This is the first article in a series on the history of communism in China. You can read the first article here.
An Unstable Alliance
The weak alliance that had been forged between the Nationalist Party of China (the Kuomintang) and the Communists began to break down, largely because the Kuomintang, many of whom were landowners, wanted to protect their property. On the other hand, the Communists wanted the Kuamintang’s power gone.
Tension developed between the ever growing communist party, and the more conservative elements of the Nationalist Party.
The Communist Party started moving amid the peasants, stirring up anger against the landowners—who were predominantly part of the Kuomintang. This wasn’t difficult, as many Chinese were poor, and often the landowners charged high rents and taxes.
Inspired by the Communist Party, the peasants began to protest.
Realising the Communist Party wanted to destroy them, the Kuamintang broke their alliance and banished the CCP.
Soon after the Kuomintang conquered Shanghai in 1927, the businesses and bankers were happy for them to rule, and as a consequence, the democrats became the strongest ruling party in China. During this time, the Communist Party was completely shunned, and was not offered any place in the new government.
The Chinese Soviet Republic
Seeing the uselessness of their existing strategy, the CPP abandoned their campaign in the urban areas and moved to the countryside to focus on rousing the everyday people.
They were so successful that in 1931, they set up the Chinese Soviet Republic in Southern China—with a population of some 10 million. This independent establishment was soon discovered by the Koumintang, and between 1930 and 1934, Chiang Kai-shek launched five military campaigns in quick succession against the Communist Party in an attempt to eradicate their Soviet Republic base.
The Communists successfully fought off the first four military campaigns with well-thought-out tactics proposed by a man named Mao Zedong.
During the Kuomintang’s fifth and final attack, the Communist forces, no longer under Mao’s leadership, relied on different tactics. As a result, they suffered heavy losses and were nearly destroyed.
The Long March
In October 1934, the remaining 86,000 Communist troops managed to break through the Kuomintang’s weakest point and flee for refuge. Their subsequent trek has come to be called the “long march”.
The first three months were disastrous for these soldiers. They were raided from above and below by the Koumintang and lost more than half their troops.
The courageous march of nearly 10,000 kilometres ended a year later when the Communist forces reached Northern China.
Only thirty men remained. The troops had primarily died from fighting, disease, and starvation.
It was during this march that Mao received the respect of the people and became the leader of the CCP.
The CCP Regroups
For years, the Communists lived in this new location in caves, or dugout holes in the hillside. They used this time to print a newspaper, The Liberation Daily, which continued to stir the people.
Whilst this civil unrest had been occurring, a new threat had now arisen with Japan invading part of China—Manchuria—and setting up China’s former emperor, Puyi, as their new leader.
However, the Nationalist leader, Chiang Kai-shek, seemed more focused on eliminating the Communists than on defending China from the Japanese. Consequently, the people felt he was ignoring the new threat and started crying out for war with Japan.
In 1936, Chiang, out of necessity rather than choice, was forced to call off his military pursuit of the Communists. Instead, he entered into another alliance with them with the objective of addressing the increasing Japanese presence in China.