Part of the Chinese Civil War (1927-1950), the uprising was a failed communist rebellion against the Nationalist government with the goal of capturing the major city of Guangzhou and the area beyond. Under the direction of top communist political leaders, the Red Guards took control of the city. The Red Guards were a form of paramilitary that had been inspired by the communist philosophy, many of them being university students.
Despite being bold and enjoying early successes, the rebellion was considered to be ill-advised by the communist’s military leadership with commanders such as Ye Ting, Ye Jianying, and Xu Xiangqian being staunchly opposed. However, their concerns were overridden by their superiors and the rebellion started on December 11, 1927. Using the elements of surprise and stealth, local government police and military forces were quickly overwhelmed by the outnumbered and outgunned revolutionaries. Control of the city was cemented within hours and the local government was renamed “Guangzhou Soviet”.
However, with the powerful government forces evicted from the city, there were no forces powerful enough to resist the armies of the rogue commanders who controlled large swathes of Chinese territory. Zhang Tailei, one of the senior organizers of the uprising was killed in an ambush and the communists suffered grievous losses in both men and material. By Dec 13th the city had been pacified.
A witch hunt then ensued in which the communists were purged from the population with as many as 10,000 young communists being killed or unaccounted for. Ye Ting, the commander who advised against the operation, was made into a scapegoat to save face for the party leaders. Enraged over his poor treatment, Ting went into exile in Europe and didn’t return to China for 10 years. This was the third failed uprising of the year and only encouraged further social unrest.