Modern China

The Communist Revolution

The Civil War, 1945-1949

   When the Japanese surrendered, the Nationalists and the Communists began a mad scramble to seize territory that had been occupied by the Japanese. In particular, the two sides were not interested so much in territory as they were interested in the arsenals and technology that the Japanese had left behind. In this race for territory and Japanese armaments, the Communists were at an advantage since the bulk of the occupied territories were in the north of China. The Americans, however, intervened, and sent 50,000 American troops to occupy key ports and urban centers and to wait for occupying Nationalist forces. Although the Nationalists won the first round, the communists controlled all the countryside in north China and Manchuria.

   Despite numerous attempts at negotiations, many of them brokered by the United States, the Communists and the Nationalists could come to no agreements about troop size or the autonomy of communist controlled areas. In July, Chiang attacked communist territories head-on and the civil war began. In mid-1946, Chiang decided to solve the problem militarily. He met with swift and easy victories—from July to December, 1946, Chiang's army seized over a hundred thousand square miles of communist territory. Mao, however, had seen this coming, and had been making preparations for a long, drawn out battle.

   Confident that he would prevail over the CCP, Chiang convened the National Assembly in order to produce a new constitution, which was ratified on January 1, 1947. This new constitution reaffirmed the Three People's Principles as the foundation of government, established the government on a five yüan system, and based the entire system on the "four powers of the people": vote, recall, initiative, referendum. The Nationalists held a national election for the National Assembly and on April 19, 1948, the National Assembly elected Chiang K'ai-shek as President of China.

   By this point, however, the tide had turned in favor of the CCP. The Nationalist Army had been spreading its troops all throughout the conquered areas and so had been seriously thinning out the troops available to fight the Red Army. The Red Army, however, had been steadily growing all throughout 1946 and 1947. Beginning in the latter half of 1947, the Communists began winning important victories in Hunan, Hupeh, and Manchuria. As the Communist armies grew, they inflicted heavier and heavier losses on Nationalist forces. In the last year of the civil war, the communists inflicted over a million and a half casualites on the Nationalist Army. In the face of such staggering losses, the Nationalist Army simply disintegrated in mid-1949.

   On October 1, 1949, before all of China had been conquered, Mao declared the establishment of the People's Republic of China. On October 13, the Nationalist government fled to Chungking, and on December 8, it fled across the sea to Taiwan. China, from this point onwards, would consist of two governments: the mainland Communist government and the Taiwanese Nationalist government. And the conflict still goes on.

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Communist China


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1997, Richard Hooker
Updated 3-9-97