Yesterday marked the 81st anniversary of Xi’an Incident, an eventful day that had shaped China of today.
On December 12, 1936, Zhang Xueliang, the commander of the Northeastern Army, along with Yang Huchen, the commander of the Northwestern Army, launched a military remonstration in Xi’an, Shaanxi province when Chiang Kai-shek, the chair of the military council of the Nationalist government and then the de facto ruler of China, was there to inspect their troops. Zhang and Yang held Chiang Kai-shek as a hostage and tried to coerce Chiang to change his policy of “stabilizing internal security prior to resisting foreign aggression.”
At that time Chiang was about to completely clean up the remaining Communist insurgents led by Mao Tse-tung. However, Zhang and Yang wanted Chiang to stop fighting fellow Chinese and turn his gun to the Japanese invaders.
How did it all happen?
For years Zhang’s father Zhang Zuo-ling had been the governing warlord of northeastern China; however, he refused to cooperate with the Japanese and was subsequently killed by a train bomb plotted by Japanese secret service in 1928. After his father’s death, Zhang Xueling, nicknamed “Young Marshal,” took over the command of his father’s army and pledged his loyalty to the Nationalist government led by Chiang. In 1931, when the Japanese-backed puppet state Manchuguo was established, fearing the outburst a total war with Japan, Chiang ordered Zhang to withdraw his troops and deployed Zhang’s entire Northeastern Army in the north of Shaanxi province to help him eliminate the retreating Chinese Communist forces.
The “Young Marshal” was not very happy about his job, for he was carrying the burden of being blamed for not firing a single shot to save Northeast China from falling into the Japanese hands. He never quit the idea of leading his men to return to his homeland.
National sentiment was burning with rage when the people heard that Chiang was abducted by Zhang and Yang. The Communist Party of China, of course, supported Zhang’s action because they would get the chance to gasp for breath and regroup their armed forces if Chiang stopped attacking them. Joseph Stalin, too, also hoped that Chiang could fight against Japan, so to prevent the Japanese from threatening the Far East regions of the Soviet Union.
In the following two weeks, Chiang stood very firm not to give in but agreed to reconsider Zhang’s demands. Under domestic and international pressure, Zhang released Chiang on December 26 and accompanied him back to Nanjing. Zhang was immediately put into house arrest for the rest of his life, and Yang was assassinated by Chiang’s secret service people right before the Nationalist government lost the civil war and retreated to Taiwan in 1949. Without a doubt, if not for the Xi'an Incident, the Communist Party of China would never be able to develop itself substantially powerful enough to later defeat Chiang in the armed struggle.
Seven months following the Xi’an Incident, on July 7, 1937, Japan attacked Chinese garrison at Marco Polo Bridge near Beijing, thus started the Second Sino-Japanese War.
When the Double Twelfth incident broke out, the military police fought gallantly with Zhang’s men to protect Chiang. In 1951, December 12 was designated as the Military Police Day of the Republic of China to commend their loyalty and bravery.