What Have Led China to Where She Is Now (III)

The Nationalist and Communist Parties 1923-1949

Wang Ronghua

The Formation of the United Front This period has been referred to as the “War of Northern Expeditions”,during which struggles against imperialism and feudalism were waged under the joint leadership of the Communist party and the Nationalist party. In June, 1923, the 3rd congress of the Communist party decided to establish the United Front with the Nationalists, and her members could join the Nationalist party in each’s personal name.With the assistance and participation of the Communist party, Sun Yat-sen convened the 1st congress of the Nationalist conference in Guangzhou. At the conference, he gave new interpretations to the Three Principles of the People and decided on the three major policies, namely: alliance with Russia, with the Communist party and render support to peasants and workers. Thus started the cooperation with the Communist party.Immediately after, the Huangpu School of Army Officers was opened. After two expeditions to the east, the revolutionary base in Guangdong was further consolidated. Thus, paved the way for the Northern Expedition.
(Sun Yat-sen and the Huangpu School of Army Officers)


(Liao Zhongkai (right), Party Representative in the school and Zhou Enlai (left), Dean of the Political Department)


 May 30th Movement
In January 1925, the 4th congress of the Communist party raised the issue of leadership of democratic revolution and of the mass movement of workers and peasants.On May 30, 1925, “May 30th” Movement broke out in Shanghai and spread to the whole nation very quickly. It is an anti-imperialist movement participated by the broad masses of the people under the leadership of the Communist party, a symbol of the climax of the great revolution.February 1925, over 40,000 workers went on strike against sacking of workers by Japanese cotton mills in Shanghai.May 15, Gu Zhonghong, representative of workers was killed by the Japanese capitalist.May 28, the Communist party decided to organize a demonstration on May 30 to protest against slaughter of Chinese workers by imperialists.Shanghai General Trade Union, headed by Li Lisan and Liu Hua, was formed by the Communist party to lead the strike.The strike in Shanghai

The policemen from the British Concession arrested on Nanjing Road over 100 demonstrating workers and students, and fired guns at the gathering crowd and shot 13 dead and wounded 10. The whole nation was shocked.On the night of the same day, an emergency meeting was called by the central committee of the Communist party, which decided to protest against the imperialist slaughtering by strikes.From June 1st on, over 200,000 workers, 50,000 students and many businessmen were on strike. At the same time, marine corps from British, American, Italian and French warships came onshore and occupied some universities and tried to suppress the strike.Overseas Chinese in over 100 countries rallied to voice support.The struggle spread over to 25 provinces and over 17 million people nation-wide took part. It was a heavy blow to imperialists. It raised the curtain of the forthcoming great revolution.

 Northern Warlords

Name Head Forces
Central Plain area Wu Peifu 350,000
Shenyang Region  Zhang Zuolin 200,000  
East coast region Sun Chuanfang 200,000

 The Zhongshan Warship Incident

(Chinese: 中山舰事件; pinyin:Zhōngshān Jiàn Shìjiàn), or March 20th Incident, on March 20, 1926, involved a suspected plot by Captain Li Zhilong of the warship Chung Shan to kidnap Chiang Kai-shek.It triggered a political struggle between the Communist Party of China and Kuomintang.Left wing led by Wang Jingwei against Chiang Kaishek and the Kuomintang Right wing faction resulting in Chiang becoming the head
of the Kuomintang party and commander-in-chief of all the armies for the Northern Expedition.The Communist party held that this incident was plotted by Chiang himself



Northern Expedition
On July 9, 1926, Chiang gave his lecture to 100,000 soldiers of the National Revolutionary Army, which was setup by the students trained in the Huangpu School of Army Officers and equipped with Russian arsenal in the opening ceremony, which was the official commencement of Northern Expedition. NRA soldiers were far better organized than the warlord armies which they faced, for they had good military advisors, better weapons and commissars from CPC to inspire the soldiers. In addition, the NRA was regarded as a progressive force on behalf of ordinary people persecuted by warlords, for which it received warm welcome and strong support from peasants and workers. It was no surprise the NRA could march from Zhu River area to Yangtze River in less than half a year and annihilate the main force of Wu and Sun, and strengthen its force from 100,000 to 250,000.

In May 1926, the vanguard of the national Revolution Army (NRA), composed of the first section of No. 7 Army and the Independent detachment of the No. 4 Army, entered into Hunan to assist No. 8 Army headed by Tang Shengzhi, which was retreating because of attacks by the army of Warlord Wu. On July 6, the headquarters of the NRA was formed in Guangzhou. On July 9, 100,000 soldiers from eight armies started the expedition to the  north. The commanders of each army were respectively: He Yingqin, No.1; Tan Yankai, No. 2; Zhu Peide, No. 3; Li Jishen, No. 4; Li Fulin, No. 5; Cheng Qian, No. 6; Li Zongren, No. 7; Tang Shengzhi, No. 8. Eight warships and three fighters also took part in the operations.  Communist party members Li Fuchun, Zhu Kejing, Liao Qianwu and Lin Boqu were political commissars in No. 2,3,4 and 6 armies.  Other Communist members such as Chen Yi, Chen Gen, Jiang Xianyun, Zhang Jichun, Bao Huizeng, Ye ting and Zhou Shidi all joined the armies. The 3rd plenary session of the 4th congress of the Communist party called on the people to support the Northern Expedition in order to overthrow warlords and imperialists.

Routs of the Expedition

Chiang Kai-shek, Commander-in-chief of NRA spoke at the Pledge

Rally on July 9, 1926

(Soldiers in the trench for attacking Wuchang City)

Northern Expedition

At the west front, armies No. 4,7 and 8 took over Xiangxiang, Xiangtan and Changsha early August, and smashed the core force of Wu Peifu when taking over Dingsi and Hesheng bridges. On Sept. 6 and 7, they took Hanyang and Hankou, and On Oct. 10, they took over Wuchang. The Independent Detachment led by Ye Ting was reputed as an“Iron Army” for its heroic deeds. The NRA forces took over Jiangxi in November. Sun Chuanfang fled to anjing.At the east front, No. 1 Army took over Fuzhou in December, Hangzhou on March 18, and Nanjing March 23, the next year. NRA led by Feng Yuxiang also moved towards east with assistance from Liu Bojian and Deng Xiaoping.  In a matter of less than 9 months, the forces of Wu Peifu were wiped out and the main forces of Sun Chuanfang were eliminated.

April 12 Incident
The rapid development of revolutionary forces directly threatened the interests of the imperialists. In March 1927, on the excuse of the so called injury of their consul and damage of their wealth, their warships fired at the Northern Expedition army and civilians and caused casualties of over 2,000 people. This is the Nanjing Massacre.The Shanghai massacre of 1927, also known as the April 12 Incident, was a large-scale purge of Communists from the Kuomintang (KMT) in Shanghai, ordered by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek on 12 April 1927, during the Northern Expedition against the warlords.In Chinese, the incident is called "the Purging of the Party" (清黨) by the Kuomintang (KMT), while the Communist Party of China (CPC) refers to it as the "Shanghai Massacre of 1927", "April 12
Anti-revolutionary Coup" (四一二反革命政变) or "April 12 Tragedy" (四一二慘案). Many prominent Communist members of the Kuomintang were imprisoned or executed by Chiang in an attempt to destroy the influence of the CCP. Over the several weeks following the April 12 incident in Shanghai, arrests and executions of prominent Communists spread across areas of China allied with Chiang, including a co-founder of the Chinese Communist Party, Li Dazhao, in Beijing. After defeating Communist insurrections in the cities, the Kuomintang became unified under Chiang's leadership, and went on to defeat the warlord factions and become dominant in China. The Communists withdrew to rural collectives, building strength in the countryside for the next phase of civil war.
In January 1927, allied with the Chinese Communists and Soviet Agent Mikhail Borodin, Wang Jingwei and his KMT leftist allies captured the city of Wuhan and declared the seat of National Government there. On 3 March 1927, workers led by Zhou Enlai launched an armed uprising in Shanghai, defeating the joint warlord forces of the Zhili clique and Shandong. The victorious workers occupied urban Shanghai except for the international settlements, prior to the arrival of the KMT army of Bai Chongxi, a close ally of Chiang.The right wing of the Kuomintang now became alarmed by the growth of Communist influence, both within the KMT government and the workers' militias of the cities. Taking advantage of international outrage over the Nanjing Incident in March, and with Shanghai under the control of Bai, Chiang momentarily halted his campaign against the warlords and decided to break with the leftists and Communists.

On April 2, 1927, Chiang Kai-shek, Li Zongren and Bai Chongxi secretly organized a Central Monitoring Committee in Shanghai, concluding that the Communists were preparing to seize the government. The committee drafted plans for purging Communists from the Kuomintang and made preparations. Chiang Kai-shek sent a military orchestra to entertain the workers' militia of the General Union of Shanghai Workers, while encouraging Du Yuesheng and other leaders of the Green Gang and the Hongmen Gang,to organize rightist groups to attack the unionists. On April 9, the Central Monitoring Committee declared An emergency condition in Shanghai, blaming the Communists of the Kuomintang government in Wuhan.A secret order was issued on April 11 to all provinces under the control of Chiang's forces to purge
Communists from the KMT.Before the sunrise of April 12, gang members attacked districts controlled by the workers, including Zhabei, Nanshi and Pudong. Under an emergency decree, the 26th Army disarmed the workers' militias,wounding more than 300 people. The unionists organized a mass meeting denouncing Chiang Kai-shek on April 13, and thousands of workers and students went to the headquarters of the 2nd Division of the 26th Army in protest. Soldiers opened fire, killing 100 and wounding many more. Chiang dissolved the government of Shanghai and the unions and other organizations under Communist control. Over a thousand Communistswere arrested, some 300 were officially executed, and more than 5,000 went missing. Communists in Canton, Xiamen, Fuzhou, Ningbo, Nanjing, Hangzhou and Changsha were also arrested or killed. In Beijing on April 28, warlord Zhang Zuolin killed 20 Communists who had taken up refuge at the Soviet embassy, including Li Dazhao, co-founder of Chinese Communist Party.

The April 12 Massacre

After the April 12 Incident, Communist general-secretary Chen Duxiu and his Soviet advisors who had promoted cooperation with the KMT were discredited, but remained in power. The CPC prepared for an expected surge of worker revolution in the urban areas. The first battles of the 10-year Chinese Civil War began with armed Communist insurrections in Changsha, Shantou, Nanchang and Guangzhou. During the Nanchang Uprising in August 1927, Communist soldiers under Zhu De were defeated and escaped from Kuomintang forces by withdrawing to the mountains of western Jiangxi. In September 1927, Mao Zedong led a small peasant army in the Autumn Harvest Uprising in Hunan province. The uprising was defeated by Kuomintang forces and Mao's forces retreated to Jiangxi as well, forming the first elements of what would become the People's Liberation Army. By the time the CPC Central Committee was forced to flee Shanghai in 1933, Mao had established peasant-based soviets in Jiangxi and Hunan provinces, transforming the Communist Party's base of support from the urban proletariat to the countryside, where the people's war would be fought.
Lessons Learned by the Communist Party
The Right Capitulationists represented by Chen Duxiu were on a ruling position in the party, who gave up leadership of the revolution, suppressed workers and peasants, conceded to the reactionary moves by the rightists in the Kuomintang, refused correct opinions within the party and ordered workers in Wuhan to give up weapons to the Wang Jingwei government. On July 15, Wang Jingwei declared openly the split with the Communist party and began a massacre of Communist party members, he went so far to shout that he would not let one Communist party member slip even if he had to make one thousand wrong killings. By then, Chiang and Wang came together, the First Domestic Revolution failed and the first cooperation between the Nationalist and Communist parties broke.