In Apr., 1927, Chiang Kai-shek drove the Communists, led by Zhou Enlai, from Shanghai and executed many of their leaders. By July the party went underground, beginning the long conflict between the party and the Kuomintang. In Aug., 1927, Mao Zedong led the peasants of Hunan prov. in the Autumn Crop Uprising, a popular rebellion that was bloodily suppressed.
One branch of the party secretly maintained itself in the cities, even establishing a short-lived Communist commune in Guangzhou (Dec., 1927). In the rural hinterland Mao Zedong and Zhu De established (1927) a precarious soviet in Jiangxi prov. Several other rural soviets were set up in Hunan, Anhui, and Hubei provs. By 1931, Mao was in control of the official soviet government at Ruiqin; radical land-reform was adopted, gaining support of the peasants. A Red Army, under the leadership of Mao and Zhu, was recruited from the peasantry of Jiangxi. Eventually driven from their southern base by Chiang's military campaigns, many thousands of Communists trekked north on the long march and set up headquarters at Yan'an in Shaanxi prov. There the party organization was strengthened, factories were built, and the civil war with Chiang's forces continued.
In Sept., 1937, after a two-year effort to promote Chinese unity in the face of further Japanese aggression (see Sino-Japanese War, Second), the Communists obtained a limited truce from Chiang Kai-shek and accepted his nominal authority, although they retained actual military and political control over large areas in the northwest. The truce with the Kuomintang broke down in 1939, but Communist guerrillas remained the only really effective force against the Japanese in N China. When World War II ended in 1945, the Communists controlled wide rural areas in N and central China and moved quickly to gain control of Manchuria. From 1945 to 1949 party membership swelled as Communist armies took city after city from the Nationalists.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.