Wang Zhen

Name in Chinese
王 震
Name in Wade-Giles
Wang Chen
Related People

Biography in English

Wang Chen (1909-), Chinese Communist guerrilla leader and political commissar who was one of the leading figures in the politicalmilitary administration of the Sinkiang region in 1949-53. In 1954 he became a member of the National Defense Council at Peking, and in 1956 he was appointed minister of state farms and land reclamation. Beginning in 1966, he was a target of Red Guard criticism. The eldest of ten children, Wang Chen was born in Liuyang, Hunan, where his father was a tenant farmer. Wang received about three years of primary education before leaving home at the age of 12. He worked in 1921 as an orderly in the army garrison at Changsha and then became a servant in the local station master's office on the Canton-Hankow railroad. This was his introduction to the life of a railroad laborer, and he worked successively as switchman, oiler, repairman, and locomotive fireman on the Canton-Hankow line.

In 1924 Wang Chen joined the railroad workers union led by the Communist Kuo Liang. In June 1925 Wang participated in a strike led by the union in protest against the May Thirtieth Incident, when British police in the International Settlement at Shanghai fired on Chinese. After the strike ended, he joined the Kuomintang, which then was preparing for the Northern Expedition. He became increasingly active in union affairs, and, at the age of 16, he was elected to the executive committee of the Changsha branch of the Hunan General Labor Union, a branch which claimed to represent some 3,000 workers. Whe i the National Revolutionary Army occupied Changsha in 1926, railroad workers under the leadership of the executive committee took charge of operating trains in support of the Nationalist forces.

Wang Chen joined the Chinese Communist party in 1927. He enrolled in a training class for labor leaders at Changsha which, though sponsored by the Kuomintang, was conducted by men who were Communist party members or sympathizers. In this class Wang evidently received some military training, which, though rudimentary, provided a basis for his subsequent shift from labor organizing to soldiering. In May 1927 he was wounded in the anti-Communist coup at Changsha led by Hsu K'ohsiang, a regimental commander in the army of T'ang Sheng-chih (q.v.). The termination of the Kuomintang-Communist alliance forced the Communist-led labor movement underground. After working in Hunan for a time, Wang served in the army of Li Tsung-jen in 1928-29.

In the autumn of 1929 Wang Chen returned to his native Liuyang and participated in Communist efforts to mobilize the peasants of the area. He established a party branch at Liuyang and built up a small guerrilla force. When the central apparatus of the Chinese Communist party at Shanghai, then directed by Li Li-san (q.v.), ordered military operations against cities in the summer of 1930, Wang led his partisan band in an unsuccessful attack on Liuyang. He then joined forces with P'eng Te-huai (q.v.) in a briefly successful attack on Changsha. By this time, Wang's father had joined the Communist guerrilla forces; he fought in the skirmishes around the Changsha area until his death in 1932.

After P'eng Te-huai's retreat from Changsha, Wang Chen was ordered to eastern Hunan. Upon arrival, his force was amalgamated with other units to form the Independent 1st Division, commanded by Liu Po-ch'eng (q.v.). Wang became a political commissar at the regimental level in the Hunan-Kiangsi border area. In November 1931 he was a delegate representing Hunan to the All-China Congress of Soviets at Juichin, Kiangsi. In 1932 he was made political commissar of the Independent 1st Division, which subsequently became the Eighth Army of P'eng Te-huai's Third Army Group. While recovering from a battle wound in the winter of 1932-33, Wang served in the Hunan-Hupeh border area as political commissar of the 22nd Division in the Sixth Red Army of Hsiao K'o (q.v.). In January 1934 Wang was a delegate to the second All-China Congress of Soviets.

Accompanied by Jen Pi-shih (q.v:), who then was serving as political commissar of the Sixth Red Army, Hsiao K'o and Wang Chen started on the Long March in July 1934, three months before the main body of Communist forces left the central soviet base in Kiangsi. In October, the Sixth Red Army joined forces in Kweichow with the Second Red Army of Ho Lung (q.v.) to form the Second Front Army, with Ho Lung as commander and Jen Pi-shih as political commissar. The Second Front Army established a base in the Hunan-Hupeh- Szechwan-Kweichow border district before moving on. Wang Chen reportedly was responsible for the successful negotiations with Miao groups in Kweichow that eased the way for the march through that province. The Second Front Army joined the Fourth Front Army of Chang Kuo-t'ao and Hsu Hsiangch'ien (qq.v.) at Kantzu, Sikang, in June 1936, and the two forces marched on to Shensi, arriving at the Communist base in northern Shensi in October.

After the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937, the Communist forces in the northwest were reorganized as the Eighth Route Army, composed of three divisions, Wang Chen, then only about 27, became commander of the 359th Brigade in Ho Lung's 120th Division. Wang's troops, spreading out in Shansi and Hopei, became nuclei around which local guerrilla units were formed to harass the Japanese and to extend Communist influence. In the winter of 1939 Ho Lung assigned Wang Chen and his troops to the Shensi-Kansu- Ninghsia region to defend the central Communist base. Wang apparently remained near Yenan for four years, with his troops stationed along the line from Yülin through Michih to Suite in northeast Shensi. In 1944 he was sent to the Hupeh-Honan area, where he served as a political commissar under Li Hsien-nien (q.v.) and helped develop the soviet area in the Hupeh-Honan-Anhwei-Hunan-Kiangsi border region. Shortly before the war ended, Wang led a southward march into Kwangtung. When the Japanese surrendered, he withdrew to Hupeh again.

During the postwar negotiations between the Nationalists and the Chinese Communists, Wang Chen was a member of the Hankow field team of the Peiping Executive Headquarters. When negotiations failed and civil war broke out, he assumed responsibility for the defense of the Yenan area. In 1946-47 he was chief of staff of the Shensi-Kansu-Ninghsia and Shansi-Suiyuan military districts and commander of the central Shensi garrison headquarters. In 1948-49 he was commander of the 2nd Column of the Northwest People's Liberation Army (later the First Field Army). After Communist troops moved into Sinkiang in 1949, Wang Chen became one of the leading figures in the political-military administration of that complex area. Between 1949 and 1952 he was secretary of the Sinkiang sub-bureau of the party's Central Committee. He also was deputy commander (1949-50) and then acting commander (1951-52) of the Sinkiang Military District, a member of the Sinkiang provincial government council, and a member of the Northwest Military and Administrative Committee. When the Central People's Government was reorganized in 1954, Wang was transferred to Peking. He represented the People's Liberation Army at the National People's Congress and became a member of the National Defense Council. From May 1954 to August 1957 he also was commander and political commissar of the Railway Corps of the People's Liberation Army. He was raised from alternate to full membership in the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist party in 1956. That May, he became minister of state farms and land reclamation. From October to December 1957 he led an agricultural-technical delegation to Japan. He was appointed a member of the Sungari River Planning Commission in January 1958 and vice chairman of the Committee for Receiving and Resettling Returned Overseas Chinese in February 1960. In 1958 and 1960 he represented Heilungkiang at the second and third National People's congresses. Beginning in 1966, Wang was a target of Red Guard criticism in the so-called Cultural Revolution.

Wang Chen married four times. He reportedly had three sons by his fourth wife.

Biography in Chinese

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