Biography in English

Yeh Chien-ying (1898- ), Chinese Communist general who served as chief of staff of the Communist military forces during and after the Sino-Japanese war. During the American mediation effort in 1946, he was chief Communist delegate at the Executive Headquarters in Peiping. From late 1949 until mid- 1954 he was based at Canton, and he became the dominant figure in the new Communist control structure in south China.

Meihsien, the principal district of the Hakka people of Kwangtung, was the native place of Yeh Chien-ying. He was the eldest of three sons born into a Hakka merchant family. As a boy, Yeh received a solid education in the classical Chinese curriculum in a private tutoring school. He then enrolled at the Tung-shan Middle School, a well-known institution in the culturally advanced district of Meihsien. In 1913, at the age of 16 sui, Yeh was sent to Malaya to live with an uncle and to prepare for a career in business. In December 1915, when Ts'ai O, T'ang Chi-yao, and Li Lieh-chün (qq.v.) led a revolt in Yunnan against the monarchical campaign of Yuan Shih-k'ai, they attracted national attention as potential saviors of the Chinese republic. Overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia zealously supported the Yunnan protest movement, and this support was often accompanied by financial contributions to the Yunnan leaders. To express appreciation and to encourage continued support, T'ang Chi-yao, then governor of Yunnan, offered to accept selected Chinese youths from Southeast Asia for admission to the provincial military academy at Kunming. Yeh Chien-ying, who had failed to develop an interest in commercial matters, was in the first group of Chinese students from Malaya who went to the Yunnan Military Academy in 1916. He was graduated as a member of the academy's twelfth class in July 1919. At that time, to avoid open conflict with the Kwangsi forces at Canton, Sun Yat-sen had ordered the newly organized Kwangtung Army, under the command of Ch'en Chiung-ming and Hsü Gh'ung-chih (qq.v.), to withdraw to southern Fukien, where it was undergoing vigorous training at Ghangchow. The thirdranking officer in the Kwangtung Army at that time was its chief of staff, Teng K'eng (q.v.), a native of Meihsien. Another officer from the same district was Chang Ming-ta, whose family also had business connections in Malaya, and it was through this association that Yeh Chienying joined the Kwangtung Army in Fukien. During his initial period of duty, Yeh was exposed to the new and radical political ideas that were spreading as a result of the Russian Revolution and the May Fourth Movement. Ch'en Chiung-ming had developed an interest in socialist ideas, and he had talked with a number of socialists, both Chinese and Russian.

Yeh Chien-ying accompanied the Kwangtung Army when it returned to Canton late in 1920. In mid- 1922, when Ch'en Chiung-ming revolted against Sun Yat-sen, the Kwangtung forces divided. Yeh remained with the units under the command of Hsü Ch'ung-chih, who remained loyal to Sun Yat-sen, and he was assigned as chief of staff in the division commanded by Chang Ming-ta. During this period, Yeh also served briefly as magistrate of his native district, Meihsien, and of the native place of Sun Yat-sen, Hsiangshan.

In 1924 Sun Yat-sen organized the Whampoa Military Academy and appointed Chiang Kaishek as commandant and Liao Chung-k'ai (q.v.) as senior Kuomintang representative. Yeh was also assigned there as deputy director of the (classroom) instruction department, then headed by Wang Po-ling and staffed by such Nationalist officers as Ch'ien Ta-chün, Ku Chu-t'ung, and Liu Chih (qq.v.). Yeh's position at Whampoa in 1924-26 thus placed him at a level equivalent to that of Chou En-lai (q.v.), deputy director of the political department headed by Tai Chi-t'ao (q.v.), and of Teng Yen-ta (q.v.), deputy director of the (field) training department headed by Li Chi-shen (q.v.). During the first stage of the Northern Expedition, launched in July 1926, Yeh Chienying served as chief of staff in the First Army, commanded by Chiang Kai-shek but actually led by Ho Ying-ch'in (q.v.). Later, when substantial numbers of opposing troops under Sun Ch'uan-fang (q.v.) were captured in Kiangsi, they were reorganized as a new 2nd Division, with Yeh in command. After the Nationalist capture of Wuhan in October 1926 and the appointment of Chang Fa-k'uei (q.v.) as commander of the Fourth Army, Yeh was assigned to that army as chief of staff and commander of its training regiment. Official Communist sources state that Yeh Chien-ying formally joined the Chinese Communist party in September 1927, though other evidence suggests that he had party connections during his period at Whampoa. In any event, after Chang Fa-k'uei's forces returned to Canton late in 1927, Yeh Chien-ying's model regiment provided principal military support for the short-lived Canton Commune of December 1927 {see Chang T'ai-lei). Although Yeh T'ing (q.v.) was commander of the Workers and Peasants Red Army, Yeh Chien-ying, his deputy, actually commanded the Communist troops. With the collapse of the Canton Commune, Yeh fled to Hong Kong, whence he proceeded to Shanghai to establish contact with the central apparatus of the Chinese Communist party. Soon afterwards, he went to the Soviet Union, where he studied Marxist- Leninist doctrine and military affairs and came to know Liu Po-ch'eng and Tso Ch'üan (qq.v.), who were also receiving military training in Moscow. Yeh also visited Germany to observe military affairs. He then returned to China and arrived at the central soviet base in Kiangsi in the autumn of 1931.

In Kiangsi, Yeh Chien-ying played an active and influential role in the Chinese Communist military forces. The Chinese Workers and Peasants Red Army was under the over-all command of Chu Teh (q.v.), also a graduate of the Yunnan Military Academy. At Juichin, Yeh alternated with Liu Po-ch'eng in two key posts: chief of staff of the Red Army and president of the Red Army Academy. He also saw action on several occasions, notably in 1933 when the Communists launched an eastward offensive into Fukien. When Nationalist military pressure forced the Communists to withdraw from their Kiangsi base in the autumn of 1934, Yeh was named chief of staff of the field army, which then comprised the greater part of the Communist forces. Yeh's organizational abilities were confirmed during the Long March. As chief of staff of the Third Red Army Group, he was with the advance contingent which arrived in northern Shensi in October 1935. In December 1936 Yeh Chien-ying accompanied Chou En-lai and Gh'in Pang-hsien (qq.v.) to Sian to represent the Chinese Communists in the negotiations which led to the release of Chiang Kai-shek after his forcible detention by Chang Hsueh-liang and Yang Hu-ch'eng (qq.v.). In 1937, while discussions were underway between the Nationalists and Communists for formation of a united front against Japan, Yeh was successively assigned to direct the Chinese Communist liaison missions maintained at Sian, Nanking and Hankow. After the Sino-Japanese war began in July, he was invited by the Nationalists to supervise a guerrilla warfare training center at Hengshan, Hunan. The Chinese Communist forces in northern Shensi were reorganized in October 1937 as the Eighth Route Army, and in January 1938 Communist guerrilla forces in east and central China were reorganized as the New Fourth Army. These two armies were incorporated into the Nationalist military organization as the Eighteenth Army Group. Chu Teh served as commander in chief of the Eighth Route Army and the entire Eighteenth Army Group, with Yeh as his chief of staff. Yeh retained that post throughout the war years until 1 949. When the Chinese Communists held their Seventh National Party Congress at Yenan in mid- 1945, he was elected to membership in the Central Committee. After the Japanese surrender, negotiations were begun for possible peaceful settlement of the political and military problems then separating the Nationalists and the Communists in China. Yeh Chien-ying played an important role in the talks between the two major contending parties in the hope of averting civil war. When Mao Tse-tung flew to Chungking in August 1945 for discussions with Chiang Kaishek, Yeh was a member of the Communist group that accompanied him. In January 1946 Yeh was a member of the Chinese Communist delegation to the Political Consultative Conference in Chungking; that group was headed by Chou En-lai and also included Tung Pi-wu, Gh'in Pang-hsien, Wang Jo-fei, Wu Yü-chang, and Teng Ying-ch'ao. One result of the early postwar negotiations conducted under the prodding of General George C. Marshall, then the chief United States representative in China, was the establishment at Peiping of a tripartite Executive Headquarters designed to monitor and enforce Nationalist-Communist ceasefire arrangements of January 1946. Yeh Chienying was appointed chief Chinese Communist representative to the new Executive Headquarters; his opposite numbers were Cheng Kai-min, representing the Chinese Nationalists, and Walter S. Robertson, representing the United States government. The effort proved to be fruitless, and civil war resumed later that year. Yeh Chien-ying then returned to the Chinese Communist headquarters at Yenan. After the breakdown of United States mediation efforts in China and the outbreak of fullscale civil war, the Communists renamed their military forces the People's Liberation Army. Chu Teh continued as commander in chief, with Yeh Chien-ying as chief of staff. Yeh was the top-ranking Communist military oflScer present at the time of the Communist entry into Peiping in January 1949, and he became the first chairman of the Peiping Military Control Commission and mayor of that city. At this time, Yeh relinquished the post of chief of staff of the Chinese Communist military forces. Hsü Hsiang-ch'ien nominally succeeded him, though Nieh Jung-chen (q.v.) assumed responsibility as acting chief of staff. Nieh also replaced Yeh as mayor of Peiping, which became Peking again when the People's Republic of China was established on 1 October 1949. At that time, Yeh Chien-ying became a member of the Central People's Government Council, the People's Revolutionary Military Council, and the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission. Even as the new government was being inaugurated at Peking, Communist victory celebrations in the north were enhanced by the fall of Canton, the principal city of south China, to the People's Liberation Army on 14 October 1949. By that time, Yeh Chien-ying had moved southward to assume responsibility for organizing Communist control over his native Kwangtung province. In 1949-50 he held virtually all significant posts in the new control structure at Canton : first secretary of the south China sub-bureau of the Chinese Communist party; governor of Kwangtung; commander and political commissar of the Kwangtung military district; mayor of Canton; and secretary of the Canton municipal committee of the Chinese Communist party. Yeh gained such extensive powers in the Canton area that he was dubbed T'ien-nan-wang [king of the southern heavens], a title that had been apphed by the Cantonese to Ch'en Chi-t'ang (q.v.) in the early 1930's and to Chang Fa-k'uei in 1945-46.

When a regional administrative system was established in China in 1950, Kwangtung province was included in the so-called Central- South region, which embraced six provinces and had its headquarters at Wuhan. Yeh then assumed added responsibilities as vice chairman of the Central-South Military and Administrative Committee and chairman of its financialeconomic committee. During the 1952-54 period, when Lin Piao (q.v.) reportedly was ill, Yeh Chien-ying's south China responsibilities were for a time extended to the entire central-south region. He was then identified as acting secretary of the regional bureau of the Chinese Communist party and acting commander of the Central-South Military District. The system of regional administrations was abolished in 1954, and Yeh's domination of the Communist party, military, and governmental apparatus in south China came to an end. In 1954 he was assigned to Peking as director of the armed forces supervision department of the People's Liberation Army and a vice chairman of the National Defense Council. In 1955 he was one of the ten senior Chinese Communist officers awarded the rank of Marshal of the People's Republic of China. He also received the three top military orders established by Peking: the Order of August First, Order of Independence and Freedom, and Order of Liberation, all first class. In March 1958, when the Chinese Academy of Military Science was established, Yeh was named its president and political commissar.

In 1954 Yeh Chien-ying represented Kwangtung at the National People's Congress, and he was elected to its Standing Committee. He represented the armed forces at the National People's Congress in 1959 and 1964. In the Chinese Communist party structure, Yeh Chienying was reelected to the Central Committee at the Eighth National Congress in 1956. In July 1966 he was named to membership on the Secretariat, and in August of that year he became a member of the Political Bureau and a vice chairman of the party's Military Affairs Commission.

In December 1956 Yeh led a Chinese Communist military delegation to Burma; early in 1958 he headed a similar mission to India. He served as deputy leader, under P'eng Te-huai (q.v.), of a Chinese military delegation to the Soviet Union in 1957. In October 1958 he led a group from Peking to Poland to participate in observance of the fifteenth anniversary of the Polish Army. He attended the ceremonies marking the fifteenth anniversary of the establishment of the Democratic Republic of North Viet-Nam in August I960; and in January 1962 he again visited Hanoi. In September 1963 he accompanied Liu Shao-ch'i to North Korea.

Yeh Chien-ying married twice. His first wife reportedly was the daughter of a prosperous overseas Chinese from Malaya. In 1936 he married Wei Kung-chih, then head of the Chinese People's Anti-Japanese Dramatic Society at Yenan. They had two sons and two daughters. In 1963 one daughter married Liu Shih-k'un, who headed the piano department of the Central Conservatory of Music at Peking and who had won second prize in a 1958 piano competition in Moscow.

Biography in Chinese

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