#TBT: The Life and Sticky End of Notorious Gangster Zhang Xiaolin

By Zaruf Ezhan, June 8, 2017

0 0

Throwback Thursday is when we trawl through the That's archives for a work of dazzling genius written at some point in our past. We then republish it. On a Thursday.

As an arch-Japanese collaborator, murderer and junkie, it is little surprise that Green Street Gang top-dog Zhang Xiaolin’s life ended violently.

While his long-term ally and partner ‘Big Ears’ Du Yueshang died peacefully in his bed in Hong Kong in 1951, Zhang bled to death on the floor of his Ninghai Road mansion, shot by one of his bodyguards and confidants in 1940, at the height of the Japanese occupation of Shanghai.

He probably saw it coming. Zhang had survived two assassination attempts already that year, and at the time of his murder he had been appointed governor of Zhejiang – his home province – in the Japanese puppet government.

Du Yueshang

In the past, things had been very different. It had been Zhang, a Hangzhou native, who had helped Du gain control of the city’s opium trade in the 1920s, using his links with Zhejiang warlords to control the shipping routes on the Yangzi and Huangpu rivers.

But the strained relationship between Du and Zhang was no secret. Zhang resented Du’s increasing power and legitimacy in the French Concession, while Du felt that Zhang’s unpredictability, drug use and erratic fits of violence—he is rumored to have fed an unfaithful mistress to his pet tiger—threatened his rise in the social network of 1930s Shanghai.

Their split became official with the Japanese invasion of 1937. Du—who had funded resistance to the Japanese and continued to do so throughout the occupation—had left Shanghai soon after the invasion, but Zhang stayed and opted to help the invaders.

One of the reasons for his treachery was personal. Zhang had nursed a grudge against Chaing Kai-shek since 1933 when Chiang refused his son a job in a Shanghai bank.

Gangsters of 20th century China.

During the occupation, the assassination squads of the nationalists—still based in Chongqing—had killed a number of prominent collaborators, but Zhang’s links to Big Ears Du, however tenuous they were by 1940, had prevented him from being targeted.

At the end of 1939 they learned that the Japanese intended to appoint Zhang puppet governor of Zhejiang, and the decision was made to kill him.

The first attempt, in mid-January 1940, failed when one of Zhang’s bodyguards was killed instead, and later that year he survived another assassination attempt while sitting in his car on Jinling Road.

In the end, the nationalists bribed Zhang’s personal bodyguard, Lin Huaibu, to murder him. When Lin crept up behind him and pulled the trigger on August 15 1940, Zhang had been talking to Wu Jingguan, another member of the Zhejiang government. In the end, Zhang had paid the highest price for his betrayal. 

This article first appeared in the July 2009 issue of That's Shanghai. To see more Throwback Thursday posts, click here.

more news

This Day in History: The Foreign Founder Member of the CPC

The Dutch socialist who attended the First National Congress of the CPC.

This Day in History: China's Otherworldly 'Alien Sky Spiral' of 1981

A giant spiral in the sky, a spiral allegedly seen by 10 million people in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.

This Day in History: Henry Kissinger Secretly Visits China

Half a century ago, then-US National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger flew to Beijing to meet with Chinese officials.

This Day in History: Hong Kong Handover From UK to China

On July 1, 1997, China resumed its control of Hong Kong after 156 years of British rule.

This Day in History: China Develops the Hydrogen Bomb

June 1967 sees China become the world's fourth thermonuclear power.

This Day in History: Zhu Jianhua Sets High Jump Record

On June 11, 1983 Shanghai-born high jumper Zhu Jianhua cleared 2.37m at a meet in Beijing, setting a new world record.

This Day in History: Did This Chinese Man Have Sex With an Alien?

There's strange, and then there's this story...

This Day in History: Mukden Tiger Warlord Assassinated by Japan

On June 4, 1928, a train carrying warlord Zhang Zuolin from Beijing to Shenyang was ripped apart by a huge explosion.

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

Scan our QR Code at right or follow us at thatsonline for events, guides, giveaways and much more!

7 Days in China With thatsmags.com

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday


Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's Magazines!

Visit the archives