In the late 1830s, being the first country in the world to accomplish the Industrial Revolution, Britain became the most powerful capitalist country of the time. In order to expand the markets for its industrial products and secure more resources of industrial raw materials, Britain launched a war against China-the Opium War, in which China was defeated and was forced to sign unequal treaties, including the Treaty of Nanking. From then on, China began to lose her sovereignty and territorial integrity and to decline to a semi-colonial, semi-feudal state. Therefore, historians regard 1840 as the beginning of the modern history of China, a history of 110 years. Ever since the Opium War, time and time again the imperialist powers waged aggressive wars against China, further violating her sovereignty and territorial integrity. Being oppressed by the imperialists, the Chinese people launched resistance movements one after another, such as the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom Movement, the Reform Movement of 1898, and the Yihetuan Movement, all intending to save the country. The greatest of all these was the Revolution of 1911 led by Dr. Sun Yatsen, which brought to an end the 2 000-year-old autocratic, feudalist monarchy and established the Republic of China (1912-1949). The May 4th Movement of 1919 laid the groundwork for the establishment of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which was founded in 1921, thus epitomizing a new phase of revolutionary development in China.
In 1949, led by the Communist the Chinese people managed to drive away the imperial powers and overthrew the government of the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, KMT) in the Chinese mainland. The history of the semi-colonial and semi-feudal society in China was replaced with the victory of a democratic revolution.
Lin Zexu and the Destruction of Opium at Humen
On June 3rd, 1839, a lot of boxes were piled up high on the beach of Humen, Guangdong Province, thousands of local people were waiting with great excitement…
In fact, what was inside the boxes was Dayan, the local term for opium, which is an addictive drug that causes great damage, physically and mentally. Britain and other Western countries began to smuggle opium into China in the early 19th century. In less than 40 years, the number of opium addicts in China amounted to over two million. Opium brought huge profits for British traders but posed a great danger to Chinese society. It not only damaged people’s finances but also drained off China’s financial resources by dying denomination of silver, thus undermining the socio-economic stability of the country. In addition, the morale and strength of the army were greatly reduced with the increase of opium addiction among the ranks.
Facing these threats, Emperor Daoguang was repeatedly urged by his ministers to ban the trade of opium. The prominent one among the ministers was Lin Zexu, Viceroy of Hubei and Hunan, who was dispatched by the Emperor in 1839 to Guangzhou to implement the banning of opium.
Lin Zexu (1785-1850) had been successful in banning opium in 1838 when he was Viceroy of Hubei and Hunan. After arriving in Guangzhou, he fought against the foreign opium traders by investigating and forcing them to turn in their stocks of opium together with a pledge of never smuggling again. At first, the opium traders did not take Lin seriously by refusing to take his command. Some of them even tried to escape but were caught by Lin’s army. The army later besieged the British Chamber of Commerce and cut die food supply thereafter evacuating the Chinese employees inside. Lin made his voice dear, “I will stay so long as the opium trade is earned on! I swear to ban the opium thoroughly!” The opium traders felt scared and hopeless. They had no choice but to turn in the opium, which amounted to more than 1 100 000 kg in over 20 000 boxes.
Lin Zexu ordered to destruct the 20 000 boxes of confiscated opium, hence the scene on the beach of Humen. Starting from June 3rd, 1839, it took 23 days to complete the destruction of the drugs.
The destruction of opium at Humen stunned the world and highlighted the will of the Chinese people in banning the drug and in battling against foreign aggression. For his bold action, Lin Zexu became a national hero in modern Chinese history.
The First Opium War
Not only did British traders profit greatly from the opium trade, the British government benefited from it as well. Therefore, the destruction of opium stocks in Guangzhou by Lin Zexu also meant huge losses to the British government. They dispatched 48 warships equipped with 540 cannons to the coast of Guangdong, launching the First Opium War against China in June 1840.
Under the command of Lin Zexu, the army and the people of Guangzhou were well prepared for the war. The British fleet then turned up north along the coast and captured Dinghai in Zhejiang Province. They reached Tianjin in August when the panic-stricken Emperor Daoguang sent Minister Qi Shan to negotiate with the British. The emperor promised to dismiss Lin Zexu as long as the British troops went back to Guangdong. When they did so, Li Zexu was removed from his office.
In January 1841, the British occupied the Hong Kong Island. The Chinese government of the Qing Dynasty had to declare war against Britain and send Minister Yi Shan to Guangzhou to direct the battle. In February, the British troops bombarded the fort in Humen, where the Chinese defenders under General Guan Tianpei fought against the enemy without reinforcements. When the fort was lost, General Guan and his brave men continued to fight, using swords, but were overwhelmed and slaughtered. In May, the chicken-hearted Yi Shan surrendered Guangzhou to the British, who met the local people’s strong resistance, notably from Sanyuanli in the suburb of Guangzhou, and incurred serious losses.
The war escalated with the British attack on several places in Zhejiang Province, including Dinghai, Zhenhai, and Ningbo. Chinese forces, some led by the heroic General Ge Yunfei, could not stop the British troops because of outdated weapons, inexperienced army officers, and corrupted government officials. In June 1842, the British troops captured the Fort Wusong in Shanghai, where they met General Chen Huacheng, who was in his 70s, deeply wounded and bleeding all over, fighting to his last breath with the commanding flag still in his hand. From Fort Wusong, the British went upstream along the Yangtze River and advanced on Nanjing (Nanking) in August. The Chinese government of the Qing Dynasty was forced to surrender by signing the Treaty of Nanking. Under the terms of the treaty, China was to pay 21 million silver dollars, to cede Hong Kong Island to Britain, and to open the cities of Guangzhou, Shanghai, Xiamen, Fuzhou and Ningbo as trading ports. The Treaty of Nanking was the first unequal treaty signed by the Qing Dynasty. It marked the start of China’s decline into a semi-colonial and semi-feudal state.
Defeating the Foreign Musketeers Squad
In 1860, the Taiping army, led by Li Xiucheng, occupied Qingpu near Shanghai. An American named F. T. Ward organized Foreign Musketeers Squad to help the Qing army to attack the Taiping army. Under Li Xiucheng’s leadership, the Taiping army routed the attackers, killed six to seven hundred musketeers while seizing over 2 000 rifles and a dozen cannons. The Foreign Musketeers Squad suffered a total loss while Ward himself, badly wounded, managed to flee for his life.
The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom Movement
Since China’s disastrous defeats in the Opium War, the Qing Dynasty became more corrupt and weaker than ever, and there were widespread misery and poverty among the common people. In 1843, inspired by the ideas of Christianity, a young man named Hong Xiuquan from Guangdong Province set up a religious organization called the God Worship Society, which advocated human equality and called for the overthrow of the rulers of the Qing Dynasty. This organization quickly attracted many adherents, the number of which amounted to over 10 000 in 1849. On January 11th, 1851, Hong Xiuquan’s 38th birthday, he initiated a peasant uprising in Jintian Village, Guiping County, in the present-day Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and declared the establishment of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom.
The Taiping army fought bravely and won a great number of battles against the army of the Qing Dynasty while growing from an army of 20 000 to that of several hundred thousand. In March 1853, the Taipings occupied Nanjing. Hong Xiuquan made the city their capital and changed its name to Tianjin (meaning “heavenly capital”). The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom promulgated the System of Land Ownership of the Heavenly Kingdom, aiming to achieve an ideal society here on earth, where all the people would share the land, food, clothing and money, and where there would be no trace of iniquity, hunger and shabbiness.
The Taiping army, winning victories everywhere, marched northward and westward to secure and expand its domain around the capital of Tianjin.
In September 1856, when the Taiping Movement was developing vigorously, power struggles took place among the leaders. This was marked by the Tianjin Incident, which lasted two months and severely weakened the Taiping leadership. The Qing government took this opportunity to organize a full-fledged counterattack. The Taiping army’s most powerful enemy was the Xiang (another name for Hunan Province) army organized and led by Zeng Guofan. In order to turn the tide, Hong Xiuquan nominated a group of young generals, i.e. Chen Yucheng and Li Xiucheng, who did achieve something, but not enough to change the destiny of the Heavenly Kingdom. In late 1863, the Xiang army besieged Tianjin. On June 3rd, 1864, Hong Xiuquan died of illness, and in July Tianjin was captured by the Xiang army. After 14 years, the peasant uprising of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom was finally quashed.
Zeng Guofan (1811-1872)
Zeng Guofan was one of the most influential figures in modern Chinese history. He was born in Xiangxiang, Hunan Province and appointed chamberlain of the Board of Rites when he was only 37. When the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom Movement took place, Zeng went to his hometown to train a local militia, which was organized into the powerful Xiang army, the major force used to help crush the Taipings. He was also one of the important officials of the late Qing Dynasty. During the 1860s, Zeng Guofan initiated the Westernization Movement together with Li Hongzhang.
The Second Opium war
In 1854, Britain requested the ratification of the Treaty of Nanking signed in 1842 in order to advance its interests in China. The requests, though supported by France and the United States, were rejected by the government of the Qing Dynasty.
In October 1856, the allied troop of Britain and France waged the Second Opium War. Guangzhou was captured in December 1857, and so was Dagu Fort in May 1858. Emperor Xianfeng of the Qing Dynasty sent chief scholar Gui Liang to negotiate peace in Tianjin. In June, the Treaty of Tianjin was signed, granting the establishment of foreign legations in Beijing, the increasing number of trading ports, the rights of foreigners to trade and evangelize freely inside China, and the payment of reparations to Britain and France.
In 1859, Britain and France requested the removing of fortification around the Baihe River. They were rejected again by the Qing government. In June, the allied fleet launched a surprise attack on Dagu Fort, where they met considerable defense from the Chinese army. A dozen warships were lost with a total casualty of over 600. The allied troop retreated.
In August 1860, the British and French allied forces came back and managed to capture Dagu Fort and Tianjin. The capital of Beijing was threatened and Emperor Xianfeng fled to Rehe (today’s Chengde, Hebei Province) in panic. On October 6th, the allied troops broke into the world-famous Yuanmingyuan Garden and burned it. Soon after, the Qing government was forced to sign the Treaty of Peking with Britain, France, and Russia. By this treaty, Kowloon was ceded, Tianjin became a trading port, and reparations were increased. The Second Opium War lasted four years and ended again with China’s defeat and the unequal treaties of humiliation and forfeiting sovereignty.
The Burning of the Yuanmingyuan Garden
Situated in the northwestern suburb of Beijing, the Yuanmingyuan Garden (the Old Summer Palace) was a resort for the Qing emperors during the height of summer. It was a world-renowned imperial garden. In October 1860, during the Second Opium War, British and French allied forces captured Beijing. They plundered the Yuanmingyuan Garden and destroyed the treasures they could not take away. In order to cover their deeds, they burned the garden to the ground. Three days and nights, fire and smoke could be seen in the northwest of Beijing.
The Westernization Movement
Hit by two Opium Wars and the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom Movement, the rulers of the Qing Dynasty felt the deepening crisis. From the 1860s to the 1890s, high officials of the Qing government, represented by Zeng Guofan, Li Hongzhang, Zuo Zongtang and Zhang Zhidong, advocated learning and adopting advanced technology from the West in order to save the dynasty by promoting industrial production with “the pursuit of mightiness and prosperity”. This is called the “Westernization Movement” by historians.
The Westernization Movement went through three stages:
The first stage was the formative stage, dating from the early 1860s to early 1870s and marked by “the pursuit of mightiness”, hence the setup of modern military industries, including the Anqing Weapon Factory, the Jiangnan Machinery Factory, the Jinling Machinery Factory, the Fuzhou Shipyard, the Tianjin Machinery Factory and the Xi’an Machinery Factory.
The second stage was the booming stage, dating from the early 1870s to mid-1880s and marked by the shift of focus from military to civilian industries for “the pursuit of prosperity”, hence the setup of the Shipping Merchandise Office and the Machinery Textile Office.
The third stage was the declining stage, dating from the mid-1880s to mid-1890s and marked by the focus on coastal defense, hence the founding of the Northern Fleet. The overwhelming defeat of China’s Northern Fleet in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894 sounded the death knell of the Westernization Movement, which lasted over 30 years.
The Westernization Movement took place in the fields of economy, military, culture, education, politics and foreign affairs. It did not bring China into prosperity. Yet, it did introduce modern science and technology from the West and contribute in a small way to the development of capitalism in China. It became the enzyme for the collapse of feudalism and also helped to contain the expansion of foreign economic power in China.
Li Hongzhang (1823-1901)
He was one of the most influential figures in modern Chinese history. Being the favorite disciple of an aide to Zeng Guofan, he was the founder and commander of the Huai army and the major advocate of the Westernization Movement. Together with the Xiang army, he helped to put down the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom Movement. Since the 1860s, he was in charge of setting up modern military industries, i.e. the Jiangnan Machinery Factory in Shanghai and the Jinling Machinery. The factory in Nanjing. In 1888, he established the Northern Fleet. In terms of foreign affairs, he displayed “the fear of foreigners” and followed the policy of “stooping to compromise”, representing the Qing government to sign the unequal treaties for several times.
Sino-Japanese War of 1894 and the Treaty of Shimonoseki
Japan is a close neighbor of China. After the Meiji Restoration, capitalism developed rapidly in Japan, making the country a major power bursting with ambitions to expand its orbit. In July 1894, Japan dispatched an army to the Korean Peninsula, which clashed with Chinese ships carrying troops to defend the Korean king. Thus, the Sino-Japanese War of 1894 broke out.
Defeated in the city of Pyongyang, the Qing army was forced to retreat, and the war was carried into China itself.
On the morning of September 17th, 1894, under the command of Ding Ruchang and Liu Buchan, 10 warships from China’s Northern Fleet engaged 12 Japanese warships in the Yellow Sea. Outnumbered by the Japanese, most Chinese sailors fought bravely. When the warship Zhiymn ran out of ammunition, its captain, Deng Shichang, tried to ram a Japanese ship. The Zhiyuan was torpedoed and sank, and all its 200 officers and men died heroically, including Deng Shichang himself. Lin Yongsheng, captain of the warship Jingyuan, also fought alongside his men to the last moment of his life. After a few hours of fighting, the Northern Fleet inflicted heavy loss while the Japanese side was also hit badly.
In November, the Japanese army occupied Dalian and Lushun. In a period of only four days, the Japanese massacred more than 18 000 inhabitants of Lushun.
In February 1895, the Japanese army took the port of Weihaiwei, hence the total destruction of the Northern Fleet.
In April 1895, Li Hongzhang represented China in signing the Treaty of Shimonoseki, a treaty of betrayal and humiliation, with Japan, according to which China had to pay Japan 200 million taels (unit of weight) of silver as war reparations and to cede the Liaodong Peninsula and Taiwan to Japan. (Due to pressure from Tsarist Russia and other countries, Japan returned the Liaodong Peninsula to China in return for 30 million taels of silver.)
This war accelerated the semi-colonization of China.
The Reform Movement of 1898
In 1895, when the news reached Beijing that the Treaty of Shimonoseki had been signed, Kang Youwei, who was then taking the imperial civil examinations in Beijing, rallied over 1 300 examinees to submit a petition to Emperor Guangxu to oppose the treaty to sue for peace with Japan and to demand political reform. Although their petition was not heard by the emperor, the reformist thoughts spread like wildfire. T his event is named the “Joint Petition of Imperial Examination Candidates to the Emperor”.
Kang Youwei thought that China’s perilous situation had resulted from its corrupt bureaucracy and backward ideology. After he submitted the petition to the emperor, he and his student Liang Qichao started running newspapers and organized the Qiangxue (Learn-to-be-Strong) Society to press for political reform, thus initiating the patriotic movement all over the country.
In 1898, the year wu-xu by the Chinese lunar calendar, Emperor Guangxu decided to put reformers in important positions in the government and to carry out reform measures all over the country. The main contents of the reform were: the overhaul of the traditional government institutions; the protection, encouragement, and rewards for industry and commerce; the introduction of modern educational methods; the abolition of the imperial civil examination system; and the study of Western science, technology and culture.
Represented by Empress Dowager Cixi, the conservatives could not tolerate this reform and decided to put the reformers under arrest and dethrone Emperor Guangxu. The reformers hoped to enlist the support of Yuan Shikai, a powerful general and minister but were betrayed by Yuan. On September 21st, 1898, a palace coup masterminded by Cixi put Emperor Guangxu under house arrest, and most of the reformers were arrested. Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao fled abroad. Tan Sitong, another important reformer, who had the chance to escape, refused to do so. He said, “There can be no reform without blood. In China, there is no one who has shed blood for the reform, and that is why our country is still poor and weak. Now I am willing to be the first to give my life for the reform.” Before long, Tan Sitong, Kang Guangren and four other leading reformers were executed by the conservatives. They are known to history as the “Six Gentlemen of Wu-xu”.
The Reform Movement lasted only 103 days from the promulgation of reform by Emperor Guangxu to the coup, the end of the Movement. Therefore, it is also called die “Hundred Days Reform”.
Empress Dowager Cixi (1835 -1908)
Empress Dowager Cixi, the West Queen Mother, was a concubine of Emperor Xianfeng. In 1861, Emperor Xianfeng died, and six-year-old Emperor Tongzhi succeeded to the throne. As the emperor’s mother, shading with a screen, Empress Dowager Cixi sat behind the throne during the young emperor’s office hour, thus wielding the actual power of the throne. In 1875, Tongzhi died of illness and was succeeded by the five-year-old Emperor Guangxu. Cixi remained in her seat behind the screen. She managed to control the country for the period of the two emperors-Tongzhi and Guangxu.
The Yihetuan Movement
Following the Opium Wars and enjoying the privileges given by the unequal treaties, foreign missionaries occupied a great deal of land, houses, and temples all over China. Often in defiance of Chinese laws, they used their considerable influence to protect their converts. There were increasing conflicts between foreign missionaries and Chinese civilians.
In 1898, led by a martial arts group known as the Yihe Boxers, the Yihetuan (Society of Righteousness and Harmony) Movement took place in Shandong Province, which soon developed its anti-Christian and anti-aggression themes. The Qing government tried to suppress the Yihetuan at first. In 1900, the Yihetuan organizations in Shandong and Hebei joined forces to march to Beijing. Supported by the common people, their numbers grew rapidly all the time. Empress Dowager Cixi worried that the crackdown of the Yihetuan could be disadvantageous to her rule. Meanwhile, she wished to use them as a weapon against the foreign forces which may intend to disintegrate China. Hence, she gave her recognition to the Yihetuan as a patriotic movement, which spread to Beijing and Tianjin accordingly.
The Yihetuan brought about great anxiety to the foreign powers in China. When they realized that the Qing government neither could nor would contain the Yihetuan, they decided to dispatch troops to quash the movement on their own. In June 1900, eight countries, i.e. Britain, the United States, Germany, France, Russia, Japan, Italy, and Austria formed an allied army, which occupied the foreign legation quarters in Beijing. The Qing government declared war on these powers. With a half-hearted Qing army at its back, equipped with minimal leadership and primitive weapons, the inexperienced Yihetuan warriors fought hard against the allied forces, simply has no chance to win. In August, the whole of Beijing fell into the hands of the foreign allies. Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu fled to Xi’an. The foreign troops committed burnings, killings, looting and other heinous crimes in Beijing.
The Qing government then betrayed the Yihetuan, calling them bandits and joined the foreign forces to suppress them. In September 1901, the foreign powers forced the Qing government to sign the Protocol of 1901. From then on, the Qing government was no more than an instrument with which the imperialists enforced their will on the Chinese people.
The Geng-zi Reparations
According to the Protocol of 1901, the Qing government had to pay 450 million taels of silver to the invaders as war reparations over a 39-year period. The principal and interest amounted to 980 million taels altogether. The year when the eight imperial powers invaded Beijing was The year of geng-zi in Chinese lunar calendar, hence the huge amount of war reparations is called the Geng-zi Reparations.
72 Martyrs of Huanghuagang
In April 1911, a revolt against the Qing government broke out in Guangzhou. Patriotic overseas Chinese donated substantially to this event. Some overseas Chinese even went back to Guangzhou to form a suicide squad together with revolutionaries there. The revolt was crushed and 72 sacrificed their lives. The remains of these martyrs were buried together at Huanghuagang in Guangzhou, hence the name Huanghuagang Revolt. The spirit of the 72 martyrs impelled patriots at home and abroad to go on fighting against the Qing government.
Dr. Sun Yat-sen and the Revolution of 1911
Sun Yat-sen was born in 1866 in Xiangshan County (today’s Zhongshan City), Guangdong Province. In his childhood, he heard stories about the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom and developed an admiration for the Taiping leader Hong Xiuquan, who tried to overthrow the Qing government and set up a new system. At the age of 12, Sun went to Hawaii, where he studied Western sciences and culture. Among his favorite readings were biographies of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, which planted in him a resolve to strive for his country and people.
In 1894, Sun Yat-sen organized an anti-Qing revolutionary organization, the “Society for the Revival of China” (Xingzhonghui), among the patriotic Chinese residing in Honolulu. In 1905, he set up a united revolutionary party, the “China Revolutionary League” (Zhongguo Tongmenghui) by allying some Chinese revolutionary group members all over Japan. He was determined to put an end to the Qing Dynasty, to rejuvenate China and establish a capitalist democratic republic. Sun summarized his revolutionary ideas into the “Three People’s Principles” viz, the Principle of Nationalism, the Principle of Democracy and the Principle of the People’s Livelihood.
Sun Yat-sen and other revolutionaries secretly organized many armed uprisings, but all of them failed with the sacrifice of the lives of many revolutionaries.
On October 10th, 1911, the revolutionary organizations in Hubei Province, known as the “Literary Association” (Wenxueshe) and the “Society for Mutual Progress” (Gongjinhui), which had been developing revolutionary activities in the army, started the Wuchang Uprising. This triggered nationwide revolts against the Qing dynasty. Within one month, a dozen provinces had declared their independence from the Qing government, which resulted in the sudden collapse of the Qing Dynasty. The year 1911 was the year xin-hai by the Chinese lunar calendar, so this revolution which overthrew the Qing Dynasty is also called the Xin-hai Revolution.
In December 1911, Sun Yat-sen returned to China. Because of the enormous contributions he had made to the revolution and his prestige among the revolutionaries, he was elected Interim President of the Republic of China. His inauguration on January 1st, 1912 in Nanjing marked the installment of the interim government of the Republic of China.
Not long after the founding of the Republic of China, with the support of the imperialist powers, Yuan Shikai managed to elbow Sun Yat-sen aside and get himself elected President. Political power then fell into the hands of the Northern Warlords. As a counter to warlord rule, the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, KMT) was founded in Beijing in August 1912 by the China Revolutionary League together with five other political parties. Sun Yat-sen was elected Chief Councilor of the new party.
Born in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province, she is the most famous heroine in modern Chinese history. She joined the China Revolutionary League when she was studying in Japan. Qiu Jin liked to wear men’s clothes and practiced horsemanship and fencing. People call her Jianhu Knight. In 1907, she was arrested and executed for preparing an uprising in Zhejiang.
Peking University, formerly the Metropolitan University, was founded in 1898 as an outcome of the Reform Movement of 1898 and the first national university in modern China. In the early 20th century, it became the cradle of the New Culture Movement and the May 4th Movement. With a tradition of patriotism, progress, democracy, and science, it has a style of study marked by diligence, preciseness, practicality and innovation. After the founding of the Peopled Republic of China, Peking University began to enjoy its fame as a comprehensive school based on the teaching and research of the natural and social sciences. It has trained many talents for the country.
The May 4th Movement
In 1918, the First World War ended with the defeat of Germany. In 1919, Britain, France, the United States and other victor countries held the Paris Peace Conference. As one of the victor countries, China also attended the conference. At the conference, China requested that she should take back Shandong Province, whose sovereignty was relinquished to Germany before the War. The imperialist powers turned clown this request and handed over all claims of Shandong from Germany to Japan and compelled the Chinese representatives to sign.
This news caused explosions of outrage in China, and on May 4th, 1919, students of Peking University and other higher institutions gathered in Tiananmen Square to protest, shouting the slogans of “Restore our lost Qingdao Island” and “Down with the traitors”. They stormed the house of Cao Rulin and beat someone they met there-the Chinese High Commissioner to Japan, Zhang Zongxiang-and then set fire to the house. The Northern government sent troops to suppress the students and put over thirty of them under arrest.
On the second day, students in Peking University went on strike by going into the streets to disseminate patriotic: ideas. Students from Shandong, Tianjin, and Shanghai came to Beijing to support them. The reactionary Northern Warlord government arrested nearly 1 000 students, which caused even greater turbulence all over the country. In June, workers in Shanghai went on strike to support the students5 patriotic requests, to be followed in other cities by students suspending classes, workers downing tools and merchants closing shops. Meanwhile, the (Chinese delegation to the Paris Peace Conference received thousands of telegrams sent by people from all walks of life in China asking them not to sign the treaty. On June 28th, overseas Chinese residents and students in France surrounded the residence of the Chinese delegation to urge them not to sign the treaty. Confronted with huge pressure, the Northern Warlord government had to release the arrested students and remove the pro-treaty ministers Cao Rulin, Zhang Zongxiang and Lu Zongyu from office. Finally, the Chinese delegation refused to sign the treaty, which marked the victory of the May 4th Movement.
However, the significance of the May 4th Movement lay not only in this diplomatic victory. Several years before the movement, new ways of thinking and new culture marked by democracy and science had been spreading rapidly among intellectuals, with Peking University notably as the center. Following the May 4th Movement, a new political force began to sprout, and modern Chinese history entered a new phase.
The Founding of the Communist Party of China
In 1917, the October Revolution took place in Russia, and the first socialist state in the world was established. The victory of the October Revolution and the spread of socialist thought attracted the attention of progressive Chinese intellectuals. They found Marxism as an alternative to save China.
In 1919, the working class actively took part in the patriotic May 4th Movement, showing their decisive power in the final victory of the Movement. Since then, intellectuals with new communist ideas began to advocate breaking away from the old system and building a new society with the support of the working class and a revolution under the guidance of Marxism.
In August 1920, the first communist group was established in Shanghai by Chen Duxiu, Li Da and Li Hanjun. In October, another communist group was founded by Li Dazhao, Zhang Guotao and Deng Zhongxia in Beijing. Later on, communist organizations flourished in the provinces of Hubei, Shandong, Guangdong, Hunan, and even among overseas students in France. All these groups were deliberating on forming a communist party on the national level.
On July 23rd, 1921, a dozen representatives from around the country including Mao Zedong, He Shuheng and Dong Biwu held a secret meeting in Shanghai as the first National Conference of the Communist Party of China (CPC). The first party constitution was reviewed and accepted, stipulating the goals of the party. The goals were to set up a proletarian revolutionary party to overthrow the ruling capitalist government and replace it with the dictatorship of the proletariat, marked by the abolishment of private ownership and social class distinction. Chen Duxiu, Zhang Guotao, and Li Da were elected to form the Central Bureau of the party with Chen as the Secretary in Chief. On July 30th, to avoid attention from the secret police, the representatives left Shanghai, and the conference adjourned to a pleasure-boat on Nanhu Lake in nearby Jiaxing.
Following this conference, the CPC, a brand-new political force become active on China’s political stage. The CPC brought hope to the suffering of Chinese people.
◆Li Dazhao (1889-1927)
Li Dazhao, born in Letting, Hebei Province, was a professor in the Department of Economics and the curator of the school library at Peking University. As an editor of the magazine New Youth, he was one of the first Marxists in China and one of the founders of the CPC. In 1920, he organized communist activities in Beijing. After the founding of the CPC, he was responsible for activities in northern China. He played an important role in helping Dr. Sun Yat-sen to establish the three cardinal policies-allying with Russia, uniting with the CPC and assisting peasants and workers-and the reorganizing of the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, KMT) during the first round of cooperation between the two parties. He was elected member of the Central Committee in the second, third and fourth national conferences of the CPC. In April 1927, he was arrested by the warlord, Zhang Zuolin, and was executed in Beijing.
The Guangzhou-Hong Kong Strike
In May 1925, British and Japanese troops in Shanghai shot the local protesters in Shanghai, hence the May 30th Massacre, which aroused the anger of people from all over the country. Workers in Shanghai organized a united strike. In June 1925, to support the strike in Shanghai, the CPC directed workers in Guangzhou and Hong Kong to go on strike to protest British imperialism. The strike was massive in size and lasted a long time. 250 000 workers in Hong Kong participated in the strike, which lasted for 16 months and caused great loss to the British imperialists.
The First Round of KMT-CPC Cooperation
In the early 1920s, in search of a better way to end the ruling of the Northern Warlords and the imperial powers and to advance the revolution in China, Sun Yat-sen accepted the help from the Communist International, Soviet Russia and the Communist Party of China (CPC). He also accepted the advice from Ma Lin, the representative from the Communist International to cooperate with the CPC by allowing CPC members to join the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, KMT) as individual members. In June 1923, on the Third National Conference of CPC, the policy of cooperating with KMT by the individual membership was discussed on and adopted.
After a series of preparation, in January 1924, the First National Congress of KMT was held in Guangzhou. Some CPC members, such as Li Dazhao and Mao Zedong, also attended the conference. The three cardinal policies i.e. allying with Russia, uniting with the CPC and assisting peasants and workers, were adopted. The Three People Principles were re-interpreted and the KMT was reorganized. The first KMT-CPC cooperation took place.
The KMT-CPC cooperation marked the climax of the national revolution against the rule of warlords.
The Whampoa Military Academy
Under the KMT-CPC cooperation and with the help of the Soviet Union and the CPC, Sun Yat-sen set up an academy for army officers-the Whampoa Military Academy in Guangzhou in 1924. The academy trained members of both the CPC and the KMT as the spearhead of the new revolutionary forces. Chiang Kai-shek was appointed the president of the Academy, and many CPC members, including Zhou Enlai, held important posts in the Academy. Both military and political courses were taught. Whampoa stressed political education and cultivated the students1 patriotism and revolutionary spirit. As for military education, it adopted the latest military theories and techniques from the Soviet Union to train students in various subject areas. From 1924 to 1927, the Whampoa Military Academy trained over 12 000 students in six terms, many of whom later became senior officers and political leaders of the two parties. In this way, the Whampoa contributed greatly to the Chinese revolution.
The Northern Expedition
With a new alliance, the two parties (CPC and KMT) made Guangzhou their revolutionary base and prepared for the Northern Expedition, which would sweep away the rule of the warlords, break the military and political control of imperialist countries over China and end people’s tribulation.
In 1925, the KMT formed the Guangdong National Government in Guangzhou. In 1926, the National Government decided to launch the Northern Expedition. In order to drum up support for the Northern Expedition, the CPC did active publicity and organizational work among the workers and peasants, establishing a broad and firm base among the masses for the Northern Expedition.
In July 1926, the National Revolution Army set the oil on its northward march, marking the beginning of the Northern Expedition. The Northern Expeditionary Army first captured Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province, and then pressed on toward Wuhan, which was heavily fortified. The prominent Independent Regiment, which was composed mainly of Communists and commanded by Ye Ting, fought courageously, and won for the Fourth Corps the title of “Iron Army”. The Northern Expeditionary Army broke through the enemy s line of defense, crossed the Yangtze River and occupied Wuhan. In the middle of March 1927, Zhou Enlai led the workers of Shanghai in an armed uprising, ensuring the smooth entry of the Northern Expeditionary Army into Shanghai. At die end of March, the army also occupied Nanjing.
The Northern Expedition was warmly welcomed and supported by the people all over China. In less than ten months, it crushed the main forces of the major warlords Wu Peifu and Sun Chuanfang, and occupied most of the area south of the Yangtze River, all struck a heavy blow at the reactionary warlords and kindled the flame of revolution over half of China.
The Passing away of Dr. Sun Yat-sen
On March 12th, 1925, Dr. Sun Yat-sen died of illness in Beijing. After the victory of the Northern Expedition, the National Government moved his remains from Beijing to Nanjing according to his will. In 1929, his remains were buried in the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum.
The Nanchang Uprising
The victory of the Northern Expedition greatly weakened the power of the warlords and imperialists in China. But as time went on, the right wing of the KMT began to show their hostility towards the CPC and sabotaged the KMT-CPC cooperation. On April 12th, 1927, Chiang Kai-shek staged a reactionary coup d’état in Shanghai, killing over 300 CPC members and other revolutionaries, and arresting over 500. In addition, thousands were missing. The purge spread to Guangdong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Hunan provinces, where CPC members were slaughtered. After betraying the revolution, Chiang set up his National Government in Nanjing. On July 15th, the National Government in Wuhan, led by Wang Jingwei, also betrayed the revolution by arresting and killing CPC members en masse. At this time, the first KMT-CPC cooperation completely dissolved, and a period of white terror commenced in China.
At this critical moment, the Communists rose in a brave struggle to save the revolution. On August 1st, 1927, Zhou Enlai, He Long, Ye Ting, Zhu De, Liu Bocheng and others initiated and led the Nanchang Uprising. After four hours of fierce battle, the uprising army beat the National Ai my and seized the city of Nanchang.
The Nanchang Uprising caused panic in the National Government. Chiang dispatched an army which retook Nanchang. The insurgents then marched toward Guangdong, planning to rebuild the Guangdong revolutionary base. They failed to do so under siege of the enemy.
The Nanchang Uprising was the “first shot” of the CPC’s armed struggle against the KMT reactionaries. From that time on, the CPC built its own army to lead the revolution independently and to seize the governing power through armed forces.
The August 7th Conference
On August 7th, 1927, the Central Committee of the CPC convened an emergency conference in Wuhan, correcting the mistake of being weak and concessionary to the KMT, and setting up the principles of an agrarian revolution and resisting the KMT reactionaries by armed forces. The August 7th Conference was a turning point by providing a new direction for the Chinese revolution and was a meeting of great significance in the history of the CPC.
The Zunyi Conference
In the early period of the Long March, because of the poor leadership and command, the Red Army lost more than half of its members. Facing this critical situation, the Central Committee of the CPC convened the enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau in Zunyi, Guizhou Province, in January 1935. This conference corrected the mistakes in decision-making since the fifth campaign against the “encirclement and suppression”, and established Mao Zedong’s leadership of the Communist Party and the Red Army. At a particularly perilous moment, the Zunyi Conference served as a turning point to save the Red Army, the CPC and the Chinese revolution.
The Long March of 25 000 Li
Soon after the Nanchang Uprising, Mao Zedong led the Qiushou (Autumn Harvest) Uprising in Hunan and established the first revolutionary base area in the Jinggang Mountains in Jiangxi Province. This was followed by the setup of several other bases in other parts of China. With warm support from the peasants, these bases were enlarged.
From 1930 to 1932, the National Government launched four large-scale campaigns of “encirclement and suppression” of the revolutionary base, attempting to destroy these areas and eliminate the CPC. But with the support of the people in the base areas, the Red Army, directed by the CPC, repulsed the enemy time and again.
In 1933, Chiang Kai-shek assembled a force of one million men and launched the “encirclement and suppression” campaign for the fifth time. Because of grave mistakes made by leaders of the Central Committee of the CPC, the Red Army did not carry out the campaign against “encirclement and suppression” and in October 1934 the Red Army was forced to retreat from its central base areas in Jiangxi and Fujian provinces. It broke through the encirclement to the west, and began the famous “Long March”.
The Long March was an arduous trek. The Red Army had to cross snow-covered mountains and uninhabited grassland. When there was no food, the Red Army soldiers ate tree barks and wild herbs. Under siege, the Red Army often fell prey to the army of the KMT.
After the Zunyi Conference in January 1935, the Red Army adopted correct strategies and took the initiative in its hands resulting in the winning of many battles. Famous episodes at this time included crossing the Chishui River four times, forcing a way across the Dadu River and capturing the Luding Bridge. All of these highlighted the breakaway from the siege of the National Ai my. In October 1935, the central column of the Red Army reached Wuqi Town in northern Shaanxi Province and joined forces with the Red Army column of northern Shaanxi led by Liu Zhidan. In October 1936, the three major columns of the Red Army converged in the Hunting area, which marked the victorious completion of the Long March.
Forcing the Dadu River
The Dadu River is marked by its deep and fast current and precipitous banks. In 1863, a Taiping army led by Shi Dakai, the “King of Wings”, was massacred by the Qing army as it tried to cross the river. The KMT forces tried to do the same to the Red Army 72 years later and to make Mao Zedong the second Shi Dakai. The Red Army led by Mao, however, outfought the KMT army bravely and crossed the river safely.
The September 18th Incident
In the 1930s, a song became popular all over China. The lyrics go, “September 18th, September 18th. On that tragic day, I was forced to leave my hometown…” What happened on September 18th?
Since the late 19th century, Japan had unleashed multiple wars of aggression against China and seized Taiwan. China was the chief objective of its full-Hedged military expansion in the 20th century. The three northeastern provinces of China became Japan’s first target.
On the evening of September 18th, 1931, Japanese troops blew up part of a railway line at Liutiaohu, which is close to Shenyang. They then accused the Chinese army of trying to launch an attack against Japan. Soon after, the Japanese attacked the barracks of the Northeast Army and the city of Shenyang. With massive casualties, the city was lost overnight.
At this time, the National Government was busy trying to eliminate the CPC. Chiang Kai-shek ordered Zhang Xueliang, commander of the Northeast Army not to resist the Japanese so as to avoid more trouble. Chiang claimed that the time had not come to fight the Japanese, and the CPC was the greatest enemy. Without any Chinese army standing against them, the Japanese army easily occupied the three provinces of northeast China, with a population of 30 million in only four months.
In order to consolidate their rule over northeast China, the Japanese invaders established a puppet state called Manchukuo, with Puyi, the abdicated last emperor of the Qing Dynasty as its puppet ruler within the complete control of Japan. This aroused great indignation among the local Chinese people, who Formed army volunteers to fight against the invaders under extremely difficult circumstances.
The Last Emperor of China
Puyi (1906-1967) was of the Manchu nationality with the family name of Aisin-Gioro. In 1908, after Emperor Guangxu had died, Puyi, who was only two years old then, came to the throne with the reign title Xuantong. In 1912, the Republic of China was founded. Soon after, Puyi gave up his throne, marking the end of the Qing Dynasty. Puyi was the last emperor of the feudal society in China, which lasted for more than 2 000 years.
The Huabei Incident and the December 9th Movement
In May 1935, in order to obtain dominance in Huabei (North China), Japan made political and military threats to the Nationalist Party’s Government. The Nationalist Party’s Government gave in and submitted governance of most of the Huabei area. The crisis of Huabei could not be more serious, as students in Beiping (today’s Beijing) put it, “So spacious is Huabei, yet it cannot accommodate a peaceful school table!”
On August 1st, the CPC announced the “August 1st Declaration”, which was followed by the “Declaration of Fighting the Japanese and Saving the Nation” in November, all calling upon the establishment of a united national front for anti-Japanese fighting. An upswing of anti-Japanese democratic movement was brought about throughout the country.
On December 9th, led by the CPC, five to six thousand students held a massive demonstration in Beiping with the theme of fighting Japan and saving the nation. The police intervened brutally, causing a physical dash with the students who were carrying out their goal of fighting Japanese and saving the nation. On the second day, a general strike broke out among all schools in Beijing for the atrocity of the government. On December 16th, there came another demonstration of more than ten thousand people, both students and town folk.
The patriotic acts of students in Beiping gained nationwide response and support from students, workers, and intellectuals all over the country, marking the unprecedented movement of fighting Japanese and saving the nation.
The December 9th Movement deterred the Japanese from its plan to occupy Huabei and all of China. It was a protest against the Nationalist Party Government’s policy of compromise and surrender, a boost tor the anti-Japanese democratic movement nationwide, and a signal of the forthcoming apex of the democratic revolution.
The Xi’an Incident
After occupying the three provinces in northeast China, the Japanese army indulged in a series of provocations to give itself an excuse to penetrate deeper into North China. Under such a dangerous situation, people throughout China demanded that the National Government stop the civil war and switch to resisting the Japanese army. But Chiang Kai-shek stubbornly persisted in his policy of eliminating the CPC first before standing against the Japanese.
In 1936, Chiang went to Xi’an to press the two generals, Zhang Xueliang and Yang Hucheng, to pursue the operations against the Communists more vigorously. Zhang Xueliang, who had lost his home base of the Northeast, insisted on fighting Japan and pleaded tearfully with Chiang to stop the Civil War for the sake of saving the nation. Not moved, Chiang, blamed Zhang bitterly. When all attempts of persuasion turned out to be in vain, Zhang and Yang decided to force Chiang to resist the Japanese.
On December 9th, students in Xi’an held a demonstration and walked to Chiang’s residence to demand that he halt the Civil War and turn his guns on the Japanese. Bursting with anger, Chiang ordered Zhang Xueliang to stop the students with force and to open fire if necessary. Zhang sympathized with the students. He went to them, persuaded them to retreat and promised to realize their wish at the cost of his own life. On the very evening, Zhang Xueliang expressed the wish from the students to Chiang again and pleaded for the decision to fight Japan and save the nation. He was once again rejected.
On the night of December 12, the two generals Zhang Xueliang and Yang Hucheng launched a coup and arrested Chiang in Huaqing Pool, near Lintong. They then invited the CPC to send Zhou Enlai to Xi’an to discuss a solution to the problem. With efforts from all sides, Chiang Kai-shek finally agreed to stop the Civil War and cooperate with the CPC to resist the Japanese invaders. Thus, the Xi’an Incident was settled peacefully. This laid the foundation for the second KMT-CPC cooperation and marked the end of the ten-year-old Civil War.
“Heroes of All Time”
After the peaceful settlement of Xi’an Incident, Zhang Xueliang accompanied Chiang Kai-shek to Nanjing to show his loyalty, yet was put under house arrest by Chiang and lost his freedom. Yang Hucheng was murdered later upon Chiang’s order. Zhang died in Hawaii in 2001 at the age of 101. These two generals, who had made a great contribution to the resistance against Japan when the nation was in great danger, were praised by Zhou Enlai as “Heroes of All Time”.
Lugouqiao Bridge is located in the southwest of Beijing. It was built in 1192. It is 266.5 meters long and about 7.5 meters wide and is composed of 11 stone arches. On both sides of the bridge, there are stone balustrades, of which there are 485 exquisitely carved stone lions with different appearances. The “Morning Moon over Lugouqiao Bridge” used to be one of Beijing’s famous sights.
The July 7th Incident
To proceed with its attempt to conquer the whole of China, Japan provoked the July 7th Incident. On the evening of July 7th, 1937, Japanese troops stationed in the Lugouqiao area in the suburbs of Beiping (today’s Beijing) held a military exercise. Claiming to have heard gunshots in the nearby town of Wanping, and that one of their men was missing, the Japanese wanted to enter the town of Wanping to search the area. The Chinese army stopped them. They then launched an attack on Wanping and bombarded Lugouqiao. Striking back, the 100-strong Chinese unit stationed in the Lugouqiao area fought bravely and repulsed the enemy, but only four soldiers survived the battle. The July 7th Incident is also called the Lugouqiao Incident.
After the July 7th Incident, the CPC issued an open telegram, saying that “Beiping and Tianjin are in an emergency! North China is in an emergency! The Chinese nation is in an emergency!” and calling upon “the whole nation to fight against the Japanese aggressors, which is the only way out”. People from all walks of life, all the patriotic parties and groups, and overseas Chinese assembled and demanded that the government mount an all-out resistance. Aid associations were organized in many big cities to collect money for the war effort and to support the Chinese armies in North China, who were fighting Japan actively.
Under these serious circumstances, facing the passionate people from all over the country, Chiang Kai-shek expressed the decision to prepare for the fighting. Upon negotiation, the CPC and the KMT agreed to reorganize the main force of the Communist-led Red Army into the Eighth Route of the National Revolutionary Army and to dispatch it to the North China front to fight the Japanese. Another part of the Red Army was reorganized into the New Fourth Army. In September, the declaration of the KMT-CPC cooperation was publicized, and the united national front to resist Japan was officially formed.
The Victory at Pingxing Pass
The Red Army, having been reorganized into the Eighth Route Army in 1937, was immediately deployed in the North China battlefield.
In September 1937, the Japanese army in North China invaded Shanxi Province through Yanmen Pass and other strategic passes along the Great Wall, attempting to seize Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi Province.
The National Government organized the Taiyuan Campaign. Lin Biao and Nie Rongzhen led the No. 115 Division of the Eighth Route Army to defend Pingxing Pass, which is the strategic spot to the north of Shanxi.
On September 25th, the No. 115 Division ambushed the Japanese army and wiped out over 1 000 soldiers of the Itagaki Division, stormed over 1.00 vehicles and seized a lot of military materials, hence the “Victory at Pingxing Pass”. This was the first victory won by the Chinese army since the beginning of the Anti-Japanese War. This win dispelled the myth that the Japanese army was invincible, and boosted the spirit of Chinese people to fight the Japanese. The victory also halted the Japanese advance on Taiyuan, thus contributing to the preparation of Xinkou Campaign by the Nationalist Party’s army.
The Eighth Route Army
Not long after the Lugouqiao Incident, the CPC and the KMT joined hands to resist the Japanese invasion. On August 22nd, 1937, the National Government announced the reorganization of the main forces of the Red Army into the Eighth Route of the National Revolutionary Army, in short, “the Eighth Route Army”. The Eighth Route Army had three divisions: the No. 115 Division, the No. 120 Division and the No. 129 Division. Zhu De was the commander-in-chief of the Eighth Route Army, and Peng Dehuai was his deputy.
The Nanking Massacre
After capturing Shanghai on November 12th, 1937, the Japanese army attacked Nanking (Nanjing), China’s capital at that time, on the morning of December 13. For six weeks, the occupying troops engaged in an orgy of slaughter by the most brutal means.
Massacres took place in many spots, i.e. the river bank near Xiaguan, Caoxiexia, Meitangang, Shangxinhe, Yanziji and out of the gate of Hanzhong. There were also random killing incidents. In order to exterminate the traces of massacre, the Japanese disposed of the corps in the river. They also burned or buried a large number of them. It is estimated that over 300 000 civilians and disarmed Chinese soldiers were murdered. Japanese brutality against the people of Nanjing was outrageous. Many were beheaded, thrust, shot, buried alive or burned in the killing spree. Numerous living souls were annihilated, turning the peaceful metropolitan of Nanjing into a living hell. The Nanking Massacre has gone down in the annals of history as a horrific incident and a stain on modern civilization.
Following Japan’s surrender on August 15th, 1945, war crimes trials held by the Chinese Military Tribunal (set up in December 1946) and the Tokyo Military Tribunal all investigated and made judgments about the Nanking Massacre. The court came to the conclusion that there had been 28 cases of collective slaughter and 858 cases of scattered slaughter. The Tokyo Military Tribunal brought 28 Class-A war criminals to trial, including the notorious Hiranuma. Hence, the international community regarded the Nanking Massacre as an undeniable crime by the Japanese invaders against the people of China.
Li Zongren (1891-1969)
Li Zongren was born in Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, in 1891. He became the chief warlord of the line of Gui. He was elected Vice President of the National Government in 1948. After Chiang Kai-shek resigned as president, Li became Acting President of the National Government. He went to the US for medical treatment after the New China was founded in 1949. In 1965, with the help and care from the government of New China, Li Zongren returned to Beijing. He passed away in 1969.
The Taierzhuang Campaign
The Taierzhuang Campaign was launched by the KMT army to protect Xuzhou.
Located about 50 km northeast of Xuzhou, Taierzhuang is a vital transportation hub, commanding the main north-south railway line and the Grand Canal.
After occupying Nanjing in December 1937, the Japanese army moved to capture Xuzhou in order to link their northern and southern forces.
In the spring of 1938, the Japanese army launched a two-pronged attack on Xuzhou from Shandong Province. Li Zongren, commander of the Fifth War Zone of the National Government, deployed his men to block both paths of the Japanese advance at Linyi and Taierzhuang, respectively, in Shandong.
On March 23rd, a Japanese army of 40 000 men began to attack Taierzhuang. Division Commander Chi Fengcheng held fast to the town for half a month, drawing the main forces of the Japanese army to the Taierzhuang area. Li Zongren mustered his main force to make a pincer attack on the Japanese. Finally, the Chinese army annihilated over 10 000 Japanese soldiers, destroyed 30-odd Japanese tanks and seized a large number of weapons. The Taierzhuang victory became the largest one on the direct front. Giving a good blow to the Japanese, this campaign was another great morale boost to the Chinese army and people in their struggle against the aggressors.
Overseas Chinese and the Anti-Japanese War
The overseas Chinese have a glorious patriotic tradition. The Revolution of 1911 led by Sim Yat-sen received an enthusiastic welcome and support from numerous overseas Chinese.
The overseas Chinese played an important role in the Anti-Japanese War also. From the September 18th Incident in 1931 to V-J Day in 1945, overseas Chinese, together with people back home, made great contributions to the worldwide anti-Fascist war. They were part of the pride and glory of the Chinese nation and were praised by people all over the world.
During the World War II, Germany, Italy, and Japan formed a Fascist alliance in support of Japanese invasion to China. The overseas Chinese took advantage of their overseas settlement to set up united patriotic anti-Japanese organizations in Europe, Americas, Oceania and Southeast Asia, winning sympathy and aid from the international community for beleaguered China.
The overseas Chinese donated money and goods enthusiastically for the anti-Japanese cause, providing a lot of subsidies for the military and civilian expenses in China.
They were solidly behind calls for the whole Chinese people to unite against the common enemy, especially after the September 18th Incident. The overseas Chinese were a progressive force in promoting the Second KMT-CPC Cooperation.
Chinese people in the US established an aviation school to train flyers for their motherland.
When the nationwide Anti-Japanese War broke out, many overseas Chinese returned to the homeland to join the fighting. The Japanese army cut off marine and land transportation in southeast China in October 1938, but the Yunnan-Burma Highway was quickly constructed. A great number of drivers and mechanics were needed. In 1939, entrusted by the National Government, the “General Association of Overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia for Relieving Fellow Countrymen in Distress” recruited about 3 200 overseas Chinese mechanics to help maintain trucks that supplied the Chinese army via the new road. Reporters from Nanyang Commercial Press, Sinchew Daily, and many other overseas Chinese newspapers formed the “Team of War Correspondents of Overseas Chinese from Southeast Asia” to report on the war from China in 1938.
With eight years of extreme hardship and fighting, Chinese people won the Anti-Japanese War. The overseas Chinese contributed greatly to the war of resistance in their homeland.
Tan Kah-kee (1874 1961)
A leader of patriotic overseas Chinese, Tan Kah-kee (Chen Jiageng) was born in Xiamen, Fujian Province. He joined the China Revolutionary League in Singapore in 1910 and collected money to aid Sun Yat-sen’s revolutionary exertions. He also did much to spread education among the overseas Chinese and the people in his hometown. From 1913 to 1920, he set up elementary and secondary schools, teacher’s colleges, maritime schools and Xiamen University in Jimei, Xiamen. Following the September 18th Incident, he convened the Overseas Chinese Conference and called upon overseas Chinese to donate money and goods and boycott Japanese commodities in order to save China. After the nationwide Anti-Japanese War broke out in China, he founded the General Association of Overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia for Relieving Fellow Countrymen in Distress. He went to Yan’an in person to salute Chinese soldiers and civilians who were resisting the Japanese invaders. After victory in 1945, he set up the Nanqiao Daily and engaged in patriotic and democratic, activities. Mao Zedong highly praised Tan Kahkee’s patriotic spirit by referring to him as “the role model of overseas Chinese and the glory of the nation”.
The Chongqing Negotiations
With the end of the Anti-Japanese War, Chiang Kai-shek prepared to restart the civil war. But pressure from home and abroad asking for peace forced him to adopt a policy of “Phony Peace and Real Civil War”. In August 1945, Chiang invited leaders of the CPC to Chongqing, ostensibly to discuss the issue of domestic peace. His real intention was to impose the war responsibility on the CPC if they failed to show up in the negotiation or to force the CPC to hand over their army and political power in the liberated areas if they entered into the negotiation.
Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Wang Ruofei and other leaders of the CPC went from Yan’an to Chongqing on August 28th, 1945, and began the Chongqing negotiations. The representatives of die KMT were Wang Shijie, Zhang Zhizhong, and Shao Lizi.
The negotiations lasted 43 days. The CPC representatives argued the principle of peaceful construction of the country, i.e. to resolve against civil war, to unite the whole country based on peace, democracy and solidarity, and to establish an independent, free and prosperous China. Chiang Kai-shek agreed to end the despotism, to convene a consultative conference of all political parties, to guarantee democracy, freedom, and the equal, legal status of all political parties. Finally, Chiang published the Summary of Talks between the CPC and the KMT Representatives on October 10th, hence the name, the “Double 10 Agreement”.
However, there still remained considerable disputes over the liberated areas and the armed forces of the two sides. The delegation of the CPC demanded legal status for the people’s army and the democratic government of the liberated areas, while Chiang demanded that the CPC surrender the army and the liberated areas. In order to achieve peace, the CPC delegation made concessions by reducing the People’s Liberation Army to 24 divisions on condition of an overall reduction of armed forces in China, and by retreating from eight liberated areas, including those in Guangdong and Hunan.
These negotiations forced Chiang to agree to the political agenda of peaceful construction of the country. The KMT’s strategy of “Preparing for War Under Phony Peace” was exposed. The CPC gained the political initiative while the KMT went into political isolation.
The War of Liberation
In June 1946, Chiang Kai-shek launched an all-out attack on the liberated areas. Both soldiers and civilians of the liberated areas rose as one against the enemy. The War of Liberation had started. At the beginning of the civil war, the KMT had an obvious military superiority. They possessed a massive army of over 4 300 000 men, controlled all the big cities and most of the main lines of transportation in China, and received military and financial support from the US.
In February 1947, the liberated areas won initial victories. In March 1947, the KMT began to focus their forces against the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia and Shandong liberated areas, hut these two areas held out against all the odds. By June 1947, the strength of the armed forces of the CPC and the KMT reversed remarkably, with the KMT troops shrinking to 3 730 000 men. At the same time, the National Government fell into grave political and economic crises. By now the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), increasing in number and improving in equipment, had begun to move to the phase of strategic offensive.
From July 1947, three wings of the PLA advanced southward to the Central Plains. By August 1948, the strength of the armed forces of the two sides had changed further, with the PLA increasing to 2 800 000 men and the liberated areas expanding rapidly. The Central Committee of the CPC made full preparations for decisive campaigns to end the war. They launched the three major campaigns of Liaoxi-Shenyang, Huai-Hai, and Beiping-Tianjin, which basically destroyed the main forces of the KMT army, and liberated most of China.
After the three decisive campaigns, the KMT deployed its troops on the south bank of the Yangtze River, which was a natural barrier. On April 21st, 1949, Mao Zedong and Zhu De ordered the PLA to force across the river in three places along a front of over 500 km, starting from Jiangyin in the east and ending at Hukou in the west. On April 23rd, the PLA occupied Nanjing, and the Chiang Kai-shek clique fled to Taiwan.
The Presidential Palace
The Presidential Palace is located at 292 Changjiang Road, Nanjing. It was the residence of Prince Han in the beginning of the Ming Dynasty. Sun Yat-sen used it as his headquarters when he was Interim President in 1912. Chiang Kai-shek made it the site of the National Government for 14 years before and after the Anti-Japanese War.
The Peaceful Liberation of Beiping
In January 1949, General Fu Zuoyi, commander-in-chief of the KMT’s North China Bandit Suppression Headquarters, signed a statement on the peaceful liberation of Beiping (today’s Beijing) after negotiating with the PLA. Later, the PLA held a ceremony to enter the city, marking the peaceful liberation of Beiping, an ancient capital with a long history and rich cultural resources. This greatly propelled the liberation process of the whole of China.