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The Kuomintang-Communist United Front in Malaya during the National Salvation Period, 1937–1941

  • Stephen Leong

While it can be accepted that the politics of the hua-ch”iao or overseas Chinese in Malaya during the pre-war period generally reflected the politics of China (overseas Chinese responses to such events as the Chinese Revolution of 1911, the Twenty-One Demands of 1915, the May Fourth Incident of 1919, the Tsinan Affair of 1928 and the Mukden Incident of 1931 strongly substantiate this), this quality of hua-ch”iao politics can give rise to misleading assumptions regarding other events. The Kuomintang (Nationalist)–Communist united front during the Sino-Japanese War is a case in point.

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1 See Ching-hwang, Yen, The Overseas Chinese and the 1911 Revolution (Kuala Lumpur, Oxford University Press, 1976); Kuei-ch”iang, Ts”ui, ‘Hai-hsia chih-min-ti Hua-jen Wu-ssu yün-tung ti fan-hsiang’, Nan-yang hsüeh-pao, III, 2 (1965), 1318; Akashi, Y., “The Nanyang Chinese Anti-Japanese Boycott Movement, 1908–1928”, Journal of the South Seas Society, XXIII, Pts. 1 & 2 (1968), 6996; Akashi, Y., “Nan”yō kakyō to Manshu jihen”, Tōnan Ajia rekishi to bunka, No. 1 (1971), 5278; Seng, Pang Wing, “The ‘Double Seventh’ Incident 1937: Singapore Chinese Response to the Outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War”, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, II, 2 (September 1973), 271299; and Leong, S., “Sources, Agencies and Manifestations of Overseas Chinese Nationalism in Malaya, 1937–1941”, Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation (University of California, Los Angeles, 1976), Chs. i and ii.

2 The Communist Struggle in Malaya (New York, Institute of Pacific Relations, 1954; reprinted, Kuala Lumpur, University of Malaya Press, 1971), pp. 50–51x.

3 Malaya: The Communist Insurgent War, 1948–1960 (London, Faber & Faber, 1966), p. 28.

4 Pye, L., Guerrilla Communism in Malaya (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1956, reprinted, 1964), p. 63. The reference by Hanrahan (p. 51), O'Ballance (p. 28) and Pye (p. 63) to a “National Salvation Association” as being the central organisation for nationalist activities in Malaya is, I believe, erroneous for there existed no organisation by that name. In all likelihood by “National Salvation Association” the writers meant the two nation-wide bodies—the Malayan Overseas Chinese Relief Fund United Correspondence Bureau and the Federation of China Relief Fund of the South Seas—which emerged in October 1937 and October 1938 respectively. But they neither served as “the remitting agency for the entire Malayan Chinese community” as Pye suggests nor “came under Leftist domination” as Hanrahan suggests. The fact is that practically all fund-raising activities were centred around the state China Relief Fund Associations which were set up before October 1937. They were the remitting agencies for hua-ch”iao funds. See S. Leong, “Overseas Chinese Nationalism in Malaya, 1937–1941”, Ch.v.

5 Soviet Strategies in Southeast Asia (Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1966) and The Nanyang Chinese National Salvation Movement, 1937–1941 (Lawrence, Kansas, Kansas University Press, 1970).

6 While the KMTM was a branch of the KMTC, the MCP was not a branch of the CCP but “an affiliate of the Communist International”. However, owing to the fact that the origins of the Communist movement in Malaya began from China and that it was almost exclusively a Chinese movement, the MCP shared the aspirations of the Communists in China. For the status of the MCP in the Communist International and its organisational structure, see ch”u-pan she, Ma-lai-ya, Ma-lai-ya kung-ch”an-tang chang-ch”eng yü t”ieh-ti chi-lü (Singapore, Ma-lai-ya ch”u-pan-she, 1945). The 1934 Constitution was issued by the Sixth Plenary Session of the MCP's Central Committee in March of that year. An English translation of this document is available in Hanrahan, pp. 151–162.

7 Van Slyke, L. P., Enemies and Friends; The United Front in Chinese Communist History (Stanford, California, Stanford University Press, 1967), pp. 9293; see also Ch”en, J., Mao and the Chinese Revolution, (New York, Oxford University Press, 1965), pp. 231232 and Chien-ming, Wang, Chung-kuo kung-ch”an-tang shih-kao (Taipei, National Cheng-chih University, 1965), III, 179.

8 Monthly Review of Chinese Affairs (MRCA), September 1937, p. 11.

9 See Leong, “Overseas Chinese Nationalism in Malaya, 1937–1941”, Ch. iv.

10 Interviews with Oh Siow Yam (Hu Shao-yen) of Singapore and Ho Pow Jin (Ho Pao-jen) of Malacca, 10.11.70, 4.3.71; Teh Mun Wai (Cheng Min-wei) of Perak, 13.2.72. The last is the son of a KMTM leader of the early 1930s, Teh Lay Seng (Cheng Lo-sheng). Chua Hui Seng (Ts”ai Hui-sheng) a long-time KMT activist in Singapore, informed the present writer that fear of being detained by the Clementi government caused him to flee Malaya and not return until after the Governor's departure from the country in 1934. Interview, 13 November 1972.

11 See Chung-kuo kuo-min-tang Chung-yang chih-hsing wei-yüan-hui, Min-kuo erh-shihsan-nien Chung-kuo kuo-min-tang nien-chien (Shanghai, Chung-kuo kuo-min-tang, 1936), Sect. B, p. 8.

12 Interviews with Oh Siow Yam and Ho Pow Jin, 10 November 1970, 3 April 1971. The writer met with these two former KMTM members together on two separate occasions.

13 See Chung-kuo kuo-min-tang chung-yang wei-yüan-hui ti-san-tsu, Chung-kuo kuo-mintang tsai hai-wai (Taipei, Chung-kuo kuo-min-tang ti-san-tsu, 1961), marked “Internal Party Document—Secret to Outsiders”, p. 367.

14 MRCA, September 1937, pp. 11–12.

15 See Annual Report of Police, SS, 1937, p. 837. From January to April 1937, strikes occurred in Singapore, Johore, Malacca and Negri Sembilan. See Leong, “Overseas Chinese Nationalism in Malaya, 1937–1941”, Ch. iv, for strikes in Selangor, including those which hit the Batu Arang coal mines in March 1937.

16 Ibid. See also Annual Report of Police, FMS, 1939, p. 308. Chihiro's, Tsutsui (Nampō gunsei ron (Tokyo, Nihon Hōsō Shuppan Kyōkai, 1944), p. 152) figures for 800 MCP members and 2,000 auxiliary members (jun tōin) arrested by the Colonial Government for the period 1934–37 are no doubt highly inflated. Local government reports state that in 1934 one Communist was banished and one sent to jail; none were arrested in 1935; and in 1936, 28 Communists were prosecuted. See Annual Report of Police, FMS, 1934, p.C314; 1935, p.C301; Annual Report of Police, SS, 1936, p. 859.

17 Annual Report ofSS Police, 1938, p. 837.

18 Interviews with Oh Siow Yam and Ho Pow Jin, 10 November 1970, 3 April 1971; Saw Seng Kiew (Su Ch”eng-ch”iu), 15 July 1969.

19 Interview with Oh Siow Yam, 3 April 1971.

20 Ibid., and interview with Ng Yeh Lu, 16 August 1969, 9 November 1970.

21 Interview with Chua Hui Seng, 13 November 1972. One source, however, lists Si Hong Ping as the leader of the Elimination of Traitors Squad (Ch”u-chien pieh-tung-tui). See Shōzō, Fukuda, Nan yō kakyō kō-Nichi-kyūkoku-undō no kenkyū (Tokyo, Toa kenkyujo, 1945), p. 278.

22 Interview with Chua Hui Seng, 13 November 1972.

23 Chuang Hui-ch”üan, “Wo yü Lin Mou-sheng (Pt. 2)”, Kuo-chi shih-pao (KCSP) (May 1968), p. 15.

24 MRCA, February 1938, pp. 19–20.

25 As a means of protest against Japanese aggression in their motherland, about 2,000 Chinese workers quit their jobs in the Bukit Besi Mines, the largest Japanese mining concern in Malaya. See British Advisor (Trengganu) File No. 743/1938; Gaimushō, , Nan”yō to kakyō (Tokyo, Gaimushō, 1939), p. 350.

26 Chuang, “Wo yü Lin Mou-sheng (Pt. 2)”, p. 16; “Lung-yün hua-kung hui-kuo chiao-yi” in Hua-ch”iao chan-hsien, 5–6 (May 1938), p. 32; “Hua-ch”iao k”ang-ti hou-yüan-ti tung-tai”, Hua-ch”iao chan-hsien 11–12 (August 1938), p. 39; “Lin Mou-sheng chuan”, Fu-chien wenhsien (10 March 1968), p. 38.

27 MRCA, November 1938, pp. 14–15.

28 MRCA, October 1937, pp. 35–36.

29 MRCA, December 1937, p. 18.

30 During a raid of the CNLVC hideout two days after the rally (11 January), police recovered a printing press and large amounts of pamphlets and “missiles rilled with tar”. MRCA, January 1938, p. 38.

31 Annual Report of Police, SS, 1938, p. 416.

32 Chuang, “Wo yü Lin Mou-sheng (Pt. 2)”, p. 15.

33 Ibid.; Hsin-chia-p”o Chung-hua tsung-shang-hui, Hsin-chia-p”o Chung-hua tsung-shanghui liu-shih chou-nien chi-nien-k”an (Singapore, Shang-yu ch”u-pan kung-ssu, 1966), p. 279.

34 MRCA, January 1938, p. 30.

35 Ibid., pp. 36–37.

36 Ibid., p. 37.

37 Ibid., p. 35.

38 Annual Report of Police, SS, 1938, p. 406.

39 MRCA, May 1938, p. 41.

40 Ibid., p. 34.

41 Nanyang Siang Pau (NYSP), 27 June 1938; MRCA, July 1938, p. 25.

42 MRCA, July 1938, p. 20; Kwong Wah Yit Poh (KWYP), 5 July 1938, 8 July 1938.

43 NYSP, 13 July 1938; MRCA, July 1938, p. 27.

44 MRCA, July 1938, p. 28.

45 KWYP, 5 July 1938; NYSP, 6 July 1938.

46 As the names would indicate, the real identities of the MCP spokesmen were not revealed.

47 See NYSP, 30 July 1938. The MCP article is also available in KCSP (June 1968), p. 14.

50 Ibid. Emphasis added.

51 Ibid. Emphasis added.

52 NYSP, 1 August 1938. The KMTM view appeared in the second part of the NYS, forum, two days after that of the MCP. Like the MCP article, the KMTM's is also availabl in KCSP (August 1968), p. 15.

55 For overseas Chinese national salvation movements in Thailand and the Dutch Indies during the Sino-Japanese War, see Akashi, Nanyang Chinese National Salvation Movement, passim; Hai-shang ou, K'ang-chan i-lai-ti T”ai-kuo hua-ch”iao (Bangkok (?), Hua-ch”iao ch”upan-she, 1941).

57 See Leong, “Overseas Chinese Nationalism in Malaya, 1937–1941,” Ch. vii.

58 Interview, Oh Siow Yam, 3 April 1971.

59 Lim Keng Lian's article was entitled “My View on the Strengthening of Overseas Chinese Unity” (Chia-ch”iang t”ung-ch”iao t”uan-chieh chiu-wang-chih wo-chien), and Chou Hean Swee's was “Overseas Chinese Unity for National Salvation” (Hua-ch”iao t”uan-chieh chiu-wang). See NYSP, 30 July 1938, 1 August 1938.

60 See Leong, “Overseas Chinese Nationalism in Malaya, 1937–1941”, Ch. v.

61 KMT members in the Federation's Standing Committee included Lee Chin Tian, Ho Pow Jin, Tjong See Gan, Lum Mun Tin, Ong Chuan Seng, Ch”en Chan Mei, Chou Hean Swee, Lau Geok Swee, Leong Sin Nam, Wong Yik Tong, How Say Hoan, Tan Eng Khiam and Huang Chung Chi. The writer is indebted to Ho Pow Jin and Oh Siow Yam for assisting in the identification of these KMT members. Interview, 3 April 1971. From the above, it is therefore incorrect for Akashi (Nanyang Chinese National Salvation Movement, p. 66) to say that “only one KMT member” was on the Standing Committee of the Federation.

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Journal of Southeast Asian Studies
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