carry out any of their promises. However, the propaganda gain was evident as Soviet Russia distanced itself from the old imperialist powers that were still intent of dismembering China.

For a number of Chinese intellectuals, such gestures and the intellectual attraction of Marxism led to a desire to understand more about the October Revolution. For such people, the Bolshevik revolution demonstrated the possibilities for radical change in the context of underdevelopment. Within this essentially favorable predisposition towards

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