When did the Chinese civil war begin?

Chinese civil war

House fighting in Shanghai
Proclamation of the People's Republic of China by Mao, 1949

The chinese civil war was the conflict over the political leadership of China after the Xinhai revolution in 1911/12, which led to the elimination of the Qing dynasty. The protagonists in this conflict were the nationalist Kuomintang under Chiang Kai-shek and the Chinese Communist Party under Mao Zedong. The civil war began after Chiang's northern campaign in 1927 and ended with the Kuomintang's flight to Taiwan in 1949.

Prehistory and course up to the war against Japan

General Wars the Northern militarists (Chili, Anhwei, Fengtian and Kuominchan factions) for power in Beijing

  • 1920 Chili Anhwei War (Zhiwan): Chili and Fengtian militarists defeat the Anhwei clique
  • 1922 First Chili-Fengtian War (Zhifeng I): Chili clique defeats Anhwei and Fengtian militarists as well as Kuomintang
  • 1924 Second Chili-Fengtian War (Zhifeng II): Chili clique is defeated by Fengtian and Anhwei militarists as well as Chili apostates (Kuominchun)
  • 1926 Fengtian-Kuominchun War: Fengtian clique and Chili Remnants defeat Anhwei Remnants and Kuominchun militarists, however
  • 1926–28 Northern campaign: Kuomintang and Kuominchun clique defeat Fengtian militarists and leftover chili

The Chinese Communist Party was founded in 1921, and in 1924 it concluded a (first) united front and in 1925 a joint counter-government with the Kuomintang in Canton. Together they began the northern campaign, but as early as 1927 communists and the left wing of the Kuomintang (the party was a reservoir for all opponents of the empire in its early years) formed another counter-government in Wuhan, where the communists had a large following. Chiang then suppressed the communist uprisings in Shanghai, Nanchang and Canton.

From 1927 the communists conquered fifteen areas in southern and central China (Hunan, Fukien) and established a Chinese Soviet republic in Kiangsi (from 1929) (1931). The communists were able to repel four major attacks by the Kuomintang troops in 1930-34, before the fifth they withdrew to northwest China in the "Long March" in 1934/35 and were thus able to save themselves from being broken up, which resulted in Mao Zedong becoming head of the Communist Party and a new Soviet republic was established in (Yan'nan) northern Shaanxi. For the time being, the Kuomintang had clearly gained the upper hand and were now outwardly the only relevant political force in the country.

Causes and course

The course of the Chinese civil war, i.e. the struggle for political leadership in the country, was largely influenced and directed by foreign powers. The anti-communist empire of Japan, for example, represented a catalytic factor as an external threat, which exposed the weak points of the Kuomintang regime in China and gave the communists the opportunity to expand their influence. The two world powers of the post-war period, the United States and the Soviet Union, also exercised great influence over the development of the Chinese civil war in accordance with their own interests - the Americans had first and foremost a peaceful settlement of the conflict and the maintenance of the Kuomintang government as a further priority in the sense that the Soviets were actively working towards the establishment of a communist buffer state in Manchuria and the spread of communism in China.

During the Japanese threat

From 1931 onwards, Japan began to systematically and aggressively expand its influence over Manchuria, eventually establishing the puppet state of Manchukuo there under the leadership of the last Chinese emperor, Pu Yi. The Japanese also increasingly enforced control over Chinese coastal cities such as Shanghai (in January 1932 the lifting of trade boycotts through area bombing and landings of ground troops). The forces of the Kuomintang government were insufficient to fight both the communists and the Japanese, and Chiang Kai'shek was forced to recognize the Japanese occupation of Manchuria as a condition of the armistice in 1933.

At the beginning of the Japanese aggression, the Communists and the Kuomintang were completely irreconcilable. Chiang Kai-shek also proclaimed that the fight against communists should go forward. However, after the Xi’an incident (Chiang kidnapping) in December 1936, a kind of suspicious coalition of Kuomintang and communists emerged that would last until the New Fourth Army incident in the winter of 1940.

In 1937, after the incident at the Marco Polo Bridge, the second Sino-Japanese War broke out. The Japanese invaded northern China via Manchuria, captured Beijing and advanced towards Shanghai. The Kuomintang initially rejected the armistice offered on November 5, 1937, which contained the condition of recognizing Japanese supremacy over Manchuria and suppressing anti-Japanese elements as well as the common struggle against communism; When the Chinese leadership wanted to accept the offer less than a month later, the military situation for the Japanese had improved so much as a result of the victory in the second battle for Shanghai that they no longer wanted to offer an armistice on the terms mentioned.

After the bloody conquest of Nanjing, the then capital of the Kuomintang government, the power center of the Kuomintang shifts to Chongqing. In Nanjing itself, an anti-communist collaboration government (the so-called Reorganized Government of the Republic of China) led by Wang Jingwei and other renegade Kuomintang members. Wang, who belonged to the left wing of the Kuomintang and tried as early as 1927 with the communists to build a counter-government in Wuhan.

Despite everything, the alliance between the Kuomintang and the Communists continued, with military cooperation between the two sides being marked by a lack of communication, open distrust and regular clashes. Ultimately, the alliance collapsed completely in the winter of 1940 in the so-called New Fourth Army incident after Kuomintang troops attacked communist forces during the evacuation of the provinces of Anhui and Jiangsu.

The National Revolutionary Army was increasingly weakened by the open fight against the Japanese army as the war progressed.

After the end of the Second World War

After Japan's surrender, faced with the threat of an expanding ideologically motivated war in East Asia, the US was quick to move both parties to negotiate a peaceful solution. So there were several meetings between the leaders of both sides by 1947; including on August 28, 1945, two weeks after the Japanese surrender, between Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek in Chongqing. The American general and later Secretary of State George C. Marshall was entrusted with the role of negotiator until 1947.

The main theater of the civil war, which soon flared up again, was initially Manchuria, which was occupied by Soviet troops after the Japanese surrender. The ceasefire between the United States and Japan contained the condition that the remaining Japanese troops had to surrender to the Kuomintang. However, the Soviet occupying power had worked specifically to supply the Chinese communists with Japanese booty weapons and also promoted the training of communist troops for the (as was assumed by both sides) imminent civil war. The Chinese communists had de facto relocated their entire power base to Manchuria and began, with Russian help, to set up a civil administration and a network of party offices. Chiang Kai-shek was a thorn in the side of this communist takeover of Manchuria with its industrial infrastructure, which was mainly created in the course of the Japanese occupation, and he therefore asked that the planned withdrawal of the Soviet occupation forces from Manchuria be delayed until too the Kuomintang had an opportunity to expand their influence in Manchuria. The Soviet government complied with this request and used the time gained to transport the Japanese industrial plants to Russia.

With the help of great financial and military support from the Americans, the Kuomintang finally began to fight for control of Manchuria in the fall of 1945. The communists, under the command of Lin Biao, fought a loss-making open field battle near Szeping on the railway line to the north, which lasted for a month. Most recently, Lin Biao sent around 100,000 factory workers from Changchun into battle. However, as American pressure to start diplomatic talks increased, the Kuomintang agreed to the communists' demand for a ceasefire and disarmed some 1.5 million troops.

It is likely that this decision to cease fighting as the Americans demanded in favor of a peaceful settlement with the communists put Chiang out of victory. The communists took the opportunity to further strengthen their troops and surrounded the Kuomintang troops in their garrisons by using their anti-aircraft defenses to prevent supplies to the nationalist armed forces. In addition, popular support for the Kuomintang troops and their general morale remained relatively low, also due to widening corruption problems and the high inflation rate as a result of the high debt that the Kuomintang government accumulated in the course of the ongoing armed conflict.

While the struggle in Manchuria continued, the communists instigated smaller guerrilla wars in the rest of China to keep more nationalist troops out of Manchuria. In fact, their plan was successful: in 1948 the last Kuomintang troops surrendered in Manchuria. At this point in time, the real decision of the civil war had been made: after the massive reinforcement of their conventional armed forces, the communists quickly conquered northern China and moved south from there. The decisive battle of the war took place at Huaihai in central China. Five hundred thousand CCP soldiers fought here against a nationalist army of roughly the same size. In this battle, which lasted over two months from November 1948, the nationalist troops were almost completely wiped out.

In 1949, Chiang Kai-shek finally had to give up. He withdrew to Taiwan with his Kuomintang and about 2 million civilians, while the communist leader Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949. Kuomintang remnants isolated in the south-west withdrew to northern Burma and northern Thailand and were partially evacuated to Taiwan. A considerable part of the remaining troops and civilian supporters turned to the cultivation of opium here in the "Golden Triangle". In May 1950 the island of Hainan was conquered by the communists. This ended the last major fighting of the Chinese Civil War, but not necessarily this one as such, as several historians proclaim in view of the real political situation:

As a result of the civil war, two separate Chinese states have existed to this day - the socialist People's Republic of China, which encompasses the entire mainland, and the now democratic Republic of China of the Kuomintang in Taiwan. Both states did not recognize the sovereignty claims of their opponents and for decades regarded themselves as the sole representatives of China, which has led to many disputes between the states (the so-called Taiwan conflict) to this day. With the democratization of Taiwan in the 1990s, however, (sovereignty) claims on the territory of Mongolia and the People's Republic of China were no longer raised by the Republic of China and the communist claim to sovereignty on the mainland, but not on Taiwan, was recognized. The People's Republic of China, on the other hand, maintains its claim to Taiwan as a “breakaway province” to this day with its “one-China policy”.

The Chinese civil war killed over a million people and led to devastation, famine, epidemics and refugee flows in mainland China, and to the division of China that has been going on for more than half a century.

See also

Web links