Communist Victory The victory of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over the Nationalist faction in the Chinese Civil War was a direct result of numerous influences, both internal and external. However, three important reasons for the CCP’s victory can be attributed to the Japanese attack and occupation of China during World War II, the CCP’s treatment of the Chinese people, and the political failures of the nationalist forces. The combination of these historical events provided a situation that allowed the CCP to defy the odds and take over China.
The Japanese invasion of China in 1937 was the setup for the eventual success of the CCP. Although it cost the CCP manpower and resources, the Japanese attack allowed for the formation of a political environment that favored the spread of the communist party. The Japanese help legitimize the CCP by singling it out as a special enemy and instructing the Japanese supported puppet government in the job of exterminating the communists in their jurisdictions. The phrase, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” applies in this situation.
After the mistreatment the Chinese population endured under Japanese occupation, it is easy to comprehend why the Chinese people would gravitate towards a group that was so despised by their main tormenter. The added attention that the CCP received from the Japanese occupiers showed the Chinese people that the CCP was a force to be reckoned with, and a possible threat to Japanese interests in China. This publicity put the CCP’s in the minds of the people as a counter to the Japanese. The Japanese invasion left a power vacuum for the CCP to fill.
As the Japanese forces advanced, “the traditional ruling elite evacuated… and left peasants to defend for themselves during the eight years of occupation. ” This allowed for the CCP to move in to the areas without leadership and gave the CCP the opportunity to win over public support. The Japanese military expansion into the region forced the KMT forces out of the area, but as Japanese units left the area, the CCP moved in, taking the place of the KMT government. The invasion of China also changed how the peasants viewed China as a whole.
Before the invasion, the people “were a passive element in politics…absorbed in local matters and only had the dimmest sense of ‘China’. ” However, the Japanese invasion changed how many peasants saw their role in greater population, and focused more on issues like “national defense, citizenship, treason, legitimacy of government, and the long-range betterment of the Chinese state. ” The Japanese attacks on the Chinese people motivated them into shifting their thinking. They now had to think about who was going to protect their lives and property.
With both nationalist and communist factions fighting the Japanese army, the interactions of the people and anti-Japanese forces would influence on what side the people agreed. In Edgar Snow’s Red Star Over China, Snow shares his account of what he witnessed during his time in China reporting on the actions of the communist party. Snow noticed, “most of the peasants…seemed to support the communists and the Red Army…and when asked whether they preferred it to the old days, the answer was nearly always an emphatic ‘yes. ” Snow provides detail about the policies that allowed the peasants to favor the new communist rule in their region, writing that, “the Reds gave land to the land-hungry peasants, ”took land and livestock from the wealthy classes and redistributed them among the poor. ” The CCP polices also allowed for upper classes to not lose everything but rather ”both the landlord and the rich peasant were allowed as much land as they could till with their own labor. ” Although some may question the total accuracy of Snow’s work, it cannot be disputed that the policies Snow refers to did indeed influence the people into supporting the communists.
Another key point on how the CCP won over the peoples’ support is the rules and policies to which Mao’s followers were forced to adhere. Simple orders like do not steal, return what your borrow, replace what you break, and be courteous allowed the CCP to earn the loyalty of the Chinese people. The communists showed special effort in appealing to women, as they hoped to win over a group of people who were traditionally an oppressed class. Instead of using only force, this respectful behavior towards the people wooed them into the supporting the CCP. The CCP actively took the communist message to the people.
The communist way was presented as an ideal society for the Chinese to thrive under, and offered hope to the masses. The CCP sent out propagandists and troupes of actors teaching and entertaining the people the new superior communist way. Nationalist feelings were also stirred by the CCP in the war against the Japanese, aiding in uniting the people under the organized communist resistance. The KMT also played a vital role in the eventual communist victory in main land China. Before the second Sino-Japanese War began in 1937, the KMT focused not on the growing Japanese threat, but instead the communist faction in China.
The communist forces retreated, but were not entirely eliminated. This move left open the opportunity for the CCP to grow, adapt and eventually take on the nationalist forces again at a later time. The war with Japan highlighted the failures of the nationalist regime. Hsi Chi in his work Nationalist China at War states that the abuse of the people at the hands of the nationalists “made the government appear in the people’s eyes as symbol of oppression and exploitation, and provoked widespread disillusionment and alienation among the people.
This attitude in relation to the government allowed for the CCP to have a better chance at persuading the people to join the communist movement. This failure to gain the support of the people is seconded by a soldier in the nationalist army in a letter to America. The soldier, Rau Huang, writes, “In the early stages of our war against the communists, our government was negligent in not seeking the support of the masses…the communists did not neglect this opportunity…” The communist victory in the Chinese Civil War was a major moment in the 20th century.
The communist had the fortune to have an environment that allowed their efforts to carry on despite being targeted by two other factions. A prolonged Japanese invasion permitted the CCP to move into regions and garner support from the people that may not have been available otherwise. Without a Japanese attack, a sense of nationalism may have been harder to produce from the populace. The party’s organization and methods to gain the support of the masses would prove vital in the victory as well, showing the people a new future that could be achieved.
The nationalist forces were defeated in part because they didn’t eliminate all the communists before the war with Japan, and their own disorganization and inability to gain support from the people proved to be too much to overcome. Certainly, these are not the only reasons why the CCP succeeded in taking control of China, but these elements each played their part in the puzzle that led to final victory of the Chinese Communist Party. Works Cited Babb, Geoff, “The Chinese Civil War” (presentation, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, October 29, 2012). Chi, Hsi. Nationalist China at War: Military Defeats and Political Collapse, 1937-45.
Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1982. Huang , Ray. “Letter From Nanking. ” Military Review, December 1948. Johnson, Chalmers. Peasant Nationalism and Communist Power, etc. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1966. Snow, Edgar. Red Star over China. New York: Grove Press, 1968. ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Johnson, Chalmers. Peasant Nationalism and Communist Power, etc. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1966), 32. [ 2 ]. Johnson, Peasant Nationalism and Communist Power, 70. [ 3 ]. Johnson, Peasant Nationalism and Communist Power, 69. [ 4 ].
Johnson, Peasant Nationalism and Communist Power, 69. [ 5 ]. Snow, Edgar. Red Star Over China. (New York: Grove Press, 1968), 222. [ 6 ]. Snow, Red Star Over China, 222. [ 7 ]. Snow, Red Star Over China, 222. [ 8 ]. Babb, Geoff, “The Chinese Civil War” (presentation, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, October 29, 2012). [ 9 ]. Babb, “The Chinese Civil War”. [ 10 ]. Babb, “The Chinese Civil War”. [ 11 ]. Chi, Hsi. Nationalist China at war: military defeats and political collapse, 1937-45. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1982), 190. [ 12 ]. Huang , Ray. “Letter From Nanking. ” Military Review, December 1948.
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