Under the influence of the Chinese Red Army and the people's anti-Japanese movement, the Kuomintang's Northeastern Army headed by Chang Hsueh-liang and the Kuomintang's 17th Route Army headed by Yang Hu-cheng agreed to the anti-Japanese national united front proposed by the Communist Party of China and demanded that Chiang Kai-shek should unite with the Communist Party to resist Japan. He refused, became still more active in his military preparations for the "suppression of the Communists" and massacred young people in Sian who were anti-Japanese. Chang Hsueh-liang and Yang Hu-cheng took joint action and arrested Chiang Kai-shek. This was the famous Sian Incident of December 12, 1936. He was forced to accept the terms of unity with the Communist Party and resistance to Japan, and was then set free to return to Nanking.
The Chinese "punitive" group consisted of the pro-Japanese elements in the Kuomintang government in Nanking who tried to wrest power from Chiang Kai-shek during the Sian Incident. With Wang Ching-wei and Ho Ying-chin as their leaders, they advocated a "punitive expedition" against Chang Hsueh-liang and Yang Hu-cheng. Availing themselves of the incident, they prepared to start large-scale civil war in order to clear the way for the Japanese invaders and wrest political power from Chiang Kai-shek.
Seven leaders of the patriotic anti-Japanese movement in Shanghai had been arrested by Chiang Kai-shek's government in November 1936. They were Shen Chun-ju, Chang Nai-chi, Tsou Tao-fen, Li Kung-pu, Sha Chien-li, Shih Liang and Wang Tsao-shih. They were kept in prison till July 1937.
Wang Ching-wei was the head of the pro-Japanese group in the Kuomintang He had stood for compromise with the Japanese imperialists ever since their invasion of the Northeast in 1931. In December 1938 he left Chungking, openly capitulated to the Japanese invaders, and set up a puppet government in Nanking.
Ho Ying-chin, a Kuomintang warlord, was another leader of the pro-Japanese group. During the Sian Incident he actively plotted civil war by deploying Kuomintang
troops for an attack on Shensi along the Lunghai Railway. He planned to kill Chiang Kai-shek by bombing Sian, in order to take over Chiang's position.
T. V. Soong was a pro-American member of the Kuomintang. Championing U.S. interests he, too, favoured a peaceful settlement of the Sian Incident, because U.S. imperialism was at loggerheads with Japanese imperialism with which it was then contending for supremacy in the Far East.
This letter sternly criticized the Kuomintang's reactionary rule and the decisions of the Second Plenary Session of its Central Executive Committee. It also set out the Communist Party's policy of forming an anti-Japanese national united front and renewing its co-operation with the Kuomintang. The main part of the letter reads:
In talking about "centralization and unification", the Second Plenary Session of the Central Executive Committee of your party is really confusing cause and effect. It must be emphasized that the civil war and disunity of the last ten years have been entirely caused by the disastrous policy of dependence on imperialism pursued by your party and your party's government, and especially the policy of non-resistance to Japan persisted in ever since the Incident of September 18, 1931. Under the slogan of "Internal pacification before resistance to foreign invasion", your party and your party's government have been carrying on incessant civil war and launching numerous encirclement campaigns against the Red Army, and have spared no effort in suppressing the patriotic and democratic movements of the people throughout the country. Being blind to the fact that Japanese imperialism is China's deadliest enemy, you have had no qualms even in recent months about abandoning northeastern and northern China, you have used all your strength to fight the Red Army and wage factional struggles within your own party, you have blocked the Red Army on its way to fight the Japanese and harassed its rear, you have ignored the nation-wide demand for resistance to Japan and have deprived the people of their freedoms and rights. Patriotism is penalized and innocent people are in jail everywhere; treason is rewarded and traitors are jubilant over their new appointments and honours. To seek centralization and unification by means of this wrong policy is like "climbing a tree to seek fish" and will produce exactly the opposite results. We wish to warn you gentlemen that if you do not make a fundamental change in your erroneous policy, and if you do not direct your hatred against the Japanese imperialists but continue to direct it against your own countrymen, you will find it impossible even to maintain the status quo, and any talk about centralization, unification and a so-called "modern state" will remain idle chatter. What the whole nation demands is centralization and unification for fighting Japan and saving the nation, not for fawning on the foreigners and persecuting our own people. The people are now eagerly demanding a government that can really save their country and themselves, a really democratic republic They demand a democratic republican government which will serve their interests. The programme of such a government must principally provide for: first, resistance to foreign aggression; second, democratic rights for the people; and third, development of the national economy and elimination, or at least alleviation, of the people's sufferings. If there is any sense in your talk about a "modern state", this is the only programme genuinely meeting the needs of colonial and semi-colonial China in the present era. With eager hopes and firm determination the people are struggling for the realization of these objectives. But your party and your
party's government are pursuing a policy that runs counter to their hopes, and you will never win their confidence. The Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese Red Army hereby solemnly declare: we stand for the setting up of a unified democratic republic for the whole country and the convening of a parliament elected by universal suffrage, and we support an anti-Japanese national salvation congress representative of all the people and all the anti-Japanese armed forces in the country, and a unified national defence government for the whole country. We hereby declare: as soon as a unified democratic republic is set up for the whole of China, the Red areas will become one of its component parts, the representatives of the people of the Red areas will attend the all-China parliament, and the same democratic system will be set up in the Red areas as in other parts of China. We hold that the national defence council, which the Second Plenary Session of the Central Executive Committee of your party has decided to organize, and the national assembly, which your party and your party's government are in process of convening, cannot achieve centralization and unification for resisting Japan and saving the nation. According to the regulations of the national defence council passed by the Second Plenary Session of the Central Executive Committee of your party, this council will be confined to a few officials who hold power in your party and your party's government, and its task is merely to serve as an advisory body to that government. It is only too clear that such a council cannot achieve anything or win any confidence among the people. The same applies to the national assembly which you gentlemen propose to convene; according to the "Draft Constitution of the Republic of China" and the "Organic Law and Election Law of the National Assembly" passed by your party's government, this assembly will be merely an organ manipulated by a few officials of your party and your party's government, it will be nothing but an appendage for them, or a piece of ornamentation. A national defence council and a national assembly of this kind have nothing at all in common with the all China congress for resistance to Japan and for national salvation -- the national defence council -- and the Chinese democratic republic and its parliament which our Party has proposed. We hold that a national defence council for resistance to Japan and national salvation must include representatives of all the political parties and groups, all walks of life and all the armed forces, and must constitute a real organ of authority to decide the major policies for resisting Japan and saving the nation, and that a unified national defence government must be formed from this council. The national assembly must be a parliament elected by universal suffrage and the supreme organ of authority of the democratic republic of China. Only such a national defence council and such an all-China parliament will win the approval, support and participation of the people of the whole country and place the great cause of saving the nation and the people on a firm, unshakable foundation. Mere fine words are useless and will not win the people's approval. The failure of the various conferences held by your party and your party's government is the best proof of this. The declaration of the Second Plenary Session of the Central Executive Committee of your party stated, "Dangers and obstacles are only to be expected; but we will never, because of the difficulties and troubles that beset the nation, relax in the fulfilment of our duty." And again, "As to the survival of the nation, naturally our party will work for it persistently, body and soul." True enough, being the ruling party in the largest part of China, your party must bear the political responsibility for all past deeds. In view of the fact that the Kuomintang
government is a one-party dictatorship, your party can never escape this responsibility. In particular, you can never shift onto others your responsibility for the loss of almost half of China, resulting from the absolutely wrong policy which your party has pursued since the September 18th Incident against the wishes of all the people and the interests of the whole nation. As we and all the people see it, since half of China has been abandoned by your party, it certainly cannot evade its duty of recovering the territory and restoring China's sovereignty. At the same time, even within your party many men of conscience are now clearly awake to the horrors of national subjugation and the inviolability of the people's will; they are beginning to turn in a new direction and feel indignant and dissatisfied with those in their midst who have brought disaster both to their party and to the nation. The Chinese Communist Party has full sympathy with this new turn and warmly applauds the noble spirit and awakening of these patriotic and conscientious members of the Kuomintang, their readiness to make sacrifices in the struggle, and their courage to introduce reforms when the nation is on the brink of ruin. We know that the number of awakened and patriotic people is increasing daily in your party's central and provincial headquarters, in its central and provincial governments, in educational, scientific, artistic, journalistic and industrial circles, among the women and in religious and medical circles, within the police service, among all kinds of popular organizations, and in particular among the broad ranks of the army and among both old and new Kuomintang members as well as Kuomintang leaders at various levels; this is very heartening. The Chinese Communist Party is always ready to join hands with these members of the Kuomintang and form a solid national united front with them to fight the nation's deadliest enemy, Japanese imperialism. We hope that they will speedily grow into a dominant force in the Kuomintang and prevail over those wicked and shameless members who have ignored the interests of the nation and virtually become Japanese agents and collaborators -- members who are a disgrace to Dr. Sun Yat-sen's memory -- and we hope that they will thus be able to revive the spirit of Dr. Sun's revolutionary Three People's Principles, reaffirm his Three Great Policies of alliance with Russia, co-operation with the Communist Party and assistance to the peasants and workers, and "work persistently, body and soul" for the realization of the revolutionary Three People's Principles, of the Three Great Policies and of Dr. Sun's revolutionary Testament. We hope that, together with the patriotic leaders of all political parties and groups and of all walks of life and together with all patriotic people, they will resolutely shoulder the responsibility of continuing Dr. Sun's revolutionary cause and will throw themselves into the struggle to drive out the Japanese imperialists and save the Chinese nation from subjugation, to win democratic rights for the people, to develop China's national economy and free the vast majority of its people from their sufferings, and to bring into being the democratic republic of China with a democratic parliament and democratic government. The Chinese Communist Party hereby declares to all members of the Kuomintang: if you really do this, we shall resolutely support you and are ready to form with you a solid revolutionary united front like that of the great revolutionary period of 1924-27 against imperialist and feudal oppression, for this is the only correct way today to save the nation from subjugation and ensure its survival.