The Northern Expedition of 1926-1927 was a Chinese military operation that was staged by the communist party of China (CPC). It was spearheaded by Kuomintang. The northern expedition in china is also extended to include the 1928 campaign that was done by the NRA or National Revolutionary Army in Beijing on 8th June 1928. This is what resulted to the Chinese reunification of 1928.
The main objective of this confrontation was to speed up the Chinese revolution against imperialism and feudalism that was already taking shape in China after Xinhai’s revolution came to an end.
The campaign was geared towards ending the rule of the warlords. Though the northern expedition may have gone some way towards unifying the country, its gains were actually rather modest and the price in terms of human suffering was too high. This is what will be the main focus on this paper.
The confrontation began in Guangdong province specifically from KMT’s military base. It started on 30th May series of protests and strikes were declared that were targeting the western imperialism and its associates who were in china who mostly were the warlords.
The expedition was targeting on the Chinese most powerful warlords like the governor of Manchuria Zhang Zuolin, the governor of the central plain of china, Wu Peifu and the governor of the eastern coast of china sun Chuan fang. (Wilbur C. M., 1984)
Chinese military sought advice from Vasily Blyukher, a Russian general who was commonly known as Galen. Using his advice, they directed all of their force to these warlords thereby defeating one after the other and within a period of nine months half of China had been conquered. In 1926, the Guomindang split in to two factions that is the left and the right wing. At this period the communist block was expanding quickly. Later in 1926, March there was an attempt to kidnap; he got angry and dismissed all of his advisers from Soviet. He also imposed very strict restriction on CPP members who seemed to aspire for top leadership in his government.
The Soviet were unhappy about the looming division between the Chiang and the Communist Party of China (CPP) thus they tried all they could to prevent it. For this reason, they had no other option apart from helping the Chiang’s government to start the Northern Expedition in July 1926. Later in 1927 the Guomindang ( the Government that was formed after the Manchu Empire was overthrown in 1912 by the Chinese National Peoples’ Party that was led by Sun Zhang Shan) and the CPP rivalry led there to be a split on the revolutionary ranks.
The left wing of Guomindang and the CPP decided to relocate the nationalists government and the Communist Party of China decided to relocate the nationalist government from Guangzhou to Wehan but this move was successful in the region and in 1927 Chiang established an anti-communist regime at Nanjing thereby making the country’s third capital city. That is the internationally recognized regime of the warlord that was made up of communist left wing at Winhan and another one at Nanjing for the right wing. The third one is what came to be the nationalist capital city for the next decade.
The NRA won because it was well organized than the warlords’ army. They also had good and qualified advisers who were reliable. They also had outstanding and modern weapons. Also the NRA received motivation from the local people who feared from being persecuted by these warlords. (Mc Cord, Edward A., 1993) Also the peasant and the local workers strongly supported it because they were ruthlessly exploited by the warlords thus all they wanted was to bring down the warlord’s regimes. Due to support that the NRA got from the local people it was very easy to march through the Zhu river area to the Yangtze River. They moved across this region in less than one year and wiped out the Wu and Sun’s forces.
The Northern Expedition campaign had some positive results because it put a full stop to the chapter of disorder and persecutions. Its success marked the onset of a stable and effective government although the problem of warlordship was not solved completely. They continued to exist in china and remained disobedient to the ruling government. The irony of this success was that wherever one warlord was killed, other cliques emerged. For example when Wu and Sun were toppled others like Li Zengren and his clique Guangxi and Yan Xishan and his clique Shanxi came up. These wars between the government and the warlords cost many lives of the Chinese.
After Chiang took power he embraced the economic principle of bureaucratic capitalism. He mistreated entrepreneurs something that made them to refuse supporting Chinese economy and development. At the same time the Guomindang also refused to take its responsibility of economically developing China. For example, they did not provide the ordinary people with their basic needs something that brought imbalances in the circulation of funds and money. (Akira I., 1965)
After the northern expedition succeeded in unifying China, Chiang set up his own government in Nanjing after liquidating the communists and the national government which had moved to Wuhan. Such that when the later collapsed, the only nationalist government that remained was for Chiang Kai-Shek. By 1928 almost the whole of China was under one rule. Chiang and his government was the only government that was recognized worldwide. As Sun Yat Sen had once suggested that the three stages of revolution in any nation are military unity, political tutelage and finally the constitutional democracy, he said that china had already actualized the first stage and it was preparing for the second stage.
According to (Thaxton R., 1997) though the northern expedition was a success in china, a lot was left to be desired for there was a lot of human sufferings and severe damage of properties. For example, shortly before the end of the northern expedition Chiang’s force who were totally determined to capture shanghai This was easily done with the help from the communists’ workers who had been organized by the party leaders. Despite the fact that the communist helped the Chiang’s forces, he started showing his open desire to get rid of the communist top leaders. This was an open betrayal that was expressed by Chiang’s forces after being helped by them.
The most notable thing of this Northern Expedition is that there was high loss of lives for example, after Chiang’s force who helped by the communists they opened fire on communities who were their fellow citizens killing thousands of them. For this reason the voice of the communists was silenced by this massacre that saw many of the party founders dead. In 1928, the national government under Chiang slowly started practicing dictatorship though they had a very weak power base. This government was formed by elites thus ignoring the welfare of the majority who lived in abject poverty.
In another incident, many foreigners were killed during this northern expedition. They were killed by Chinese who were trying to bring to an end the imperialism that was trying to establish itself. This came to be referred to as the Nanjing incident. This took place between 21st and 23rd march 1927. It occurred when Kuomintang’s forces entered the city that was already a home to many foreigners. These troops who were determined to kill all the foreigners damaged properties, killed people and looted their belongings. Here many were killed while others were injured.
Also there were a lot of deaths during the Jinan incident that took place on 3rd May 1928. This is came to be referred as Tsinan incident. It was a military confrontation that took place in Shandong. It was between the Japanese army together with the northern Chinese warlords who attacked Kuomintang’s army at Jinan. Also deaths were reported in 1928 April when the northern troops vacated the city and another army belonging to Kuomintang moved in. This was centrally to the Ching Kai-Sheks ruling.
The Situation become worse and tension heightened as the Japanese continued owning areas. They controlled schools as well as businesses for sometime without tension building until there occurred a small clash around a Japanese family in 1928 third of May. This clash quickly spread due to lack of proper communication. How all this started is unknown though twelve Japanese were left dead. (Richard J. P., 1996)
Loss of so many lives was reported in 17th march 1927 after Chiang-Kai-Shek urged some hooligans to go and occupy the Kuomintang headquarters. He also deployed his forces for the same task. On twentieth march 1927 Chiang’s followers completely destroyed the Ningbo municipal offices for the federation of trade unions and also for the sales clerks. On 30th march these troops shot at the crowd of demonstrating workers at the Hangzhou municipal federation. Here about 80 people lost their lives.
Also thousands of communists, activists and workers were massacred when Kuomintang’s troops revenged on Chiang’s military cadets at Whampoa. They also surrounded the strike committee at Guangzhou.
This happened in April 12, 1927 when various districts that were controlled by workers were attacked by the gang. (Perry E., 1980) These were districts like Zhabei, Nanshi and Pudong. Under Chiang’s command, the workers militias were disarmed by the 26th army. In this fracas, about three hundred people perished. The leaders organized a mass demonstration to show their displeasure on Chiang’s moves. Here students and workers in thousands made their way to the 26th army to express their anger. About one hundred were killed and many more were seriously wounded when these soldiers aimed their guns and shot at them. About or more than a thousand were put behind bars, close to three hundred were killed and about five thousands went missing.
In the same period, communists who inhabited Canton, Fuzhon, Nanjing, Xiamen and Chang Sha were by Zhang Zuolin, warlord after they took refuge at the soviet embassy. Here even the person who helped in the formation of Chinese Communist Party Li Dazhao was killed. During the rebellion that was designed to challenge the Chiang’s government, many deaths occurred. They were the rebellions by the most prominent warlords like lit Sung jen and Li chi- Chen. These warlords controlled sections of the territories and did not see themselves as part of China. Many fights were fought during their bid to expand their territories.
Also many people in China suffered greatly during this period when Nanking government or the central government was counteracting the expansion moves of the warlords. The central government also in their effort to control the warlord’s expansive moves, substantial amount of resources that could have otherwise been used to promote the welfare of the citizens was squandered. This move also led to a decrease in the economic level and the democratic participation level went down.
On 4th June 1928 a plot by Japanese to eliminate Zhang Zuolin, the Fengtian’s warlord became a success when they managed to kill him. He was killed when they exploded the train that was carrying this warlord and many people died in the process. To conclude this essay, we can say that the move to unite the China made many people to lose their lives, many properties were destroyed and the economy was almost destroyed.
Though the Northern Expedition led to the Chinese unification that happened in 29th December 1928 saw all of Beiyang government banners being replaced with the nationalist government’s flag, the republic of china never lived to see the fruits of this unification as new warlords emerged who were a set back to development. Also in 1931 there emerged an aggression that was started by Japanese that was also a major blow to this unity. The northern expedition though it led the loss of lives, it brought some good changes in China for example; the warlordship was significantly controlled though it led to the rise of dictatorship.
Mc Cord, Edward A., 1993. The Power of the Gun: The Emergence of Modern Chinese Warlordism. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Akira I., 1965. After Imperialism: The Search for a New Order in The Far East, 1921- 1931. Cambridge Harvard University Press
Thaxton R., 1997. Salt of the Earth: The Political Origins of Peasant Protest and Communist Revolution in China. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Wilbur C. M., 1984. The Nationalist Revolution in China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Richard J. P., 1996. China since 1911. London, Macmillan.
Perry E., 1980. Rebels and Revolutionaries in North China 1845-1945. Stanford.
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The Northern Expedition in China. (2017, Mar 29). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-northern-expedition-in-china-essay