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Where Chiang Kai-shek Lost China

Where Chiang Kai-shek Lost China: The Liao-Shen Campaign, 1948

Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Indiana University Press
Pages: 384
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    Where Chiang Kai-shek Lost China
    Book Description:

    The civil war in China that ended in the 1949 victory of Mao Zedong's Communist forces was a major blow to US interests in the Far East and led to heated recriminations about how China was "lost." Despite their significance, there have been few studies in English of the war's major campaigns. The Liao-Shen Campaign was the final act in the struggle for control of China's northeast. After the Soviet defeat of Japan in Manchuria, Communist Chinese and then Nationalist troops moved into this strategically important area. China's largest industrial base and a major source of coal, Manchuria had extensive railways and key ports (both still under Soviet control). When American mediation over control of Manchuria failed, full-scale civil war broke out. By spring of 1946, Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist armies had occupied most of the southern, economically developed part of Manchuria, pushing Communist forces north of the Songhua (Sungari) River. But over the next two years, the tide would turn. The Communists isolated the Nationalist armies and mounted a major campaign aimed at destroying the Kuomintang forces. This is the story of that campaign and its outcome, which were to have such far-reaching consequences.

    eISBN: 978-0-253-01699-7
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments (pp. ix-x)
  4. A Note on Chinese Names (pp. xi-1)
  5. Introduction (pp. 2-7)

    Clausewitz’s observation is as true for the historian as it is for the general: as we observe war from afar, every action seems to have been contingent on a host of other related actions, peripheral factors, and underlying conditions. As a result, any attempt to identify one specific campaign or battle as the crucial event that determined the outcome of a war or the fate of a nation runs the risk of oversimplification. When I say that the Liao-Shen Campaign (12 September–2 November 1948) marks the historical moment when Chiang Kai-shek lost China, I am clearly exercising a degree...

  6. ONE China: Lost or Won? (pp. 8-23)

    On 2 October 1948, Chiang Kai-shek, leader of China’s ruling Nationalist Party (the Kuomintang, or KMT), president of the Republic of China and generalissimo of the National Revolutionary Army, flew from Beiping (as Beijing was then known) to the city of Shenyang in Manchuria. The staff of the Shenyang branch of the army’s Officers’ Moral Endeavor Society (responsible for local arrangements) regarded these visits with some trepidation. Chiang lived an austere and highly disciplined life, and he expected others to do the same. He demanded cleanliness and order, rose early, took an hour’s nap after lunch, wrote a page in...

  7. TWO The Struggle for Manchuria Begins: August 1945–July 1946 (pp. 24-43)

    Although he articulated the principle of the strategic retreat back in 1936, Mao Zedong’s initial strategy in Manchuria was not one of retreat. Instead, he attempted to occupy and control the entire region. When this failed, and the Nationalists broke through Shanhaiguan and advanced, first to Shenyang and then northward, Mao was the one urging his forces to seek decisive battle, while Lin Biao, his general on the ground, retreated, first to the city of Siping and then, after a bitter month-long defense (conducted at Mao’s insistence) north across the Songhua River to Harbin.

    Mao’s initial hopes of controlling the...

  8. THREE Nationalist Offensive, Communist Reaction: South Manchuria, July–November 1946 (pp. 44-61)

    In July 1946, Lin Biao’s main forces had withdrawn north of the Songhua River, a vast area that they would build into their North Manchuria Base Area. A smaller Communist force, consisting of the Third and Fourth Columns and a few other units, remained in the small South Manchuria Base Area, which (at this time) included the towns of Tonghua and Andong as well as Linjiang and other remote counties in the mountainous area along the North Korean border. Chiang Kai-shek had ordered Du Yuming to set the problems of the Communist North and South Manchuria Base Areas to one...

  9. FOUR Breaking the Nationalist Offensive: The Three Expeditions/Four Defenses Campaign, December 1946–March 1947 (pp. 62-83)

    The Communist South Manchuria Base Area was now compressed into four small counties in the mountainous Korean border region: Linjiang, Changbai, Mengjiang, and Fusong.¹ This was the high point of Nationalist superiority in the Northeast: 580,000 Nationalist soldiers to 360,000 Communists.² Confident of his position, on 8 November Chiang ordered his troops in the Northeast to adopt a defensive posture and declared a unilateral cease-fire to go into effect at noon on 12 November.³ The Nationalists controlled most of southern Manchuria and remained poised to resume the offensive against the Communist South Manchuria Base Area at any time. Chiang assured...

  10. FIVE The Summer Offensive and the Wedemeyer Mission: May–August 1947 (pp. 84-103)

    As the ice-bound rivers of the Northeast thawed and spring mud of 1947 replaced the receding snows of winter, Chiang Kai-shek and his generals reassessed their situation. Chiang had placed his faith in a short war strategy of taking points and lines, extending out to capture the spaces in between, and annihilating Communist forces in quick, decisive battles. That strategy had failed. The Nationalists had captured a number of Communist positions in southern Manchuria and had even driven Mao Zedong out of his base area at Yan’an in North China, but Chiang’s commanders had never been able to outflank, pin...

  11. SIX Encircling the Cities: The Autumn and Winter Offensives, September 1947–March 1948 (pp. 104-121)

    Famous quotes are rarely good history, but there is often a grain of truth to them. The Communist Party did not achieve victory over Chiang Kai-shek simply by building bases in the countryside and then surrounding the cities. As Mao Zedong himself had observed back in 1939: “Stressing the work in rural base areas does not mean abandoning our work in the cities.”¹ The growth of Lin Biao’s military power in the Northeast owed much not only to rural base areas (though they were important), but also to the Communists’ control of towns, small and medium cities, and branch railway...

  12. SEVEN The Battle behind the Lines: Building the North Manchuria Base Area (pp. 122-139)

    The Nationalist situation in the Northeast would never have reached the climax of “political and military disintegration” that Leighton Stuart foresaw if the Communists had not been able to build a secure base area in northern Manchuria. Mao Zedong had long emphasized the importance of constructing rural base areas and the use of land reform as a technique both to build popular support and to extract human and material resources from the countryside. But when the Communist forces first entered Manchuria in August–September of 1945 they did very little in terms of building base areas. This was partly because...

  13. EIGHT Army of Learning: The Transition from Guerrilla to Conventional Warfighting Capability (pp. 140-159)

    Land reform and trade with the Soviet Union provided the Communists with grain, textiles, and other trade goods. But in order to conduct increasingly large, complex conventional military operations, Lin Biao’s forces would also need to make the transition from guerrilla to conventional operations—in short, the kind of transition that Mao had described as early as 1936. In order to achieve this transition, the Communist troops would have to acquire new weapons and learn how to use them. Their successful accomplishment of both these tasks was possible because of the advantages of their position in northern Manchuria itself: access...

  14. NINE Contention Within: Summer 1948 (pp. 160-181)

    Unity of purpose is easy to prescribe, but difficult to achieve. In the summer of 1948, both Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong struggled not only to unify the Chinese people behind their respective causes, but also to get their commanders in the Northeast to agree on a clear strategy for the next stage of the civil war.

    The task of achieving unity was complicated by the fact that in April 1948, nobody, including Chiang and Mao, knew exactly what the next stage would be. Chiang’s forces held only the three mutually isolated positions centered on the cities of Changchun, Shenyang,...

  15. TEN Preparing to Annihilate the Enemy: September 1948 (pp. 182-199)

    In September, after five months of debate between Lin Biao and Mao Zedong, the plan for operations along the Bei-Ning line was finally set. The Communists would trap the remaining Nationalist forces in Manchuria and wipe them out, or “close the door and beat the dog,” as the saying goes. Communist forces already controlled the port of Yingkou, thus cutting Shenyang’s route of escape by sea. If Lin could hold Yingkou and capture Jinzhou, then he could eliminate the Nationalists in the Shenyang and Changchun sectors one after the other. As October approached, the Chinese Communist forces were, in Sunzi’s...

  16. ELEVEN Close the Door and Beat the Dog: The Battles of Tashan and Jinzhou, October 1948 (pp. 200-217)

    Mao would not have to wait much longer. The Northeast Field Army began to capture Nationalist positions on the immediate periphery of Jinzhou on 8 October. The assault on the city itself began on the morning of 14 October. From then, it took only thirty-one hours for the Communists to annihilate Fan Hanjie’s armies and capture the city. However, none of this could have proceeded according to plan if Communist forces had not blocked the Kuomintang’s East-Advancing Army Corps at Tashan. The Battle of Jinzhou—an offensive operation—was thus inextricably tied to the Battle of Tashan, in which the...

  17. TWELVE Putting Changchun under Siege: March–June 1948 (pp. 218-235)

    Although Sunzi warned against them, Chinese military history is littered with examples of sieges, many of them of epic proportions.¹ For example, when the Mongols sought to break through the Southern Song dynasty’s riverine defenses the Han River in 1268 they had to put the city of Xiangyang under siege for five years.² With sufficient resources, logistical support, explosives, and gunpowder weapons, troops could, despite Sunzi’s words, lay siege to walled cities for short or even extended periods of time without exhausting their strength. But sieges and attacks on cities inevitably inflicted suffering and death on civilian populations as well...

  18. THIRTEEN Death, Treason, and Surrender in the Garden City: June–October 1948 (pp. 236-249)

    The amounts of food and fuel trickling into Changchun by air and over land were not enough to make any significant difference to the soldiers and civilians trapped in the city. This posed a difficult challenge for Zheng Dongguo, who had both to keep his troops fed and to maintain social order under extremely trying circumstances. In an attempt to achieve centralized control over the city’s limited food resources, Zheng ordered that all grain in civilian hands be collected and managed by a “Wartime Grain Management Committee.” Inevitably, civilians (sometimes with the encouragement of Communist agents) did their best to...

  19. FOURTEEN Avalanche of Defeat: October–November 1948 (pp. 250-271)

    On 15 October, when he learned that the Communists had completely defeated Fan Hanjie, Chiang wrote in his diary: “Jinzhou has fallen; the enemy is not strong, it should be easy to recover it.”¹ That very day, Chiang flew to Shenyang, bringing General Du Yuming with him. On 16 October, Chiang, Du, and Wei Lihuang discussed their painfully limited options. Chiang believed that the East-Advancing Army Corps in the Huludao/Jinxi area and Liao Yaoxiang’s West-Advancing Army Corps out of Shenyang should continue to advance toward and recover Jinzhou in order both to inflict a final defeat on the enemy and...

  20. FIFTEEN Assessing and Remembering (pp. 272-292)

    The Liao-Shen Campaign Memorial Hall stands proudly atop a hill in the city of Jinzhou. The site, overlooking the old city, was the location of Jinzhou’s Shinto shrine during the years of Japanese colonial administration. Inside the Memorial Hall, tourists walk through a series of displays of artifacts, maps, and explanatory signs that together tell the story of the Chinese Communist Party and People’s Liberation Army’s struggle to control the Northeast, from the days of guerrilla resistance to the Japanese in the 1930s to the entry of Communist troops and cadres in August 1945 through the Liao-Shen Campaign itself, which...

  21. Notes (pp. 293-338)
  22. Bibliography (pp. 339-358)
  23. Index (pp. 359-365)
  24. Back Matter (pp. 366-366)