The revolutionaries although were following Liang's philosophy, saw things differently. For them, nationalism meant to exclude all manchurian leaders and replace them by Han Chinese. Eventually students and intellectuals adopted the language of race and self-determination, the nation-state. Clearly, if all people were to share this philosophy, China would of been torn apart in pieces, all the ethnicities having their own state.
After the Revolution of 1911 the idea of a multiethnic China started to get shape. It is important to mention that from the beginning of the 20th century the new generation of intellectuals started to borrow even more of the Western way of life and culture. By now the old class of 'shi' was virtually gone and Confucianism was left behind. Works of fiction began to be written, vernacular chinese was adopted and local capitalists started to appear.
The May Fourth Movement revived political activism and in the course the 1920's the Nationalist Party and the Chinese Communist Party appear. The nationalists (Guamindang) were lead by Sun Yat-sen who considered that the large scale poverty had roots in the lack of productivity not from inequality. The country still had an economy based on agriculture, not even a mechanized agriculture. Only about 1.5 milion Chinese worked in large factories, at the rail roads and as sea merchants. We should not forget that this period was not a fortunate one for the country.
In March 1925, Sun Yat-sen dies and leader of the nationalists becomes Chiang Kai-shek (foto right), a charismatic figure that succeeded in imposig law in China and kept the local warlords under some kind of control. In 1928 Chiang led the Northern Expedition to unify the country under a single government. The Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 marked the start of even harder times.
The Communists were close to extinction with the exception of a few local leaders from the very poor regions. The help reveived from the USSR in their fight against the Japanese, and the Nationalists, was fundamental.
(The first photo is from 16 June 1924 with Sun Yat-sen in the middle and Chiang Kai-shek in uniform on stage at the founding of Whampoa Military Academy)