What was the nature of rule during the Nanjing Decade (1927-1937)?

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The Nanjing Decade saw the rise, and eventual demise, of Chiang Kai-shek's authoritarian nationalist rule. At the beginning of this crucial period of Chinese history, Chiang's Kuomintang (KMT) established one-party rule according to the ideology of the late, venerated, Sun Yat-sen. The KMT believed that they'd achieved the second of Sun's three stages of revolution, the so-called tutelary stage. This would entail the provisional government educating the Chinese people about their civil and political rights.

Despite the emancipatory language espoused by the KMT, the party ruled with an iron fist, cracking down hard on any dissent. They were especially hard on Communists, many of whom perished in mass purges. However, the government's attempt to impose law and order was hampered by violent, internecine squabbles between rival factions within the KMT. Though most members of the party were loyal to Chiang, a significant number were not, and engaged in active attempts to thwart his continuing rule.

Chiang responded with authoritarian measures such as placing his opponents under house arrest. The authoritarianism did nothing to stem the growing tide of dissatisfaction within the party at the current state of China. In particular, many prominent figures within the KMT were concerned at Chiang's seeming inability to deal with the ever present threat of Japanese invasion.

Eventually things got so bad that Hu Hanmin, one of Chiang's most powerful rivals in the leadership of the KMT, staged a rebellion against the government. Although the uprising was quickly suppressed, it seemed that the country was on the brink of civil war. Only the Japanese invasion of Manchuria prevented the civil war.

Nevertheless, Hu's rebellion exposed the limitations of the one-party nationalist state, demonstrating that the personal, autocratic rule of Chiang Kai-shek was ultimately incapable of keeping the KMT or the entire nation together.

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