Harold R. Isaacs

The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution


VIII. The Prodigal’s Return

When Chiang Kai-shek landed at Shanghai early in the afternoon of Saturday, March 26, he had at long last arrived home. Here were his first haunts and his early benefactors, his former fellow-brokers, and his friends of the under-world. A native of Ningpo, he could here join hands with his fellow-provincials, the powerful Chekiang bankers, the Ningpo merchants and industrialists, who shared with the foreigners economic control of China’s metropolis.

The bankers and merchants had watched strikes grow into the general strike and the general strike grow into insurrection. The workers’ conquest of Shanghai had given them the lever they needed to extract terms from the imperialists. But it also served notice that the time had come to disembarrass themselves of the dangerous weapon of mass power. Their own interests were now at stake no less than those of the imperialists. An essential condition of the impending deal between Chinese and foreign capital was the smashing of the mass movement. They had long known that they could look to Chiang Kai-shek, the prodigal now back in their midst, to carry out this task.

To this end Chiang had already resumed contact in the Yangtze Valley with the secret societies that had flourished there from the earliest days of the Ching Dynasty, now known as the Green and Red gangs. They traded in opium and slaves. They kidnapped for ransom. They trafficked in blackmail and murder. Rare was the shopkeeper or trader, big or small, from the Yangtze’s mouth to the Szechwan gorges who did not pay them tribute.

The Green Gang operated out of Shanghai. Its leader, Hwang Ching-yung, known everywhere as Hwang Ma-pi (Pock-marked Hwang), was chief of detectives of the French Concession Police. It was generally believed that he had him self introduced Chiang as a stripling officer of the Shanghai garrison into the closed ranks of the society.[1] When Chiang, the Nationalist general, arrived at Kiukiang in November, 1926, it was Hwang Ma-pi who tame up-river from Shanghai to re-establish contact in behalf of the Shanghai bankers and merchants. As a result of their conference, the Green Gang was mobilized for the express purpose of breaking up the trade unions. What had been an organization of common criminals now assumed the combined features of the Russian Black Hundred groups and Louis Napoleon’s Society of December the Tenth. Yang Hu, one of Chiang’s staff officers, was put in charge of operations.[2] Plans were made to set up rival “labour unions.” All the scum and riff-raff of the treaty ports were quickly recruited as “members.” Arms were provided plentifully. Hwang returned to Shanghai. Chiang turned back to Nanchang, where he had set up his headquarters.

The campaign of open repression against the mass organizations began in February, 1927. Early that month Chen Tsang-shen, chairman of the General Labour Union of Kanchow, a southern Kiangsi city, was riddled with bullets by Chiang Kai-shek’s soldiers. The union was driven underground. In Nanchang on March 17 Chiang ordered the dissolution of the city Kuomintang, arrested its Communist and Left-wing leaders, closed down the unions and the students’ association, and suppressed the local Kuomintang daily. The same day an attack was launched on the mass organizations in Kiukiang. Several hundred gangsters, described as “moderate unionists,” raided the quarters of the General Labour union, the city Kuomintang, the Peasant Association, the student and women’s groups, and the Political Department of the Sixth Army. Resistance was offered. Four were killed and ten wounded. A Chinese account described how the workers held their own against the gangsters until a company of Chiang’s own troops appeared, stormed the building, and released several gangsters who had been captured.[3] This is supported by a foreign account which said that when “the raiders appeared to be getting the worst of the battle, the soldiers stepped in and finished off the work they had begun by wrecking the Labour Union’s headquarters. Since then,” the report went on, “the heads of the Labour Union have disappeared, and it is said the union is to be reorganized on more conservative lines. Martial law was immediately declared, and an order issued forbidding persons to collect in groups. Civilians may not . . . carry weapons. . . . The streets are patrolled by soldiers. . . . It is said that Chiang Kai-shek, who was himself in Kiukiang at the time of the rioting but has now left for down-river, instigated . . . the attack. At the time of the trouble he placed a large armed guard in the Concession to protect it. . . . The new magistrate has returned from Nanchang, whither he retired after the labour extremists had wrecked his yamen and has brought with him a personal bodyguard of 150 of Chiang Kaishek’s picked troops. . . . The influence of the moderate party represented by Chiang Kai-shek is commencing to be felt throughout the province. . . . The tide has definitely turned.”[4]

Similar events took place wherever Chiang Kai-shek touched port on his way down-river. Organized gangs attacked and occupied union premises at Anking on March 23[5] and at Wuhu a day later. Workers were killed or driven into hiding. Their unions were rapidly “reorganized.” Chiang was to have stopped at Nanking, which was occupied by Nationalist troops on March 24.

Whatever plans may have been envisaged for that town were upset, however, by looting and attacks on foreigners on the day the city changed hands. Several consular officials and missionaries were killed. British and American gunboats promptly opened up a bombardment of the city, killing twelve and wounding nineteen Chinese civilians.[6] The remaining foreigners were evacuated. Some foreign journalists quickly developed the theory that the “Nanking outrages” were part of a Machiavellian plot concocted by the Communists and the Left-wingers at Wuhan to “embarrass” Chiang and to embroil him with the foreigners. The fact that the whole strategy of the Communists and Kuomintang “liberals” at Wuhan was based on propitiating Chiang Kai-shek is enough to reveal the absurdity of this tale. It was, moreover, a striking fact that the vast movement which had swept South China had been marked by practically no cases of violence against foreigners. Workers and peasants, who did not lack reason to hate the foreign business men and missionaries, had in hundreds of towns seized mission property and compelled many foreigners to flee, but “only in a few isolated instances,” wrote one of them, “did a foreigner get even a scratch or a bruise.”[7] It has since been suggested that the Nanking incident (in which the rape of foreign women was also, of course, alleged, but never proved[8]) had been organized by Chiang himself as an act of deliberate provocation against the Communists. This version has equally little to support it. The only credible documentation on the whole subject is the statement of one foreign investigator who arrived on the scene a few days after the events occurred. Unruffled by the screaming passion into which the foreign community had whipped itself, he assembled impressive and conclusive evidence that the demoralized, retreating Fengtien soldiers were the actual perpetrators of the attacks.[9]

Chiang, therefore, did not disembark at Nanking but continued down the river to Shanghai. Upon his arrival he was whisked from the wharf in a limousine and driven through the foreign barricades to the old Foreign Ministry bureau on Route Ghisi, just outside the French Concession. There his first caller was Pock-marked Hwang. Next to tall was T. Patrick Givens, of the Political Branch of the Shanghai Municipal Police, who presented Chiang with a pass for entering the foreign areas, and accorded him the privilege of travelling in those sacred precincts with an armed guard..[10] Chiang was, incidentally, the only Nationalist commander thus honoured. Chiang, equally magnanimous, gave assurances that he would “co-operate with the foreign police in Shanghai,”[11] and forthwith plunged into conference with his own aides and supporters to see how “law and order” could be established and maintained.

He met with the Right wing Kuomintang “elders,” led by Wu Chih-hui, Tsai Yuan-pei, and Chang Ching-chiang. He saw delegates of the bankers and the Chamber of Commerce, led by Yu Ya-ching, his first benefactor, Wang Shiao-lai, and others. He discussed the military situation with his subordinates, Pai Chung-hsi, who had occupied the city for him, and Chow Feng-chi, a new recruit only yesterday with the Northerners. He saw Pock-marked Hwang and his chief aides, Tu Yueh-sen and Chang Siao-ling, and the usual host of lesser lights and satellites. Their problem was simply posed: how were they going to wrest control of Shanghai from the workers and establish their own government at Nanking? For the job of crushing the workers’ organizations and the Communists ample financial support was at hand. But when they looked around them those last grey days of March, Chiang and his friends knew success was by no means certain. The obstacles seemed many and formidable. “It was not at all improbable,” wrote one informed foreigner, “that he would be unable to stem the tide of Communist activity on the morrow.”[12] And, indeed, for those who did not perceive the gap between the mass of the workers and the Communist leadership, it was difficult to see how victory could fail to fall to the workers’ cause.

Shanghai was in their hands. More than half a million workers stood ready to guard what they had conquered by their own arms. To be sure, the workers’ pickets, who now patrolled the city instead of the police, numbered only 2,700 men with 1,700 rifles, some machine-guns, and a large stock of ammunition seized from the Northern troops,[13] but there appeared to be no serious obstacle to the swift expansion of the numbers and armament of this force. At a word from Union headquarters in the Commercial Press building and the Huchow Guild not a working man or woman in the city would have failed to spring into action. Flushed with yesterday’s great victory, they presented a formidable force. There was a provisional government set up under what seemed to be full Communist control, which was apparently ready to take over political power throughout the Shanghai area in the name of Shanghai’s workers. Nor was there any reason to suppose that the workers would fail to find means of making common cause with the soldiers who now garrisoned the city.

Chiang Kai-shek had only 3,000 troops in the city of whom only a few were “reliable.” The nearest reinforcements were at Hangchow, five hours away, where Ho Ying-chin sat with an army of less than 10,000. It was doubtful if many of these, trained in the scorching heat of the mass movement, would have turned their arms against the workers if the issue had been made perfectly plain to them by propagandists from the workers’ organizations which they regarded as their main allies. In effect, Chiang did not know whether he dared order his men to march against the workers. In Chapei, the workers’ stronghold, was the First Division, which was enthusiastically in sympathy with the unions. Its commander, Hsueh Yoh, had already reflected the temper and pressure of his troops when he marched them into Chapei against Pai Chung-hsi’s orders on March 22.[14]

Across the barbed-wire barricades fumed the foreigners, all convinced, as one of them put it, that they were going to be murdered in their own beds by their own servants. The British and American communities were thoroughly certain that their fair little islet of foreign justice and rectitude was about to be overrun by insane mobs thirsting for the white man’s blood. They were suffering badly from what one writer aptly termed “highly accented funk.”[15] They had all heard fantastic atrocity stories of the seizures of the Hankow and Kiukiang Concessions in January and the incidents at Nanking. The tales of fleeing missionaries, which grew taller with every mile they travelled toward Shanghai, made church-going pillars of society shriek hysterically for blood.

“Better a thousand times take a strong line of action now and call a halt to this outrageous villainy that is being perpetrated in the name of freedom, even if it does involve the shedding of a little blood . . .” cried one of the leading lights of the British community.[16] Foreign women palpitatingly distributed their favours among the troops pouring off transports for the defence of the Settlement. Foreign men worried more over the rape of their investments, which they knew would follow when the mob, foaming and frothing crimson and scarlet, rushed in upon them. The Shanghai Municipal Council, governing body of the Settlement, had declared a state of emergency on March 21, establishing rigid martial law. It followed up on March 24 with a manifesto declaring “it realizes the gravity of the local situation and its possible repercussions throughout the civilized world, and will use all the resources at its disposal to retain control of the situation.”[17]

These resources were already considerable. Garrisoning the foreign areas were 30,000 foreign troops, nearly one per foreign inhabitant, excluding the White Russians. Counting the British alone, there were two British soldiers for every British civilian in the city. Thirty foreign warships, British, Japanese, American, French, Italian, and even Portuguese, rode at anchor in the Whangpoo River cleared for instant action. Squadrons of British planes were making regular patrol flights over the city and the surrounding territory, a flagrant treaty violation which did not worry the British authorities. Other warships en route would in a few days increase the fleets of all nationalities to forty-five vessels, ranging from gunboats to 10,000-ton battle-cruisers. Yet the cry went up for more troops, more ships. The foreigners wanted all Shanghai taken over. They wanted Nanking occupied. They demanded an international force to repeat the ruthless massacres with which allied foreign troops crushed the Boxers in 1900. Their newspapers, notably the North China Daily News, conducted frenzied campaigns of alarums, threats, and slanders. They showered abuse on politicians in the chancelleries at home who deemed it wiser to move more slowly.[18]

Any foreigner who by word or deed showed any sympathy for the mildest features of the Nationalist programme or was even critical of the prevailing hysteria became the target for the most vicious attacks.[ In Peking two American journalists, Wilbur Burton and Mildred Mitchell, who worked for the Nationalist News Agency, were arrested by the northern military and held incommunicado. Virtually left to their fate by the U.S. Legation, they were freed as a result of the publicity given their case by Randall Gould of the United Press and the efforts of Charles J. Fox, a Tientsin lawyer. Gould was later banned from Legation Press conferences by MacMurray, the U.S. Minister. William and Rayna Prohme, who edited the People’s Tribune, were generally regarded as race renegades. Borodin, of course, had horns.] J. B. Powell, an American editor in Shanghai, who ventured to doubt that armed intervention would bring the desired results and who perspicaciously urged concessions to the Nationalists, was read out of the American Chamber of Commerce. A lone foreign missionary who joined a handful of Chinese Christians in advocating the peaceful rendition of the Settlement was promptly denounced in the columns of the North China Daily News as a betrayer of the faith and a “revolutionary agitator.” An article by a Chinese Christian which attempted, under the title “Jesus and the Three People’s Principles,” to draw a parallel between Sun Yat-sen and Jesus Christ was denounced by high churchmen and low as a “blasphemous outburst.” The National Christian Council, a Sino-foreign body which took a pro-Nationalist stand, was re-named the “Bolshevist Aid Society.” It was formally repudiated by a group of thirty-two British and American missionaries “as dangerous to and subversive of the best interests of the churches in China.” Its appeals in behalf of the Christian spirit were declared to be “a direct violation of the Shanghai Municipal Council’s prohibition of documents calculated to stir up animosities, foment trouble, cause public alarm, or incite to a breach of peace.” Rodney Gilbert, an Anglophile American journalist, published in the British Press daily diatribes which literally shimmered in the pages like white heat. For him a labour union was “an organization of filthy coolies who had never worked and never would.” To these people, not only the “filthy coolies,” but bankers like Yu Ya-ching and politicians like C. T. Wang, even then working day and night for an entente with the foreigners against the “filthy coolies,” were nothing less than “rabid anti-foreignists.” The moods of the day are easily sampled:

Rabid: “The big port of Shanghai is a purely foreign creation. . . . Now the Chinese want it ‘returned‘ and sympathetic understanders run about discussing terms under which all the fruits of several generations of foreign effort can be yielded up to anarchic cooliedom. This strikes me as the exaltation of folly, the apotheosis of imbecility. . . .”;[19]

Irritated: “The first thought that comes to one is the bother of it. To have one’s home turned upside down, to have to hastily lump a few belongings into a trunk or two and a suitcase and leave the rest behind to be looted or what not, is an unadulterated bother. . . .”[20]

Unctuous: “. . . Coastwards from all directions foreigners are hastening whose only crime is that they are willing to do China good. I say this intending to include not only missionaries, but the many splendid business men who wish China much better than her present behaviour would seem to deserve. We must, however, be merciful. China has some real grievances; many of her present ones, of course, are of her own making, but the innocent have to suffer and are often deceived into thinking that the foreigner is entirely responsible.”[21]

Selfless: “Peaceful foreign residents have been driven from their homes, their property destroyed. . . . Marty foreign firms . . . are now facing ruin. . . . But these are really trivial matters. . . . What is important is the struggle against a political idea whose avowed aim is to destroy present world civilization . . . hampered by no scruples of conscience . . . nor regard for established rights, customs, usages. . . . This is the front line of battle of the conflict between Communism and world civilization. . . .”[22]

Spiritual: “In my capacity as a missionary and thinking primarily of the consequences to the Church of Christ throughout the world if the mad dog of Bolshevism is not checked in China, but is allowed to jump across the seas to our own beloved America, I have no hesitation in asserting my conviction that a BOLSHEVIZED CHINA WOULD BE THE WORLD’S GREATEST PERIL.”[23]

Chaste: (Quoting a widely published report that the Women’s Association in Hankow had called and staged a “naked body procession” of selected women “having snowwhite bodies and perfect breasts.”) “Those who are familiar with the modesty of Chinese women during the past centuries require no further or more conclusive proof of the pernicious influence of Russian Communism.”[24]

Chivalrous: “The average American gives only passing thought to the vested interests in a foreign country, but he can rise to a high emotional pitch over danger to innocent American women and children at the hands of mobs or soldiers.”[25]

Innocent: “ In China the Communist appeal is to class hatreds, social antipathies, greed, and envy.”[26]

Mocking: “ If the present ‘barbed-wire‘ hysteria continues much longer we would not be surprised to wake up some morning to find that our diligent and energetic municipal government had constructed a canopy of barbed-wire overhead in order to keep out the rays of the sun on the grounds that our chief Heavenly body was suspected of spreading Red propaganda.” [27]

Forthright: “In times such as these, fine distinctions and legal quibblings lead to nothing. There can be no room for the C.P. (Communist Party) in Shanghai, and it must be fought as the Council would fight bubonic plague. . . . Chinese and Russian C.P.s should be treated with equal severity—both are enemies of civilization.”[28]

Perspicacious: “The Nationalist opportunity—All sympathies with the Kuomintang—But Opposition for the Communists.”[29]

Clear-cut: “Chiang Kai-shek . . . stands at the dividing of the ways. . . . It is no exaggeration to say that he and Generals Ho Ying-chin and Pai Chung-hsi remain now the only protection of China south of the Yangtze from being submerged by the Communist Party. . . . But if General Chiang is to save his fellow-countrymen from the Reds, he must act swiftly and relentlessly. Will he prove himself the man of action and decision, the champion of the true principles of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the defender of his country? Or will he, too, go down with China in the Red flood? “;[30]

South of the city at Lunghua, Chiang, too, was pondering this question. In a series of interviews with foreign journalists, he did his best to placate and reassure the foreign community. He deplored the Nanking incidents, promising a thorough investigation and punishment for those responsible. “The Nationalist leaders have always wished to maintain friendly relations with the foreign Powers,” he declared in an interview on March 31 . “The Nationalists are the friends of the foreign Powers. . . . It is the settled policy of the Nationalist Government not to use force or mass violence in any form to effect a change in the status of the foreign settlements.” He concluded with a promise he hoped the foreigners would not fail to understand: “In spite of the present obstacles to a clearer and better understanding, we hope to remove these so that there will be a clearer and better relationship between China and the foreign Powers which will be based upon a mutual friendship and understanding.”[31]

A few foreigners nodded hopefully at this unmistakable offer of collaboration between “China” (the property-owners) and the Powers against the “obstacles” (the workers). But most of them were still angered more by the protestations Chiang had to make as a “Nationalist” than appeased by his promises to defend their interests. The editor of the North China Daily News expressed both views. He called the interview “an extraordinary farrago of assertion . . . and of brazen pretences contradicted by all experience,” but as an afterthought he added: “Apparently General Chiang spoke sincerely, and to do him justice . . . in the districts under his purview (he) seems to have tried to keep order.” [32] It would do no harm to wait watchfully. Not until Chiang proved that he could “act swiftly and relentlessly” would all their suspicions be allayed. A few days later General Duncan, commander of the British troops, felt reassured enough to tell a Chinese newspaperman that Chiang had won his respect “because he not only speaks that way, but really puts it into practice.”[33]

The Chinese bankers and industrialists were readier with the faith and trust. They knew their man better. On March 29 more than fifty leading banks and firms and commercial associations banded together into a federation under the leadership of Yu Ya-ching and Wang I-ting, compradore for one of the big Japanese steamship companies whose friendship with Chiang went back at least fifteen years. United in this federation were the various district chambers of commerce, the Bankers’ Association, the Native Banks Guild, the Stock Exchange Association, the Cotton Mill Owners’ Association, the Flour Merchants’ Guild, Tea Merchants’ Guild, Silk Merchants’ Guild—virtually all the organized propertied interests of Shanghai.

A delegation of the new body waited the same day on General Chiang, “who very cordially received them.” Their spokesman “conveyed the greetings of the Chinese merchants of Shanghai and emphasized the importance of immediately restoring peace and order in this city. They assured him of the whole-hearted support of the merchants. General Chiang responded in a few fitting remarks and took full responsibility upon himself for the protection of life and property, both Chinese and foreign, in Shanghai. He also assured the delegation that the relation between capital and labour will soon be regulated. . . . At the end of the visit the delegation left in good cheer, fully satisfied that they had found in General Chiang a man of sound principles and a leader of singular power.”[34]

Several days later all the merchant guilds issued separate declarations of hearty support for Chiang and sent delegations to express their hopes of an early amelioration of the situation. On April 9, representatives of more than twenty commercial organizations met and resolved “for the Kuomintang San Min Principles and for Commander-in-Chief Chiang! Down with all counter-revolutionary elements!”

Naturally the men of money had to be more than vociferous. They ‘had to be generous. The situation demanded more than faith and trust. It required hard cash. The first instalment paid over to Chiang was a “loan” of $3,000,000 on April 4.[35] It was widely reported that an additional $7,000,000 was paid over a few days later. “Chinese bankers and merchants,” reported a foreign correspondent, “. . . sent a delegation to Chiang Kai-shek . . . offering him a fund of 15,000,000 Shanghai dollars on condition that he suppress Communist and labour activities.”[36] These advances were quite apart from the $30,000,000 “loan” floated two weeks later to help launch the new Government at Nanking.

Chiang at once began to take steps to assure his own control of the city. He installed one of his staff officers as commissioner of police. One of his political henchmen became magistrate of the Shanghai district. He set up a special finance committee, drafting a number of prominent bankers for the purpose, to raise the funds he required. One of his appointees took over the managing directorship of the Shanghai–Nanking and Shanghai–Hangchow railways. He established official contact with the foreigners by naming Quo Tai-chi Commissioner for Foreign Affairs. Martial law was proclaimed on March 28 making all civilian administrative organs in the city responsible to military headquarters at Lunghua. Orders were issued prohibiting “unauthorized persons” from possessing or carrying arms of any description. At the same time appeared on the scene the “Workers’ Trade Alliance,” sponsored by Pock-marked Hwang, Tu Yueh-sen, and Chang Siao-ling, and presented as a new “moderate” labour union. Preparations went ahead swiftly to repeat in Shanghai the tactics already applied in Nanchang, Kiukiang, Anking, and Wuhu, and, as if Chiang and his gangster aides wanted to make sure these methods still worked, a full dress rehearsal was staged in Hangchow on March 30 and 31.

Here, too, Chiang had seen to the organization of a “Workers’ Trade Alliance” in opposition to the Communist-controlled General Labour Union. On the night of March 30 the gangsters broke into the headquarters of the union. Several workers were killed and many wounded in the fight that took place there. Next day, according to a wire from the General Labour Union published in a Shanghai paper,[37] a general strike was called to which, however, only the telephone and postal workers responded. A mass protest meeting was held and a parade formed which marched down Chin Chiao Road. Soldiers were waiting at a strategic crossing. They had been told the union was trying to sabotage the victorious Nationalist advance. No one told them differently. When the workers approached, the soldiers opened fire. Half a dozen marchers fell. More than one hundred were arrested. The pickets, one thousand in number, armed with clubs and staves only, were disarmed and dispersed. The premises of the General Labour Union were smashed. Pickets were arrested. Their denim uniforms were ripped from their backs. Nobody ever knew or recorded how many were killed. The G.L.U. was closed down “pending reorganization” along the now familiar “more moderate” lines. The Hangchow events foreshadowed with deadly accuracy what was about to occur, on a far larger scale, in Shanghai. This was true not only of Chiang’s moves but of the Communist reactions as well.

When Chiang put his own men into posts in the civil administration of Hangchow and repressive measures were begun against the workers, the G.L.U. wired to Chiang a respectful request to remove the offending officials. “During the military period I have the power to appoint the chiefs of the Bureau of Public Safety,” he curtly replied.[38] To this they acquiesced in silence. After the arrests and massacre of March 31, the union issued a circular telegram which concluded with a request to General Chiang Kai-shek “to come to Hangchow to punish the guilty parties and fight against the reaction.”[39] Unfortunately, Chiang happened to be too busy inaugurating the reaction in Shanghai to journey down to Hangchow to suppress it there, and the Shanghai General Labour Union was too busy trying to placate Chiang to learn anything from the Hangchow experience.

Nevertheless, Chiang Kai-shek did not approach the task of breaking up the organizations of the Shanghai workers without showing that he was aware of the magnitude of the task. The mass movement had assumed such proportions that he was compelled to begin a series of gradual manoeuvres to bring himself into a reasonably favourable striking position. For every step forward he offered a gesture in the opposite direction. He set out deliberately to befuddle his enemies, confuse the issue, and paralyse all potential opposition to the coup already in view. This course disturbed some of his friends. Just as at Canton on the eve of the March 20 coup many of his militarist allies “were antagonistic toward him on account of their inability to fathom the real aims behind his actions,”;[40] similarly at Shanghai there were many, especially among the foreigners, who were impatient with the seeming contradictions in his conduct. “If General Chiang, it is suggested in Chinese political circles, initiated a frankly anti-Communist movement, he would crystallize support for himself, but his half-hearted, apologetic attacks on the Communists leave uncertainty that the rift is irrevocable,” complained the North China Daily News on April 8.

But Chiang knew better than they exactly what he was doing and precisely where he was going. He neither planned nor sought any compromise whatever with the “Left” Kuomintang at Wuhan. He prepared assiduously to strike down the Shanghai workers; but he needed time to marshal his own forces. Soldiers sympathetic to the workers had to be removed from Chapei and replaced by fresher battalions least touched politically by contact with the mass movement. The mobilization of the gangsters for the anti-Communist offensive was already in full swing. While all this went on Chiang continued to do everything possible to spread the illusion that no conflict impended. This took the form of persistent denials, from the very day of his arrival, of reports that he intended to break with the Nationalist Government at Wuhan.

On March 27 he told interviewers “that there was no split, that the members of the Kuomintang were united . . . that there were no signs or prospects of serious dissension.”.[41] To a representative of the Japanese Toho Agency two days later he declared that he unreservedly recognized the authority of the Wuhan Central Executive Committee. He made sure to have Moscow reassured along the same lines.

“We know the imperialists hope for a rupture between the Nationalist army and the popular masses,” said Pai Chung-hsi to the Shanghai correspondent of Pravda, “but that is impossible. Our basic principle is the union of the armed force with the popular masses. . . . The Chinese revolution forms part of the front of the world revolution. The imperialists are trying to break that front by lies and slander. Sun Yat-sen instructed us to co-operate with the Communists who form part of the Kuomintang and we shall not break the alliance with them. The English Press in China is spreading all kinds of lies on this subject. It ought to be suppressed. . . .”[42] It Will be seen how eagerly the Communists in Moscow and in China seized upon these assurances—and how much they were really worth.

The arrival of Wang Ching-wei from Europe on April 1 gave Chiang an opportunity to make his words seem even more concrete and convincing. Wang, a typical petty bourgeois radical, flaccid, pliable, and readily submissive to the pressure of stronger personalities, became again, scarce had he set foot on Chinese soil, the tool of the man who had forced him to flee so ignominiously from Canton a year earlier. There were two days of conferences. On April 3 Chiang issued a circular telegram proclaiming his “explicit obedience” to the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang at Wuhan.

“I strongly believe,” he said, “that his (Wang’s) return will result in the real centralization of the Party so that we may attain without a split the ultimate success of the Nationalist movement. . . . Hereafter all matters relating to the welfare of the country and the Kuomintang . . . will be handled by Chairman Wang or carried on under his guidance. . . . We will be guided by the Central Executive Committee and we must therefore show nothing but explicit obedience.”[43]

Wang, according to his own biographer, “felt very uncomfortable” about Chiang’s telegram. He did not approve the methods which Chiang Kai-shek proposed to use in eliminating Communist influence from the ranks of the Kuomintang. To be sure, Wang also “visualized the necessity of separating from the Communist Party,” only he was “against any precipitate break . . . (and) . . . wanted to settle all the disputes outstanding in a regular, peaceful way. . . .”[44]

To avert the direct action he so abhorred (in any form except in flight or in retreat from his own professions), Wang tried to persuade Chiang Kai-shek that they could attain the desired end without resort to violence or “illegality.” According to one account Wang promised that Borodin would be dismissed, that the decisions of the Third Plenary Session of the Kuomintang Executive Committee in March, which deposed Chiang from the Party chairmanship and the supreme military command, would be revised, that the disarmament of the Shanghai pickets would be approved and Chiang’s civil appointees in the Shanghai district sanctioned.[45] Wang tried later to deny that he had come to any such agreement with Chiang, but his own biographer records that he left Shanghai for Wuhan to persuade his colleagues there “to come down to Nanking to hold the plenary session with Chiang and the rest, so as to maintain the unity of the Party,” adding that Wang “believed that he could get the support of the great majority of the pure Kuomintang members of the C.E.C. to effect a revision of the decisions taken by the Third Plenary Session.”[46] But Chiang Kai-shek and his friends knew that machineguns, not Party compromises, had to serve them now. The simulation of the Chiang-Wang accord helped only to thicken the political smoke-screen they needed to cloak their attack. It was further to weaken potential opposition that they reached out through Wang to the Communists, with results that must have far exceeded their expectations, for Wang’s services were small indeed compared to the offerings which the Communist leaders of the Shanghai workers were daily laying on the altar of the “national united front.”

Notes

1 Chinese say Chiang belongs to the tung layer, or 22nd generation of the Green Society, which is organized along patriarchal lines. Referring to Chiang’s “Connection with the Green and Red societies,” George Sokolsky added : “He may even be a member of one or both of these powerful underground groups, but that no outsider can know.”— China Year Book, 1928, p. 1361.

2 “Shanghai Workers’ Delegates’ Report,” Hunan Sen Pao, May 19-20, 1927 (hereafter referred to as “Workers’ Delegates’ Report “) ; see also Kuo Mi-lieh’s account in the People’s Tribune, April 16, 1927 ; and International Press Correspondence, June 23, 1927. For a description of the Green gang and its later development see “Gang Rule in Shanghai,” Five Years of Kuomintang Reaction .

3 Li Chih-lung, The Resignation of Chairman Wang Ching-wei .

4 Kiukiang correspondence dated March 23, . North China Herald, April 2, 1927 ; see also People’s Tribune, April 19, 1927. Probably the first of all interested foreigners to learn the facts of Chiang Kai-shek’s terror campaign in Kiangsi were Earl Browder, Tom Mann, and Jacques Doriot, delegates of the Communist International. How they deliberately concealed this information until it was too late to be of any use is told in Chap. IX.

5 People’s Tribune, April 16, 1927.

6 ”Report of Political Department of General Cheng’s Sixth Army,” People’s Tribune, April 2 r, 1927.

7 Chapman, Chinese Revolution, p. 32.

8 Cf. China Weekly Review, May 28, 1927, for absence of proof of rape charges.

9 See report of G. A. Kennedy, People’s Tribune, April 5 and 16, 1927. Most of Kennedy’s findings were also incorporated in a dispatch by William Prohme - published by the Nation, New York, April 13, 1927. For material on the “Nanking Outrages” presented in the mood and spirit of the Shanghai foreign community, see China Year Book, 1928, Chap. XVI.

10 Givens later headed the Special (Political) Branch of the Shanghai Municipal Police which in subsequent years tracked down and arrested hundreds of Communists, handing many of them over to Chiang Kai-shek’s government for execution. In 1931, the Nanking Government conferred its First Class “A” Medal of the Military, Naval, and Air Forces upon Givens in appreciation of his co-operation in “preserving peace and order.”— North China Daily News, December 9, 1931.

11 North China Herald, April 2, 1927.

12 George Sokolsky in the China Year Book, 1928, p. 1361.

13 “Workers’ Delegates’ Report”. Chen Fo-ta, one of the Shanghai delegates to the Pan-Pacific Trade Union Conference at Hankow, reported that the Shanghai pickets numbered 3,000, had 2,800 rifles, 30 machine-guns, 200 pistols, and 16 pieces of light artillery.— People’s Tribune, May 26, 1927.

14 “There are not more than 3,000 Nationalist troops in Shanghai according to reliable estimates from Chinese sources. General Ho Ying-chin has only 10,000 troops to hold Hangchow. The military forces of Chiang Kai-shek are now so scattered over so vast an area as not to be very valuable . . . for the suppression of the labourers.”— North China Herald, April 2, 1927. “Chiang had only 3,000 troops in Shanghai . . . none of the material elements were in Chiang’s favour.”—Sokolsky, China Year Book, 1928, p. 1361. “Troops sympathetic to the revolution still outnumbered the counter-revolutionary troops. The troops under the direct command of Chiang Kai-shek were also vacillating.”—Li Li-san, The Chinese Revolution, p. 33.

15 People’s Tribune, April 28, 1927.

16 A. De C. Sowerby, North China Herald, April 2, 1927.

17 Municipal Gazette, April 2, 1927.

18 Cf. Arthur Ransome’s chapter on “The Shanghai Mind” in The Chinese Puzzle .

19 Rodney Gilbert, North China Herald, April 2, 1927. An extremely apt reply to this common argument appeared in the People’s Tribun, July 18, 1927, under the title, “That ‘Model Settlement.’ “

20 “Thoughts on Evacuation,” by a Missionary Refugee, North China Herald, April 16, 1927.

21 Ibid. Of 8,000 missionaries normally functioning only 500 were still at their posts, according to the Shanghai Times, June 24, 1927. For 5,000 who fled home, 1,500 who took refuge at Shanghai, and 1,000 at other ports, the instinct of self-preservation proved more imperative than the mission of propagating the Gospel.

22 “The Real Issue in China,” Constitutionalist, Shanghai, February, 1927, pp. 321-3

23 E. E. Strothers, A Bolshevized China—The World’s Greatest Peril, and other reprints, Shanghai, June, 1927, p. 6.

24 Ibid., p. 18. Unfortunately for this “conclusive proof,” Chapman, a resident of Hankow at the time, states categorically that such a parade “never took place.”— Chinese Revolution, p. 87. This particular report is a typical example of the fantastic notions the foreign Press had of what was going on in Hankow. Most of them were deliberately malicious slanders. Several persons were arrested in Hankow for disseminating the rumour about the “naked parade.”

25 General Smedley D. Butler, Commander of U.S. Marines in China, North China Herald, April 9, 1927.

26 Constitutionalist, January, 1927, p. 291.

27 China Weekly Review, April 9, 1927.

28 North China Daily News, April 7, 1927.

29 Far Eastern Review, March, 1927.

30 North China Daily News, March 28, 1927.

31 North China Herald, April 2, /927.

32 North China Daily News, April 2, 1927.

33 Sin Wen Pao, April 7, 1927.

34 North China Daily News, March 30, 1927.

35 China Weekly Review, April 9, 1927.

36 New York Times, April 15, 1927. The sum of $15,000,000 is also given by the “Workers’ Delegates’ Report,” which divides it into $12,000,000 for Chiang, $1,500,000 for Pai Chung-hsi, $1,000,000 for Chow Feng-chi, and $500,000 for the gangsters. It is difficult to ascertain the extent of foreign participation in these “loans.” For a description of how the foreigners collaborated through Chinese intermediaries the reader is again recommended to Malraux’s Man’s Fate .

37 Sin Wen Pao, April 5, 1927.

38 Peking Chen Pao, April 3, 1927.

39 Sin Wen Pao, April 5, 1927.

40 China Weekly Review, April 10, 1927.

41 North China Daily News, March 28, 1927.

42 Quoted from Pravda in a Moscow dispatch to the New York Times, April 1, 1927.

43 North China Herald, April 9, 1927.

44 Tang Leang-li, Inner History, pp. 266-7.

45 Ta Kung Pao, Tientsin, April 7, 1927.

46 Tang Leang-li, Inner History, p. 268.