Summary of The Chinese Civil War (1927–37 and 1946–49)
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< IB | Group 3 | History | Route 2 | Causes, Practices, and Effects of Wars | The Chinese Civil War (1927-37 and 1946-49)
- Even after the overthrow of the Chinese government, Manchu Dynasty, in 1911 China was still exploited by foreign powers.
- The Chinese Civil War fought between the Communists and the Nationalists was to restore control over China.
- It formed two parts, starting in 1927, separated by the Sino-Japanese War in 1937, and started again in 1946 after the war with Japan was over.
- 1 Long-term causes of the Chinese Civil War
- 2 Short-term causes of the Chinese Civil War
- 3 Immediate causes of the Chinese Civil War: the GMD attacks on the CCP
- 4 The course of the war
- 5 Mao and revolutionary warfare
- 6 End of the first stage of the Chinese Civil War – the Second United Front (1937)
- 7 The Sino-Japanese War
- 8 Second phase of the Civil War (1945–49)
- 9 What were the reasons for the communist success?
- 10 What was the role of foreign support in the final outcome?
- 11 Results of the Chinese Civil War
Long-term causes of the Chinese Civil War
- Peasants under the rule of the Manchu Dynasty were poor, worked on land, lived a hard life, and paid the all the taxes.
- Their population grew by 8% but the land cultivated increased only by 1% in the second half of the 19th century, and this imbalance caused famines.
- Peasants, often driven to the cities by their poverty, had to pay up to 80% of their harvest to landlords, and usually struggled with unemployment and debt due to cheap Western technology.
Political weakness and the influence of foreign powers
- China's destabilised economy was exploited and humilatied through Western imperialism after the mid 19th century Opium Wars and the great Chinese empire had been "carved up into spheres of influence."
- China had been forced to sign unequal treaties, maintain extra-territorial courts for foreigners who disobeyed Chinese laws, saw inflation, corruption, and financial chaos from imperialist powers.
- Large portions of the tax revenue did not reach the central government as provisional governments were corrupt.
- In 1864, the first political reform and religious movement was shut down after the regional armies killed millions of Chinese rebellions.
- Even the Chinese educated and elite in the Self-Strengthening Movement were divided on how to modernise China.
- China had lost the war with Japan in 1895, and lost land to Japan in the Russo-Japanese settlement in 1904−5).
- There was a widespread and popular anti-Western feeling, which started the Boxer Rebellion in 1899, but without modern weaponry, any anti-foreign revolt was futile.
The overthrow of the Manchu dynasty
- Chinese government felt increased tension when the death of the Emperor and succession of two year old Pu Yi in 1908, alongside the the ever-growing sensation of imminent 'Westerinisation.'
- Prince Chun ruled in regent, his incompetence saw the dismissal of Jiang Jieshi, and he increased taxation, contributing to socio-economic downturn.
- In 1911, the dynasty was overthrown in a revolution known as the Double Tenth and a republic was created.
- Dr Sun Yixan, who had been in exile in the USA during the revolution, was to become the first president of the new republic in Nanjing.
- In an attempt to over-throw the rebellion, the imperial government tried to use the Northern Army general, Yuan Shikai, only to be double-crossed. In February 1912, Pu Yi was abdicated.
- Despite this revolution, there was no establishment of democracy and former imperial officers held their positions.
- Historian Michael Lynch argues that the revolution was essentially a revolt by the provinces against the center government; "a triumph for regionalism."
The rule of Yuan Shikai
- Yuan Shikai was military dictator from 1912 to 1915. His military dicatorship was the key obstacle in uniting China.
- Sun's party reformed to become the Guomindang (GMD) in 1912.
- To win the political battle for China, a military was required; a lesson learnt by the GMD and the Chinese communists.
- In an attempt to undermine the the influential Yuan Shikai's rule, Sun tried moving him from his power base in Beijing to Nanjing.
- The GMD were a regional power when Shikai refused, and the republicans were not ready to face resistance from Yuan.
- The 'second revolution' against Yuan failed in 1913, and Sun fled to Japan.
- The republicans created regional assemblies, which Yuan abolished and alienated provisional powers, and tax revenues.
- However, Yuan's ultimate mistake was when he declared himself Emperor in 1916. He lost support from the military and died soon after.
Short-term causes of the Chinese Civil War
Political weakness: regionalism − the warlords (1916−28)
- After the abdication and death of Yuan, China lost the final degree of unity.
- China broke up into smaller provinces controlled by warlords which lasted between 1916 and 1928.
- The warlords ran their areas independently, collected taxes, had their own laws and currencies.
- The Chinese were highly embarrassed by this, and the peasants suffered.
- Internal state of anarchy, division, and regionalism and provincialism was to play for the cause of the civil war.
The May Fourth Movement
- Led by students in 1919, and in response to the Treaty of Versailles, a mass demonstration was held in Beijing, against the warlords, traditional culture, and the Japanese.
- China had joined the Allies in a "rebirth" as an independent nation inspired by the Bolshevik revolution in 1917.
- Imperialism was perceived as the main cause for China's problem.
- China's GMD party had grown stronger during the the warlord period.
Attempt to unify China: the First United Front
- Both the GMD and the CCP wanted a unified China and took up a united front to fight the warlords in 1922.
- Sun Yixan's third principle, 'the People's Livelihood,' otherwise known as socialism, convinced Cominterm that this front could be trusted.
- Though he had been educated in Moscow, and found funding from the USSR to train GMD officers, Jiang became increasingly anti-Communist which nearly broke the front.
- The GMD and the CCP went on a Northern Expedition (1926−8) to crush the warlords, which was a success.
- The GMD announced it was a legitimate government and situated the new capital in Nanjing.
Immediate causes of the Chinese Civil War: the GMD attacks on the CCP
- The tension between the GMD and the CPP was the last of the tension in China and their alliance was of convenience.
- Their success was as a result of the CCP promise of land to the peasants and GMD ambitions.
- Jiang was sympathetic to the landlords and middle classes but began to expel all communists from the GMD due to communist support.
- The 'White Terror' in April 1927 was Jiang's peak attack. Jiang turned the powerful 'workers' party army' under Zhou ENlai against the CPP, 5,000 communists were shot.
- Jiang's 'purification movement' killed around 250,000 people, including communists, trade unionists, and peasant leaders.
- By 1927, the CCP were nearly destroyed.
The course of the war
The Jiangxi Soviet
- The CCP retreated to Jiangxi, which became known as Jiangxi Soviet.
- Mao Zedong's writing suggests that the White Terror was proof that the United Front ultimately doomed.
- Mao also believed that the GMD and Cominterm had the wrong strategy for China; it should be peasant based.
- Mao said "The peasants are the sea; wer are the fish. The sea is our habitat," which shifted the ideological orthodox interpretation of Marxism to Maoism.
- His tangent ideology was successful with the results of recruitment found in the Jiangxi Soviet.
Division within the CCP
- Both the CCP and the GMD suffered from 'internal factionalism' during this period of the civil war.
- Mao's beliefs were, by 1930;
- Revolution carried out by the peasants,
- Guerrilla warfare, and
- Land reform.
- Li Lisan "misinterpreted" commands and attacked the Jiangxi Soviet in what was thought as a global end of capitalism in the Great Depression.
- His attacks failed due to the parties influence in rural areas.
- Lisan was dismissed from leadership in January 1931.
GMD attempts to exerminate the CCP
- Between 1928 to 1934, Jiang failed to carry out Sun's Three Principles and his support (the rich and landlords) were of no help to his ineffective government.
- In 1931, the Japanese invaded Manchuria.
- Still trying to destroy the Communists, Jiang initiated the 'Five Encirclement Campaigns;' circling the reds, cutting off supplies and resources.
- Mao's strategy, in a letter to Lisan in 1921 was: 'The enemy advances, we retreat; the enemy halts, we harass; the enemy tires, we attack; the enemy retreats; we pursue.'
- After Lisan, he was replaced with 28 Moscow graduates known as the 28 Bolsheviks with the influence of Cominterm.
- Mao did not like these "inexperienced men."
- The first 3 campaigns were between December 1930 to September 1931 who were all defeated under Zhou Enlai.
- The CCP's knowledge of the area and support of local peasants helped.
- Zhu De was involved in the fourth encirclement campaign, using the same tactics forcing back the GMD in 1933.
The Long March
- The Fifth Encirclement Campaign saw a force of 800,000 men, air cover and artillery, as a result of German advice.
- It was successful at Ruijin in 1934, and instead of surrendering Mao decided to break the GMD's lines and set up a new base.
- This was successful on the 19th of October 1934, when the CCP trekked 9,600km to Shaanxi.
- It took 368 days, 90% of the 90,000 communists died, and they passed inhospitable territory.
Key events of the Long March
- The 28 Bolsheviks led the CCP to Xiang River, which was strongly defended by the GMD.
- 50,000 attempting to cross the river died - they were "sitting ducks" for Jiang's forces.
- In January 1935, the CCP captured the town of Zunyi using Guerilla tactics.
- At this time, the 28 Bolsheviks were discredited as a result of the disaster at Xiang River.
- Mao became leader.
- At Zunyi, Mao declared war on Japan, led the Red Army towards Sichuan and met with 40,000 other communists.
- Jiang met Mao along the western provinces of Yunnan and Tibet, the GMD destroyed all the boats at Yangtze River, attempting to disrupt Mao's rout.
- Mao deceived the nationalists by sending units 136km further along, tricking the GMD and crossing another bridge.
- The CCP covered 134km in 24 hours two weeks later, and came across Dabu River.
- Local people built a bridge to help the CCP and the GMD should have blown the bridge but this would have caused local outcry.
- Jiang's forces removed the planks, stopping the CCP.
- According to the CCP, 22 volunteers threw grenades to take out the machine-gun ready GMD and let the rest of the Red Army cross.
- The success here led to a massive boost in morale, encouraging members of the GMD to switch sides.
- With only 10,000 left, Mao met with 45,000 other men at Sichun under the command of Zhang.
- They quarreled on the next move of te he CCP, and split forces, Zhang taking Zhu De.
- The GMD attacked Zhang's army, and Zhu De fled to meet with Mao.
- Mao crossed the deadly Songpan marshes, 3,000 men died across the 400km region.
- After marching 9,600km, fighting 15 major battles, Mao arrived at Shaanxi Soviet in October 1935.
- A new based was formed in the town of Yan'an.