The Nationalist unification of China was nominally completed on December 29, 1928. On that day Manchuria, under the leadership of Chang Hsüeh-liang, accepted and hoisted the Revolutionary flag. Historians have tended to emphasize the role of nationalism in the union of the Three Eastern Provinces with the Kuomintang domain after the death of Chang Tso-lin on June 4, 1928. According to the general view, Chang Hsüeh-liang, having grown up in the period of the May Fourth Movement, shared many of the national aspirations of the younger generation, and desired to stop civil warfare in China and assist the Kuomintang in the policy of unification. Moreover, he is represented as being violently hostile to Japan, suspicious of the Japanese in the killing of his father, and determined to put forth every effort to bring Manchuria and Nationalist China together, so that the unified nation could resist the ambitions of its imperialistic neighbor. Japan, under the “positive policy” of the Tanaka ministry, is pictured as attempting to keep the Three Eastern Provinces separate from the Nationalist South; to delay, if not halt, an eventual union.

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