Wang Jingwei’s Pivotal Decision

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On December 18, 1938, Wang Jingwei traveled from China to Hanoi with his family and a few close associates in order to advocate for peace with Japanese authorities as a person out of office while living overseas.

Before leaving China, as Ho Mang Hang recalled, Wang’s nephew Wang Qi pleaded with him to reconsider. Even if the decision to negotiate might benefit China, Wang Qi worried that his uncle would put himself in significant personal danger. Wang Jingwei responded that given the state of the country at that time, the difficulty and danger to his personal self was of no consequence.

From his days as a revolutionary, he had taken an oath to remain fearless and, if necessary, sacrifice himself for the country. As the year 1939 approached, the time for sacrifice had arrived. Wang felt that he must take an action for the greater good that few would understand and many would condemn. His path was clear. He could not turn away.

This pivotal decision had enormous impact on his own life, setting off a series of personal tragedies, and changed the course of modern Chinese history.

While in Hanoi, Wang Jingwei wrote Yandian (December 29 telegram), translated into English as Securing Peace with Honour, the Peace Proposals of December 29, 1938 in T’ang Leang-Li’s Fundamentals of National Salvation (pp.21-24). In Yandian, Wang explained his reasons to consider the Japanese government’s armistice proposal — to restore peace, and ensure the existence and independence of the nation.

Yandian was released in Hong Kong one day later in the newspaper Nanhua Ribao managed by Lin Bo-sheng, one of Wang’s closest associates who managed propaganda affairs. Wang’s membership in the Guomindang was permanently revoked on January 1, 1939. On January 17, Lin Bo-sheng was severely attacked in Hong Kong. On March 20, gunmen stormed into the Wang residence in Hanoi and Zeng Zhongming—one of his closest confidants, secretary and former student—was assassinated. His nephew Shen Song was shot and killed in Hong Kong on August 22.

On March 30, 1940, the Reorganized National Government was established in Nanjing with Wang Jingwei as premier and chairman.

For more detailed accounts, pease read Wang Jingwei & Modern China.