Chaos in China: The Turning Point in Modern Chinese History – The Great Courses Daily News

Posted: May 22, 2021 at 1:56 am


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By Richard Baum, Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles Failure of the 28 Bolsheviks

The revolutionary mass movement orchestrated by Mao Zedong and Zhu De in the Jiangxi Soviet Republic was a major concern for Chiang Kai-shek. He concentrated on terminating the communist threat rather than dealing with the military threat from the Japanese. By the mid-1930s, he was able to create a serious rift within the Communist leadership.

In 1930, a group of pro-Moscow Communists dubbed the 28 Bolsheviks were sent to take control of the Soviet government from Mao on Joseph Stalins orders. However, Chiang Kai-sheks continuous assaults on Jiangxi Soviet Republic led the Red Army to execute a hastily-planned escape to ensure their survival.

In January 1935, the retreating Red Army forces paused to rest in the town of Zunyi, in eastern Guizhou Province. There the Communist Party held an important leadership conference, in the course of which the pro-Moscow 28 Bolsheviks received a sharp rebuke for having failed to prevent the Red Armys defeat in the fifth annihilation campaign.

Their top leader, Bo Gu, was held responsible for the debacle and was removed from power. With that, the Autumn Harvest veterans assumed control of the party, with Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai in overall command.

Learn more about rural misery and rebellion, 18421860.

By this time, Mao Zedong began to reveal his darker side, including his overwhelming ambition, manipulativeness, and ruthless nature. Not content to share power with Zhou Enlai, the ambitious Mao moved to undermine Zhous co-equal status through various strategies, including the use of blackmail.

Zhou did not relish a political showdown with Mao, and he volunteered to take a back seat. From that point on, Mao Zedong completely dominated Zhou, manipulating and intimidating him virtually at will, and assumed full control of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.

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The escape of the Communists was known as the Long March and included 85,000 soldiers, 15,000 party and government officials, and only 35 women. With Mao now in charge of planning for the Long March, the Communists set as their final destination the city of Yanan in northern Shaanxi Province, some 800 miles to the northwest.

By the time the Red Army reached Yanan at the end of 1935, 13 months after they set out, the Communists had traversed nine provinces and crossed snow-covered peaks, raging rivers, and uninhabitable forests, from Western Guangdong to eastern Tibet.

Of the original 100,000 Long Marchers, only 8,000 reached their destination. The rest, more than nine-tenths of the original Communist force, had either been killed, taken prisoner, or had dropped out along the way. Having finally reached Yanan, out of reach of Chiang Kai-sheks Nationalist armies, Maos forces rested.

At the time the Communists were undertaking their arduous Long March, back in Nanjing, Chiang Kai-shek and his American-educated wife, Soong Mei-ling, were launching a New Life Movement.

Designed to foster a new spiritual awakening for the Chinese people, the movement drew from both Confucian and Christian moral traditions, accompanied by liberal political rhetoric drawn from Sun Yat-sens Three Peoples Principles.

The movement sought to create a new national consciousness based on the traditional Chinese virtues of propriety, justice, integrity, and self-awareness. It also stressed Christian values such as plain living, personal hygiene, cleanliness, and self-discipline.

Chiang once boasted that when properly implemented, the New Life Movement would lead to the social regeneration of China.

However, in reality, many of the precepts of the New Life Movement were essentially a reprise of failed Confucian traditions and were highly reflective of Chiangs own deepening right-wing authoritarian tendencies.

The movement offered no economic reforms to ameliorate the poverty of Chinas long-suffering workers and peasants, and no political framework to allow ordinary Chinese to participate in deliberating the important issues of the day. Indeed, at its core, Chiang Kai-sheks New Life Movement was an attempt to create an orderly, well-disciplined, highly regimented, conformist, and obedient society under patriarchal leadership.

This is a transcript from the video series The Fall and Rise of China. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

In 1932, in response to a growing Chinese patriotic movement to boycott Japanese goods, a shipload of fully armed Japanese marines came ashore in Shanghai. After a brief exchange of gunfire with Nationalist troops, the Japanese commander ordered an aerial bombardment of the city, followed by a full-scale ground attack on Shanghais defenders.

Three divisions of Japanese soldiers were committed to the battle, which ended in an armistice three months later. However, early in 1933, Japanese forces struck south of their Manchukuo stronghold, attacking Jehol Province, north of Beijing. Then, in the spring of the same year, they occupied a strategic mountain pass at the eastern terminus of the Great Wall at Shanhaiguan, less than 150 miles from Beijing. Soon, they moved into Hebei Province, south of the Great Wall.

Confronted with such audacious acts of Japanese aggression, Chiang Kai-shek temporized, ordering his outmanned troops to stand down and seek a cease-fire, rather than fight with the Japanese. But, anti-Japanese sentiment had been building steadily in China ever since the Japanese seizure of Manchuria, and in December of 1935 thousands of Chinese students demonstrated in several Chinese cities demanding that Chiang cease his vendetta against the Communists and instead create a national united front to resist Japan.

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Chiang Kai-shek refused to abandon his plan to wipe out the Communists and ordered an attack on Yanan. His best commanding officer, Zhang Xueliang had no intention of fighting fellow Chinese, Communists or otherwise. Ever since the Japanese militarists had assassinated his father, the Manchurian warlord Zhang Zuolin, the Young Marshal, as he was known, had been waiting to fight Japan.

When Chiang learned of the Young Marshals refusal to attack Yanan, the Generalissimo flew to the city of Xian, 100 miles south of Yanan, to confront him. But Zhang turned the tables on his commander-in-chief, kidnapping him in the middle of the night and holding him hostage.

The Young Marshals demands were simpleChiang Kai-shek must call off his planned attack on the Communists and form a second united front with the Chinese Communist Party, directed against the Japanese.

At first, Chiang stubbornly refused; but when his wife learned of his predicament, she flew to Xian and convinced her husband to agree to the rebels demands. And so, a second Guomindang/Chinese Communist Party, the united front, came into being in December of 1936, a full decade after the first united front had ended abruptly with Chiangs murderous coup in Shanghai.

After Mao Zedong took charge of the planning for the Long March, the final destination was the city of Yanan in northern Shaanxi Province.

The New Life Movement sought to create a new national consciousness based on traditional Chinese virtues of propriety, justice, integrity, and self-awareness.

Zhang Xueliangs demands were simpleChiang Kai-shek must call off his planned attack on the Communists and form a second united front with the Chinese Communist Party, directed against the Japanese.

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Chaos in China: The Turning Point in Modern Chinese History - The Great Courses Daily News

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