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The Kuomintang or Nationalist Party (KMT; 中國國民黨 Hanyu Pinyin: Zhōnggúo Gúomíndăng, literally the National People's Party of China), is a political party currently active in the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan. Together with the People First Party, it forms what is popularly known as the pan-blue coalition, favoring Chinese reunification, in opposition to the pan-green coalition, favoring Taiwan independence.
Canton of the Flag of the Republic of China
Organized shortly after the Xinhai Revolution, which overthrew the Qing Dynasty in China, the KMT fought the Beiyang warlords and the Communist Party of China for control of the country before its retreat to Taiwan in 1949. There, it remained the only legal party on Taiwan until 1991, and until the ROC presidential election, 2000, the ruling party of the ROC. Thus the ROC was once referred to synonymously with the KMT and known simply as "Nationalist China" after its ruling party.
Founded in Guangdong Province on August 25, 1912 by Sung Chiao-jen and Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the KMT was formed from a collection several revolutionary groups, including the Tongmenghui, as a democratic and moderate socialist party.
The party gained a majority in the first National Assembly, but in 1913 Yuan Shikai, who was President as part of an agreement to have the emperor abdicate, dissolved the body, had Sung assassinated, and ordered the Kuomintang suppressed.
The party established a rival government at Guangzhou in 1918 and accepted aid from the Soviet Union after being denied recognition from the western powers. At the first party congress in 1924, which included non-KMT delegates such as members of the CPC, they adopted Sun's political theory, which included the Three Principles of the People - nationalism, democracy, and the livelihood of the people.
Soviet advisers--the most prominent of whom was an agent of the Comintern, Mikhail Borodin--began to arrive in China in 1923 to aid in the reorganization and consolidation of the KMT along the lines of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, establishing a Leninist party structure that lasted into the 1990s. The Communist Party China was under Comintern instructions to cooperate with the KMT, and its members were encouraged to join while maintaining their party identities, forming the First United Front between the two parties. Soviet advisers also helped the Nationalists set up a political institute to train propagandists in mass mobilization techniques and in 1923 sent Chiang Kai-shek, one of Sun's lieutenants from Tongmeng Hui days, for several months' military and political study in Moscow.
Civil and World War
In 1926, following the death of Sun Yat-sen, the new Kuomintang leader General Chiang Kai-shek launched the Northern Expedition against the warlord government in Beijing. As he halted briefly in Shanghai in 1927 to purge the Communists who had been allied with the KMT, the Chinese Civil War began. Kuomintang forces took Beijing in 1928 and received widespread diplomatic recognition in the same year. Thus began the period of "political tutelage," whereby the government was to control the government while instructing the people on how to participate in a democratic system.
After several military campaigns, the Communists were forced (1934-35) to withdraw from their bases in southern and central China. The Kuomintang continued to attack the Communists, even during the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945).
After the defeat of the Japanese, full-scale civil war between the Communists and Nationalists resumed. Chiang Kai-shek ordered his forces to the cities to defend industrialists and financiers, allowing the Communists to move freely through the countryside. Much of the war from 1946-1949 was financed from Taiwan's sugar and rice reserves acquisitioned by the KMT. By the end of 1949 the Communists controlled almost all of the mainland, as the Kuomintang fled to Taiwan.
KMT on Taiwan
In 1950 Chiang took office in Taipei under emergency rules which halted democratic processes until the mainland could be recovered. The various government organs previously in Nanjing were re-established in Taipei as the KMT-controlled government actively claimed sovereignty over all China. The Republic of China retained China's seat in the United Nations until 1971.
In the 1970s, the Kuomintang began to allow for "supplemental elections" on Taiwan to fill the seats of the aging representatives. Although opposition parties were not permitted, Tang wai (lit, outside the party) representatives were tolerated. In the 1980s, the Kuomintang focused on transforming itself from a party of a single-party system to one of many in a multi-party democracy, and for "Taiwanizing" itself. With the end of martial law in 1991, the Kuomintang found itself competing against the Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwanese elections. The leader of the Kuomintang during the 1990s was Lee Teng-Hui, who angered the People's Republic of China and a significant number of voters on Taiwan with his advocacy of "state-to-state" relations with the PRC, which many associated with Taiwan independence. In order to maintain influence, the Kuomintang was involved in vote buying and black gold, which decreased its support among the Taiwanese middle class.
As the ruling party on Taiwan, the KMT amassed a vast business empire of banks, investment companies, petrochemical firms, and television and radio stations. Its wealth in the year 2000 was at an estimated US $6.5 billion, making it the richest political party in the world.
The Kuomintang faced a split in 1994 which led to the formation of the New Party. This party was effectively destroyed in the legislative elections of 2001. A much more serious split in the party occurred as a result of the 2000 Presidential election. Upset at the official nomination of Lien Chan as the party's Presidential nominee, former party Secretary-General James Soong launched an independent bid for which he and his supporters were expelled (and later formed the People's First Party. The KMT candidate placed third behind Soong in the elections, leading Lee to resign as Chairman. In order to prevent defections to the PFP, Lien moved the party away from Lee's policies of seperatism and became more favorable toward Chinese reunification. This shift led to Lee's expulsion from the party and the formation of the Taiwan Solidarity Union.
With the party's voters defecting to both the PFP and TSU, the KMT did poorly in the December 2001 legislative elections and lost its position as the largest party in the Legislative Yuan. More recently, the party did well in the 2002 mayoral and council election with Ma Ying-jeou, its candidate for Taipei mayor, winning by a landslide and its candidate for Kaohsuing mayor narrowing losing but doing surprisingly well. In the ROC presidential election, 2004, the KMT will run a combined ticket with the PFP, with Lien running for president and Soong running for vice-president.
There has been a recent warming of relations between the pan-blue coalition and the Communist Party of China, with prominent members of both the KMT and PFP in active discussions with officials on the Mainland. The KMT opened a campaign office for the Lien-Soong ticket in Shanghai targeting Taiwanese businessmen - the first time the party was allowed to campaign on the mainland since it was ousted in 1949.
In December 2003, however, the KMT chairman and presidential candidate, Lien Chan, initiated what appeared to be a major shift in the party's position on the linked questions of Chinese reunification and Taiwnese independence. Speaking to foreign journalists, Lien said that while the KMT was opposed to "immediate independence," it did not wish to classed as "pro-reunificationist" either. At the same time Wang Jin-pyng, the KMT's campaign manager in the 2004 presidential election, said that the party no longer opposed Taiwan's "eventual independence."
On domestic policy, the party is conservative and is a member of the International Democrat Union.