Read this article to learn about the status of the Asian countries between the Two World Wars!
The inter-war years saw the growth of the nationalist movement in every country of Asia.
The freedom movement in India entered a new phase—the phase of a mass anti-imperialist upsurge—soon after the First World War was over.
On 13 April 1919, British imperialism committed the barbarous massacre at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar.
The Non-Cooperation Movement launched soon after drew millions of common people—peasants, workers, students, women, and almost every other sections of the Indian society—into the struggle for freedom and open defiance of British authority became the creed of millions of Indians.
At the end of 1929, Poorna Swaraj (Complete Independence) became the objective of the Congress, which led India’s struggle for independence. In 1980, a great mass movement was launched and hundreds of thousands of Indians broke British laws and went to prison.
As a part of the nationalist struggle, there also grew the vision of a new India—free, democratic, secular and egalitarian. The struggle also extended to areas which were, with British support, under Indian princes.
The Indian freedom movement also developed close contacts with the freedom movements in other colonies as well as with the antifascist democratic movements in the European countries.
The attainment of political independence came to be increasingly viewed as an essential pre-requisite for the reconstruction of Indian society. The basic features of the role which independent India would play in world affairs also were formed during the period of the struggle for independence.
The nationalist movement in every country, while uniting the people for the immediate task of overthrowing foreign rule, also increasingly thought in terms of social and economic reconstruction and building of a modern nation.
The role of Dr Sun Yat-sen in the revolution of 1911, which resulted in the proclamation of China as a republic, and the usurpation of power by Yuan Shih-kai, who dreamed of becoming the emperor, have already been referred. China was ruled by warlords who controlled different regions of China and fought among themselves for supremacy.
Various foreign powers supported them in their hope for concessions later. At the end of the First World War, there were two main governments in China. One of these was controlled by the Guomindang and had its headquarters at Canton. Dr Sun Yat-sen became the president of this government.
The other government was headed by a military general and had its headquarters at Beijing. The decision of the Paris Peace Conference to hand over Shantung to Japan led to an anti-imperialist upsurge in, 1919.
It began with a protest demonstration by the students of the Beijing University on 4 May 1919 and the movement that started with it came to be known as the May Fourth Movement. It soon spread to various parts of China.
The Russian Revolution had a deep impact on the Chinese nationalists, and radical tendencies began to grow. In 1921, the Communist Party of China was formed, and it soon became a major force. In the meantime, Dr Sun Yat-sen, having failed to secure Western countries’ help to unify China, sought the support of the Soviet Union. In 1924, the Guomindang and the Chinese Communist Party came together.
While the Communist Party continued as a separate party, several communists also joined the Guomindang. It was decided to form a national revolutionary army and for this purpose a military academy was set up with the help of Soviet military and political advisers.
In 1925, the Chinese national revolutionary army launched its operations against the warlords. However, in about two years after the death of Dr Sun Yat-sen, in March 1925, the situation in China underwent a drastic change. The alliance between the Guomindang and the Communist Party broke up, and soon conditions were created for a civil war in China.
Civil War in China:
The operations of the national revolutionary army for the political unification of China were accompanied by workers’ and peasants’ movements. In 1925, there were strikes and demonstrations throughout Shanghai against the killings of workers’ leaders.
These killing were organised by the Japanese industrialists and the demonstrators were shot at by the British police. In many areas, the peasants started seizing the lands of the big landlords. In March 1927, when the national revolutionary army reached Nanjing, the British and the US warships opened fire, killing hundreds of people. At this moment, there occurred a split in the Guomindang, and General Chiang Kai-shek, who was chief of staff of the national revolutionary army, set up his government at Nanjing.
The growth of the peasants’ and workers’ movement and the increasing strength of the left-wing elements within the Guomindang had alarmed him. General Shek was now less concerned with putting an end to the foreign domination of China and her political unification than with the suppression of the left-wing and the communists.
His troops raided workers’ quarters in Shanghai, killing thousands of workers along with a number of communists. In December 1927, the communists led an uprising in Canton, and set up a Soviet government there. However, the uprising was suppressed and over five thousand workers were killed. This marked the split in the nationalist movement in China. The Soviet advisers were expelled, and many leaders of the Guomindang, including the widow of Dr Sun Yat-sen, went into exile.
After the suppression of the Canton uprising, the communists were scattered in different parts of the country and brought some areas under their control. China now entered a long period of civil war between the armies of Chiang Kai-shek and the Chinese Communist Party.
After the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, a wave of anti- Japanese feelings swept the country and there was a nation-wide movement to boycott Japanese goods. However, the Guomindang led by Chiang Kai-shek and the Communist Party failed to unite themselves against the Japanese aggression.
The communists gave a call for anti-Japanese resistance but were not willing to ally with Chiang Kai-shek. Chiang Kai-shek’s army launched operations against the communist strongholds but not against the Japanese.
In the meantime, the Communist Party’s influence started growing, particularly in the countryside. The most important leader of the Communist Party to emerge during this period was ‘Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung). He advocated the view that in China the peasantry was the main revolutionary force, and he built up the strategy of bringing about socialist revolution with the help of the peasantry.
In 1934, Chiang Kai-shek launched an attack on the communist- held areas in southern China with the help of a million strong army. The communists were forced to give up their base and, to escape annihilation, about 100,000 of them moved to Yenan in north-western
China. This movement, known as the Long March in which they covered a distance of about 12,000 km, added to the nation-wide popularity of the communists. During the Long March, they seized the lands of the landlords and distributed them among the peasants, thus continuously strengthening support for themselves against Chiang Kai-shek’s government.
The latter was by now associated in the minds of the people as the government of big landlords, merchants and bankers. The communists also called for a national war against the Japanese aggression, while Chiang Kai-shek’s army continued to target only the communists.
In 1937, the massive Japanese invasion of China began. The armies of Chiang Kai-shek retreated in the face of the Japanese attack, and his government moved from Nanjing to Chungking.
However, by this time, a united front to resist the Japanese aggression had come into being. In December 1936, a dramatic incident had taken place. Chiang Kai-shek had gone to Sian to persuade his troops to fight the communists.
His troops arrested him and released him only when he agreed to end the civil war and form a joint front with the communists to fight the Japanese. From that time on, the semblance of a national war of resistance against the Japanese aggression was maintained though each side—Chiang Kai-shek’s Guomindang and the communists under Mao Zedong’s leadership—remained suspicious of the other and tried to increase their own strength against the other. The communists, during this period, emerged as the genuine representatives of China’s national struggle against the Japanese aggression.
The movement for the independence of Korea from Japan’s colonial rule became powerful soon after the First World War was over. The Russian Revolution also helped the spread of anti-imperialist ideas in Korea. In 1918, the Korean nationalists drafted a Declaration of Independence. In March 1919, the Declaration was read out at a public meeting in Seoul, and there were demonstrations in which thousands of people participated. Soon the demonstrations took the form of a country-wide uprising in which over 150,000 people participated.
The uprising was suppressed by the Japanese army, killing about 8,000 and seriously wounding 16,000 people. About 50,000 people were arrested. However, the peasants’ revolts and workers’ strikes continued. The Koreans settled in China, Japan, the Soviet Union and other countries also played an important role in strengthening the anti-Japanese struggle in Korea. After 1931, following the Japanese seizure of Manchuria, the Koreans began organising anti-Japanese armed actions in Manchuria as well as in Korea.
The Japanese made use of Korea as a base for launching military operations against China and, later, other countries of Asia as well as against the Soviet Union. They also tried to set up organisations of Koreans who were loyal to them, and to use the Korean people in their aggressive wars against other countries.