Essays comparing the Spanish and Chinese Civil Wars

  Evaluate the importance of foreign influence to the outcome of two civil wars.

From the May 2014 Paper 2 exam with examiner comment at end; received 14/20 from the IBO

Evaluate the importance of foreign influence to the outcome of two civil wars.

Example from former student taken under test conditions (click to enlarge):

Compare and contrast the role of foreign intervention in the Spanish (1936-39) and Chinese Civil wars (1945-49)

The Spanish civil war broke out in 1936, it was a 3-year ideological conflict between the Pro Republicans- those who were in favour of a democratically elected Spanish Republic – and the Nationalists- a group of fascist rebels led by General Francisco Franco.  It began when a group of republican generals proclaimed a pronunciamiento (declaration of opposition) against the elected government of Second Spanish Republic, under the leadership of Manuel Azaña. Even though the origins of this conflict were Spanish, many foreign countries were attracted to this civil war and volunteered to participate, some countries aided the Nationalists, and others helped the Republicans.

The Chinese Civil War, also known as the “Long Civil War” took place between 1921-1949, it all started with the fall of the Emperor, and later on a conflict of supremacy between the Nationalists, also known as the Kuomintang government, led by Chiang Kai Shek, and the Chinese Communist Party led by Mao Zedong. Similarly to the Spanish Civil War, Foreign countries also intervened in the Conflict: The Japanese invasion of China in World War II gave an indirect impact on the consequence of the war. The U.S.A attempted to reconcile both parties as one stabilized government. And last but not least, the USSR aided the Chinese Communist Party against the Nationalists, and played a big role on Mao’s success to power. What is crucial between these conflicts is that foreign intervention happened at different time periods. Foreign intervention in the Spanish Civil war happened in the late 30’s, whilst in the Chinese Civil War, foreign involvement took place from late 1945 to 1949. This explains that there is also a wide range of differences in military involvement between these two Civil wars, which I will gladly pick out. 

In this Essay, I will investigate foreign involvement in terms of Political and Military affairs from both wars, I will precisely state which countries were involved, state the impact it gave to the consequences of both civil wars, and finally state the similarities and differences of foreign interference in both civil wars. My first investigation will be political and military involvement from foreign countries in the Spanish Civil war.  The Spanish civil war started as an Internal conflict caused by Spanish political disputes between Fascism and Communism. Both sides soon realized they needed help from foreigners, which explains why certain foreign countries fought on one side of the Civil war.

Fascist Aid: The two major countries that helped Franco’s Party during the Spanish civil war were Nazi Germany and Italy. Both countries wanted to aid Franco as they realized that Communist Ideology in Spain was rising and they wanted to avoid “communist barbarism” in Spain, and make nationalist Spain an important ally in their conflict against France and Britain.


·      On 27th of July 1936, Nazi Germany, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, sent the nationalists 26 German fighter aircraft, 30 Junker-52 bombers, and 15,000 troops towards Morocco, where General Franco held his fleet.

·      On September 1936, a non-intervention agreement was put to place in London, where 27 countries including Germany signed the treaty, Hitler then continued to send soldiers, planes, tanks, and ammunition, this time disguising it by sending it via Portugal, who were also helping the Nationalists. 

·      Lieutenant Colonel Walther Warlimont of the German General Staff arrived as commander and military adviser to General Franco in September 1936. The following month Warlimont suggested that a German Condor Legion should be formed to fight in the Spanish Civil War against the Republicans.

·       Hitler authorised the Condor legion in October 1936. The legion consisted of a Bomber Group of three squadrons of Ju-52 bombers; a Fighter Group with three squadrons of He-51 fighters; a Reconnaissance Group with two squadrons of He-99 and He-70 reconnaissance bombers; and a Seaplane Squadron of He-59 and He-60 floatplanes.

·      A total of 19,000 German soldiers served for Franco during the Spanish civil war. Only 298 were lost, with 173 killed by enemy forces.  


·      As soon as Benito Mussolini came to power in Italy, he developed contacts with the republicans in Spain. He promised them 10,000 rifles, 10,000 hand grenades, and 200 machine guns.

·      During the Non-intervention agreement, which Italy has also signed. Mussolini, like Hitler, continued sending reinforcements, he gave Franco 90 Italian aircrafts, and the cruiser “Canaris”.

·      On 28th of November 1936, Mussolini signed a secret pact with Franco, allowing Italy to build military bases if there ever was a war against France. Over the next three months Mussolini sent to Franco 130 aircraft, 2,500 tons of bombs, 500 cannons, 700 mortars, 12,000 machine-guns, 50 whippet tanks and 3,800 motor vehicles.

·      8th March 1937, 35,000 individual Italian soldiers and 81 Whippet Tanks took action in the battle of Guadalajara, they failed to break through the city, the Republicans managed to hold off the Italians and counter attacked on March 18th, forcing Mussolini’s army to retreat. This angered Franco, and he therefor banned Italy for operating as an independent unit in Spain.

·      Overall, Italy sent a total of 80,000. 16,000 belonged to the air force, 45,000 to the army, and 29,000 to the fascist militia. Mussolini also supplied 1,800 cannon, 1,400 mortars, 3,400 machine-guns, 6,800 motor vehicles, 157 tanks, 213 bombers, 44 assault planes and 414 fighters.

Communist Intervention: The Main country that helped the Republicans in the Spanish civil war in terms of Military aid, was indeed the Soviet Union. In the early 1930’s, Joseph Stalin, the supreme leader of the Soviet Union was concerned about fascism rising in Europe. To oppose Hitler and Mussolini’s acts, Stalin supported the left wing party in Spain.

·      With all the agreements between Germany, Italy and Nationalist Spain, along with the sending of Military goods from Hitler and Mussolini, Stalin feared Nationalist/Fascist Ideology overtaking Spain. He had signed the Non Intervention treaty along with Germany and Italy, but this time, unlike Mussolini and Hitler, he didn’t give any military aid to the Republicans. Only when he realized Germany and Italy were sending men and weapons that he started taking action.

·      Stalin encouraged the Comintern (an Organisation founded by the communist party, whose aim was to fight by all means for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie and for the creation of an international Soviet republic as a transition stage to the complete abolition of the State) to organize the formation of international brigades.

·      He also sent Alexander Orlov from the NKVD to train the popular front government soldiers Orlov supervised a large-scale guerilla operation behind Nationalist lines. He later claimed that around 14,000 people had been trained for this work by 1938.

·      The Soviet Union was the main military supplier of the Republican army. They sent 1,000 aircraft, 900 tanks, 1,500 artillery pieces, 300 armoured cars, 15,000 machine-guns, 30,000 automatic firearms, 30,000 mortars, 500,000 riles and 30,000 tons of ammunition.


 The Fascist Military intervention was more effective than the Republican military aid in the Spanish Civil War. There was an unbalanced intervention caused by the fact that both Germany and Italy provided great amount of support: men, tanks and aircrafts. The involvement of the most modern aircraft and the Condor Legion services, which was Hitler’s best fighting force, further catalysed the ultimate defeat of the Republicans. Although the Soviet Union sent military goods to the republicans along with armed international brigades, The Non intervention treaty signed by Britain, France, and the United States, prevented further military aid from reaching the Republicans, which led to the weakening of the republican army and resulted to the dominance of the Nationalists. 

Section 2: Chinese Civil War

The Chinese Civil War, similarly to the Spanish Civil War, broke out as an internal conflict, however it attracted foreign interest and concern during and after the Second World War. Both political parties, The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) led by Mao Zedong and the Kuomintang (KMT), had military and political aid in their favour, similarly to the Spanish Civil War.  I am focusing on the conflict that occurred during and after world war two because this is where most of the foreign intervention takes place and plays an indirect role in the outcome of this Civil War.


In World War two, the Japanese Fascist army, who had already occupied the region of Manchuria during the first half of the Civil War, was beginning to push into southern China and into coastal provinces. This led to uprising fury towards the Kuomintang government, who at that time was more preoccupied with anti-communist extermination campaigns than Japanese resistance. The Japanese could only concentrate on an obvious enemy, the Kuomintang Government, however there was another enemy they could not see, the Communists. The Kuomintang had borne the brunt of conventional fighting against the Japanese. Mao’s soldiers had perfected hit-and-run tactics, also known as Guerilla warfare, against the Japanese, which would be of good use in the civil war that was to break out between the Kuomintang and the Communists as soon as the war ended. The only thing that linked the Kuomintang and Communists during the war was a common enemy. After the Japanese surrendered, The Communists and Kuomintang parties continued their fight for supremacy.

Soviet Union

The Soviet Union also played an indirect role in Mao’s success to supremacy. In February 1945, the Yalta conference took place where the heads of the government of the U.S.A, The United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union, Represented by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin, met and discussed a post-war reorganisation. With this treaty, the Soviet Union was authorized to march into Manchuria and defeat the Kwantung Army, the remaining Japanese army in China. The Soviet Union along with the Chinese Communist Party won a decisive victory. Soviet presence in northeast China allowed the Chines Communist party to settle in, arm themselves with the remaining weapons of the Kwantung army, and prepare for the upcoming conflicts against the Kuomintang Government.

With the help of the Soviet Union, as well as civil support, Mao’s communist influence passed on from town to town, and eventually spread across all of China, Beijing was overtook by the CCP, and Chiang Kai Shek’s remaining forces fled to the island of Taiwan, realizing that they had lost the war.  

The U.S.A

American involvement in China began with the Yalta Conference in February 1945. The United States and the Soviet Union failed to agree on the future political ideology of Asia or to control their Asian allies. With the soviets helping the CCP, America decided to aid the Nationalist government by sending 50,000 troops and positioning the Kuomintang in Major cities such as Beijing, and Shanghai. Their aim was to help china become a strong ally and a stabilizing force in postwar East Asia. However with the conflict between the CCP and the KMT intensifying, they failed to reconcile the rival parties as one Government.

With the CCP attacking the Nationalists endlessly and gaining dominance in China, The U.S.A realized that they were unable to stop the war with few armed interventions, and eventually withdrew the mission.      


Both the Soviet and Japanese interventions played an indirect role in the success of Mao’s rise to power. First of all, the Invasion of Imperial Japan over China led to the people’s loss of faith in the Kuomintang Government as they were struggling to defeat the Japanese, whilst the Communists guerilla warfare tactics against the Japanese were more efficient. Furthermore, Soviet intervention in Manchuria enabled the CCP to be more militarily prepared when fighting against the Kuomintang Government.

What played a bigger role was the civil support for Mao Zedong; Mao was able to influence the Chinese through speech and propaganda, which led to the civilians gaining their faith to the CCP. It began in the first half of the civil war, where Mao influenced peasants who opposed the Kuomintang government, and the support for communism increased throughout the Civil war.       

As for the Kuomintang Government, American intervention failed for both political parties to reconcile, which led to the U.S.A withdrawing their mission for neutralisation. This weakened the KMT and eventually led to Communist victory in China.

Conclusion/ Compare and Contrast:

In Terms of Impact on military and political intervention, here is how I would compare and contrast both civil wars:

   In both wars, the foreign support for the nationalist parties came from a fear of the spread of Communist Ideology:

SCW: Italy and Germany wanted to protect fascist ideology in Spain and eliminate all Communist presence.

CCW: Initially, US support in the Civil War was to stabilize China and reconcile both parties but came to support the nationalists in the fear of another Communist state.

SCW: During the course of the Spanish Civil War, the Nationalists were aided with war supplies and military equipment from Germany and Italy. Hitler and Mussolini’s support for Franco enabled the Nationalists to dominate the War, and eventually come out as victors over the Republicans.

CCW: Dissimilarly to the successful outcome of direct foreign involvement for Franco, Mao’s Communists succeeded in their battle for victory due to indirect foreign intervention. Mao received limited support from his Russian counterparts in comparison to the amount of military aid the Chinese Nationalists received from the US. Nevertheless, Mao managed to obtain political faith amongst his people, consequently leading to his victory over the KMT.
   The USSR's support for both Civil Wars was limited due to fear of other Great Powers turning against them, however did support to some extent in both wars.

SCW: Stalin was afraid that Communist victory in Spain would panic Britain and France into an alliance with Hitler.

CCW: Afraid that Soviet support for The CCP would draw the U.S.A into the conflict.

   In the SCW the foreign support increased chances of victory for nationalists, whereas in CCW the foreign support did not do much to affect the final outcome.

SCW: Nationalists won with the help of large amounts of military equipment and soldiers from Germany and Italy.

CCW: Even though the Communist party only received limited support from the Soviet Union, it did not affect the final outcome as CCP emerged as victors.

Evaluate the Significance of Foreign Intervention in the Chinese Civil War and the Spanish Civil War

There is insurmountable evidence that a significant amount foreign intervention- aid given by one foreign entity, be it military, political, economic or otherwise support to a particular political party within a conflict- took place in both the Chinese and Spanish Civil wars, in both cases affecting the outcomes. The Spanish Civil War began in July 1936 when General Franco’s were air lifted by the German air force to Spain to carry out a military coup and ended in an victory for the Nationalists in 1939. The Chinese Civil war lasted a bit longer, starting in 1945 with the retreating of Japan from China and the CCP and KMT now free to direct all their resources to dealing with each other, until 1949 when it ended in a decisive victory for the Communists.  In the case of the Chinese Civil War it began after a  “ceasefire” of sorts where the CCP and the KMT formed a loose and shaky coalition to deal with the growing threat of the Japanese that were invading more and more of China. In this essay, through relevant facts and evidence we will attempt to prove that foreign intervention was more significant to the outcome of the Spanish Civil war that to that of the Chinese Civil War.

Prior to the Spanish Civil war breaking out Britain and France advocated a policy of non-intervention and subsequently nations came together to sign the Non-Intervention Treaty, amongst the 29 countries that would sign this treaty were Italy and Germany, who would be the first nations to carry out intervention in support of the Nationalists.

Hitler decided to support Franco’s forces in July 1936, amongst other reasons was that a Fascist Spain would be more inclined to ally with Germany and prove useful to threaten France, as well as act as a distraction from Hitler’s European strategy.  In July 1936, on request from General Franco, Hitler sent the German air force to move the Army of Africa to mainland Spain so that these same forces could initiate a military coup to overthrow the Republican government. The support from Germany gave the Nationalists air superiority and the training they provided also proved valuable. From 29th July to 11th October the German Air force transported over 13,000 troops and 250,000 kilograms of war materials from Morocco to Andalusia, vastly assisting the Nationalists war efforts.  After the early stages of the war had passed, the German forces within Spain re-formed and became the Condor Legion. From then on, the Condor Legion would prove vital in its support to the Nationalists, aiding in them in their advance on Madrid and a number of other battles.
Italy joined in on the Spanish Civil war in support of the Nationalists as well, Mussolini’s main intentions may have lied in his want to prepare the Italian troops for upcoming war in Europe using the Spanish war to gain experience as well as allowing himself and his army to gain glory and renown back home by spreading the propaganda of their victories in Spain.  Although Italy didn’t immediately rush to support the Nationalists, it soon came to be their largest foreign supporter, amounting to around 60,000 troops at the height of the war. These troops consisted of the volunteers from the ranks of the Italian Royal Navy, Army as well as the Air Force.  This force came to be known as the Corps of Volunteer Troops, which aided in the Nationalist advance on Madrid and participated in the Battle of Malaga, which directly led to a decisive Nationalist victory there. In addition to the military support Italy also lent a large amount of material aid to the Nationalists, this included; one cruiser, four destroyers, two submarines, 763 aircraft and a large number of arms and ammunition. The total cost of this came to the equivalent of $400,000,000 in 1939 prices. 
Portugal also assisted the Nationalists in Spain, almost purely as the result of tense relations that they had with the Republican leadership in Spain. Portugal played a vital role in supporting the nationalists via supplying them with ammunition and other material aid as well as logistical support. In addition, there were around 8000-12000 “semi-official” Portuguese troops present in Spain and fighting on the side of the Nationalists during the war.

Though the Non-Intervention Treaty still stood, a much less significant role was still played in supporting the Nationalists that came from the British and the USA, who were mainly supporting them to topple the “communist” Republic. However, it can also be understood that this support aimed to create a more economically friendly Spain as well, based on the accounts of the American and British attempts to restore the monarchy in Greece in the 1940’s, that indicate that they were more inclined to support economically advantageous regimes first, and democracies second.  The British aided the Nationalists by allowing Franco to set up signal bases in Gibraltar, and allowing the German air force to fly over Gibraltar while transporting the Army of Africa. In addition, the British Royal Navy provided information to the Nationalists on Republican shipping activity, and the Royal Navy Ship, the HMS Queen was used to prevent the Republican Navy shelling the port of Algeciras. The USA supported the Nationalists buy completely stopping all arms and ammunition trade to the Republicans, but not to the Nationalists.

Unlike the fairly large number of foreign supporters of the Nationalists in Spain, the Republicans had no such equal support, with their main access to foreign aid relying on a shaky alliance with the USSR. Although the ideologies on which communist USSR and the Spanish Republic were based could be said to be similar, this apparently wasn’t reason enough for the USSR to aid the Republic much the same way as Germany or Italy were supporting the Nationalists. In fact, it took almost all of the Republics gild reserves (an estimated $500,000,000 in 1939 prices) to pay for whatever supports the USSR spared the Republic. Over the course of the war, an estimated 2000 Russian soldiers fought actively in support of the Republic in Spain. In addition, the USSR supplied the Republic with aircraft, tanks, armoured cars as well as arms and ammunition.

Unlike the Spanish Civil war, in the Chinese Civil war from 1945-1949 there were only two foreign powers that intervened or held any significant influence as such. These were the USSR that were in full support of the Communist party and the USA, who were supporting the Nationalist party.

Having recently come out of a Communist won revolution itself, the USSR was looking to surround itself with friendly neighbours and was looking to spread the idea of communism elsewhere in Asia. To this extent, after the Japanese retreated from Manchuria region in China the USSR moved troops in to temporarily occupy the region until the CCP army under General Lin Biao. In addition to straight away handing the Manchuria region to the CCP the USSR also handed them a large number of arms and ammunition left behind by the Japanese army in Manchuria, leading to the CCP army now being better equipped.  In addition the USSR also lent logistical and advisory support to the CCP. One notably advisor sent by the USSR to China was a military organizer named Otto Braun, who’s largest contribution was in the form of skilled radio operations, that not only allowed the CCP’s messages to be encrypted, but also allowed them to intercept KMT messages, which greatly aided to the guerilla style warfare that the CCP carried out.

The USA initially intended to remain more or less neutral, only lending support to the KMT party in the form of material aid such as arms and ammunition however, after the CCP takeover of Manchuria the idea of communist victory became highly likely. As a result, the US lent its own ships and aircraft to transport 500,000 KMT troops to Manchuria, simultaneously while 50,000 US troops were sent north to occupy Beijing. Despite this however, the Communists became more and more likely to be the end victors of the war and as a result the US moved to try to persuade a coalition between the KMT and the CCP. This led to a brief period of talks between the Nationalists and the Communists, mediated by US war hero General Marshall. The US was in a tough position, it did not support single-party states and wanted to remain a mediator- but continued to arms the KMT forces out of anti-communist policies. The negotiations failed, however, and soon the hostilities had begun again.

As can be seen through the evidence of foreign intervention in both civil wars put forward in this essay, foreign intervention played a more significant role and was more of a decisive factor in the Spanish Civil War than the Chinese Civil war. This is on the basis that, firstly, had Germany not intervened to airlift Franco’s forces then its highly likely the Nationalists would have reached Spain in time for there to be a civil war at all. In addition it is evident that the large amount of foreign support to the Nationalists- and the subsequent lack of it to the Republicans- allowed the Nationalists to be better armed, have air superiority at meant that the Republicans were woefully under supplied throughout the war, hence it played a pivotal role in the outcome of the Spanish Civil war.  On the other hand, foreign intervention played a relatively small role in the Chinese Civil war as it hardly affected the course and outcome of events. The CCP was successful because it, unlike the KMT, was able to win the support of the Chinese people, the majority peasant population, through land reform and legislation. In fact, it can be argued that the role military intervention played in the Chinese Civil war was that the US support of the KMT allowed them to be better equipped which gave them the advantage for the most part in conventional warfare, but this too was a disadvantage as it further alienated the KMT from the Chinese population, as the saw the KMT as a Western puppet and further dissuade the common people from supporting the KMT.

Compare and contrast the role of foreign intervention in the Spanish (1936-39) and Chinese Civil wars (1945-49) 
To analyse the question of the significance of foreign involvement in both the Spanish and Chinese Civil Wars, one must first consider the factors that contribute to the cause of discontent among citizens and dissatisfaction with the government that would lead them to seek guidance in alternate political administration and therefore civil conflict. Additionally, to discuss the role of foreign interference one must analyse its effect on either on the escalation of conflict or influence on the outcome of a victor, thus having a direct impact on the war. As this issue does not specify the role of foreign intervention on the cause, course or outcome of the Spanish and Chinese conflicts, one must consider all three elements of a Civil War to come to a valid conclusion of its significance.
  The Spanish Civil war was arguably caused by a series of events, and unstable years, where foreign intervention played a minor role up against the continuously shifting government and internal political and monetary turbulence. Causation of the civil conflict can be tracked back to 1898, following a war with the United States when Spain lost most of its remaining colonies such as Cuba and the Philippines. From 1898 to 1923 Spain failed to gain stability. Sustained by a largely agricultural society and consisting of only few, small cities, Spain stumbled into many crises and fell further behind other European powers economically leading to further civil unrest. King Alfonso, whose reign lasted until 1931 had no desire to change with the time causing several strikes and disunity within Spain. Catalan separatists, socialists and anarchists to demanded a new constitution, demonstrating discontent with administration. Between 1918 and 1921 Barcelona was the epicentre of terrorism resulting in over 1,000 casualties. After several additional shifts in government from General Primo de River, a dictatorial system with support of the monarchy to a republic democracy of Manuel Azana, this period of great political instability was a major cause of the Spanish Civil war, however cannot be attributed to the result of foreign intervention. Therefore, looking at the main long term causes of the Spanish conflict, the causation of discontent with authority in Spain has little relation to foreign involvement. However, when comparing to China, Foreign power’s had a greater impact on inducing hostility towards rule. 
When compared to the Chinese Civil War, foreign intervention had a much greater impact on prompting the discourse. From 1923 Japan invaded and ruled Manchuria, a coal rich region of China, that was evidently consequential to China’s wealth and economy. This was a national humiliation for China, resulting in a student demonstration called the fourth movement and later leading to a full blown conflict in the Sino-Japanese War (1936-45). In their forming of the Greater East Asian co-Prosperity Sphere, Japan’s interference in China sparked disunity and conflict, evidence as a long term cause of the civil war. In 1945, at the end of the Second World War, Japan was forced to withdraw authority in China. With the end of the Japanese Interregnum, a power vacuum left a gap in command causing rivalry between nationalists and communists, the future belligerents of the war as the common Japanese enemy was lost. Foreign involvement in China can, therefor, be argued to be at least partially responsible for causing civil conflict by firstly, taking over control of one of China’s most profitable territories, thus decreasing living standards and citizen contentment and secondly, creating the circumstances for a power struggle to take place, by abruptly abandoning control. In 1946-7, after Japanese troops withdrew from Manchuria, the United States failed to build coalition between the CCT and KMT, arguably the start of the civil war demonstrating the negative effect of foreign intervention on rising aggravation between belligerents. However, one could argue that it was not the responsibility on America to prevent clashing between political parties that would have inevitably taken place. On the other hand, one could argue that war would have broken out despite Japan or American influence, due to the long era of political instability similar to the years prior to the Spanish Civil War. The Revolution of the double tenth and disestablishment of the Qing dynasty in 1911, the military dictatorship of Yuan Shikai from 1912-16 and the fragmented society in the Warlord era of 1916-27 may all have been contributing factors that lead to disunity within the country and civil discontent leading to conflict all having little correspondence with foreign involvement.

  The Spanish Civil War evoked massive international support with countless foreign powers such as Russia, Germany, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Britain, France, among others participating in the conflict. This contributed greatly to the escalation of antagonism, directed the course of the war as well as determined the measure of power of both forces. In contrast with China, foreign involvement had a greater impact on causation and little throughout the course of the conflict. The USSR sent weapons and supplies to aid the republicans in their struggle against the forces of fascism, magnifying antagonism and supporting the cause with means to continue and intensify. Comintern (Communist Int’l) had authority over the Communist Party in Spain increasing members of the Spanish Communist Party from 38,000 to 300,000 by March 1937, thus demonstrating Russia’s influence in strengthening and promoting the nationalist cause, increasing the growth of communism and therefor influencing the proceeding and battle between belligerents. The Communist takeover of Spain can be seen to be largely responsible for the collapse of the Republican government, due to deprivations caused by war, which caused the party to lose momentum and will to continue on, thus evidently demonstrating the significant role that foreign intervention held in the course of the war. Most of Spanish gold reserves, being the fourth largest worldwide, were traded in exchange for military equipment from the USSR. This transfer of gold led to a dramatic rise in inflation in the republican sphere, therefore weakening the republican force in comparison to the nationalists, a clear example of external influence on the outcome of the war. Hitler and Mussolini both sent thousands of troops and weapons to Spain, providing both financial and material aid to aid the Nationalist forces while the USSR sent limited aid for the Republicans. Consistent support from fascist states was crucial to nationalist victories of many battles fought in the course of the war. Following the orthodox sentiment, historian Patricia Knight argues that “Hitler’s transport of the Spanish Armed forces in Morocco turned a simple coup into a three-year long Civil War”. 

  France and Britain were both put in an difficult position regarding Spain, as they did not want the country to fall under the control of the Nationalists, thus strengthening the power of the Fascist alliance of Germany and Italy. However, equally, they also did not wish Spain to fall to the Republicans, seeing that Communism was a threat to world peace. France and Britain agreed on a mutual policy of a Non-Intervention Committee to impose an embargo on weapon sales to Spain in attempt to limit the war to a national level, and prevent its metamorphose into a mass European Conflict. However, their interference was essential for the growth of the Nationalists, as Hitler and Mussolini continuously shipped arms into Spain and a result the weakness of the Republicans as they had to rely solely on the dubious charity and benevolence of Russia. Foreign assistance was also crucial in the continuation and nature of the war as Spanish industry was unable to provide required armaments. If not for foreign support, conflict between nationalist and republican forces may not have been able to physically amount to war without the necessary armaments. Due to foreign intervention the conflict was escalated, modernized and therefore the death toll raised.  Foreign involvement in the course of the Chinese Civil War, when juxtaposed with the Spanish Civil War had far less influence as the number of countries involved and the quantum of political and monetary support was on a far smaller scale. Throughout the 19th century, China attempted to isolate themselves, pursuing to eliminate foreign influence. This can be seen in the Boxer Rebellion of 1899-1901 and later in the ‘first united front’ in 1924-27 when the CCP and KMT united to exterminate warlords and expel foreign powers. During the Sino-Japanese War (1936-45) foreign involvement had a detrimental effect on the weighing of support of the competing parties. The communists openly opposed and resisted against Japan. Their active involvement in defending the homeland, compared to the passive actions of the nationalists allowed Mao Zedong to pull ahead in the battle for power, all made possible by Japan’s entanglement.

One could also argue that the communist party looked towards the Soviet Union for their political ideologies leading the CCP to diverge farther apart from the KMT forming designated belligerents necessary for a war. Additionally, due to foreign intervention, the political situation between belligerents in China was complicated by an Allied agreement at the Yalta Conference in February 1945. This agreement brought Soviet troops into Manchuria to hasten the discontinuation of war against Japan. As a consequence of the Yalta agreement, after the war, the Soviet Union dismantled and removed more than 50% of the industrial equipment left by the Japanese. Soviet presence and support in northeast China enabled the Communists to arm themselves with the equipment surrendered by the withdrawing Japanese army giving the CCP an obvious advantage. According to historian Jack Grey, the USSR did not believe the CCP to be a “true” communist party and therefore sided more with the nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek. However, in the end, this turned out to be an advantage to the communists, as the public saw them as the natural and stronger potential leaders of their country, able to stand without international support and foreign corruption. Additionally, during the economic failure of the GMD inflation from 1940-48, the Nationalists relied financially on the United States. However, upon further inflation, large unemployment and therefore worsening living conditions, citizens lost faith in the KMT, looking towards the communist party, thus demonstrating the effect of foreign involvement on the fluctuation of power and shift in support of the two belligerents, and deciding the outcome of the war. There are limitations in the discussion of the role of foreign involvement in the Chinese Civil War due to the lack of quantifiable evidence to support claims. This may be a consequence of the linguistic barrier or the absence of central administration and therefore limited access to civil war documentation due to the victor of the war.

In conclusion the significance of foreign intervention played different roles in the Chinese and Spanish civil wars. Though the Spanish Civil war may not have been caused by the interposition of foreign powers and would have arguably inevitably taken place due to the prior decades of Spain’s political and economic turbulence can be held most liable. External sources had little effect on rising tension and aggravation between belligerents, however foreign involvement was significant in escalating conflict between nationalist and republican belligerents, prolonging antagonism, and deciding the victor with control over Spain. When compared to the Chinese Civil War foreign intervention had a great impact on the causation of discourse between parties, as firstly the economic problems caused by Japanese intervention, and the abrupt removal of their power leaving an unstable and chaotic scramble for power between belligerents. When comparing the course of the wars, and the deciding of the victor it is clear that in Spain foreign support had much influence of rising antagonism and amplifying the war to a far greater degree, both military, economically and politically, thus influencing the power of each belligerent. In contrast, in China, the course of the war had little correlation with foreign involvement as many actions had taken place to limit external input. External entanglement in the Chinese civil war played a different role when comparing to the Spanish civil conflict as it can be held more liable for causation of the conflict and division within China and less in changing the course of strategic warfare and outcome. However, in the end, it can be argued, with limited evidence that foreign intervention lead to the demise of the nationalist party and the ascension of the communists similar to Spain, as external support of the nationalist party that played a crucial role in their victory.

Compare and Contrast

The Chinese and Spanish civil war were only made possible to the extent they had happened through the intervention of foreign powers.
This essay works through the effect foreign intervention had on both the Spanish civil war (1936-1939) and the second Chinese civil war, which cover the era described by Jonathan Spence as the Chinese civil war (1945-1949). Even though this essay states that at the beginning of this second Chinese civil war the decision over victory was weighted towards the CCP side. The central statement is that both wars were made possible to an extent exceeding that of an minor and localized conflict by the foreign intervention and aid given or refused to either one or both factions in these wars. Two general variables of intervention were the direct and the indirect aid in the fighting.

Direct military intervention in the Chinese civil war had taken on a different face than that in the Spanish civil war. Tom Murray wrote in his book Voices From the Spanish Civil War in 1986 that “As a matter of fact we never saw Spaniards on the other side”. In China, most fighting was conducted by Chinese people, in Spain, foreign military powers such as Germany, Italy, Portugal and the Soviet Union actively participated in armed conflict, all of these powers had signed the Non-intervention agreement. Germany deployed the autonomous foreign air Unit Condor legion, infamous for the 1937 bombing of the Basque town Guernica. Italy had sent between 60-80.000 conscripts concealed as volunteers into the conflict while Portugal had up 22.000 men fighting in Spain. On the other side, the democratic republics of France, Britain and the US had agreed not to intervene. Help received by the Republic was in form of the international brigades as well as weapon supplies and 2500 men, mainly supervisors from the USSR.

When looking at important influences triggering or deciding the outcome of the conflict, the decisive interventions had both taken place distinctly near the beginning of the conflict as well as having been conducted by foreign powers. Luftwaffe airplanes had decisively aided the army rebellion in Spain when airlifting the African Army across the Straits of Gibraltar. This act of intervention for an interventionist would represent the turning point of the Spanish civil war had the republican Army up until then outnumbered the fascists three to two. By the time Franco had landed in Spain, their numbers equaled with significantly higher military advantages on the insurgents side. In the Chinese civil war, for a consequentialist the decisive influence over victory was delivered by the United States and the Soviet Union. The deployment of the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had the Japanese surrender as a consequence. The Soviets had taken the surrender of Japanese forces in Manchuria. Receiving the equipment seized from Japanese soldiers from the USSR, the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) was destined to win. The airlift of KMT troops by the US air force prolonged the war, didn’t effectively alter the due course of happenings. In both wars foreign influenced changed the course of the war destining one of the factions towards victory. 

The direct contact with the armed contact was not in every case necessary to intervene in the participating factions affairs. The best example of the indirect intervention in the Spanish civil war was the non-intervention agreement set up between the nations of Portugal, France, Britain, the USSR, Sweden, Germany, Italy and the United States in which these countries where obliged not to help actively nor support by sending of equipment any of the competing fractions. Even though imminently set up in order to minimize foreign intervention in the Spanish civil war, it was clear that the Non-intervention agreement, ignored by half the countries that had signed it would soon aid the cause if the fascists. The Manchester Guardian on the 25th July 1936 had stated that: „The insurgents have the advantage of getting outside help whereas the Government is getting none.” A resolution passed by the British Battalion on 27th March 1937 had stated that “…these frightful deeds have been done mainly by German and Italian nationalists, using German and Italian aeroplanes, tanks, bombs, shells and guns.” Both these quotes suggest despite their pro-republican bias, that the Germans and Italians had broken the Non-intervention agreement and as the rebellious forces are receiving help whereas the government is minimally aided, the Non-intervention agreement strengthens the fascist.

In China, foreign interference was, in difference to Spain, not illegalized by an agreement. In 1923 the Soviet Union had helped the KMT and CCP to install a common military academy. The country was increasingly militarized as the two parties united in the First United Front. In 1934, on the long march undertaken by Mao and his red army, the Marxist-Leninist ideology is spread throughout the country. A deep split had occurred throughout the country which only ended in the emergence of a single party state under Mao.

In the Spanish civil war, the fractions were trained as well as been given equipment by intervening states. The Soviet Union had set up to 2500 men to Spain, mostly military advisors, alongside them came heavy artillery tanks as well as airplanes. Stalin had demanded gold as payment for the aid. By the end of the war, half the Spanish gold reserves, which were the fourth largest in the world, had been shipped to The USSR. Never had the Soviet government demanded repayments from the CCP. A consequentialist might claim that Stalin had done this in order to prevent the Spanish government from becoming a more powerful communist power than the Soviet Union. This would also explain the limited support the soviets had sent to the Spanish. On the other hand, would the PRC (People’s Republic of China) not be cause of greater concern to the USSR?

In both Wars, the foreign intervention had caused change. While in China the war had been instituted when the Soviets had given the seized Japanese equipment to the Chinese. This enabled the Chinese communists to wage effective warfare against the nationalist forces under Chiang Kai-sheck. The war itself would have been inevitable as the divisions amongst the people were too polarized and the groups too large to avoid conflict. In the Spanish civil war, the fighting would have been minimal if Hitler had not decided to have the Luftwaffe airlift the African Army onto the peninsula. The war would most likely to have had a different outcome had the French and British not decided to leave the Spanish unattained. To conclude, in the Spanish civil war, foreign intervention was essential to conduct effective warfare in favour of the victorious fascist forces while in Chinese the civil war was essential in setting about the progress of the war how it had preceded. In both wars foreign intervention was essential for the ultimate victory of the victorious faction.