The civil war carried on intermittently until the looming Second Sino-Japanese War interrupted it, resulting in an organized and temporary Chinese resistance to the Japanese invasion. The Japanese assault and occupation of Eastern China was an opportunistic attack made possible by China's internal turmoil. Japan's campaign was defeated in 1945, marking the end of World War II, and China's full-scale civil war resumed in 1946. Hostilities ended after 23 years in 1950, with an unofficial cessation of major hostilities, with the newly founded the People's Republic of China controlling mainland China (including Hainan Island) and the Republic of China restricted to their remaining territories of Taiwan, Pescadores, and the several outlying Fujianese islands. To this day, no official armistice or peace treaty has ever been signed, although the two sides have close economic ties.
In 1923, a joint statement by Sun and Soviet representative Adolph Joffe in Shanghai pledged Soviet assistance for China's unification. The Sun-Joffe Manifesto was a declaration for cooperation among the Comintern, KMT and the Communist Party of China. Comintern agent Mikhail Borodin arrived in China in 1923 to aid in the reorganization and consolidation of the KMT along the lines of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The CPC joined the KMT to form the First United Front.
In 1923, Sun Yat-sen sent Chiang Kai-shek, one of Sun's lieutenants from his Tongmeng Hui days, for several months' military and political study in Moscow. By 1924, Chiang became the head of the Whampoa Military Academy, and rose to prominence as Sun's successor as head of the KMT.
The Soviets provided much of the studying material, organization, and equipment including munitions for the academy. The Soviets also provided education in many of the techniques for mass mobilization. With this aid Sun Yat-sen was able to raise a dedicated "army of the party," with which he hoped to defeat the warlords militarily. CPC members were also present in the academy, and many of them became instructors, including Zhou Enlai who was made a political instructor of the academy.
Communist members were allowed to join the KMT on an individual basis. The CPC itself was still small at the time, having a membership of 300 in 1922 and only 1,500 by 1925. The KMT in 1923 had 50,000 members.
In early 1927; the KMT-CPC rivalry led to a split in the revolutionary ranks. The CPC and the left wing of the KMT had decided to move the seat of the KMT government from Guangzhou to Wuhan, where Communist influence was strong. But Chiang and Li Zongren, whose armies defeated warlord Sun Chuanfang, moved eastward toward Jiangxi. The leftists rejected Chiang's demand and Chiang denounced the leftists for betraying Sun Yat-sen's Three Principles of the People by taking orders from the Soviet Union. According to Mao Zedong, Chiang's tolerance of the CPC in the KMT camp decreased as his power increased.
On April 7, Chiang and several other KMT leaders held a meeting arguing that communist activities were socially and economically disruptive, and must be undone for the national revolution to proceed. As a result of this, on April 12, Chiang turned on the CPC in Shanghai. The incident purged the KMT leftists by arresting and executing hundreds of CPC members. The incident was called April 12 Incident or Shanghai Massacre by the CPC. The massacre widened the rift between Chiang and Wang Jingwei's Wuhan. Attempts were made by CPC to take cities such as Nanchang, Changsha, Shantou, and Guangzhou. An armed rural insurrection, known as the Autumn Harvest Uprising was staged by peasants, minors and CPC members in Hunan Province led by Mao Zedong. The uprising was unsuccessful. There were now three capitals in China: the internationally recognized republic capital in Beijing, the CPC and left-wing KMT at Wuhan, and the right-wing KMT regime at Nanjing, which would remain the KMT capital for the next decade.
The CPC had been expelled from Wuhan by their left-wing KMT allies, who in turn were toppled by Chiang Kai-shek. The KMT resumed the campaign against warlords and captured Beijing in June 1928. Afterwards most of eastern China was under the Nanjing central government's control, and the Nanjing government received prompt international recognition as the sole legitimate government of China. The KMT government announced that in conformity with Sun Yat-sen's formula for the three stages of revolution: military unification, political tutelage, and constitutional democracy.
In 1930 the Central Plains War broke out as an internal conflict of the KMT. It was launched by Feng Yuxiang, Yan Xishan, and Wang Jingwei. The attention was turned to root out remaining pockets of Communist activity in a series of encirclement campaigns. There were a total of five campaigns. The first and second campaigns failed and the third was aborted due to the Mukden Incident. The fourth campaign (1932-1933) achieved some early successes, but Chiang’s armies were badly mauled when they tried to penetrate into the heart of Mao’s Soviet Chinese Republic. During these campaigns, the KMT columns struck swiftly into Communist areas, but were easily engulfed by the vast countryside and were not able to consolidate their foothold.
Finally, in late 1933, Chiang launched a fifth campaign that involved the systematic encirclement of the Jiangxi Soviet region with fortified blockhouses. Unlike in previous campaigns in which they penetrated deeply in a single strike, this time the KMT troops patiently built blockhouses, each separated by five or so miles to surround the Communist areas and cut off their supplies and food source.
In October 1934, the CPC took advantage of gaps in the ring of blockhouses (manned by the troops of a warlord ally of Chiang Kai-shek's, rather than the KMT themselves) to escape Jiangxi. The warlord armies were reluctant to challenge Communist forces for fear of wasting their own men, and did not pursue the CPC with much fervor. In addition, the main KMT forces were preoccupied with annihilating Zhang Guotao's army, which was much larger than Mao's. The massive military retreat of Communist forces lasted a year and covered 12,500 km (25,000 Li), and was known as the famous Long March. The march ended when the CPC reached the interior of Shaanxi. Zhang Guotao's army, which took a different route through northwest China, was largely destroyed by the forces of Chiang Kai-shek and his Chinese Muslim ally, the Ma clique. Along the way, the Communist army confiscated property and weapons from local warlords and landlords, while recruiting peasants and the poor, solidifying its appeal to the masses. Of the 90,000-100,000 people who began the Long March from the Soviet Chinese Republic, only around 7,000-8,000 made it to Shaanxi. The remnants of Zhang's forces eventually joined Mao in Shaanxi, but with his army destroyed, Zhang, even as a founding member of the CPC, was never able to challenge Mao's authority. Essentially, the great retreat made Mao the undisputed leader of the Communist Party of China.
During the Japanese invasion and occupation of Manchuria, Chiang Kai-shek, who saw the CPC as a greater threat, refused to ally with the CPC to fight against the Japanese. On December 12, 1936, KMT Generals Zhang Xueliang and Yang Hucheng kidnapped Chiang Kai-shek and forced him to a truce with the CPC. The incident became known as the Xi'an Incident. Both parties suspended fighting to form a Second United Front to focus their energies and fighting against the Japanese. In 1937, Japanese airplanes bombed Chinese cities and well-equipped troops overran north and coastal China.
The alliance of CPC and KMT Second united front was in name only. The CPC hardly ever engaged the Japanese in major battles but proved efficient in guerrilla warfare. The level of actual cooperation and coordination between the CPC and KMT during World War II was minimal. In the midst of the Second United Front, the CPC and the KMT were still vying for territorial advantage in "Free China" (i.e. areas not occupied by the Japanese or ruled by Japanese puppet governments). The situation came to a head in late 1940 and early 1941 when there were major clashes between the Communist and KMT forces. In December 1940, Chiang Kai-shek demanded that the CPC’s New Fourth Army evacuate Anhui and Jiangsu Provinces. Under intense pressure, the New Fourth Army commanders complied. In 1941 the New Fourth Army Incident led to several thousand deaths in the CPC. It also ended the Second united front formed earlier to fight the Japanese. In general, developments in the Second Sino-Japanese War were to the advantage of the CPC. The KMT's resistance to the Japanese proved costly to Chiang Kai-shek. In 1944 the last major offensive, Operation Ichigo was launched by the Japanese against the KMT.
In general, developments in the Second Sino-Japanese War were to the advantage of the Communists. Kuomintang's resistance to the Japanese proved costly to Chiang Kai-shek. The war against Japan greatly sapped the KMT's military resources, and Chiang's own central army was never to recover from the devastating losses it had sustained in the early stages of the war. In addition, in the last major Japanese offensive, Operation Ichigo of Fall 1944, the Japanese were able to manoeuver far inland and destroy much of what remained of Chiang's material strength. In contrast, thanks to the brutal mass retaliation policies of the Imperial Japanese Armies, huge numbers of dispossessed villagers were able to be recruited to the Communist ranks. Although the guerrilla operations conducted by the Communists inside occupied China were of limited military value, they greatly heightened popular perception that the Communists were at the vanguard of the fight against the Japanese. By the end of the war, large portions of the peasant masses of occupied China were politically mobilized in support of the Communists; however, the Communists had a severe shortage of war material, including small arms.
Atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Under the terms of the Japanese unconditional surrender dictated by the United States, Japanese troops were ordered to surrender to KMT troops and not to the CPC present in some of the occupied areas. In Manchuria the Japanese surrendered to the Soviet Union. However the KMT had no forces in Manchuria. Chiang Kai-Shek ordered the Japanese troops to remain at their post to receive the Kuomintang and not surrender their arms to the communists.
However, as the Nationalists had no forces in Manchuria and very few or no forces in the most of the rest of the Japanese occupied area, while the communist guerrillas were the only Chinese force present in the area, the communists were able to takeover most of Manchuria before the Nationalists could send troops there. Even after sending sufficient forces, it would still take the Nationalists months of fighting to drive the communists out of major cities in Manchuria. As the communists were the only Chinese forces left in the region that had engaged the Japanese in guerrilla warfare, it was difficult for the Nationalists though to receive local popular support in Manchuria and other parts of China,because local Chinese residents blamed the Nationalists for allowing the Japanese invaders to conquer the local area, such as in the case of Manchuria 14 years previously.
Immediately after World War II, Chiang Kai-shek made a fatal mistake in trying to simultaneously solve the warlord problem and exterminate communism. Many of the warlords who sided with the Nationalists were only interested in keeping their own power, and defected to the Japanese side when the Japanese offered to let them keep their power in exchange for their cooperation. After World War II, these former Japanese puppet regimes once again joined the Nationalists.
Obviously, it was difficult for Chiang to immediately get rid of these warlords for good, as soon as they surrendered to Chiang and rejoined the Nationalists, because such a move would alienate other factions within the Nationalists; furthermore, these former warlords could still provide much-needed military assistance to the Nationalists.
As Chiang had neither sufficient force nor sufficient time to deploy his own troops in the former Japanese controlled regions, these warlords were given titles and ranks in the Nationalist forces and ordered to "keep order" in their areas of control. They were forbidden from surrendering to the communists, and, if necessary, were permitted to fight off a communist push for power. Chiang and his followers had hoped that these warlords would be able to resist the communists and hold on to the former Japanese-occupied regions long enough for Chiang to deploy his own troops there. If the communists were victorious in such conflicts, however, the result would still be of benefit to Chiang, because the power of these warlords would be reduced as their military forces were smashed by the communists, and the warlord problem plaguing China for so long could thus be greatly reduced. At the same time, the communists would be weakened by the fights and Chiang's own troops would have an easier time taking control. The ensuing battles between the communists and these warlords resulted mostly in communist victories, exactly as Chiang and his followers had predicted, and their attempt to greatly reduce the problem of the warlords resulted in success.
However, this success came at a huge cost in the Nationalists' loss of popular support in these Japanese dominated regions, because the local population already blamed them for losing the regions to the Japanese, while reassigning these former Japanese puppet regime forces as Nationalist forces to fight alongside of Japanese soldiers against the communists only further alienated the local populace and strengthened the popular resentment towards Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalists.
The first post-war peace negotiation was attended by both Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong in Chongqing from Aug 28, 1945 to Oct 10, 1945. Both sides stressed the importance of a peaceful reconstruction, but the conference did not produce any concrete result. Battles between the two sides continued even as the peace negotiation was in progress, until the agreement was reached in January 1946. However, large campaigns and full scale confrontations between the CPC and Chiang's own troops were temporarily avoided.
In the last month of World War II in East Asia, Soviet forces launched the mammoth Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation to attack the Japanese in Manchuria and along the Chinese-Mongolian border. This operation destroyed the fighting capability of the Kwantung Army and left the USSR in occupation of all of Manchuria by the end of the war. Consequently, the 700,000 Japanese troops stationed in the region surrendered. Later in the year, Chiang Kai-shek realized that he lacked the resources to prevent a CPC takeover of Manchuria following the scheduled Soviet departure. He therefore made a deal with the Russians to delay their withdrawal until he had moved enough of his best-trained men and modern material into the region. KMT troops were then airlifted by the United States to occupy key cities in North China, while the countryside was already dominated by the CPC. The Soviets spent the extra time systematically dismantling the extensive Manchurian industrial base (worth up to 2 billion dollars) and shipping it back to their war-ravaged country.
The truce fell apart in June 1946, when full scale war between CPC and KMT broke out on June 26. China then entered a state of civil war that lasted more than three years.
Contrary to the Nationalist propaganda that the Soviets had given huge quantity of weapons to the Communists in Manchuria, the actual amount was extremely low: the total Soviet weaponry and Japanese weaponry captured by the Soviet Union that was given to the communists was only enough to equip 30 infantry regiments and 2 mountain gun battalions, equipping a mere 20,000 communist troops out of a total of 400,000 (as of the end of 1947), and the Soviet aid to Communists completely stopped by the end of 1947. The Communists originally expected the Soviets to play a much larger role and Lin Biao personally wrote a letter to Joseph Stalin on June 25, 1947, asking for Japanese weaponry to be turned over to the Communists, even as he asked for captured German weaponry. Stalin, however, did not even bother to respond. On December 28, 1947, Lin Biao wrote another letter directly to Stalin, asking for more weaponry. Again, Lin Biao appealed to Stalin in the letter that if such demand could not be met with captured Japanese weaponry, then captured German weaponry could fill the gap. Stalin, just like he had done previously, did not respond.
The key source of weapons for the Communists during this period was not in fact, the Soviet Union but rather, weapons captured from the former Japanese-aligned warlords who had been ordered by Chiang Kai Shek to attack the communists. In some cases, the Japanese and their nominally Kuomintang collaborators simply abandoned their weapons, allowing the Communists to claim them as a windfall. By February 1947, hundreds of artillery pieces were recovered by the communists, including: 49 howitzers, 300 heavy mortars, 137 anti-aircraft artilleries, 141 anti-tank guns, 108 mountain guns, 97 cannons, and many other smaller artillery pieces, almost one-third of the Nationalist weaponry. These weapons included a mix of Chinese-manufactured and Japanese-maunfactured weapons and these helped to sustain the Communists for 2 years, their stockpiles then being augmented by huge quantities of American weaponry, also captured from Koumintang troops who were poorly motivated and quick to surrender, often having been press-ganged into service.
The Americans, concerned about the weakness and innefficiency of the Chiang Kai Shek regime, had hoped to negotiate a power-sharing agreement which would create a peace favoring the Nationalists. The communists were amenable, expecting the popular support they enjoyed to ensure that they would soon be in a dominant position. Chiang Kai Shek refused however, insisting that his leadership represented the sole representative of the Chinese nation and people. In consequence, all that the American negotiator, George C. Marshall was able to hammer out was an uncertain truce.
The truce fell apart in June 1946 when full scale war broke out on June 26, and although negotiations continued, Marshall was recalled in January 1947, the same time when the last Communist envoys in Nationalist controlled regions were recalled back to Yan'an.
With the breakdown of talks, an all out war resumed. This stage is referred to in Communist media and historiography as the "War of Liberation" (). The United States assisted the KMT with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of new surplus military supplies and generous loans of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military equipment. They also airlifted many KMT troops from central China to the Northeast (once called Manchuria). Nevertheless, the CPC, who had already situated themselves in the north and northeast, were poised to strike.
General Marshall himself stated that he knew of no evidence that the CPC were being supplied by the Soviet Union. The CPC did benefit indirectly from the elimination of the Japanese Kwantung Army but the Soviets did not provide direct support to the CPC during this period as they expected either a power-sharing arrangement or a KMT victory. The CPC were able to capture a number of weapons abandoned by the Japanese and KMT including some tanks but it was not until large numbers of well trained KMT troops joined the communist force that the CPC were finally able to master the hardware. Anti-Japanese Koreans also played an important role, with 30-40,000 Korean troops participating in the war on the Communist side. Koreans are also credited with repairing Manchurian railroads and bridges which were used by Mao.
In March 1947 the KMT seized the CPC capital of Yenan. By late 1948 the CPC eventually captured the northern cities of Shenyang and Changchun. The economy between the years 1946-1949 witnessed the growth of enterprises offering welfare services to sustain workers standard of living during the hyperinflation crisis that afflicted the KMT. The KMT position was bleak. Chiang Kai Shek attempted to eliminate the CPC in the North by using troops belonging to northern warlords who had sided with Chiang during the Civil War and then switched sides to join the Japanese during the invasion. This strategy backfired as the effort to suppress the CPC who the peasants remembered as the enemies of the Japanese by using troops who had assisted the hated invaders further eroded any base of popular support which Chiang might have hoped for. Although the KMT had an advantage in their numbers and weapons, and benefited from considerable international support, their low morale hindered their ability to fight. Furthermore, though they administered a larger and more populous territory, their corruption effectively stifled any civilian support.
The CPC were ultimately able to seize the Northeast after struggling through numerous set-backs while trying to take the cities, with the decisive Liaoshen Campaign. The capture of large KMT formations provided them with the tanks, heavy artillery, and other combined-arms assets needed to prosecute offensive operations south of the Great Wall. By April 1948 the city of Loyang fell, cutting the KMT army off from Xi'an. Following a fierce battle, the CPC captured Jinan and Shandong province on September 28, 1948. The Huaihai Campaign of late 1948 and early 1949 secured east-central China for the CPC. The outcome of these encounters were decisive for the military outcome of the civil war. The Beiping-Tianjin Campaign resulted in the Communist conquest of northern China lasting 64 days from November 21, 1948 to January 31, 1949. The People's Liberation Army suffered heavy casualties from securing Zhangjiakou, Tianjin along with its port and garrison at Dagu, and Beiping. The CPC brought 890,000 troops from the Northeast to oppose some 600,000 KMT troops. There were 40,000 CPC casualties at Zhangjiakou alone. They in turned killed, wounded or captured some 520,000 KMT during the campaign.
On April 21, Communist forces crossed the Yangtze River, capturing Nanjing, capital of the KMT's Republic of China. In most cases, the surrounding countryside and small towns had come under Communist influence long before the cities. By late 1949, the People's Liberation Army was pursuing remnants of KMT forces southwards in southern China.
On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China with its capital at Beiping, which was renamed Beijing (Peking). Chiang Kai-shek and approximately 2 million Nationalist Chinese retreated from the mainland to the island of Taiwan, which some supporters of Taiwan independence supporters had argued to be under military occupation by the ROC since Oct. 25, 1945. There remained only isolated pockets of resistance, particularly in the far south. A PRC attempt to take the ROC controlled island of Kinmen was thwarted in the Battle of Kuningtou halting the PLA advance towards Taiwan. In December 1949, Chiang proclaimed Taipei, Taiwan, the temporary capital of the Republic of China and continued to assert his government as the sole legitimate authority in China. The last of the fighting ended with the Landing Operation on Hainan Island which resulted in the Communist conquest of Hainan Island in April 1950 and Zhoushan Island in May 1950. However, no legal document to officially end the Chinese Civil War has ever been signed. Legally speaking, with both contending governments PRC and ROC still existing, the Chinese Civil War has not been resolved.
In June 1949, the ROC declared a "closure" of all mainland ports and its navy attempted to intercept all foreign ships. The closure covered from a point north of the mouth of Min river in Fujian province to the mouth of the Liao river in Manchuria. Since the mainland's railroad network was underdeveloped, north-south trade depended heavily on sea lanes. ROC naval activity also caused severe hardship for mainland fishermen.
After losing the mainland, a group of approximately 12,000 KMT soldiers escaped to Burma and continued launching guerrilla attacks into south China. Their leader, General Li Mi, was paid a salary by the ROC government and given the nominal title of Governor of Yunnan. Initially, the United States supported these remnants and the Central Intelligence Agency provided them with aid. After the Burmese government appealed to the United Nations in 1953, the U.S. began pressuring the ROC to withdraw its loyalists. By the end of 1954, nearly 6,000 soldiers had left Burma and Li Mi declared his army disbanded. However, thousands remained, and the ROC continued to supply and command them, even secretly supplying reinforcements at times.
Though viewed as a military liability by the United States, the ROC viewed its remaining islands in Fujian as vital for any future campaign to defeat the PRC and retake the mainland. On September 3, 1954, the First Taiwan Strait crisis began when the PLA started shelling Quemoy and threatened to take the Dachen Islands. On January 20, 1955, the PLA took nearby Yijiangshan Island, with the entire ROC garrison of 720 troops killed or wounded defending the island. On January 24 of the same year, the United States Congress passed the Formosa Resolution authorizing the President to defend the ROC's offshore islands. The First Taiwan Straits crisis ended in March 1955 when the PLA ceased its bombardment. The crisis was brought to a close during the Bandung conference.
The Second Taiwan Strait Crisis began on August 23, 1958 with air and naval engagements between the PRC and the ROC military forces, leading to intense artillery bombardment of Quemoy (by the PRC) and Amoy (by the ROC), and ended on November of the same year. PLA patrol boats blockaded the islands from ROC supply ships. Though the United States rejected Chiang Kai-shek's proposal to bomb mainland artillery batteries, it quickly moved to supply fighter jets and anti-aircraft missiles to the ROC. It also provided amphibious assault ships to land supply, as a sunken ROC naval vessel was blocking the harbor. On September 7, the United States escorted a convoy of ROC supply ships and the PRC refrained from firing. On October 25, the PRC announced an "even-day ceasefire" — the PLA would only shell Quemoy on odd-numbered days. The Third Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1995–96 escalated tensions between both sides when the PRC tested a series of missiles not far from Taiwan.
Since the late 1980s, there has been growing economic exchanges on both sides while the Taiwan straits remain a dangerous flash point. Beginning in the early 21st century, there has been a significant warming of economic and cultural relations between the KMT and the Communist Party of China with high level exchanges such as the 2005 Pan-blue visit. But despite the improved relations between the two sides, direct talks between the presidents on both sides have not yet occurred due to the refusal of the PRC to recognize the sovereignty and existence of the ROC.
Heavy Machine Guns