|Chinese Civil War|
|Literal meaning||Nationalist-Communist Civil War|
|War of liberation (mainland)|
|Chinese Civil War|
People's Liberation Army attacking government defensive positions in Shangtang
|Republic of China|| Chinese Communist Party
People's Republic of China
|Chiang Kai-shek|| Mao Zedong
|4,300,000 (July 1945)
3,650,000 (June 1948)
1,490,000 (June 1949)
|1,200,000 (July 1945)
2,800,000 (June 1948)
4,000,000 (June 1949)
|Casualties and losses|
|1928–1936: ~2,000,000 Military Casualties
1946–1949: ~1,200,000 Military Casualties 
The Chinese Civil War was fought between the Kuomintang (KMT or Chinese Nationalist Party) and the Communist Party of China (CPC). The war began in April 1927, amidst the Northern Expedition. The war represented an ideological split between the Western-supported Nationalist KMT and the Soviet-supported Communist CPC. In the People's Republic of China the war is more commonly known as the "War of Liberation".
The civil war carried on intermittently until the Second Sino-Japanese War interrupted it, resulting in the two parties forming a Second United Front. Japan's campaign was defeated in 1945, marking the end of World War II, and China's full-scale civil war resumed in 1946. After a further four years, 1950 saw a cessation of major hostilities—with the newly founded People's Republic of China controlling mainland China (including Hainan Island), and the Republic of China's jurisdiction being restricted to Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and several outlying Fujianese islands. To this day, since no armistice or peace treaty has ever been signed, there is controversy as to whether the Civil War has legally ended. Today, the two sides of the Taiwan strait have close economic ties.
The Qing Dynasty, the last of the ruling Chinese dynasties, collapsed in 1911. China was left under the control of several major and lesser warlords in the Warlord era. To defeat these warlords, who had seized control of much of Northern China, the anti-monarchist and national unificationist Kuomintang party and the president of the Republic of China, Sun Yat-sen, sought the help of foreign powers. Sun Yat-sen's efforts to obtain aid from the Western democracies were ignored, however, and in 1921 he turned to the Soviet Union. For political expediency, the Soviet leadership initiated a dual policy of support for both Sun and the newly established Communist Party of China, which would eventually found the People's Republic of China. Thus the struggle for power in China began between the KMT and the CPC.
In 1923, a joint statement by Sun and Soviet representative Adolph Joffe in Shanghai pledged Soviet assistance for China's unification. The Sun-Joffe Manifesto was a declaration for cooperation among the Comintern, KMT and the Communist Party of China. Comintern agent Mikhail Borodin arrived in China in 1923 to aid in the reorganization and consolidation of the KMT along the lines of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The CPC joined the KMT to form the First United Front.
In 1923, Sun Yat-sen sent Chiang Kai-shek, one of Sun's lieutenants from his Tongmeng Hui days, for several months' military and political study in Moscow. By 1924, Chiang became the head of the Whampoa Military Academy, and rose to prominence as Sun's successor as head of the KMT.
The Soviets provided much of the studying material, organization, and equipment including munitions for the academy. The Soviets also provided education in many of the techniques for mass mobilization. With this aid Sun Yat-sen was able to raise a dedicated "army of the party," with which he hoped to defeat the warlords militarily. CPC members were also present in the academy, and many of them became instructors, including Zhou Enlai who was made a political instructor of the academy.
Communist members were allowed to join the KMT on an individual basis. The CPC itself was still small at the time, having a membership of 300 in 1922 and only 1,500 by 1925. The KMT in 1923 had 50,000 members.
Just months after Sun Yat Sen's death in 1925, Chiang-Kai-Shek, as commander-in-chief of the National Revolutionary Army, set out on the Northern Expedition. By 1926, however, the KMT had divided into left and right wing factions. The Communist bloc within it was also growing. In the March 1926 Zhongshan Warship Incident, after thwarting an alleged kidnapping attempt against him, Chiang imposed restrictions on CPC members' participation in the top KMT leadership and emerged as the pre-eminent KMT leader.
In early 1927; the KMT-CPC rivalry led to a split in the revolutionary ranks. The CPC and the left wing of the KMT had decided to move the seat of the KMT government from Guangzhou to Wuhan, where Communist influence was strong. But Chiang and Li Zongren, whose armies defeated warlord Sun Chuanfang, moved eastward toward Jiangxi. The leftists rejected Chiang's demand and Chiang denounced the leftists for betraying Sun Yat-sen's Three Principles of the People by taking orders from the Soviet Union. According to Mao Zedong, Chiang's tolerance of the CPC in the KMT camp decreased as his power increased.
On April 7, Chiang and several other KMT leaders held a meeting arguing that communist activities were socially and economically disruptive, and must be undone for the national revolution to proceed. As a result of this, on April 12, Chiang turned on the CPC in Shanghai. The KMT was purged of leftists by the arrest and execution of hundreds of CPC members. This was called the April 12 Incident or Shanghai Massacre by the CPC. The massacre widened the rift between Chiang and Wang Jingwei's Wuhan. Attempts were made by CPC to take cities such as Nanchang, Changsha, Shantou, and Guangzhou. An armed rural insurrection, known as the Autumn Harvest Uprising was staged by peasants, miners and CPC members in Hunan Province led by Mao Zedong. The uprising was unsuccessful. There were now three capitals in China: the internationally recognized republic capital in Beijing, the CPC and left-wing KMT at Wuhan, and the right-wing KMT regime at Nanjing, which would remain the KMT capital for the next decade.
The CPC had been expelled from Wuhan by their left-wing KMT allies, who in turn were toppled by Chiang Kai-shek. The KMT resumed the campaign against warlords and captured Beijing in June 1928. Afterwards most of eastern China was under the Nanjing central government's control, and the Nanjing government received prompt international recognition as the sole legitimate government of China. The KMT government announced in conformity with Sun Yat-sen, the formula for the three stages of revolution: military unification, political tutelage, and constitutional democracy.
During the 1920s, Communist Party of China activists retreated underground or to the countryside where they fomented a military revolt, beginning the Nanchang Uprising on August 1, 1927. They combined the force with remnants of peasant rebels, and established control over several areas in southern China. The Guangzhou commune was able to control Guangzhou for three days and a "soviet" was established. KMT armies continued to suppress the rebellions. This marked the beginning of the ten year's struggle, known in mainland China as the "Ten Year's Civil War" (simplified Chinese: 十年内战; pinyin: Shínían Nèizhàn). It lasted until the Xi'an Incident when Chiang Kai-shek was forced to form the Second United Front against the invading Japanese.
In 1930 the Central Plains War broke out as an internal conflict of the KMT. It was launched by Feng Yuxiang, Yan Xishan, and Wang Jingwei. The attention was turned to root out remaining pockets of Communist activity in a series of encirclement campaigns. There were a total of five campaigns. The first and second campaigns failed and the third was aborted due to the Mukden Incident. The fourth campaign (1932–1933) achieved some early successes, but Chiang’s armies were badly mauled when they tried to penetrate into the heart of Mao’s Soviet Chinese Republic. During these campaigns, the KMT columns struck swiftly into Communist areas, but were easily engulfed by the vast countryside and were not able to consolidate their foothold.
Finally, in late 1933, Chiang launched a fifth campaign that involved the systematic encirclement of the Jiangxi Soviet region with fortified blockhouses. Unlike in previous campaigns in which they penetrated deeply in a single strike, this time the KMT troops patiently built blockhouses, each separated by five or so miles to surround the Communist areas and cut off their supplies and food source.
In October 1934, the CPC took advantage of gaps in the ring of blockhouses (manned by the troops of a warlord ally of Chiang Kai-shek's, rather than the KMT themselves) to escape Jiangxi. The warlord armies were reluctant to challenge Communist forces for fear of wasting their own men, and did not pursue the CPC with much fervor. In addition, the main KMT forces were preoccupied with annihilating Zhang Guotao's army, which was much larger than Mao's. The massive military retreat of Communist forces lasted a year and covered what Mao estimated as 12,500 km (25,000 Li), and was known as the famous Long March. The march ended when the CPC reached the interior of Shaanxi. Zhang Guotao's army, which took a different route through northwest China, was largely destroyed by the forces of Chiang Kai-shek and his Chinese Muslim ally, the Ma clique. Along the way, the Communist army confiscated property and weapons from local warlords and landlords, while recruiting peasants and the poor, solidifying its appeal to the masses. Of the 90,000-100,000 people who began the Long March from the Soviet Chinese Republic, only around 7,000-8,000 made it to Shaanxi. The remnants of Zhang's forces eventually joined Mao in Shaanxi, but with his army destroyed, Zhang, even as a founding member of the CPC, was never able to challenge Mao's authority. Essentially, the great retreat made Mao the undisputed leader of the Communist Party of China.
During the Japanese invasion and occupation of Manchuria, Chiang Kai-shek, who saw the CPC as a greater threat, refused to ally with the CPC to fight against the Japanese Imperial Army. On December 12, 1936, KMT Generals Zhang Xueliang and Yang Hucheng kidnapped Chiang Kai-shek and forced him to a truce with the CPC. The incident became known as the Xi'an Incident. Both parties suspended fighting to form a Second United Front to focus their energies and fighting against the Japanese. In 1937, Japanese airplanes bombed Chinese cities and well-equipped troops overran north and coastal China.
The alliance of CPC and KMT Second united front was in name only. Shunning conventional warfare, the CPC engaged efficient guerrilla warfare against Japanese, while fending off attacks from the KMT. The level of actual cooperation and coordination between the CPC and KMT during World War II was at best minimal. In the midst of the Second United Front, the CPC and the KMT were still vying for territorial advantage in "Free China" (i.e. areas not occupied by the Japanese or ruled by Japanese puppet governments). The situation came to a head in late 1940 and early 1941 when there were major clashes between the Communist and KMT forces. In December 1940, Chiang Kai-shek demanded that the CPC’s New Fourth Army evacuate Anhui and Jiangsu Provinces. Under intense pressure, the New Fourth Army commanders complied. In 1941 the New Fourth Army Incident led to several thousand deaths in the CPC. It also ended the Second united front formed earlier to fight the Japanese. In general, developments in the Second Sino-Japanese War were to the advantage of the CPC. The KMT's resistance to the Japanese proved costly to Chiang Kai-shek. In 1944 the last major offensive, Operation Ichigo was launched by the Japanese against the KMT.
Atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Under the terms of the Japanese unconditional surrender dictated by the United States, Japanese troops were ordered to surrender to KMT troops and not to the CPC present in some of the occupied areas. In Manchuria the Japanese surrendered to the Soviet Union. However the KMT had no forces in Manchuria. Chiang Kai-Shek ordered the Japanese troops to remain at their post to receive the Kuomintang and not surrender their arms to the communists.
The first post-war peace negotiation was attended by both Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong in Chongqing from August 28, 1945 to Oct 10, 1945. Both sides stressed the importance of a peaceful reconstruction, but the conference did not produce any concrete result. Battles between the two sides continued even as the peace negotiation was in progress, until the agreement was reached in January 1946. However, large campaigns and full scale confrontations between the CPC and Chiang's own troops were temporarily avoided.
In the last month of World War II in East Asia, Soviet forces launched the mammoth Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation to attack the Japanese in Manchuria and along the Chinese-Mongolian border. This operation destroyed the fighting capability of the Kwantung Army and left the USSR in occupation of all of Manchuria by the end of the war. Consequently, the 700,000 Japanese troops stationed in the region surrendered. Later in the year, Chiang Kai-shek realized that he lacked the resources to prevent a CPC takeover of Manchuria following the scheduled Soviet departure. He therefore made a deal with the Russians to delay their withdrawal until he had moved enough of his best-trained men and modern material into the region. KMT troops were then airlifted by the United States to occupy key cities in North China, while the countryside was already dominated by the CPC. The Soviets spent the extra time systematically dismantling the extensive Manchurian industrial base (worth up to 2 billion dollars) and shipping it back to their war-ravaged country.
With the breakdown of talks, an all out war resumed. This stage is referred to in Communist media and historiography as the "War of Liberation" (simplified Chinese: 解放战争; pinyin: Jiěfàng Zhànzhēng). The United States assisted the KMT with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of new surplus military supplies and generous loans of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military equipment. They airlifted many KMT troops from central China to the Northeast (Manchuria). President Truman was very clear about what he described as "using the Japanese to hold off the Communists". In his memoirs he writes "It was perfectly clear to us that if we told the Japanese to lay down their arms immediately and march to the seaboard, the entire country would be taken over by the Communists. We therefore had to take the unusual step of using the enemy as a garrison until we could airlift Chinese National troops to South China and send Marines to guard the seaports". Over 50,000 Marines were sent to guard strategic sites.
Although General Marshall himself stated that he knew of no evidence that the CPC were being supplied by the Soviet Union, the CPC were able to capture a large number of weapons abandoned by the Japanese, including some tanks but it was not until large numbers of well trained KMT troops surrendered and joined the communist forces that the CPC were finally able to master the hardware. But despite the disadvantage in military hardware, the CPC's ultimate trump card was its land reform policy. The CPC continued to make the irresistible promise in the countryside to the massive number of landless and starving Chinese peasants that by fighting for the CPC they will be able to take farmland from their landlords. This strategy enabled the CPC to access an almost unlimited supply of manpower to use in combat as well as provide logistic support, despite suffering heavy casualties throughout many civil war campaigns. For example, during the Huaihai Campaign alone the CPC were able to mobilize 5,430,000 peasants to fight against the KMT forces.
In March 1946 despite repeated requests from Chiang, the Soviet Red Army under the command of general Malinovsky continued to delay pulling out of Manchuria while he secretly told the CPC forces to move in behind them, because Stalin wanted Mao to have firm control of at least the northern part of Manchuria before the complete withdrawal of the Soviets., which lead to full scale war for the control of the Northeast.
In March 1947 the KMT achieved a symbolic victory by seizing the CPC capital of Yan'an. But by late 1948 the CPC eventually captured the northern cities of Shenyang and Changchun and seized control of the Northeast after struggling through numerous set-backs while trying to take the cities, with the decisive Liaoshen Campaign. The New First Army, regarded as the best KMT army, had to surrender after the CPC conducted a deadly 6-month siege of Changchun that resulted in more than 300,000 civilian deaths from starvation. The capture of large KMT formations provided them with the tanks, heavy artillery, and other combined-arms assets needed to prosecute offensive operations south of the Great Wall. By April 1948 the city of Luoyang fell, cutting the KMT army off from Xi'an. Following a fierce battle, the CPC captured Jinan and Shandong province on September 24, 1948.
The Huaihai Campaign of late 1948 and early 1949 secured east-central China for the CPC. The outcome of these encounters were decisive for the military outcome of the civil war. The Beiping-Tianjin Campaign resulted in the Communist conquest of northern China lasting 64 days from November 21, 1948 to January 31, 1949. The People's Liberation Army suffered heavy casualties from securing Zhangjiakou, Tianjin along with its port and garrison at Dagu, and Beiping. The CPC brought 890,000 troops from the Northeast to oppose some 600,000 KMT troops. There were 40,000 CPC casualties at Zhangjiakou alone. They in turn killed, wounded or captured some 520,000 KMT during the campaign.
On April 21, Communist forces crossed the Yangtze River, capturing Nanjing, capital of the KMT's Republic of China. In most cases, the surrounding countryside and small towns had come under Communist influence long before the cities. By late 1949, the People's Liberation Army was pursuing remnants of KMT forces southwards in southern China. The KMT government retreated from Nanjing on April 23 successively to Canton (Guangzhou) until October 15, Chongqing until November 25, and Chengdu before retreating to Taipei on December 10.
According to the Battle Summary in the 4 Years' Liberation War, from July 1946 to June 1950, the PLA eliminated 8,071,350 KMT forces and bandits, among them over 6,360,000 surrendered/defected/captured. Another calculation put the total enemy eliminated to about 10,658,000, which is based on combined unit reports. The PLA suffered more than 260,000 KIA and 1,040,000 WIA.
On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China with its capital at Beiping, which was renamed Beijing. Chiang Kai-shek and approximately 2 million Nationalist Chinese retreated from mainland China to the island of Taiwan. There remained only isolated pockets of resistance, notably in Sichuan (ending soon after the fall of Chengdu on December 10, 1949) and in the far south.
A PRC attempt to take the ROC controlled island of Kinmen was thwarted in the Battle of Kuningtou halting the PLA advance towards Taiwan. In December 1949, Chiang proclaimed Taipei, Taiwan, the temporary capital of the Republic of China and continued to assert his government as the sole legitimate authority in China.
The Communists' other amphibious operations of 1950 were more successful: they led to the Communist conquest of Hainan Island in April 1950, capture of Wanshan Islands off the Guangdong coast (May-August 1950) and of Zhoushan Island off Zhejiang (May 1950).
Most observers expected Chiang's government to eventually fall in response to a Communist invasion of Taiwan, and the United States initially showed no interest in supporting Chiang's government in its final stand. Things changed radically with the onset of the Korean War in June 1950. At this point, allowing a total Communist victory over Chiang became politically impossible in the United States, and President Harry S. Truman ordered the United States Seventh Fleet into the Taiwan straits to prevent the ROC and PRC from attacking each other.
In June 1949, the ROC declared a "closure" of all mainland China ports and its navy attempted to intercept all foreign ships. The closure covered from a point north of the mouth of Min river in Fujian province to the mouth of the Liao river in Manchuria. Since mainland China's railroad network was underdeveloped, north-south trade depended heavily on sea lanes. ROC naval activity also caused severe hardship for mainland China fishermen.
After losing mainland China, a group of approximately 12,000 KMT soldiers escaped to Burma and continued launching guerrilla attacks into south China. Their leader, General Li Mi, was paid a salary by the ROC government and given the nominal title of Governor of Yunnan. Initially, the United States supported these remnants and the Central Intelligence Agency provided them with aid. After the Burmese government appealed to the United Nations in 1953, the U.S. began pressuring the ROC to withdraw its loyalists. By the end of 1954, nearly 6,000 soldiers had left Burma and Li Mi declared his army disbanded. However, thousands remained, and the ROC continued to supply and command them, even secretly supplying reinforcements at times.
Though viewed as a military liability by the United States, the ROC viewed its remaining islands in Fujian as vital for any future campaign to defeat the PRC and retake mainland China. On September 3, 1954, the First Taiwan Strait crisis began when the PLA started shelling Quemoy and threatened to take the Dachen Islands. On January 20, 1955, the PLA took nearby Yijiangshan Island, with the entire ROC garrison of 720 troops killed or wounded defending the island. On January 24 of the same year, the United States Congress passed the Formosa Resolution authorizing the President to defend the ROC's offshore islands. The First Taiwan Straits crisis ended in March 1955 when the PLA ceased its bombardment. The crisis was brought to a close during the Bandung conference.
The Second Taiwan Strait Crisis began on August 23, 1958 with air and naval engagements between the PRC and the ROC military forces, leading to intense artillery bombardment of Quemoy (by the PRC) and Amoy (by the ROC), and ended on November of the same year. PLA patrol boats blockaded the islands from ROC supply ships. Though the United States rejected Chiang Kai-shek's proposal to bomb mainland China artillery batteries, it quickly moved to supply fighter jets and anti-aircraft missiles to the ROC. It also provided amphibious assault ships to land supply, as a sunken ROC naval vessel was blocking the harbor. On September 7, the United States escorted a convoy of ROC supply ships and the PRC refrained from firing. On October 25, the PRC announced an "even-day ceasefire" — the PLA would only shell Quemoy on odd-numbered days.
Despite the end of the hostilities, the two sides have never signed any agreement or treaty to officially end the war.
By 1984, PRC and ROC had public contacts with each other and cross-straits trade and investment has been growing ever since. Although the Taiwan straits remain a potential flash point, regular direct air links were established in 2009.
The Third Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1995–96 escalated tensions between both sides when the PRC tested a series of missiles not far from Taiwan although, arguably, Beijing ran the test to shift the vote in favour of the KMT, already facing a challenge from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party which did not agree with the "One China Policy" shared by the CPC and KMT. 
With the election in 2000 of DPP canididate Chen Shui-bian, a party other than the KMT gained the presidency for the first time in Taiwan. The new president did not share the Chinese nationalist ideology of the KMT and CPC. This led to tension between the two sides although trade and other ties continued to increase.
Since the election of President Ma Ying-Jeou (KMT) in 2008, significant warming of relations has resumed between Taipei and Beijing with high level exchanges between the ruling parties of both states such as the 2005 Pan-Blue visit or the Chen-Chiang summit series.
Heavy Machine Guns
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|Chinese Civil War|
|Main events pre-1945||Main events post-1945||Specific articles|
Part of the Cold War
The Chinese Civil War was fought from 1927 to 1949. On one side were the Communists, who wanted to make China like the Soviet Union. They were backed by the Soviet Union, and they had the support of many poor people. On the others side were the Nationalists, who wanted to make China like the United States. They were also called the Kuomintang. They were backed by the United States and the United Kingdom, and they had the support of the richer people and the Chinese who lived in cities. More than a million people died in the Chinese Civil War. The Communists were led by Mao Zedong, and the Nationalists were led by Chiang Kai-shek.
Sometimes the two groups stopped fighting and helped each other. One time this happened was when Japan invaded China during World War II. But soon they started fighting again. Eventually, in 1949, the Communists chased the Nationalists out of the biggest part of China, the mainland. The Nationalists came to an island called Taiwan, and stayed there. Mao named China the People's Republic of China and he became its leader until he died in 1976.