After the Sino-Japanese War began in July 1937, Chen took command of the Fifteenth Group Army and became deputy commander of the Fourth Reserve Army; that November, he was also made commander in chief of the Third War Area of Zhejiang and southern Jiangsu (Kiangsu), defending both Shanghai and Nanjing (Nanking). When both cities fell at year's end, Chen went to Wuhan, Hubei (Hupeh), assuming the post of defense commander in chief in January 1938. He was concurrently commander of the newly created Ninth War Area of southern Hubei, northern Jiangsu, and Hunan in June and governor of Hunan in July. After Wuhan's fall in late October 1938 in the First Battle of Changsha in Hunan, Chen moved to Chongqing (Chungking) in Sichuan (Szechwan), where he was responsible for guerrilla and corps training. In October 1939, he became commander of the Sixth War Area, comprising the areas west of Hunan including eastern and southern Hubei and eastern Sichuan. From May 1940, he held back the Japanese advance to Chongqing at Yichang (Ichang), Hubei.
In February 1943, Chen was also made commander of the Chinese Expeditionary Army, responsible for preparing the joint Anglo-American-Chinese Burma Campaign launched the next year (he was succeeded in this post by Wei Lihuang [Wei Li-huang] in October). After the Japanese launched their Operation ichi-go against Henan (Honan) in April 1944, Chen became commander of the enlarged First War Area of Hebei, northern Shandong (Shantung), Henan, Anhui (Anhwei), and Shaanxi (Shensi). When the Japanese advanced into Guangxi (Kwangsi), Guizhou (Kewichow), and Yunnan at the end of the year, Chen left the battlefield and, as war minister, concentrated on modernizing GMD forces, employing U.S. technical and material assistance.
After the beginning of the Chinese Civil War, Chen became director of the Northeastern Headquarters in August 1947. He resigned in January 1948 on the grounds of illness, and his position was taken by Wei. In October, Chen fled to Taiwan, where he assumed the governorship, preparing the GMD retreat from the mainland. In 1954, he was elected vice president of the Republic of China. Chen died in Taipei on 5 March 1965. Debbie Law
Chi, Hsi-sheng. Nationalist China at War: Military Defeats and Political Collapse, 1937–45. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1982.; Fang, Zhilin. Chen Cheng Dazhuan (The great biography of Chen Cheng). Taipei: Jinfeng, 1995.; Levine, Steven I. Anvil of Victory: The Communist Revolution in Manchuria, 1945–1948. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987.; Sun, Zhaiwei. Jiang Jieshi De Chongjiang Chen Cheng (Jiang Jieshi's favorite general: Chen Cheng). Zhengzhou, China: Henan Renmin Chubanshe, 1990.