Thoughts on the Chinese Civil War


solarz

Brigadier
Discussions in another thread has led me to think about the reason the KMT lost the civil war against the CCP.

If we look at the anti-Japan war, we can see that KMT forces suffered massive casualties. More importantly however (from a strategic point of view), they suffered massive casualties among their officer ranks.

The CCP on the other hand, because it was engaging in guerilla warfare, had the following advantages:

1- Despite also taking heavy losses, they had an almost unlimited number of militia to draw from. Many of those militia form independently operating guerilla groups and as the war went on, those surviving militia soldiers became more and more battle-hardened. This is in contrast to the KMT, who had to replenish their ranks by recruiting from commoners who had no experience in soldiering.

2- The CCP leadership, particularly the top military commanders, largely survived the anti-Japan war. This gave them an enormous advantage in the civil war against the KMT, as it provided the CCP with extremely experienced commanding officers who specialized in fighting enemies with superior weapons.

3- The CCP was in firm control of their military, via the enforcement of political ideology. I believe every CCP military officer had a commissar serving with him, who had authority on all political matters (pretty much anything that didn't have to do with battles). In contrast, Jiang's generals were a group of self-serving egocentrics who were more interested in furthering their own political ambitions than working toward a common goal.

I believe that those were the advantages that determined the CCP victory in the civil war.
 

ABC78

Junior Member
We can't forget that Jiang also betrayed generals and units that were not personally loyal to him or of another clique. During the anti-Japan and civil war 45-49 Jiang would not support these units and generals they were left for dead. Reinforcements and relief would be withheld even if these were tough hard fighting units on Jiang's side. All sacrificed so Jiang could secure his own power.

Also the CCP was also better at getting KMT troops to join them against Jiang especially artillery men.

But the KMT's problems probably started after the Northern Expedition when they absorbed defeated warlord troops and allied themselves with warlords that came over to there side. The KMT army's quality faltered.
 

Spartan95

Junior Member
Personally, I think the publications thus far on this topic are rather polarised towards the 2 views (CCP & KMT). Given the sensitivity and gravity of the topic, that is to be expected. Still more objective publications would be useful for posterity (than again, the victor writes history).

Nonetheless, here's a few points that I have come across that are thought-provoking:

1. KMT lost the war because they lost the support of the people. And this happened because of hyper-inflation caused by their monetary/fiscal policies as well as corruption within the KMT administration. The importance of this is not lost on the current CCP leadership, which is why they are trying very hard to rein in inflation and fight corruption.

2. The KMT bled itself badly in the fight against Japan. In particular, the Battle of Shanghai is often cited where KMT lost the majority of its well-trained divisions against the Japanese (
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). Throughout the Sino-Japanese War, the KMT threw almost all their resources against the Japanese military. They saw it as their national duty (since they are the government).

3. The CCP conserved its strength during the Sino-Japanese War. This is what I come across from western and KMT sources (and definitely not from CCP sources). The claim is that CCP only fought token battles against the Japanese and Mao was conserving his forces to defeat the KMT once the Sino-Japanese War was over. CCP claims they fought significant battles too, although KMT dismisses these as being forced to defend CCP's power base.

4. CCP was able to win the support of the rural populace, which was the vast majority in those days.

5. KMT was unable to effectively counter CCP's People's War strategy.
 

pugachev_diver

Banned Idiot
another big reason was that a lot of the KMT branches came from old warlord era, 20-30 years prior to the all out KMT-CCP war in 1945. On top of that, the Chinese culture views power as a very important thing, much worse than many people would expect. During a lot of major battles, different branches of the military would often not follow orders to the full and conserve their own strengths. To a lot of those generals, they see the strengths of their units as how a gambler sees his chips in the casino.
battle of 孟良崮 was a great example, 张灵甫sacrificed his own units, which he retreated to a hill area to trick the CCP unit of 100,000 to surround him. The plan was to then to let the KMT troops of 400,000 to surround the CCP troops. But due to the incompetence and lack of willingness to cooperate from other units, his troops were completely wiped out after four days of battle, even though they were the best equipped in all of China at that time, fully mechanised with American equipments.
What a waste.
 

solarz

Brigadier
Personally, I think the publications thus far on this topic are rather polarised towards the 2 views (CCP & KMT). Given the sensitivity and gravity of the topic, that is to be expected. Still more objective publications would be useful for posterity (than again, the victor writes history).

Nonetheless, here's a few points that I have come across that are thought-provoking:

1. KMT lost the war because they lost the support of the people. And this happened because of hyper-inflation caused by their monetary/fiscal policies as well as corruption within the KMT administration. The importance of this is not lost on the current CCP leadership, which is why they are trying very hard to rein in inflation and fight corruption.

2. The KMT bled itself badly in the fight against Japan. In particular, the Battle of Shanghai is often cited where KMT lost the majority of its well-trained divisions against the Japanese (
Please, Log in or Register to view URLs content!
). Throughout the Sino-Japanese War, the KMT threw almost all their resources against the Japanese military. They saw it as their national duty (since they are the government).

3. The CCP conserved its strength during the Sino-Japanese War. This is what I come across from western and KMT sources (and definitely not from CCP sources). The claim is that CCP only fought token battles against the Japanese and Mao was conserving his forces to defeat the KMT once the Sino-Japanese War was over. CCP claims they fought significant battles too, although KMT dismisses these as being forced to defend CCP's power base.

4. CCP was able to win the support of the rural populace, which was the vast majority in those days.

5. KMT was unable to effectively counter CCP's People's War strategy.

1. The KMT/ROC experienced hyper-inflation in the cities precisely because the CCP, under the Mao doctrine of "the countryside surrounding the cities", restricted access of KMT-controlled cities to natural resources. It's a brilliant tactic on the part of the CCP, both militarily and politically. This is why it is commonly thought that the CCP out-maneuvered the KMT both militarily and politically.

2+3. I have addressed this point in another thread. To recap, KMT also fought only when their power base was threatened (i.e. Shanghai). The fact that they were the government meant they had more power bases to defend. Further, the idea that "throwing everything you've got against the enemy" is a patriotic and noble thing to do sounds good in a romance book, but is really a terribly incompetent way to fight a real war. Contrast the performance of KMT troops against the Japanese with the performance of the CCP troops against both the KMT and the US-led forces in Korea: we can clearly see that the CCP had much better military commanders.

battle of 孟良崮 was a great example, 张灵甫sacrificed his own units, which he retreated to a hill area to trick the CCP unit of 100,000 to surround him. The plan was to then to let the KMT troops of 400,000 to surround the CCP troops. But due to the incompetence and lack of willingness to cooperate from other units, his troops were completely wiped out after four days of battle, even though they were the best equipped in all of China at that time, fully mechanised with American equipments.
What a waste.

Heh, I guess history really does depend on interpretation. An alternative view, and more accurate IMO, is the CCP managed to out-maneuver and surround the KMT 74 division and completely annihilated them because the other KMT generals weren't willing to come help.

Why do I say this is more accurate? Because getting your troops surrounded is a HUGE gamble on any battlefield. No sane commander would take this risk without having the right preparation. As we can see from the campaign, the KMT division were very disorganized and had poor communication. There is no way under those circumstances that 张灵甫 would risk his own troops like that willingly.
 

Spartan95

Junior Member
1. The KMT/ROC experienced hyper-inflation in the cities precisely because the CCP, under the Mao doctrine of "the countryside surrounding the cities", restricted access of KMT-controlled cities to natural resources. It's a brilliant tactic on the part of the CCP, both militarily and politically. This is why it is commonly thought that the CCP out-maneuvered the KMT both militarily and politically.

That may indeed be part of the reason for the hyper-inflation. However, the KMT's explanation was that they were printing money so that they can afford to pay for the military hardware (and their people) to continue the fight. Reckless printing of money = hyper-inflation.

2+3. I have addressed this point in another thread. To recap, KMT also fought only when their power base was threatened (i.e. Shanghai). The fact that they were the government meant they had more power bases to defend. Further, the idea that "throwing everything you've got against the enemy" is a patriotic and noble thing to do sounds good in a romance book, but is really a terribly incompetent way to fight a real war. Contrast the performance of KMT troops against the Japanese with the performance of the CCP troops against both the KMT and the US-led forces in Korea: we can clearly see that the CCP had much better military commanders.

Actually, some of the KMT troops did quite well against the Japanese. Despite the Japanese controlling the air.

Regarding the Battle of Shanghai, the KMT troops did quite well actually and slowed the Japanese down a lot as well as causing a lot of casualties to the Japanese troops. Whilst it is no doubt KMT's power base, Chiang Kai-Shek could have abandoned it. However, he threw in his best divisions against the Japanese to slow them down while trying to win support from the West (his wife was in US lobbying for American support to embargo the Japanese). And it was partly because of the casualties that the Japanese suffered during this battle that resulted in the Nanjing Massacre later on when the Japanese unleashed their revenge on the civilian population of the KMT capital (confirmed by Japanese documents during the war crimes trial).

As regards the commanders, the CCPs commanders during the Civil War are proclaimed as national heroes (some got into trouble later on, such as Peng Dehuai & Lin Biao). The KMT have no such luxury not because they don't have good commanders, but because they lost the war. Hence, KMT can't proclaim them national heroes even if they have done well in the field of battle. And CCP certainly will not talk favourably of them. Thus, they become forgotten.
 

solarz

Brigadier
Actually, some of the KMT troops did quite well against the Japanese. Despite the Japanese controlling the air.

Regarding the Battle of Shanghai, the KMT troops did quite well actually and slowed the Japanese down a lot as well as causing a lot of casualties to the Japanese troops. Whilst it is no doubt KMT's power base, Chiang Kai-Shek could have abandoned it. However, he threw in his best divisions against the Japanese to slow them down while trying to win support from the West (his wife was in US lobbying for American support to embargo the Japanese). And it was partly because of the casualties that the Japanese suffered during this battle that resulted in the Nanjing Massacre later on when the Japanese unleashed their revenge on the civilian population of the KMT capital (confirmed by Japanese documents during the war crimes trial).

As regards the commanders, the CCPs commanders during the Civil War are proclaimed as national heroes (some got into trouble later on, such as Peng Dehuai & Lin Biao). The KMT have no such luxury not because they don't have good commanders, but because they lost the war. Hence, KMT can't proclaim them national heroes even if they have done well in the field of battle. And CCP certainly will not talk favourably of them. Thus, they become forgotten.

The fact that KMT troops individually performed with great valor does not have any bearing on the strategic competence of KMT military leadership. The battle of Shanghai is one such example. Shanghai is a very poor place to defend against Land/Air/Naval combined assault with only infantry. However, Jiang was loathe to lose his most important power base and thus he contributed all his forces into the battle.

Also, it's not just a question of "propaganda", as CCP generals such as Peng Dehuai truly were military geniuses. You don't need to pay attention to any propaganda, you can just look at the battles to see this!
 

vesicles

Colonel
1. The KMT/ROC experienced hyper-inflation in the cities precisely because the CCP, under the Mao doctrine of "the countryside surrounding the cities", restricted access of KMT-controlled cities to natural resources. It's a brilliant tactic on the part of the CCP, both militarily and politically. This is why it is commonly thought that the CCP out-maneuvered the KMT both militarily and politically.

2+3. I have addressed this point in another thread. To recap, KMT also fought only when their power base was threatened (i.e. Shanghai). The fact that they were the government meant they had more power bases to defend. Further, the idea that "throwing everything you've got against the enemy" is a patriotic and noble thing to do sounds good in a romance book, but is really a terribly incompetent way to fight a real war. Contrast the performance of KMT troops against the Japanese with the performance of the CCP troops against both the KMT and the US-led forces in Korea: we can clearly see that the CCP had much better military commanders.



Heh, I guess history really does depend on interpretation. An alternative view, and more accurate IMO, is the CCP managed to out-maneuver and surround the KMT 74 division and completely annihilated them because the other KMT generals weren't willing to come help.

Why do I say this is more accurate? Because getting your troops surrounded is a HUGE gamble on any battlefield. No sane commander would take this risk without having the right preparation. As we can see from the campaign, the KMT division were very disorganized and had poor communication. There is no way under those circumstances that 张灵甫 would risk his own troops like that willingly.

According to what I've learned about the Chinese civil war, KMT did use up the majority of its elite forces fighting the Japanese, especially in Shanghai, Changsha and Wuhan. Also, KMT sent its most elite forces to Burma to protect the Burma/India/China highway, which was at the time the only way that China could get external support. In the first expedition, the Chinese Expeditionary forces, which was 100,000 strong, was almost completely lost with only one division led by Sun Liren going to India and some troops that managed to pass the dense forest and went back to China.

Because of the style of fighting (throwing people into enemy's fire), KMT lost a whole lot of people in the initial phase the war. As a matter of fact, how the CCP later described in their propaganda about how they were bravely fighting their enemy, like how they used knives and throwing themselves in front of enemy machine guns, was actually how KMT troops were fighting the Japanese. CCP also borrowed stories from KMT about how high-ranking officers would lead troops into charges with knives in hands and grenades hanging around their necks. Yes, that's how KMT fought, not how CCP fought.

And yes, the CCP benefited tremendously from the Japanese invasion. According to a number of documentary about the civil war, the Soviets also played a big role in the eventual winning of the CCP. At the end of the WWII when Japanese surrendered, the Soviets were in control of the Manchuria, which was considered a ultimate strategic area because of its heavy industry capability and farming. At the time, the entire China was pretty much destroyed by the war and lost all its industrial capability. Only Manchuria had the full industrial capability because Japanese was using it as their base to support their war effort. So at the time, whoever gained the control of the area would pretty much gain the control of China. And both Soviets and the U.S. favored the KMT since they were the official govn't. Soviets wanted to benefit from their control of Manchuria. So in their negotiation with KMT, they brought up unreasonable terms, like obtaining half of what manchuria would produce in the future. Of course, Jiang Jieshi refused the terms. The Soviets then turned to the CCP and allowed them to gain access to all the weapons and supplies left by the Japanese. This gave a huge boost to the CCP. (this actually makes me thinking. What did the CCP promised the Soviets??? I guess this would be considered top secret...)

Plus, in the initial stage of CCP's occupation in Manchuria, they did not have the favor of the people. Since they had to "borrow from the local people without paying" (yes, this is how many old CCP veterans described what happened), they were pretty much feared as bandits. On the other hands, KMT troops were seen as saviors and welcomed with open arms by the local people. Also in the initial phase, KMT was led by highly experienced and brilliant generals. So CCP was losing battle after battle and was almost completely destroyed after only about a couple months. However Jiang decided to halt his troops when they were on the verge of final victory. This, of course, was not liked by his generals and led to eventual replacement of his brilliant generals on the front. The people who took the position were simply idiots and caused the entire front line to collapse. Once Manchuria was lost to the CCP, that became the beginning of an avalanche...
 
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FriedRiceNSpice

Senior Member
And yes, the CCP benefited tremendously from the Japanese invasion. According to a number of documentary about the civil war, the Soviets also played a big role in the eventual winning of the CCP. At the end of the WWII when Japanese surrendered, the Soviets were in control of the Manchuria, which was considered a ultimate strategic area because of its heavy industry capability and farming. At the time, the entire China was pretty much destroyed by the war and lost all its industrial capability. Only Manchuria had the full industrial capability because Japanese was using it as their base to support their war effort. So at the time, whoever gained the control of the area would pretty much gain the control of China. And both Soviets and the U.S. favored the KMT since they were the official govn't. Soviets wanted to benefit from their control of Manchuria. So in their negotiation with KMT, they brought up unreasonable terms, like obtaining half of what manchuria would produce in the future. Of course, Jiang Jieshi refused the terms. The Soviets then turned to the CCP and allowed them to gain access to all the weapons and supplies left by the Japanese. This gave a huge boost to the CCP.

However, the Soviets did strip the region of all heavy industry, which were dismantled and shipped to China. The Soviets would have done so regardless of who ended up in control of Manchuria. The only thing left in Manchuria were captured weapons and supplies, not the industrial capacity to produce additional weapons and supplies.
 

vesicles

Colonel
However, the Soviets did strip the region of all heavy industry, which were dismantled and shipped to China. The Soviets would have done so regardless of who ended up in control of Manchuria. The only thing left in Manchuria were captured weapons and supplies, not the industrial capacity to produce additional weapons and supplies.

But that were the weapon and support that the CCP did not have and desperately needed to fight the KMT.
 

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