Chinese Revolution: Part II

Chinese Revolution: Part II

The weakness of the Kuomintang and the strength of the Communists led to the victory of the Communists in the Chinese Revolution

  • KMT’s weakness
    • The KMT administration was inefficient and corrupt, much of its American aid finding its way into the pockets of officials.
    • The KMT had to bear the main burnt of the Japanese invasion and strain of long resistance to the enemy weakened and impoverished the KMT army.
    • Its armies were poorly paid and were allowed to loot the countryside which alienated people from KMT. The KMT tried to terror­ise the local populations into submission, but this only alienated more areas.
    • Its policy of paying for the wars by printing extra money resulted in galloping inflation, which caused hardship for the masses and ruined many of the middle class.
    • Subjected to communist propaganda, the troops gradually became disillusioned with Chiang and began to desert to the communists.
    • The KMT distrusted the masses and depended on the support of landlords and propertied classes. Hence it lost touch with the people and failed to win over their sympathy.
    • There was little improvement in factory conditions:
      • Poor industrial working conditions continued, in spite of laws designed to remove the worst abuses, such as child labour in textile mills.
      • Often these laws were not applied: there was widespread bribery of inspectors and Chiang himself was not prepared to offend his industrial supporters.
    • There was no improvement in peasant poverty:
      • In the early 1930s there was a series of droughts and bad harvests which caused widespread famine in rural areas.
      • At the same time there was usually plenty of rice and wheat being hoarded in the cities by profiteering merchants.
      • In addition, there were high taxes and forced labour.
      • In contrast, the land policy followed in areas controlled by the communists was much more attractive:
        • At first in the south, they seized the estates of rich landlords and redistributed them among the peasants.
        • After the temporary truce with the KMT during the war with Japan, the communists compromised, and confined themselves to a policy of restricting rents and making sure that even the poorest labourers got a small piece of land. This less drastic policy had the advantage of winning the support of the smaller landowners, as well as the peasants.
    • Chiang also made some tactical blunders:
      • Like Hitler, he could not bear to order retreats and consequently his scattered armies were surrounded, and often, as happened at Beijing and Shanghai, surrendered without resistance, totally disillusioned.
    • The KMT put up no effective resistance to the Japanese:
      • This was the crucial factor in the communist success.
      • Chiang seemed to think it was more important to destroy the communists than to resist the Japanese. It disillusioned nationalists and masses.
    • Chiang’s ‘New Life Movement’ was controversial:
      • In the early 1930s Chiang began to advocate a return to the traditional values of Confucianism, the traditional Chinese religion.
      • In 1934 he introduced the New Life Movement which, he claimed, was a unique secular, rational and modern Chinese version of Confucianism.
      • The movement was not ultimately successful.
      • Unfortunately, many May the Fourth supporters and other modern progressive thinkers protested that this was another backward step designed to return China to its oppressive imperial past.
  • Communist strength
    • Alliance of CCP with KMT and a national front against the Japanese brought great advantages for the communists:
      • The KMT extermination campaigns ceased for the time being and consequently the CCP was secure in its Shensi base.
      • When full-scale war broke out with Japan in 1937, the KMT forces were quickly defeated and most of eastern China was occupied by the Japanese as Chiang retreated westwards.
      • This enabled the communists, undefeated in Shensi, to present themselves as patriotic nationalists, leading an effective guerrilla campaign against the Japanese in the north.
      • This won them massive support among the peasants and middle classes, who were appalled at Japanese arrogance and brutality.
      • Whereas in 1937 the CCP had 5 base areas controlling 12 million people, by 1945 this had grown to 19 base areas controlling 100 million people.
    • The communists continued to win popular support by their restrained land policy, which varied according to the needs of particular areas: some or all of a landlord’s estate might be confiscated and redistributed among the peasants, or there might simply be rent restric­tion.
    • The communist armies were well disciplined and communist administration was honest and fair.
    • The apparent strength of the KMT was decep­tive:
      • In 1948 the ever-growing communist armies were large enough to abandon their guerrilla campaign and challenge Chiang’s armies directly.
      • As soon as they came under direct pressure, the KMT armies began to disintegrate.
    • The CCP leaders, Mao Zedong and Zhou En-lai, were shrewd enough to take advantage of KMT weaknesses and were completely dedicated. The communist generals, Lin Biao, Chu Teh and Ch-en Yi, had prepared their armies carefully and were more competent tactically than their KMT counterparts.

How Japan became the creator of Communist China

  • Japanese occupation of part of China and blatant imperialism led to the strengthening of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under Mao and weakening of Nationalist Party (Kuomitang or KMT) under Chiang Kai Shek which finally led to the the victory of CCP and in October 1949, Mao proclaimed the new People’s Republic of China.
  • The Japanese occupied Manchuria in 1931 and were obviously preparing to bring the neighbouring provinces of northern China under their control. Chiang Kai Shek seemed to think it was more important to destroy the communists than to resist the Japanese, and moved into south Shensi to attack Mao (1936). Chiang was persuaded to give up his anti-communist campaign and agree to wage a common fight against Japan. The new alliance brought great advantages for the communists:
    • KMT extermination campaigns against communists ceased for the time being and consequently the CCP was secure in its Shensi base.
    • Japanese invasion of China swept north-east China clear of the old authorities, whom the KMT had never been able to control effectively anyway.
      • It bogged down the Japanese in a large area of China which they could not control either.
      • This situation provided the ideal opportunity for guerilla war, or as the communists called it – “The People’s War of Resistance”. This helped CCP to increase its influence in these areas.
    • The KMT put up no effective resistance to the Japanese which was the crucial factor in the communist success.
      • When full-scale war broke out with Japan in 1937, the KMT forces were quickly defeated and most of eastern China was occupied by the Japanese as Chiang retreated westwards.
      • This enabled the communists, undefeated in Shensi, to present themselves as patriotic nationalists, leading an effective guerrilla campaign against the Japanese in the north.
      • This won them massive support among the peasants and middle classes, who were appalled at Japanese arrogance and brutality.
    • Whereas in 1937 the CCP had 5 base areas controlling 12 million people, by 1945 this had grown to 19 base areas controlling 100 million people.
  • Hence, Japan indirectly helped in the success of CCP and establishment of Communist China though there were other factors were also responsible for the same like the inefficiency and corruption of the KMT government, miserable conditions of factory workers and peasants, Chiang’s controversial ‘New Life Movement’, leadership of Mao etc.

The policy of the United States seeking to resolve the conflict between the Nationalists and the communists in the period of 1945-49

  • Whereas Communists fought the Japanese on its own, while Chiang waited for U.S. victory over Japan and used American aid mostly to build up his strength for the war he planned to wage against the communists for control of China.
  • Chiang’s passive stance toward Japan was strongly criticized by the U.S. military adviser in Chungking, General Joseph W. Stilwell. His relations with Chiang soon developed into mutual hostility. However, President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not believe it politically wise to abandon Chiang in favor of the more active communist army.
  • The President did, however, send Gen. Patrick Hurley to try and patch things up between Chiang and Mao. He also sanctioned the sending of “The U.S. Observer Mission” to Yenan. The mission established itself in Yenan in July 1944, where it stayed until 1946. Its members were very favorably impressed by Mao and his movement which was potent against the Japanese.
  • American policy, recognising that the Kuomitang (KMT) had ceased to be an effective unifying force and that the Chinese Communists were serious contenders for power, looked towards the formation of a political coalition (in post world war scenario). This policy was tried by Ambassador Patrick Hurley between 1944 and 1945.
  • The Japanese surrender, forced by the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, created a conundrum for the American government. The problem was which Chinese forces were to take over Manchuria and north China, and how could a civil war be prevented?
  • With the removal of Japanese power by surrender, the Nationalist Government and the Communist Party abandoned all preferences of a united front. Now communists had advantages they had not possessed earlier. No longer confined to a small region of Northwest, they controlled the countryside in the north and central region with ever increasing membership. The Nationalist Party (KMT) had declined as a vital force due to corruption, inflation, deteriorating morale.
  • President Harry S. Truman sent General George C. Marshall as special ambassador to China in December 1945, with the task of mediating an agreement between the communists and the KMT. This effort was based on
    • that American assistance would not be extended indefinitely.
    • a united and democratic China was essential to the world stability.
  • Initially the Communists were ready for talk. Kuomitang, although willing to give political promises for the future, was determined to have military integration first under its own control.
  • While Marshall himself maintained a notable impartiality, the USA continued to furnish aid to Nationalists. The Americans was helping the KMT to take over all areas previously occupied by the Japanese, except Manchuria, which had been captured by the Russians a few days before the war ended.
  • The Communists seized upon this contradiction and denounced America for interfering in Chinese affairs.
  • The Civil War started. The USSR allowed CCP guerrillas to move in Manchuria. In fact the apparent strength of the KMT was deceptive: in 1948 the ever-growing communist armies were large enough to abandon their guerrilla campaign and challenge Chiang’s armies directly. As soon as they came under direct pressure, the KMT armies began to disintegrate. In January 1949 the communists took Beijing, and later in the year, Chiang and what remained of his forces fled to the island of Taiwan, leaving Mao Zedong in command of mainland China. In October 1949, standing at Tiananmen in Beijing, Mao proclaimed the new People’s Republic of China.

Setback to the USA:

  • The success of the communists was a set back to the prestige of the USA as KMT got defeated in spite of a lot of economic and military help of the USA and the emergence of Comminist China provided a new tilt to the balance of power between the western powers and the communists. According to Schuman, it was the first victory of Soviet Union in the post world war and the first defeat of the USA.

How far Chinese Communist Party owe their victory to the USSR?

  • Early help
    • As with Russian Marxists, the main problem facing the Chinese Marxists was the fact that the vast majority of the population was made up not of workers, but of peasants.
      • Li Dazhao circumvented this obstacle by claiming that foreign exploitation of China made all its people an exploited proletariat. Moreover, he claimed that China could not be liberated without the liberation of the peasants.
      • He urged young Marxists to go into the countryside, and they began to do so in 1920.
    • Chinese Communists benefited greatly from the fact that Sun Yat-sen obtained no support from the Western powers who were, after all, attached to their special privileges in China.
      • It is not surprising, therefore, that he turned to Moscow.
      • In January 1918, he congratulated Lenin on the successful Bolshevik revolution (November 1917).
    • Lenin was convinced that the Russian Revolution could not survive unless successful revolutions took place in other countries, which would then become socialist allies of Soviet Russia.
      • But he knew from his own experience that in economically backward countries — and Russia was a backward country in 1917 — the revolutionary leaders were not workers or peasants, but bourgeois, i.e., middle class intellectuals.
      • Therefore, he developed the policy of supporting “bourgeois nationalism” in Western-ruled colonial areas, seeing it as the primary instrument of anti- imperialist revolution. This was, in turn, to lead to the fall of “imperialism” which he saw as the highest stage of capitalism.
      • This explains Lenin’s primary interest in the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) movement of China.
      • Thus, in the early 1920s, the Soviet Union supported Sun Yat-Sen’s KMT. The Soviets agreed to give Sun military, political, and organizational help.
    • Earlier study groups were organized to study Marxist thought but it was not until spring 1920, that a Comintern agent, Grigorii Voytinskii, arrived in China with information and political writings. Many of these were translated into Chinese at this time. It was also Voytinskii who worked successfully to transform the existing Marxist study groups into communist groups and then into the Communist Party of China.
      • Thus, it was in the period between spring and winter 1920, and with the active help of Voytinskii, that the Chinese Communist Party began to take shape.
      • It was based on the Marxist study groups previously organized in Beijing and Shanghai.
      • The party was secretly constituted in that city in July 1921, formalizing the organization formed the previous year. The party program closely followed the Bolshevik program in Soviet Russia.
    • Voytinskii was assisted in this organizational work by the Soviet government’s proclamation that it would give up the old Russian privileges in China.
      • In particular, the Soviet government promised to return the Chinese Eastern Railway (a branch of the Trans-Siberian railway) to China.
      • Though this promise was not implemented, it made Chinese authorities more friendly to Moscow.
      • In May 1924, the Soviet government fulfilled some of its earlier promises by giving up formally the old Russian concessions in Tianjin (Tientsin) and Hankow, as well as paying the outstanding part of the indemnity for Chinese losses incurred by Russian action in the great power intervention during the Boxer Rebellion (1900-1901).
      • These Soviet moves cost Moscow very little, while increasing Chinese goodwill toward the USSR.
  • CCP-KMT cooperation and Northern Expedition(1926-1928)
    • Lenin, and later Stalin, ordered the CCP to join the KMT and many leading communists did so, including Mao and Zhou Enlai.
      • The goal was to strengthen and, at the same time, infiltrate the KMT.
      • Nevertheless, though Soviet advisers gave the KMT ideology an anti-imperialist slant, the bulk of the movement remained distinctly non-communist.
      • Ironically, the CCP’s major contribution to the KMT was to organize worker support for it in the coastal cities.
    • The Northern Expedition became a point of contention over foreign policy between Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky.
      • Stalin followed an opportunist policy, ignoring communist ideology. He told the CCP to stop complaining about the lower classes and follow the KMT’s orders.
      • Stalin believed that the KMT middle and upper classes would defeat the western imperialists in China and complete the revolution. Stalin funded the KMT during the expedition.
      • Leon Trotsky openly criticized Stalin for the failure of his policy in China. Trotsky wanted the Communist party to complete an orthodox proletarian revolution and opposed the KMT. (This criticism, together with his opposition to Stalin in the debate on industrialization (1926-27), led to his exile from Russia in 1929).
  • Even after Sanghai massacre of Communists by KMT, Stalin did not want to admit the defeat of his China policy, so he ordered the CCP to continue cooperation with the KMT.
  • While Trotsky opposed CCP cooperation with the KMT, neither he nor Stalin ever sanctioned Mao’s strategy to build Chinese communism with the support of the teeming millions of Chinese peasants.
  • Still, though the Stalin-Comintern Chinese policy had exposed the CCP to brutal repression, at the time it seemed to achieve the primary Soviet goal of aiding a strong national movement to victory, thus loosening the hold of the imperialist powers on China and thereby benefiting the Soviet Union. But this was a theoretical benefit at best.
    • In fact, Great Britain, which of all the imperialist powers had the greatest investments in China, made its peace with the KMT.
    • Furthermore, Germany gained a foothold in China by extending help to Chiang to fight the communists in Kiangsi.
  • Hence, the Chinese communists did not owe their victory to the Soviets. Stalin continued to recognize Chiang’s government as the government of China until Chiang fled to Taiwan.
  • Stalin’s careful policy was probably by the following factors:
    • Stalin wanted to consolidate the growing Soviet hold on Eastern Europe. Therefore, he had to avoid a confrontation with the United States until he felt he had a good chance of consolidating his gains.
      • He risked a confrontation over Berlin in 1948-49 and lost his bid for Germany.
      • He was not about to seek another confrontation over China, particularly since the U.S. had the monopoly over the atomic bomb until the Soviets successfully exploded theirs in 1949. But, even then, they had to wait a few years to produce a stockpile and to develop a delivery system.
    • Finally, Stalin probably did not trust Mao, who had developed his own brand of communism and his own power base without Soviet input and control. As with Tito in Yugoslavia, with whom he had split in 1948, this presaged tensions and an eventual split between the two communist regimes. But that was to happen many years later.
    • Furthermore, he probably did not want a strong, united, China on the Russian border in Asia. China had lost much territory there to Imperial Russia and the Chinese communists kept these losses very much in mind.


Early advantages for Chinese Communism over Soviet Communism

  • Chinese had experiences of the Soviet Communism to profit by (which the Soviet Communism did not have).
  • The Soviet Union gave Chinese communists massive economic and technical aid at least at the initial stage.
  • China did not face severe economic blockade or diplomatic isolation like the USSR and it had one of the powerful ally in the USSR.
  • Unlike Lenin who had died soon, Mao continued to guide China for a long period providing leadership and continuity.
  • China was fully familiar with the rural problems and had firm base among the peasants unlike the USSR.

Differences in the nature of Chinese Communism and Soviet Communism

Early Ideological Differences:

  • The early Communist Party in China adhered closely to Russian political philosophy. However, Mao Zedong disagreed with the concept of a workers’ revolution in China. Reasoning that the majority of the Chinese population were peasants, Mao refocused the goal of Chinese communism toward the concept of a peasant revolution.
  • Despite this, the two nations still shared fairly similar values until the 1950s, when a major ideological rift developed. During this time, the Soviet Union advocated coexistence with capitalism.
  • China, meanwhile, remained determined to pursue a policy of aggression, labeling the United States in particular as an imperialist enemy and declaring an intent to assist with revolutionary struggles of people oppressed by imperialism.


  • The other great difference is cultural. The Soviets lauded the cultural greats of the Russian past, while Mao’s tendency was to displace the historical culture. He even outlawed traditional medicine for a while.


  • Mao’s programme envisages co-operation and coalition with progressive bourgeois parties. Thus communist regime in China doesn’t profess to be dictatorship of proletariat in true sense. Chinese Communists didn’t seek to liquidate the bourgeois and private Capitalist, though they placed increasing restrictions on private business, but tolerated private capital.
  • So Chinese Communism is modification of orthodox Marxism.

Economic and other Differences:

  • In the Soviet system, land was organized by collectivization. Stalin replaced the old system on private peasant farming with “collective farms” and “state farms”, where peasants would work for the greater good of the proletariat under strict party supervision. In China on the other had, they had a social obligation where there was a goal set by the government, and any surplus product that the farmers made, they were allowed to use as they wanted.
  • This system gives farmers incentive to produce more than the set goal for their own personal gain.
  • In Russia there was forced urbanization when Stalin made people move to the cities. In China on the other hand, Mao’s support was rural based, and people were kept out of the cities.
  • The CPSU (Communist Party of Soviet Union) wanted to export world revolution and turn the world communist. The CCP (Communist Party of China) didn’t care what other countries do. This means that the CCP didn’t spend nearly as much money on the military as the CPSU did and didn’t maintain large and expensive armies in other countries.
  • The CPSU was essential to the identity of the Soviet Union. Without the CPSU, the Soviet Union could not exist, because without the CPSU, people became Russians and Ukaranians and Tajiks, and not Soviets. China has a national identity that is independent of the Party, so it’s possible to imagine a non-communist or even anti-communist China. Conversely, because China can exist without the CCP, it’s possible for the CCP to redefine itself radically without losing power. This makes a big difference because China can create a liberal free-speech special administrative region (Hong Kong). The Soviet Union couldn’t create anything like HK.
  • The Constitution of the PRC states that secession is prohibited, whereas the Constitution of the Soviet Union gave republics a right to secede. This was reflected in the structure of the parties. The CCP is a highly centralized party, where as the CPSU was theoretically a federation of parties with the Republic parties being nominally independent.


  • One of the impact of differences between Soviet and Chinese Communism is that Chinese Communism lasted but Soviet Communism did not. After Mao’s death, China restructured its government and changing its economic policy to favor a market economy open to foreign trade instead of one that was centrally managed.
  • During the 1980s, the Soviet government remained unwilling to make reforms it viewed as capitalistic, and the resulting economic decline lead to the Soviet downfall.
  • At the same time, China shifted to a system known as market socialism, which differed from the USSR in its reliance on a free market.

Impact on the Chinese Revolution on the course of International Relations

  • It gave a serious setback to the prestige of United States.
    • The American Government provided lot of economic and military help to the nationalist government of China after the defeat of Japan, still the Communists succeeded in inflicting a defeat on Chiang Kai Shek.
    • The Chinese revolution was the first victory of Soviet Union in post-world war period and the first defeat of America.
  • The emergence of Communist China provided a new tilt to the balance of power between the Western powers and Communists.
    • After the Second World War, Soviet Union was the only leading Communist country of the world.
    • No doubt, communist governments were established in a number of countries of Eastern Europe, North Korea and Outer Mongolia but the balance of power was very much in favour of Western powers.
    • After the emergence of Communist China, the Communists acquired a dominant position from the viewpoint of population even though militarily they were not in a position to outweigh the Western powers.
  • The emergence of China produced revolutionary impact on the whole of Asia.
    • On the one hand, it greatly influenced the nationalist forces in Asia and Africa and on the other hand, it became an experimental ground for the industrial development of all the backward countries.
    • It also became symbolic superiority of Communist system, over capitalist system, and naturally upset the Americans.
  • The Revolution of 1949 marked the advent of Communism in Asia.
    • As so far Communism existed only in the Western countries.
    • The Chinese revolution made a beginning for the emergence of Communism in Asia.
  • The Revolution left a deep impact on Africa.
    • The Communist Government of China soon after assuming the regions of power openly declared its support to the nationalist movements everywhere, which provided impetus to national struggle which was being waged by the Africans against the imperialist powers.
  • The emergence of Red China also left a deep impact on the policy of Soviet Union.
    • Though initially the Soviet leaders considered the emergence of Communist in China as increased its military power, but soon they discovered that China was posing as a rival for leadership of the Communist world.
    • This gave rise to struggle for supremacy and ideological conflict between Soviet Union and China, and posed a serious threat to Soviet leadership of the Communist world.
  • Thus, we find that the Chinese Revolution left a deep impact on the world politics. It not only gave rise to new problems but also accorded new dimensions to the East-West Conflict and transformed South-East Asia into a focal point of world politics.

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