Aug 01, 1927 to Aug 07, 1950
ChinaThe Chinese Civil War was a civil war in China fought between the Kuomintang (KMT)-led government of the Republic of China and the Communist Party of China (CPC) lasting intermittently between 1927 and 1949. Although particular attention is paid to the four years of fighting from 1945 to 1949, the war actually started in August 1927, after the KMT-CPC Alliance collapsed during the Northern Expedition. The conflict took place in two stages, the first between 1927 and 1937, and the second from 1946 to 1950; the Second Sino-Japanese War from 1937 to 1945 was an interlude in which the two sides were united against the forces of Japan. The Civil War resulted in a major revolution in China, with the Communists gaining control of mainland China and establishing the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, forcing the Republic of China (ROC) to retreat to Taiwan. A lasting political and military standoff between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait ensued, with the ROC in Taiwan and the PRC in mainland China both officially claiming to be the legitimate government of all China.
Following the collapse of the Qing dynasty in the aftermath of the Xinhai Revolution, China fell into a brief period of civil war before Yuan Shikai assumed the presidency of the newly formed Republic of China. The administration became known as the Beiyang Government, with its capital in Peking. Yuan Shikai was frustrated in a short-lived attempt to restore monarchy in China, with himself as the Hongxian Emperor. After the death of Yuan Shikai in 1916, the following years were characterized by the power struggle between different cliques in the former Beiyang Army. In the meantime, the Kuomintang, led by Sun Yat-sen, created a new government in Guangzhou to resist the rule of Beiyang Government through a series of movements.
Sun's efforts to obtain aid from the several countries were ignored, thus he turned to the Soviet Union in 1921. For political expediency, the Soviet leadership initiated a dual policy of support for both Sun and the newly established Communist Party of China, which would eventually found the People's Republic of China. Thus the struggle for power in China began between the KMT and the CPC.
In 1923, a joint statement by Sun and Soviet representative Adolph Joffe in Shanghai pledged Soviet assistance to China's unification. The Sun-Joffe Manifesto was a declaration of cooperation among the Comintern, KMT and CPC. 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 sent Chiang Kai-shek, one of his lieutenants from his Tongmenghui days, for several months of military and political study in the Soviet capital 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.
However, after Sun died in 1925, the KMT split into left- and right-wing movements. KMT members worried that the Soviets were trying to destroy the KMT from inside using the CPC. The CPC then began movements in opposition of the Northern Expedition, passing a resolution against it at a party meeting.
Then, in March 1927, the KMT held its second party meeting where the Soviets helped pass resolutions against the Expedition and curbing Chiang's power. Soon, the KMT would be clearly divided.
On April 7, Chiang and several other KMT leaders held a meeting, during which they proposed that Communist activities were socially and economically disruptive and had to be undone for the Nationalist revolution to proceed.
A CPC (Communist Party of China) meeting on August 7 confirmed the objective of the party was to seize the political power by force, but the CPC was quickly suppressed the next day on August 8 by the Nationalist government in Wuhan led by Wang Jingwei.
On August 14, Chiang Kai-shek announced his temporary retirement, as the Wuhan faction and Nanjing faction of the Kuomintang were allied once again with common goal of suppressing the Communist Party after the earlier split.
On August 4, the main forces of the Red Army left Nanchang and headed southwards for an assault on Guangdong. Nationalist forces quickly reoccupied Nanchang while the remaining members of the CPC in Nanchang went into hiding.
On December 16, Wang Jingwei fled to France. There were now three capitals in China: the internationally recognized republic capital in Beijing, the CPC and left-wing KMT (Kuomintang) at Wuhan and the right-wing KMT regime at Nanjing, which would remain the KMT capital for the next decade.
During Japan's invasion and occupation of Manchuria Chiang Kai-shek, who saw the CPC (Communist Party of China) as a greater threat, refused to ally with them to fight against the Imperial Japanese Army. Chiang preferred to unite China by eliminating the warlords and CPC forces first. He believed that he was still too weak to launch an offensive to chase out Japan and that China needed time for a military build-up. Only after unification would it be possible for the KMT (Kuomintang) to mobilize a war against Japan. So he would rather ignore the discontent and anger among Chinese people at his policy of compromise with the Japanese, and ordered KMT generals Zhang Xueliang and Yang Hucheng to carry out suppression of the CPC; however, their provincial forces suffered significant casualties in battles with the Red Army.
In 1936, Zhou Enlai and Zhang Xueliang grew closer, with Zhang even suggesting that he join the CPC. However, this was turned down by the Comintern in the USSR. Later on, Zhou persuaded Zhang and Yang Hucheng, another warlord, to instigate the Xi'an Incident. Chiang was placed under house arrest and forced to stop his attacks on the Red Army, instead focusing on the Japanese threat.
The alliance of CPC and KMT was in name only. Unlike the KMT forces, CPC troops shunned conventional warfare and instead engaged in guerrilla warfare against the Japanese. The level of actual cooperation and coordination between the CPC and KMT during World War II was at best 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 such as Manchukuo and the Reorganized National Government of China).
The situation came to a head in late 1940 and early 1941 when clashes between Communist and KMT forces intensified. Chiang demanded in December 1940 that the CPC's New Fourth Army evacuate Anhui and Jiangsu Provinces, due to its provocation and harassment of KMT forces in this area. Under intense pressure, the New Fourth Army commanders complied. The following year they were ambushed by KMT forces during their evacuation, which led to several thousand deaths.
Chiang attacked the CPC in 1943 with the propaganda piece China's Destiny, which questioned the CPC's power after the war, while the CPC strongly opposed Chiang's leadership and referred to his regime as fascist in an attempt to generate a negative public image. Both leaders knew that a deadly battle had begun between themselves.
By the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the power of the Communist Party grew considerably. Their main force grew to 1.2 million troops, backed with additional militia of 2 million, totalling 3.2 million troops. Their "Liberated Zone" in 1945 contained 19 base areas, including one-quarter of the country's territory and one-third of its population; this included many important towns and cities.
KMT troops were then airlifted by the US to occupy key cities in North China, while the countryside was already dominated by the CPC. On 15 November 1945, an offensive began with the intent of preventing the CPC from strengthening its already strong base.
Chiang Kai-shek's forces pushed as far as Chinchow (Jinzhou) by 26 November 1945, meeting with little resistance. This was followed by a Communist offensive on the Shandong Peninsula that was largely successful, as all of the peninsula, except what was controlled by the US, fell to the Communists.
In March 1946, despite repeated requests from Chiang, the Soviet Red Army under the command of Marshal Rodion Malinovsky continued to delay pulling out of Manchuria, while Malinovsky secretly told the CPC forces to move in behind them, which led to full-scale war for the control of the Northeast.
Prior to giving control to Communist leaders, on March 27 Soviet diplomats requested a joint venture of industrial development with the Nationalist Party in Manchuria.
On April 12, in Shanghai, many Communist members in the KMT were purged through hundreds of arrests and executions on the orders of General Bai Chongxi. The CPC referred to this as the April 12 Incident or Shanghai Massacre. This incident widened the rift between Chiang and Wang Jingwei, another warlord who controlled the city of Wuhan.
The Communists counterattacked soon afterwards; on 30 June 1947 CPC troops crossed the Yellow River and moved to the Dabie Mountains area, restored and developed the Central Plain. At the same time, Communist forces also began to counterattack in Northeastern China, North China and East China.
After achieving decisive victory at Liaoshen, Huaihai and Pingjin campaigns, the CPC wiped out 144 regular and 29 irregular KMT divisions, including 1.54 million veteran KMT troops, which significantly reduced the strength of Nationalist forces. Stalin initially favored a coalition government in postwar China, and tried to persuade Mao to stop the CPC from crossing the Yangtze and attacking the KMT positions south of the river. Mao rejected Stalin's position and on 21 April, and began the Yangtze River Crossing Campaign.