Li Zongren (Li Tsung-jen)

(1891–1969) Chinese general and politician

Li Zongren (Li Tsung-jen) was an important military and political leader of Guangxi (Kwangsi) Province, along with Bai Chongxi (Pai Chung-hsi), between 1925 and 1949. He joined the Kuomintang (KMT, or Nationalist Party), founded by Sun Yat-sen, and commanded the Seventh Army; it played an important part in the Northern Expedition (1926–28) that brought the Koumintang to power. Li distinguished himself as a skilled military commander in the Northern Expedition and the Sino-Japanese War, where he commanded the Nationalist troops in an important victory in 1938 at Taierzhuang in Shandong (Shantung) Province. Li and Bai, however, represented the Warlord Era, joining the KMT in part to preserve and expand their regional power by controlling their army as distinct units that often disobeyed the central government. Their group is called the “Guangxi clique” and fought against the central government in Nanjing (Nanking) between 1929 and 1930. They also allowed the fleeing Chinese Communists to pass of through Guangxi during the Long March.

When the National Assembly convened in Nanjing in 1948 to implement the new constitution, Li was elected vice president of China (Chiang Kai-shek was president). Li became acting president when Chiang resigned in 1949. However, Chiang still retained most of his power and the loyalty of key army commanders, and when Li failed to negotiate a settlement with the CCP in the civil war, Chiang abruptly resigned, and Bai chose to flee to Taiwan.

After Li’s departure for New York, Chiang resumed the presidency in Taiwan. Li refused to join the Nationalists on Taiwan and was impeached in absentia. The United States became an outspoken critic of Chiang’s rule. Li remained in the United States until 1966, when he returned to mainland China and voiced support of the Communist government. He died shortly afterward.

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