The focus of this investigationwill question “To what extent was the Communist victory in the Chinese CivilWar due to faulty decisions made by the Nationalist Kuomintang?” which will beused to discuss the multiple different aspects as to the reasons why theChinese Nationalists lost. For this investigation, the years of 1927 to 1950will be examined as they are the years that the war was fought. Interferencefrom other countries such as the Soviet Union and the United States who gavesupport may have indeed played a part to the outcome of the Chinese Civil War,however for the purpose of this investigation, only the decisions of theCommunists and Nationalists will be examined, in multiple crucial aspects suchas their military, economy, and policies. This will look through any politicaland societal changes as well as how the ties between other countries alter.This is an important topic to investigate because the war’s outcome can beconsidered a pivotal changing point in Chinese history that greatly shaped thenation’s functions. And so, Civil War inChina: The Political Struggle, 1945-1949 by Suzanne Pepper and China’s Civil War: A Social History,1945-1949 by Diana Lary, will be used as resources of insight because boththoroughly discuss multiple aspects of the war which will aid to my research.
The first source that will beevaluated is Civil War in China: ThePolitical Struggle, 1945-1949, a book written by Suzanne Pepper andpublished by Rowman & Littlefield in 1999. Pepper is a Hong Kong-basedAmerican writer who particularly explores Chinese politics within the 20thcentury, which proves valuable since the author has spent time with thespecified subject. Pepper’s research into the Chinese Civil War was due to theobservation that it created challenges for the U.
S foreign policy. However,within this source’s origin may lie bias towards the nationalist’s side due tothe author being an American which creates unsupportiveness towards thecommunist government. The purpose of this book is toanalyze the reasoning as to how the Nationalists were defeated throughcriticizing the nation’s politics during this time period and investigatingcrucial choices. It provides aid through providing an understanding to politicsduring this time, however the source does not recognize other aspects asstrongly. The second source that will beused to aid this research is China’sCivil War: A Social History, 1945-1949. This book was written by Diana Laryand published by the Cambridge University Press in 2015. The author, a historyprofessor and sinologist, focuses her work centered on modern China and theimpact of warfare on Chinese society.
This origin is valuable because Lary hasalso spent years researching in the country therefore she is knowledgeable inthese topics. It is limited because the author focuses on the people more, anddoes not investigate economic factors that were created. The purpose of this toinvestigate historical and societal contexts of the war, which identifies thefacets that led to Communist victory1.This is valuable because the source explores other factors that played a rolebesides politics, such as social, historical, and geographical matters. Howeverthis is also a limitation as the discussion becomes too broad. SECTION B:INVESTIGATIONThe Chinese Civil War, althoughtemporarily suspended for 8 years due to the interfering Second Sino-JapaneseWar, lasted from 1927 to 19502.
The war was fought between the two political parties of the Chinesenationalists, the Kuomintang (KMT), and the Communist Party of China (CCP) inorder to gain the power of reforming the nation’s politics3. Atthe end of the prolonged war, the communist regime with Mao Zedong as theirleader emerged victorious whilst Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalist partywithdrew to the island of Taiwan4.This war can be considered as a pivotal event in the making of modern China asit brought forth multiple changes to the nation’s functions and its surroundingcountries5 and created a lasting division inchina6. However, historians may argue theextent of the Communist triumph, as some believe that it was not due to theirstrength but rather due to multiple weak decisions made by the Nationalists.This notion is due to the fact that the CCP appeared to have the disadvantageat the offset, as they were outclassed in numbers, material, and territory7.Through the analysis of somehistorians, there appeared to be multiple undermining decisions made by the KMTthat led to their eventual defeat. One of such was their economic decisions.
Inflation had grown out of their control even with their newly implemented currencycalled ‘law money’ under the Kuomintang rule7. The government’s military operations in the firstpart of 1948 produced even larger budget deficits through the loss of taxreceipts, dislocation of transportation and productive facilities, andincreased military expenditures8.Through these factors, by 1949, China’s monetary system collapsed which leftthe government discredited by the nation and the Nationalists demoralized9.
This economic situation continued to deteriorated and eventually led to thegrowth of protests against food shortages and the corrupt price fixing8, with these aspects in mind it can cause the Chinesepublic to lose support for their victory. From the mismanagement of theeconomy, consequences such as an increased militaristic government and the publicbeing politically alienated10. This aspect implied that the KMTcould have struggled with holding their economic power in China as they did notshow strong leadership that would be able to sustain. It would also show thatthe Nationalists would have failed to strongly implement Sun Yat-Sen’s idea ofthe Principle of the People9 which consisted of nationalism, democracy, and socialism11.Not only was the economy an issuefor the Nationalist party, they also faced more growing hardships afterreturning to war when the eight-year Second Sino-Japanese War had ceased. Inorder to take advantage of China’s instability during this time, Japan decidedto occupy the nation in 1937 which caused the civil war to be put on hiatus6. This war had exhausted the KMT governmentmilitarily, financially, and spiritually12.
Japan’s invasion of eastern China after 1937 drained Chiang and the Kuomintangcontinued to remain stable due to their guerrilla tactics costing fewercasualties13It is seen that the repercussions faced after the war had not only brought theKMT morale down, but it would continue to haunt them through the duration ofthe civil war which can be linked to their descent of power in the war. ResistingJapanese forces damaged the Nationalist army more than the Communists, which allowedfor an advantage to be created6. While the Nationalists were growing vulnerableafter the Sino-Japanese War, the Communists were able to gain the stronghold14. Still, the nationalist partyseemed to have started off relatively strong before the civil war’s hiatus. Thefirst Nationalist offensive was successful and Chiang believed that his troopshad sufficient military superiority against the Communists to win the campaign15.
This aspect changed, however, when the KMT went on the defensive in Manchuria.During this time, the Communists were able to improve and expand their army.They began to dig more trenches and dugouts in order to avoid open field operations,but this created a mass amount of defensive attitude within the army5. It can be examined that when the Nationalistsswitched to the defending side, their advantage and combative superiority overthe Communists began to deteriorate which continued their downfall in the war. However, some historians arguethat rather than the decisions of the Nationalists being at fault, theCommunist victory was actually due to the advantages they gained throughout thecourse of the war.
One of these defining aspects were that that they gainedsupport from the Chinese peasants and attaining more political power5. By March 1945, the communists had liberated 678out of 914 country towns and implemented their policies such as land reform,setting up village schools and soviets, reducing taxes and abolishing debt16.The communists never formally announced that the war was the cause of thechange in their land policy, however, in 1946, they argued that only landreform could mobilize the peasants and gain their support9. James Sheridan, a historian,writes that the reason behind the enthusiasm of Chinese peasants was achieved’by meeting the local, immediate needs of the peasants through reformist andradical social policies and by providing leadership for the defense of peasantcommunities against the Japanese. In this fashion the communists won peasantconfidence and in the process began the transformation – the modernization – ofrural China’17.During the last months of the war, the locals were also captured by thediscipline of the Communist soldiers and their way of demonstrating exemplarybehavior18. Through evaluating this aspect, itcan be seen that the gain of support from the Chinese peasants towards theCommunists was a great advantage, as the public was now endorsing the newpolitical, social, economic, and military and were filled with more purpose andspirit. This mobilization from the people to the CCP caused the power of theKMT towards the people to disintegrate and added on to their chance of defeat.
As Odd Arne Westad, a historianspecializing in East Asian history, writes that “the military history of theware is not a unilinear story,… but a much more complex and uncertain tale inwhich the outcome was not given until very late”19, itcan be perceived that the civil war entails many different changes andperspectives throughout its duration. However, through the multiple aspectsinvestigated as to the reasons behind the defeat of the Nationalist Kuomintang,it can be concluded that the civil war ended with a Chinese Communist victorydue to the weakness and faulty decision making from the KMT. This notion isstrongly suggested because they lacked effective leadership and lost moraleafter the war’s hiatus. The KMT were also not able to capture the support ofthe people, as they recognized corruption, inefficiency and an autocraticgovernment through the war’s duration7. Equally enough however, the evidence may alsoprovide another argument that states that the Communist victory was due to theparty’s effective sense of gaining support and power over time from Mao’smilitary and political success.
This may be believed because the CCP was ableto gain strength in their fight. SECTION C: REFLECTIONThrough this investigation, I wasable to explore the analytic methods historians use fundamentally in order tomake a concluding conjecture through creating an inquiry, using multiple toolssuch as historical books and journals, and examining the gathered evidence toform a final result. I was able to find sources that had one aspect thatanother one lacked, an example would be examining my two evaluated sources.While Pepper focuses on choices that led to the Nationalist defeat and examinesthe war on a more political standpoint, Lary’s writings explore the aspects ofCommunist victory that Pepper missed such as social, historical, andgeographical matters.However, like a historian would,I had to decipher why one source’s information was more reliable or’acceptable’ than the other’s based on the evidence backing it up. Anexploration on a variety of sources as well as an examination of where eachsource came from and determine whether or not the author had credibility basedon their background and studies, and decipher the amount of acceptable bias andfact within.
While obtaining the sources on the Chinese Civil War, I had tocompare the information gathered from one source to another multiple times inorder to explore the perspectives and insight since the sources could haveexplored either the CCP or KMT viewpoints. However, like a historian would, Ihad to analyze on the reasoning behind why one facet was more impactful thanthe others based on the amount of evidence to help construct the argument. Deciding on the evidence thatwould be prevalent in answering my question came to me as a challenge as well,as there was a variety of different aspects I could have investigated in orderto enhance my understanding of the topic.
Some of the valuable sources I usedgave me perspectives to consider that I would have never brought into accountbeforehand. Therefore narrowing down on what to look for proved difficult as Iwas able to find resources that explained both of the CCP and KMT sides of thewar in a broad manner. Within these different aspects and perspectiveswitnessed, there becomes a realization that in history, there is no singleanswer to a question and therefore it is more challenging to end with a finalconclusion to an investigation. This provided me an understanding to theimportance of searching every side of an argument to shape a final conclusion.
1 Ghasem Torabi. China’s Civil War. A Social History,1945-1949, Europe-Asia Studies. 20162 Nelson,Ken. “The Cold War for Kids: Chinese Civil War .” Ducksters.Technological Solutions, Inc.
(TSI), Oct. 2017.www.ducksters.com/history/cold_war/chinese_civil_war.
php3 Christman, Maximilian. The Fuel Behind the Chinese Civil War.Washington State University. 2014. history.
libraries.wsu.edu/fall2014/2014/09/07/the-chinese-civil-war/4 Dupuy, Trevor Nevitt. The military history of the Chinese CivilWar. Littlehampton Book Services Ltd; New impression edition. 1969.5 Zhan, Jun.
Ending the ChineseCivil War: Power, Commerce and Conciliation between Beijing and Taipei. St.Martin’s Press. New York, 1993.6 Lary, Diana.
China’s Civil War: ASocial History, 1945-1949. Cambridge University Press. 20157 Chassin, Lionel Max. The Communist Conquest of China: A Historyof the Civil War, 1945-1949. Harvard University Press. 19658 Twitchett, Denis C.
Rawski,Evelyn S. China.www.britannica.com/place/China/War-between-Nationalists-and-communists#ref5907239 Lynch, Micheal. The Chinese CivilWar 1945–49 (Osprey Essential Histories #61). Osprey Publishing. 2010.
10 Pepper, Suzanne. Civil Warin China: The Political Struggle, 1945-1949. Rowman & Littlefield. 199911 Yixian, Sun. Fundamentals ofNational Reconstruction. 192312Hsu, Immanuel. The Rise ofModern China, 1995. Oxford University Press13 Waldron, Arthur.
Chinese Civil War.” The Reader’sCompanion to Military History. Ed. Cowley Robert, and Parker Geoffrey.Houghton Mifflin, 1st edition. Credo Reference.
1996. Academic OneFile,go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=AONE=w=lom_oaklandu=2.1=GALE%7CA176784687=r=61f21452b1b9dbf02e4dd382bddb00d8.
Accessed 8 July 2017.14 Cairns, Rebecca. “The SecondSino-Japanese War, Alpha History. www.alphahistory.com/chineserevolution/sino-japanese-war/15 Meyer-Fong, Tobie. What Remains:Coming to Terms with Civil War in 19th Century China.
Stanford: StanfordUniversity Press. 201316 CivilWar Case Study 2: The Chinese Civil War (1927–37 and 1946–49). Pearson Textbook.www.fsusd.org/cms/lib/CA01001943/Centricity/Domain/1302/Textbook%20-%20Pearson%20Chinese%20Civil%20War.pdf17 Sheridan, James E. China in Disintegration: The RepublicanEra in Chinese History, 1912-1949.
Transformation of Modern China Series.Free Press. 197718 Chang, Jung. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China. Touchstone; Reprintedition.
1991. Harper Collins. alphahistory.com/chineserevolution/jung-chang-ccp-public-support-1986/19 Odd Arne, Westad. DecisiveEncounters: the Chinese Civil War, 1946-1950.
Stanford University Press. 2003