The war in China was from the beginning a three part war. The major engagements were largely between the Japanese and the Nationalists. This was largely because the Nationalists (KMT) conrolled the most valuable areas of China that the Japanese coveted. The Communists (CCP) controled Shaanxi in the northwest. This was an area of little interest to the Japanese. Thus large-scale military engagements between the Japanese were limited. The Communists did have forces and supporters in areas under nominal Japanese control. In these areas there were actions of various scale with both the Japanese and Nationalists (KMT). The KMT and CCP agreed to form a united front to fight the Japanese, but this never really worked and within a short period the KMT and CCP forces were fighting each other. The CCP forces ininiated an offensive against the Japanese (1940), but for the most part avoided major actions against the better equipped Japanese forces.
The Chinese Communists (CCP) led by Mao Tse-tung fought a brutal civil war with the Kuomintang (KMT). The KMT almost destroyed the Communists, but they fled as part of the Long March Driven (1927). The CCP wascdriven to the remote mountains of northwestern China--Shensi Province. There for a time they were abandoned by Stalin who believed the KMT was better able to confront the Japanse and divert them from attacking Siberia. Stalin would not begin to support the CCP nuntil after hechad defeated the NAZIS and the Allies had defeated the Japanese in the Pacific War. Thus when the Japanese launched their invasion of China, the Communists in Shaanxi were out of the immediate line of fire. Shaanxi was an area of little interest to the Japanese. Thus large-scale military engagements between the Japanese were limited.
The Japanese launched an invasion of China proper, launching the Second Sino-Japanese War. (July 1937). The Japanese Kwantung Army turned a small incident into a full-scale war. Chinese forces were unable to effectively resist the Japanese. The Japanese military was not only better armed and organized, they were also incredibly brutal. The rape of Nanking was ome of the most terrible attrocities of World War II. The Japanese methodically moved south, seizing control of most of eastern China and all of the major ports by the time war broke out in Europe. (1939). The Kuomintang Army was battered, but the Japanese were unable to destroy it. Chiang used the samed tactics that Mao and the Communists had used, withdraw into the rugged, easily defensible interior. The Japanese moved up rivers and railroad lines into the interior of China. Much of the Japanese Army was committed to the war in China. It did not prove as draining for Japan, however, as the Soviet campaign did for Germany. This was in pat because of the ineffectiveness of the Kuomintang Army. The war in China was from the beginning a three part war. Resistance to the Japanese fell primarily on the Kuomintang because the Communists were in the remote areas of northwestern China. Also neither Chiang or Mao wanted to weaken their forced by fighting pitched battles with the Japanese. The major engagements were largely between the Japanese and the Nationalists. This was largely because the Nationalists (KMT) conrolled the most valuable areas of China that the Japanese coveted.
Chang Hsüeh-liang / Zhang Xueliang in what has become cknown as the Sian Inident, kidnapped Chiang (1936). Chiang was able to negotiate his release. One condition was was to form a united front with the communists to resist the Japanese. The Marco Polo Bridge Incident occurred soon after (July 7, 1937). This set off a major Japanese invasion and the Second Sino-Japanese War. The KMT and CCP did make some attempts to cooperate militarily and create a united national front. The CCP government was also nominally absorbed into the KMT administration of China and was designated the Shensi-Kansu-Ningshia Border Region. Lin Po-ch'u was appointed chairman. After considerable negotiation, the KMT recognized CCP rule in 18 counties (hsien) (July 1940). The CCP by that time claimed that they controlled 28 counties.
The CCP and KMT did moderate their propaganda toward each other and focused on the Japanese.
There was littlecactual military cooperation. There was somevlimuted local cooperation between CCP and KMT guerrillas operating in Japanese occupied areas. There was never any cooperation between the CCP and KMT even before the truce broke down. .
The communist Red Army was founded when the Nationalist 27th Division mutinied and joined the Communists. This became the core of the Communist military forces which fought the Natiionalists for 10 years. The civil war with the Natiionalists was complicated when the Japanese after seizing Msnchuruia (1931), invaded China proper (1937). The Communists and Nationalists formed a United Front, at least publically. Under the terms of the truce with the Nationalists, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) was nominally incorporated into a Chinese national army. Mao rejected, however, Chiang's proposal that he directly control the CCP forces. The Communists has two primary military formations: the 8th Route Army and the New 4th Army . The larger Communist formation was the 8th Route Army. . It was designated the Chinese 18 Army Group. The Communist Party political leader was Mao Zedong. Their primary military commander was General Zhu De. He was a long-time associate of Mao and given command of the 8thRoute Army. The 8th Route Army was a relatively small force at the time of the Japanese invasion--about 30,000 men (1937). The Communist built their forces and generally avoid major combat with the Japanese. The fight was primarily carried by the Nationalists. As a result the Communists had a substantial force of about 0.4-0.5 million men (1940). This was done by infiltrating behind Japanese lines in Northern China. The Japanese controlled the cities and major rail lines, but did not have an adequate military force to control the countryside. Thus the 8th Route Army was able to recruit men and establish many operational bases. The force is probably better desribed as a militia with limited military training. This limited themilitary effectiveness, but vit also made it difficult for the Japanese to destroy the formation in a conventional sense. The Communists finally committed the 8th Route Army in the Hundred Regiments Offensive (1940). This appears to have reduced their force to about 0.3 million men. After this the Communists generally held back from major fighting with the Japanese. As aresult by the end of the war with Japan (August 1945), the Communists had rebuilt their forces to about 0.6 million men.
The 8th Route Army consisted of three divisions: the 115th commanded by Lin Biao (who would play a major role in later Chines history), the 120th, and the 129th divisions. The 8th Route Army had a conventional capability, but also was capable of operating as a guerrilla force behind Japanese lines. Here it could attack over streached Japanese supply lines and isolated garrisons. The Communists assigned the 8th Route Army to carry out political and propaganda work in an effort to build support among the Chinese people. Like the Nationalists they were planning for the renewed civil war after the Japanese were defeated.
The other large Communist formation was the New 4th Army. It has received less attention because it was not under Mao's control. It was organized by Hsiang Ying who become disaffected with Mao's leadership in 1931. He was left behind in the Long March.
The CCP engaged in substantial opium trafficking throughout the War. This is a sensitive issue and one Chinese historians do not like to admit. They sold in both the K\MT and Japanese controlled areas. Some Japanese Army officers were also involved. One Chinese historian writes, " "Mao and the Communists engaged in the opium trade. How else could they pay their troops? Nothing else that would grow in Yan'an was marketable. In such a situation, you do what you must." [Yang] There are reports that Japan's China Affairs Board negotiated with the Communists to obtain opium. The evidence here, however, is not conclusive.
The truce and united front to fight the Japanese, but this never really worked and within a short period the KMT and CCP forces were fighting each other. The truce was uneasy from the beginning was uneasy. It began to break down by late-1938. A major point of conflict was the Communists efforts to expand their military forces by absorbing Chinese guerrilla forces operating in Japanese-occupied areas.
Open clashes betweem KMT and CCP forces gradually became more common (1940). These mostly occurred in areas under nominal Japanese control. The Japanese could not possibly garrison the area they occupied. Theyb primarily garisoned the cities and tried to control the ciountry side. The classhes between the Communists and KMT largelyb took place in the country side beyond Japanese control. The most serious action was the New Fourth Army Incident (January 1941.)
The Communists did have forces and supporters in areas under nominal Japanese control. In these areas there were actions of various scale with both the Japanese and Nationalists (KMT).
The historical record on the CCP participation in the war against the Japanese is limited, The isolation of the CCP meant that there was little coverage of their operations by Western authors or journalists. And the Communist victory in the Civil War (1948-49) meant that there was no scholarly historical assessment by Chinese histprians after the War. Communist histories are essentially propaganda documents and unrelable. Most Western historians believe that the Communist contribution to the war effort was limited. Mao as best that can be determined was not about to endanger his limited military strength by engaging the well-armed Japanese. His fundanental war policy was to allow the Japanese to attack the KMT armies and clear out an an area. He would then move guerilla forces and political operatives into the area. He is recorded as saying, "The more land Japan took, the better." The Communists in addition to guerilla resistance operations are known to have fought only two significant conventional battles with the Japanese. Both these attacks were conducted against Mao's wishes.
Communist forces ambushed a column of the Japanese 5th Division at Pingxingguan.
The CCP forces ininiated the Hundred Regiments Offensive against the Japanese (August 20, 1940) This was the largest operation the Communists conducted during the War. he Communists launched a series of offensives against the Japanese (August-December 1940). The Eighth Route Army with a force of about 40,000 troops attacked the major railways and roads controlled by the Japanese in northern China. Another target was the Jingxing coal mines. Access to Chinese natural resources were one of the major goals of the Japanese. The facilities there were damaged and it took the Japanes about a year tgo resume production. The high point of the Communist offensice was cdefeating a larger force commanded by Han Deqin in north Jiangsu (October). They reportedly killed or wounded 20,000 Japanese troops and 18,000 collaborating Chinese troops. The Japanese struck out brutally, killing large numbers of civilans which the Communist forces could not defend. The Japanese used the precept, “kill all, burn all, destroy all.” Whole villages were destroyed and the people in then murdered. Thousands of the prisoners not killed were taken to Manchuko to work as slave laborers in horendous cionditions. The 8th Route Army lost an estimated 100,000 men, including both casualties and desertions. The Japanese drove the Communists who withdrew west out of large areas. The population controlled by the CCP declined from 44 million to 25 million people. The Chinese communists retained a firm hold on their base areas in Shaanxi.
Hsiang's New 4th Army fomented a major battle with the KMT forces at Huang-ch'iao (October 1940). The KMT was unpreoared and two KMT divisions were virtually destroyed. Chiang ordered Hsiang and the New 4th Army north of the Yellow River by the end of November. The Communist pledged to complys announced their intention to comply, but New 4th Army units began moving south, (The Communist later claimed that this was a detour to avoid Japanese units and they planned to move north.) The KMT massed seven divisions at Maolin and inflicted serious losses on the New Fourth Aremy. They took 5,000 prisoner and reportedly killed about 4,000 Communist troops in the fighting. The KMT attack seems to have been ordered by the local commander, Ku Chu-tung. Chiang himself wascgenenerallyreluctant to commit KMT forces. Chiang subsequently ordered the New 4th Army dissolved (January 1941). The Communists ignored the order. They mounted a propaganda campaign to discredit Chiang for supporting intra-Chinese fightging rather than focusing on the Japanese.
Chiang insistedthat the New 4th Army was mutinous and had to be disbanded to maintain needed military discipline within Chinese miklitary forces.
Yang Jinghua. (Hastings, 2007)
Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to Main World War II Chinese-Japanese War page]
[Return to Main military style page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]