(CHINA in REVOLUTION, to 1927 – continued)
A few Chinese were impressed by Lenin's opposition to imperialism and the Soviet Union's renunciation of tsarist incursions into Manchuria. And in Shanghai, in July 1921, two prominent leaders of the May Fourth Movement joined with ten others in founding China's Communist Party. And soon the Communist Party grew to fifty-seven.
Meanwhile, Sun Yat-sen remained in Shanghai. He had attempted to increase his power by allying himself with some landlords, but without success. His call for more national sovereignty for China benefited from the new activism of the May Fourth Movement. He was acquiring more attention, but he was frustrated by lack of support from Britain and frustrated by having won no support from the governments of the United States and France, and he described these two republics as representing the old model of republicanism and Russia as the new model.
Moscow's Communist International, the Comintern, told China's Communists that they should collaborate with Sun's Guomindang party. The Comintern criticized China's Communists for failing to associate with the masses and for studying Marx and Lenin as they had once studied Confucius – the Comintern believing in political activity and social action as in Marx's statement about changing the world rather than contemplating it. Moreover, Moscow saw Sun Yat-sen as China's leading anti-imperialist and that anti-imperialism was the target that would attract the greatest support in China. China's little Communist Party had its doubts about working with a non-communist group, but it went along with the Comintern and joined the Guomindang, agreeing to obey its rules and to act as individuals rather than as a block.
Sun Yat-sen was impressed by the willingness of the Communists to cooperate, and in January 1923 he and Moscow signed an agreement. The Russians promised Sun arms and advisors, and the Russians agreed that Chinese conditions did not require a Soviet style solution. Despite Sun's alliance with Communists, he saw his goals for China as being attainable without class struggle. He continued to be feted by wealthy Chinese businessmen, who liked the idea of China regaining its sovereignty and not being at a disadvantage with foreign business concerns. And Sun was speaking at universities and describing Britain as a model of good government.
In November 1923, Sun was able to return to Canton, where he still had some support. He took power there, and with the help of Russian advisors and Russian money he began an academy for training military officers in modern warfare. The commandant of the academy was a young man named Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi), a sincere nationalist and opponent of foreign controls in China. The academy's officer in charge of political education was a young Communist who had been educated in France: Zhou Enlai.
The Guomindang sent Chiang Kai-shek to Moscow for four months, and there Chiang gave a talk on Sun's work in China's revolution, a talk attended by Chinese Communist students. After the talk, young Communists peppered Chiang with disagreements, finding fault with his views on revolution and throwing questions at him, such as: did not Marx say this, and did not Russia's experience prove that. Chiang countered that his talk was not about Russia but about China and that they should learn more about their own country. And the students accused Chiang of errant nationalism – in other words, not being sufficiently internationalist.
When Chiang returned to Canton, he found the city swarming with Russian advisors. He wrote to a friend, describing "the Russian Party" as "lacking in sincerity" and that only about thirty percent of what the Russians said was believable. He described the Chinese students in Russia as having slandered Sun Yat-sen and wrote that the aim of the Communists was to take over China rather than cooperate with Sun's movement. What they call internationalism, he added, was nothing but German-style imperialism, and he lumped the Russians together with the English, the Americans, French and Japanese, describing them as imperialists all.
The Russians persuaded Sun to expel from the Guomindang some who had become critical of them. Chiang was not among those targeted, but Chiang suspected that soon he would be. Then he was distracted from his differences with the Communists as Sun's movement in Canton was attacked by a private army fighting on the side of merchants around the Canton who had grown hostile to the Guomindang. Chiang led the drive that defeated the merchants' army, while maintaining his position in good standing within the Guomindang and with Moscow's agents. And he continued working with Moscow's agent, Michael Borodin, in preparation for a military advance north that Sun Yat-sen had been planning – a war to unite China under Guomindang leadership.
On March 12, 1925, Sun Yat-sen died of cancer, and the Guomindang hailed Sun as a great national hero. Within the Guomindang, Sun's death created rivalry between moderates and leftists, but their differences became temporarily buried in nationalist fervor. Students and labor unionists were directing their energies against British and Japanese commercial interests in China and a boycott of British and Japanese goods. A strike for higher wages at a Japanese owned cotton mill in Shanghai resulted in the mill's management committing brutalities against strike supporters, and there, in May, British police fired on and killed demonstrators. In June, British troops used force to suppress a strike in Hankow and again fired upon demonstrators. Chinese hostility toward the British and Japanese escalated, and political activists tied up Hong Kong for months with boycotts and numerous strikes. Patriotic students flocked to the Guomindang and many into the Communist Party, China's Communist Party growing from around 500 at the end of 1924 to about 20,000 at the end of the year. Chiang Kai-shek was also swept up in the indignation against the British and Japanese. Momentarily he felt unity with the Communists against a common enemy, and he sent his son to Moscow to study military science.
Copyright © 1998-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.