44. Red War Policies
MORE by accident than by design, my arrival in Communist areas coincided
with a decisive turning point in China's civil war. During the several
months that I had been wandering around the Liberated Areas, there had
taken place three events that had an immediate effect on the military
aspects of that war.
All of these things greatly surprised me, but especially the counter-offensive. For when I first arrived in the Liberated Areas I could discover almost no outward signs that such a great event was in the offing. On the peasants' huts and on the mud walls of the villages, the slogans were all of a defensive nature. "Restore the lines of the truce agreement." "Beat back the attacks of Chiang Kai-shek and keep our Liberated Areas free." These were two of the most popular slogans at the time of my arrival. Nowhere was there any such exhortation as "Down with Chiang Kai-shek!" At the time, it had all seemed very strange.
When I asked various staff officers in General Liu Po-cheng's headquarters why they were not appealing to the people to overthrow Chiang, I received a variety of answers as amusing as they were unconvincing. "You are a very bad boy," one officer would say to me. Or another one might remark: "Too many people support Chiang; such a slogan would not be appropriate." Or most commonly someone would say: "We don't want to overthrow Chiang; we want to make peace with him and reform his character." That these hard-bitten guerrilla leaders actually believed in such a Christian approach to the problem of war and revolution of course, seemed to me preposterous.
| One day, when General Liu Po-cheng
himself, told me that the present aim of their civil war against Chiang
was to restore the lines of the Marshall truce agreement, I suddenly decided
to take the bull by the horns and blurted out:
"Do you mean to tell me that if you have defeated Chiang Kai-shek's army around Suchow and Pengpu and are advancing on Nanking [this is exactly what happened] and if Chiang says at this time: "Advance no further, go back to the lines of the truce agreement", do you mean to say under these circumstances, you will suddenly halt your advance, withdraw your forces and make peace with Chiang?"
The one-eyed general looked at me quizzically for a moment. "We have been fighting Chiang for twenty years," he said; "we know him very well. If such a condition as you outline arises, we will not stick our necks out for Chiang to chop off."
I had my answer, and a few days later, I extracted an even more specific one from a staff officer in headquarters. "Look," he said, "this is only a tactic. When the time comes, we will say: 'Down with Chiang Kai-shek' and we will overthrow him."
But what gave the Communists the belief that they could beat Chiang
Kai-shek in the first place? On the face of it such ideas appeared presumptuous.
Chiang had an army three and a half times that of the 8th Route Army,
with a correspondingly greater fire power in artillery, machine guns and
rifles. Moreover, while he had an air force, railways, gunboats and motor
transport, the Reds had none. Yet, as I soon discovered, the Communists
were supremely confident of their ability to beat Chiang's - American
arms or no American arms. Why?
"The basic nature of the war," said Mao, "lies in the struggle of the armed Chinese people against feudalism and dictatorship and toward independence and democracy. Under these conditions, Chiang Kai-shek's military superiority and American aid are factors that can play only temporary roles. The unpopular nature of the Chiang regime and the support or opposition of the people, however, will play constant roles."
Officers in Liu Po-cheng's headquarters put it to me this way: "The
side with inferior material will overcome the side with superior material;
the country will conquer the city; the side without foreign assistance
will conquer the side with foreign assistance."
No doubt the Communists hoped to gain a dominating position in that government. However, there was nothing underhanded in advocating such a program. Quite the contrary, it was wide open to everybody's view and that is why it was such a beautiful strategy. Chiang Kai-shek, in dismissing Red representatives from his capital at Nanking, then declaring that he would not take them in the government at all, put himself in the untenable position of continuing the war when the country wanted peace. Later, he made his position even worse by outlawing the left-wing Democratic League, denying their members positions in the government and even arresting some of them. The Communists, on the other hand, by continuing to advocate coalition government, left the door wide open for all the diverse political elements of China to come over to their side. Such a strategy - whether sincere or not - was definitely appealing.
While they considered China's civil war revolutionary, most of Liu's staff officers believed it was different from other revolutionary wars. Their remarks on this subject are perhaps not without interest and I paraphrase them here.
China's civil war, said staff officers, was not like the Russian civil
war because it was primarily a war of farmers with few workers involved.
Therefore, land reform and not proletarian support was the decisive factor.
In its opposition to dictatorship, feudalism and foreign intervention,
it was like the Spanish Civil War. But the Spanish people fought Franco
under the leadership of a popular front, while the Chinese people, though
of many parties and groups, were fighting under Communist policies and
Communist leadership. Thus, there was a unity of direction and interest
that the Spanish Republicans lacked.
| In 1927, the aim of Red
warfare had been the dictatorship of the proletariat and one-party rule;
now it was a "New democracy" and coalition government under leadership
of the Communists. In 1927, world imperialism was still marching forward.
By 1945, however, the imperialist designs of Japan, Italy and Germany had
been routed. French and British imperialism were in full retreat. Only America
could interfere in China, but being occupied throughout the whole world,
she could not play a decisive role in China's war. The fact, however, that
many Chinese looked upon Chiang as the man who was selling them out to foreign
interests gave the war the character of a war of independence.
Such were the broad outlines of the political and strategic considerations which the Reds believed would bring them victory and a recognized, perhaps dominant position in a coalition government. How did they plan to fight that war? Somewhat differently than before.
| Already, on my arrival,
Liu Po-cheng had amalgamated his former guerrilla outfits into units analogous
to divisions and corps. Though he was still relying on a guerrilla struggle
for aid, he planned to use his army in broad-scale mobile maneuvers against
Chiang which he had not been able to do against the Japanese.
This was true, not only of Liu Po-cheng, but of all 8th Route cornmanders. There was nothing particularly secret about these tactics, and they were publicly outlined by Mao Tze-tung, himself, in a Christmas ay speech in 1947 as follows:
1. First strike isolated enemies; later strike concentrated enemies.
2. First take small towns, later cities.
3. Destruction of the enemy's forces and not the capture of cities is the most important objective.
4. In every battle concentrate absolutely superior forces: double, quadruple and sometimes even five or six times those of the enemy. Try for complete annihilation. But don't fight a battle of attrition where the gains cannot equal the losses.
5. Fight only when there is assurance of victory.
6. Fight several engagements in succession without respite.
7. Destroy the enemy while in movement.
8. Wrest all weakly defended cities from the enemy. Wait until conditions mature and then capture powerfully defended cities.
9. Replenish ourselves by the capture of all enemy arms and most of his personnel. Sources of the men and materiel for our army are mainly at the front.
10. Utilize intervals between campaigns in resting, grouping and training troops, but don't let intervals be long or allow the enemy a breathing spell.
| "These methods," said Mao
Tze-tung, "are well known to Chiang Kai-shek and his American advisers.
Many times Chiang has called together his generals and his field officers,
issued them our books and sought countermeasures. The American military
personnel suggest this and that strategy. .. but our strategy is based on
a people's war and no antipopular army can utilize our strategy and tactics."
This outline for victory was to be fulfilled with amazing accuracy in the year following Mao's speech. For the 8th Route Army, having captured small towns, moved against provincial capitals such as Tsinan and Paoting then took great cities, like Mukden, and Tientsin until they finally seized the biggest metropolitan centers at Nanking, Peiping and Shanghai. The country, as my informants had put it, was conquering the city. In other ways, too, time showed Mao to be a sure prophet. Small isolated units, then divisions and finally whole Kuomintang armies were to fall to the Red forces.
Such sudden and sweeping victories, however, were not achieved by force of arms alone. Behind such victories lay some very subtle political stratagems of high-ranking Red commanders. One day, when talking to one-eyed General Liu, I asked him what was the greatest tactical lesson he had learned from a quarter of a century of war.
He thought a long while, then answered: "To utilize the contradictions of the enemy. For example, when I have three enemy units before me, I study the history of each commander carefully, try to find out if the commanders have any disagreements among themselves, which commander is the most dissatisfied, which unit the weakest and which soldiers the most depressed. I then try to isolate that unit and attack it." It might be added here that this was also one of the Communists?favorite political tactics. This tactic was utilized by nearly every high Communist commander throughout the course of the civil war with sometimes astounding results.
There was nothing haphazard about the way Red commanders turned the contradictions within the Kuomintang army to their own advantage. Preparations were very detailed.
For example, when I was in the Liberated Areas, a Communist force under General Chen Yi decided to attack the City of the White Pagoda. The aim of this operation was not the capture of the city, but the elimination of the Kuomintang 42nd Army Group under General Ho Peng-chu. Now, General Ho once had been a puppet commander under the Japanese. He had surrendered to the Communists and was allowed to keep his army. Then suddenly, in the fashion of the Three Kingdoms, Ho turned over to Chiang Kai-shek. As the Reds prepared to attack Ho, their political directors explained all this to the soldiers of the 8th Route Army. The manner of this precombat political education has been preserved by intelligence agents of Chiang Kai-shek's army itself and I quote from one of its documents.
All troops serving as the spearhead in the attack
were given detailed explanations:
(1) Important Rules of Communist Bandit Combat, published by The Kuomintang Military Officers Training Corps, Nanking.
It is almost superfluous to remark that poor General Ho could not stand up before this avalanche of politkal propaganda and was captured within a few days with most of his army intact.
|| As the war went on, these political
tactics of the Reds were to pay huge dividends. For time after time, not
only regiments, but divisions and sometimes dissatisfied armies, turned
over to the Reds after making only a token resistance.
As a matter of fact, there was in headquarters right at this moment a Kuomintang general named Kao Hsu-hsun who had turned over to the Reds with his whole army. I decided to go see him.