Zhang Yang

Zhang Yang

I am fortunate to be a part of the Asian Studies Department: my Asian heritage was respected, and my intellectual passion for understanding my own heritage was encouraged. I took a wide range of Asian politics, history, literature, anthropology classes and enjoyed reading early alumnae’s correspondence from Asia to America in the archives.

I am interested in the culture and political history of East Asia and particularly fascinated by the power struggle within the Guomindang during the first half of China’s tumultuous twentieth century. Factionalism is endemic and enduring in Chinese politics from past to present. The Nanjing Guomindang Government was also marked by the rivalries and jealousies of cliques and factions. Hidden behind a facade of political unity, some party veterans took the opportunity to challenge Chiang Kai-shek’s authority. These competitions were characterized not only by polarized ideological differences and conflicts over principle or policy, but also by fighting for dominant power. The challenge reached its climax when Chiang Kai-shek was kidnapped during the Xi’an Incident in December 1936.

Though Chiang’s kidnapping is a much-studied topic, I obtained a new primary resource—Shenbao, which was arguably the most popular, widely-read, and successful newspaper during that time in China—for my independent study on the Xi’an Incident. After reading and synthesizing the reports from Shenbao, I reached the conclusion that although some party veterans intended to replace Chiang as the highest leader within the Guomindang, their coup d’etat actually helped shape Chiang’s image as a popular leader: in fact, the only national leader who could guide China through the struggle against external threat and internal unrest.

My passion on this topic continued after I finished my independent research last fall. Besides studying the media reports and the public response, I am interested in learning more about Chiang’s own reflections on this frustrating yet fruitful experience. The Barbara Yen Sun Prize allows me to visit the Hoover Institution and read Chiang’s diaries to deepen my understanding of this topic.

The Asian Studies department offered me the means and opportunity to grow intellectually. My will and desire were disciplined and refined during my three years here: meeting intellectual expectations, shaping my passion to fit the avenues that opened. I hope to develop this research on the Xi’an Incident into a Masters essay during my graduate studies in Dartmouth. The Barbara Yen Sun Prize will continue to motivate me to reach for life development after graduation.