Japanese imperialism relentlessly besieged the Nationalist government of China during the Nanking decade. Chiang Kai-shek, believing that China was not ready to confront Japanese military power and obsessed with the desire to eliminate the Communists, adopted a policy of consistent appeasement toward the.Japanese. This enraged public opinion in urban China, and Zou Tao-fen, a popular journalist, led the cry for resistance to Japan. He and his associates were continually suppressed by the Nanking government; nevertheless, they published several journals in succession, each of which denounced Chiang's policy toward Japan and all of which achieved enormous circulation. Late in 1935 Zou and his followers helped organize the National Salvation Movement, which demanded that Chiang suspend the civil war against the Communists and fight the Japanese. When Chiang Kai-shek, acting under Japanese pressure, arrested Zou and the leaders of the association in 1936, they became national heroes, the legendary “Seven Gentlemen.” Zou's martyrdom and that of his associates transformed their movement into a powerful political force, one that opposed Chiang and increasingly favored the Chinese Communists.

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