Eighty years ago on August 13, full scale war between China and Japan erupted with the second Sino-Japanese war (1937-1944). The date marks the start of the Battle of Shanghai (also known as 8-13 or Songhu War of Resistance) fought between Nationalist Army and the Japanese Imperial Army in China. According to some historians, this battle is what led to the united front between the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang or KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) before the CCP defeated the KMT in the Chinese civil war. On the eve of the 80th anniversary of the “8-13 Songhu War of Resistance (淞滬抗戰),” the Shanghai Committee of the KMT Revolutionary Committee (中國國民黨革命委員會), Whampoa Military Academy Alumni Association Shanghai City Chapter (上海市黃埔軍校同學會), and the Shanghai Sun Yat-sen Society (上海中山學社) jointly organized a seminar ostensibly to highlight how the battle exemplified the national struggle of the Chinese people against Japanese aggression.
The seminar—reportedly attended by several senior local Chinese officials from the CCP’s United Front system—represents the latest in a long and intensifying campaign waged by the CCP to re-assimilate the KMT into the CCP’s narrative and subvert Taiwan’s political cohesion through political warfare. Remembered as a symbol of Chinese heroism and unified resistance, the participants hoisted the defense of Sihang Warehouse (四行倉庫) by Nationalist army officer Xie Jinyuan (謝晉元) as the emblem of the whole Chinese nation’s courageous resistance against Japanese imperialism. Vastly outnumbered, Xie and his soldiers held off the invading Japanese forces—which was a major morale booster for the Chinese resistance. The seminar was attended by the officer’s grandson, Xie Jiemin (謝繼民), who spoke at the event. Xie said that commemorating the battle 80 years later serves the meaningful purpose of promoting his grandfather and the soldiers’ “loyalty” (丹心) to the Chinese people.
United front is hardly a new strategy for the CCP to use against Taiwan. Yet there has been a visible increase in the number and sophistication of such activities since the return of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to power in 2016. These activities most notably include the PRC’s official commemoration of Nationalist party founder Sun Yat-sen’s birthday last November, as well as other activities that involve creating a common political narrative between Taiwan and China—mostly between the KMT and the CCP over historic events (with an interesting exception).
According to a study on Chinese political warfare from 2013:
After US normalization of relations with the PRC in January 1979, the late patriarch Deng Xiaoping announced preparations for a “Third CCP-KMT United Front” on December 15, 1979, which granted the UFWD [United Front Work Department] a prominent role in cross-Strait policy within the party-state policymaking bureaucracy.
The UFWD manages day-to-day tasks of the united front system and the current director is CCP Politburo member Sun Chunlan (孫春蘭). Yet, as the aforementioned study indicated:
The CCPPC is the highest level entity overseeing the united front system. The CCPPC is a senior consultative body that exercises “democratic supervision” over non-CCP parties, mass organizations, and prominent personalities. It promotes political unity and social stability through controlled representation in China’s political, economic, social and cultural lives.
Indeed, among those senior local officials who attended the seminar were Gao Xiaomei (高小玫), the deputy chairwoman for Shanghai city government’s advisory-body Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and Shanghai city chairperson for the KMT Revolutionary Committee; Zhu Chun (朱純), the vice chairman of the Whampoa Military Academy Alumni Association for Shanghai city; Hua Yifan (華一渢), secretary-general of the KMT Revolutionary Committee; and Liao Dawei (廖大偉), vice president and secretary-general of the Shanghai Sun Yat-sen Society.
Pro-unification groups from Taiwan also participated in the seminar. One panelists was KMT member and retired Major General Zang Youxia (臧幼俠), who served as chairman of the Revitalize the Chinese Nation Cultural and Economic Advancement Association in Taiwan (振興中華民族暨文化經濟促進協會). Another speaker was the chairman of Taiwan’s Huaxia Innovative Cultural Exchange Forum (華夏創意文化交流協會), Xu Mianyan (許綿延), who said that the war of resistance against Japanese aggression demonstrates that the Chinese nation has always had an unified spirit, and remembering the heroic deeds from the Songhu War of Resistance, only underscores the importance of Chinese unity.
After the Chinese civil war, the CCP had for many decades covered up or manipulated historical facts in an attempt to diminish or denigrate the role of the Nationalist party in the “New China” to reinforce its political legitimacy. However, the seminar commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Songhu War of Resistance represents the latest in a long series of active campaign by the CCP to reframe historical events in Chinese history to re-assimilate the KMT in its political narrative and subvert Taiwan’s political cohesion.
The main point: Commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Songhu War of Resistance represents the latest in a long and intensifying united front campaign waged by the CCP to re-assimilate the KMT into the CCP’s narrative and subvert Taiwan’s political cohesion through political warfare.