Wang Zhaoming, better known by his pen name as Wang Jingwei (1883 – 1944), was a Chinese politician who had been an associate of the revolutionary nationalist leader Sun Yat-sen. After Sun Yat-sen’s demise, Jingwei became a prominent leader in the left wing of the Chinese ruling party, the Kuomintang (KMT), from which flank he contested the leadership of the KMT with its leader, Chiang Kai-shek. A failed collaboration with the communists weakened Jingwei politically and embittered him so much that he abandoned the left altogether and became a rabid right-winger, turned traitor, and collaborated with the invading Japanese against his own people.
Jiangwei had been among the bright Chinese students sent by the dying Qing dynasty to study abroad, and he attended university in Japan. There, he joined radical nationalist Chinese student circles, self-identified as an anarchist, and became a disciple of Sun Yat-sen. Returning to China, he became a prominent speaker on behalf of Chinese nationalism and was jailed for plotting to assassinate the Qing regent. Freed in the Chinese Revolution of 1911 which did away with the Qing dynasty, he emerged from jail a national hero.
The 1911 Revolution and overthrow of the imperial system led to a chaotic period of warlord rule. A nationalist party, the Kuomintang, was formed to restore order, and in 1925 sent what was known as the Great Northern Expedition to bring the warlords to heel and restore the central government’s authority. Jiangwei became chairman of the national government, but Chiang Kai-shek, the successful general who led the campaign against the warlords, formed a rival government in southern China.
Jiangwei formed a government in northern China in collaboration with the communists, but fell out with and purged them, at which point his government collapsed and his supporters flocked to Chiang Kai-shek.
Bitter, Jiangwei became an extreme right-winger. When the Japanese invaded China in 1937, he flew to meet their representatives in Hanoi and issued a declaration calling for peaceful negotiation with the invaders. In 1939, he flew to Japan for negotiations, and while there, betrayed China and negotiated a deal on his own behalf. In 1940, he defected and was appointed by the Japanese to head a puppet regime, based in Japanese-occupied Nanking, that nominally “governed” the Japanese-conquered territories in China. He remained Japan’s Chinese puppet ruler until his death in 1944.