On April 12, 1927 the Shanghai massacre took place. This event is generally known as the April 12 Incident or Purge and was a horrific and violent attack by the military forces of Chiang Kai-shek and the forces of the Chinese Nationalist Party usually named as Kuomintang of China.
On the other side of the incident were members of the Chinese Communist Party, who were mainly tortured, executed, or killed. The events that took place in April 1927 were a turning point in the Chinese Revolution. It was the start of the anti-communist movement and violence called “White Terror”.
During this movement, communists from Kuomintang were executed or killed. Moreover, those who survived ran away from the city or were forced to go underground. While the First United Front between the Chinese Communist Party and Kuomintang ended, Soviet Russia stopped supporting the Nationalists. Many historians believe that these events were the main cause of the Chinese Civil War.
The starting point of the April 12 Incident is believed to be the alliance between the Kuomintang and the Soviet Union, which was initiated by Sun Yat-sen, founder of Kuomintang. This alliance included financial, military support, and a group of political advisors from the Soviet Union.
However, the only request from the Soviets were proper conditions for cooperation with the Chinese Communist Party. Sun agreed that Communists would join Kuomintang as individuals but not as an organization. Also, he forced Communists to support the ideology of the Kuomintang and obey party rules.
Both parties were unhappy with the circumstances, and therefore the tension between the two parties increased. With the growth of Kuomintang authority and strength, this tension led to the suppression of the Chinese Communist Party and the April 12 Purge.
On April 5, Wang Jingwei, the Chen Duxiu, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party of that time, issued a declaration for the cooperation between Kuomintang and Communists. However, when Jingwei left, Chiang Kai-shek asked Green Gang and other gang leaders to form a union in opposition to Communists.
On April 12, these gang members started to attack districts controlled by the union workers, including Puding, Nanshi, and Zhabei. As a result, more than 300 people were killed or seriously injured. Some historical sources claim that more than 1000 communists were arrested, nearly 300 of them were executed, and 5000 of them went missing.
Others, however, say that 5000 to 10000 Chinese Communists were killed. The events of April 1927 prompted the Comintern in Moscow to break ties with the Guomindang. It also triggered in-fighting between communists and left-wing nationalists in Wuhan that contributed to the collapse of Wang Jingwei’s government there. Thousands of communists were forced underground in the cities or dispersed to rural areas.
In the following 20 days, more than 10000 communists in Xiamen, Fuzhou, Canton, Nanjing, and Changsha were arrested and executed. The Soviet Union officially terminated its support for Kuomintang. The Wuhan Nationalist government disrupted leaving Chiang in the position of the official Kuomintang leader.
The Shanghai massacre in 1927 had led to the Chinese Civil War when armed Communists started rebels. As a consequence of the numerous battles, the National Revolutionary Army conquered the capital of Beijing. Starting from this point unification of China took place and Kuomintang was recognized worldwide.