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The Defection of Warlord Subordinates

Beside the few big warlords who came to fight under the KMT banner, there was a larger number of subordinates who, with their units, defected to the National Revolution. These men did not have suzerainty over their territory, although some did have local control over a part of their superior’s satrapy. Their status was due partly to their command of a body of troops and partly to their relationship to a higher military overlord; so the circumstances of their joining the NRA were different from those of Feng and Yen. Sometimes their superiors were not natives of their pro­vinces, in which case they were not vassals by choice.

In such relationships there was the potential for strains from provincial interests and conflicting loyalties. In most cases, subordinates were tied to their leader by the need for a powerful protective patron. As long as the relationship seemed satisfactory, it remained in effect; but if the subordi­nate decided he was not receiving a fair return for the services of his troops, he felt little compunction about seeking a better deal, or about joining what appeared to be the winning side.1 Chinese inclusiveness promoted com­promises in the name of harmony, and Chinese practicality encouraged ideological flexibility. The KMT’s term for defection, kuei-fu, implying a “return to the fold,” bestowed a moral status on those who changed sides.

The stories of the many and vital defections have not been told. Because of the KMT propaganda against warlords as traitorous mercen­aries—running dogs of the foreign devils—earlier warlord connections were so malodorous that those generals who defected and the KMT army 277that they entered both avoided reference to their past. Therefore, infor­mation on the defections is sketchy and incomplete. Most of the defec­tions involved entire units with their commanders. They occurred at crucial times and places, since strategy dictated that the wavering force await an advantageous juncture before moving to the side of the NRA. Therefore, it is useful to study some of the circumstances in the defections that were most valuable to the progress of the expedition. From numbers alone, it can be seen that the NRA grew from eight corps when the expedition began to nearly fifty corps in the First Collective Army alone by 1928. In July 1926, NRA troops had numbered less than 100,000. In a February 1928 CEC report, the three collective armies (including those of Feng and Yen) were recorded at 1 million.2 Since Yen and Feng are credited with the considerable figure of 100,000 troops each, Nanking’s forces must have numbered around 800,000. This would present a growth of 700,000 in the NRA from all sources in 1½ years (July 1926 to February 1928). The bulk of these were forces drawn from the warlords; the rest were new recruits. These defections were valuable for more than the sheer weight of their numbers.

The first kuei-fu of large units took place in the early phase of the Hunan campaign. The defection of T’ang Sheng-chih’s division, of course, helped the NRA launch the expedition and cross, unopposed, the difficult Nan­ling mountains. T’ang’s case may have served as an example to other subordinates of Wu P’ei-fu and Sun Ch’uan-fang of what could be gained from joining the revolution. T’ang had been the commander of one of the four Hunan divisions of Chao Heng-t’i—Wu’s man in Hunan. Upon his defection on March 25, 1926 (once Chiang’s coup was consolidated), T’ang was promoted from a division to an army command and received the title of provisional governor of Hunan, his home province.3 Ideology notwith­standing, the promotion was attractive financially.

The unstable nature of warlord finances made uncertain the salaries of their subordinates, whereas Canton’s Finance Ministry was efficient and dependable. Under the NRA pay schedule, officers received the following salaries:

     Major General C$450 to C$600 monthly
  Lieutenant General C$600 to C$750
  Full General C$800

An additional monthly command allowance was:

    Regiment C$150
  Division C$500
  Army Corps C$1,5004

There may also have been provisions for housing and a rice allowance. Under the NRA’s system then, T’ang as Eighth Army Commander was due to receive C$1,500 plus the pay due his rank (also elevated) between C$450 and C$750 per month. If his duties as Hunan’s provisional governor were salaried with an allowance the total would have been considerable—a 278secure monthly salary of nearly C$3,000 — even with the exchange value then of two Chinese silver dollars to one U. S. dollar. Since the cost of living was low in the 1920s—an urban resident could subsist on less than C$2 per month for room and board—there was hardly the financial sacrifice in­volved in defection that would have repelled an acquisitive Chinese.

Besides the attractive promotions in rank and salary, the KMT held out an ideology and propaganda that helped the opponents to rationalize their shift in loyalty. In some cases, a general may have been influenced by the response of his troops to the nationalistic propaganda. After T’ang “joined the revolution,” efforts continued toward winning over the other members of Wu P’ei-fu’s Hunan regime. Chiang wired Wu’s governor of Hunan, Chao Heng-t’i, on July 5, 1926, at Changsha as the official attack began. In his appeal Chiang used patriotism and provincialism:

… Since Hunan and Kwangtung have differences, the union in the southeast is broken, allowing the Northern warlords to be even more aggressive than before. There has been continual fighting in the past few years. [Sun Ch’uan-fang’s] plan of self-government under the United Provinces can damage the nation. Now the fighting in Hunan … is ordered by Wu P’ei-fu, whose dream is to unify the nation by force. As imperialists treat barbarian chiefs in a colony, Wu treats the southern armies—causing them to fight each other to the death. The late Tsung-li [Sun Yat-sen] called for a Northern Expedition to attack Ts’ao K’un and Wu P’ei-fu. Now with Wu risen again, I will carry out the will of Tsung-li to attack Wu. Since you were a member of the Revolutionary Party, you cannot forget your past, and should respect the freedom and independence of the nation. The friendship between you and Wu is of lesser significance. We should be cooperating in an attack on him…. At your order … we can stop the fighting in Hunan at once and quickly carry out the National Revolution.5

Although the appeal was not immediately fruitful, it does serve as an example of those made to warlord subordinates. Eventually, two more of the four Hunan divisions did come over to the NRA, but not until early 1927.

To secure his western flank in Kweichow, Chiang and the Canton regime appealed to Kweichow military leaders who finally committed themselves on August 10 and 11, 1926, to oppose Wu P’ei-fu. The responses of P’eng Han-chang and Wang T’ien-p’ei came as the NRA was consolidating its strength for a final campaign to clear Hunan of Wu’s forces. The month before, on July 20, 1926, they had been offered the titles of Ninth and Tenth army commanders in the name of the KMT’s Central Executive Committee.6 P’eng Han-chang accepted his title of Ninth Army comman­der in a telegram to the KMT’s CEC:

The calamity of war in China is mainly Wu P’ei-fu’s fault. He has sacrificed the lives of our fellow countrymen to please the imperialists. He breached the dam when he assisted Ts’ao K’un to buy his presidency. I, being a long-time party member, will contact the generals of the Revolutionary Army in order to coordinate an attack against Wu.7

He replied on behalf of his three division commanders (including Ho Lung destined for fame in the Red Army). Both the Ninth and Tenth army 279commanders were promoted from division commanders, and their subor­dinates elevated from lower unit designations to division commanders (i.e., Ho Lung moved from brigade to division commander). Although the Ninth and Tenth armies saw little heavy fighting, their presence in western Hunan did allow the NRA to concentrate its forces elsewhere.

Chiang and the KMT were not completely naïve in their handling of the defectors. With the aid of Party Representatives and and political workers, it was possible for the C-in-C’s headquarters to keep the new officers under some manner of surveillance, and if deemed guilty of malpractices the newcomers might, under the right circumstances, be purged. In the case of the Ninth and Tenth army commanders, they did not keep their positions long. Within a year, the commander of the Ninth Army was arrested on the charge of allowing his corps to exhibit poor revolutionary behavior toward civilians.8 P’eng was relieved of his command along with some of his subordinates and replaced by officers of known Party experience and reliability from the Whampoa regiment of 1925.9 In late July 1927, follow­ing his defeat in northern Kiangsu, the Tenth Army commander was arrested and charged with misuse of funds allocated for the salaries of his personnel. He too was relieved of command.10 Thus, defected units were particularly vulnerable to later changes in top-level leadership in favor of officers with KMT pedigrees, especially if the KMT officers were from the units’ home bases.

The title of Eleventh Army commander was involved in the offensive against Sun Ch’uan-fang in Kiangsi. Sun’s Kiangsi man, Fang Pen-jen, may have crossed over into Hunan to meet with Chiang at his headquarters at Hengyang where, in late July, Fang was offered the title of Eleventh Army commander for his troops in southern Kiangsi and the governorship of Kiangsi’s provisional government.11 The appointment was made on August 10, 1926, while Sun Ch’uan-fang protested that the Kiangsi people wanted peace, and then on August 21, when Fang Pen-jen had his troops aligned at the strategic P’ing-hsiang Pass, he officially accepted the NRA affiliation.12 His defection greatly speeded the passage of the NRA into Kiangsi in early September, and Fang began a career as a loyal supporter of Chiang.13

Another important link in Sun’s Kiangsi defenses was the division of Lai Shih-huang, stationed in southern Kiangsi opposite the Kwangtung bor­der. KMT agents had contacted Lai and on August 23 offered him the position of Fourteenth Army commander.14 Accepting the title in late August, Lai proceeded to pass on to the NRA plans and information valuable to the invasion of southern Kiangsi, which fell quickly in early September.15 However, by the 1928 phase of the expedition, neither Lai nor his army corps was listed under the NRA.16

On August 26, 1926, another defection took place as a division comman­der from the Hunan Army who had entered Kiangsi for asylum under Sun accepted an agreement with the NRA. Thus, Ho Yao-tsu’s Hunan division became the Second Independent Division and joined in the NRA’s cam­paign against Sun in northern Kiangsi. By proving his reliability during the campaign at Shanghai in March 1927, Ho gained the rank of general and saw his unit elevated from a division to the Fortieth Army. Loyal to Chiang 280during the disintegration of the KMT in mid-1927, Ho was still a comman­der in the NRA during the final phase of the expedition in 1928.17

In the Wuhan campaign of early September 1926, NRA agents worked hard to bring about defections among Wu P’ei-fu’s defenders in order to free troops for the more crucial Kiangsi campaign. On September 5, Liu Tso-lung, commander of Wu’s Hupei Army Second Division, ordered his troops to cease defense of their sector at Hanyang and join in the NRA offensive against the Hanyang Arsenal. Although in communication with the NRA for some weeks, Liu timed his defection to hasten the fall of the coveted arsenal.18 By September 15, Liu received the appointment from the National Government of commander of the Fifteenth Army, a title Liu Tso-lung retained throughout the expedition despite his temporary subor­dination to the treasonous T’ang Sheng-chih.19

As Wu P’ei-fu’s position in Hupei crumbled, the commanders of two of his Honan divisions on the Yangtze’s north bank defected to the NRA. Promoted to army corps commanders, Jen Ying-ch’i and Fan Chung-hsiung accepted command of the Twelfth and Thirteenth armies under the NRA on September 12.20 Further additions to these Honan units of the KMT occurred at the end of the siege of Wuchang. Then the Honan Army Third Division opened the city gate and surrendered, thereby allowing the capture of Wuchang under generous terms of surrender.21

In late September 1926, at a key border sector in the Fukien defense line, the defection of one of Sun Ch’uan-fang’s brigades greatly speeded the invasion of the province. Secretly cooperating with the NRA, the brigade commander had provided the enemy’s plan of defense and other military intelligence. In this case the reward was the promotion of the commanding officer from brigade level to the command of the NRA’s new Seventeenth Army—an unusually rapid promotion that skipped the division level.22 To this Seventeenth Army, the East Route of the NRA added other defectors in Fukien, in particular a brigade from Foochow, which allowed that provincial capital to be captured with little resistance. The Foochow brigade commander advanced to division commander in the Seventeenth Army.23 Although the NRA and its Political Departments were constantly recruiting new troops, the advancement of unit designations, in many cases must have meant undermanned units according to accepted complements—and difficulties in assessing unit strength. This would mean that extra effort was necessary on the part of the new Political Department workers in the units (if assigned) and the NRA paymasters. In 1928, the Seventeenth Army was still listed under the First CA, commanded by Ts’ao Wan-hsün—the original defector.

The Chinese press in the fall of 1926 reported another KMT tactic within its newly conquered territories that may have influenced later defections. Following the occupation of Hupei in October and November 1926, the KMT confiscated the provincial properties of the defeated generals and officials of Wu P’ei-fu. The value of the confiscated property of five high-ranking members of Wu’s regime in Hupei, alone, was estimated at be­tween ten and twenty million silver dollars.24 Some of this capital had been 281left in local banks and some was in movable property. The new occupation authorities in the larger cities moved into residences confiscated from the earlier military regime—such as the villa in Hankow where Borodin made his headquarters that had belonged to the Szechwan general, Yang Sen.25 Borodin’s car once had been Wu P’ei-fu’s.26 The knowledge that the property of the defeated clique would be confiscated on the one hand and that financial rewards were forthcoming to the defectors on the other hand must have acted as a spur to kuei-fu.

As Sun’s Kiangsi defense met with defeat, his rapport with the provincial armies of his five United Provinces deteriorated, along with the morale of his subordinates. The Party propagandists effectively pointed up the folly of southeastern provincials sacrificing their lives for the benefit of a Shan­tung warlord who was not truly concerned with the people of Anhui, Chekiang, and Kiangsu. It can be seen, then, that the national re­volutionaries were willing to use provincialism when necessary to appeal to the provincial military leaders.

The KMT’s efforts to disintegrate the United Provinces through provin­cial autonomy movements were most effective in Chekiang. Chekiang men filled posts in the Canton administration, the NRA, and were active in the KMT in Shanghai. Many in the commercial sector of Shanghai were from Ningpo, Chekiang, Chiang’s place of origin. Thus, KMT representatives and Chekiang leaders were able to communicate with Sun’s governor, Hsia Ch’ao, during the summer of 1926. On October 16, Hsia announced that he would side with the KMT against Sun. On that day the KMT designated the troops under Hsia’s command as the Eighteenth Army and ordered them toward the Chekiang border nearest Shanghai.27 Con­current with his military appointment was Hsia’s appointment by the KMT as its provisional governor of Chekiang.28 Although Sun quickly suppressed with Shangtung troops Hsia’s revolt in Chekiang, the subver­sion of Sun’s Chekiang units continued. In November 1926, Sun appointed Ch’en Yi, commander of his Kiangsu Army’s First Division (manned by Chekiang troops), to be his next governor in Chekiang and ordered Ch’en from Kiangsu back to the province along with another Chekiang unit—Chou Feng-ch’i’s Third Division of the Kiangsu Army.29 Ch’en and Chou were to guard their own province for Sun, a concession to those Chekiangese demanding provincial autonomy and the ousting of Shantung troops.

Ch’en Yi had no sooner assumed his duties as Sun’s Chekiang governor when he received visits from provincial leaders interested in further au­tonomy, many of whom were under KMT influence. The KMT involve­ment in the autonomy movement picked up momentum. A united meeting of leaders of Kiangsu, Anhui, and Chekiang heard an announcement by Chiang Kai-shek on December 11 stating that if they joined in the National Revolution their provinces would be assured provincial governments, each directed by people of that province. That day in Chekiang, Chou Feng-ch’i accepted the designation of his division as the Twenty-sixth Army and became its commander.30 Next, on December 15, the KMT wired Ch’en Yi 282to maintain order in Chekiang in the name of the NRA until its arrival from Kiangsi and Fukien.31 By December 17, Ch’en Yi had accepted from Chiang the KMT’s designation of his division as the Nineteenth Army under his command, and had called a meeting of provincial luminaries in the Shanghai concessions. There they were to work out a list of Chekiang men who could create a new provincial government.32 Sun moved troops into Chekiang to suppress the revolt but the rebels—then the Nineteenth and Twenty-sixth armies—did manage to defend themselves in an upland corner of Chekiang that bordered on Kiangsi and Fukien, which made a gateway for the NRA to cross the rugged border range.

Sun had moved quickly enough, however, to capture Ch’en Yi, so that with Hsia Ch’ao dead since October 1926, Chou Feng-ch’i received most of the rewards for defection to the NRA. As local commander for the NRA of the campaign in Chekiang, Chou had enough political influence that he was next appointed to the chairmanship of Chekiang’s Military Committee and made a member of the Chekiang Government Committee.33 Chou appar­ently retained his strong motivation as a prior provincial autonomist and the ambition to rule Chekiang personally.

Within months, by mid-1927, when the KMT and its military suffered from severe internal division and successive defeats on the northern front, Chou’s true colors emerged. The most active civilian leaders in Chekiang’s new provincial government were party stalwarts Chang Ching-chiang, who was theoretically the head of the province, and Ma Hsu-lün, who was acting chairman. Party problems and national affairs at Nanking took them away from Hangchow, allowing Chou Feng-ch’i the opportunity to realize his provincial ambitions.34

Gathering around him provincial opponents to KMT reforms and new taxes, Chou Feng-ch’i enjoyed dominance of Chekiang, and by placing his 12,000 troops along the Hangchow-Shanghai railroad he was able to rule Shanghai as well.35 Chou reached this peak of his power as KMT fortunes dipped and Chiang Kai-shek resigned in mid-August 1927. When the massive counteroffensive of Sun Ch’uan-fang surged back across the Yangtze in late August, there were reports that Chou’s supporters at Ningpo were preparing welcoming posters.36 At least one source claimed that Chou conspired with T’ang Sheng-chih of Hunan to aid Sun’s come­back in order to regain their positions of autonomy.37

After the bloody battle of Lung-t’an, Nanking’s generals managed to repulse Sun’s attack and then were able to turn their attention to Chou Feng-ch’i’s recalcitrant autonomism. By late September 1927, unable to defend the province against attack from all sides, and with his civilian support dwindling, Chou fled Hangchow by train bound for the safety of the Shanghai foreign settlement.38 Although many of our questions about the defecting commanders remain to be answered, we can afford to be quite skeptical of the level of Chou’s commitment to a national govern­ment.

In the short run, since the three Chekiang defectors greatly eased the military operations of the NRA, they were valuable to the Northern Expe­dition. 283 In 1926, Hsia Ch’ao’s rebellion did distract Sun during the bitterly contested fight for Kiangsi. Chou Feng-ch’i had allowed the NRA to enter Chekiang through its highly defensible passes without shedding blood, and then guided its vanguard. Ch’en Yi as the current civil governor did help the KMT to alienate the Chekiangese from Sun’s influence and added more local troops to the NRA. In that they speeded its military conclusion by 1928, it can be argued that negotiating these defections from regional overlords was vital.

On the other hand, in Chekiang the orientation of these provincial militarists toward goals broader than the attainment of self-rule seems weak. Among the three Chekiang commanders, Hsia Ch’ao and protégé Chou Feng-ch’i publicly stated their primary loyalty to be toward Chekiang autonomy. Even after the cadre of the NRA Political Depart­ment worked to reeducate the Chekiang divisions politically,39 Chou retained control over the troops and soon turned them against Nanking’s central authority.

In order of incorporation into the NRA, the next to join were several units in Anhui, in late 1926. Sun’s defeat in Kiangsi had undermined the morale of his Anhui Army officers, in particular that of the military gover­nor of Anhui, Ch’en T’iao-yüan. On Decembers, 1926, a representative of Ch’en met with Chiang at his Nanchang headquarters, and by early Feb­ruary 1927, the Chinese press noted vaguely that Ch’en’s “attitude was ambiguous.”40 Quite likely, Ch’en had been in contact with KMT agents since the November retreat out of Kiangsi, perhaps earlier, and had gained a reputation for changing sides.41 In a play for Ch’en’s continuing loyalty, Sun Ch’uan-fang and his Ankuochün allies had promoted Ch’en to the directorship of Anhui’s defense on December 21.42 Ch’en remained unconvinced and on February 19, 1927, gathered his subordinate Wang P’u and several other generals to discuss the prospects in Sun’s United Provinces.43

The next day, February 20, a subordinate of Ch’en, Liu Pao-t’i, defected with his division to the NRA near Chih-teh, entry point to Anhui from upriver. Sun had earlier promoted Liu from brigade to division comman­der; but when Liu joined the NRA he came in as the commander of the “new” Third Army.44 Liu’s transfer provided the NRA with the chance to resume its offensive into Anhui without bloodshed. During the rest of February, that offensive hung fire while other Anhui officers met secretly with KMT agents over the details of their possible kuei-fu to the NRA.

When Chiang’s NRA went on the march again in Anhui on March 4, it coincided with the defection of three of Sun’s division commanders there. All three entered the NRA as army corps commanders: Ch’en T’iao-yüan as Thirty-seventh Army commander, Wang P’u as Twenty-seventh Army commander, and Yen K’ai-hsin as “new” Third Army commander (redesig­nated as the Forty-fourth Army on March 19).45 Ch’en and Wang’s divi­sions had Anhui origins, while Yeh’s had been one of Wu P’ei-fu’s Hunanese units before his defeat in the fall of 1926. In the Anhui highlands bordering Hupei, local militia forces joined the NRA, reorganized as the 284Thirty-third Army under Po Wen-wei, a longtime KMT leader from Anhui.46 These defections in Anhui greatly aided in the capture of the provinces, in spite of Ankuochün efforts to rush in replacements. Anhui, south of the Yangtze, fell so quickly that Nanking’s and Shanghai’s defensi­bility were gravely prejudiced.

Apparently the defenders of Sun’s choice plum, Shanghai, were also vulnerable to KMT persuasion. At least by August 1926, the KMT had appointed two agents to obtain the defection of the commander of Sun Ch’uan-fang’s Shanghai navy. The agents shortly reported back to the KMT that Admiral Yang Shu-chuang was amenable to joining the National Revolution but had questions about the details. Yang wanted to know if the Canton government could pay the C$400,000 in monthly salaries his personnel required, and, if his navy defected, whether his officers were guaranteed their positions?47 Part of Yang’s fleet was attached to Fukien and during the campaign there, he dispatched a representative on November 26 to discuss further the kuei-fu.48 In the meantime, the movement in Shanghai to resist the entry of Shantung troops into lower Kiangsu worked on the morale of Yang and his men. In early December 1926, Admiral Yang sent his plenipotentiary to Nanchang to settle with Chiang on the final terms. On December 14, Chiang was able to wire these terms to his East Route Commander, Ho Ying-ch’in, in Fukien.49

The actual defection was to coordinate with the planned siege of Shang­hai. During the February uprising in Shanghai, Admiral Yang’s hand was nearly tipped when two impetuous executive officers of his ships bom­barded Sun’s Kiangnan Arsenal in support of the rebels on shore.50 Sun could not risk confronting Admiral Yang, whom he exonerated of responsi­bility for the bombardment but assigned a demerit. By early March 1927, Yang was collaborating with a high KMT political and military figure for the Shanghai area, Niu Yung-chien, with whom Yang arranged his defection to coincide with the general attack on Shanghai to begin on March 15. By March 9, Yang had already aided by threatening Sun Ch’uan-fang that his fleet of some twenty ships would resist any entry of Chang Tso-lin’s Po Hai fleet into the Yangtze. In his dealings with the KMT, Yang became em­broiled in the deepening polarization between the KMT and CCP. The CCP approached Yang independently through political workers who urged him to allow his sailors to be organized and represented in the Municipal Congress of Soviets that the CCP was promoting.51 Through Niu Yung-chien’s efforts, Yang ignored the CCP maneuvers and continued to cooperate with Niu and the KMT—Chiang’s faction in particular. As the NRA offensive moved downriver in Anhui, three of Yang’s ships slipped upriver from the Shanghai area to join in the bombardment of Tangt’u on March 11. On the twelfth, all the Shanghai fleet flew the KMT flag and a squadron steamed up the Yangtze to the Kiangsi headquarters of Chiang.52 Although Admiral Yang secretly accepted his appointment as C-in-C of the National Revolutionary Navy on March 14, it was not publicized until his ships cooperated in the final taking of the Shanghai coast on March 21.53

Nui Yung-chien also succeeded in convincing the head of the Kiangsu 285Waterway Police to add his boats and men to the revolutionary cause. Since the delta area around Shanghai is laced with canals and river channels, their control was of great value. In the final attack on the Shanghai defenses at Sungchiang, KMT units were able to flank Sun’s forts there by use of the Whangpu River and its canals. In the battle, the defected head of the waterway police died, but through his defection saved the NRA a costlier assault on the remaining Shanghai defenses.54

Even the Ankuochün’s appointee as Shanghai garrison commander, Pi Shu-ch’eng, who came south from Shantung, succumbed to the subversive atmosphere of Shanghai. Pi arrived in Shanghai on February 24 and helped direct the suppression of the second uprising, but was apparently disgrun­tled because Chang Tsung-ch’ang had not gained for him concurrently the title of mayor. By early March 1927, Niu Yung-chien, the local KMT chairman and agent of the C-in-C, who had been communicating with Pi had persuaded him to defect.55 Apparently Pi was prepared to defect when the offensive neared Shanghai, and he also supplied the NRA’s East Route commander, Ho Ying-ch’in, with plans and intelligence.56 According to the set pattern, Niu offered Pi the title of commander of the Forty-second Army pending the peaceful surrender of the Shanghai garrison. However, as Shanghai’s strategic position became untenable, Chang Tsung-ch’ang of the Ankuochün ordered Pi to withdraw on March 19 from Shanghai. Pi put off his retreat in order to join with the approaching NRA.57 On March 20, as the NRA moved cautiously into Shanghai’s suburbs, Pi dispatched a representative to General Ho to finalize the city’s take-over.58 Other units of the Ankuochün not included in the deal put up some resistance, which made for confusion.

The confusion was compounded by the attack of the CCP’s GLU, which sought the weapons of the northern troops (see chapter 11). Pi’s troops, in response to the attack and execution of northern soldiers, resisted and scattered. Some who did surrender to the GLU’s armed pickets were later accepted into the picket corps—the large-bodied Shangtung soldiers were always in demand as policemen and the like. With the abortion of his planned defection, Pi Shu-ch’eng fled in panic into the French concession and from there escaped by sea to Shantung.59 With the news of his planned defection receiving exposure in the press, Pi was untrusted—he was arrested in Tsingtao and executed on April 5 at Tsinan.60

The Defections and the KMT as a Southern Power

In that Pi Shu-ch’eng and his unit were part of the Shantung Army of Chang Tsung-ch’ang (an ally in the Ankuochün), his defection was unusual. From the record it appears that most of the other defectors and their units had southern origins and ties. The major defections to the NRA took place in South and Central China. The last significant defections before the completion of the expedition occurred as the NRA pursued the fleeing northern force across the Yangtze. In late March 1927, rather than face a dangerous battery dug in on the far side of the wide Yangtze, the NRA accepted the defection of Chang Kuo-wei’s artillery regiment and Chang 286Chung-li’s brigade of Sun’s Kiangsu Army. Therefore the NRA landing on the north bank at the entrance to the Grand Canal was easy.61 Although small units of Sun’s force entered the NRA in July 1927, and many surren­dered before the last fight for Peking in 1928, defections in North China were much less a part of the expedition in its last phase. Feng Yü-hsiang did gather in some Honanese troops of Wu P’ei-fu and a few small Manchurian units, but these have not been publicized. It may have been that with the four collective armies of the NRA in 1928 totaling around 1 million Chiang and Nanking made no further effort to reward defections.

It would seem that the KMT was most influential in winning over southern enemy troops stationed in their southern provinces. The fact was that more of the KMT membership was from the Yangtze basin and the southern coast than from the north. Thus, in contacting southern officers there were available more men with valuable school ties, mutual friends, and family relations. Furthermore, in their dealings with the northern warlords and their officer cadres, the KMT was handicapped by the cul­tural and educational differences. In general, the northern officers were from more lowly, narrowly provincial origins—many rose to high positions through the experience of fighting with “irregular” military bands. This had been the case with Chang Tso-lin, Chang Tsung-ch’ang of Shantung, and many of Chang Tso-lin’s subordinates. There were few KMT available who could act as middlemen in starting a dialog with them. Their lack of a modern education also made these warriors less susceptible to the rationale of nationalism. Of the leading institutions of modern higher education in China then listed, sixteen were located in southern China while only eight were in the north.

The stories of major defections have yet to be told, but would give a fascinating insight into the mentality of twentieth-century China. There are still present numbers of the defectors active in both Chinas. Interest­ingly their presence is at the same time both a help and a hindrance in researching the circumstances of their pasts. There is no doubt, however, that those commanders who did kuei-fu were of great military value in the short-run, bringing, as they did, badly needed troops and firepower to the expedition. Knowing the significance of their contribution to the KMT’s unification campaign, the later-surfacing problems of disunity and lack of ideological direction can be better understood. The founding of a Chinese regime by an inclusive movement, even after its apparent military victory, must face the equally massive task of consolidating a central power by subordinating its military allies. Sharing this problem with Chiang Kai-shek have been such great unifiers as Ch’in Shih-huang-ti, Liu Pang, and now Mao Tse-tung.


1. Lucian W. Pye, Warlord Politics (New York, 1971).

2. History of Political Work (vol. 1, p. 256) quotes the CEC’s “Outline of Propaganda” dated February 1928 from the Collection of Military Plans, Orders, and Accounts of the Northern Expeditionary Forces.

3. Ta-shih chi, p. 206.

4. HKDP (March 31, 1926), p. 5.

5. Photographic reproduction of the original letter before or after the telegraphic transla­tion. Held in the National Military Historical Museum collection, Taipei.

6. Ko-ming wen-hsien, vol. 20, p. 1689.

7. Ko-ming wen-hsien, vol. 12, p. 162.

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

9. N. Exp., vol. 4, chart no. 78, and N. Exp., vol. 1, p. 150.

10. Kuowen (August 21, 1927), n. p.; N. Exp., vol. 4, chart no. 78.

11. SCMP (August 16, 1926), p. 8.

12. Ta-shih chi, p. 219. Ko-ming wen-hsien, vol. 20, p. 1690.

13. Whos Who in China, 4th ed. (Shanghai, 1931), p. 122.

14. Interview with Liao Wen-yin, January 1966, Taipei. Ko-ming wen-hsien, vol. 20, p. 1690.

15. Ta-shih chi, p. 221.

16. Pei-fa Chien-shih, chart no. 22, dated March 1928.

17. Ta-shih chi, pp. 221, 224, 250. Boorman, vol. 2, pp. 77-78.

18. N. Exp., vol. 2, p. 464. U.S. Hankow Consul F.P. Lockhard to Minister J. MacMurray at Peking describes Liu’s post in the Hanyang-Hankow defense, August 30, 1926 (SD 893.00/7742). Paul Wakefield, “A Story of the Seige of Wuchang” (SD 893.00/7781), p. 3.

19. Ta-shih chi‚ p. 244.

20. Ko-ming wen-hsien, vol. 20, p. 1690.

21. N. Exp., vol. 2, p. 470. U.S. Hankow Consul F.P. Lockhard to Peking, October 23, 1926 (SD 893.00/7866), which presented the terms under which the Honanese were incorpo­rated into the Fifteenth Army.

22. Ko-ming wen-hsien, vol. 20, p. 1690; and interview with Liao Wen-yin.

23. Pei-fa Chien-shih, p. 97.

24. Hsien-tai p’ing lün [Contemporary review] 5(107):1; SCMP (December 8, 1926), p. 11.

25. Interview with Lo Chia-lün in Taipei, 1966.

26. Akimova, p. 275.

27. Ko-ming wen-hsien, vol. 20, p. 1690; SCMP (October 18, 1926), p. 9.

28. SCMP (October 21, 1926), p. 8.

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

30. Ta-shih chi, p. 235.

31. Kuowen (December 26, 1926), n. p.

32. Ta-shih chi, p. 234. Kuowen (December 26, 1926), n. p.

33. Ma Hsü-lun, pp. 106-107. Ta-shih chi, p. 246.

34. Ma Hsü-lun, p. 110.

35. NCH (September 24, 1927), pp. 514, 525.

36. NCH (October 10, 1927), p. 10.

37. Lo Yü-t’ien (Chün-fa i-wen [Anecdotes of the warlords] [Taipei: Hu-p’o Publishing Soc., 1967]) claims that Chou colluded with T’ang and was supported from Ningpo.

38. NCH (October 15, 1927), p. 91. China Yearbook 1928 vol. 2, p. 1269.

39. HTSL, vol. 3, pp. 26-28.328

40. Ta-shih chi, p. 234. Kuowen (February 13, 1927), n. p.

41. U.S. Nanking Consul to Washington, January 17, 1925, pp. 10-12 (893.00/6104).

42. Ta-shih chi, p. 237.

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

44. N. Exp., vol. 2, pp. 626, 646, 648.

45. Ta-shih chi, p. 247. Kuowen (March 13, 1927) “News Diary.”

46. N. Exp., vol. 2, p. 647. John K. Davis, “Historical Sketch of Political Conditions in Anhui Province from the Revolution of 1911 to the end of 1924” (Nanking U.S. Consulate, February 28, 1925; SD 893.00/6135).

47. Photographic reproduction of translated telegram in handwritten form, held in the collection of the National Military Historical Museum, Taipei.

48. Ta-shih chi, p. 233.

49. Ta-shih chi, p. 236. TSKY vol. 2, p. 531.

50. U.S. C-in-C Asiatic Fleet Intelligence Report to OPNAV Washington, February 23, 1927 (SD 893.00/8308).

51. Soviet military attaché, “Minutes of the Meeting of the Military Section,” undated but approximately March 13, 1927. Photographs of original documents and translation by the U.S. military attaché, Peking, held in National Archives, Modern Military Records Division, Washington, D.C., file no. 2657-I-281(122-A46).

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

53. TSKY, vol. 2, p. 530.

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

55. Among Russian documents seized in Peking, April 1927, U.S. National Archives, Military Records Div. file no. 2657-I-281(83-22).

56. N. Exp., vol. 2, p. 631.

57. Kuowen (March 27, 1927), n. p. U.S. Shanghai Consul C.E. Gauss to Peking, March 18, 1927 (SD 893.00/8405).

58. SCMP (March 21, 1927), p. 10; China Weekly Review 40 (March 26, 1927):112.

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

60. Kuowen (April 10, 1927), n. p.

61. Kuowen (April 3, 1927), n. p. Ta-shih chi, p. 251.

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