Northern Expedition

Northern Expedition, in modern Chinese history, the military campaign by which the Kuomintang party overthrew the warlord-backed Beijing government and established a new government at Nanjing. At the outset of the campaign in July, 1926, the Kuomintang controlled only Guangdong and Guangxi provs. It was allied with the smaller Communist party and was receiving aid from the Soviet Union. Communist activists spread out across SE China, fomenting strikes and thereby weakening the enemy's rear. By Mar., 1927, the Kuomintang armies (swelled by the defection of intact enemy units) had pushed back the warlord armies of Wu P'ei-fu and Sun Ch'uan-fang and had taken all of SE China including the economic centers of Wuhan and Shanghai. At this point, a struggle broke out between the right-wing Kuomintang commander in chief, Chiang Kai-shek, and the left-wing-controlled provisional government at Wuhan under Wang Ching-wei. Arguing that Communist activities were socially and economically disruptive and would slow the primary task of political unification under the Kuomintang, Chiang launched a purge of Communists. When he was stripped of command (Apr., 1927), Chiang formed a rival regime at Nanjing. Finally, in July, 1927, the Wuhan government also broke with the Communists, and in Feb., 1928, the two factions reunited at Nanjing under Chiang's leadership. The Kuomintang renewed the offensive against the remaining northern forces (notably the army of Chang Tso-lin). Beijing was taken by the Kuomintang in June, 1928, and the national government was moved to Nanjing.

See H. R. Isaacs, The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution (2d rev. ed. 1966); C. M. Wilbur, The Nationalist Revolution in China 1923–28 (1985).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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