The Twentieth Century was unkind to the Chinese people. It began with the collapse in 1911 of the last imperial dynasty after decades of corruption, inept governance and social disintegration. From the wreckage of empire, provincial warlords struggled for power and profit at the expense of the people.
The West demanded an "Open Door" to China to assure free access for European and American trade in China's markets regardless of which warlord was in charge, or where. Japan saw itself as the savior of its ancient cultural origins (and its lucrative markets) by moving into China's power vacuum to command it by force of arms – and, in the process, to keep out Westerners. China's Nationalists wanted to unite the nation and throw out the foreigners.