Brief history of Zhang Xueliang (張學良)
and General Yang Hucheng 楊虎城 (right)

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An Anecdote on Dr. Rule's Assessment on Marshal Zhang Xueliang (張學良)

Fairchild TV news reporter gave the photos of some well-known Chinese characters to be assessed by Dr. Nicholas Rule (Assistant Professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and Canada Research Chair in Social Perception and Cognition) to test how accurate his theory is. One of them is Young Marshal Zhang Xueliang (少帥 張學良, 3 June 1901 -14 October 2001). In the famous Xian Incident (西安事變) on December 12, 1936, Zhang (left) and his colleague General Yang Hucheng (楊虎城 right) held their superior Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), the Chinese leader at that time, by force. They demanded Chiang to stop the civil war against Mao's Communist army and to fight Japan together with Mao. The mutiny eventually led to the formation of a united front against Japanese aggression in China.

Zhang Xueliang and Zhao Yidi in Taiwan
Zhang Xueliang and his second wife Zhao Yidi 趙一荻 (28 May 1912 22 June 2000)

Based on his facial profile, Dr. Rule, who knows nothing about the late Marshal, assessed that Zhang was of good managerial talent and power dominance. Shortly after the Xian Incident, Zhang escorted Chiang back to Nanking as a subservient gesture of apology and continued loyalty. After Chiang regained freedom, he ordered Zhang held under house arrest in the next 54 years. Before Chiang's Nationalist government retreated to Taiwan at the end of the Liberation War (March 1946 to May 1950), Zhang was taken to the island in November 1946 and continued to be held captive until 1990 when martial law was finally lifted in Taiwan and the war against Mao's communist government was formally over. Perhaps he is the world's longest-serving political prisoner.

General Yang Hucheng lost command of his troops and ran exile in Europe after the Xian Incident. In December 1937, he wanted to fight the Japanese and returned to China. He was arrested upon arrival and jailed. In 1949, the interim President Li Zōng​rn (李宗仁) ordered his release. But this order was never carried out. On 6 September 1949, Yang, his children, bodyguards and secretary were murdered in prison by Nationalist spies before Chiang's troops retreated from Chongqing, the wartime capital. It appears that this is Chiang's modus operandi to dispose those who oppose him. His once sworn brother Feng Yuxiang (馮玉祥) encountered a similar fate in 1948 when returning from exile to join Mao's newly formed government.

We are unsure what Marshal Zhang's managerial talent was. From the above documentary video, Zhang did not appear to be a charismatic speaker in his speech. Furthermore, it is hard to agree that he was of power dominance when he had been deprived of his own freedom for over half a century and had completely disappeared from politics and the news grid during that time.

Zhang is undoubtedly a great patriot. To preserve strength to fight Mao's communist, Chiang ordered him not to resist and retreat south of the Great Wall when the Japanese invaded Manchuria on September 18, 1931. Zhang's North Eastern Army left its homeland without firing a shot. This earned him the derogatory nickname "non-resistant general". In 1933, Japanese Imperial Army launched Operation Nekka (熱河作戦, Nekka Sakusen) and annexed the now defunct province of Jehol (aka Rehe) into the Japanese controlled puppet state Manchukuo. Jehol was used as a buffer zone and a jumping board to invade Northern China when opportunity arrives. Zhang was blamed for failing to defend Jehol while he had not obtained approval from Chiang to fight back.

Zhang Xueliang and Zhao Yidi in Taiwan

Marshal Zhang won no military victory in World War II. His political contribution to the Allies is invaluable but often undermined (if not ignored outright). After the Xian Incident, Chiang quietly called off the civil war and began the long overdue preparation for full scale resistance against Japanese aggression. At the Marco Polo Bridge Incident (七七盧溝橋事變) on 7 July 1937, Chinese troops were given order to fight back for the first time. This shocked the Japanese intruders as they were used to seeing Chinese troops retreating without resistance. Although both countries were in a de facto state of war since then, China did not formally declared war on the Axis until 9 December 1941 (3 days after the attack on Pearl Harbour). Millions of combat-hardened Japanese troops were tied up in Mainland China. Be mindful that several thousands of Japanese troops, who fought fanatically for their Emperor Hirohito, had caused heavy American casualties in the Pacific island leapfrogging operations. Should these troops in China become available to fight the Allies in other Pacific battlefields, the war would have been prolonged with much higher casualties.

The fate of Zhang and Yang proves once again that there is a high price to pay for doing the right thing against those in power. Righteous and appropriate actions that benefit a country at large are often tainted as wrong, radical, rebellious and treacherous and carry heavy penalties. Our respect of his patriotism is reflected in the Chinese poem below written in New Westminster on 16 October 2001, two days after his death at age 100 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Dr. Tsui received a Laureate from the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 21 March 2012, Toronto, Canada.

Abide by his own rules when tested by the method he invented, the boyish looking Dr. Rule admitted in the Fairchild TV interview that he does not know who Sir Ka-shing Li 李嘉誠 and Lap-chee Tsui 徐立之 are. According to Forbe's 2012 The World's Billionaires, Li is the 9th richest man worldwide in 2012. He owns Canadian businesses like Husky Oil and Concord Pacific (a real estate developer in Vancouver and Toronto). Tsui is an accomplished scientist with achievements recognized worldwide, including a Gairdner International Award in 1990, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and an Officer of the Order of Canada. He researched and taught in the Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto from 1981 to 2002 before accepting the presidency in the University of Hong Kong. Dr. Tsui received a prestigious Laureate from the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 21 March 2012.

It is understandable that most Canadians, who have little knowledge in history, do not know who Marshal Zhang Xueliang is. However, we find it quite astounding that a well educated academics has not heard of Li and Tsui, given their involvement and contributions in Canadian economy and academic research.

Please hover your mouse to view the English version.
Reproduced with permission from the original poem writer.


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[This page was conceptualized on 20 April 2011, published on 4 July 2012, last revised 24 March 2015.]