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The Communists, Chiang Kai-shek and Japan's Expansion, 1932-33

Communists in Jiangxi had found that peasants would not commit to change if that change could not be defended militarily. The Communists in Jiangxi had organized a Red Army that gave peasants confidence. And with the Guomindang government distracted, the peasant rebellion expanded. In November 1931 in southern Jiangxi province a Soviet republic was declared.

The Communist Party strategists in Moscow proclaimed that in China's soviet territory a resolute class struggle should be waged against rich peasants – China's version of Russia's kulaks. But in Jiangxi, Mao Zedong was deviating from the Party line. For the sake of maintaining the economy in his area he and others had initiated a policy of allowing the more wealthy peasants to produce and to sell their grain to merchants in areas under Chiang Kai-shek's control. China's Communist Party was sticking with Moscow and labeled Mao a deviationist.

In May 1932, a couple of months after the short war against the Japanese around Shanghai had ended, Chiang Kai-shek began his fourth "Communist suppression" expedition, near the northern border of Hunan province. Within three months the Communists there were decisively defeated, many escaping into more mountainous areas, some fleeing north and some west. Then Chiang moved again against Communist forces in Jiangxi, with a new tactic. Rather than rushing into Communist held territory as before, Chiang's plan was to encircle the region and advance slowly inward, stopping after each short advance to build secure defensive positions with trenches and block-houses. The block-houses were impregnable because the Communist forces had no artillery. Each step inward by Chiang's forces was to be made after the area had been militarily secured. It was a campaign designed to take months.

Chiang's plans against the Communist forces were disrupted again by the Japanese. It appeared to Chiang that Japan was about to move into Jehol province and that Japan's aim was to bring the whole of China under its domination. Chiang's troops in Jiangxi began to withdraw to north China to face again the Japanese. Then the Communists in Jiangxi mounted an offensive and succeeded in annihilating two of Chiang's divisions.

On 3 January 1933 Japan's Kwantung army began its push into Jehol, moving through mountainous terrain. In two to three months it occupied the three major passes in the Great Wall just north of Beijing. Then it called a truce. China's military had failed again. Chinese civilians were passionate in their desire to resist Japan's Intrusions. But in May, Chiang chose to settle with the Japanese. Chiang agreed that the area around Beijing was to be demilitarized and that Chinese police there were to maintain order among civilians.


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