The Cold War Review for AP World History (page 3)

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Updated on Mar 4, 2011

Decolonization of India

Indian independence from Great Britain was accomplished largely through the efforts of Mohandas Gandhi, who believed in passive resistance to accomplish his goals. In 1935, the British Parliament passed the Government of India Act, which increased suffrage and turned provincial governments over to Indian leaders. Indian independence was delayed by the insistence of some Muslims on a separate Muslim state. In 1947, the British granted India its independence; India followed a path of nonalignment with either superpower.

At the same time that India received its independence, the new nation of Pakistan was created. Pakistan was then divided into eastern and western regions separated by over 1,000 miles of Indian territory. A few years later, Burma (Myanmar) and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) also gained independence. Unequal distribution of wealth between the two Pakistans ended in civil war in the early 1970s; in 1972, East Pakistan became the independent nation of Bangladesh.

Conflict in Palestine

The Holocaust strengthened international support for a homeland for the Jews. As the Nazis continued their policy of genocide against the Jews, immigration to Palestine increased. When Arab resistance turned to violence against Jewish communities in Palestine, the British placed restrictions on Jewish immigration. In 1948, the United Nations partitioned Palestine into Jewish and Arab countries; the independent state of Israel was proclaimed. Almost immediately, war broke out as Arabs protested the partition. A Jewish victory resulted in the eventual expansion of the Jewish state at the expense of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs who were exiled from their homes.


In 1979, the U.S.-backed Iranian government of Reza Shah Pahlavi was overthrown by Islamic fundamentalists. The middle classes were opposed to the shah's authoritarian and repressive rule; Iran's ayatollahs, or religious leaders, opposed the shah's lack of concern for strict Islamic observance. Iran also was suffering from a fall in oil prices prior to the 1979 revolution.

The new Iranian ruler, the Ayatollah Khomeini, rejected Western culture as satanic, and imposed strict Islamic law, including the veiling of women, on Iran. Saddam Hussein, leader of Iraq, took advantage of Iranian weakness by annexing its oil-rich western provinces. When peace came in 1988, Iran was devastated economically.

Postrevolutionary China

One of the key leaders of the 1911–1912 revolt against the Qing dynasty was Western-educated Sun Yat-sen. He briefly ruled China's new parliamentary government until he relinquished his place to warlord rule. After World War I, the May Fourth Movement (1919) attempted to create a liberal democracy for China. In the same year, Sun Yat-sen and his followers reorganized the revolutionary movement under the Guomindang, or Nationalist Party. Marxist socialism also took hold on China, however; in 1921, the Communist Party of China was organized. Among its members was a student named Mao Zedong.

After the death of Sun Yat-sen in 1925, Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) seized control of the Guomindang. A 1927 incident in which the Guomindang executed a number of communists in Shanghai so enraged the communists that civil war broke out. Except for the years during World War II, the Chinese civil war lasted until 1949, when Mao Zedong's communists, whose land reforms gained peasant support, were victorious. After their defeat, Jiang Jieshi's forces fled to the island of Taiwan (Formosa) off the coast of China, while Mao proclaimed the birth of the People's Republic of China on the Chinese mainland.

After gaining control of China, the communists contained secessionist attempts in Inner Mongolia and Tibet; some Tibetan opposition exists to the present. China also supported North Korea in its conflict with South Korea in the 1950s.

Once in power, Mao began organizing China along Soviet models. Farms were collectivized, leading to lack of peasant initiative and a decrease in agricultural production. Eager to increase the participation of rural peoples, Mao instituted the Great Leap Forward, which attempted to accomplish industrialization through small-scale projects in peasant communities. The Great Leap Forward proved a resounding failure.

In 1960, Mao was replaced as head of state, although he retained his position as head of the Communist Party. The new leaders, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping, instituted some market incentives to improve the Chinese economy. In 1965, Mao launched his Cultural Revolution, a program that used student Red Guard organizations to abuse Mao's political rivals. Especially targeted were the educated and elite classes; universities were closed. Opposition from Mao's rivals led to the end of the Cultural Revolution, whereas relations were opened between China and the United States.

In 1976, both Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong died, paving the way for the leadership of Deng Xiaoping. Deng discontinued collective farming and allowed some Western influence to enter China. His government did not permit democratic reform, as shown in the government's suppression of students demonstrating for democracy in Tiananmen Square in 1989.


After World War II and the end of Japanese occupation of Vietnam, France was eager to regain its former colony. During Japanese occupation, however, Vietnamese nationalism had materialized under the leadership of Marxist-educated Ho Chi Minh. In 1945, in a document whose preamble echoed that of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the independence of the nation of Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh's party, the Viet Minh, had control over only the northern part of the country. The French, aided by Great Britain, occupied most of the south and central portions. In 1954, the Vietnamese defeated the French. The Geneva Conference (1954) gave the Viet Minh control of the northern portion of the country while providing for elections throughout Vietnam in two years. With U.S. support, Ngo Dinh Diem was installed as the president of South Vietnam. The required free elections were not held, and pockets of communist resistance, the Viet Cong, continued to exist in the south.

When Diem's government proved corrupt and ineffective, the United States arranged for his overthrow. By 1968, hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops were fighting in Vietnam. In 1973, the United States negotiated an end to its involvement in Vietnam; in 1975 the government in the south fell, and all of Vietnam was under communist control. The neighboring countries of Laos and Cambodia also fell to communism.

Rapid Review

The postwar world saw the emergence of two superpowers: the United States and the Soviet Union. The Cold War period was one of constant threats of aggression between the superpowers as the Soviet Union sought to expand communism and the United States sought to contain it. Communism spread outside the Soviet Union to Eastern Europe, China, Southeast Asia, North Korea, and Cuba.

After World War II, most colonial possessions gradually achieved their long-awaited independence. Newly independent nations often aligned themselves with either the United States or the Soviet Union. Other nations such as India, however, chose the independence of nonalignment. New nations often experienced conflicts that continue to the present; the first Arab-Israeli war occurred immediately after the establishment of the nation of Israel, and sub-Saharan Africa has experienced a continuing history of ethnic strife.

Review questions for this study guide can be found at:

The Cold War Review Questions for AP World History

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