BECK index

China at War 1937-1949

by Sanderson Beck

Japanese Invasion of China 1937-38
Fighting the Japanese Occupation 1939-41
China's War with Allies 1942-45
Jiang, CCP, US, and USSR 1945-46
Nationalist-Communist Civil War 1946-49
Mao Zedong's Political Philosophy

This chapter has been published in the book EAST ASIA 1800-1949.
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Japanese Invasion of China 1937-38

Nationalist-Communist Civil War 1927-1937

On the night of July 7, 1937 while some Japanese troops were engaged in maneuvers at the Marco Polo Bridge about ten miles west of Beiping (Beijing), some Chinese fired shells where they were assembled. A Japanese officer thought a missing soldier had been captured, and he ordered Wanping searched. When permission was not granted, he ordered the city bombarded and occupied on July 8. The next day Chinese troops near that railway junction attacked the Japanese without success. After several days of arguments and negotiations by the local commanders and the governments, the Japanese War Ministry mobilized five divisions in Japan, and Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) sent four divisions to Baoding in southern Hebei. Japanese troops from Manzhouguo (Manchuria) invaded northern China. The Chinese general Song Zheyuan signed an agreement to withdraw his troops from Wanping on July 19. Six days later fighting broke out around the Marco Polo Bridge, and Japanese troops seized the bridge. On July 27 Prince Konoe Fumimaro proclaimed his determination to solve the conflict. To save its historic relics and art, the Chinese evacuated Beiping on July 28, and two days later Japanese forces also occupied Tianjin. That day Jiang declared that he would lead the masses in a national struggle to the end, and one week later he and his top advisers decided to wage all-out war.

On August 11 Jiang Jieshi sent 80,000 men from his German-trained divisions into Shanghai, and two days later fighting began on both sides. On August 14 China’s air force bombed Japanese warships anchored at Shanghai. The planes’ bombs missed their targets and killed hundreds of civilians in Shanghai. Japan had 12,000 troops there, and they were reinforced from the Yangzi River. Japan sent fifteen more divisions to north and central China. Jiang had ordered factory equipment removed from Shanghai on August 10, and 15,000 tons from 146 factories were moved during the fighting by 2,500 workers. The Chinese forces tried to overcome the Japanese in Shanghai in late August, but they were on the defensive in September and October, losing 250,000 soldiers compared to 40,000 Japanese casualties. In November the French priest Jacquinot de Bessage provided a neutral area in Shanghai for some 450,000 Chinese refugees whose homes had been destroyed by the Japanese.

In the northwest Yan Xishan’s Shanxi army defended Niangziguan, but the Shanxi capital Taiyuan fell on November 9. Communists led by Lin Biao won a strategic victory at Pingxingguan in late September, killing about 500 Japanese; they gained a hundred trucks but only a hundred rifles and no prisoners because the remaining Japanese destroyed their equipment and committed suicide.

The Japanese broke through the Chinese lines with an amphibious landing at Hangzhou Bay south of Shanghai, and on November 11 the Chinese began to retreat toward Nanjing. Tokyo sent German diplomats to mediate a settlement. Jiang believed world opinion was on his side; but the League of Nations took no action, and his signing a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union had no effect. Meanwhile in the north Japanese forces had taken over Baoding in September, Shijiazhuang in October, and Taiyuan in November. Japan also occupied the Shandong peninsula, taking Qingdao in August and Jinan in December. Governor Han Fuju abandoned Shandong, and Jiang had him executed.

Jiang Jieshi ordered the former warlord Tang Shengzhi to hold Nanjing no matter what. Japanese planes dropped leaflets on the city promising to treat civilians well while Chinese soldiers were killing and robbing people to get civilian clothing and escape. After Jiang refused to agree to a cease-fire, the Japanese began bombing on December 10. About half the population of 600,000 or more had left Nanjing before the Japanese army arrived. The Presbyterian missionary W. Plumer Mills had learned of Bessage’s neutral zone, and the Americans and Europeans organized a safety zone that included Nanjing University, Ginling Women’s Arts and Science College, the American embassy, and Chinese government buildings. The German businessman John Rabe, leader of the Nazi party in Nanjing, established the International Committee for the Nanjing Safety Zone on November 22, and three days later he cabled Adolf Hitler to ask him to intercede with the Japanese government to respect the neutral zone for the noncombatants. After the telegrams the Japanese confined their bombing to military targets. More than one hundred thousand people crowded into the Safety Zone.

Having no plan for withdrawal, Tang suddenly abandoned the city on December 12. Japanese troops entered Nanjing the next day, and for the next seven weeks they killed at least 30,000 Chinese soldiers and slaughtered most of the civilians not in the safety zone while burning much of the city. Somewhere between 20,000 and 80,000 women were raped or taken away as slaves for military brothels. After the war the International Military Tribunal of the Far East that tried the war criminals estimated that more than 200,000 Chinese civilians and prisoners of war were massacred by Japanese soldiers in and around Nanjing. The Japanese government tried to keep these atrocities secret from the public at home. Some of the men in the Safety Zone were ex-soldiers, and the Japanese dragged them from the zone and executed them. The Japanese made a second treaty proposal on December 22 with harsher demands that Jiang also rejected. Jiang and Yan Xishan approved the Communist base in the Jin-Cha-Ji border region on January 22, 1938, but that was the first and last Communist base behind enemy lines that the Nationalists recognized.

The Chinese forces fled southwest and up the Yangzi River to Wuhan while the Japanese advanced and attacked the railway junction at Xuzhou. In April 1938 General Li Zongren led a tough defense that killed 30,000 Japanese troops before retreating and giving up the city of Xuzhou on May 19. The Japanese marched toward Kaifeng while Jiang ordered his engineers to destroy the dikes of the Yellow River in June, causing a huge flood that delayed the Japanese for three months and destroyed more than 4,000 villages, making more than two million people homeless. The Yellow River had been flowing into the Yellow Sea north of the Shandong peninsula since the 1850s, but this changed its course back to the south through Jiangsu.

From Kaifeng the Japanese followed the railway south and began attacking the tri-city area of Wuhan in the late summer of 1938. Jiang had his headquarters there but moved the capital to Chongqing in Sichuan. After Japan made an alliance with Nazi Germany, Stalin sent Russian pilots to help China from the Lanzhou base in Gansu. The Chinese lost more than a hundred planes and suffered 200,000 casualties defending Wuhan, which was devastated. The Japanese entered the city on October 25, four days after their navy and marines had taken Guangzhou (Canton). Jiang retreated with a scorched-earth policy, and Changsha was burned in November. Nearly five hundred private factories were moved to western China. The Government gave private industrialists incentives that included guaranteed profits for at least five years, low-interest loans, and free factory sites. The Japanese bombed universities in the major cities or looted them and converted them for their own uses as barracks, brothels, hospitals, and stables. Only six colleges and vocational schools remained in Japanese territory; 52 fled to the interior, and 25 moved to foreign concessions or Hong Kong. The refugees from the east were given most of the government and skilled jobs as the natives in the west suffered discrimination.

Japan had gained China’s wealthy eastern cities and its most fertile farmland, and they exploited the puppet states of Manzhouguo (Manchuria) and the Inner Mongolian Federation (Chahar and Suiyuan) for their military and industrial resources. Japanese forces set up local governments south of the Great Wall under the Provisional Government of the Republic of China (Hebei, Chahar, Suiyuan, Henan, and Shandong). Zhang Xueliang’s financial adviser Wang Kemin was made chairman of the executive committee in Beijing on December 14, and the North China Development Company took over various industries that had been managed by Japanese corporations and iron and coal mines, steel factories, and harbors. The Japanese formed the North China Transportation, Telephone, and Telegraph Companies, and a new Federal Reserve Bank tried to undermine the Chinese paper money. Japanese troops searched the foreign concession areas for terrorists and reduced foreign trade from US $31 million per month to US $18 million while retaining the revenues of the foreign customs in Japanese banks.

After Nanjing fell, Japan organized a fourth puppet government in central China over Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Anhui, making the pro-Japanese Liang Hongzhi president of the executive bureau in Nanjing on March 28, 1938. The Central China company had less than a third of the capital of its northern counterpart and tried to repair the damaged railways. After collaborators were assassinated in Shanghai’s International Settlement, Japanese troops occupied the area. The puppet governments were mostly supported by businesses and landowners, and the urban unemployed out of poverty joined their puppet armies. Many Japanese civilians came to China to make money, 220,000 from the Kobe port in 1939.

Yan Xishan still ruled most of Shanxi. Outer Mongolia, Xinjiang, Qinghai, and Tibet were also independent. Jiang’s Guomindang governed a large area in the south (except around Guangzhou), and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) controlled a northern area around Shaanxi. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese fled into these two areas to join the united front against the Japanese. Workers transported machinery and spare parts to factories. Students from Beijing and Tianjin brought their books to the Consolidated University at Kunming in Yunnan. Many stayed in Shanghai but continued to publish and teach. Zhou Zuoren, brother of Zhou Shuren (Lu Xun), had been saved by the Japanese in 1927, and he became a dean at Beijing University and then the director of the Bureau of Education of the Provisional Government.

In April 1938 a Guomindang provisional national congress met at Wuhan and confirmed Jiang Jieshi as director-general; he was the supreme leader over the party, the government, and the military. On April 16 in an Easter radio broadcast he explained that he believed in Jesus because he was the leader of a national revolution, a social revolution, and a religious revolution. During the war the government was run by Jiang as chairman of the Military Affairs Committee. A Three People’s Principles Youth Corps was created to train young men for war and reconstruction. A People’s Political Council was formed, but it was only advisory. The Outline of Resistance and Reconstruction set the goals to establish local governments, ally with countries opposed to the imperialists, train people for the military with political indoctrination, adopt a planned economy for national defense, move factories and colleges to “free China,” and encourage scientific education. This plan was approved by the National Social Party and the Youth Party. The Communist Party accepted it but had their own program. The People’s Political Council met in July and included 80 Guomindang members, 70 independents, and 50 Communists and others. After 1939 it did not have much influence.

After pursuing the Communists on the long march, the Guomindang had tried to break the power of warlords in Sichuan and reformed the provincial government by simplifying taxes, building roads, and suppressing opium cultivation. A drought there in 1936 caused a famine that killed thousands in early 1937. Sichuan cities had food riots, and banditry increased. On December 8 Jiang flew from Wuhan to Guilin and made Chongqing his new capital in Sichuan. He confirmed Long Yun in Kunming as the governor of Yunnan. The Japanese took control of the shipping on the Yangzi River and pressured the French to stop the arms shipments north on the railway from Hanoi. Cut off from the outside world, Jiang ordered the Burma Road built from Kunming to Mandalay using conscript labor. The road opened on December 2, 1938. Jiang began the war with an army of 1,700,000 men who were poorly trained and supplied. About 300,000 had been trained by Germans, but only 80,000 of them were fully equipped with German weapons.

In September 1937 the Communists in Yan’an agreed to follow Sun Yat-sen’s three principles of nationalism, democracy, and socialism; give up the rebellion, forming soviets, and confiscating land; renounce the Shaanxi Soviet’s autonomy; and put their renamed Eighth Route Army nominally under Nationalist command. Actually the commanders Zhu De and Peng Dehuai were under Yan Xishan of Shanxi. They were following the current Comintern policy of forming alliances to fight fascism. The party line was that they could not fight a civil war and the Japanese at the same time; national independence would have to come first. However, Mao insisted that the Communist party leadership must remain independent. No more than one-third of government officials were to be CCP members, but Mao suggested a second third could be “left progressives.” On November 29, 1937 a plane brought Wang Ming to Yan’an as Stalin’s representative to get the Communists to cooperate with Jiang in the united front. Mao published “A Key to Solving the Present Situation” in December. Communists still in central China formed the New Fourth Army with 10,000 troops in December under the command of Ye Ting and Xiang Ying. Local areas had their own regular armed forces and militias of men and women who also had jobs. They also gained support from traditional secret societies such as the Elder Brothers’ Society and the Red Spears.

The popularity of the united national front enabled the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to increase its membership from 40,000 in 1937 to 200,000 in 1938 and to 800,000 by 1940. The Red Army had a similar expansion, increasing from about 45,000 in 1937 to more than 180,000 in 1938 and 500,000 by 1940. Instead of expropriating land, the CCP reduced rent and graded taxes to discourage rich landlords and help poor peasants. They fulfilled Sun Yat-sen’s pledge to lower rents by 25% from 50% of the harvest to 37.5% while the Guomindang ignored this policy. They organized the Resist Japan University in Yan’an, and its graduates started cadre schools in the base areas. The Marxist-Leninist Wang Ming was put in charge of the United Front Work Department in Wuhan in 1938, but his Wuhan Defense Committee and CCP newspaper were shut down in August. The CCP published Liberation in Yan’an, and in the summer of 1941 it became the Daily Liberation. Their New China Daily appeared in Nationalist areas, but it was censored. In May 1938 Mao wrote “Problems of Strategy in Guerrilla War Against Japan” and “On Protracted War.” After the plenum in late 1938 Liu Shaoqi became the highest CCP authority in central China, and the New Fourth Army began expanding north of the Yangzi River. Liu developed flexible policies for winning over the people while harassing the Japanese.

Fighting the Japanese Occupation 1939-41

In August 1937 the Soviet Union had offered China a loan of US $50 million for 1937, US $50 million for 1938, and US $150 million for 1939 at only 3% interest. They would also send pilots and planes if China would agree not to attack the USSR in a non-aggression pact. Russia sent 1,000 planes, 2,000 pilots, and 500 military advisors by the end of the 1939. Very little of the Soviet aid went to the Communists through Xinjiang and Gansu. The aid to Chongqing ended in April 1941 when the USSR signed a neutrality pact with Japan. The United States sent US $50 million for currency stabilization and US $120 million for non-military uses. Britain provided US $78.5 million and France US $15 million. The United States also continued its silver purchases, and these gave China US $252 million in cash. The Americans did not stop selling Japan oil, scrap iron, automobile parts, metals, cotton, and wood pulp until their commercial treaty ended in July 1939. The Guomindang sent military officers to Germany for instruction up to 1941.

Jiang Jieshi’s German and Italian military advisors had left China in 1938, and Japanese bombers had destroyed China’s airplane factories. In 1939 the Japanese advanced south and took over the Guangxi capital Nanning and the Jiangxi capital Nanchang, and they occupied the island of Hainan. Chongqing had little defense against Japanese air attacks, and regular Japanese bombing began in May 1939, killing 4,400 in the first two days. In the next three years the Japanese bombed Chongqing 268 times. The Chinese dug underground shelters, and partisans behind Japanese lines provided early warnings by radio. A US flyer named Claire Lee Chennault urged Jiang to purchase modern planes from the United States. In 1940 Jiang sent Chennault to Washington with T. V. Soong. They and China’s ambassador Hu Shi persuaded President Franklin Roosevelt to ship China one hundred P-40 fighters. American volunteers flew for the famous Flying Tigers and were given $500 for each plane they shot down.

Wang Jingwei had failed to convince the governor of Yunnan to secede from the Nationalists, and on December 18, 1938 he flew from Chongqing to Hanoi to try to develop a peace plan. Four days later Japan’s Prince Konoe announced a new Chinese regime that would cooperate with Japan and fight the Communists. When Wang urged Jiang to accept, Jiang had him expelled from the Guomindang. Wang signed eight agreements with Japan, and he urged the Chinese to be friendly with Japan as Sun Yat-sen had been. In March 1940 Wang Jingwei accepted a position in Japan’s government over central China in Nanjing. When Wang died in 1944, he was replaced by Chen Gongbo.

Dai Li increased his Guomindang secret agents to about 50,000 by the end of the war, and he was supported by 600,000 Blue Shirts. His secret service competed with the old secret society of Elder Brothers (Gelaohui) for the drug traffic. Dai Li maintained a radio link to Zhou Fuhai, who was the head of the puppet government in Nanjing. When the war ended, Chen Gongbo and Zhou Fuhai were arrested and executed as traitors. Those who did not like Jiang’s policies formed the Federation of Democratic Parties in March 1941 as a coalition of the China Youth Party, the National Socialist Party, the Third Party, and the National Salvation Association. In 1942 the Nationalist government reorganized the People’s Political Council, and these critics were excluded. The Guomindang gained a majority, and the Communists stopped attending.

Japanese forces seized the Yangzi River port at Yichang in June 1940 to block rice shipments to central China and build an air base. That month France stopped the rail service from Hanoi to Yunnan, and three months later the Japanese occupied Tonkin. China was cut off from the outside world in July as British prime minister Winston Churchill yielded to Japanese pressure to close the Burma Road to all military supplies for three months; but at the end of that period he ordered it opened again. In northern China the Japanese claimed that 70,000 Nationalist troops defected in a year and a half.

In March 1939 the Communists formed the border region government called Shaan-Gan-Ning for Shaanxi, Gansu, and Ningxia, and later they established the Jin-Cha-Ji government for Shanxi, Chahar, and Hebei. Shaan-Gan-Ning remained the only base that was not in territory controlled by the Japanese. The other bases did not receive Nationalist subsidies and had to be self-sufficient. The Guomindang Central Committee restricted the CCP in early 1939. Military clashes began in the summer, and Jiang sent troops to blockade the Communists in the northwest from Xinjiang and Soviet Central Asia. By then the CCP had established about fifteen bases in the enemy territory of the Japanese.

Liu Shaoqi gave a series of lectures on “How To Be a Good Communist” in July at the Institute of Marxism-Leninism in Yan’an. Like Mao, he taught that they must cultivate themselves and steel themselves in their practice. They should become unselfish and intelligent Communists and practice mutual love. They should search for the truth from concrete facts and work for the good of the whole, putting the party’s interests above personal problems. A good Communist will be the first to suffer hardship and the last to enjoy oneself, will face difficulties with the greatest sense of responsibility, with moral courage will resist corruption by money or honors, will resist vacillation despite poverty, and will refuse to yield to threats of force. A comrade does not fear criticism from others and courageously criticizes others with sincerity.

The New Fourth Army consolidated its position in the Lower Yangzi region. In November and December more than 30,000 troops went over from Yan Xishan’s armies to the Communists. Mao Zedong enunciated the policy of resisting when it was justified or expedient but restraint from going too far. He gave a series of courses at the Yan’an Military Academy on guerrilla strategies that included daily attrition, harassment, sudden dispersal, and concentration of forces. Mao started The Communist newspaper in October 1939. His book On New Democracy was published in January 1940 and described four classes that included peasants, intellectuals, and even a few “national capitalists” as well as workers.

The Communists organized elections by village, canton, district, and region, and everyone over eighteen could vote. One-third were to be Communists, one-third leftists, and one-third liberal democrats. In the 1941 elections in the Yan’an zone the 10,926 representatives included 2,801 Communists. Anyone could participate in economic and military decisions. Villages had self-defense militias. The Communists allowed decentralization in liberated areas. Political cadres were expected to spend some of their time in farming or crafts. Mao himself grew tomatoes and tobacco. Most belonged to large organizations such as the Workers Organization, the Youth Association for National Salvation, and the Association of Women. The women defended each other from arranged marriages and dominating mothers-in-law. Only 8% of the elected leaders were women. Foreign visitors to Yan’an were impressed by the frugality and brotherhood. The liberated zones were blockaded by the Japanese and the Guomindang troops and had to learn to produce what they needed. The area cultivated in the Shaan-Gan-Ning zone increased from 9 million mou in 1936 to 12.5 million mou in 1942. Cotton production went from 7,370 bales in 1938 to 104,302 in 1943. Schools were established, but in 1940 only 1,341 schools had 43,265 students for the two million people in the Shaan-Gan-Ning base area.

Guomindang and CCP representatives began negotiating in June 1940 over operating zones. The Communists launched a series of offensives against the Japanese in 1940 from August to December. On August 20 about 40,000 men of the Eighth Route Army attacked the major railways and roads in northern China. The Jingxing coal mines were also severely damaged and stopped production for almost a year. In October the Communists defeated a larger force led by Han Deqin in north Jiangsu. In this campaign they killed or wounded 20,000 Japanese troops and 18,000 collaborating Chinese soldiers. Japanese counter-attacks had orders to “kill all, burn all, destroy all,” and they wiped out entire villages. Thousands of Chinese prisoners were taken to Manzhouguo to work. The CCP’s Eighth Army lost 100,000 men from casualties and desertion. The population under CCP control fell from 44 million to 25 million.

Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) did not want the CCP’s New Fourth Army in Jiangsu, and he ordered them to move north of the Yangzi River by the end of December. Mao ordered Xiang Ying to evacuate on December 25, but he and Ye Ting did not start moving until January 4, 1941. Three days later they were ambushed in the mountains by 40,000 Nationalist forces. In six days of fighting 4,000 Communist troops were killed along with 5,000 civilians. Some of those arrested were also shot while others were taken to prison camps. Xiang escaped but was killed later by bodyguards over gold reserves they had taken. On January 17 Jiang ordered the New Fourth Army disbanded, and its commander was arrested. The CCP appointed a new commander and reorganized the New Fourth Army in six areas north of the Yangzi; a few months later they also sent guerrilla fighters south of the river where they had been before. Jiang reacted by imposing an economic blockade on the Shaanxi government, stopping salt shipments, and ending subsidies for the New Fourth Army. CCP members refused to attend the People’s Political Council.

Chinese troops blockaded the Communists in the northwest, and 50,000 Japanese troops attacked them south of Shanxi in May 1941. The Chinese were routed and retreated across the Yellow River. In July the central Nationalist government took over the collection of land taxes from the provinces and assessed them in rice, wheat, barley, or cotton; but tax revenues were only 11% of war-time expenditures. As inflation increased the salaries of officials and soldiers lost most of their value, increasing peculation. The Communists also suffered from the disrupted economy and high inflation which began accelerating in 1940. The CCP had to impose taxes but still exempted the poorest fifth of the peasants. Grain taxes in 1941 were twenty times what they had been in 1938.

In July 1941 Liu Shaoqi gave a series of lectures “On Inner-Party Struggle.” He said that comrades should consider inner-party struggle a great responsibility and remember the adage that one must correct oneself before one can correct others. A sincere and educational attitude helps one achieve unity in ideology. Criticisms should not be excessive or abusive name-calling. They must first make clear the facts, the points at issue, and the cause of the errors, then they can discover who causes the errors and who is responsible. If they do not agree, anyone may appeal the case to a higher authority. After discussion an issue may be decided by a majority. The minority can maintain their opinion but must accept the decision. Criticisms should be presented to the appropriate party organization and not be talked about casually among the masses. The interests of some should be subordinated to those of the whole, and immediate interests should be subordinated to long-term goals. Everyone must submit to reason.

China's War with Allies 1942-45

After the Japanese tried to cripple the American navy with its surprise attacks on December 7, 1941, the United States declared war on Japan and made China one of the big four allies along with Britain and the Soviet Union. The US had granted China only $26 million in lend-lease supplies in 1941, and the closed Burma Road made delivering lend-lease in 1942 difficult. T. V. Soong gained a loan of $500 million. The US lend-lease credits to China were $49 million in 1943 and $53 million in 1944, but they jumped to $1,107 million in 1945. Excessive borrowing and paper money let Chinese inflation go out of control. In 1937 the US dollar was equal to three Chinese dollars, but this ratio increased to 6.5 in 1938, 16 in 1939, 98 in 1943, 680 in 1944, and 3,250 in 1945. Yet during the war China maintained an exchange rate of twenty to one. This created an enormous subsidy in the last year of lend-lease. The great families accumulated rich reserves of American dollars in the United States, and H. H. Kung became the richest man in China.

President Roosevelt appointed General Joseph Stilwell as liaison to Jiang Jieshi and American commander in the China-Burma-India theater. The Flying Tigers were incorporated into the Fourteenth Air Force, and Chennault was made a general. The United States had 1,255 troops in China by the end of 1942. This increased gradually to 32,956 in January 1945 and to 60,369 by August. Nationalist troops defeated a massive Japanese attack in Hunan. Japan had forty percent of their forces in China. The Nationalist army increased to more than 3,500,000 men, but they did less and less fighting as indicated by their figures for the dead which decreased from 340,000 in 1940 to 145,000 in 1941 to 88,000 in 1942, and 43,000 in 1943. Provincial armies complained that Jiang kept the best lend-lease equipment and supplies for his own forces. Poor harvests and a drought led to a terrible famine in 1942 in Henan; more than two million people died while three million left the province. About 50,000 peasants rebelled in 1943 and took over southern Gansu.

Japanese forces severed the Burma Road at Lashio in April 1942, and Jiang lost many of his reserve troops in the Burma campaign. Chongqing became as isolated as Yan’an except for air travel over the Himalayas from India. Stilwell developed training programs for the Chinese army. From 1941 to 1943 the Japanese built thousands of blockhouses, trenches, stonewalls, and surveillance posts to protect their occupied towns. Japanese soldiers were sent out to “clean up” the liberated areas by killing people and burning houses. In May 1942 more than 50,000 people in central Hebei were killed or arrested. The Communists responded with guerrilla attacks, but their forces declined to about 300,000 men. In 1942 fifteen Nationalist generals defected to the Japanese with about a half million men. Jiang let deserters go so that the Japanese would have to feed them. The number of generals defecting jumped to 42 in 1943, and hundreds of thousands of troops went over and protected the Japanese from Communist guerrillas. In 1943 the Japanese attacked the “rice-bowl” in western Hubei; the Chinese lost more than 70,000 men while Japanese casualties were less than 4,000.

In 1942 Xinjiang’s Governor Sheng Shicai broke with Moscow and expelled the Soviet military advisors and civilians while massacring Chinese Communists, including Mao Zemin, brother of the famous Mao Zedong. Sheng sought support from the Guomindang, and in 1943 their troops replaced the departing Soviets. In August 1944 Sheng reinstated martial law and had Guomindang officials arrested. The Guomindang had Sheng flown to Chongqing. Wu Zhongxin was made chairman of the Xinjiang government, but the Kazakhs in the north led a revolt, and the Eastern Turkestan Republic was proclaimed in November 1944 under Ahmadjan Qasimi with Ali Khan Türe as the nominal president in Uzbek. They captured Guomindang garrisons in the Ili Valley in January 1945.

In 1942 the Nationalist government monopolized the distribution of salt, sugar, tobacco, and matches. Newspapers were censored, and prominent professors were suspended or arrested for criticizing the bureaucratic capitalism of the Guomindang tutelage. Minister of Education Chen Lifu applied his anti-Communist policies to control the curriculum and textbooks. Notable exceptions were at Southwest Associated University in Kunming, Yunnan, where Long Yun governed, and at Guilin in Guangxi. The 1942 National Mobilization Act suppressed opposition and helped regulate labor. In March 1943 Jiang Jieshi published his authoritarian views in China’s Destiny. The book was edited by Tao Xisheng who went over to the Japanese for a while with Wang Jingwei; but it was not translated into English so as not to ruin Jiang’s liberal reputation promoted abroad. T. V. Soong and Madame Jiang Jieshi went on public relations tours of the United States.

The Communists took more control over local governments and sent cadres into rural areas to purchase grain and advance credit. They criticized and punished landlords, loan sharks, and corrupt officials. On February 1, 1942 at an assembly in Yan’an of one thousand party cadres Mao launched his Rectification Campaign that criticized “subjectivism, sectarianism, and party formalism.” Mao spoke on art, literature, and the role of intellectuals in May. Self-examination was demanded, and some were transferred from powerful positions to menial jobs. Instead of punishing people, the idea was to get them to change themselves. Ding Ling had written stories criticizing the insensitivity of the cadres toward women, and she was sent to work in the countryside. Zhao Shuli published stories and plays about peasants in plain language.

Kang Sheng, who had arrived from Moscow with Wang Ming in 1937, became loyal to Mao and went after the dissidents in another purge that arrested hundreds, including Wang Shiwei, and expelled 40,000 party members. Mao in December published “Economic and Financial Problems” in which he suggested pragmatic rural reforms. Zhou Enlai complained about Kang’s charges, and Ren Bishi sent Mao a secret report. Mao became chairman of the Politburo in March 1943. Liu Shaoqi began to develop the cult of Mao’s leadership in July, and Mao’s portrait was painted on many public buildings. Liu attacked the Fourth Plenum and compelled those who had been associated with Wang Ming to criticize themselves, including Zhang Wentian and Zhou Enlai. Mao admitted in December that they should not kill party members and that most should not be arrested. They realized that most of those accused were innocent, and they were rehabilitated. In 1944 Mao became chairman of the entire Communist Party in China with Liu Shaoqi as number two and Zhou Enlai as third. Commander-in-Chief Zhu De ranked fourth and Ren Bishi fifth.

After a century of imposing the extraterritoriality system on China, the Allies ended the “unequal treaties” in January 1943, though this did not affect Americans until the war ended. In March the Japanese took their foreign enemies from Beijing and put them in an internment camp at Weixian. Americans and Europeans in Shanghai were interned in central China, and 16,000 refugee Jews were forced to sell their property and were guarded in a ghetto.

In 1943 the Communists demanded legal status and military expansion, and talks with the Nationalists broke down. By the end of the year their chief negotiator, Zhou Enlai, had left Chongqing. New talks began at Xi’an on May 4, 1944, but the Communists demanded more army divisions. Jiang sent more troops to blockade the Communist areas in the northwest. When Patrick Hurley visited Yan’an in November, he reported back to Roosevelt that they were striving for democratic principles. The Union of Comrades for Unity and National Reconstruction started in 1939 and became the League of Democratic Groups in 1941.

On September 6, 1943 General Stilwell urged Jiang to lift the blockade on the Communist areas that was using 400,000 of his troops. During General Patrick Hurley’s visit Stilwell went against his advice and on September 19 gave Jiang a message from Roosevelt requesting that he give Stilwell unrestricted command or accept responsibility for the deteriorating military situation. Jiang reacted by asking for Stilwell to be recalled. Stilwell agreed to stop using Communist forces. Hurley reported that Stilwell’s attitude was the problem between Roosevelt and Jiang, but he was not recalled until October 19, 1944.

The Americans persuaded the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov to let China sign the Moscow Declaration on November 1, 1943 in which the Four Powers promised to prosecute the war unceasingly to victory without making any separate treaties with their enemies. Jiang Jieshi met with Churchill and Roosevelt at Cairo in December, and they agreed that Manchuria and Taiwan should be controlled by China after the war. General Stilwell and the British led retrained Chinese troops against the Japanese in northern Burma and constructed a new road from Ledo to the Burma Road. Roosevelt supported the strategy of air force bombing, and Chennault supervised tens of thousands of Chinese laborers to expand the airfields east of Chongqing. In June 1944 American B-29 bombers began attacking Japanese targets in Bangkok, in Manzhouguo and on the islands of Kyushu, Sumatra, and Taiwan.

In the spring of 1944 Japan’s Ichigo offensive defeated 400,000 men in Henan under Guomindang general Tang Enbo in a few weeks with only 50,000 troops. Tang was especially hated for letting his troops pillage while tens of thousands of Henanians were starving. The Japanese moved south and took Changsha on June 18. They entered Guangxi and by November had seized the airfields in Guizhou and Liuzhou. Chinese peasants in Guangdong had suffered so much from famine and enforced tax collections that they attacked the retreating Chinese troops. During this offensive the Nationalist Chinese forces suffered nearly a half million casualties, not counting civilians, and they lost a quarter of their factories. Opposition groups formed the China Democratic League in September, but these intellectuals lacked a popular base.

Americans were horrified by the misery that resulted from the labor conscripted by the Guomindang armies. Jiang’s ordering random executions of recruiting officers had not stopped the abuses. About three quarters of a million Chinese men who had been drafted in 1943 either deserted or died while traveling to their units under miserable conditions. About fourteen million Chinese men were drafted between 1937 and 1945, but more than eight million deserted or died from causes other than battle. The draft was supposed to be by lottery, but often peasants were pressed into service, roped together, and marched hundreds of miles to their units with little food and no medical care. The number of recruits who died in this way during the war has been estimated at more than a million. General Wedemeyer found that lack of food made most of the Chinese soldiers ineffective. The entire Chinese army had only 2,000 qualified doctors, and most seriously wounded soldiers died. Students were exempt from conscription, and university enrollment increased from 42,000 in 1936 to 79,000 in 1944. However, military education for officers deteriorated as the percentage of academy graduates among the officers declined from eighty in 1937 to twenty in 1945.

In June 1944 Vice President Henry Wallace visited Chongqing and urged American visits to Yan’an. Jiang reluctantly agreed to a United States Observer Group in Yan’an. The next month Col. David Barrett led a group of seventeen military observers and two from the foreign service called the Dixie Mission to get information and help downed American pilots. President Roosevelt wanted Stilwell to be commander of all Chinese forces; but Jiang objected, and Stilwell was replaced by General Albert Wedemeyer in October. Roosevelt’s special envoy Patrick Hurley went to Yan’an in November and signed a five-point draft agreement with Mao Zedong calling for a coalition government, CCP representation on the United National Military Council, legal status for the CCP, civil rights, and unified armed forces. Jiang Jieshi rejected this and countered with acceptance of Sun Yat-sen’s Three People’s Principles and the Communists’ turning their troops over to the Nationalist government in exchange for legal status, a place on the National Military Council, and some civil rights.

The next month Wedemeyer proposed an alliance with the Communists, but this was rejected by Jiang. Two other plans to assist the Communists in fighting the Japanese were also blocked by Jiang. CCP negotiator Zhou Enlai left Chongqing for Yan’an on December 9. Hurley became ambassador to China, and both he and Wedemeyer were anti-Communist and prohibited collaborating with any Chinese political parties. When Col. Barrett tried to revive the agreement, Mao sent him a message complaining that the Americans were trying to get them to sacrifice their freedom. He asserted that, unlike Jiang, they needed no nation to prop them up. Mao’s 200-page report On Financial and Economic Problems of the Border Region explained how self-reliance enabled civil servants and soldiers to produce their own food, reducing public expenditures. He noted that Nationalist finances were on the verge of collapse.

The Communists’ counter-offensive expanded in 1944 and 1945. The peasants organized self-defense forces and militias. Mao began urging his comrades to work in the big cities. In 1944 the Communist general staff claimed they captured 5,000 small forts, killed or wounded 260,000, and captured 60,000 while 30,000 puppet soldiers came over to their side. The Eighth Army took over some cities several times, mostly for propaganda purposes. By the end of the war the Communists claimed 950,000 square kilometers in 19 liberated zones. Their regular armies had 910,000 troops, the militias 2,300,000, and the village self-defense units 10,000,000. In the fall Mao persuaded some American colonels that they would serve under an American general if they received military aid; but when the anti-Communist Hurley heard of these negotiations, he ended them and demanded an investigation.

A conspiracy against Jiang Jieshi fell apart in January 1945 when Long Yun of Yunnan was bought off with American lend-lease supplies for three of his divisions. Hurley persuaded Zhou Enlai to return to Chongqing on January 20, 1945, but he did not stay long. In February at the Yalta conference President Roosevelt and Stalin agreed that the Soviet Union would enter the war against Japan within three months after Germany’s defeat; they would support Jiang as China’s leader and recognize Chinese sovereignty in Manchuria. However, the agreement also safeguarded Soviet interests in Manchuria. Stalin promised that Russia would not help the CCP fight the Nationalists. Jiang sent T. V. Soong to Moscow to confer with Stalin, who promised to support Jiang as China’s leader, not aid his enemies, begin evacuating Soviet troops from Manchuria three weeks after Japan’s surrender and complete the withdrawal in three months. In exchange China granted the USSR ownership of Manchurian railways, recognition of Outer Mongolia’s independence, and the right to station military forces in Port Arthur, Dairen, and adjacent areas.

The Communists began attacking landlords again and rated the peasants into classes to help equalize their opportunities. They organized five-person mutual-guarantee (baojia) groups in order to prevent individuals from committing crimes. Thieves, bandits, prostitutes, and opium smugglers were excluded. Mao Zedong wrote “On Coalition Government” in April and convened the seventh CCP national congress, the first since 1928. They met from April to June 1945 at Yan’an with 50 delegates and 208 deputies representing 1,211,128 members. The CCP now controlled territory with 95 million people. Mao’s ideas were integrated into a new party constitution. After hearing Mao’s report they decided to avoid a civil war and form a coalition central government, unify the military command, guarantee the freedom of democratic parties, abolish authoritarian measures, control bureaucratic monopolies, and reduce farm rents. Liu Shaoqi proposed ways of reorganizing CCP statutes. The top position of chairman of the Central Committee was created, and Mao was elected. The theories of Mao had become the main guide of the Chinese Communist Party.

Mao welcomed the United Nations conference and sent CCP delegates to San Francisco. He asked the Allied governments not to impair their friendship and warned that any foreign government that opposed the Chinese people’s democratic cause by helping the Chinese reactionaries would be making a gross mistake. In July he warned that ambassador Hurley was creating a civil war crisis in China and was antagonizing the Chinese people. Mao outlined their policy after the victory over Japan in August and also wrote “Now Jiang Jieshi is Provoking Civil War.”

The Guomindang congress also met in April 1945 at Chongqing for the first time in seven years and heard much severe criticism. Churchill considered China a very weak ally, and he, Roosevelt, and Stalin had not informed Jiang of the decisions they made at Yalta in February. The Soviet Union was to lease the naval base at Lushun, participate in the international city at Dalian, and have the controlling interest in the railways in Manchuria. In early August the Chinese forces recaptured Guilin, and on August 8 Soviet forces led by Marshal Rodion Malinovsky entered Manzhouguo. Two days later the Russians entered Outer Mongolia, and Stalin warned T. V. Soong that Manchuria might fall to the Communists. So Jiang’s Foreign Minister Wang Shijie and Molotov signed the treaty of alliance on August 14. After thirty years the joint ownership of the Manchurian railways would revert to China as would the free port of Dairen. Mao recognized the atom bomb as a weapon of mass slaughter; but he believed that wars were decided by the people, not by new weapons.

After eight years of war, Japan had spent 35% of their war expenditures on the China campaign and had 396,040 Japanese killed. China piled up a war debt of Ch $1,464 billion. Japanese germ warfare experiments and attacks, directed by Major Ishii Shiro in Manchuria and in other places, may have caused as many as 200,000 Chinese to die of bubonic plague, cholera, anthrax, and other diseases. The Communist forces claimed they fought 92,000 battles and inflicted one million casualties. Most of their 150,000 prisoners were Chinese puppets because most of the Japanese soldiers fought to the death. They captured 320,000 rifles, 9,000 machine guns, and 600 artillery guns. The total number of Chinese people killed in the Japanese war has been estimated at 19,605,000 with 3,800,000 of them being military deaths.

Jiang, CCP, US, and USSR 1945-46

After atom bombs destroyed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese agreed to surrender on August 14, 1945, the same day the USSR signed a treaty of alliance with the Nationalist government. Four days earlier Commander-in-chief Zhu De had ordered Communists to force Japanese officers to surrender, and the Communists worked to maintain law and order. Zhu asked the Japanese commander Okamura Yasuji to surrender to the Communists. When the war ended, the Japanese had 1,250,000 troops in China plus 900,000 in Manchuria along with 1,750,000 Japanese civilians. The Nationalist armies had 2,700,000 men. Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) and US General Wedemeyer agreed that American forces should occupy Shanghai, Dagu, Guangzhou, and Qingdao. About 53,000 US Marines landed, and some were sent to Beijing and Tianjin. The Americans airlifted more than 110,000 of Jiang’s soldiers from Chongqing to north and east China. The Allied commander Douglas MacArthur sent General Order Number 1 to Tokyo that required Japanese commanders in China to surrender to the Nationalists while those in Manchuria surrendered to the Soviets.

On August 15 Jiang ordered General Okamura to keep all military supplies and maintain order until further notice. One week later he was told to allow the passage of only Nationalist troops in occupied territory. On August 23 the Nationalist commander He Yingchin ordered Okamura to defend Japanese positions against Communist troops, and by the end of September more than a hundred such clashes had occurred. Generally the Nationalists took over most of the cities in east, central, and south China while the Communists controlled much of the countryside and took over 59 cities mostly in the north. Yan Xishan used Japanese troops in Shanxi in his fight against Communists to hang onto Taiyuan.

Russian troops in Manchuria deposed Manzhouguo emperor Puyi and accepted the Japanese surrender. On August 19 Chinese Communist armies met up with the Russians, who left them large amounts of weapons and ammunition. As reparations for their losses to the Germans, the Russians took away gold worth US $3 million, machinery and equipment estimated it would cost $2 billion to replace, and food. They even took generating plants and pumps from the large mines, leaving them flooded. Starting on August 11, Lin Biao had used forced marches to occupy Manchuria with 100,000 soldiers before many Nationalists could arrive. About 150,000 former guerrillas were reorganized into the People’s Self-Defense Army, and they included many fugitive Koreans. By October 10 they had taken over 97 towns and 315,000 square miles with 18,700,000 people.

The Nationalists took over industrial plants from the Japanese and allowed private profiteering. Jiang alienated Manchurians by appointing Chinese officials to govern the provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning in nine districts. Jiang also transferred the detained Zhang Xueliang to Taiwan even though many wanted him released. The Guomindang allowed many puppet officials and troops to remain in authority. They issued anti-collaborator regulations in September that made exceptions, though some were punished. Factories and warehouses were closed, but those claiming authority often robbed them. In Hunan 3,438 motor vehicles were robbed of their parts that were sold to dealers. Puppet currencies as well as the yuan and the US$ were exchanged at wildly different rates from city to city, enabling speculators to make money buying and selling them from one place to another. In south and central China the exchange rate of the Japanese-supported currency was 200 to 1. Yet the Japanese government had previously made people exchange two yuans for one unit of the puppet currency, resulting in a total loss of 400 to 1. The corruption and incompetence of many Nationalist officials alienated millions of people.

In October the Soviet authorities refused to let Nationalist troops from American ships enter the port of Dairen, and two other ports that Malinovsky suggested also turned them away. Soviet commanders also blocked the air transport of Nationalist troops into Manchuria until January 1946. The Soviet forces had agreed to withdraw within three months (November 1945); but the Guomindang extended their deadline, and the Soviet troops did not complete their withdrawal from Manchuria until May.

Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai flew with Patrick Hurley from Yan’an to Chongqing on August 28, 1945, and talks continued until October 10. Jiang Jieshi and Mao both promised to avoid a civil war. Mao wanted to appear reasonable, and he agreed to reduce CCP forces by 90% to 20 divisions and to withdraw from eight liberated zones in the south. He and Jiang generally agreed on political democracy, a unified military, and legal status for all political parties with “freedom of person, religion, speech, publication and assembly.” Local governments were to be elected. The Communists were willing to evacuate the south, but Jiang in November sent his best troops to Manchuria in an attempt to control all of China. On November 14 Nationalist troops supported by the US attacked the Communists at Shanhaiguan at the strategic end of the Great Wall. Washington announced that it would support the Nationalist government as long as it negotiated with the Communists and did not use American arms in a civil war. Ambassador Hurley protested this change of policy and resigned on November 27, accusing State Department officials of siding with the Chinese Communists. President Harry Truman sent the respected George Marshall to China in December.

The Communists went back to confiscating land and punishing class enemies. In 1946 the Communists explained their policy at a large conference of the Chinese Agricultural Association in Shanghai. They were abolishing tenancy and redistributing land to its cultivators. Mass meetings aroused communities to attack the wealthy and redistribute confiscated property. Communists infiltrated unions, and thousands of workers went on strike. The Shanghai Power Company yielded in February 1946. Unemployment in Shanghai was 8% in late 1946, but it was 20% in Guangzhou and 30% in Nanjing. Both sides supported the effort by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration engineers to redirect the Yellow River back to its northward path to the sea which was completed in 1947.

The US promised Jiang $600 million in military equipment at low prices. Jiang wanted the Communists to put their armies under a unified command immediately; but the Communists would not agree to do so until after a constitutional government was established. Marshall got both sides to agree to a truce on January 10, 1946 that was to be supervised by a committee with himself as chairman along with Zhou Enlai and the Guomindang general Zhang Jun; decisions had to be unanimous. The next day a political consultative conference met in Nanjing with 38 delegates that included eight from the Guomindang, seven from the CCP, nine from the Democratic League, and five from a new Youth party. They agreed on a state council having forty members with half nominated by the Guomindang and half by the other parties, but resolutions required a two-thirds vote. Provincial governments were to have their own constitutions, and their governors were to be elected by the people. On February 25 they agreed that within a year the Guomindang would reduce their forces to 90 divisions and the CCP to 18; then six months later they would be reduced to 50 and 10 divisions. That day President Truman announced that the United States Military Mission in China would be staffed by 1,000 officers and men under General Wedemeyer. Communist forces would be included in American training programs and would receive American equipment before they were integrated into the National army. Marshall returned to the United States on March 11 and arranged for a loan of $500 million from the Export-Import Bank.

Some of the Guomindang showed their opposition to the agreements by breaking up a meeting celebrating the Consultative Conference in Chongqing, by having police raid the Democratic League, by refusing to release political prisoners, and by destroying Communist newspaper offices. When the Soviets departed in March, the Guomindang occupied Mukden; but the Communists moved into Sipingkai and defended it for a month in the first major battle of the civil war. Lin Baio’s Communist forces captured Changchun on April 18 and the city of Harbin ten days later. The Soviet army completed its withdrawal from Manchuria in May.

The Chen clique objected to the concessions to the Communists, and the Guomindang Central Executive Committee in March demanded that the veto power of the Communists and the Democratic League on the State Council be limited, that Jiang have presidential powers instead of a cabinet system, and that provincial autonomy be reduced. The Communists and Democratic League refused to accept these changes, but the Guomindang convened a national assembly and drafted a constitution on their own. Military clashes were going on, and the fighting escalated in April when CCP forces defeated a Nationalist army and took over Changchun. That month the Guomindang government returned to Nanjing. The Communists demanded a more favorable ratio of forces in Manchuria, and Jiang ordered an attack which regained Changchun in May. On June 4 he announced national mobilization, and he ordered conscription, tax on grain, and more political surveillance. Marshall got a 15-day cease-fire proclaimed on June 6 for Manchuria, and the US Congress voted to give the Nationalist government long-term credit. The Communists accused the Americans of playing a double role of pretending to be an impartial mediator while aiding the Nationalists, and they demanded that American troops be withdrawn.

Nationalist-Communist Civil War 1946-49

In June 1946 nearly two million Nationalist soldiers attacked the Communist bases in north and central China, and they began a major campaign in Manchuria in July. On July 4 the Guomindang unilaterally announced that the National Assembly would convene on November 12. The CCP and Democratic League responded that they would boycott the Assembly they considered illegal. Mao Zedong called for war in self-defense, and the Communists renamed their forces the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Leftists and liberals, such as the poet Wen Yiduo, were being assassinated. Marshall warned Jiang that economic collapse could lead to a Communist victory. That summer the Guomindang also sent 150,000 well-armed troops into Jiangsu province, and they took over 29 counties from the Communists. They captured 49 counties in the Hebei-Shandong-Henan border region. Many who had sided with the Communists had to pay ransoms, or they were put in jail or executed. Leftists complained that the United States was aiding the Nationalists, and protest demonstrations were escalating to riots. Communists occasionally attacked the US military, and forty US marines were ambushed in Anping in July 1946. Generally in 1946 the Communist forces retreated to maintain their forces while using guerrilla tactics to attack when they had an advantage. On July 20 Mao issued “Smash Jiang Jieshi’s Offensive by a War of Self-Defense.”

The US put an embargo on shipping arms and ammunition to China in late July, but in August they sold the Nationalists $900 million worth of war surplus equipment for $175 million. The Nationalists moved against the Communists in the lower Yangzi Valley, and they seized Chengde. On August 10 President Truman wrote to Jiang warning him that American faith in Chinese democracy had been shaken. A few weeks later Jiang replied by complaining of Communist cease-fire violations. The US partially lifted the arms embargo in October and ended it completely in May 1947.

On October 1, 1946 Marshall warned Jiang to stop the war or he would leave China. Nationalist forces captured Kalgan on October 10. That day Jiang made a major speech and called upon the CCP “to abandon its plot to achieve regional domination and disintegration of the country by military force.” The CCP replied that the new “National Assembly” had split the nation and was a fraud. Jiang did not stop the campaign until November 8, when he gave the other parties a few days to consider the situation. Eleven days later Zhou Enlai withdrew from the talks and returned to Yan’an. In early December the Communists announced that they would not accept any more American mediation nor would they resume negotiations unless the National Assembly was dissolved and the Nationalists withdrew to their positions during the January truce.

The new National Assembly met on November 15, and the 1,744 delegates adopted a constitution on December 25. The inflation problem accelerated as more bank notes were printed. The Shanghai price index rose from 100 in September 1945 to 3,090 in February 1947. In January 1947 George Marshall criticized both sides and left China, and the last American mediation groups were disbanded. In the second half of 1946 the Nationalist forces had captured 165 towns and 174,000 square kilometers from the Communists. Guomindang troops even took over Yan’an in March 1947. Mao and other CCP leaders retreated, pursued by 400,000 Nationalist troops. Mao said that a people’s war is not won by taking or losing a city but by solving the agrarian problem. The PLA avoided fighting unless they were sure of winning. Then they struck swiftly with concentrated forces at weak points. The Communists had knocked out fifty of the 218 Nationalist brigades in the campaign by February. Most of the Guomindang troops who surrendered joined the Communist army.

Manchuria had 45 million people and more food reserves. In November 1946 Lin Biao’s army crossed the frozen Sungari to attack the Nationalist army’s winter quarters. The Communists made Harbin their urban base, and they tried to control crime by using the baojia mutual-security system. They took strict measures to control a bubonic plague epidemic that broke out after the Japanese released flea-infested rats they had been using in germ-warfare experiments. After an incubation period 30,000 people died of the disease in 1947. The CCP kept taxes low on grain, fuel, vegetable oil but high on luxuries such as tobacco and cosmetics. Businesses were taxed, and contributions were solicited by publicity campaigns that raised 200 million yuan in Harbin in 1947. Lin Biao led 400,000 PLA troops against the Nationalists in early 1947 and destroyed railway lines. As the Nationalist troops fled, they left behind large amounts of arms and equipment.

On December 1, 1945 in Kunming four young anti-war protesters had been killed, and a year later the alleged rape of a Beijing University student by a US Marine led to anti-American demonstrations that grew out of the anti-war and anti-hunger movements. In May 1947 the Nationalists outlawed strikes, demonstrations, and even petitions signed by more than ten people. During the student demonstrations in May and June about 13,000 were arrested. Torture was used to try to get information, and those believed to be Communist agents were executed.

Shanghai had 1,716 labor strikes in 1946 and 2,538 in 1947. In February 1947 the Nationalist government imposed wage and price limits; but the drop in production increased demand, and prices had nearly doubled by April. Rice riots spread to more than a dozen cities, and the policy was abandoned in May. In July the Central Bank of China offered food and fuel at artificially low prices to help government employees, but overall prices still increased. In November the Nationalists elected a new National Assembly, which convened on March 29, 1948. On April 19 they elected Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) president and Li Zongren vice president. The United States extended another $400 million to the Guomindang in April, making a total of more than $3 billion in aid since 1945. The Government began issuing ration cards in the spring of 1948, but the Shanghai cost-of-living index set at 107 in June 1947 multiplied to 5,863 by July 1948.

By the middle of 1947 the Communist army had 1,950,000 troops. The Guomindang had 3,730,000, but many were assigned to garrison duty in reconquered areas. In the second half of the year a Communist offensive won victories in Henan and northern Hebei. Lin Biao’s army inflicted 150,000 casualties on the Nationalist army in Manchuria and bottled them up between Mukden, Changchun, and Jinzhou. Mao would not let military recruitment interfere with the requirements of farm labor. Liu Shaoqi organized a national land conference in September, and the next month the Communists began implementing the Agrarian Reform Law. This allowed the confiscation of land and property from landowners without indemnity, and in a few months a hundred million peasants had been given land in the Communist zones. Mao intervened in December to correct some of the excesses that made no provision for middle peasants.

In October 1947 Mao Zedong issued the Manifesto of the Chinese Communist Party that called for 1) uniting workers, peasants, soldiers, intellectuals, businessmen, and all the oppressed in a national united front to overthrow the dictatorial Jiang; 2) arresting and punishing the war criminals; 3) instituting a people’s democracy guaranteeing civil rights; 4) removing corrupt officials; 5) confiscating property of the four big families of the Jiang, Soong, Kung, and Chen; 6) abolishing the feudal system by returning land to the tillers; 7) recognizing the rights of minority nationalities; and 8) repudiating Jiang’s foreign policy and making new treaties of trade and friendship.

Also in October the Americans gave the Nationalists $27.7 million in economic aid and set up an Army Advisory Group for Jiang. By the end of the year Mao announced that they had killed or wounded 640,000 Nationalist troops and that more than a million had surrendered. Mao reinforced the democratic movement in the army in January 1948 by restoring the soldiers’ committees at the company level. He criticized Liu again in February and wrote “Correct the Left Errors in Land Reform Propaganda.”

Peasant guerrillas disrupted Jiang’s supply lines to his troops who became desperate in 1948. Jiang disregarded American advice and refused to withdraw his troops from the north. In April the Communists took over Luoyang after much fighting. Peng Dehuai had recaptured Yan’an in March, and his forces invaded Sichuan in the spring but were blocked by heavy fighting. In 1948 Mao announced that Communist forces would shift from guerrilla tactics to conventional fighting. The Nationalists had 250,000 troops guarding Kaifeng and the railway junction at Zhangzhou, and they were attacked by 200,000 Communist veterans who captured Kaifeng for a while in June; but reinforcements and air attacks drove them back. The Nationalists had suffered 90,000 casualties. Thousands of students had become wandering beggars, and in July their march to the residence of Beijing’s Municipal Council president was blocked by armored cars that fired at them with machine guns, killing fourteen and wounding more than a hundred. More students were aroused, and in September they gathered in large demonstrations in Beijing, Nanjing, and Wuhan.

Jiang met with T. V. Soong in July 1948, and they decided to issue a new currency called the gold yuan which would equal three million fabi yuan. Economists doubted this would work because the 1948 government deficit was 66% of total expenditures. The wealthy four families and the landowners were not paying any taxes, and ten percent of the budget was coming from hard-cash reserves accumulated during the war with Japan. The United States refused to extend a loan to stabilize the currency, though $400 million in aid arrived in the second half of 1948. On June 25 Republican presidential candidate Thomas Dewey announced that if elected he would send massive financial and military aid to China, but Truman defeated him in a close election in November.

Using emergency powers, Jiang announced the new measures on August 19. The Government prohibited wage and price increases, strikes, and demonstrations. All gold and silver bullion and foreign currencies had to be exchanged for the new money, but the foreign bank accounts of the wealthy were exempted. Jiang appointed his son Jiang Jingguo, who had governed Jiangxi, to administer the reforms. Loudspeaker trucks reminded people in the streets of the new laws. Some arrests were publicized, but the wealthy smugglers who supported the government were not arrested. Farmers stopped selling their produce for low prices in Shanghai, and the city soon experienced shortages. Shopkeepers refused to sell goods that had high taxes until the Government let them raise their prices. The Government printed more than the two billion gold yuan they had promised. Prices only held until October when the Shanghai wholesale price index was 118; but it went to 1,365 in November and reached 40,825 in February 1949. After four years of inflation averaging 30% per month, Nationalist China had become a barter economy.

In May 1948 the Communist Central Committee called for a new Political Consultative Conference. By June the Communists had three million troops and 168 million inhabitants. They captured Jinan in the summer, and in the fall Lin Biao’s army defeated 400,000 of Jiang’s best troops, taking Mukden and Changchun as only 20,000 troops escaped by sea. Chen Yi’s Communist army conquered Shandong, taking Jinan on September 26. Zhu De used 550,000 troops to capture the Xuzhou railway junction from 400,000 Nationalist forces, who defected in October. In November 100,000 Nationalist troops were destroyed, and Xuzhou fell on December 15. Jiang’s confusing orders to his generals had resulted in their being outmaneuvered. Meanwhile Deng Xiaoping had organized two million peasants in four provinces to provide logistic support. Mao claimed that in the previous two years the CCP had recruited into the PLA 1,600,000 peasants who had obtained land.

In January 1949 Lin Biao’s 800,000 troops captured Tianjin and then Beiping as the Guomindang general Fu Zuoyi had his plans stolen by a Communist spy and then surrendered with 200,000 troops that joined the PLA. In four months the Nationalists had lost 1,500,000 troops. On January 14 Mao announced the following eight conditions needed for peace negotiations:

1. Punish the war criminals.
2. Abolish the bogus constitution.
3. Abolish the bogus “constituted authority.”
4. Reorganize all reactionary troops on democratic principles.
5. Confiscate bureaucrat-capital.
6. Reform the land system.
7. Abrogate treasonable treaties.
8. Convene a political consultative conference
without the participation of reactionary elements,
and form a democratic coalition government
to take over all the powers
of the reactionary Nanjing Guomindang government
and of its subordinate governments at all levels.1

Jiang resigned as president on January 21 and was replaced by Vice President Li Zongren, but Jiang still led the Guomindang party. Zhou Enlai negotiated with Li until March. On January 31 the Communists marched into Beiping. On March 5 Mao announced that the PLA in the south would first occupy the cities and then the villages. They were ordered to maintain strict discipline and not disrupt businesses nor distribute property to the poor nor allow strikes during the transitional period. Mediation rules allowed “reasonable exploitation.” Factories and machinery were guarded to prevent looting, and a new “people’s currency” was introduced, allowing only a short time to exchange gold yuan notes. CCP officials sent Guomindang officers and soldiers home or, after politically educating them, enrolled them in the People’s Liberation Army. Those in the cities were urged to save with “commodity savings deposit units” that were designed to be safe from inflation by adjusting to price changes in food and fuel.

Jiang Jieshi had appointed a different Chen Yi to govern Taiwan, and his harsh policies provoked riots in February 1947. Nationalist troops shot demonstrators, and Chen had about ten thousand arrested and executed. Then Jiang replaced him with moderate administrators. Before Beiping surrendered, Qing-dynasty archives and art treasures were transferred to Taiwan. By early 1949 Jiang had 300,000 loyal troops based on Taiwan with 26 gunboats and the planes of the Nationalist air force and US $300 million in gold, silver, and foreign exchange reserves.

In the west the Nationalist general Zhang Zhizhong went to Xinjiang with a delegation of prominent Uighurs in the fall of 1945 and persuaded the Soviets to accept a cease-fire and a peace treaty in June 1946. Zhang was chairman with Qasimi as vice chairman. Masud Sabri became the first non-Chinese governor of Xinjiang in May 1947, but he was under the Guomindang. Conflicts lasted about a year between the Kazakh nomads and the troops from the Mongolian People’s Republic who were supported by Soviet planes. Burhan Shahidi, Sheng’s former consul in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, replaced Masud Sabri in December 1948. On September 24, 1949 the Guomindang forces in Xinjiang surrendered to the PLA, and Burhan went over to the Communists.

Mao Zedong triumphantly entered Beijing with the PLA soldiers on March 25, 1949, and the Communists formed a provisional government for north China. Li Zongren hoped to hold China south of the Yangzi River and tried to negotiate with Mao, who adhered to his eight-point surrender program. In April the British moved the Amethyst frigate up the Yangzi to Nanjing to assist their embassy, but the Communists attacked, killing 17. Other British ships were sent but were driven back. The Communist army crossed the Yangzi on April 21. Li Zongren refused an ultimatum, and Nanjing fell without a fight on April 23, followed in May by Hangzhou, Shanghai, Nanchang, and Wuhan. Yan Xishan in Shanxi tried to hold on to his power by using thousands of Japanese troops; but as Communists broke into Taiyuan in April he set fire to the jail holding Communist prisoners and committed suicide. Peng Dehuai’s army moved west and took Xi’an, defeated a Muslim general from Gansu, and then entered Lanzhou in August before moving into Xinjiang. Lin Biao’s forces captured Changsha in August as the Communists took over the provinces of Hunan, Hubei, and Fujian.

Jiang established his headquarters on Taiwan in July. In the fall he moved his government from Chongqing to Chengdu and finally to Taiwan on December 8. About two million Guomindang supporters also took refuge on Taiwan. Li Zongren fled to Hong Kong and then to exile in the United States. Guangzhou fell on October 13. In November the Communists occupied Guizhou and Sichuan. Xiamen was defended as the remaining Nationalists embarked for Taiwan, but it fell on December 9. About five million lives had been lost in this civil war, plus about three million from the 1927-37 civil war.

On September 21, 1949 Mao Zedong convened the new Political Consultative Conference with 662 delegates at Beijing that was dominated by the CCP but included fourteen small parties. They elected a central government with Mao as chairman and Zhu De as vice-chairman. A red flag with a large yellow star and four smaller stars represented the Communist Party and the four economic classes of the workers, peasants, petite bourgeoisie, and the national capitalists. This became China’s flag, and they adopted the Gregorian calendar. The name of Beiping was changed back to Beijing, which became the capital again. In his opening address Mao promised that their national defense would be consolidated so that no imperialist would be allowed to invade their territory again.

In a ceremony in the square of the Gate of Heavenly Peace on October 1, 1949 Mao proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The Soviet Union recognized the government the next day, followed by the other Communist countries and a few other nations. Mao took a train to Moscow to confer with Stalin in December. The PLA suffered 9,000 casualties and was not able to take Jinmen Island (Quemoy) off the coast of Fujian, and the Nationalists still occupied most of southwest China. The Chinese Communist Party had 4,500,000 members and governed a population of about 500,000,000, nearly one quarter of the world’s population.

Mao Zedong's Political Philosophy

Mao Zedong was born on December 26, 1893 into a peasant family that had become prosperous by farming and selling grain. When he was eight, he went to school and began studying the Chinese classics. Five years later he had to leave school to work on the farm, but he left home to go to a primary school and then to a secondary school in Changsha. He fought as a soldier in the revolution of 1911, and he always emphasized the martial spirit and the importance of will. His studies included Western subjects, and he admired Napoleon and George Washington. He spent several years studying ethics in Changsha with the neo-Kantian philosopher Yang Changji. In 1915 Yang wrote an article praising the rights women enjoyed in the West that allowed them to freely choose their husbands. In a letter on August 23, 1917 Mao recognized the importance of ethics, writing,

Truly to establish the will is not easy;
one must first study philosophy and ethics,
in order to establish a standard
for one’s own words and actions,
and set this up as a goal for the future.2

Mao helped form a New People’s Study Society, and he graduated from Normal School in 1918. He began reading New Youth from its inception in 1915, and as a student and assistant librarian under Li Dazhao at Beijing University he was strongly influenced by the May Fourth Movement in 1919. When a woman committed suicide because she would not accept an arranged marriage in 1919, Mao suggested they should struggle to change society and “die fighting.” He believed that only Kang Youwei, Sun Yat-sen, and Yuan Shikai had the ideas to govern all of China, but the recent historical figure he most admired was Zeng Guofan. He lamented that China was still under the influence of old thinking and bad morals. He studied Confucianism and wanted the superior people not only to help the common people but also to educate and transform them into a greater harmony. He appreciated the union of opposites such as yin and yang, life and death, matter and spirit, and he believed that morality is the result of an interaction between desire and conscience.

In the summer of 1919 Mao published a series of articles called “The Great Union of the Popular Masses” in his Xiang River Review. He compared Marx’s struggle against the aristocrats and capitalists to Kropotkin’s voluntary work and mutual aid. The May Fourth Movement had convinced Mao that China’s renewal would come from the young, especially students, who would overturn the old order. In another article he urged politicians to get their brains washed by working in factories or by cultivating fields with the common people. He saw the value of getting inside a movement to build it while staying outside it to promote it. He worked for the independence of Hunan and realized that any effective movement must come from the people.

On October 7, 1920 Mao was one of the authors who proposed a constitutional convention. He was influenced by Hu Shi and proposed a Self-Study University in Changsha, where they would “live a communist life.” Mao was impressed by the Bolshevik revolution and called Russia the most civilized nation in the world. Seeing the unhappiness caused by arranged marriages, he wanted to replace capitalist marriage contracts with love matches or free love. He expanded beyond local issues and made transforming China and the world his goal for society. Mao discussed Marxist books with Chen Duxiu and was especially impressed by the Communist Manifesto. When the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was formed in the summer of 1921, Mao was a founding member.

After two years of working to organize the labor movement in Hunan, in 1923 Mao became a member of the CCP’s Central Committee. He also served on the Guomindang’s Executive Bureau in Guangzhou and Shanghai. Then from 1925 to 1927 he worked on organizing the peasant movement. He wanted a revolution so that democracy and national independence would triumph over the warlords. He realized that merchants were suffering from the current system and could be important allies. In the fall of 1925 he went back to Guangzhou and ran the Guomindang Propaganda Department. In his report to the Second Congress in January 1926 he argued that they were concentrating too much on the cities and ignoring the peasants. From May to October 1926 Mao lectured at the Peasant Movement Training Institute.

In 1927 Mao published his radical report on the Hunan peasant movement. He suggested that the domination by the imperialists and warlords could only be overthrown by mobilizing the peasants to destroy the basis of their rule. Landlords, bad gentry, and village bullies had been using their political power to crush the peasants for centuries. He became one of the first to propose that the Communists break with the Guomindang by raising their red flag in the countryside. He suggested redistributing the land of all the landlords and peasant proprietors. He believed that a military approach was needed, and at the Central Committee emergency conference on August 7 he made the often quoted statement, “We must be aware that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”3 He recommended devoting sixty percent of their party’s efforts to the military aspect. The soldiers must depend on the people like the fish in the ocean for mass support.

For three years Mao Zedong and Zhu De used guerrilla methods of fighting in the countryside. Mao began living with He Zizhen in 1928 before his second wife was executed by the Guomindang in 1930. He Zizhen bore him six children, but all but one died or were raised by others. After she left Mao in 1937, he married the famous actress Jiang Qing. In 1930 Mao criticized the strategy of attacking cities ordered by Li Lisan, and he wanted to mobilize the peasants. They founded the Jiangxi Soviet Republic with a Red Army that increased to 200,000 from a population of several million and fought against Jiang’s Nationalist attacks. A purge eliminated thousands of dissidents from the Communist party. In January 1933 Mao declared that he would be willing to make agreements with armed forces who would stop attacking soviet regions, grant democratic rights, and cooperate with them in arming the masses against the Japanese. In 1934 Mao wrote Guerrilla War, and at Zunyi during the Long March he became chairman of the Central Committee.

Mao had time to study Marxism during his years at Yan’an. In December 1936 he gave a series of lectures on “Problems of Strategy in China’s Revolutionary War.” He predicted, “War, this monster of mutual slaughter among men, will be finally eliminated by the progress of human society, and in the not too distant future too.”4 Mao believed in opposing counter-revolutionary wars with revolutionary wars, but then he wrote,

When human society advances to the point
where classes and states are eliminated,
there will be no more wars,
counter-revolutionary or revolutionary, unjust or just;
that will be the era of perpetual peace for mankind.
Our study of the laws of revolutionary war
springs from the desire to eliminate all wars;
herein lies the distinction between us Communists
and all the exploiting classes.5

In August 1937 Mao gave the lectures “On Contradiction” and “On Practice.” Mao’s philosophy of contradictions applies Chinese yin-yang theory to dialectical and historical materialism. Contradictions that cause conflict lead to antagonism that must be resolved by struggle. According to Lenin, even socialism has contradictions, but they do not cause antagonism. Mao believed in balancing practice and theory in a middle path that avoids the extremes of being too dogmatic or too empirical. This philosophy provided him with tools for criticizing anyone who disagreed with him. Human knowledge is verified only in the social process by achieving anticipated results. To be successful one’s thoughts must correspond to the laws of the objective world. When one fails, one may correct one’s ideas. Knowledge of the world’s laws should be applied to the practice of production, scientific experimentation, and the revolutionary class struggle. In “On Practice” Mao wrote,

Knowledge is a matter of science,
and no dishonesty or conceit whatsoever is permissible.
What is required is definitely the reverse—
honesty and modesty.
If you want knowledge,
you must take part in the practice of changing reality.6

Rational knowledge depends on perceptual knowledge, which needs to be developed into the concepts and theories of rational knowledge. Knowledge begins with practice, and the theoretical knowledge developed by practice must return to practice in a continuing cycle. The truth is developed through practice and verified by practice.

Mao wrote “Combat Liberalism” in September. He warned against the liberalism that does not argue based on principle but lets things slide for the sake of friendship, that criticizes in private without making suggestions to the organization, that disobeys orders for personal reasons, that vents personal grievances or seeks revenge, that tolerates counter-revolutionary opinions without disputing them, that is not indignant about actions that harm the masses, that works half-heartedly, and that does not correct one’s mistakes. Mao believed that liberalism harms revolutionary organizations by disrupting unity, undermining solidarity, inducing inactivity, and creating dissension. These deprive the organization of discipline, prevent policies from being carried out, and alienate the party from the masses. Liberalism comes from the selfishness that puts oneself before the revolution.

Mao wrote “On Protracted War” in May 1938. He believed that all the wars in history have been political, “that politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed.”7 He believed wars could be just or unjust and wrote, “As for unjust wars, World War I is an instance in which both sides fought for imperialist interests; therefore the Communists of the whole world firmly opposed that war.”8

In November 1938 in “Problems of War and Strategy” Mao advocated the abolition of war, but he believed that war could only be abolished through war. He noted that some principles such as appointing people based on merit are perpetual. About study he wrote,

Complacency is the enemy of study.
We cannot really learn anything
until we rid ourselves of complacency.
Our attitude towards ourselves
should be “to be insatiable in learning”
and towards others “to be tireless in teaching.”9

He found a Confucian mean between the rightism of not going far enough and the leftism of going too far. He observed in history that peasant revolts had lacked leadership and had been exploited by the landlords and nobility to change dynasties without changing the feudal system.

After an intensive study of Marxism, Mao started formulating his philosophy as the “sinification of Marxism.” Like Lenin he saw the need for revolution against imperialism as well as against capitalism. Mao believed that Sun Yat-sen’s revolution had failed for forty years because in an era of imperialism the bourgeoisie could not lead a genuine revolution. He wrote that China is a vast semi-colonial country with a semi-feudal economy and that its revolution required armed struggle. Mao’s weapons were the armed struggle, the united front, and party-building. He promoted grass-roots democracy on a large scale, but he also wanted a strong state.

Mao wrote The Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party in December 1939 for party members. He reviewed China’s long feudal history and its economic exploitation and political oppression of the peasants by the landlords. Many peasant revolts and wars occurred, but they had not had the leadership of the proletariat that the Communist party was now offering. The penetration of foreign capitalism in the 19th century began China’s transformation, but the capitalists worked in collusion with the feudal system. The struggle arising from the contradictions led to revolutionary movements. Japan’s armed invasion of China collaborated with the reactionaries. Also suffering from imperialism, the bourgeoisie joined the revolutionary struggle and the war against the Japanese. However, the reactionary leadership of the Guomindang formed an alliance with the landlord class and turned against their former friends, the Communists, betraying the revolution in 1927. Mao argued that because these enemies were very powerful, the Chinese revolution would take a long time and would require the use of armed forces. The reactionaries controlled the cities, but the villages could be made into consolidated base areas by improving their military, political, economic, and cultural capabilities. The Communist party was fighting a protracted revolutionary struggle by using peasant guerrilla warfare. At the same time propaganda work was preparing the cities for revolution.

Mao published On New Democracy in January 1940. He explained that the Chinese revolution would have two stages—first democracy and then socialism. Mao argued that the transformation brought about by the World War and the Russian revolution created a new historical era in which a “new democracy” emerged. He wrote that in China the new democracy would be under the joint dictatorship of all the revolutionary classes and would be headed by the proletariat. After that revolution was successful, then they would establish a socialist society. He recommended that China develop people’s congresses on the national, provincial, county, district, and township levels with universal suffrage that would elect a government to represent them. Mao called this “democratic centralism.” In the new democratic economy the big banks, industries, and commercial enterprises that were too large for private management would be owned by the republic so that private capital would not dominate the people. The republic would confiscate the land of the landlords and distribute it to the landless peasants in order to fulfill Sun Yat-sen’s call for “land to the tillers.” The new democracy contained socialist elements, and full socialism would be implemented later. Mao advised absorbing what is good from foreign cultures and China’s own traditions while rejecting what is bad. The new democratic culture should be scientific and oppose imperialism, feudalism, and superstition in a united and progressive front.

The Rectification Campaign of 1942 used pressure for self-criticism to bring people in the party into line with Mao’s ideas. On February 1 he gave the speech “Rectify the Party’s Style of Work.” The three problems he defined were subjectivism in study, sectarianism in party relations, and stereotyped writing. The two extremes of subjectivism are dogmatism and empiricism. Dogmatism is too dominated by theory without correction by practice, and empiricism is too concerned with concrete situations without being guided by theory. Sectarian tendencies in the party’s internal relations exclude comrades and hinder unity and solidarity. Sectarian tendencies in external relations exclude other people and hinder the party from uniting all the people. Those who assert their independence put their own interests before the whole. They must learn from past mistakes and maintain a scientific attitude.

Mao gave a speech in May 1942 at Yan’an during a forum on literature and art. He said their problems are those of working for the masses and learning how to work for them. Revolutionary literature and art should create characters based on life so as to help the masses push history forward. For example, people who are suffering from hunger, cold, and oppression may be contrasted with those who are exploiting them. To be successful the art must be both popular and elevating. They should unite serving the masses with gaining their approval. Mao observed that reactionary political content shows that the exploiting classes are declining, but he recommended combining revolutionary political content with the best possible artistic form.

Mao Zedong wrote On Coalition Government in April 1945 for the Seventh National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. He surveyed the current situation and warned of the danger of civil war because of the reactionary policy of the Guomindang dictatorship of Jiang. They were trying to negotiate a coalition government with democratic reforms, but the Guomindang were rejecting their proposals. Mao described their general program which he called New Democracy that was in accord with the principles of Sun Yat-sen. The Communists did not conceal their views, and he put forth a long list of specific goals that included mobilizing forces to defeat Japan; punishing the pro-Japanese, reactionaries, and traitors; revoking reactionary laws to allow freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and full civil rights; recognizing democratic parties and releasing political prisoners; providing for disabled soldiers, their families, war refugees, and victims of natural disasters; abolishing exorbitant taxes and establishing a progressive tax; rural reforms such as reducing rent and interest and helping peasants organize; checking inflation; relieving the unemployed and letting workers organize; paying teachers and guaranteeing academic freedom; giving minorities rights; and many more. The one-party dictatorship of the Guomindang must be abolished and replaced by a coalition government with nation-wide support.

On June 30, 1949, the 28th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, Mao published his policies in “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship.” The working class would lead the masses in a united front while China allied with the Soviet Union and the world proletariat. China would establish relations with any nation respecting China’s international equality and territorial integrity. China would develop its potential by using socialized agriculture and industry as a state enterprise. Civil rights would be guaranteed to all except to “political reactionaries,” who would be given land to work and be re-educated. Equal rights for women would end their lives of bondage. Rural reforms included rent reduction and land redistribution. The Common Program and Organic Law called for universal education to meet the goals. By eliminating the errors of the reactionaries they would be able to advance toward a socialist and communist society that has no classes but a universal fraternity.

Korea 1800-1949


1. “Statement on the Present Situation” in Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Volume 4, p. 318.
2. Quoted in “Mao Tse-tung’s thought to 1949” by Stuart Schram in The Cambridge History of China, Volume 13, p. 793.
3. Ibid., p. 822.
4. Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Volume 1, p. 182.
5. Ibid., p. 183.
6. Ibid., p. 300.
7. Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Volume 2, p. 153.
8. Ibid., p. 150.
9. Ibid., p. 210.

Copyright © 2007 by Sanderson Beck

This chapter has been published in the book EAST ASIA 1800-1949.
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Qing Decline 1799-1875
Qing Dynasty Fall 1875-1912
Republican China in Turmoil 1912-1926
Nationalist-Communist Civil War 1927-1937
China at War 1937-1949
Korea 1800-1949
Japan's Modernization 1800-1894
Imperial Japan 1894-1937
Japan's War and Defeat 1937-1949
Philippines to 1949
Pacific Islands to 1949
Summary and Evaluation


World Chronological Index
Chronology of Asia & Africa to 1800
Chronology of Asia & Africa 1800-1950
Chronology of East Asia to 1950

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