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The Taking of Shanghai

In preparation for the attack on Shanghai, the East Route Command, under General Ho Ying-ch’in, assembled opposite the Kiangsu border at Chiahsing. In the consolidation of KMT authority in Chekiang, Party member Ts’ai Yüan-p’ei, of the provincial KMT branch, and Chou Feng-ch’i began to set up a new government for the province, while the NRA leadership mapped out its strategy for taking the rich Yangtze delta nearby.

Chiang Kai-shek was reluctant to attack Shanghai directly. There was, of course, the large civilian population in the sprawling metropolis to con­sider. But, as de facto head of the Party’s National Government as well as C-in-C of the NRA, Chiang feared, with good cause, a full-scale foreign intervention at Shanghai. The world powers had their largest concessions and investments at Shanghai, as well as the largest concentration of their nationals, and they had reacted defensively to the KMT’s antiforeign propaganda. By February 1927, there had been enough antiforeign inci­dents to panic those foreigners enjoying the good life in Shanghai’s profita­ble but vulnerable concessions. Just the month before, at Hankow and Kiukiang, infuriated Chinese mobs spurred by agitators from within KMT ranks had overrun the British concessions. Only by turning over a part of the authority of the concessions did the British avoid a bloodbath and the surge of xenophobia that would have followed. Foreign residents in the Yangtze valley evacuated in large numbers to Shanghai, where they helped circulate a daily fare of atrocity tales. 107

108The consensus of the foreign powers involved at Shanghai was not to pull out without a fight. Comparisons of the contemporary situation with the Boxer Rebellion were rife. Military reinforcements poured in from all the nations who had invested in the Yangtze region, and corps of local trained volunteers patrolled and drilled in the streets. As befitted their influence in the region, the command of the defense of Shanghai’s foreign quarters went to the British. Commander Duncan, headquartered in the Richard Hotel, coordinated a truly international force of nearly 10,000 troops, mainly crack marines, plus those on board the numerous warships that steamed anxiously in the vicinity. By agreement with Sun Ch’uan-fang, Duncan fortified the defense perimeter and expanded it outside the con­cessions to include certain defensible points. Rumors spread that the British were requesting their own government and those of the United States and Japan to commit themselves to full-scale war with the “Can­tonese” should they attack the concessions.1

Sun Ch’uan-fang, as his position worsened, had solicited outside support for his regime—both from other warlords and from the foreign powers. As early as November 1926, Sun had stirred up the foreign community by warning that he was unable to “guarantee safety” against the radical, antiforeign activities of the Reds in Shanghai.2 The concessions, them­selves, had long been sanctuaries for Chinese revolutionaries and political exiles. There, anti-Manchu operators had enjoyed their own relatively sheltered bases “outside the wall,” just as earlier barbarian conquerors had built up their strength beyond the Chinese pale. Concession authorities had been hard pressed enough keeping track of their own foreign flotsam and jetsam to bother with the Chinese. Policing Chinese who traveled incognito and mixed with the daily influx of Chinese workers was a security force’s nightmare. In early January 1927, Sun collaborated with the Inter­national Adminstrative Office in rounding up and executing the revolution­ary agents who infiltrated Shanghai and the concessions. On the evening of January 10, inspection teams made up of foreign volunteers patrolled the streets and alleys of the concessions identifying and searching passersby. Suspected revolutionaries ended up back in the police stations of Sun’s Chinese city. The concessions further cooperated by prohibiting Chinese political activities and meetings—in order to “maintain order.”3 By late February, when the NRA began massing across the nearby border of Chekiang, Sun announced that he and the Japanese and British authorities of Shanghai were cooperating in checking disorders caused by Chinese labor unions and subversives. The announcement was followed by a police roundup of union activists and press members sympathetic to the revolution.4

Thus, as Chiang approached Shanghai, there was a definite risk there of massive retaliation from the foreign powers, who seemed to be aligned with Sun in a commitment against the National Revolution. An interven­tion that might have opened a new front, in addition to the one against Sun and a potential one against the northern warlords, was to be avoided. Rather than risk a military confrontation with the Shanghai concessions, Chiang chose subterfuge.

109At the Sungchiang front near Shanghai, the NRA East Route Command appeared to be poised in readiness for an attack. Up the Yangtze, the other half of the NRA offensive pressed toward Nanking. Were Nanking with its ferries linking it to the Tsin-P’u (Tientsin-P’u-k’ou) Railroad to fall, Sun would be in danger of isolation on the south bank of the Yangtze, cut off from the rail line that supplied him with troops and materiel from North China. Within Shanghai, the KMT could call on the unions of the KMT and CCP and on other partisan organizations to elevate the level of disorders to the point where the city would not be worth Sun’s defense. The abortive, poorly organized “First Uprising” of October had at least provided experi­ence.

On February 19, as Sun pulled his defeated forces out of Chekiang and awaited further Shantung reinforcements promised by Chang Tsung-ch‘ang, the Second Uprising began in Shanghai to capitalize on his vulnerability. Since November 1926, the supposedly allied CCP and KMT in Shanghai had been gathering in union recruits and strengthening their unions’ authority over members. Although the numbers of modern factory workers in China constituted an infinitesimal portion of the Chinese mil­lions, most of them were concentrated around the factories of Shanghai. Numbering several hundred thousand, they did present a considerable potential within the city. Following the November conference that com­mitted the new Ankuochün to the lower Yangtze, the Shanghai unions found an issue to use along with the economic goals most popular with the workers. The unions attacked Sun’s bringing in of Shantung mercenaries and his and the northern warlords’ connections with foreign imperialism, and they also preached the need in Shanghai for local self-government.5 From late 1926 through January 1927, the unions, particularly the CCP-directed ones, organized their memberships to work against Sun Ch’uan-fang and imperialism.

In February, the anti-Sun movement in Shanghai became more radical. The National General Labor Union (GLU) of the CCP engineered assassi­nations to terrorize both Chinese and foreign industrialists.6 To bring the workers of Shanghai more under its influence, as well as to distract Sun’s defense efforts, the GLU organized a political strike that, like the Hong Kong Strike, would include enough economic incentives to captivate the proletariat. The general strike in Shanghai was called for February 19, and was to include the foreign concessions’ factories and services.

The strike declaration promulgated by the GLU included five general political demands and twelve economic demands. One aim of the strike was to seize power through the use of the masses, even from an armed regime like Sun’s. By directing large crowds of workers against Sun’s police stations and garrison posts, it was thought the GLU could seize enough weapons to arm a workers’ corps.7 The experience of the Hong Kong Strike organization had already proven the value of arming workers. But, the response of the Shanghai regime differed from that of the KMT in Canton.

Sun Ch’uan-fang’s garrison commander in Shanghai responded vigor­ously and without delay. Broadsword-carrying executioners and troops marched quickly through Shanghai, striking terror as they beheaded on 110sight anyone apparently involved in the general strike or the subversion against Sun. The sight of gory heads impaled on the lamp posts at street corners must have had a highly dramatic effect. This Chinese-style punishment, for which Sun had already become notorious in Kiangsi, involved public display as a teaching device. Of the estimated 100,000 to 350,000 workers striking,8 the “head count” of those who fell before the broadswords was at least 100,9 and may have run as high as 500 considering that many were seized in secret.10 Although the GLU cadre among the strikers continued to attack police stations, the general strike lost its momentum on the third day.11 Meanwhile, Shanghai workers held a mass trial and execution of at least one police “running dog.” When the new garrison commander, Pi Shu-ch’eng, arrived as part of the reinforcements from Sun’s Shantung allies, the GLU conceded the futility of further bloodletting and ordered those still on strike back to work.12 The Second Shanghai Uprising thus ended without achieving its goals.

An aspect of the Second Uprising showed, however, the continuing weakness of disunity within even Sun’s military machine. By this time, Sun’s Shanghai navy had apparently been subverted and acted suspi­ciously. On February 22, as the GLU led sorties against the Shanghai police, shells from the warships Chien-wei and Chien-k’ang fell about the famous Kiangnan Arsenal. Blaming junior officers for the bombardment, Sun merely gave Admiral Yang Shu-chuang a demerit.13 Sun was reluctant to act against his conglomerate subordinates for fear of further straining already weakened relationships. Actually, Yang Shu-chuang was merely awaiting the right moment to go to the aid of the NRA, as will be seen later. Although the bombardment failed to knock out the arsenal, a fire that began mysteriously on February 28 touched off forty crates of artillery shells and burned out a section.14

Although the Second Shanghai Uprising contributed little to prying Sun and his Shantung allies loose from the rich port, the NRA strategy of entrapment moved on. From Hangchow, Chekiang units began to shift toward the Sungchiang front and Lake T’ai; while from Kiangsi, the NRA, in March, moved downriver toward Nanking, the southern terminal of the northern rail line from Tientsin. Besides the signs of troop movements, the NRA strategy was even described in the Chinese press—possibly to drive home to Sun’s regime the threat of their impending isolation.15 However, even as the NRA’s Sixth and Seventh armies moved along the Kiangsi-Anhui border and the Eastern Route Command poised itself near Shang­hai, political disunity to the rear threatened the prospects for victory.

Strains within the Revolutionary Camp

In December, at the Nanchang conference, Chiang and Borodin had apparently tried to smooth again the strains that showed in the facade of the National Revolution. Borodin had agreed to curtail union disorders that interfered with war efforts, in order to preserve the valuable CCP-KMT alliance. However, within the newly conquered territory, which contained great industrial potential, the economy was increasingly disrupted by 111strikes and labor violence. Although this situation was dangerous to the Northern Expedition, from the Communist point of view it held great promise for organizing the proletariat of China’s greatest industrial com­plex. As the CCP-Russian bloc and their KMT followers grew in power at Wuhan, they also became less willing to cooperate with Chiang. To them, Chiang was less dependent on Russian aid and thus less under their influence since he left Kwangtung, and a more tractable KMT military figure would better serve their interests. This desire to see Chiang eclipsed coincided with, and promoted, the endemic centrifugal forces within the KMT. As part of the anti-Chiang movement, its engineers recolored Chiang’s political image from that of being a part of the Red KMT Left and isolated him in the KMT Right. By December 1926, at the latest, the anti-Chiang movement had begun to influence the progress of the North­ern Expedition.

At that point, C-in-C Chiang found it necessary to wire the Wuhan administration three times for funds needed to pay the disgruntled Seventh Army soldiers arrears in their wages.16 That administration was mainly a newly created Joint Council of Party and Government instigated by Borodin and generally pliable to his suggestions. One of the leaders was Hsü Ch’ien, Minister of Justice and representative of Feng Yü-hsiang, whose desire to see continued Russian aid to Feng allowed Borodin valu­able leverage.

According to such widely divergent observers as Wang Ching-wei’s followers, the CCP, and Chiang’s supporters, the new Joint Council at Wuhan during January and February 1927 became quite responsive to Russian “advice.” By early February, CCP branches were instructed to attack Chiang with orally delivered, unwritten rumors linking him with warlords and Japanese imperialists—a betrayer of the Three People’s Principles.17 To replace Chiang in the KMT hierarchy, Hsü Ch’ien, Eighth Army Commander T’ang Sheng-chih, and Wang Ching-wei (still abroad) were considered. The Communist movement in KMT territory was pro­gressing so well that few wished to prejudice it by risking open strife with the KMT. Borodin and CCP leaders like Mao Tse-tung were encouraged by the growth of mass potential in the countryside and in military units around Wuhan. As the Northern Expedition had moved through Hunan, membership in CCP-influenced peasants’ associations there had shot up so fast that the CCP cadre was strained to retain supervision (see chapter 22). So also had been the case with the peasants’ associations of Hupei and the unions of Wuhan. While highly elating to the Communists, the antiland­lord efforts of the rural organizations stirred reactionary responses among the NRA officers who were also needed on Wuhan’s side.

The Hunanese commander of the Second Army (composed mainly of Hunanese) warned at a KMT meeting of the rising danger of internal divisiveness as members, neglectful of the war, had become sidetracked by “… ideas … not indicated in Sun Yat-sen’s instructions,” and warned that they should “… not belittle the enemy.” Defending Chiang’s central authority as C-in-C, T’an Yen-k’ai pointed out that “our enemies are now 112uniting together and gathering to attack us. We should concentrate the power of the Party and obey its orders strictly regardless of our own opinions.”18

Seeing his authority as C-in-C endangered, Chiang launched his own counterattack against his enemies within the ranks of the revolution. He claimed that the CCP strategy and those who followed it threatened the all-class union of the KMT. On February 19 he urged a KMT audience to look to “… the doctrines of Sun Yat-sen and nothing else.”19

The anti-Chiang movement was evident at Wuhan, where a few days later on February 24, a crowd of 50,000 was assembled at the Party headquarters parade ground. Speakers fired salvos at the C-in-C, at those who had come to power after the anti-Communist coup of March 1926, and at the reorganization that launched the expedition. Decrying the Northern Expedition, the opening speaker said, “All we have seen is military power, but no Party power; individual will but not Party will…. Old degener­ate counterrevolutionaries have caused these pathetic facts of the Party. That is why we must… knock down the feudal influences.” After several chanted choruses of “Down with the Old and Degenerate!” another orator went on that “a few individuals could not do the work…. Now the old, rotten feudal thinking members manipulate the KMT, we must therefore knock them down.” They replied with “Down with Chang Ching-chiang” (the CEC chairman elected after the March 20 Coup) and “Oppose the Military Dictatorship.” The next speaker blasted “personal dictatorship” as the Party’s greatest problem. The head of the NRA’s Political Depart­ments, Teng Yen-ta, advised that “democratic centralization was the way to achieve the ideals of the Three People’s Principles, but now our leadership has been occupied by the old, ignorant, and the incompetent …,” and “we must overthrow personal dictatorship … and bring the military under control….”20

The very next day Chiang refuted the charges as being made by those who wanted power for themselves, and singled out Hsü Ch’ien who had made himself chairman of the new Joint Council without Party authoriza­tion (see Appendix). His speech underlined what Sun Yat-sen had seen as the political weakness of the Chinese—the tendency to divide fractiously without a consensus. Having concluded that Borodin was directing the attack on him, Chiang telegraphed Moscow on February 26 requesting that Borodin be ordered back to Russia.21 At a Party meeting on February 27, Chiang observed that, in the newly occupied territory, while the people saw the KMT members and their NRA, they heard the propaganda of the Communists. As Chiang became more concerned about an impending disintegration of the Party, he came to feel that Wang Ching-wei had the potential to pull it together again.22

By March the strategy of the Russian mission focused on replacing Chiang with General T’ang Sheng-chih, the Hunanese defector who com­manded the Eighth Army. According to a secret Soviet report of March 5, T’ang would be more dependent on Russian aid and had decided to cooperate in gathering an anti-Chiang group among the generals. A new 113alliance would depend on the support of units from Chang Fa-kuei’s corps, Ch’en Ming-shu’s Eleventh Army, Chu P’ei-teh’s Third Army, and the Ninth and Tenth armies.23 According to the report, T’ang had successfully turned Li Tsung-jen against Chiang, a defection which may have sprung from Chiang’s inability to obtain funds from Wuhan to pay Li’s Seventh Army.

Within the National Revolutionary movement, the disintegrating cen­trifuge accelerated as the events of spring 1927 became increasingly mud­died by shifting personal loyalties and political machinations. Relevent here is the effect of those divisions on the offensive capability of the NRA. Excepting the East Route operation through Fukien and Chekiang, the NRA progress north from Wuhan and downriver from Kiangsi lost its momentum. Chiang managed to hold the support of the East Route corps and his armies on the Kiangsi-Anhui border, but they halted their offen­sive. In southern Honan where the NRA force nearest Wuhan faced Wu P’ei-fu, there was only the ringing of rhetoric from October 1926 to May 1927. Party infighting as much as the winter’s chill slowed the expedition.

Downriver from Wuhan’s wordstorm, Chiang somehow maintained his authority and discipline among the many corps. The lower Yangtze was his home territory and Chiang’s confidence was increased and his financial resources replenished through the support of local Party branches and merchants who sided with him. The resumption of the offensive began with the defection of a key force of Sun Ch’uan-fang’s in Anhui. Ch’en T’iao-yüan, classmate of Sun from Tokyo’s Shikan Gakko and the C-in-C of Sun’s Anhui forces, had become disenchanted with his superior and the United Provinces, especially upon experiencing the defeat in Kiangsi. Ch’en’s lack of enthusiasm had been noted even in the press. On De­cember 5, 1926, Ch’en secretly dispatched a representative, Fan Shao-kai, to discuss the possibilities of joining the National Revolution. At the same time, Sun maintained his hope of holding together his front in Anhui through promoting his subordinates. Sun appointed Ch’en to the post of director of defenses for the province on December 21 despite his apparent ambivalence.24 Throughout January 1927, the arrangement seemed to be in effect, but in February the situation became fluid.

On February 20, one of Ch’en T’iao-yüan’s divisions under Liu Pao-t’i defected to the NRA at the strategic pass of Ch’imen, gateway through a 5,000-foot-high range into Anhui.25 With this mountainous side door to Anhui in the hands of the NRA, the province was quite vulnerable. Of greater significance was the fact that these mountains were the last natural barrier behind which Sun could defend the lower Yangtze—including, of course, Shanghai. Within two weeks, Ch’en T’iao-yüan bent before the inevitable and committed himself to the National Revolution.

He proved his defection by turning over his defense sector athwart the Yangtze on March 2, and by bringing with him the mixed brigade of his subordinate Wang P’u and remnants of the Hunan Army under Yeh K’ai-hsin. The NRA under Chiang then moved over Yellow Mountain and down to take Taiping, Anhui, the next day. Practically unopposed, the 114NRA marched rapidly toward Nanking through Anhui along several routes. By March 17, the Seventeenth Division of Ch’eng Ch’ien’s Sixth Army had sped to Wuhu 200 miles downstream the quickest way possible—by river steamers. Nanking was but a mere seventy some miles off.26

On the north bank of the Yangtze, an NRA spearhead pressed quickly in the direction of the soft midsection of the north-to-south railway. In mid-March, the NRA captured the city of Hofei, a crossroads in northern Anhui, leaving less than 100 miles of low hills to the railway to be taken. As the allegiance of Sun’s Shanghai navy became suspect, he became increas­ingly dependent on the arterial Tsin-P’u Railroad since he could not be assured an avenue of escape to the north by sea. Thus, by mid-March, the NRA strategy of threatening Sun with being trapped in the Yangtze delta at Shanghai was proceeding in a most effective way.

The southern part of the strategy saw the NRA offensive moving out of Chekiang into the delta region. One pincer pressed north along the west shore of Lake T’ai aiming to intersect the Shanghai-Nanking Railroad at Ch’angchou.27 Although the force did make a diversionary feint eastward toward Soochow, the heaviest concentration of troops was along the lake from Changhsing north. When this attack began on March 6, 1927, the Sixth Army on the Yangtze in Anhui cooperated by attacking Wuhu.

At Wuhu, the taut nerves of the foreign community in the river port snapped when antiforeign disorders broke out—NRA political workers rallied a crowd of civilians and soldiers who mobbed the foreigners’ clubhouse and the Maritime Customs Office, where it terrorized the foreign staff. Following this, nearly all the foreigners fled downriver to Shanghai by ship, carrying with them new tales of antiforeignism.28 Appar­ently the tradition in China of turning over conquered towns to the lusts of the victorious troops was in some sectors transformed into antiforeign acts. The nationalistic element in the revolution, which promised to right the wrongs committed by the foreigners, also plucked the chronic raw nerves of China’s xenophobia. Although Confucian social mores frustrated aggres­sive behavior within Chinese society, this hostility could still be unleashed against those “foreign devils” outside the pale.

To the south, the Eastern Route Command slowed as the enemy bom­barded it with heavier artillery and as enemy reinforcements continued to arrive from Shantung during the second week of March.29 As the several spearheads pressed toward the rail link with the north, Shanghai’s defensi­bility became more precarious so that northern defense measures began to shift in emphasis from holding golden Shanghai to defending the Nanking area with its circle of rugged hills and the southern terminal of the Tsin-P’u Railroad across the river. By mid-March, indeed, some forces were being evacuated from Shanghai toward Nanking positions.30

The breakthrough for the Eastern Route force came on March 15 on the hills overlooking Lake T’ai when units succeeded in flanking enemy artil­lery placements. With that blockade eliminated by March 16, the NRA pincer pressed west against Lishui, a mere forty miles from Nanking.31 Around the east shore of the lake, the NRA was still effectively blocked by 115the superior artillery of the Shantung elements. However, this sector of the lower delta was rapidly losing its value for Sun. Mid-March reinforcements who arrived at Ch’angchou on the Nanking-Shanghai Railroad were turned back for reassignment around Nanking.

From Wuhu, the NRA moved out around the enemy’s riverside defense line causing Tangt’u to be flanked and captured on March 17 at the same time the East Route force ground on into hilly ridges within fifty miles from Nanking where Sun had been headquartered.32 On the eighteenth, far to the north of the Yangtze, the Seventh Army captured Hofei with its routes leading to the coveted railway.

With the diminishing defensibility of the delta area, the decision of the Shantung commander, Chang Tsung-ch’ang, was predictable. He ordered the general withdrawal of his forces from the Shanghai perimeter to better defense positions north of the Yangtze. With that, on March 19 Shanghai’s defenses began to crumple at the Sungchiang front and Pi Shu-ch’eng’s troops there retreated into the city toward the railroad station—but did not proceed to Nanking as ordered.33

According to foreign and Chinese press reports that followed, Pi Shu-eh’eng was awaiting the best circumstances for his defection to the NRA. He had apparently negotiated the turning over of Shanghai with a leading local KMT figure, Niu Yung-chien.34 This, along with the military strategy of the NRA of isolating Sun in South China, was a move toward the desired end of capturing Shanghai without either a bloody battle or gunfire that might provoke foreign intervention. When Sun’s order to evacuate Shanghai came down, although Pi Shu-ch’eng ignored it, there were other units there that were not a part of the arrangement with the KMT. Among them, a crack White Russian artillery continued to defend its position from an armored train as it retreated from Sungchiang back into the city.35 The NRA managed to flank the railroad artillery on March 20 with the assistance of another defection, that of the waterway police. Since the delta around Shanghai was a Crosshatch of canals, the defection and assistance of the local waterway police greatly eased the mobility of the attacking NRA.36 As it rapidly penetrated the front outside Shanghai from a multitude of routes, the northern line disintegrated all along the Nanking-Shanghai railway retreat route. Simultaneously, the city of Soochow and the sector from Ch’angchou to Henglin fell to the NRA.37 No aid came to Sun from the sea where, the preceding week, his admiral, Yang Shu-chuang, had steamed the fleet upriver and joined with the revolutionaries’ river fleet.38 Yang’s defection had been in the mill since August 1926, but he had timed his jointure with the NRA to coordinate with the Shanghai campaign. Thus, up to March 21, 1926, the planned bloodless occupation of Shanghai and avoidance of a coordinated foreign defense proceeded smoothly.

However, on March 20, the Shanghai branch of CCP’s General Labor Union met and noted the entry of NRA units to Shanghai’s southwestern suburbs. The CCP’s interests in Shanghai did not coincide with those of the incoming NRA Eastern Route Command under Chiang’s domination. For the CCP, a tantalizing opportunity was presented as most of the northern 116defenders awaited to surrender while the NRA massed outside the city—thus creating a virtual vacuum of power. By moving quickly, the masses of the GLU could take unawares the northern soldiers and Shanghai police, who would be easily disarmed. The weapons thus gathered could arm GLU pickets who could then move to control the city for the CCP. In order to gather as many workers as possible, the GLU called another general strike, to commence the next day, March 21. On that day armed pickets attacked Pi Shu-ch’eng’s troops, the remnants of Sun’s elements, and the Shanghai police stations.39

This action gained for the GLU several police stations (which allowed control of the surrounding city districts) and considerable stores of weapons. Fighting between GLU members and police and resisting Shan­tung soldiers spread throughout the city. The northern soldiers fled in confusion through the city toward the railroad station and the coast, looting as they ran.40 Shells were lobbed from the armored train at attackers. As the conflict between workers and soldiers raged, fires flared up in the heavily populated areas. In the northern suburb of Ch’apei, the workers’ quarter near the train station, flames destroyed nearly 3,000 dwellings.41 The workers were the expendables in this struggle of the CCP to take the city.

By the evening of March 22, Pai Ch’ung-hsi’s NRA units had moved in and occupied Shanghai. However, the general strike and its disruptions continued until after General Pai ordered the GLU to call it off on March 24. During the four-day strike, according to some estimates, 322 Chinese were killed and 2,000 wounded.42 The evidence does not substantiate the romanticized version originating with the Communists, especially the Trotskyites, that the valiant proletariat proudly turned over their hard-won city to the NRA, which then betrayed their trust. By that time, the CCP and Chiang’s faction of the KMT had become polarized to where there was no trust to be lost.

As the NRA occupied and consolidated its authority in Shanghai, its spokesmen there—Chiang, Ho Ying-ch’in, and Pai Ch’ung-hsi—promulgated declarations to quiet the taut nerves of the foreign community with its frightened refugees and international sentinels on alert along a barbed-wire perimeter. Real and exaggerated tales of antiforeign atrocities inland had rekindled the embers of terror smoldering since the Boxer massacres. The NRA notices gave assurance that:

The purpose of the military operations of the Northern Expedition is to establish a nation governed by the people and to get rid of the warlords. Our army occupied Hunan, Kiangsi, Hupeh, Fukien, Chekiang, Anhui, and other prov­inces and the unification of the entire nation will be accomplished soon. The Party Army’s success is the victory of the people…. In accordance with international morality we shall guard the lives and property of foreigners. We have occupied Shanghai by more than force. We request that consuls inform your nationals to carry on your activities as usual and order the marines not to misunderstand our motives and not to carry out means to obstruct our rev­olutionary cause.43

117Within a matter of days, the antiforeign actions that followed the capture of Nanking required a repetition of the assurances.

The last dispirited northern rear guard crossed over the Yangtze to the safer north bank, making the rail terminal at P’u-k’ou the southern outpost of the Ankuochün. The NRA vanguard entered Nanking on March 24 with elements of the Sixth Army and two affiliated units, one of which had just defected to the NRA in Anhui. The truth about what actually happened in the Nanking Incident has yet to be documented.

Chiang’s faction of the KMT charged the head of the Sixth Army’s Political Department, CCP member Lin Tsu-han, with masterminding the attacks on foreigners. Such action could have provoked the foreign powers to attack Chiang, thus diverting him from completing the expedition and weakening his power vis-à-vis the CCP at Wuhan. Rather than controlling a united China hostile to communism and Russia, he would at least be neutralized fighting the British imperialists in their sphere of influence on the lower Yangtze. Thus, elements in the Sixth Army stirred the latent xenophobia among the soldiery and the masses at Nanking. However, the foreigners who lived through the Nanking Incident generally agreed that the attacks were not made by civilian mobs, but by calculating southern soldiers. Whatever the motivations, what happened at Nanking signified a grave breach of military discipline if the promulgations of the C-in-C’s headquarters are to be given credence.

For Chiang Kai-shek to have permitted the attacks was inconsistent with his long-standing strategy to avoid provoking a foreign intervention. By the time the Nanking refugees disembarked at Shanghai, there were over 25,000 foreign army and naval personnel defending the concessions—with the promise of more standing by.44 Considering the success of the strategy that had unfolded so successfully in Kiangsu, the antiforeign acts seem superfluous to Chiang’s designs. Had Chiang been a part to a demonstra­tion of Chinese mass power against the foreign imperialists, he would not afterward have negated the allegation so adamantly. Most relevant to the expedition is the interpretation of the Nanking Incident as a symptom of the internal disunity in the National Revolution, which was itself such an inclusive movement that it was interpreted differently by its allied compo­nents.


1. Kuowen (March 6, 1927), n. p. See discussions of intervention in State Department and consular reports from Shanghai, January, February 1927, U.S. National Archives series, 893.00/8200-8600s.

2. New York Times (December 1, 1926), p. 1.

3. U.S. Shanghai Consul Gauss’ report on Sun’s “Secret Service Corps,” January 17, 1927 (893.00/8264). Kuowen (January 16, 1927), n. p.

4. HTSL, vol. 3, p. 177.

5. Kuowen (November 28, 1926), n. p.

6. SCMP (March 18, 1927), p. 10.

7. Shih Ying, “The Record of the Shanghai General Strike,” Hsiang Tao (February 28, 1927).

8. HTSL, vol. 3, p. 178.

9. CCP before the War, p. 31.

10. Kuowen (February 27, 1927), n. p.

11. Ibid.

12. Hsiang Tao (February 28, 1927), n. p.

13. Kuowen (February 27, 1927), n. p.

14. Kuowen (March 8, 1927), n. p.

15. Ibid.

16. Documents, p. 382.

17. Documents, p. 389.

18. Kuowen (January 16, 1927), n. p.

19. Kuowen (May 1, 1927), n. p.

20. Ibid.

21. Borodin, p. 43, cites the record of the sixty-fourth session of the Central Political Meeting, Nanchang, February 1927.

22. Ch’ing-tang yün-tung [The party purification movement] (Nanking: Ch’ing-tang Com­mittee, 1927), pp. 16-19.

23. Documents, p. 395.

24. U.S. Nanking Consul J.K. Davis’ reports of late November and early December 1926, State Department series in National Archives (893.00/7997, 8002, 8031). Ta-shih chi, p. 234.

25. N. Exp., vol. 2, p. 648.

26. Ibid.

27. Kuowen (March 6, 1927), n. p.

28. SCMP (March 17, 1927), p. 11.

29. Kuowen (March 20, 1927), n. p.

30. SCMP (March 21, 1927), p. 10.

31. N. Exp., vol. 2, p. 660.

32. Kuowen (March 27, 1927), n. p.

33. Kuowen (March 27, 1927), “Weekly News.”

34. Ibid. SCMP (March 21, 1927), p. 10, and (March 22, 1927), p. 10. CCP before the War, pp. 31, 32.

35. N. Exp., vol. 2, p. 635.

36. SCMP (March 22, 1927), p. 10. N. Exp., vol. 2, p. 636.

37. Pei-fa chien-shih, chap. 3, Map 42.

38. Ibid.

39. 1st Workers’ Movement, p. 16.

40. Kuowen (March 27, 1927), n. p.

41. Ibid.314

42. SCMP (March 25, 1927), p. 10, General Pai’s order to organized labor prohibiting strikes in essential public services, and his call for an end to the general strike. SCMP (April 9, 1927), p. 12, United Press release from Shanghai.

43. SCMP (April 8, 1927), p. 12.

44. Ibid.

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