Jinan Incident (May 3rd Incident)

The Jinan Incident or May 3rd Incident, or Tsinan Incident, was an armed conflict between the Japanese Army allied with Northern Chinese warlords against the Kuomintang's southern army in Jinan, the capital of Shandong in 1928 during the Kuomintang's Northern Expedition.

During the Northern Expedition, troops of the Chinese National Revolutionary Army attacked several foreign consulates in a fervor of anti-imperialism in what became known as the Nanjing Incident of March 1927. Chiang Kai-shek sought to avoid such repetition. In November 1927 he met with Tanaka Giichi, who had become Japan's premier on the fall of Wakatsuki Reijiro's government in April of that year. (Tanaka also held the portfolio of Foreign Minister.)

Tanaka had won the election in Japan, in part, on the strength of promises to take more active and aggressive measures than his predecessor toward protection of Japanese lives, property, and economic interests in China. Chiang had only a tenuous hold on power in China and relied in large measure on the promise to end foreign domination and re-unify the country to buttress his legitimacy.

Tanaka and Chiang were both anxious to keep their troops away from Jinan, where the risks of a clash were high, but were unable to. With no guarantee that Chinese National Revolutionary Army would bypass Jinan, a combination of prior political commitments and Imperial Japanese Army insistence forced Tanaka to reinforce Japanese forces in the Shandong leased territory. Between May and September 1927, some 4000 troops were deployed to Tsingdao and Jinan in what was known in Japan as the First Shandong Expedition.

Both the northern warlord coalition government in Beijing (Peking) and the Kuomintang government in Nanjing (Nanking) protested vigorously that this was a violation of China's sovereignty, and the Japanese forces were withdrawn when Chiang temporarily halted his northern advance.

When the Northern Expedition resumed on 27 April 1928, when, contrary to his standing orders from Tokyo, the Japanese commander General Fukuda Hikosuke, moved troops from Tianjin into Jinan and Qingtao along the Jiaoji Railway. This was known in Japanese as the Second Shandong Expedition.

Northern Chinese troops withdrew from the city on 30 April 1928 and Kuomintang troops, also acting contrary to Chiang Kai-shek’s orders, moved in. Matters remained tense as the Japanese took up positions at the Japanese consulate and various Japanese-controlled businesses and schools, but reasonably quiet and amicable until a minor clash occurred near the home of a Japanese family on 3 May 1928 resulting the deaths of 12 Japanese. (There is no clear evidence as to how it started.) With both sides lacking good communications and control systems, fighting quickly spread among elements in contact throughout the city.

The Japanese refused to let go negotiators sent by the Kuomintang government and demanded that Kuomintang Army retreat 20 kilometers away from Jinan city. Fighting ensued for whole day. That night, the Japanese executed the Kuomintang emissary, Cai Gongshi, and 17 others in his team.

Sporadic fighting persisted until Chiang and Fukuda arranged a truce on 5 May 1928, and some sporadic shooting continued as Chiang's forces withdrew over the following two days, leaving a small force to maintain order in the city. Chiang wanted to continue moving against the northern resistance and Japan desired a resolution.

Having received reinforcements and supplies, the Japanese commanders presented a series of demands and deadline on 7 May 1928, and on 11 May 1928 they pushed the Chinese troops from the area.

The Jinan Incident resulted in the third dispatch of Japanese troops (the Third Shandong Expedition in even greater numbers than before. Japanese forces occupied Jinan for more than six months, and were stationed in other towns and cities throughout Shandong province and even in other parts of northern China. Subsequent efforts by Chiang and Tanaka to establish more positive relationships resulted in an agreement whereby Japanese forces withdrew to their garrison in Tsingtao on 28 March 1929. The net result of the three Shandong Expeditions was the loss of many thousands of Chinese civilian and military lives, and a general intensification of anti-Japanese sentiment in northern China.

The Kuomintang government later decreed that May 3rd be designated a "National Humiliation Memorial Day," although officially Chiang Kai-shek blamed the Jinan Incident on the actions of the commander-in-chief of the Kuomintang 3rd group army, Heh Yaozu.