Revolution of 1925–27 in China

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Revolution of 1925–27 in China


an incomplete bourgeois-democratic revolution aimed at eliminating imperialist oppression and the dominance of semifeudal institutions in China’s political and economic system. Intensified conflicts between imperialism and the Chinese people after World War I, fighting among warlords, the growing exploitation of the working people, and the influence of the Great October Socialist Revolution revolutionized the people.

In southern China, where the Canton government of Sun Yat-sen had ruled since February 1923, the national revolutionary forces gained major victories. A unified national anti-imperialist and antiwarlord front was created through collaboration between the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Kuomintang. The nucleus of a revolutionary army was formed with the assistance of the USSR; victories over counterrevolutionary forces were won in Kwangtung; and the workers’ and peasants’ movement grew. All these developments contributed to the formation of a favorable revolutionary situation, which after the events of May 30, 1925, in Shanghai (known as the May 30 Movement), ripened into a revolution. The motive forces of the revolution were the industrial working class, the peasantry, the urban petite bourgeoisie, and the nationalist bourgeoisie, which sought to bring the popular masses under its influence in the course of the revolution.

The history of the revolution is divided into three periods.

May 30 Movement and preparations for the Northern Expedition (May 30, 1925, to My 9, 1926). After British police fired on an anti-imperialist demonstration in Shanghai on May 30, 1925, the mass movement spread to the country’s main cities. The most important events of this period were a general strike in Shanghai, lasting from June to September 1925, and the 16-month Hong Kong-Canton Strike of 1925–26, which contributed to the development of the masses’ anti-imperialist struggle and helped set the stage for the campaign of the National Revolutionary Army (NRA) against the warlords in the north. On July 1, 1925, the Canton government was reorganized into the National Government of the Chinese Republic, and by the spring of 1926 it controlled the provinces of Kwangtung, Kwangsi, and Kweichow.

Northern Expedition (July 9, 1926, to Apr. 12, 1927). During the second phase, the revolutionary forces achieved their greatest success. On July 9, 1926, the main forces of the NRA proceeded northward from Kwangtung and Kwangsi provinces. The victories of the NRA and the rapid growth of a mass anti-imperialist and antiwarlord movement led to the liberation of southern and central China from the power of the warlords. In December 1926, the National Government was transferred from Canton to Wuhan.

The moral and material support of the Soviet people was an important factor in the Chinese revolution. The membership of the CPC grew as its influence spread among workers and peasants. Under the leadership of the Communists, the workers of Shanghai revolted in March 1927 and liberated the city, which units of the NRA later entered. The intensification of the revolution alarmed the nationalist bourgeoisie, whose right wing was headed by the commander in chief of the NRA, Chiang Kai-shek. Imperialist pressure, in particular, the shelling of Nanking in March 1927 by American, British, French, and Japanese gunboats, impelled the wavering nationalist bourgeoisie to begin an armed attack on the laboring masses. On Apr. 12, 1927, Chiang Kai-shek and his supporters staged a counterrevolutionary coup in Shanghai.

Continuation of the revolution in central China (Apr. 12 to July 15, 1927). The national revolutionary Wuhan government retained control of the provinces of Hupeh, Hunan, and Kiangsi and part of Honan. In this area the working people called for progressive socioeconomic, including agrarian, reforms and for an improvement in their living conditions. The Wuhan NRA continued its military operations against the northern warlords.

However, the leadership of the Wuhan Kuomintang, representing the left wing of the nationalist bourgeoisie, the elite among the petite bourgeoisie and intelligentsia, and the bourgeoislandowning generals of the Wuhan NRA, became alarmed at the rapid upsurge in the mass worker-peasant movement and, under the influence of imperialism and the Chiang Kai-shek reaction, betrayed the revolution. On July 15, 1927, a counterrevolutionary coup took place in Wuhan.

Although the revolution of 1925–27 was defeated, China did not return to its prerevolutionary state. The old warlord cliques were destroyed. In the ruling bourgeois-landowner coalition, the position of the big bourgeoisie grew stronger. The big bourgeoisie sought to unify the country under its rule, and despite its alliance with foreign imperialists, it nevertheless sought concessions from them. In the course of the revolution, the working people acquired experience in political struggle, and the idea of friendship with the USSR spread among the popular masses.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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