Biography in English

Ch'en Kung-po 陳公博 Ch'en Kung-po (19 October 1892 ? - 3 June 1946), one of the earliest Communists in China, broke with that party in 1922 and became identified with the left wing of the Kuomintang. After 1926 his career was closely associated with that of Wang Ching-wei, as a member of the "reorganization faction" (1928-31), as minister of industry (1932-35), and as a leading figure in the Japanese-sponsored government at Nanking (1940-45). The Hakka ancestors of Ch'en Kung-po had moved from Fukien to settle in Juyuan hsien in Kwangtung province near the Hunan border. His father, Ch'en Chih-mei (d. 1912), for his part in the government military campaigns against the Taiping rebels, had been promoted to provincial commander in chief and was serving in Kwangsi when Kung-po, his only son, was born. Unable to obtain a substantive appointment, Ch'en Chih-mei retired to live in Canton. A person of some standing in the anti-Manchu San-ho-hui [triad society], he began to work in secret with revolutionary groups connected with Sun Yat-sen. In 1907 he returned to Juyuan to organize an uprising of the secret societies in the Kwangtung-Hunan border region, taking his son, then 15, with him as confidential secretary. The venture miscarried, and the elder Ch'en surrendered himself to the authorities, was tried, and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Until 1907 Ch'en Kung-po had lived in comfortable circumstances, receiving the conventional education in the Chinese classics as well as some military training of the traditional sort. At the time of his father's arrest he escaped to Hong Kong, where he obtained employment as proofreader for a newspaper operated by the revolutionary party. In the following year, after official interest in his father's case had subsided, he returned to Canton. Although his father's imprisonment had left the family in very straitened circumstances, by working part time he was able co attend the Yü-ts'ai Academy, where for three years he studied English and other subjects.

In October 1911, when the revolutionaries in Kwangtung declared the province independent of the Manchu government, Ch'en's father, then over 80, was released from prison, was proclaimed a hero, and was elected to the republican provincial assembly. Ch'en himself, not yet 20 years old, was chosen a member of the hsien council of Juyuan and a staff officer in the local people's army. His father, however, believed him to be too young and inexperienced to hold such posts and ordered him to relinquish them. Early in 1912 the young Ch'en returned to the Yü-ts'ai Academy as an instructor. Two years later he enrolled in the College of Law and Government at Canton, while supporting himself by working as a reporter for a Hong Kong newspaper. He found that he had little interest in law, and after graduation in 1917, he decided to take up the study of philosophy at National Peking University.

At that time Peking University, under its new chancellor, Ts'ai Yuan-p'ei (q.v.) , was the center of an intellectual ferment aroused by the new culture movement and by the literary renaissance then being advocated by Ch'en Tu-hsiu, Hu Shih (qq.v.), and other members of the faculty in the famous Hsin cKing-nien [new youth]. Under the influence of these professors, student organizations and magazines sprang up, and in 1919 the student demonstrations during the May Fourth Movement aroused the youth of the whole country to a new sense of patriotism and political awareness. Stimulated by such professors as Li Ta-chao (q.v.), many students at Peking University began to take interest in the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and in the doctrines of Marx and Lenin. By the summer of 1920 Communist cells had been formed in Shanghai by Ch'en Tu-hsiu and in Peking by Li Ta-chao and others. However, these events appear to have made little impression upon Ch'en Kung-po at that time. He spent most of his time studying, and except for his roommate, T'an P'ing-shan (q.v.), and a few other Cantonese friends, he had little to do with his fellow students at Peking University.

After graduation in the summer of 1920, Ch'en Kung-po left with T'an P'ing-shan for Canton, where they took up teaching positions, Ch'en at the School of Law and Government, and T'an at the Higher Normal College. They also established a newspaper, the Ch'un-pao [the masses], which later was subsidized indirectly by Ch'en Chiung-ming (q.v.), the new governor of Kwangtung. Ch'en Kung-po and members of the newspaper staff were approached by two Russian agents of the Communist International, who had come from Ch'en Tu-hsiu in Shanghai with the proposal that a Communist organization be set up in Canton. Discouraged by the existing political chaos in China and impressed by the achievements of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, Ch'en and T'an P'ing-shan were won over to the Communist cause and agreed to take part in the organization of a Communist party nucleus and a socialist youth corps in Canton. As teachers and journalists, they were able to attract a number of young intellectuals to the new organization. In the winter of 1920, their efforts were aided by Ch'en Tu-hsiu, who had come to Canton at the invitation of Ch'en Chiung-ming to head the Kwangtung education commission. Ch'en Tu-hsiu set up a provincial publicity bureau and appointed Ch'en Kung-po as its director, with a view to using the new bureau to further Communist propaganda and organizational activities in the Canton area.

In July 1921, Ch'en Kung-po was sent to Shanghai by Ch'en Tu-hsiu to attend the First Congress of the Chinese Communist party as one of the delegates from the Communist group in Canton. He was unfavorably impressed by the congress, and before the final meeting was held, he and his new bride, who had accompanied him to Shanghai, left for Hangchow. After the formal establishment of the Chinese Communist party in July 1921, Ch'en returned to Canton, and as director of the organization department of the Kwangtung branch, which T'an P'ing-shan headed, was successful in increasing the membership of the party and the Socialist Youth Corps and in extending the party's influence among the working classes in Canton. In the following months, Ch'en was disturbed by growing doubts about the validity of Communist ideas. Because he thought that his knowledge of the democratic system was inadequate, he decided, with Ch'en Tu-hsiu's approval, to go to the United States for further study. However, his departure was delayed by Ch'en Chiung-ming's coup of June 1922 in Canton. Some weeks after the coup, the Chinese Communist leaders, at a special plenum of the Central Committee at Hangchow, adopted a resolution calling for collaboration with Sun Yat-sen in his struggles against Ch'en Chiungming and other militarists. Because of Ch'en Kung-po's connections with the Ch'un-pao in Canton, the Communist party leadership suspected him of supporting Ch'en Chiung-ming against Sun Yat-sen and summoned him to party headquarters in Shanghai to question him about his alleged breach of party discipline. These suspicions and what he regarded as the party's interference with his plans to study abroad angered Ch'en Kung-po; he wrote a letter to Ch'en Tu-hsiu in Shanghai denying his alleged association with Ch'en Chiung-ming. On the following day, he announced his withdrawal from the party to his comrades in Canton, and early in November he sailed for Japan on the way to the United States.

In January 1923, while Ch'en Kung-po was stopping over in Japan, he had several meetings with Sun Yat-sen's lieutenant, Liao Chung-k'ai (q.v.), who was then in Japan to discuss with the Russian diplomat Adolf Joffe details of cooperation between Soviet Russia and the Kuomintang. Ch'en left Japan in mid-February and arrived in New York soon thereafter. He then enrolled as a graduate student in the department of economics of Columbia University. While supporting himself by teaching in Chinese schools in New York's Chinatown, he earned an M.A. degree in 1924 after writing a thesis entitled "The Communist Movement in China," in which he described the Background and early history of the party. Apart from his course work, which was largely in the field of economics, Ch'en studied the writings of Marx and Engels. He found their theories of the class struggle and of surplus value to be at odds with the facts of American economic life. At the same time, he dismissed as untenable the doctrines of Adam Smith and the British school of liberalism. Perhaps as a result of his earlier discussions with Liao Chung-k'ai in Japan, he came to the conclusion that Sun Yat-sen's principle of the people's livelihood was the doctrine most suitable for China's economic and social reconstruction.

Ch'en Kung-po left Columbia in February 1925 before completing his doctorate to accept an invitation from Liao Chung-k'ai in Canton to teach at National Kwangtung University. Arriving in Canton shortly after the death of Sun Yat-sen, Ch'en became professor at Kwangtung University and for a time served as its acting chancellor. Backed by Liao Chung-k'ai, he also became a member of the reorganized Kuomintang and rose quickly in the party and in the government. After the establishment of the National Government at Canton in July 1925, the Kwangtung provincial government was reorganized with Liao Chung-k'ai as governor and with Ch'en Kung-po as head of the department of workers and peasants. After Liao's assassination in August, Ch'en became chief of the Kuomintang peasant department and also served as head of the political training department of the Military Council of the National Government. At that time the Military Council was under the chairmanship of Wang Chingwei (q.v.). In January 1926 Ch'en's position within the Kuomintang was further advanced by his election to the Central Executive Committee at the Second National Congress in Canton. During his rapid rise in the party hierarchy, however, he came under attack both from the Communists in the Canton regime, who regarded him as a renegade, and from some of the older, non- Communist members of the Kuomintang, who suspected him of still being a Communist. Because of Communist pressure, Ch'en was replaced as head of the political training department by the leftist Teng Yen-ta (q.v.), but in June 1926, with the launching of the Northern Expedition under Chiang Kai-shek (q.v.), he was appointed head of the bureau of political affairs in the general headquarters of the National Revolutionary Army. Following the capture of the Wuhan cities in October by the Nationalist forces, Ch'en was named commissioner of finance in the new Hupeh provincial government. He also served as interim commissioner of foreign affairs in Hupeh until the foreign minister, Eugene Ch'en (q.v.), and his party arrived in Hankow. Three months later, after the occupation of Kiangsi by the National Revolutionary Army, he was transferred to Nanchang as head of the Kiangsi political council, the top post in that provincial government.

When the National Government moved from Canton to Wuhan at the beginning of 1927, a conflict arose in the Kuomintang between the left-wing and Communist elements who controlled the new regime in Wuhan, and a new right-wing faction, centered about Chiang Kaishek, who favored Nanchang, and later Nanking, as the seat of the National Government. When the breach between the two factions widened, Ch'en Kung-po joined the leftist regime in Wuhan, in which he soon became a prominent figure. He was elected a member of the standing committee of the Kuomintang Central Executive Committee and was named director of the party's department of workers in March 1927.

To offset the growing military power of Chiang Kai-shek, the Wuhan government called for the return to leadership of Wang Ching-wei, then absent in Europe. After Wang's arrival at Hankow in April 1927, Ch'en Kung-po became one of his most consistent supporters, both in Wang's opposition to the Nanking regime and in his efforts to curb the rising power of the Communists in the Wuhan area. In June, he stood behind Wang in the latter's decision to dissolve the alliance with the Communists and to expel them from the Kuomintang. Late in the summer of 1927 he took part in Wang's efforts to heal the breach between the Wuhan and Nanking regimes, and when Wang broke off further negotiations and angrily left Nanking, Ch'en also withdrew. In October, Ch'en went to Canton as Wang's representative to cooperate with general Chang Fa-k'uei (q.v.) in setting up a new regime in opposition to Nanking. Ch'en was placed in charge of civil affairs in Kwangtung province and held office until the Canton Commune took place in December 1927. Although the Communists were crushed almost immediately by Chang Fa-k'uei's troops, Ch'en was forced to resign under sharp criticism from his political enemies in the Kuomintang right wing, who held him responsible for failing to prevent the uprising.

In December 1927 Wang Ching-wei departed for Europe. In his absence Ch'en Kung-po became the leading spokesman for the kai-tsu p'ai [reorganization faction], a leftist group within the Kuomintang which opposed the increasing power of Chiang Kai-shek. Early in 1928 Ch'en left Canton for Shanghai and in May began to publish the Ko-ming p'ing-lun [revolutionary critique], a weekly magazine which reflected the political views of this group. In the magazine Ch'en engaged in a heated war of words with Wu Chih-hui (q.v.), one of the Kuomintang old guard in Nanking who had made a bitter attack upon Wang Ching-wei. Before it was suppressed by order of the Nanking government in September, the Ko-ming p'ing-lun had gained a wide circulation, and through his articles Ch'en had begun to exert a broad influence among students, workers, and the younger members of the Kuomintang. During this period he also took part in founding Ta-lu University in Shanghai, which in May 1929 was closed by the National Government. Meanwhile, in the winter of 1928, Ch'en Kung-po and other members of the Kuomintang left wing in Shanghai organized the Kuomintang kai-tsu t'ung-chih hui [society of comrades for Kuomintang reorganization]. In the spring, Ch'en, Ku Meng-yu (q.v.), and others of the reorganization faction began publication of the Min-hsin chou-k'an [public opinion weekly], in which they called upon the Kuomintang to return to the spirit and ideals of the 1924 reorganization, when the party had drawn its strength from the peasants, the workers, and the bourgeoisie. In a move against the reorganization clique and other dissident elements in the party, the Kuomintang headquarters in Nanking planned a third party congress, from which most of the left-wing delegates were to be excluded. On 12 March 1929, three days before the congress was scheduled to open, Ch'en joined Wang Ching-wei and a dozen other party leaders in a manifesto which denounced the meeting as being illegal. In response, the congress, dominated by supporters of Chiang Kai-shek, permanently dismissed Ch'en from the Kuomintang and threatened similar action against Wang and other members of his group.

Following his expulsion, Ch'en Kung-po was active in a number of attempts by the reorganization faction to overthrow the Nanking regime. In February 1930, Wang Ching-wei, joined Feng Yü-hsiang and Yen Hsi-shan (qq.v.), two of the leading military opponents of Chiang Kai-shek, with a view to establishing a rival government and a party organization in north China. In March, Ch'en went to Tientsin and as Wang's representative played an important part in preparations for a so-called enlarged congress of the Kuomintang, which was held in Peiping in August. A national government was established in Peiping under Yen Hsi-shan, and a new Kuomintang organization, in opposition to the one in Nanking, was set up under Wang Ching-wei. Ch'en Kung-po was a member of its organization department. After the defeat of the anti-Chiang coalition in September 1930, Ch'en fled with remnants of the enlarged congress to Taiyuan, the capital of Yen Hsi-shan's stronghold in Shansi. When the enlarged congress finally dispersed in November, Ch'en left Taiyuan for Hong Kong and soon afterward sailed for Europe.

n remained abroad until the Japanese invaded Manchuria in September 1931. That crisis caused many of the factions in the Kuomintang to set aside their differences in the interests of national unity. After returning to China, Ch'en joined Wang Ching-wei in making peace with the Nanking regime. In October 1931 the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang reinstated Ch'en and other members who had been expelled for political reasons. At the Fourth National Congress, held in the following month, Wang Ching-wei, Ch'en Kung-po, and others of the reorganization faction were restored to membership on the Central Executive Committee. With the reorganization of the National Government in the winter of 1931-32, Wang emerged as president of the Executive Yuan, and Ch'en became minister of industry.

Ch'en Kung-po remained as minister in the National Government for the duration of the Wang-Chiang coalition at Nanking. That period of uneasy collaboration came to an end with the attempted assassination of Wang early in November 1935 and with his withdrawal from the government the following month. At that time Ch'en also resigned and soon after departed To Europe, where for the next ten months he traveled through Germany and Italy. Returning to China in 1937, after the outbreak of the war with Japan, he and Wang Ching-wei rejoined the National Government. Ch'en was given the relatively unimportant post of chairman of the government committee on cooperative enterprises and also served as head of the people's training department of the Kuomintang Central Executive Committee.

During the first year of the war, Wang Chingwei became increasingly discouraged over the eventual outcome and proposed to the National Government that it negotiate a peaceful settlement with Japan. Strongly rebuffed by Chiang Kai-shek and other Kuomintang leaders, Wang suddenly left the wartime capital of Chungking in December 1938 and flew to Hanoi. Although Ch'en Kung-po shared Wang's pessimism about the war, he was said to have disagreed with Wang's plans to desert the National Government and to have joined Wang at Hanoi with the intention of persuading him to reconsider his decision. That attempt proved unsuccessful. Reluctant to return to Chungking, but as yet unwilling to take part in Wang's activities, Ch'en spent several months of indecision in Hong Kong. During the winter of 1939 he continued to attempt to dissuade his friend from collaboration with the Japanese. Wang, however, was not to be deterred, and finally, on the strength of their long and close association, Ch'en reluctantly decided to support Wang in a Japanese-sponsored regime at Nanking. With the inauguration of the puppet national government on 30 March 1940, Ch'en Kung-po became president of its legislative yuan and the ranking official in the regime after Wang Chingwei. He also held the post of vice chairman of the government's military committee, and in November 1940 he became mayor of Shanghai. It was in August 1943, while he was still serving in this latter position, that the International Settlement and the French concession of Shanghai were returned to China by international agreement, and as mayor, Ch'en also became head of the eighth municipal district, formerly the French concession. Although he held high rank in the Wang regime, Ch'en's political influence was completely overshadowed by that Ch'en Kuo-fu of his colleague Ghou Fo-hai (q.v.), Wang's minister of finance. Ch'en, moreover, was said to have had little enthusiasm for his role in the puppet government and to have maintained throughout a detached, negative attitude. Nevertheless, when the ailing Wang Ching-wei left for medical treatment in Japan in March 1944, Ch'en agreed to serve during his absence as acting chairman of the regime. After Wang's death in Japan, he assumed the leadership of the Nanking government on 20 November 1944. In August 1945, after the surrender of Japan to the allies, Ch'en Kung-po flew to Japan to escape possible violence from the anti-Japanese underground in the Nanking area. As head of the puppet regime, he was brought back to Nanking early in October to be tried for conspiring with the enemy against his country. During the winter of 1945-46, while under detention at Nanking, Ch'en composed a memoir of the preceding eight years of his life entitled Pa-nien-lai ti hui-i [reminiscences of the last eight years], in which he analyzed with remarkable objectivity his relationship with Wang Ching-wei and his personal reasons for serving in the puppet government. In the spring of 1946 he was transferred to Soochow with other leading figures in the puppet government. There, on 5 April, he was sentenced to death by the Soochow (Kiangsu provincial) Higher Court and on 3 June 1946 was executed by a firing squad. In his personal life, Ch'en Kung-po was known, and often censured by his colleagues, for his dapper appearance, his apparent lack of seriousness, and his extramarital adventures. Yet, his unswerving personal loyalty to Wang Ching-wei, and the unruffled dignity with which he met his death, commanded the respect of his detractors. His writings revealed an independence of mind and an intelligence which, if not unusually profound, was brilliant and original. Most of his political writings are scattered in various magazines and newspapers of the time. Among his other works was the brief but noteworthy Chung-kuo li-shih-shang ti ko-ming [revolutions in Chinese history]. Published in 1928, it was one of the earlier Chinese attempts at an economic interpretation of the great popular uprisings in the history of China. In a political memoir, Ssu-nien ts'ung-cheng lu [four years in government service], published in Shanghai in 1936, he described his work as minister of industry in the National Government. His Han-feng-chi [the cold wind], published in 1944, a collection of essays, contains much information on his life and personal attitudes from childhood through his final years as an official in the puppet government. The essays were written between 1933 and 1943.

Ch'en Kung-po was survived by his wife, Li Li-chuang, whom he had married in 1921, and a son who was studying engineering in the United States at the time of his father's death. Both subsequently took up residence in the United States.

Biography in Chinese

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