At 3:30 AM on 11 December 1927, communist political leaders ordered communist militia and worker red guards to launch an uprising in Guangzhou (then known as Canton in English), despite the strong objections of communist military commanders such as Ye Ting, Ye Jianying and Xu Xiangqian. Using the element of surprise, the uprising took over most of the city by 6:00 AM, despite a huge numerical and technical disadvantage, and the communist leadership announced the formation of a Guangzhou Soviet. The Soviet became "official" when it was ratified at a mass meeting the following day. However, by then the uprising was already being driven back by warlord forces. Zhang Tailei, the organizer behind the uprising, was killed in an ambush as he returned from a meeting. By 4:00 AM on 13 December, Guangzhou was recaptured by warlord armies and their allies.
In the resulting purges, many young communists lost their lives, and the Guangzhou Soviet became known as the "Guangzhou Commune" or "Paris Commune of the East"; it lasted only a short while at the cost of more than 5,000 Communists' lives, and an equal number missing. As a scapegoat, Ye Ting, the military commander was purged and blamed for the failure, despite the fact that the obvious disadvantage of the Communist force was the main cause, and Ye Ting and other military commanders had correctly pointed out the problem. Enraged by his unjustified treatment, Ye Ting left China and went into exile in Europe, and did not return until nearly a decade later.
Despite being the third failed uprising of 1927, it encouraged further uprisings across China.