On March 12, 1925, the Chinese nationalist leader Sun Yat-Sen died of cancer in a Beijing hospital. Dedicated to the cause of revolution and a democratic, unified China, Sun had led the popular revolt against the imperial government that ruled the nation; he founded the Kuomintang, or National People’s Party, following the fall of the last emperor of the Manchu dynasty in 1911. The Kuomintang included several political factions as well as a military arm, later modeled on the army of the Soviet Union. Despite Sun's attempts to unify the country, central government remained weak and China was divided by rivalries between local warlords and governments established in the major cities, including Shanghai and Beijing.
After Sun’s death, the Kuomintang split into rival factions led by Chiang Kai-Shek and Wang Jingwei. In 1927, the Chinese Communist party left the Kuomintang, an event that led to nearly twenty years of civil war between the Kuomintang and the Communist forces, led in the 1930s by Mao Tse-Tung. Both sides claimed Sun Yat-Sen as a founder and historic figurehead; the struggle was not resolved until the Communist seizure of power in Beijing and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Exiled to the island of Taiwan, the Kuomintang set up a new republican government on the island, which the People's Republic still claims as a province of China under the authority of the Beijing government.