Wang Ching-wei 汪精衛 Orig. Wang Chao-ming 汪兆銘 Wang Ching-wei (4 May 1883-10 November 1944), Kuomintang leader and intimate political associate of Sun Yat-sen. At the time of the Sino-Japanese war, after more than a decade of feuding with Chiang Kai-shek for top authority in the Kuomintang, Wang became head of a Japanese-sponsored regime established at Nanking in 1940.
Although born at Canton and generally regarded as a Cantonese, Wang Ching-wei had his ancestral home at Shaohsing, Chekiang, the native province of Chiang Kai-shek. For financial reasons his father, Wang Shu, moved south to Kwangtung in the late Ch'ing period to take a position as legal secretary, personally employed by an official of the imperial civil service. The youngest of ten children, Wang Ching-wei received his childhood education in the Chinese classics at home under his father's tutelage. The boy's ethical and aesthetic standards during his formative years were conventionally Chinese, his later reminiscences referring particularly to the philosophy of Wang Yang-ming (1472-1529) and to the poetry of T'ao Ch'ien (365-427) and Lu Yu (1 125-1210). Like other sensitive young Chinese growing up in the 1890's, Wang Ching-wei, in the course of reading Chinese history, became impatient of China's weakness and resentful of the alien Manchu dynasty then ruling at Peking.
Penury was a constant dimension to life in the Wang family, for Wang Ching-wei's father was in straitened circumstances and thus was forced to continue working until he was over 70. A rapid series of deaths left the family financial situation precarious about this time. Wang's mother died when the boy was about 13; his father died a year later; and two of his three elder brothers died soon thereafter. Wang was admitted to an academy at Canton in 1898; he also worked as a tutor to help support his brothers and sisters. He continued to study independently with the help of an uncle's well-stocked library and in 1903 passed the Kwangtung provincial examination. He won a government scholarship for study in Japan the following year. Meiji Japan opened new vistas for Wang Ching-wei. In Tokyo he found a congenial group of fellow-Cantonese students, including Hu Han-min (q.v.) and others. He learned Japanese rapidly, supplemented his government stipend by doing translations, and studied constitutional law and political theory at Tokyo Law College, where he obtained a degree in 1906.
Before graduation, Wang joined the new Chinese patriotic society, the T'ung-meng-hui, formed in Japan in 1905 by Sun Yat-sen, Huang Hsing (q.v.), and other anti-Manchu activists. Elected chairman of one of the three key councils of the T'ung-meng-hui, Wang, then only 22, began a close personal association with Sun Yat-sen. In the Chinese student communities of Tokyo and Yokohama, Wang soon established a reputation as a brilliant polemicist. In November 1905 the pro-republican group in Japan established the Min Pao to disseminate Sun Yat-sen's precepts and to promote anti-Manchu sentiment. The T'ungmeng-hui's principal political competitor in Japan was another refugee group, led by K'ang Yu-wei and Liang Ch'i-ch'ao (qq.v.), which advocated constitutional monarchy for China. Wang Ching-wei wrote the leading article in the first issue of the Min Pao (10 November 1905) and soon proved himself an eloquent controversialist in a literary duel with Liang Ch'i-ch'ao. Drawing upon theories absorbed at Tokyo Law College, Wang grew in stature as an interpreter of "nationalism," later canonized as the first of Sun Yat-sen's Three People's Principles.
Sun Yat-sen was forced to leave Japan in 1907. Accompanied by Hu Han-min and Wang Ching-wei, he moved to Southeast Asia to expand the T'ung-meng-hui organization and to enlist financial support in the overseas Chinese communities. There Wang continued to demonstrate his talents not only as forceful journalist but also as persuasive public speaker on behalf of a political movement which had as yet won scant success in the effort to rid China of Manchu rule. Wang's oratorical brilliance played an important role in attracting new overseas Chinese support to the T'ungmeng-hui and in establishing new branches, the most important of which were at Singapore and Penang.
When Sun Yat-sen left Singapore for Europe in 1909, Wang returned to Japan, where he edited a short-lived clandestine edition of the revived Min Pao, ostensibly published in Paris by young Chinese anarchists sympathetic to Sun but actually printed in Tokyo. The Chinese revolutionaries in Japan then were greatly influenced by the ideas of Russian anarchists, many of whom had fled to Japan after the failure of the Russian revolution in 1905. Wang Ching-wei's editorial tone in this period was distinctly militant. In the 1 February 1910 issue of Min Pao, he wrote a fiery discourse, "On the Revolutionary Current," advocating assassination to spark the overthrow of the dynasty.
During the 1907-10 period, the T'ung-menghui suffered a series of setbacks. Six revolutionary attempts were suppressed by the Ch'ing government and resulted only in the arrest and execution of the leaders. In addition to these failures, the T'ung-meng-hui was faced with an internal crisis : two prominent members, Chang Ping-lin (q.v.) and T'ao Ch'eng-chang, challenged the authority of Sun Yat-sen's leadership. The prospects of the republican revolutionary cause were hardly bright. It was at this juncture that Wang Ching-wei decided to stimulate the movement by drastic measures. He decided to sacrifice himself for the good of both party and nation. Thus he journeyed incognito to Peking early in 1910 and led an attempt to assassinate the prince regent, Ts'ai-feng, by placing a bomb under a bridge over which the prince was scheduled to pass. An error on the part of the conspirators upset the plot and aroused the police, who combed the city and apprehended Wang in April 1910. When interrogated, Wang freely admitted his identity and voiced his hope that this sensational act, if consummated in the imperial capital, would rouse the Chinese people to revolution. The Manchu authorities were struck by Wang's forthright stand and courageous bearing. Moreover, the weak position of the dynasty during its final days led Ts'ai-feng to attempt to placate the revolutionaries by dealing gently with political criminals. Thus Wang was only imprisoned, though he himself had been prepared for execution and a martyr's death. When released in the wake of the Wuchang revolt in October 1911, Wang, then 28, found himself a national hero in China.
Despite his position as the golden boy of Chinese nationalism, Wang Ching-wei remained aloof from Chinese politics after the establishment of the republic. He was influenced by anarchist ideas then current in emancipated intellectual circles in China. In 1912 he helped establish the Society for the Promotion of Virtue, dedicated to the propositions that basic social reforms had to accompany political change and that China, if she were truly to create a new society, first had to build a new morality. That same year he was one of the organizers of the movement to encourage and assist Chinese students to go to France for a combined work-study program (see Li Shih-tseng). Also in 1912, Wang Ching-wei married Ch'en Pi-chun (q.v.), daughter of a prosperous overseas Chinese family from Penang and ardent admirer of the dashing young revolutionary in his T'ung-meng-hui days. After their marriage in Shanghai, the couple left China on a wedding trip to the Straits Settlements and Europe. Wang spent the years of the First World War in France, intermittently involved with the training of Chinese students there but relatively uninvolved with political maneuverings at home. His relation to China during this interlude of comparative leisure and detachment was, rather, at the literary level. Wang was a member of the Nan-she, or Southern Society (see Liu Ya-tzu), which included many former T'ung-meng-hui members. It was the major society advocating and using traditional Chinese literary forms during the early republican period. Although a radical nationalist intellectually, Wang's connection with the Southern Society exposed a romantic stratum in his personality. His poetry, collected as the Shuang-chao-lou shih tz'u-k'ao, reveals an aspect of the man which is sensitive, contemplative, oriented to nature in the classical Chinese manner. Its style and serenity stand in marked contrast to the political tumult which dominated his later career. Wang returned to China late in 1917 and joined Sun Yat-sen, who was then at Canton leading an opposition regime and attempting to rally military support. During the next seven years Wang was a member of the personal entourage which served Sun as he sought new theoretical and organizational formulae to guide the nationalist cause. The patriotic outburst stemming from the May Fourth Movement of 1919, combined with Sun Yat-sen's contacts with Soviet representatives in China after the Russian Revolution, led in 1922-23 to Sun's decision to collaborate with the infant, Comintern-dominated Communist Party of China. Although he played no direct role in the negotiations leading to the alliance between the Chinese nationalist movement and Soviet communism, Wang Ching-wei occupied a prominent political position at Canton. At the First National Congress of the Kuomintang in January 1924, he was elected second-ranking member of the Central Executive Committee, following Hu Han-min in the number of votes received.
National unification remained Sun Yat-sen's primary objective, and late in 1924 he made a final journey northward to confer with the men holding power at Peking: Chang Tso-lin, Feng Yu-hsiang, and Tuan Ch'i-jui (qq.v.). Sun and his entourage left Canton in November, with Wang Ching-wei serving as confidential Chinese secretary to the Kuomintang leader. From Shanghai, Sun proceeded to the north by way of Japan, while Wang went direct by rail to Tientsin to work out arrangements for the talks. Sun Yat-sen arrived in north China at the end of 1924, only to discover that Tuan Ch'i-jui, then chief executive at Peking, had no intention of permitting the Kuomintang to interfere in the operation of the new regime there. Sun's health was rapidly deteriorating, and in January 1925 he was admitted to the hospital of the Peking Union Medical College with cancer. After two decades of association with Sun Yat-sen, Wang Ching-wei was the most senior and trusted Kuomintang leader then in Peking. Except for Sun's young second wife, Soong Ch'ing-ling (q.v.), and his son, Sun Fo (q.v.), probably no person was closer to the dying man than Wang. On 24 February, Wang drafted Sun's final political testament, a brief injunction to Sun's followers to carry the national revolution through to completion in accordance with the principles set forth in his major writings. Sun signed this document on 11 March 1925, the day before his death.
After Sun Yat-sen's death, it appeared that Wang Ching-wei might succeed to Sun's position as leader of the Kuomintang, though Hu Han-min and Liao Chung-k'ai (q.v.) were also contenders for the honor. Wang appeared to consolidate his supremacy when he was elected Chairman of the National Government formed at Canton in July 1925. The assassination of Liao Chung-k'ai in August placed him in an even more advantageous position, for Hu Han-min was involved vicariously in that incident and had to resign his post in the party. Thus two of Wang's political rivals were removed from competition. Chiang Kai-shek, another rival of Wang, was relatively junior in experience in the Kuomintang, though he held key positions at Canton as head of the newly founded Whampoa Military Academy and commander of the First Front Army. With this control of military power, Chiang was in an increasingly strong position to challenge Wang Ching-wei.
During his period of authority in 1925-26, Wang Ching-wei was regarded as a leader of the left wing of the Kuomintang, which advocated collaboration with the Communists, while Chiang Kai-shek was identified with more conservative interests. On 20 March 1926, in the so-called Chungshan Incident, Chiang ordered the arrest of Communists under his command. Various interpretations have been placed on that incident, but one element was Chiang's desire to erode the position of Wang Ching-wei and his supporters. A resolution of the meeting of the Kuomintang Central Executive Committee after the incident held that "in view of the present situation, the comrades of the left should temporarily retreat." Wang Ching-wei was forced to resign, and he left for France in May 1926.
Personal strife inside the Kuomintang evolved within the larger context of the alliance between that party and the Chinese Communists, one of the more ambiguous sections of Sun Yat-sen's political legacy. The Nationalist- Communist entente lasting from 1923 to 1927 marked a complex period, of interest both because of the mutual antipathy of the partners and because of the effect which that alliance had on the political rise of the Nationalists. After the Northern Expedition reached the Yangtze valley in central China, the Kuomintang was sufficiently split on the issue of continued collaboration with the Communists that two separate regimes emerged at the beginning of 1927 : a right-wing group centered about Chiang Kai-shek at Nanking, and a leftwing group at Wuhan. As the breach between the two factions widened, the government at Wuhan, anxious to offset the growing military authority of Chiang Kai-shek, who had grown in power and prestige during the military push northward, called for the return of Wang Ching-wei from Europe. Wang, distrustful of Chiang Kai-shek, returned at once. Upon arrival at Shanghai, he conferred with Ch'en Tu-hsiu (q.v.), general secretary of the Chinese Communist party, about Kuomintang-Communist relations. On 5 April 1927 they issued a joint statement in which they reiterated their intention to maintain collaboration between the two parties. Wang then proceeded to Wuhan to become the dominant figure in the coalition regime there which embraced both Communists and the left wing of the Kuomintang. In April 1927 Chiang Kai-shek broke the alliance with the Communists by undertaking a bloody coup at Shanghai. At Wuhan, Wang Ching-wei's cooperation with the Russian advisers and the Chinese Communists also proved to be short-lived. In late May 1927 it became clear to Wang that the Communists intended to follow a radical land policy and to maintain autonomous political positions, both of which policies he regarded as contradictory to Sun Yat-sen's principles. Moreover, on 1 July, M. N. Roy, the Comintern representative at Wuhan, indiscreetly informed Wang of Moscow's aggressive plans for China and the Chinese revolution. Wang then severed relations with the Russian advisers and ordered the expulsion of Communists from both the government and the Kuomintang. From that point onward in his political career, Wang Ching-wei firmly opposed the Communists, for he regarded them as a major obstacle to national unification and economic reconstruction in China. All factions of the Kuomintang now agreed on an anti-Communist line, but personality clashes continued. Wang Ching-wei believed that he should hold undisputed leadership but found himself increasingly harassed by criticism from antagonists on the party's right wing. Such criticism was especially heavy at the time of the Communist-led Canton Commune in December 1927 [see Chang T'ai-lei) ; and Wang, disturbed by the turn of events, abruptly left Shanghai to return to France.
From 1928 to 1931, whether abroad or in China, Wang Ching-wei headed the so-called Association for Reorganization of the Kuomintang, shortened in Chinese to Kai-tsu-p'ai. This was a group within the Kuomintang which opposed the growing power of Chiang Kai-shek over both the National Government and the Kuomintang. This control was demonstrated at the Third National Congress of the Kuomintang, which met at Nanking in March 1929. Dominated by Chiang Kai-shek supporters, that congress leveled charges of political deviationism at Wang Ching-wei and expelled several of Wang's associates from the party. Wang's opposition to Nanking's authority evoked response from several military leaders who were dissatisfied with Chiang Kai-shek's policies, suspicious of his intentions, and jealous of his rising star. Among Chiang's leading rivals were Feng Yü-hsiang and Yen Hsi-shan (q.v.), who controlled substantial forces in north China and who had begun a brief but destructive war with Nanking. In 1930 Wang Ching-wei joined these men in attempting to establish a rival national government at Peiping, a move which failed because of Nanking's success in gaining the support of the Young Marshal, Chang Hsueh-liang (q.v.), who controlled Manchuria. Following the collapse of the anti- Chiang coalition at Peiping, Wang again found himself a political refugee, a dissident with a cause but little support. He moved south, where, during the early months of 1931, he became the senior Kuomintang leader active in a new opposition movement at Canton, sparked by Chiang Kai-shek's house arrest of Hu Han-min at Nanking and sustained by the political ambitions of Kwangtung and Kwangsi military leaders. This Canton movement, though not successful in dislodging Chiang Kai-shek, restored Wang's position and paved the way for his rapprochement with Nanking. These domestic dissensions sapped the energies of the National Government and frustrated its efforts to achieve nation-wide unification. The grave challenge posed by Japanese military aggression in Manchuria beginning in September 1931 forced many of the feuding factions in the Kuomintang to set aside their differences in the interests of the nation. Temporary political compromises on the part of all Kuomintang leaders followed, though personal frictions continued into the war years. Wang Ching-wei made his peace with the Nanking authorities, and with the reorganization of the National Government in the winter of 1931 he was named president of the Executive Yuan. He assumed office on 28 January 1932. That very night, the Japanese garrison at Shanghai launched an undeclared attack against Chinese troops in the area. Wang Ching-wei was not to see peace again in his lifetime.
From February 1932 until November 1935, Wang sustained an uneasy collaboration with Chiang Kai-shek, heading the government at Nanking while Chiang supervised military operations aimed at extirpating the Communist bases in Kiangsi and elsewhere. During the early 1930's, it appeared to some independent observers that a new nation was emerging in the lower Yangtze valley and attracting the loyalty of many patriotic Chinese. The dimensions of reconstruction and expansion were varied: fiscal and financial reform; development of communications, including civil aviation; rural rehabilitation; modernization of university education; revitalization of public morals and morale. From 1932 to 1935, when Wang Ching-wei headed the Executive Yuan at Nanking, his political authority and personal incorruptibility did much to make that period the most progressive in the history of the National Government. However, his position at Nanking was not without personal frustrations. Although Wang was prime minister, Chiang Kai-shek placed his own relatives by marriage, H. H. K'ung and T. V. Soong (qq.v.), in key posts at Nanking to guarantee appropriate checks on Wang. Irritated by suspicion and surveillance, Wang went on leave in October 1932. He visited Europe for six months, allegedly for medical reasons, while T. V. Soong acted in his place at Nanking.
In March 1933, when Wang passed through Hong Kong on his return to China, he called on Hu Han-min and attempted to persuade Hu of the validity of his views on the national political situation. The meeting of the two former friends, which proved to be their last encounter, was not a success. Wang returned to Nanking to resume the presidency of the Executive Yuan and to serve concurrently as acting foreign minister. Wang soon became involved in negotiations with Japanese diplomatic and military authorities regarding the establishment of railway and mail communications between China proper and Manchoukuo, and the legal arrangements defining the Japanese position on the mainland of China. While attempting to defend China's territorial and administrative integrity, Wang nevertheless found himself in an increasingly vulnerable political position as the man most closely associated in the public mind with the policy of yielding to Japan, the individual censured by all patriotic groups in China which advocated positive resistance. The climax came on 1 November 1935, when, at a meeting of the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang at Nanking, he was wounded by an assailant who disguised himselfas a photographer, with a revolver concealed in his camera. Surgery in Shanghai failed to remove all the bullets, and Wang was forced to resign all official posts in December to seek medical care abroad.
When Wang left for Europe in February 1936 after four years as administrative head of the National Government, medical exigencies appeared paramount. Beneath the surface, however, lay a deeper malaise. Wang was being ruined politically by the long, agonizing process of appeasement, for which Chiang Kai-shek was ultimately responsible, during the uneasy years between the Mukden Incident of 1931 and the Lukouchiao attack in 1937. Throughout this period, forces of reform, patriotism, liberal opinion, Communist pressure, student sentiment, and national selfrespect fed the opposition to Nanking's cautious line. Wang Ching-wei found himself the civilian leader of a government pursuing an intensely unpopular policy, losing popularity while he shielded Chiang Kai-shek from anti-appeasement criticism. Following the Sian Incident of December 1936 (see Chang Hsuehliang), a move designed to force Chiang to take a firm stand against Japan, Wang Ching-wei hastened back to China from Europe. But Chiang Kai-shek continued to hold the high cards; and when the Sino-Japanese war began in mid- 1937, he gained full power as top commander of the Nationalist war effort. When the Kuomintang held a special wartime congress at Hankow in March 1938, Chiang's position as party dictator was confirmed when he was elected tsung-ts'ai [leader], with Wang Chingwei as his deputy. Wang's personal power was now more nominal than real, and his political associates were excluded from key offices in favor of Chiang Kai-shek's intimates. During the first year of the war, Wang Chingwei became discouraged about the eventual outcome and proposed that the National Government negotiate a peaceful settlement with Japan. When the National Government was forced to evacuate, first to Wuhan and then to Chungking after the fall of Wuhan in October 1938, Wang became increasingly dubious about China's ability to sustain a protracted war against the Japanese. He was further disillusioned by the Chinese scorched-earth policy after the tragic burning of Changsha in November (see Chang Chih-chung). On 16 December 1938 Wang met with Chiang Kai-shek. During this interview he made no mention of his private pessimism regarding the military situation. Two days later, he flew to Chengtu for a ceremonial occasion. He then flew to Kunming, and on 21 December he arrived at Hanoi in French Indo-China. On 22 December, Prince Konoye, the Japanese premier, issued a statement announcing that Japan would collaborate with a new Chinese regime in order to readjust Sino-Japanese relations on the basis of a "new order in East Asia." Chungking immediately refused the Konoye offer. On 29 December 1938 Wang issued a public declaration of his advocacy of peace in a telegram to the National Government at Chungking requesting Chiang Kai-shek to halt armed resistance and to work out a peaceful settlement with Japan.
In the early morning hours of 21 March 1939, Nationalist secret agents entered his residence in Hanoi and fired dozens of shots. Wang himself was uninjured, but his long-time personal protege and confidant, Tseng Chung-ming (q.v.), was fatally wounded. The mystery of the shooting was never solved, but the most prevalent theory was that the gunmen were aiming for Wang Ching-wei but shot Tseng by mistake. Whatever the facts, Wang regarded the murder of his friend as a personal outrage. Infuriated to the point of no return, he spent the last years of his life working actively with his country's major foreign enemy. After proceeding from Hanoi to Shanghai in the spring of 1939, he conferred with Chinese who were active in the north China puppet regime and in the so-called reform government at Nanking to arrange a merger of the various Chinese administrations in Japanese-occupied China. He visited Tokyo twice, in May and again in October of 1939, and worked out a joint statement with the Japanese authorities covering the "new relations between China and Japan." It was signed secretly at the end of 1939. Wang's movement suffered a setback in January 1940 when his associates Kao Tsungwu and T'ao Hsi-sheng (q.v.) defected to Hong Kong with copies of Wang's secret agreement with Japan. The leak failed to deter Wang's preparations, although publication of the terms of the secret agreement created a furor in China. On 30 March 1940 a new "national government," patterned on the fiveyuan structure of the legitimate central government, was formally established at Nanking with Wang Ching-wei as its ranking official. He immediately issued a general invitation to all civil servants and Kuomintang party officials in Chungking to participate. In April, discussions were initiated for a treaty to govern relations between Nanking and Japan. Because Japan's original intention in supporting Wang had been to force Chungking to enter peace negotiations, the Japanese government delayed granting formal recognition to the Nanking regime until it became apparent that the National Government would not negotiate. Tokyo did not sign a basic treaty with Nanking and accord formal diplomatic recognition to that government until 30 November 1940, almost two years after Wang had first left Chungking, and eight months after his regime had been established. The November 1940 agreement, contrary to what Wang and his followers had hoped, maintained strong Japanese military and economic domination over the occupied areas while granting the Chinese authorities at Nanking only token responsibility for internal administration.
Wang's pessimism regarding China's prospects for effective resistance against the Axis powers was intensified during 1940 by military developments in Europe, particularly the fall of France and the desperate position of England in the face of the German air assault. Within the context of Chinese politics, Wang Ching-wei took the position that his government was the legitimate national government of China, his party was the Kuomintang, his flag was the Kuomintang flag, and the principles of his government were the Three People's Principles of Sun Yat-sen. Wang believed himself to be Sun's rightful heir. Prior to the outbreak of war with the United States, the ideology underlying the Nanking government — a pan-Asian, anti-Western mystique — was not unattractive to many Chinese. In Tokyo's eyes, the Nanking government and the doctrine of Asian solidarity which lay behind it offered the greatest potential for securing a settlement of the "China Incident" on terms favorable to Japan. China during the early 1940's was divided into three major political parts. One section was Nationalist China, the areas in the west extending from Kansu through Yunnan which were controlled by or nominally loyal to the legitimate National Government located at Chungking. Another was Communist China, a series of expanding enclaves behind and between the ports and railway lines of north, east, and central China which were controlled by or loyal to the Communist insurgent government at Yenan in Shensi province. The third division was Japanese-occupied China, a series of semiautonomous regimes stretching from northern Manchuria to the Gulf of Tonkin in the south. This third division was itself subdivided into Manchoukuo, the Manchurian regime which had been established in 1932; a north China puppet regime at Peiping; Mengchiang, the Japanese-controlled government in Inner Mongolia; and Wang Ching-wei's regime at Nanking. The outbreak of the War in the Pacific in December 1941 brought little immediate change in the political geography of China. The expansion of conflict did, however, enhance the role of the Nanking regime in Tokyo's China policy as that policy developed during the war between Japan and the Allied powers. Militarily, the Japanese settled into a holding operation on the mainland of China, with main efforts and power committed farther south. Yet, despite the prizes gained in Southeast Asia during 1942, China remained of vital economic importance to Japan as a source of coal, iron ore, and other essential raw materials. In late 1942 and early 1943 Japan made moves designed to ease the more glaring inequalities in the original position of the Nanking government. Wang Ching-wei again went to Tokyo, where he had conversations with Tojo and other members of the Japanese government, as well as an audience with the emperor. As a result of these negotiations, Japan relinquished her concessions in China and the right of extraterritoriality, while the Nanking government on 9 January 1943 formally declared war on the United States and Great Britain.
During the summer of 1943, following a visit by Tojo himself to China and Japanese pressure upon the representative of the Vichy French regime in Nanking, agreements were signed under which Nanking assumed administrative control over the International Settlement and the French concession at Shanghai. On 1 August 1943 the Nanking authorities took formal possession of these areas, long the heart of Western control in China's major trading and financial metropolis. Following the return to Tokyo of Shigemitsu Mamoru, who had been Japanese ambassador at Nanking, to become foreign minister in 1943, Japan's "New China Policy" took more definite shape. Aimed at achieving a settlement with Chiang Kai-shek, this policy embodied the concept that Japan would modify her earlier ambitions for dominant control of East Asia while at the same time blocking the return of the Western powers to their former position of influence. Japan's gambit had the corollary effect of conceding to Wang Ching-wei's government at least the nominal status of an ally and an equal. When a new treaty of alliance between Nanking and Tokyo was concluded on 30 October 1943, voiding the treaty of November 1940, its preamble expressed the resolve of the two governments to cooperate as equal and independent neighbors in the establishment of Greater East Asia. But the key aspect of Tokyo's China policy was not so much its psychological effect on the prestige of Wang Ching-wei's government as its potential political effect upon individuals and groups in Chiang Kai-shek's government at Chungking. Through the October 1943 treaty with Wang Ching-wei and through covert overtures to Chungking channeled through Tai Li (q.v.), Japan pressed the line that Chiang's true interests lay in severing relations with the United States and Britain and in collaborating with Nanking to liquidate the Chinese Communist movement, then steadily growing in strength in the countryside. During 1944, even as Japan encountered mounting disaster in the Pacific campaigns and Germany was retreating on the western front, growing political frustration at Chungking found outlet in renewed alarm over the threat of Mao Tse-tung. And the idea of joint Chungking-Nanking operations against the Chinese Communists reportedly gained some support from conservatives in the Kuomintang who viewed the Communists as a greater long-term threat than the Japanese.
Still in ailing health from the bullet wounds received several years earlier, Wang Ching-wei was again forced to go to Japan for medical treatment in 1944. He died at Nagoya on 10 November 1944. Ch'en Kung-po (q.v.), who had been close to Wang since 1927, succeeded him as head of the Nanking government, but Ch'en lacked the prestige that Wang had enjoyed in Nationalist circles. Another individual prominent as as political strategist at Nanking was Chou Fo-hai (q.v.), who had been the most widely read Kuomintang theorist in China before 1937. Despite the efforts of these men, it soon became obvious that the Nanking government had been held together by Wang
Ching-wei's seniority and reputation for probity. By the end of 1944, when Wang died, Japan's hopes of bringing Chinese resistance to an end had dimmed, and the outcome of the Second World War was no longer seriously in doubt. For millions of Chinese who had no practical alternative to life under Nanking's administrative control, Wang Ching-wei's regime did provide a measure of Chinese protection against the Japanese from 1940 to 1945. In dealing with the Japanese, Wang attempted to maintain integrity, to protect Chinese rights, and to assure that there would be no more incidents like the rape of Nanking in December 1937. There was notably little public remonstrance
or violence directed against the puppet authorities when Japan surrendered in August 1945. Together with his other principal associates, Wang Ching-wei's widow, Ch'en Pi-chun, was tried for treason following the Japanese defeat. In testimony given at her trial, she stressed Wang's sincerity and patriotism in believing that a peaceful accommodation with Japan was the only realistic method of preserving Chinese national interests.