After the GMD-CCP split in mid-1927, Nie cooperated with Ye, who was a regimental commander of the Nationalist forces, in staging two abortive uprisings at Nanchang in Jiangxi (Kiangsi) and at Guangzhou (Canton) in Guangdong, in August and December, respectively. At year's end, Nie fled abroad. He returned to Shanghai in 1930, organizing efforts to educate the masses, particularly those in rural areas of China, about Communism. In December 1931, Nie went to the central Soviet base at Ruijin (Juichin) in Jiangxi, where he helped organize the Red Army and the Long March of 1934–1935, reaching Yan'an (Yenan) in Shaanxi (Shensi) in late 1935.
After the Sino-Japanese War began in July 1937, Nie became deputy commander and political commissar of Lin Biao's (Lin Piao's) 115th Division of the Eighth Route Army, a product of the GMD-CCP united front, and he participated in the September Battle of Pingxing Pass (P'inghsingkuan) in Shanxi (Shansi), successfully crushing Japanese Lieutenant General Itagaki Seishiro's 5th Division. Nie was then sent to the Wutai (Wu'tai) mountain area south of Pingxing Pass to develop a guerrilla base behind Japanese lines.
Nie also cooperated with local leaders on the borders of Shanxi in Hebei (Hopeh) and Chaha'er (Chahar), a province (no longer existing) comprising the northwestern part of today's Hebei and part of Inner Mongolia, in establishing a regional government in the summer of 1938. Through its participation in the August–December 1940 One Hundred Regiments Offensive and in anti-Japanese mopping-up operations since November 1940, the Shanxi-Chaha'er-Hebei border region helped restore Chinese administration to a considerable part of North China before the war's end. In August 1943, Nie returned to Yan'an, where he remained until the war's end, participating in the Rectification Movement, a campaign launched by CCP leaders to bring about a "correct understanding" among the party faithful of Marxism-Leninism. After Japan surrendered, Nie moved into Inner Mongolia and Manchuria, reestablishing Chinese Communist power in north China, which ensured the CCP's victory in the Chinese Civil War in 1949. In 1955, Nie was rewarded by being named one of 10 marshals of the People's Liberation Army. Nie died in Beijing (Peking) on 14 May 1992.
Levin, Steven I. Anvil of Victory: The Communist Revolution in Manchuria, 1945–1948. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987.; Nie Rongzhen Zhuan Binxiezu. Nie Rongzhen Zhuan [Biography of Nie Rongzhen]. Beijing: Dangdai Zhoungguo Chubanshe, 1997.; Seldon, Mark. China in Revolution: The Yenan Way Revisited. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1995.; Tang, Nianzu. Nie Rongzhen Yuanshuai [Marshal Nie Rongzhen]. Beijing: Changzhen, 1989.