Chinese Civil War

Northern Expedition
NRA troops preparing to attack Wuchang ©Image Attribution forthcoming. Image belongs to the respective owner(s).
1926 Jul 9 - 1928 Dec 29

Northern Expedition

Yellow River, Changqing Distri

The Northern Expedition was a military campaign launched by the National Revolutionary Army (NRA) of the Kuomintang (KMT), also known as the "Chinese Nationalist Party", against the Beiyang government and other regional warlords in 1926. The purpose of the campaign was to reunify China, which had become fragmented in the aftermath of the Revolution of 1911. The expedition was led by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, and was divided into two phases. The first phase ended in a 1927 political split between two factions of the KMT: the right-leaning Nanjing faction, led by Chiang, and the left-leaning faction in Wuhan, led by Wang Jingwei. The split was partially motivated by Chiang's Shanghai Massacre of Communists within the KMT, which marked the end of the First United Front. In an effort to mend this schism, Chiang Kai-shek stepped down as the commander of the NRA in August 1927, and went into exile in Japan.

The second phase of the Expedition began in January 1928, when Chiang resumed command. By April 1928, the nationalist forces had advanced to the Yellow River. With the assistance of allied warlords including Yan Xishan and Feng Yuxiang, nationalist forces secured a series of decisive victories against the Beiyang Army. As they approached Beijing, Zhang Zuolin, leader of the Manchuria-based Fengtian clique, was forced to flee, and was assassinated shortly thereafter by the Japanese. His son, Zhang Xueliang, took over as the leader of the Fengtian clique, and in December 1928, announced that Manchuria would accept the authority of the nationalist government in Nanjing. With the final piece of China under KMT control, the Northern Expedition concluded successfully and China was reunified, heralding the start of the Nanjing decade.

Last Updated: Sun Jan 01 2023

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