Cheng Qian

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Cheng Qian
Cheng Qian2.jpg
Cheng Qian
Native name 程潛
Born 1882
Liling, Hunan
Died April 1968 (aged 85–86)
Beijing
Allegiance  Republic of China
 People's Republic of China
Rank General

Cheng Qian (simplified Chinese: 程潜; traditional Chinese: 程潛; pinyin: Chéng Qián; Wade–Giles: Ch'eng Ch'ien; 1882–5 April 1968) was a Chinese military general.

He occupied a number of significant military and political posts in the Kuomintang and in Sun Yat-Sen's government from the late 1910s through the 1940s. By the late 1940s he was one of the most powerful members of the Kuomintang, and in 1948, he was a successful candidate for the vice-presidency of the KMT Nationalist Government.. He was also Governor of Hunan, his native province and in whose political affairs he had been active all his life. In August 1949, he peacefully surrendered to the Communists, who were rapidly advancing on Guangzhou, the seat of the KMT government, hastening the collapse of the defense of the KMT National Revolutionary Army.

After 1949, Cheng held several important political positions in the People's Republic of China until his death in 1968.

Xinhai Revolution[edit]

After having studied at a private school and having passed examination in 1889, Cheng joined the Yuelu Academy in Changsha. Here he began to understand the current political situation and decided to give up imperial exams. In 1903, as he was 21, he was admitted first to the Hunan Military Academy. Shortly after, in 1904, he went to study in Japan, where he met Huang Xing and Song Jiaoren, future nationalist leaders, who fascinated him with their ideas. In 1905 Cheng joined Sun Yat-sen's Tongmenghui (Chinese United League), committed to overthrow the Qing Dynasty and modernize China.

After graduation in 1908, Cheng returned in China, where he was put in charge of training a New Army in Sichuan. After the outbreak of the Xinhai Revolution, Cheng took part in the Wuchang Uprising and immediately after he participated to the Battle of Changsha.

With the establishment of the Republic of China, Cheng was appointed military commander of Hunan. However, as Yuan Shikai staged his coup to control the Republic, Cheng tried to revolt, but the failure prompted him to flee to Japan, where he joined the Kuomintang and entered the Waseda University.

Shortly after, Yuan Shikai tried to proclaim himself Emperor, causing the National Protection War. Cheng returned to Hunan to enlist rebel soldiers in Cai E's army. During the Constitutional Protection Movement he was first appointed military commander of Changsha, then Vice Minister of War in Sun Yat-sen's Guangzhou Government. He was put in charge of training troops in Guangzhou, and then took part in the Northern Expedition. From 1925 to 1927 he was the General commanding 6th Army, and briefly served as Chairman of the Government of the Hunan Province in 1928. In 1926 he was elected a member of the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang.

Under Chiang Kai-shek[edit]

In the following years, Cheng served in several capacities, including chief of General Staff from 1935 to 1937. When the Second Sino-Japanese War began, Cheng Qian was made Commander in Chief of the 1st War Area in July 1937, and concurrently Chairman of the Government of Henan Province from 1937 to 1939. Cheng Qian was recalled from 1st War area in 1938 to serve as director of the Generalissimo's Headquarters from until 1940. From 1940 to 1944 he was Deputy Chief of Staff of the National Military Council, and from 1944 to 1945 he was acting Chief of Staff of the National Military Council. He was also vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission.

After the war ended, Cheng sided with the conciliatory faction in the Kuomintang. In 1947 he was elected in the Legislative Yuan (in the first election after 14 years) and contested the vice-presidency of the Republic of China in March 1948, barely losing it to Li Zongren, supported by Chiang Kai-shek. Afterwards, he was appointed governor of Hunan once again.

People's Republic of China[edit]

As the Communist Party of China forces gained ground, Chiang Kai-shek stepped down in January 1949; after the collapse of peace talks in April, the communists crossed Yangtze River. Cheng Qian in early August decided to surrender, and so Changsha was peacefully taken by the People's Liberation Army.

Although the Kuomintang government issued an arrest warrant for Cheng, he was able to reach Beijing to attend the First Session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. The Central People's Government that ruled the People's Republic of China until 1954 appointed him vice-chairman of the People's Revolutionary Military Council and vice-chairman of the Central-South Military and Government Administration Council, working to prevent river floods. He was also a vice-chairman of the Revolutionary Committee of the Kuomintang.

In the following years, he was elected non-communist governor of Hunan in 1952, and a vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress from 1954 till his death.

During the Cultural Revolution, Cheng Qian was among the non-communists that Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai prevented from being attacked, but he lost his leadership position in Hunan after a revolutionary committee under Li Yuan's chairmanship was formed there. He died in Beijing on 15 April 1968 aged 86.

Political offices
Preceded by
Governor of Hunan
1948–1949
Succeeded by
Chen Mingren
Preceded by
Wang Shoudao
Governor of Hunan
1952–1967
Succeeded by
Li Yuan
as Chairman of the Hunan Revolutionary Committee