In response to pressure from the Nationalist generals, GMD officials issued a directive on 9 December 1940 demanding that the Communists withdraw their forces north of the Changjiang River by 31 December 1940. The Communists delayed executing this movement. Indeed, they attempted to win mass support to remain south of the river. On 4 January 1941, seven Nationalist divisions surrounded and attacked the headquarters force of some 9,000 New Fourth Army troops near Maolin in Jiangsu (Kiangsu) Province. During heavy fighting from 7 to 13 January 1941, Nationalist forces killed about 3,000 New Fourth Army troops and captured the remainder. Among the dead was New Fourth Army General Xiang Ying (Hsiang Ying). General Ye Ting (Yeh T'ing) was captured and imprisoned. On 17 January 1941, the government of Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) dissolved the New Fourth Army and closed CCP military liaison offices in many GMD-held cities.
Although this incident dealt a serious blow to the Communist effort in central China, it was also an advantage to the revolutionary cause. First, Liu Shaoqi (Liu Shao-ch'i), a member of the CCP Central Committee, was appointed political commissar of a revitalized New Fourth Army, and he promptly created a "post-Incident" line that urged mobilization of the masses. Despite brutal Japanese pacification campaigns in the region between 1941 and 1945, the New Fourth Army survived into the postwar period when it profited from its long familiarity with the region.
Also, the New Fourth Army Incident provided the Communists with a powerful propaganda tool by which they could present themselves as martyred patriots. Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung) proclaimed that key elements in Chongqing (Chungking) wanted to substitute civil war for the war of resistance against Japan. No single event during the entire Sino-Japanese War did more to elicit sympathy for the CCP and establish its patriotic credentials both at home and abroad than the New Fourth Army Incident of January 1941.
Errol M. Clauss
Chen, Yung-fa. Making Revolution: The Communist Movement in Eastern and Central China, 1937–1945. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.; Johnson, Chalmers. Peasant Nationalism and Communist Power: The Emergence of Revolutionary China, 1937–1945. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1962.; Van Slyke, Lyman. "The Chinese Communist Movement during the Sino-Japanese War, 1937–1945." In John K. Fairbank and Albert Feuerwerker, eds., The Cambridge History of China Vol. 13. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986.