Xi Jinping’s father was veteran of Northwest Field Army in Civil War, which of the 4 numbered Field Armies of the communists, had to contend with most adverse conditions and most trying challenges, including the Nationalist Army’s seizure of communist capital Yan’an in 1947 /1
and consequent flight of Mao Zedong as bait to lure Nationalist Army into ambush and diversion. Xi Jinping’s family, decades later in Cultural Revolution, went through chaos, disruption, and violence. There is absolutely no question that, more than any other world leader in /2
21st century, even including recent predecessors in Red Party, his worldview was and continues to be indelibly shaped by history. Yet, the conclusions that he appears to have drawn, evidently differ from those of many others with overlapping backgrounds. Addressing historical /3
For almost a century leading up to 1949, the US economic, social, and religious establishment made tremendous investments of personnel and funds in China, believing that it holds a vast untapped market of virtually boundless potential, whose materialization was predicated upon /1
the transformation of China as a country of democracy, individual freedom, respect for civic and legal values, high population-level attainments in education and standards of living, and amicability with US economic interests. Although this era met an untimely and sudden end /2
in 1949, the aforementioned motivations and intentions were correct and justified. A few decades later, similar investments returned, but with the risky assumption that the end-goal of market access could be achieved without all of the aforementioned predicates. This was /3
Some forgotten details of Sino-Soviet border conflict over Damansky Island in 1969 deserve comment. Soviet Union leadership was split into 2 camps on how to respond to Mao Zedong’s provocations in the area. The 1st camp, led by Marshal Andrei Grechko, Soviet Defense Minister, /1
advocated a forceful response to what they perceived as Mao’s dangerous and violent hooliganism, which ultimately included not only the Terekty Incident along Xinjiang-Kazakh border, but also contingency war planning of a possible invasion of northern China up to a demarcation /2
through old Chinese Civil War battleground of Shanxi Province. 2nd camp, led by Andrei Gromyko, Soviet Foreign Minister, and which initially had Brezhnev’s sympathy, thought Mao Zedong’s armed provocations as essentially immaturity and acting-out, and advocated a diplomatic /3
The first few paragraphs about communist troops entering Shanghai in 1949 are important and deserve some comment. Yes, communist troops entering Shanghai in 1949 were generally well-disciplined. From earliest days of Chinese Red Army, the communist /1 economist.com/china/2021/01/…
military leadership under Mao Zedong and Zhu De formulated and imposed upon their troops a strict moral code of conduct, the 3 Rules of Discipline and 8 Points of Attention (3/8 Behavior), to contrast themselves from the motley of poorly-behaved Nationalist-affiliated warlord /2
troops they were fighting against, in gaining popular sympathy and support among civilians. Of course, this was very much also a distraction, and in no way diminished the numerous atrocities that the communist military leadership had also perpetuated against socioeconomically /3
Business and history.
After suffering colossal destruction and disruption from two decades of upheaval, the most notorious apex of which was the Cultural Revolution, many ambitious and educated people in China realized one (or both) of two things: 1) They were tired of living /1
lies, and they realized that the only way out of their predicament, and not suffer a repeat of the past 20 years again, was to be truthful and look back at what had happened with a seriously honest perspective; and 2) Politics and ideology can be extremely destructive and /2
wasteful, so their salvation was to pivot all-in, into the capitalist business and entrepreneurial experiments that began in China in the 1980s.
By and large, the populations who pursued (1) and (2) were non-overlapping.
Many Party and military historians (although they are /3
“Are these peasants seriously going to eat all the sweet potatoes?”
A distinctive feature of communist operations in Chinese Civil War by 1948 was that novel, large-scale conventional-scale military operations were combined with mass mobilization and conscription of civilians /1
for logistic support—the latter referred to as “People’s War” in Mao Zedong’s parlance.
Before the outbreak of the Huaihai Campaign, Captain Guo, a company commander in 100th Army, 7th Corps, Republic of China Army, was conducting an inspection of civilian houses in a village. /2
In one dwelling, pulling back a cloth curtain, he stumbled upon a room chock-full of sweet potatoes, covering the entire floor.
He promptly reported the suspicious finding to his superior officers.
They scratched their heads. “These peasants in Shandong province, they all eat /3
Tales of Anna Shen, one of most notorious communist sleeper agents who penetrated deeply into the military command structure of Chiang Kai-shek's Republic of China Army and government.
How did she—the femme fatale of modern Chinese history—pull off such an intelligence coup? /1
1) What motivated Anna Shen to dedicate her life to radical social change?
Roots could be found in early tensions between her and her family. She was born into a well-to-do family in 1915, in Jiangsu Province of southern China. While she was allowed school education, her /2
(1 cont'd) family was otherwise very traditional, insisting on arranged marriage for her, which she had no interest in and tradition of which she despised. She also sided with her older sister when latter was physically abused by rest of family for being unable to conceive. /3
Don’t count on your boss coming back.
In March 1949, as vicious Battle of Taiyuan was increasingly tipping in favor of communists, the provincial warlord there, General Yan Xishan (the “Earthy Emperor of Shanxi”), was looking to flee.
To the public, he loudly proclaimed that /1
he would fight the communists to the bitter end. Not only did he order a supply of poison capsules for himself and his entourage, he even designated former Imperial Japanese Army soldiers serving in his semi-private army to shoot him at very last moment /2
—in his words, he could only trust fanatical Imperial Japanese soldiers, and not even his own Chinese soldiers, to commit that extreme deed.
But he didn’t live up to his word.
Two key events in early 1949 gave him a convenient excuse to hightail out of /3
One reason why I think military history is important, when it comes to conflicts involving deep ideological splits that continue to this day, is that it offers a more objective look at social issues that is less at risk of bias. With Chinese Civil War, I actually find authors /1
such as Jung Chang and Frank Dikotter to be not entirely reliable and objective, because even though they rightfully point out the dangerous consequences of communism, they also gloss over the human rights abuses and excesses of the ostensibly democratic and constitutional /2
Republic of China regime, and of the middle-upper class society that was the basis of its power, that the communists were fighting against. This tendency to pick sides is perhaps rendered more tempting, because these authors’ primary focus was on the ideological conflict /3
I think there’s an interesting but obscure historical parallel that Western analysis of Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979 has been missing. It’s between that war and the Shangdang Campaign of August-October 1945 in 2nd undeclared prelude to Chinese Civil War, in which Deng Xiaoping /1
also played a critical role as Political Commissar of communist 18th Group Army. While Shangdang was initially started by the Shanxi warlord, Yan Xishan, immediately after capitulation of Imperial Japanese Army in China, the communists had certainly /2
fanned the flames of that conflict in a deliberate and explicitly declared effort to use a limited-scale and limited-objective military operation to secure political leverage in diplomatic maneuvering. That was also very much the rationale behind Deng /3
SIGINT cannot replace psychology (and HUMINT).
In late Chinese Civil War in summer 1949, Hunan (Mao’s home province) saw a showdown between the most capable senior military commanders of the warring sides—Gen. Bai Chongxi of Republic of China Army, and /1
Lin Biao of communist 4th Field Army. The vexing issue confronting Lin Biao was to predict Gen. Bai Chongxi’s intentions that summer.
Unlike most other ROCA generals, Gen. Bai Chongxi’s inner circle was fiercely loyal and essentially impenetrable to /2
communist moles and spies (HUMINT). Intelligence section of 4th Field Army had to resort to interception of radio telegraph transmissions (SIGINT) to piece together Gen. Bai Chongxi’s operational intentions.
They did have a break. A stream of transmissions to the provincial /3
People take ease of access information today for granted because Internet, and it’s hard to appreciate by contrast how hard it was to access reliable information decades ago. When communist China began top-secret project to develop nuclear-powered submarine around 1958, by /1
far greatest hurdle was information. Communist Chinese engineers, military and political leaders involved in the project at that point had heard of USS Nautilus, world’s 1st operational nuclear-powered submarine (launched 1954), but far fewer had even seen a picture of it. /2
They were embarking upon a project to construct a submarine that they had not a clue what it should look like. Furthermore, launching an all-out foreign intelligence-gathering effort to collect any and all scraps of information from Western and Soviet press and technical /3
Assimilation is complicated issue in Chinese history.
The last Imperial Chinese dynasty, Qing, was founded and ruled for its entire duration by Manchus, originally a militarized nomadic society organized around Eight Banners, who secured hegemony in their homeland Manchuria /1
and then invaded and conquered the Han Chinese-ruled Ming Dynasty. Yet, over the centuries following conquest, and replaying an inevitable theme in imperial Chinese history, the conquerors in ways became the conquered, as the Manchu ruling class adopted most Han Chinese /2
cultural practices (with key exceptions including foot binding, which Manchus steered clear of) and Mandarin Chinese language, to such an extent that by early 1900s, in the last days of the Qing Dynasty, few if any Manchus outside the Imperial Palace could even speak or write /3
My personal outlook on Chinese communist leadership is, ironically, they’re more detached from reality than pre-1990.
Maoist China suffered horribly because of Mao’s megalomanic delusions about how and what China could achieve socioeconomically to catch-up, backed by mobs /1
of ideologues and activists to enforce his personality cult with violence. Overlooked is how China remained intact as a country at all during chaos of Cultural Revolution and its aftermath—and the answer lies in the fact that Mao still had reliable administrators in backroom /2
who managed to keep China barely functioning—most prominent of them being Zhou Enlai. And of course, the story of China’s economic reforms once Deng Xiaoping took over is well-known and doesn’t need repeating here.
What did these leaders have in common?
Ruthless practicality /3
Your own family may be trojan horse.
During late stage of Pingjin Campaign of Chinese Civil War in 1949, communists entered protracted “negotiations” with General Fu Zuoyi, senior military and political leader in North China, based in Zhongnanhai compound in Peiping (Peking). /1
Communists had tried various psychological manipulation tactics to goad him to surrender or defect, including alternately threatening to charge him as a war criminal, and offering him amnesty.
He still wouldn’t budge, mainly because he couldn’t deal with the colossal personal /2
and historical shame of surrendering.
What did the trick?
His own daughter, who was a communist mole and sleeper agent, increasingly ratchet up communist-sympathizing sentiments with her dad as the “negotiations” dragged on, telling her dad, for instance, that if he were to /3
A strategically-minded opponent may choose not to do the deed (for now), and instead use ambiguity and delaying tactics to further waste time and effort.
In late stage of Huaihai Campaign, 600,000-strong communist forces could’ve easily attacked and wiped out the 200,000- /1
strong encircled remnants of Gen. Du Yuming’s army group (Xuzhou Bandit Suppression Headquarters). But why didn’t they do that right away, and instead elected to keep the 200,000 confined in wretched starvation to what effectively amounted to a giant open-air concentration /2
camp, akin to the forgotten Courland Pocket of the Nazi-Soviet Eastern Front in the Second World War?
There were two reasons. The first is political, having to do with the simultaneous Pingjin Campaign and using a temporary respite of peace as psychological manipulation to /3
You know things are going into the toilet when your boss’s boss secretly gets your boss out without telling anyone else.
In late stage of Liaoshen Campaign of Chinese Civil War in 1948, as Republic of China Army (ROCA) strength got annihilated in successive battles of Tashan, /1
Jinzhou, and Heishan, the only reserve of strength left was garrison in city of Shenyang (Mukden). The overall ROCA commander for the region, General Wei Lihuang, was doomed with the rest of his troops in that encircled city, to defeat and eventual capture.
Or he thought.
boss, Chiang Kai-shek, who for so long had insisted upon ROCA holding every square inch of Manchuria to the last man, woke up to reality and finally honestly recognized the wretched catastrophe facing ROCA in Manchuria. Of course, by that stage, the entrapped troops /3
Bad feng shui can doom an Army.
While Gen. Du Yuming was making defensive preparations, he decided to set up his forward headquarters in a Chinese-style enclosed courtyard (siheyuan), with a tree in middle.
An aide instantly recognized the ominous portent: an open-air /1
courtyard, chock-full of Soldiers of his HQ confined by masonry on all four sides, seemed to be analogous to an encircled army with no hope of escape.
He explained his unease to Gen. Du Yuming, who sympathized his perspective, but liked the house in which the courtyard was /2
situated. Inexplicably, he addressed his aide’s concerns by having the tree in the courtyard axed down and out of sight.
That just makes it worse, the aide explained in protest—getting rid of the tree, thereby leaving the courtyard barren except the Soldiers there, now means /3
“Do you people love capitalist buildings more than soldiers of the property-less proletariat?”
Battle of Shanghai in 1949 in Chinese Civil War was, for communists, neither a cakewalk nor a savage Stalingrad-esque showdown as that faced by Imperial Japanese Army in 1937. While /1
intense fighting occurred outside of urban Shanghai between commander Su Yu’s communist forces of rural Northern Chinese, versus defending Republic of China Army units (whose senior officer resorted to terror tactics to goad men to fight, including battlefield execution of /2
>10 field officers ranked major and below, for cowardice), Su Yu issued a direct and strict order forbidding use of heavy weapons once communists entered urban Shanghai proper, particularly Pudong District.
This caused tremendous anger and disobedience among communist troops /3
Trust your 6th-sense.
Gen. Du Yuming (left), the ROC Army field commander who Lt. Gen. Guo Rugui (right) had betrayed in Huaihai Campaign in Chinese Civil War in 1948, long had a nagging gut feeling that Lt. Gen Guo Rugui was a communist mole, but had no proof.
He went up to /1
his boss, commander-in-chief Chiang Kai-shek, anyways.
Chiang Kai-shek, who greatly admited and trusted Lt. Gen. Guo Rugui (with good reason, as he was an exceptionally brilliant staff officer who masterminded Chinese operational strategy against Imperial Japanese Army in /2
Battle of Wuhan in 1938, for instance), demanded evidence and proof for Gen. Du Yuming's suspicions.
Of course, Gen. Du Yuming had none, despite his incredibly nagging 6th-sense.
The best approximation to evidence of Lt. Gen. Guo Rugui's treachery was—unlike many of his /3
Food conquers all.
In late stage of Huaihai Campaign, the single most militarily important operation in whole of Chinese Civil War of 1946-50 that ultimately doomed Republic of China Army (ROCA) defense of Shanghai and capital Nanking, ROCA units including remnants of once- /1
powerful and American-equipped 12th Mechanized Corps were surrounded in a massive pocket. Despite a massive aerial resupply effort by ROC Air Force that rivaled in scale the German Luftwaffe effort at Stalingrad in 1942, the sheer metric-tonnage requirements far outstripped /2
ROCAF's ability, and the aerial resupply efforts that were carried out were poorly done, with food just thrown out of planes without regard to where they landed.
ROCA soldiers, freezing and exposed on open frozen ground, starved and resorted to eating raw tree bark and leather /3