By Olivia Xing (Bryn Mawr College ‘20)
The political poster “HC2016-590: Gongchandang shi xin di guo zhu yi de zou gou! 共產黨是新帝國主義的走狗！” (ca. 1930) provides us with insight into the Kuomintang (KMT; also written Guomindang, the Nationalist Party) and Gongchandang (CPC; Communist Party of China) political split in the 1920’s. As early as its inception, the CPC was accused of abetting foreign imperialism (specifically from the Soviet Union), particularly by the KMT, led by Chiang Kai-shek. This poster with its big characters declaring “Overthrow the New Imperialist Running Dogs: The Communist Party,” is vivid evidence that testifies the shift in attitude of the KMT towards Communism and the beginnings of a split between the two already uncertain partners. Examining it in historical context, we can contextualize the claims of KMT’s accusation.
The First United Front began as a powerful alliance between KMT and CPC in 1923 to end warlordism in China once and for all. However, by 1927, as the Northern Expedition, a KMT military campaign against the overblown power of the warlords made victorious advances, the internal conflict between the CPC and KMT leaders had also intensified. The CPC tried to seize a leadership position and cut down on Chiang’s power.  This strategy coincides with the course prescribed by the Soviet government in Moscow: to use Chiang’s military power to actively spread communism among the masses.  Meanwhile Chiang Kai-Shek planned to use his own growing power to lash out against the communists within his own party. Thus it can be seen that the ostensible collaboration of two parties was not so genuine. In March, Chiang was asked to step down from power, but he refused this decision. On the 12th of next month, known as the “Shanghai Massacre,” Chiang carried out a full-scale purge of Communists in all areas under control of the KMT. This violent suppression was largely motivated by Chiang’s great fear of being manipulated by the Soviet government, which effectively ended the alliance between the nationalists and the communists.
Thereafter, while continuing the Northern Expedition that struck at the Beiyang government and other regional warlords who colluded with foreign powers, the National Revolutionary Army General Headquarters printed big-character posters to categorize the CPC as the same political power controlled by malicious Soviet and communism as a contagious ideological disease. In the poster, untamed dogs running on the red ground is a literal take on the word “running dog”, which means the traitor and collaborator, symbolizing the CPC as spreading new, red imperialist communism throughout the nation. This is certainly smart rhetoric that takes advantage of the high patriotism at that time. Two years prior, the May Thirtieth Movement burst into Shanghai's International Settlement. Crowds of students took to the streets to demonstrate against foreign imperialism, which soon turned violent. The police opened fire and several demonstrators were killed or injured.  Since then, the patriotic enthusiasm of the masses has been aroused; more and more strikes, protests and disobedience campaigns sprang up against foreign goods and foreign powers. Thus, this accusation was effective to compromise the legitimacy of a newcomer like the CPC. Eventually, the First United Front ended after the Shanghai Massacre and Chiang had to flee into exile. This was not the last time China would see Chiang, however, and he returned a year later to finish his push to unify China against the warlords. But that short-lived alliance between the two parties was, in fact, backed by the Soviet Union.
The poster visualizes the watershed between two eras of Chinese history. The relatively harmonious co-existence of the two parties on the same land never occurred again after that; the political rift between them only widened. The civil war began later that year (in 1927) and lasted until the solid division occurred between the Mainland and Taiwan in 1949.
 Guo, Tingyi. 《近代中國史綱》Jin Dai Zhongguo Shi, Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, (1980): 599-603.
 Jonathan D. Spence, The Search for Modern China, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, (2013): 320.
 Jonathan Fendy, Chiang Kai Shek: China's Generalissimo and the Nation He Lost, New York: Carroll & Graf Publisher (2003): 171-178.
 Deng Zhongxia. “第十二章 ‘五卅’运动,” Di Ershi Zhang 'Wu Sa' Yun Dong, 中文马克思主义文库,
Deng, Zhongxia. “第十二章 ‘五卅’运动” Di Ershi Zhang 'Wu Sa' Yun Dong. 中文马克思主义文库 (Zhong Wen Makese Zhuyi Wen Ku). Marxists Internet Archive, Accessed February 14, 2019. https://www.marxists.org/chinese/dengzhongxia/1930book/marxist.org-chinese-gong-1930-12.htm.
Fendy, Jonathan. Chiang Kai Shek: China's Generalissimo and the Nation He Lost, New York: Carroll & Graf Publisher, 2003.
Guo, Tingyi. 《近代中國史綱》Jin Dai Zhongguo Shi, Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1980.
Spence, Jonathan D. The Search for Modern China. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013.