Rebellions and Revolutions: China from the 1800s to the 1980s

By Jack Gray | Go to book overview

10
THE RISE OF CHIANG KAISHEK

The Guomindang and the Zhejiang Connection, 1911-1926

After Sun's death in March 1925 the civilian contenders for the succession to the leadership of the Guomindang were veteran revolutionaries who had been closely associated with him since the early days of the Tong Meng Hui: Hu Hanmin, Wang Jingwei, and Liao Zhongkai. Liao, born and educated in San Francisco, a journalist by profession, was the most able of the three. His support, however, came mainly from the Communist Party and from the Comintern advisers. Of the other two, Hu Hanmin probably had the greater following; in the elections to the first Central Executive Committee he had come top of the poll. He was regarded as right-wing in the sense that he was, of the two, the less happy over the participation of the Communists. Wang Jingwei was regarded as the leader of the 'left' Guomindang -- a shadowy group united only in their acceptance of the United Front with the Communist Party and led (if that is not too strong a word) by Wang, by Sun's widow Song Qingling and son Sun Fo, and by Eugene Chen. Chen was an ebullient English-speaking West Indian lawyer and writer, son of an exiled Taiping and a woman of part-Chinese and part-Negro ancestry. A British subject, he had impulsively joined Sun Yatsen as he passed through London on his return to China in the wake of the 1911 Wuhan rising.

At the far right of the Nationalist spectrum was a group determined to be done with the alliance. Although composed of men of great reputation who, like Hu Hanmin and Wang Jingwei, had joined the revolution in its earliest days and had faithfully accompanied Sun through all the vicissitudes of his frustrating career, this group had no leaders who could compete in popularity with Hu Hanmin and Wang Jingwei.

Within a few weeks of Sun's death Liao Zhongkai was murdered by an unknown hand. Hu Hanmin was under suspicion of being an accessory, along with the right-wing Party veterans who had been involved in the attempted impeachment. Hu went abroad and the others sought refuge in Shanghai.

The first challenge for the succession came, however, as one might have expected, from a soldier. Tang Jiyao, the former Progressive dujun of Yunnan, had been elected Sun's deputy at the First Congress of the reorganized Guomindang and on this basis claimed to succeed him. He urged his claim by marching his army into Guangxien route for Canton. All depended on the attitude of the new military masters of Guangxi, the Li-Bai-Huang

-214-

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