Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1081
The Reds, a revolutionary group with a nucleus of Moscow agents, have made a temporary alliance with Chiang Kai-shek, their immediate object being to control Shanghai with the help of the Kuomintang. The alliance, however, is an uneasy one, for neither side trusts the other. The Reds had completed their plans to seize Shanghai, ostensibly as part of Chiang Kai-shek’s campaign, but they intend to put a Communist in control before the Blue army arrives. On their part, the Blues hope to use the Communists to seize the city and afterward disperse the revolutionaries.
Ch’en, the terrorist, stands ready to strike through the mosquito netting and kill the sleeper in the bed. Nerving himself for his first murder, he plunges his dagger into the man’s heart. Quickly from the dead man he takes a paper that will authorize the delivery of arms now aboard the Shantung, at anchor in the harbor. The Reds count on these arms to seize control of the city before government troops arrive.
Ch’en takes the document to Hemmelrich’s phonograph shop, where Kyo is waiting. There they all congratulate him—Kyo, Katov, and Hemmelrich. Kyo and Katov test their new code of paralleled phonograph records. One record gives an innocent language lesson, the other a loud hiss that covers all but the key words on the first record. Satisfied with their work, they plan a final check of their revolutionary cells. Hemmelrich refuses to go with them; his wife and child are sick.
Kyo and Katov visit their two hundred units. A general strike at noon will paralyze the city. At the same time, saboteurs will wreck the railway so that the government cannot send reinforcements from the battlefront. Other groups will take over police stations and army posts and seize all firearms. With the grenades already on hand, they will be equipped to resist even tanks.
Kyo goes to the Black Cat, a nightclub where he knows he will find de Clappique. The Frenchman is drunk, but he has to be trusted. De Clappique is commissioned to take a forged order to the Shantung, directing the ship to shift anchorage. Tired and tense, Kyo goes home. Gisors, his father, is still awake, and Kyo tells him a few details of the plan. Then May, Kyo’s wife, comes home exhausted from her hospital work. She is one of the few women doctors in all Shanghai, a woman with advanced views on marriage relationships. She and Kyo quarrel because of her affair with another doctor. During the quarrel, de Clappique visits to report that the Shantung has moved. A messenger recalls Kyo to headquarters.
Dressed as government soldiers, Kyo and Katov, with ten others, board the Shantung and get the arms, but only after seizing the captain and holding him prisoner. Now the revolutionaries can plan with confidence. Meanwhile Ferral, head of the French Chamber of Commerce, decides to throw his support to Chiang Kai-shek. After giving orders to send funds to the Blues, he returns with his mistress, Valerie. It is arranged that she will see him the following night at her hotel. He is to bring her a pet bird in a cage. At the appointed time Ferral asks for Valerie at the hotel desk. To his surprise, she is out. A young Englishman is also waiting for her with a caged bird. As revenge, Ferral buys the entire stock of a pet store—forty birds and a kangaroo—and sets it loose in Valerie’s room.
The uprising takes place as planned. Ch’en seizes one police station with ease and arms his small band. The second...
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station is better defended, and grenades fail to dislodge officers barricaded on the top floor. Ch’en sets fire to the building, killing the resisters as well as his own wounded comrades.
The feeble central government cannot fight both Chiang and the Reds at the same time. While the government forces are occupied with the Blues, the Reds easily take control of the city. Two days later, the Blues, under Chiang, approach Shanghai. The general had been shrewd enough to send his first division, composed largely of Communists, to another front; consequently, the Communists find themselves confronting an unsympathetic Blue army, which in turn takes over the city. Many of the Communists are arrested. When Moscow orders all armed Communists to surrender their weapons to Chiang’s police, dissension breaks out among the Reds. Many of the Chinese desert the Moscow party and embark on a terroristic campaign of their own.
Ch’en conceives the idea that he must kill Chiang to free China. He lays in wait with two companions to throw a bomb into the general’s car. His first attempt having failed, Ch’en goes to Hemmelrich’s shop. Hemmelrich refuses to shelter him. In a second attempt, Ch’en throws himself with his bomb under the automobile. The car is wrecked and Ch’en is killed, but Chiang is not in the car.
Chiang’s police destroy Hemmelrich’s shop, accidentally killing his wife and baby. Believing his cowardice is the cause of Ch’en’s action and the subsequent riot, Hemmelrich seizes some grenades and joins the rioters. All are killed except Hemmelrich, who escapes by murdering an officer and fleeing in his uniform.
Now in complete control, Chiang’s police chief, Konig, rounds up the Communists, and Katov is among them. When the word goes out that Kyo is to be arrested, Gisors begs de Clappique to intervene because the baron is Konig’s good friend. Instead of warning Kyo, de Clappique lingers in a gambling house until after Kyo has been arrested. Later, de Clappique goes to Konig to ask for Kyo’s release. The Frenchman is given only forty-eight hours to leave China. In prison, Katov and Kyo each have cyanide tablets. Kyo poisons himself, but Katov gives half his tablet to each of two panic-stricken prisoners and goes to his execution with his revolutionary group.
Each of the survivors seeks safety in his own way. Gisors returns to Japan to teach painting. May goes to Moscow to practice medicine. By disguising himself, de Clappique gets aboard the same French liner that is taking Ferral back to France. So the Communists and their sympathizers are destroyed by relentless Chiang and the vacillating policy of Moscow. Yet there is good news from China for the survivors; the quiet work of revolution has already started again.