Chinese Revolution: the Guomindang

Exam task

Section A Question 1/2 – Chinese Revolution


“Using three or four points, explain how the ideas and actions of the Guomindang [Kuomintang] contributed to the development of the Chinese Revolution to October 1949.”

Student response

“The ineffectiveness of the Goumindang, under the leadership of Chiang-Kai-Shek, provoked agitation in the Chinese population, who yearned for change from the dogmatic ideals of the Generalissimo. The increasingly fascist ideology of Chiang, inspired by western authoritarians Mussolini and Hitler, evoked in the Chinese people a fervent discontent with the Nationalist government which resembled the autocratic Qing monarchy they had fought so hard to repel. With Chiang suggesting by 1935 “Can fascism save China? We say yes! Fascism is now what China needs most.”, it was clear to the Chinese that the three principles of the ‘father of the revolution’, Dr. Sun Yixian, were no longer being practiced. Historian C. P. Fitzgerald argues “The Chinese people groaned under a regime fascist in every quality except efficiency.” The Nationalist decision to target the Chinese Communist Party, as the opposed to the invading Japanese military who were gradually eroding Chinese sovereignty, illustrated to the population that the contorted ideals of the Generalissimo were endangering the autonomy of the nation. According to Chiang “The Japanese are an affliction of the skin; they can be cured. The Communists are an affliction of the soul; it affects the whole body.” In addition, the corruption and bureaucratic lethargy, which plagued the Nationalist government, further sullied its reputation in the eyes of the Chinese people, with forced conscription as a means of challenging the Japanese military, and the constant exploitation of tax officials looking to further line their pockets with the hardships of the common man, imbuing a sense of despair and a revolutionary fervor for change. R. H. Tawny comments “The common Chinese farmer was like a man standing permanently up to his neck in water so that even a ripple is sufficient to drown him”.”

Teacher feedback

This response contains relevant and interesting knowledge but is too ambitious for this particular part of the exam. The response makes two critical errors: it fails to structure and signpost, and it includes quotations from historians. Its opening sentence also lurches into an assessment of Chiang Kai-shek rather than the Guomindang. It is important to begin with a direct response to the question. A better opening sentence would be something like “The Guomindang was the republican-nationalist party that ruled China between 1928 and 1949, however its poor leadership, internal conflicts and corruption saw it lose support and suffer defeat by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)”.

The student here focuses on three useful points: Chiang’s ideology, his opposition to communism and the relationship between the Nationalist government and the people. Those points are good but they do need to be signposted more clearly. Including historians’ quotations is both unnecessary and uses time and space that should be given to specific knowledge. In these Section A Part 1/2 responses the assessors are looking for factual knowledge – people, dates, places, events, policies – not perspectives or interpretations. This response should have mentioned things like the Nanjing Decade, the Encirclement Campaign or the New Life Movement, rather than drawing on historians. Despite its ambitious approach, this response would only score in the region of 7-8 out of 10.

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