The Events That Produced a Communist Government in China

Table Of Contents

Introduction: An historical background leading up to the collapse of the Ch'ing Dynasty.

Sun Yat-Sen: Sun Yat-sen organizes the Kuomingtang

Chiang Kai-Shek: Chiang attempts to modernize China by private enterprise under a military dictatorship.

Mao Tse-Tung: How Mao came to embrace Marxixt ideology.

The First United Front: The Kuomingtang and Communists join forces to oust northern warlords whiel continuing to struggle with one another for control.

Japan: Japan launches an attack on Manchuria.

The Second United Front: The Sian Incident and the formation of a United Front against the Japanese.

The Americans: The United States becomes allies of China and must deal with two contending factions.

Revolution: China becomes a Communist nation.




It was while Ming emperors ruled in China that Columbus discovered America and Vasco da Gama sailed around Africa into the Indian Ocean. The pioneering Portuguese first reached China by sea in 1514. They established a colony at Macao in 1557.

In a time of great internal difficulties the Manchus, allies of he Mings, became more powerful than the Chinese and took over the empire. In 1644 they captured Peking founding the Ch'ing dynasty that lasted for nearly 300 years.

By 1750 this dynasty had conquered and ruled over Mongolia, Tibet, Sinkiang, and Annam in Indochina. Nepal and Burma, on the borders of India, also paid tribute to Peking.

By 1727 the Russians had expanded their travels across Siberia toward the Pacific and obtained the right to send trade missions to Peking. However, trade with Europe and America was unimportant to the Ch'ing emperors. Only one port was open to trade with "barbarian" - Canton.

The British had built a very profitable trade importing opium into China from India. The opium traffic increased rapidly with more and more Chinese using the drug, and silver was being drained from the country to pay for it. In 1839 the Chinese seized and destroyed 20,000 chests of opium. This conflict over opium flared up into the Opium War of 1840-1842. This was not the only cause of the war as Britain was seeking new markets for the output of its factories, and was eager to expand its trade with China.

While China had continued in its traditional ways, Europe, led by Britain, had embarked on the Industrial Revolution. Machine manufacturing, taking the place of hand work, gave the Europeans immense advantages in warfare. The defeated Chinese were forced to sign a humiliating Treaty of Nanking in 1842. Britain demanded from China an indemnity of 21 million dollars. Hong Kong, an island on the southeast coast of China, became a British territory, and five ports in China were opened to British trade.

By the beginning of the 20th. century China had lost its political influence over great areas on its borders. It had been forced to lease some Chinese territories to European powers. France had seized Annam in Indochina, which had long paid tribute to China, though not a part of that country. Britain removed China's overlordship of Burma and Nepal. Russia pressed forward on China's northern borders, seizing all areas north of the Amur River and along the Pacific coast, and increasing its influence in Manchuria and Mongolia. Germany obtained a lease of territory at Kiaochow Bay in Shantung.

Among the areas handed over to Western control were some undeveloped lands outside the walls of the great port of Shanghai. One of these was set aside for United States citizens. Later it was merged with the British concession to become the International Settlement.

Western influences also reached Japan through Commodore Matthew Perry's mission to that country in 1854. Thus, Japan set to work to modernize itself as rapidly as possible, and a powerful new nation began to emerge close to China's shores. Unlike the Manchu Empire, Japan embraced change.

War between the two countries, the Sino-Japanese War, broke out in 1894. A dispute over Korea was the fuse that lit the conflict. The modernized Japanese army and navy quickly overwhelmed the Chinese forces. China had to sue for peace in 1895. The terms were stiff. Taiwan (Formosa) and the Pescadores Islands were ceded to Japan. Chinese influence in Korea was wiped out and within a few years Japan annexed that land.

Humiliated by this defeat, the Chinese government faced heavy pressure from European powers. Russia won the right to build railroads in Manchuria and to construct a naval base there. Britain, Germany, and France obtained similar concessions in other parts of China.

Over the years many anti-foreign outbreaks occurred. One of the most violent of these was the Boxer Rebellion. In 1900 a fierce attack on all foreigners broke out. The Western powers, including the United States, and Japan, sent a military expedition to rescue their nationals. They fought their way into the capital and retaliated against the Chinese by looting Peking. An indemnity of 333 million dollars was levied on China. In 1901 Secretary of State, John Hay, announced his Open Door Doctrine which laid down the principle that powers with concessions and spheres of influence in China would have equal rights to trade with China. The fate of China was decided over the heads of the Chinese people.

After the Boxer Rebellion Russia took control of Manchuria bringing them into conflict with Japan, which also had ambitions there. A war soon followed known as the Russo-Japanese Ware of 1904-1905. The Russians were badly defeated handing over to the Japanese their rights in Manchuria, including some railroads and the great naval base of Port Arthur.

In 1908 the Empress Dowager died and within a few years Manchu rule collapsed. Many Chinese had become convinced that there must be a revolution and a complete reorganization of the country. In October, 1911 this discontent flared into a successful revolution. On February 12, 1912, the Ch'ing dynasty of the Manchus came to an end.

Sun Yat-Sen

The father of the Chinese revolution was Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. Sun was born near Canton in 1866, the son of a farmer. At 13 he joined his elder brother in Hawaii, and there he learned English and mathematics. He returned to his native village at the age of 17, rebellious against old Chinese ways. His father then sent him to Hong Kong, the British colony. There Sun became a Christian, and was trained as a doctor under a British medical missionary, Sir James Cantlie. He did not practice medicine long. In 1894 he began his career as a revolutionary, forming a secret society. After an unsuccessful effort in 1895 to seize government offices in Canton, Sun fled to Japan.

For the next 15 years Sun traveled about the world, organizing efforts to overthrow the Manchus and modernize China. He succeeded in establishing a revolutionary organization. After several changes of names it finally became known as the Kuomintang, translated as the Nationalist Party.

While in Japan Sun met Soong Ching-ling. Soong Ching-ling was born in Shanghai (in 1893), the second of three sisters, of whom the youngest was Soong Mei-ling (Mme. Chiang Kai-shek), in a family originally from Hainan Island. She was a graduate of Wesleyan College, Macon Georgia. She and Dr. Sun Yat-sen were married in Japan in 1914. She became his private secretary, learned cryptography, and did all his secret coding and decoding.

With the fall of the Manchus Sun Yat-sen returned to Canton where he set up a provisional government. The basis of his program was what he called the Three Principles of the People--Nationalism, Democracy, and the People's Livelihood.

This by no means stabilized the situation in China as Yuan Shih-kai, Prime Minister under the Manchus and commander of the imperial army was ready to use the revolution to proclaim himself emperor. Yuan, however, had many enemies and sentiment for a republic was strong among educated people. Protests from the generals in the provinces announced they would not support the Peking government. Yuan Shih-kai canceled the decree that had made him emperor. He died shortly afterward in 1916.

After the close of the First World War, Communism became a growing influence in the Far East. The successful coup d'etat led by Lenin in 1917, not only ushered in the new regime in Russia, but was also destined to bring the most powerful challenge to civilization in Asia since the coming of the Mongols. In China, Russian Communists found fertile soil for the reception of their ideas. In 1920, the Communist movement in Asia was organized after Lenin sent his secretary, Marin, to establish secretly a Chinese Communist Party as a branch of the Communist International.

In 1922 the Soviet government sent Adolf Joffe to China for the purpose of establishing official diplomatic relations with the internationally recognized Chinese government in Peking, while at the same time arranging for Soviet support of the revolutionary movement of the Kuomintang, which aimed at overthrowing the Peking government. Joffe did not meet with immediate success in Peking, but during a meeting with Sun Yat-sen at Shanghai in January, 1923, he was able to arrange an entente between Soviet Russia and the Kuomintang.1

Joffe returned to Russia and was succeeded by Leo Karakhan, considered the foremost Soviet in Oriental diplomacy. Sun Yat-sen wrote to Karakhan in Peking, requesting him to send a representative with whom Sun might discuss mutual relations. Karakhan sent Michael Borodin, who arrived that same year in Canton, where Sun had established the Kuomintang government. "On the one hand, the Soviet foreign office carried on diplomatic negotiations with the Chinese government. On the other, the Communist International proceeded to set up a Chinese Communist Party".2

So while by 1924 Karakhan had obtained official recognition of the Soviet Union form the Peking government, Borodin's task was to pump new life into the Kuomintang. The Comintern spared neither effort nor money to create a Chinese Soviet Republic.

After the death of Dr. Sun, in March 1925, his widow remained a member of the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang but continued to uphold a pro-Communist, or leftist, interpretation of his principles, a declined office in Chiang Kai-shek's government.

Chiang Kai-Shek

Chiang Kai-shek, the son of a middle-class merchant and landlord, grew up near Ningpo, in the small village of Chikou, where he was born in 1887. Chiang's father died when he was nine, and he was trained by his mother, a devout Buddhist and a stern disciplinarian. Although he became a Methodist after his marriage to Soong Mei-ling, his ethics remained semifeudal and Confucianist.

Apparently Chiang made up his mind early to be a soldier, but he did not enter Paoting Military Academy until he was twenty. He studied there only a few months; then he entered Shimbu Gakko, a military school in Japan, where he graduated in 1909. In Japan he met Sun Yat-sen and joined the Kuomintang, and he returned to China in time to see the capitulation of the Manchu Dynasty. Thereafter he worked with Sun in attempts to overthrow one provincial warlord or another. Disgusted at repeated failures, he withdrew from politics in 1917 and went into business in Shanghai. He emerged to join Sun Yat-sen's entourage once more when the Kuomintang found a powerful ally in Soviet Russia.3

Nationalist troops, led by General Chiang Kai-shek, commander in chief of the "Northern Expedition", conquered and united all China south of the Yangtze River. For the first time, thousands of Chinese volunteered for the Chinese army. The northern warlords seemed to be crushed almost by sheer weight of numbers.

In 1927 the Nationalist revolution, under the supreme military leadership of Ching Kai-shek, was victorious over most of China. In the same year Generalissimo Chiang broke with the Communist party and made membership in it a capital offense.

By 1928 four-fifths of the Chinese Communist Party had been exterminated. Forced underground, its urban leaders continued to observe directives from Moscow, while Stalin headed the Comintern, but attempts at proletarian insurrections were disastrous failures. For ten years the civil war raged across South China. The basic "Three Principles" remained the common heritage of both the contending parties.

Throughout this whole epoch following the demise of the Manchu Dynasty, China's "traditional society" underwent a continuous disintegration. What Chiang attempted was to replace it with a capitalist state in China under a military dictatorship. It is a mistake to assume that his struggle with the communists was over either the restoration of the "traditional society" or its final destruction. "Traditional society" had already been shattered by the impact of foreign industry, science and capitalism. The struggle between the Reds and Chiang Kai-shek was quite simply over whether China's modernization was to be achieved by private enterprise under the dictatorship of a very weak bourgeoisie, or by a proletarian revolution, led by the Communist party, to establish public ownership over the basic means of production and to mobilize "the whole people" and their immense labor power.

Because the men who held power in the Nanking regime were family relatives, it was called the "Soong Dynasty"; Chinese also dubbed it "Ching I se," or Pure One Color" - a royal flush. Soong Mei-ling, sister of Madame Sun Yat-sen (Soong Ching-ling), married Chiang Kai-shek on December 15, 1927.

The "palace Clique" including Chiang Kai-shek and his wife, Soong Mei-ling; their brother-in-law, H. H. Kung; Sun Fo, the only son of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, who was older than his stepmother (Soong Ching-ling); T. V. Song, the younger brother of Mme. Chiang; and Mme. Chiang's elder sister, Soong Ai-ling (Mme. Kung). Each member of the "Dynasty" had his or her own "subcourt" of near and distant cousins, aunts, uncles, friends and assorted entourage.

Usually either Dr. Kung or Dr. Soong was finance minister. Chiang apparently preferred Dr. Kung, who had no party prestige and never openly opposed Chiang's demands; but Dr. Kung knew nothing about modern banking. He had the shrewd rural-exchange merchant's eye out for quick profits in personal side deals, for which he and his wife became notorious. Periodically Chiang had to call in T. V. Soong to untangle the resulting chaos. T. V. Soong had a good grasp of modern banking practices as a "practical business man" from Harvard; he also had a vague attachment to liberal political sentiments.

Mao Tse-Tung

At the hour of Mao's birth Sun Yat-sen was a twenty-seven year old doctor conspiring to overthrow the Manchu dynasty; Nikolai Lenin was a twenty-three year old law graduate beginning his career as a revolutionary in St. Petersburg; Joseph ?Stalin was a fourteen year old seminary student in Tiflis, reading Charles Darwin in bed by candlelight; Chiang Kai-shek was a six year old helping his father, and impoverished salt merchant in east China; Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in a cradle at Hyde Park, New York; and Nikita Khrushchev lacked four months of being born.

Mao was born in 1893 in the village of Shao Shan, in Hunan province. His father, Mao Jen-sheng, owned 3,7 acres, which gave him the status of a rich peasant. Tiny as his acreage was, labor productivity was so low that he needed a regular hand; in busy seasons he took on another. He also used the part-time labor of his wife, Wen Ch'i-mei, and three sons, of whom Mao Tse-Tung was eldest. Once a month the father gave the hired laborers eggs with their rice, "but never meat", said Mao. "To me he gave neither eggs nor meat".4

"There were 'two parties' in the family. One was my father, the Ruling Power. The Opposition was made up of myself, my mother, my brother and even the laborer. In the United Front of the Opposition, however, there was a difference of opinion. My mother advocated a policy of indirect attack. She criticized any overt display of emotion and attempts at open rebellion against the Ruling Power. She said it was not the Chinese way."5

He insisted that Mao kou-kou (knock head to earth) as a sign of submission. Mao once agreed to give a one-knee kou-kou if he would promise not to beat him. Thus the war ended and from it he learned that when he defended his rights by open rebellion "my father relented but when I remained meek and submissive he only cursed and beat me the more."6

His father was annoyed by his extravagant use of an oil lamp in his tiny room to read folk tales and historical novels long after everyone else was asleep. Mao's favorite books were The Three Kingdoms, a work of fiction exalting Confucian principles, and Water Margin, translated as All Men Are Brothers by Pearl Buck. The latter book told of heroic bandits who revolted against a corrupt court and bureaucracy, establishing themselves in a mountain fortress to fight for justice and order.

In 1906 Chinese unrest was heightened by a great flood in Hunan Province that caused widespread famine and suffering. "Two miles outside my village", Mao later told Andre' Malraux, French Minister of Culture under Charles de Gaulle, "there were trees stripped of their bark up to a height of twelve feet. Starving people had eaten it."7

In accordance with Chinese custom his parents selected a wife for him, and 1907 Mao married a girl four years older then himself. After the ceremony he refused to fulfill his role as her husband, later repudiating the marriage.

When he was sixteen, his father sought to apprentice him to a rice shop merchant, but by now Mao was determined to pursue studies. Borrowing from friends and relatives, he raised enough money to defray the cost of attending Tungshan High School in his mother's hometown, Siangsiang.

His father's reaction was frosty. "It is not enough to pay only for this whim of yours. You must also pay for the laborer I must hire to take your place in the fields."8

In 1911 he won admission into Hsianghsiang Middle School in Changsha. He immediately visited the Hunan Provincial Library, where he saw for the first time a map of the world. The library's thousands of volumes sparked an impulsive decision. Instead of attending the Middle School, he would spend every day in self study, reading-politics, economics, history, and geography.

This same year Mao enlisted in the republican forces after he had witnessed the seizure of Changsha. Six months later he "resigned"' the emperor had abdicated and a republic was proclaimed. After many vacillations Mao determined to become a teacher.

So at the age of nineteen, with his father's permission, Mao sought to prepare himself for a career in the academic world. Taking an entrance examination for the Teachers Training School in Changsha, he won free tuition and cheap board. In 1912, despite threats of expulsion, he organized a student union that struck for better meals and a relaxation of regulations, and won.

One of two instructors who made a deep impression upon Mao was Hsu T'e-li, who had studied in Japan with Sun Yat-sen. Hsu manifested great scorn for ostentation by deliberately coming to school on foot, instead of in rickshas or sedan chairs like other teachers. Mao never forgot Hsu's lesson in demonstrated humility.

His pursuit of education was aided further by his professor of ethics, Yang Ch'ang-chi, who taught him how to blend the best ideas of East and West. Mao was warned not to seek a substitute culture, but to cherish China's own heritage.

Mao began to spend most of his limited cash on newspapers. The New Youth magazine, edited by Chen Tu-hsiu, a returned student from France, and now a Marxist college dean in Shanghai, made a deep impression on Mao and other students of the time.

Following Chen's revolutionary ideas in Hunan, Mao gathered together some friends to form a discussion group. His first published attempt to improve the lot of his fellow Chinese was an article in this same magazine written in 1917. It urged his readers to go in for body-building exercises.

When Mao's years at the Teachers Training School drew to a close in April, 1918, he went to Peking, as a delegate from the New Peoples's Study Society. Mao found Yang Chang-chi a teacher who had guided him during his self-study and who was now a professor at Peking National University. Through his help Mao secured a job under the university librarian, Li Ta-Chao. Mao joined a Society for the Study of Marxism formed by his librarian boss and the editor of New Youth, Ch'en Tu-hsiu. Mao read for the first time Karl Marx's The Communist Manifesto, Li Ta-chao, later became a principal founder of the Communist Party.

Mao married Yang Chang-chi's daughter, Kai-hui, in 1920. By the summer of 1920 Mao considered himself a Marxist, and in the following year he joined Li Ta-chao and ten others to found the Chinese Communist Party. Both Li Ta-chao and Kai-hui were executed a few years later, after membership in the Communist Party was made a capital offense.

Li Ta-chao, 1888-1927, who was executed by strangulation, is considered by many as the single most important Chinese radical political influence in his time, the first impressive Chinese interpreter of Marxism, and the first major contributor to a system or ideology which may be called Chinese Marxist thought.

Chen Tu-hsiu, became the first general secretary (1921-1927) of the Chinese Communist Party. In 1927 Chen was accused of rightism and dropped from the Politburo.

In spite of his poverty and humble occupation Mao had managed to meet important leaders of the cultural renaissance, such as, Chen Tu-hsiu. Under his guidance and that of Li Ta-chao and other senior intellectuals of that time, the impact of the Russian Revolution turned Mao toward Marxism and a commitment to socialist revolution.

The First United Front

By the spring of 1921 there were five other functioning Communist groups in China besides the one under Mao in Changsha. In Paris Chou En-lai had also formed a Communist Party of Chinese working in France. The Comintern, operating from Moscow had decided that it was time to unite these groups into a national Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Each group on the Chinese mainland sent two delegates to Shanghai. This new national CCP decided to adopt the theory and techniques of the successful Russian Communist Party in seeking to make China a classless society. However, Mao was still bothered by the Russian view that communism could only be brought about by the proletariat, or urban working class.

When Chinese CCP delegates went to Moscow in 1922 to attend the First Congress of the Toilers of the Far East, they were scolded by Comintern chief Grigori Zinoviev for the failure of the Chinese Reds to support Dr. Sun Yat-sen. The CCP, he insisted, must help Sun free China of the northern warlords and their western supporters.

Soon afterward a soviet envoy to Sun in Canton pledged Russian help in building a strong Nationalist army. The Third CCP Congress then voted to join the KMT "as individuals".

"The Kuomintang", agreed Mao and other CCP leaders, "must be the central force in the national revolution, and assume the leadership of the revolution". A United Front had been born in China.9

"We have lost hope of help from America, England, France", Sun Yat-sen told The New York Times in 1923. ". . . The only country that shows any sign of helping us in the South is the Soviet Government".10

As mentioned earlier, Moscow, through its representative in Peking, Leo Karakhan, sent black-moustached Michael Borodin to Canton to act as Sun's political adviser, accompanied by military adviser General Vasili Bluecher, better known under the alias of Galin.

A key figure in the new alliance was Sun's chief of staff, Colonel Chiang Kai-shek. Sun sent him to Moscow, where Lenin now lay dying, to help Borodin and Galin organize the Whampoa Military Academy, China's equivalent of our West Point, equipped and staffed by Kremlin experts. Chiang, now thirty-seven, was named Commandant, with twenty-five year old Chou En-lai as his political commissar. Now, both Kuomintang and Communist youths were trained as officers.

One of the earliest graduates was Lin Piao, born in 1908, and now an eighteen year old son of a textile-factory owner, in Hupeh province, ruined by extortionate warlord taxation. He received intensive political and military training under Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang's chief adviser, the Russian General Vasili Bluecher. By 1927, at the age of twenty, he was a colonel in the noted Fourth Kuomintang Army.

In January 1924 Mao Tse-tung became an alternate member of the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang. He was a member of the Shanghai Bureau of the Kuomintang and in February became chief of its organization bureau in that city. As far as he was concerned, this meant the Communists had control of one of the Key political posts in the nation.11

Not all his comrades in the CCP shared his enthusiasm for the United Front. Some suspected Sun of seeking to make secret deals with northern warlords. They also distrusted Chiang Kai-shek as an ambitious warlord type who would sell out to the vested interests of China as soon as he had the power to do so.

The dissidents attacked the United Front policy at CCP meetings. Their spokesman was Li Li-san, an old comrade of Mao's from Changsha. He criticized Mao bitterly for playing into the hands of the KMT. Mao was either removed from his position or took a leave of absence from it. In any case he returned to his native village of Shaoshan.

In March, 1925, in the midst of negotiations with northern warlords, Sun Yat-sen died of cancer. On the advice of Borodin and Galin, Chiang Kai-shek was made the new Commander in Chief with the rank of Generalissimo.

In May, 1925, Shanghai students demonstrated in sympathy with a strike against a Japanese-owned factory, police of the International Settlement shot and killed ten, wounding fifty others. Rioting broke out in other cities. In Canton British and French police fired into crowds, killing fifty-two more Chinese. Half a million workers went on strike, protesting the right of foreign powers to murder Chinese people on Chinese soil.

Mao was convinced the western powers could not be driven out of China until their northern warlord "puppets" were crushed. Accepting a job editing the Political Weekly for the KMT, he urged the peasantry to give full support to Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Liberation Expedition, soon to be sent north against half a million troops of the warlords.

To provide a political cadre of peasants who would organize the countryside for the expedition, he opened a Peasant Movement Training Institute. His younger brother Mao Tse-min attended as a student. They were taught to persuade peasants that only by uniting behind KMT forces could they get rid of the warlords, win ownership of the land they tilled, and become masters in their own country.

Li Li-san now attacked Mao's preoccupation with the peasantry as a Marxist "deviation". Had not Marx declared that the revolution could be won only in the cities? Mao was disappointed when Ch'en Tu-hsiu, his old mentor in Marxism, joined Li Li-san in criticizing him. The CCP faction led by Li and Ch'en strongly distrusted Chiang Kai-shek and wanted to pull out of the United Front. But in October, 1925, they were overruled by Borodin, Stalin's representative in China. This struggle within the CCP did not go unreported to Chiang. Elements of the KMT urged him to expel the Communists.

However, on July 9, 1926, the Nationalist Army marched out of Canton, and the Northern Expedition was finally under way. At first they found themselves welcomed and helped everywhere. It had not been difficult for Chu Teh to mobilize peasants against the hated warlord armies that swarmed across the land. Before the end of the year the KMT had more than doubled the size of its forces. Many recruits were peasants eager for a chance to fight back against their oppressors.

Chiang followed his troops north in a headquarters train, accompanied by Stalin's envoy, Borodin, and his Russian staff. Among the CCP representatives on the train was Mao Tse-tung, who was now directing Chu Teh's agitation campaign as Chief of the KMT Propaganda Department. Mao's campaign to stir the countryside was aided by a bad harvest that had created famine conditions. Encouraged by Chu's task force peasant revolts began flaring up throughout Hunan Province. In a few months the peasants had accomplished what Dr. Sun Yat-sen wanted-destroyed the warlord's grip.

The Li-Ch'en group in the CCP saw little value in Mao's insistence that the CCP should support land confiscation to assure peasant support and the provision of food supplies for the Northern Expedition. Members in the KMT were equally opposed. Chiang Kai-shek felt compelled to complain to Stalin about the "disruptive" agitation of the peasantry by Mao and Chu. His apprehension was stiffened by his future father-in-law, Charlie Soong, who acted as intermediary between Chiang and the banks, foreign interests, rich merchants, and industrialists of China. They now saw Chiang as their best hope of stopping strikes in the factories, preventing confiscation of landlords' properties, keeping servants under control, and preserving the privileges of the wealthy in China.

Soong persuaded Chiang that Borodin and the Communist elements in the United Front were too dangerous to tolerate any longer. Chiang's desire to marry into the powerful Soong family erased any lingering qualms. In March, 1927, he began removing Communists from the KMT Central Executive Committee, even while the Northern Expedition continued to be a joint CCP-KMT enterprise.

Earlier Chou En-lai had been sent to Shanghai to organize a general strike in order that Nationalist troops could take it. Charlie Soong hurried to Chiang with an important offer from those interests, in Shanghai, which he represented. If Chiang agreed to turn on the Communists and destroy them when he took the city, Soong and those he represented would support him as dictator of all China.12

Chiang lost little time in deciding. On the night of April 12, 1927, he sent trucks filled with his troops into the heart of Shanghai. Over four thousand Communists were killed. Professor Li Ta-chao was strangled to death by Marshal Chang Tso-lin. Chou En-lai escaped Shanghai with the help of a young officer he had befriended a the Whampoa Military Academy. Chiang's forces smashed into and ransacked the Soviet Embassy in the city. The general strike was crushed, and all workers forced back to their jobs. Ousted landlords hurried to reclaim their confiscated fields in KMT held areas, extracting back rent from their tenants who were now warned to have nothing further to do with "subversive" peasant associations under penalty of death. Peasants identified as Red were murdered by troops.

Three weeks after the Shanghai Massacre, while Green Gang goon squads roamed Shanghai, and executions were taking place throughout China on his orders, Chiang Kai-shek proposed to May-ling Soong. She accepted.

Chiang's remarriage was a calculated political move. He hoped to win over Madame Sun Yat-sen . . . and T. V. Soong by becoming their brother-in-law. At that point, Chiang also began to contemplate the need to seek support from the West. With Mayling as his wife, he would have the "mouth and ears" to deal with Westerners. Besides, he thought very highly of T. V. as a financial expert. But it would be unfair to say that Chiang did not fall for Mayling. Chiang obviously considered himself as a hero. And in Chinese history heroes tended to fall for beauties. For political considerations, Chiang would have done anything. To have a new wife would seem a logical move for Chiang to make in those circumstances.13

Mao, disgusted, fed to the mountains of his native Hunan to organize a new peasant army. He soon had a full peasant regiment armed with rifles and ammunition captured in raids on KMT troop encampments. The CCP Politburo ordered Mao's men to attack Changsha. Considering the mission absurd and suicidal, Mao refused. In October, 1927, he led his army instead to refuge in the Chingkangshan mountain range on the border of Hunan and Kiangsi. Outraged, the CCP Central Committee in Canton dismissed Mao from the Politburo. Word also reached him that he had been put on Chiang's death list.

Moscow was still convinced that only by taking the cities of China could the CCP win their revolution. In December, 1927, the Comintern ordered the CCP to organize a mass uprising in Canton. Squads of workers wearing red kerchiefs around their necks suddenly took control of strategic sectors of the city, burned bank buildings, and raised the Red flag. Chiang ordered a counterattack. Within forty-eight hours of fighting the Communists were running in defeat. Among the victims were Mao's wife, Yang K'ai-hui, one young son, and the wife of Lin Piao. In street fighting and executions Chiang's forces killed six thousand Cantonese.

Now Mao bitterly denounced Borodin and the Comintern as blunderers, and Li Li-san and Ch'en Tu-hsiu as unconscious traitors. Chiang Kai-shek had become all-powerful as China's new "strong man". Capturing Peking in June, 1928, Chiang began running his new Nationalist government as chairman of a one-party dictatorship. The Soong group provided him with all the money and arms he needed and helped bring northern warlords under his control. Fortunately for Mao, he was able to link up with the forces of Chu Teh.

The dominant figure in the CCP remained to be Li Li-san, who was now acting secretary for the CCP Central Committee. He continued to denounce Mao for "unMarxist Tactics" for not carrying the fight to the cities. In June, 1930, Li Li-san once more convinced the CCP Central Committee that all-out attacks on the major cities of south-central China would bring about worker uprisings that would topple Chiang Kai-shek. The Red Army fought into Changsha and captured it, then advanced on Nanchang. After ten days they were forced to retreat with heavy casualties. Among those seized and beheaded was Mao's sister, Mao Tse-hung. Mao had had enough. At a conference at Lushan, in December, 1930, he demanded the ouster of Li Li-san as a dangerous fool whose reckless decisions were wrecking the Red Army. This time he was supported by Chou En-lai. Li Li-san was rebuked by the Central Committee and exiled to Moscow. Mao was elected Chairman of the Worker's and Peasants' Revolutionary Committee.

During the next three years Chiang Kai-shek launched four major but inconclusive campaigns against a Red Army that Mao and Chu Teh had built back up to forty thousand. In each of the first three campaigns the Nationalist forces numbered between one hundred thousand and three hundred thousand troops. One of Chiang's generals complained of the peasants' refusal to cooperate with the KMT forces. "Everywhere the National Army gropes in the dark", he lamented, "while the Red Army moves freely in broad daylight".14


On September 18, 1931, during Chiang's third campaign against the Red Army, Tokyo launched an attack on Manchuria. In less than six months they were able to conquer the province and set up a puppet government. They renamed the province Manchukuo.

From the Underground in Shanghai the CCP Central Committee declared war on the Japanese. The Kuomintang sought to suppress all news about Manchuria. Chiang did not want to be pressured by public opinion into giving up his campaign against the Communists to fight the Japanese.

At Mao's insistence the CCP Central Committee left Shanghai to establish a new headquarters at the base in Juichin. A First Congress of Chinese Soviets was convened to set up a rival national government to Chiang's--The Chinese Soviet Republic. Mao Tse-Tung was elected its first Chairman, Chu Teh made Commander in Chief of the Red Army, and Chou En-lai was appointed Political Commissar.

In 1932 the Japanese attacked and took Shanghai, forcing Chiang's troops to retreat to Fukien Province. Chiang made peace overtures to Tokyo while offering a price of $250,000 each in silver for the severed heads of Mao and Chu Teh.

Chiang Kai-shek began his Fourth Encirclement Campaign against Juichin in the winter of 1932-1933. The Red Army turned back the Nationalists with head-on clashes resulting in thirteen thousand of Chiang's troops lost.

Chiang's response was to import a German military adviser, General von Falkenhausen, who changed Nationalist tactics for a Fifth Encirclement Campaign that began in October, 1933. With a million KMT troops, an air force of four hundred bombers, reinforced by artillery, Chiang assured the Soong syndicate that Mao and his comrades were safely caged. Mao became convinced that positional defense against a stronger enemy was catastrophic. The Red Army's only hope of survival now lay in breaking out of the trap. The surrounding plains and seacoast were controlled by Chiang. If the Reds wee to survive, it could only be by undertaking an enormous evasive flight north through mountains and gorges where few Chinese had traveled before.

In January, 1934, at the Second All-China Soviet Congress, Mao presented his plan, and Chu urged its acceptance. On October 16, 1934, the Red Army left Juichin under cover of night, thus beginning the Long March.

On June 12, 1935, Mao and his survivors arrived in Mouking, where the Fourth Front Army under Chang Kuo-t'ao was waiting. Mao had known Chang Kuo-t'ao at Peking University when he worked there as a library assistant. Chang had been one of the original cofounders of the CCP. Mao expected Chang to add the Fourth Front Army to the Long March.

"But Chang Kuo-tao was content to camp in Mao Tse-tung's new and enlarged compound. He decided to march on, still set on his old plan to establish a soviet base in the far north-west, in or near Sinkiang, in contact with his Russian friends and patrons".15

Surprisingly, Chu Teh left Mao to join Chang. He later told Journalist Agnes Smedley that Chang had forced him to join the Fourth Front Army at gunpoint. Whatever the reasons, no one ever found out what they were, nor did Mao ever say.

Chang Kuo-t'ao was later cut off from his men and arrived at Yenan in Shensi with only his personal bodyguards, sick and dispirited. In January 1937 he was formally tried for his errors before the CCP Central Committee at Yenan, and condemned to study until the mistakes were rectified. Chu Teh was the leading testifier at the trial. But in 1938, after the United Front had been proclaimed, Chang defected to the Kuomintang.

On October 20, 1935, Mao's columns arrived at the Great Wall in northern Shensi. One of the few female survivors who reached Shensi was Mao's wife, Ho Tsu-chen. In over a year of marching the First Front Army under Mao Tse-Tung covered, on foot, the distance of 7,500 miles. During the winter of 1935-1936 at Paoan in the Shensi-Kansu-ninghsia Border Region, Mao and his followers lived in caves.

In December, 1935, he called a CCP Politburo conference at Wayaopao in northern Shensi, at which he stressed the importance of pressing Chiang Kai-shek to call off the war on Chinese Communists and join with them in forming a United Front to defeat the Japanese. Chiang's response was to order an all-out offensive against them by his northern warlords.

The Second United Front

One of Chiang's important generals, "Young Marshal" Chang Hsueh-liang, came under strong pressure from his troops, who opposed fighting countrymen, while Japan occupied Manchuria. In June, 1936, he was persuaded to meet with Chou En-lai, who convinced him to enter an anti-Japanese alliance with Mao. Chang Hsueh-liang sought to convince Chiang Kai-shek to follow. The Kuomintang leader refused and warned the Young Marshal he was jeopardizing the security of China by dealing with Mao.

In December, 1936, Chiang Kai-shek flew to Sian to discipline the Young Marshal and bring him back into line. Asleep in a villa outside Sian, he was awakened by gunfire as the Young Marshal's troops forced their way past his guard to seize him and bring him to Sian as a prisoner. Chang Hsueh-liang tried to convince Chiang Kai-shek to join him in the United Front. Chiang resisted.

Mao sent Chou En-lai to Sian to assure Chiang that he would be released unharmed if he promised to turn his armies against Japan. The alternative was not spelled out but Chiang agreed. The Young Marshal then flew him to Nanking, where Chiang announced an end to KMT attacks on the Communists. Mao had agreed that the Red Army would fight the Japanese in a United Front under the command of Chiang Kai-shek. The agreement establishing the United Front was formally signed on September 27, 1937.

Mao now felt free to move the Communists at Paoan into the city of Yenan, two hundred miles from Sian. Yenan was to be Mao's headquarters for the next eleven years. He set up his headquarters in a whitewashed three-room cave, honeycombed in a sandstone hill. Mao and his wife, Ho Tsu-chen, lived in the inner chamber, and Chou En-lai and another Chinese leader shared the outer chamber. The third room was utilized as an office. These were Mao's quarters until 1949.

It was here that Mao wrote extensively about how to fight a guerrilla war against a formal army like that of the Japanese. A few of his works were Basic Tactics and On Protracted War. During this time Mao also met his third wife to be, fourth of one includes his arranged marriage, Chiang Ch'ing. Ho Tsu-chen left Yenan for Moscow where she divorced him.

The Chine he visualized would be an independent great power, not a Soviet satellite. "We are certainly not fighting for an emancipated China", he declared flatly, "in order to turn the country over to Moscow!"16

The support of the Chinese people was so great that Chiang Kai-shek knew he would be overthrown if he dared go back on his word to join the Red Army in fighting the Japanese.

In his strategy against the Japanese Mao used the same elusive tactics that he used against Chiang during the Long March. Whenever the Japanese took a town Mao organized the countryside around them to try to starve them out.

Chiang Kai-shek viewed the spread of Communist occupied territory behind Japanese lines with increasing misgivings, despite Mao's claim to be controlling it in the name of the Nationalist government. Chiang was also worried by the growing popularity in stature of Mao as a national hero.

He gave secret orders to his warlords to suppress all Communist organizations in Kuomintang territory, and to seal off Mao's headquarters in Yenan from the rest of China, he organized an undeclared military and economic blockade around the Border Region.

This severe isolation apparently influenced Mao's outlook, restricting his knowledge of the contacts wit the West. Yenan walled him off not only from the capitalist nations, but also from the Soviet Union.

The Americans

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese struck at Pearl Harbor. The whole world picture suddenly changed as the American people found themselves in a World War allied with the Chinese, Russians, British, and French. From Chungking United States Ambassador Clarence Gauss gave his estimate of the China situation to Washington:

At present, the generalissimo is losing the support of China. His orders are not carried out. He has difficulty collecting enough food for his immense army and bureaucracy. From top to bottom, the structure of his government is riddled with open corruption. . . . He knows that he cannot conquer the Communists without foreign aid.

Thus he will do everything he can to force us to give him active assistance, which could risk involving us not only in conflict with Russia . . . The Communists will be the dominant power in China in a few years . . . The destiny of China is in their hands, not in those of Chiang Kai-shek.17

Unites States Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell had been appointed Chiang Kai-shek's chief of staff and was also put in charge of operations against the Japanese in the north of Burma. He was a blunt, intelligent soldier who had spent thirteen years in China, spoke the Mandarin dialect, and understood the Chinese people. Flying back and forth between New Delhi and Chungking, he was constantly frustrated in his efforts to compel Chiang to fight the Japanese. Equally futile were his attempts to force Chiang to purge his corrupt generals. Stilwell demanded to be allowed to visit Yenan to arrange cooperation wit Mao's Eighth Route Army.

Stilwell's disgust was more than just personal. He felt there was something fundamentally wrong about America's having maneuvered herself "into the position of having to support this rotten regime"; one that so curiously mirrored what she was fighting against in Germany--in both cases, as he saw it, "a one-party government, supported by a Gestapo and headed by an unbalanced man with little education".18

Frustrated at every turn, Stilwell denounced "Peanuts" and "Madame the Empress" - his nicknames for the Chiangs - for the total corruption of their regime. He raged to United States Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall that Chiang was "obstinate, pig-headed, ignorant, arbitrary, unreasonable, illogical . . ."19

As relations between Chiang and Washington worsened, Mao became more and more pro-American. On the Fourth of July, 1944, the Communist Liberation Daily praised the American democratic tradition. "The work which we Communists are carrying on today", said its editorial, "is the very same work which was carried on earlier in America by Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln".20

Later in that same month, of 1944, the President sent a liaison mission to Yenan to talk to Mao. The visitors were surprised to fine pro-American, rather than pro-Soviet, feeling among the Yenan Communist. They also saw no Russian aid of any kind - no guns, planes, equipment, or advisers. Mao indicated they welcomed observation and criticism - by the Americans, by the KMT or by anyone else.

Meanwhile Chiang was issuing demands for the recall of his critic, General Stilwell. On the advice of adviser, General Patrick Hurley, the President yielded. Stilwell was recalled to Washington and warned to say nothing to the press. Disappointed in Roosevelt's continued support of Chiang, Mao nevertheless sent a cable of sympathy when the President died.

In April, 1945, Mao wrote On Coalition Government, calling for the establishment of a bourgeois coalition democracy to govern postwar China. Not a one-party dictatorship, but an alliance of several democratic classes. Stalinists accused Mao of having sold out to capitalism.

Hoping for the ear of the new American President, Harry S. Truman, Mao demanded an end to Chiang's one-party dictatorship and guarantee of freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and political and religious convictions. In June, 1945, he was shocked by the sudden arrest of John S. Service, a State Department official who had spent six months in Yenan as part of the United States liaison mission to Mao. Service had leaked a top secret mission report submitted to the State Department on the Chinese situation to an American magazine for publication. Mao interpreted Service's arrest as a sign that Washington was determined to continue supporting Chiang at all costs.


On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped the world's first atom bomb on Hiroshima. Eight days later the war wit Japan was over. The defeated Japanese prepared to turn back their conquered territory to the Chinese. But to which Chinese?

Now Mao and Chiang began a race through North China to take over territory and arms being surrendered by the Japanese. Chiang angrily commanded all Red troops to remain where they were. But Chu Teh spearheaded columns toward Manchuria. Mao denounced Chiang as a fascist ringleader, autocrat and traitor who had cooperated with the enemy, instead of with his own countrymen against them.

Alarmed at the explosive situation, President Truman dispatched General Patrick Hurley to China to persuade Chiang and Mao to bury their quarrel and agree on a coalition government. When Hurley met Mao he told him that under strong pressure from Washington, Chiang had agreed to negotiations with the Communists. He urged Mao to fly with him to Chungking. The trip was Mao's first ride in an airplane. After forty-three days, and an assassination attempt on Mao, the negotiations ended as a stalemate.

Upset over the looming civil war, Truman rushed General George Marshall to China with a new American proposal. If both sides would agree to establish a united and democratic China independent of Russia, the United States would provide huge amounts of financial, technical, and military aid.

Willing to make another try, Mao sent a delegation led by Chou En-lai to Chungking. In January, 1946, a cease-fire was announced, and both sides shook hands on an agreement to create a coalition government. But behind this surface harmony Mao and Chiang continued maneuvering for position. Marshall flew back to Washington to report his progress to Truman.

After it was learned that Stalin intended to pull his Soviet forces out of Manchuria by the end of April Mao ordered Lin Piao's troops to take over towns and villages from the departing Soviet troops. Chiang ordered his secret police in Mukden and Peking to arrest Communists in those cities.

Marshall rushed back to China to repair the splintered agreement. Chiang now refused to listen. Mao was indignant because the American Congress had voted all-out aid to the Nationalists. He suspected that the mediation efforts of Hurley and Marshall had been undertaken primarily to stall the Chinese Red Army while Chiang consolidated his power. Mao insisted that the Americans cease all military aid to Chiang and get all United States forces out of China. Mao's misjudgment of American affairs was underscored after he had read Thunder Out of China by Theodore White and Annalee Jacoby. He was baffled that in the face of United States foreign policy an American book attacking Chiang would be printed by a capitalist publisher.

From the end of World War II through 1948 Chiang received almost seven billion dollars in American aid. Mao took a dim view of American foreign policy, seeing the United States as an imperialist enemy determined to crush him and the Chinese Revolution.

In the summer of 1948 Mao decided that it was time to mount a great counteroffensive against Chiang. Thousands of Red Army units in Manchuria emerged from hiding and joined into full divisions supported by captured tanks and artillery. They cut all railway lines and communications between Nationalist garrisons. In November, 1948, all Manchuria fell to the Communists. Mao repeated this strategy in North China. In a sixty-five day battle at Soochow, Chiang lost six hundred thousand men. KMT troops began surrendering by thousands, then by full divisions, along with all their American equipment. Many joined the Red Army.

Mao, with Manchuria and North China now in his hands, directed Lin Piao to encircle and cut off KMT garrisons in the Peking and Tientsin regions. Tientsin was captured in January, 1949. After twenty-nine hours of fighting, Peking surrendered.

An urgent cable for Mao came from Moscow. Stalin asked him to be content with establishing a separate Red Chinese regime in the north. "If you press south", Stalin warned, "you may provoke the intervention of American imperialism."21

Stalinists in the CCP Politburo agreed. Mao did not. At the end of January, 1949, Chiang Kai-shek was forced to resign as President. Mao was asked for terms. His reply was unconditional surrender. The Nationalists refused. In May the Communists fought their way back into Shanghai. On October 14 they drove the Nationalists out of Canton.

With nowhere left to go, Chiang Kai-shek and his aids fled to the offshore island of Formosa (Taiwan).

  1. Allen S. Whiting, Soviet Policies in China (New York: Columbia University Press, 1954) pp. 202-203.
  2. Chiang Kai-shek, Soviet Russia in China (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Cudahy, 1957), p. 15.
  3. Lois Wheeler Snow, Edgar Snow's China (New York: Random House, 1981) pp. 10.
  4. Ibid., p. 68.
  5. Ibid., p. 68.
  6. Ibid., p. 69.
  7. Jules Archer, Mao Tse-Tung (New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc., 1972) p. 9.
  8. Ibid., p. 10.
  9. Ibid., p. 29.
  10. Ibid., p. 29.
  11. Alain Bouc, Mao Tse-Tung: A Guide to His Thoughts (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1977) p. 9.
  12. Archer, p. 39
  13. Sterling Seagrave, The Soong Dynasty (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1985) p. 257.
  14. Archer, p. 52.
  15. Dick Wilson, The Long March 1935 (New York: The Viking Press, 1971) p. 242.
  16. Archer, p. 86.
  17. Ibid., p. 98.
  18. Barbara W. Tuchman, Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45 (New York: Bantom Books, Inc., 1971) p. 483.
  19. Archer, p. 101.
  20. Ibid., p. 102.
  21. Ibid., p. 119.

Archer, Jules. Mao Tse-Tung. New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc., 1972

Bouc, Alain. Mao Tse-Tung: A Guide to His Thoughts. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1977.

Chiang Kai-shek. Soviet Russia in China. New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Cudahy, 1957.

Current, Richard. Secretary Stimson. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1954.

Farley, James F., Jim Farley's Story: The Roosevelt Years. New York: Whittlesey House, 1948.

Feis, Herbert. The Road to Pearl Harbor. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1950.

Kubek, Anthony. How The Far East Was Lost. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1963.

Pollard, Robert T., China's Foreign Relations, 1917-1931. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1933.

Seagraves, Sterling. The Soong Dynasty. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1985.

Snow, Edgar. The Long Revolution. New York: Random House, 1971.

Snow, Edgar. The Battle for Asia. New York: Random House, 1941.

Snow, Lois Wheeler. Edgar Snow's China. New York: Random House, 1981.

Tuchman, Barbara W., Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45. New York: Bantom Books, Inc., 1970.

Whiting, Allen S., Soviet Policies in China. New York: Columbia University Press, 1954.

Wilbur, Ray L. and Arthur M. Hyde. The Hoover Policies. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1937.

Wilson, Dick. The Long March 1935. New York: The Viking Press, 1971.

Copyright 1986 James R. Fromm (