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On January 1, 1912, the Republic of China was established, heralding the end of the Qing Dynasty. Sun Yat-sen of the Kuomintang (KMT or Nationalist Party), was proclaimed provisional president of the republic. However, Yuan Shikai, a former Qing general who had defected to the revolutionary cause, soon usurped the presidency by forcing Sun to step aside. Yuan then attempted to have himself instated emperor of a new dynasty, but died of natural causes before securing power over all of the Chinese empire.

After Yuan Shikai's death, China was politically fragmented, with an internationally recognized, but virtually powerless, national government seated in Beijing. Warlords in various regions exercised actual control over their respective territories. In the late 1920s, the Kuomintang, under Chiang Kai-shek, was able to reunify the country under its own control, moving the nation's capital to Nanjing (Nanking) and implementing "political tutelage", an intermediate stage of political development outlined in Sun Yat-sen's program for transforming China into a modern, democratic state. Effectively, political tutelage meant one-party rule by the Kuomintang.

The Sino-Japanese War of 1937?1945 (part of World War II) forced an uneasy alliance between the Nationalists and the Communists as well as causing around 10 million Chinese civilian deaths. With the surrender of Japan in 1945, China emerged victorious but financially drained. The continued distrust between the Nationalists and the Communists led to the resumption of the Chinese Civil War. In 1947, constitutional rule was established, but because of the ongoing Civil War many provisions of the ROC constitution were never implemented on the mainland.


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