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The Formal Establishment of an Anti-Japanese National United Front

PLA Daily 2005-08-01

In March, 1940, headed by Chen Jiageng (R-4 front row), an influential patriotic Chinese entrepreneur in Singapore, an inspection delegation organized by overseas Chinese in Southeast Asian countries returned to their motherland to bring gifts and greetings to the Chinese troops fighting against Japanese invaders.

In 1940, more than 1000 members of the Shanxi-Chahar-Hebei Anti Japanese Pioneers held a rally at which they took a mass pledge to support the Chinese army fighting in the frontline against the Japanese aggressors.

In September of 1937, members of the newly established Shanxi Youth Anti-Japanese Volunteers are pressing ahead to the anti-Japanese front after crossing the Hutuo River.

  Japan's full-scale invasion brought the Chinese people face to face with the grave peril of national extinction. The situation before them was clear: the only way for the country to survive the crisis threatening its very existence was for the whole nation to join together in a war of resistance. Every class and every political group must put aside its own interests in favor of the interest of the nation as a whole, which was to resist the Japanese aggressors. Otherwise, there would be no future for any of them. This was recognized both by the Communist Party and by the vast number of patriots throughout the country.

  The day after the incident at the Marco Polo Bridge, the CPC Central Committee issued a manifesto that was a call to arms: "Beiping and Tianjin are in peril! North China is in peril! The Chinese nation is in peril! A war of resistance by the whole nation is the only way out." The Central Committee called upon "the people of the whole country, the government and the armed forces to unite and build the national united front as a Great Wall of resistance to Japanese aggression." It called upon the Kuomintang and the Communist Party to "cooperate closely and resist the new attacks of the Japanese aggressors." "The whole nation from top to bottom," it said, "must at once abandon any idea of being able to live in submissive peace with the Japanese aggressors."

  That same day Mao Zedong, Zhu De, Peng Dehuai and other leaders of the Red Army sent a telegram to Chiang Kai-shek saying that the officers and men of the Red Army wished to "engage the enemy to defend the country and save the nation." Next, Ye Jianying was sent to Xi'an, where he issued a statement on July 14 on behalf of the Central Committee of the CPC. The statement, addressed to the Nanjing government, carried the following message: "Desiring to resist the enemy vigorously under the command of Chiang Kai-shek, the main force of the Red Army is preparing to set out as soon as possible to resist the Japanese. All armies have been ordered to complete preparations within ten days and await orders to move to the Beiping-Suiyuan defence line." On July 15 Zhou Enlai, Bo Gu and Lin Boqu presented to Chiang Kai-shek an "Announcement of Kuomintang-Communist Cooperation by the Central Committee of the CPC. " In this announcement the Central Committee emphasized the need for national unity: "As we all know, with our nation facing extreme peril today, it is only through internal unity that we can defeat Japanese imperialist aggression." The announcement set forth three basic objectives - to launch a national war of resistance, to put democracy into effect, and to improve the lives of the people. It reaffirmed the Communist Party's four pledges for KMT-CPC cooperation. On July 17 the representatives of the Central Committee held negotiations with Chiang Kai-shek, Shao Lizi and Zhang Chong at a summer resort in the Lushan Mountains in Jiangxi. The CPC representatives proposed using the announcement as the political basis for cooperation between the two parties, and it was agreed that the document would be released through the Central News Agency of the KMT.

  That same day, under pressure of the swelling nationwide movement to resist Japan and of the CPC's insistence on cooperation, Chiang Kai-shek gave a speech calling for a united resistance. "Once war break out," he said, "every person, young or old, in the north or in the south, must take up the responsibility of resisting Japan and defending our homeland and should be resolved to sacrifice everything for the cause." But Chiang still cherished illusions of making peace with the Japanese and continued to view the attack at the Marco Polo Brigade as a "local incident." Song Zheyuan, chairman of the Hebei-Chahar Government Administration Council, continued negotiations with the Ministry of the National Government proposed to the Japanese embassy that the two governments cease military operations and return all troops to their former locations, then find a peaceful settlement through diplomacy. This proposal was rejected. The occupation of Beiping and Tianjin shocked the entire country and made it difficult to continue any negotiation. The attack on Shanghai was an even more direct threat to the heartland of the KMT's ruling clique and to the interests of Britain and the United States in China. On August 14, under pressure of a flood of demands from all over the country to take up the war of resistance, the Foreign Affairs Military of the National Government released a statement declaring, "Forced by the unrelenting invasion of Japan, China must now act in self-defense and resist this violence."

  The leaders of the KMT had been hoping that the Japanese aggressors would stop before they went too far. The Japanese had been urging them to join in "mutual defence against the Communists," and the KMT leaders had been ready to succumb to their wiles. However, the facts showed that the purpose of the Japanese invasion was to take over the whole of China. If that happened, it would be a death blow not only for the Chinese nation but for themselves. They had no choice but to change their tune and accept the proposal of the CPC and other Chinese patriots that they work together to resist Japan.

  Chiang Kai-shek very much wanted the Red Army to move to the front, and during the KMT-CPC negotiations he began to express his desire for unity and cooperation with the CPC, agreeing not to send KMT personnel into the Red Army. In August of 1937 the two sides agreed to redesignate the main force of the Red Army, currently in northern Shaanxi, as the Eighth Route Army of the National Revolutionary Army, to set up liaison offices of the Eighth Route Army in various cities in KMT-ruled areas and to publish the newspaper New China Daily. On August 22 the Military Council of the National Government issued an order redesignating the Red Army as the Eighth Route Army of the National Revolutionary Army. Three days later the Military Commission of the CPC Central Committee issued an order to reorganize the Red Army as the Eighth Route Army of the National Revolutionary Army, which consisted of the 115th, 120th and 129th Divisions. Zhu De was designated commander-in-chief with Peng Dehuai as his deputy, Ye Jianying was named chief of staff with Zuo Quan as deputy and Ren Bishi became director of the political department with Deng Xiaoping as his deputy. Lin Biao was appointed commander and Nie Rongzhen deputy commander of the 115th Division, which was made of chiefly of the former First and Fifteenth Army Groups of the First Front Army of the Red Army. He Long was appointed commander and Xiao Ke deputy commander of the 120th Division, which was composed mainly of the former Second Front Army; and Liu Bocheng was appointed commander and Xu Xiangqian deputy commander of the 129th Division, mainly composed of the former Fourth Front Army. All these divisions, with a total of more than 45,000 men, were sent to join the KMT army in combating the enemy. In September of 1937 the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Revolutionary Base Area was redesignated the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Area Government. It included 23 counties with a total population of 1.5 million, and the CPC Central Committee was located there. It can be seen that the second cooperation between the KMT and the CPC started with the military. At the urging of the Communist Party, on September 22 the KMT Central News Agency published the "Announcement of Kuomintang-Communist Cooperation by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China," and the next day Chiang Kai-shek made a statement recognizing the legality of the Communist Party. The CPC's announcement and Chiang's statement proclaimed the intention of the two parties to cooperate for the second time and formation of an anti-Japanese national united front. The acceptance by the top leader of the KMT of a second period of cooperation with the CPC and his agreement to undertake a war of resistance against Japan represented a great service to the people of the country. At this time the KMT was the ruling party and had at its disposal an army of two million men. The shift in its policy made it possible to launch a total war of resistance.

  The renewal of cooperation between the KMT and the CPC was welcomed throughout the country. In November of 1937 the great patriot Soong Ching Ling issued a statement calling for unity:

  "The Communist Party is a party which stands for the interests of the working classes, both industrial and agricultural. Sun [Yat-sen] realized that without the keen support and cooperation of these classes, the mission of completing the national revolution could not easily by carried out…During the present crisis, all former differences should be forgotten. The whole nation must join together in opposing Japanese aggression and fighting for the final victory." The National Revolutionary League of China, led by Li Jishen and other high-ranking KMT officers and officials who stood for resistance, had originally opposed Chiang. Now it changed its position and supported him. The National Socialist Party, the Chinese Youth Party, the Chinese Vocational Education Society, the Rural Construction Party and others all indicated their support for the resistance effort. Workers, peasants, intellectuals and other patriotic persons added to the flood of anti-Japanese sentiment. Capitalists engaged in industry and commerce also joined in the struggle, buying national salvation bonds, donating money and supplies to the front and organizing factories and firms to move to the interior. In Singapore the General Association of Overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia for Aid to Refugees of the Motherland was established with Tan Kah Kee as chairman, and branches were set up in various countries in Southeast Asia. Ethnic Chinese living in Europe, the United States and other countries set up national salvation groups to spread anti-Japanese propaganda, collect money and materiel and organized young men to return to China and join the army. Mass participation in the resistance grew to a scale unprecedented in modern Chinese history. The Japanese invaders suddenly discovered they were facing a united front composed of the entire Chinese nation.