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Zhang Xueliang

Zhang Xueliang or Chang Hseh-liang (張學良, pinyin: Zhāng Xuling, English: Peter Hsueh Liang Chang) (June 3, 1901 - October 15, 2001), nicknamed the "Young Marshal", became the effective ruler of Manchuria and much of Northeast China after the assassination of his father Chang Tso-lin on June 4, 1928 by the Japanese. As an instigator of the Xi'an incident spent three quarters of his life under house arrest, but is regarded by the Chinese people as a patriotic hero.

The Japanese were concerned that Manchuria would declare support for Chiang Kai-shek and believed that his son Zhang Xueliang, who was an opium addict, would be much more subject to Japanese influence. Unexpectedly, the younger Zhang proved to be more independent than anyone had expected. He overcame his opium addiction and declared his support for Chiang. In order to rid his command of Japanese influence he had two prominent pro-Tokyo officials executed in front of the assembled guests at a dinner party in January 1929. Zhang also tried to eliminate Soviet influence from Manchuria, but relented in the face of a Russian military build-up.

In 1930, when Feng Y-hsiang and Yen Hsi-shan attempted to overthrow Chiang Kai-shek’s government, Chang stepped in to support the Nanjing government against the northern Warlords in exchange for control of the key railroads in Hebei Province and the customs revenues from the port city of Tianjin. Following the Mukden Incident and the Japanese invasion of Chang's own domain of Manchuria in 1931, Chang's armies withdrew from the front lines without significant engagements. There has been speculation that Chiang Kai-Shek wrote a letter to Chang asking him to pull his forces back, but later Chang stated that he himself issued the orders. Apparently Chang was aware of how weak his forces were compared to the Japanese, and wished to preserve his position by retaining a sizeable army. Nonetheless this would still be in line with Chiang's overall strategic standings. Chang later traveled in Europe before returning to China to take command of the Communist Suppression Campaigns first in Hebei-Henan-Anhui and later in the Northwest.

On April 6 1936, General Zhang met with Zhou Enlai to plan the end of the Chinese Civil War. In the Xi'an incident (December 12 1936), Zhang and another general Yang Hu-cheng kidnapped Chiang Kai-shek and imprisoned the head of the Nationalist government until he agreed to form a united front with the communists against the Japanese invasion.

Chiang at the time took a non-aggressive position against Japan and considered the Communists to be larger danger to China than the Japanese, and his overall strategy was to annihilate the Communists, before focusing his efforts on the Japanese. However, growing nationalist anger against Japan made this position very unpopular, leading to Zhang's action against Chiang.

The ensuing negotiations were delicate and were not recorded. The apparent outcome was that Chiang agreed to focus his efforts against the Japanese rather than the Communists and in return Zhang would become Chiang's prisoner and cease any political role.

Following Chiang Kai-shek's release, the Young Marshal was tried, convicted, and sentenced to ten years in prison. Chiang Kai-shek intervened and Zhang was placed under house arrest. In 1949, Zhang was transferred to Taiwan where he remained under house arrest, spending his time studying Ming dynasty poetry. Only in 1990, after the death of Chiang's son, Chiang Ching-kuo, did he gain his freedom. Zhang was the world's longest-serving political prisoner.

After regaining his freedom, he emigrated to Honolulu, Hawaii in the 1990s. There were numerous pleas for him to visit mainland China, but Zhang, claiming his political neutrality towards both the Communists and the KMT, declined. He died of pneumonia at the age of 100 and was buried in Hawaii, never set a foot in China again.nl:Zhang Xueliang ja:張学良 zh:张学良


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