Why did the Communists win the Civil War in China between 1945 and 1949?

Why did the Communists win the Civil War in China?

In early 1945, following Japan’s surrender, the Chinese KMT party found itself internationally celebrated: receiving a total of four billion U.S. dollars in foreign aid within the two years preceding the second Sino-Japanese war. How could it therefore be that, a mere three years later – nearing the end of 1948 – Chiang Kai-Shek would reveal that “north China and the below-the-wall region are on the brink of collapse. I do not feel guilty. I tried my best”? Preceding a second major civil war in China lasting from 1937-45, with Mao’s communist forces reduced to a meagre 20,000 men during the long march just a decade earlier, the KMT found itself reaping the benefits of foreign aid and international support throughout the 40’s. However, crumbling under hyperinflation and low morale, the Kuomintang would accept defeat by 1949; the year in which Mao’s Chinese communist party would take power. This essay will argue how, although Mao’s ability to produce an ideology appealing to the Chinese peasant majority set a strong foundation for communist victory, it was the failure of Chiang Kai-Shek’s Kuomintang to stabilize a crumbling economy alongside a demoralized military which led to the CCP’s final triumph in 1949.

            Although historians such as Asemodu Isayama portray Mao’s victory as luck, the leader’s ability to grasp the support of China’s majority peasant population translates to one of the stronger political campaigns in modern history. Having survived both the long march in 1935 and the Shanghai massacre, Mao’s ideological ability to keep his soldiers committed and inspired provides reason for the leader being delineated as a member of the “great man theory” by historian Dao Yi-Ran in his 1959 biography. Dao argues that Mao Zedong’s choice to conform to the peasants as opposed to the proletariat led way for communist victory. Mao himself claimed that “the battle for China is a battle for the hearts and minds of the peasants. No power, however strong, can restrain them.” Especially the enactment of Mao’s “land reform” policy brought forth the surging support for communism. What Mao baptized as “the mother of all work” presented itself as the communist party’s seizing of land owned by the wealthy, and redistributing said land to peasants. Peasants were given ownership rights as Mao further antagonized China’s landowners, in some cases “torturing, beating, or even killing landowners as ‘enemies of the people’”. Utilizing the peasant majority’s hatred of the rich as a foundation for his anti-upper class ideology, Mao would’ve quickly garnered support. Reports of Mao’s “cadres” organizing village meetings and unifying those in aid quickly reached Chinese audiences across the nation, which idolizes the importance of Dao Yi-Ran’s ideology argument. Whilst Chiang Kai-Shek attempted to cater to foreign expectancies, Mao Zedong recognized the importance of a majority, whether peasants or not. Mao’s achievement of complete peasant-approval evidently brought forth the events which would lead to communist victory in 1949.

Within his biography of Chiang Kai-Shek, Jay Taylor portrays Chiang as “a man of great economic successes and [even greater] failures”. Taylor argues that the U.S. failed in backing the KMT, “who’s commitments were not steady and sometimes no more than lip service.” Although Taylor portrays Chiang in a biased fashion – depicting the leader as China’s unsung hero – the historian’s claims of insufficient monetary support by the United States coincide with one of Chiang’s arguably most dominant failures: the Chinese economy. China’s economy was lost, as the 1937 price index of 100 had accumulated to 380,000 by 1946. A first attempt to follow in Germany’s footsteps through the introduction of a new currency, the gold yuan, failed dramatically. By 1949, the currency would be traded in for Taiwan’s new silver yuan in a 500 million-to-one ratio. The gold yuan was supported on gold, silver, and foreign currency assets in an attempt to create a stable foundation for the currency. Under death penalty, all Chinese citizens were to surrender these assets in exchange for the new yuan. With an enforced foundation, the KMT however still failed to secure the currency, mainly through their forced attempt to introduce more notes into the economy. By 1946, 4.5 trillion gold yuan notes circulated the economy in comparison to 1944’s 196 billion. The stagnant increase in yuan circulation entirely pulverized the currency’s worth, as, by February 1949, a U.S. dollar would be traded in for six million gold yuan. The KMT’s incompetent economic policies not only sabotaged China’s currency, yet it also brought forth nation-wide hatred as the currency’s decline led to the loss of any gold deposits made in an attempt to stabilize the gold yuan. As peasants – making up over 80% of China’s around 500 million strong population – had lost any assets they had been forced to surrender as the currency failed, Mao’s communist ideology came as the only reliable path to turn to. The Kuomintang party’s inability to strengthen an absolutely failed economy, making matters worse than before by diminishing the wealth of an already impoverished population, evidently led to Chiang Kai-Shek’s greatest failure: his loss of China’s support.

In addition to Chiang’s economic collapse, the Kuomintang’s military front proved equally incapable of seizing power in China. Following the long march, the KMT already only possessed an estimated 66% of the population’s votes. With the second Sino-Japanese war forcing nationalist and communist forces to fight together on China’s second united front, nationalist military had found itself demoralized and betrayed: forced to fight alongside the enemy. By October 1948, Changchun’s nationalist front threw a mutiny, concluding the 32’nd annihilated nationalist division. Reason for the mutiny was Chiang’s poor military leadership. As per Jay Taylor’s description of the leader’s diary entries, Chiang had essentially incentivized his Generals to lead their armies independently, creating unsuited competition for supplies and land between separate nationalist divisions. Similarly, the historian depicts registered cases of officers selling their own men’s rice rations in exchange for the already declining currency. Chiang’s “recruiting squads” would have similarly left morale low, as citizens were drafted against their will. High desertion rates catastrophically influenced an already hated military, as Jay Taylor delineates examples of soldiers tied together to prevent them from running away – all within the leader’s biography. Writer Peter Chen argues that, ever since the 1941 new fourth army incident, nationalist troops had found little to no support from Chinese citizens, as communist forces were recognized as China’s heroes. On the 13th of January communist general Ye Ting, seen as a hero within nearby communist-stationed villages, was killed by nationalist forces when attempting to settle peace negotiations; providing an influx of hatred towards nationalist troops. Chen argues that Chiang Kai-Shek’s decision to remove his soldiers from the front lost further nationalist support as “communist guerrillas [soon] became the only [ones] still fighting the Japanese.” The KMT instead began using the retreated troops in an attempt to purge China’s communist groups from the inside out, searching for bloodshed against their own united front divisions. With a fatigued and morale-ridden militia under his command, Chiang’s decision to speculate when it came to civilian reactions led to an increased distaste toward the nationalist regime.

Asemodu Isayama’s conclusive summary of the CCP’s victory, claiming Mao as a weak leader with an even weaker opposition, presents a similar argument to the points provided. Although defining Mao’s victory as “the blind luck of a damn fool” presents itself as an unfair conclusion regarding the obvious strengths Mao has depicted within his ideological approach, it was, evidently, the Kuomintang party’s weaknesses which abolished the nationalist government. Chiang Kai-Shek’s inability to capture his own people’s support, allowing his men to fight in demoralizing conditions whilst communist forces persuaded civilians of their heroism, finally led to the communist uprising from 1945-49. Mao Zedong’s ability to produce an ideology suited to China’s peasant population, taking advantage of a society distant from its own nationalist government, created the final incentive China needed to support a communist triumph in 1949. A failing nationalist economy and military aided Mao’s seemingly simple path to civil war victory.


Following the defeat of the Japanese in World War II in 1945, an exhaustive civil war erupted in 1946. By 1949, the communists, united by Mao Zedong had succeeded and won against Chiang and his army. To understand how the Communists would emerge as victors, one must consider the social, economic and military circumstances, enabling the nation. After the Sino-Japanese war, China was left in ruins suppressed through their crippling economy.  While considering the reasons for the communist’s win, one also must analyse the weaknesses of the KMT which aided towards Mao’s victory, thus one can observe parallels between the Chinese civil war and the Russian civil war between the Red and White army. China often preached that “Russia’s today is our tomorrow”, emphasizing their desire for similarity. By comparing the two, one can see that the mean reasons for success was the military strengths and social reforms posed by the Communists while simultaneously taking into account the KMT’s military and social weaknesses questioning whether to what extent the communists earned the victory.

Between 1937 and 1949, China’s economy was facing a drastically increasing economy with hyperinflation rates growing exponentially however as Richard Ebeling identifies, this was not the sole cause for the defeat of the KMT but undoubtedly aided Mao success within moving to the Chinese mainland. Through the downfall of China’s economy, the situation was supporting Lenin’s statement about the power of hyperinflation in undermining a regime, as it severely hindered Chinese prices and the impact on Chinese people. China’s economy was predominantly agrarian, with agriculture making up around 65% of the gross national product while industry only accounted for around 2.2%. Besides this, the US aided Chiang with around $3 billion in hopes to rebuild China after the war, however rather than allocating this to the peasants and Chinese local infrastructure, Chiang diverted funds towards the military, similarly to how the war lords structured their cities. The peasants did not approve of as the money was being taking away from improving their quality of life, they felt it would result in similar consequences as with the warlords. This created frustrations seeing as the government failed to improve the general well-being of their own citizens. This economic discontent in the cities led to thousands of labour strikes, as well as, students, newspaper editors and intellectuals protesting against Chiang’s Nationalist government. In response, Chiang ordered these people to be met with censorship, beatings, mass arrests and in extreme cases even assassinations. This repression drove many to the only opposing force, the communists. It becomes clear that the inefficient administration and corruption within the KMT’s government left little support and morale within the Chinese society.

When Sun Yat-Sen founded the KMT, he overthrew the Qing Dynasty with the vision of modernizing China both politically and economically. He wanted to do this through the Three Principles of the Peoples; nationalism, democracy and socialism. However, after the death of the first democratically elected government, the central government collapsed leading to the emergence of the warlords. Following this period, Chiang launched an expedition defeating the warlords. With a new central government came the hope of a reformed China who would modernize China and meet the needs of the population. One can identify a parallel with Russia, when the provisional government was instated, however they still failed to meet the basic needs of the proletariat. Hence why, Lenin proclaiming his promise of “Peace, Bread and Land”, resulted him gaining more and more support, as he was intending to improve quality of life. Furthermore, Communist propaganda took full advantage of all the Nationalist failings, Mao focused on winning over the peasants as he knew this was crucial support he needed to advance him in the civil war. Propaganda became crucial to Mao in winning over support from the Chinese people as he was able to show them all that is possible, if they were to follow him. In Chinese propaganda posters, the Chinese people are mostly displayed as determined and keen rather than scared or timid. This illustrated them in the light of ‘doing the unbelievable’, hence his increased support. Additionally, this support brought along further advantages, as they gave the troops important information about the environment, in which they were fighting, which enabled the communists to apply their Guerrilla tactics.

Fitzgerald, continues by stating that the KMT losing the peasants, was their greatest loss whereas the communists won the support of the peasants as the CCP had learned to practice moderation, allowing transparency between the government and population. The peasants were experiencing extremely harsh conditions, as the KMT offered no reform, by focusing their interests in the industrialists and landowners. Therefore, peasants were experiencing serious droughts and bad harvests which caused widespread famine whereas tons of rice was being hoarded in the cities by profiteering merchants. However, this unjust treatment was not just happening in the countryside, as in the cities there was little improvement in factory conditions on top of forced labour. Lastly, culturally, Chiang had attempted to implement a “New life Movement” however this became very controversial amongst the population as it was intended to be a unique, rational and modern Chinese version of Confucianism which many people believed was a backward step designed to return China to its oppressive imperial past.

Charles Patrick Fitzgerald argues that the civil war was won in 1947 by the communists predominantly due to the KMT’s failure to establish communication with the north or expand control in Manchuria. While this was a crucial factor, the nationalist’s army was much larger and better equipped than the communists with around 2,800,00 troops, including an air force whereas the communists had around 800,00 soldiers who were poorly equipped with no air force. However, although the nationalists were far better equipped at the beginning of the war, by June 1948, the armies were roughly equivalent in size and where Mao’s army was becoming more trained and experienced, keeping up a motivated morale, Chiang’s army was largely filled with conscripts with low morale and poor training. Mao’s generals, such as, Zhu De and Peng Dehuai built a tight central command within his communist army who transformed small guerilla bands into a modern conventional army capable of moving quickly and taking advantage of the uncoordinated Nationalist army. Similarly, during the Russian civil war, the White army was disjointed and trying to control separate armies while fighting against the Red army, this caused a significant disadvantage for them. Besides this, Chiang Kai-Shek sent many of his best troops to Manchuria before establishing control of northern and central China as he believed Manchuria was crucial. The battle in Manchuria between the CCP and KMT marked the end of Chaing’s hopes to defeat Mao. He lost the city early on in 1948, which made him not only lose vital territory but also many soldiers. The fall of Manchuria convinced him that the only option for the survival of the government of the Republic of China was to withdraw to Taiwan. Therefore, by mid-January 1949, the air force and navy headquarters had been transferred to Taiwan. Inevitably, the CCP was a more effective and disciplined fighting force.

The root causes of the KMT’s downfall, hence a factor in Mao and the communists succeeding, lies within the structural deficiencies of the system of government ruling China. While these flaws were a crucial factor, they were not sufficient enough to bring the collapse. The Sino-Japanese war and the civil war further built up the reputation of the communists and deprived the Nationalists of their last basis of popular support. Mao understood the importance and potential of having the support of the majority of the people, while Chiang Kai Shek was held up on supporting the middle class and bourgeoisie, who by the end also were unsettled by Chiang’s ruling. Essentially, Chiang’s ignorance to the reality was what allowed Mao to succeed.


Why did the Communists win the Civil War in China between 1945 and 1949?

Following the conclusion of the Second World War and the defeat of the Japanese army in China, the country found itself in uncertainty regarding its future. While the US made an attempt to secure a peaceful future for China through encouraging negotiation between the Chinese Communist Party and the Kuomintang, it became clear that the two parties would not come to an agreement, and therefore a civil war seemed inevitable. The two sides had already been deep in conflict prior to 1936, and this conflict had only been paused due to the greater threat of the Japanese invasion. However, large parts of China were unclaimed now, in 1945, and both sides intended to control nothing less than the entire nation. As a result, a civil war ensued and lasted till 1949, when the Communists emerged victorious. Maoist historians, including Guo Moruo, put much of the credit for this victory on Mao’s leadership and strategic prowess. On the other hand, Western historians point out that the many failures of the KMT played a significant role too. This essay will consider Guo Moruo’s view of the Chinese Civil War, by investigating the social, political and military factors leading to the triumph of the CCP.

For much of its history, China has been a traditional and hierarchal society, which created a massive population of extremely poor peasants in the lower class. Up until the prominence of the CCP they had been largely ignored, however during the civil war Mao Tse-Tung focused specifically on gaining their support. Guo Moruo argues that Mao’s support for the peasantry and the policies he implemented were crucial in winning the civil war. This is true to a large extent, as the land policies Mao pursued in rural communities, drastically improved the lives of peasantry. While in some areas further rent restrictions were put in place, in other towns the communist army confiscated and redistributed land owned by wealthy landlords. Moruo claims this was done in a fair and honest manner, and oftentimes this was the case, however public interrogations and executions of landlords did also occur, showing a much darker side of Mao’s policies. Nevertheless, land distribution did encourage thousands upon thousands of peasants to join the People’s Liberation Army, resulting in the size of the army expanding to 4,000,000 in 1949, a near fourfold increase compared to 1945.
            On the other hand, the Nationalist Party’s failure to associate with the peasantry resulted in a considerable loss of support, as British historian C.P. Fitzgerald argues. While the Kuomintang suffered considerably from corruption and misgovernment, their conscription methods are perhaps the best piece of evidence to support Fitzgerald’s point. Chiang Kai-Shek ordered that peasants be round up by armed recruitment squads and be forced into conscription to fight for the Nationalists. These peasants were treated brutally by their officers, and a report from the Chinese Red Cross details reveals that they were close to starvation due to the little amount of food they had to eat. Furthermore, water was extremely limited, however the officers forced peasant soldiers to continue training no matter the suffering. When these stories spread across China, the popularity of the KMT understandably plummeted and many peasants choose to support the Communists simply to oppose the Kuomintang.

Nevertheless, it was perhaps the political corruption and mistrust within the ranks of the Nationalist Party which truly resulted in their loss during the Civil War. While Guo Moruo pays this factor less attention, Western historians, such as Jonathan Fenby, claim that this factor is possibly most crucial. Fenby writes that throughout the Nationalists' rule (prior to the war) “corruption remained a constant and corrosive element” within the party. This is well reflected in the fact that much of the American aid sent to the Kuomintang to help defeat the Communists, actually ended in the pockets of the party’s top officials who kept it for their personal gain. Furthermore, there were numerous communist moles within the party who only exacerbated this problem, as money in the form of US aid was taken by these moles and sent to the Communist Party. This corruption and lack of transparency resulted in increased mistrust between Chiang’s generals and therefore coordinating successful offensives during the war became increasingly difficult. Chiang Kai-Shek claims that two of the main reasons for their loss, were that “The spirit of most commanders is broken” and “Our commanders fight muddle-headed battles and lack tactical skill”. The first cause is evident in the corruption present in the Party at the time. However, regarding the second cause, Chiang is very much to blame himself. As mistrust grew, Chiang chose to only appoint generals which he was sure were completely loyal to him. Nevertheless, by doing this he sacrificed true military skill, because he wanted to be sure no-one would betray him. Making these types of sacrifices make it easy to see how the Kuomintang had a considerable disadvantage in leadership.
            Guo Moruo argues that these types of issues were non-excitant in the CCP. In contrast, the Communist Party was dominated by Mao Tse-Tung and all members had great respect for this leader. Moruo goes on to claim that without Mao the civil war would not have been won. While this claim is difficult to evaluate, given that considering another leader in Mao’s position would lead to a completely hypothetical analysis, it is evident that Mao did have the full respect of the party in political terms. He was seen as a very charismatic leader, and all members of the CCP truly fought for what they believed in under Mao’s leadership. This type of focus left no room for individual corruption or mistrust between communists as everyone was truly fighting for the same cause.

Finally, the Communist Party’s guerrilla warfare tactics and the strategic errors made by the Kuomintang ultimately lead to the KMT’s defeat. While the National Revolutionary Army had 4,300,000 soldiers at the beginning of the civil war, the People’s Liberation Army had a total of only 1,200,000 in 1945. In terms of man power one would therefore see that the KMT had a massive advantage. However, Guo Moruo claims that it was the strategic and tactical brilliance of Mao Tse-tung was the main factor in the Communist victory. Dutch Cold War historian, J. Hans van de Ven, agrees with Moruo on this matter, but points to the specific use of guerilla tactics as the source of victory. Guerilla tactics did play a considerably large role, as they allowed the PLA to become more mobile, as the army moved in smaller groups. Troops engaged in hit and run tactics and opted to retreat when the enemy advanced while choosing to attack when the enemy withdrew. These type of tactics made it increasingly difficult for the NRA to make constructive progress in defeating the Communist Party, as the PLA refused to engage their opposition in a direct conventional manner. These types of tactics would not be successful in the long-term though, however the PLA quickly expanded into a much larger army as the war proceeded, due to the support it gained across the country. On the other hand, the NRA only decreased in size due to its fall in support, and ended the war in 1949 with less than 1,500,000 troops.
            Nevertheless, the military mistakes made the KMT must also be considered. Chiang Kai-Shek was far too eager to begin his military campaign at the beginning of the war, and therefore decided to send large numbers of troops into Manchuria to take parts back from the Communists. Nevertheless, the National Revolutionary Army was not prepared for this planned advance, and as they marched deeper into Manchuria it became increasingly difficult to supply these soldiers. While Chiang had been advised to secure the villages in Southern China first, where the Nationalists had most support, he opted not to. This proved to be a devastating error, as the KMT lost considerable support in these regions too. Therefore, Chiang’s overall strategy was evidently flawed, and had he been more patient and careful in his decision making, he would have made much greater progress.

In conclusion, the Communists won the Chinese Civil War due to a mixture of social, political and military factors. To the peasants, the CCP was much more appealing than the KMT due to the land policies they promoted, politically the Kuomintang was corrupt filled with mistrust in contrast to the strong leadership and focus of the Communists, and the use of guerilla tactics, in combination with Chiang Kai-shek’s strategic errors, consolidated the Communist victory in 1949. Mao Tse-Tung undoubtedly played a significant role in this triumph, and although the Maoist perspective may contain bias regarding the catastrophes Mao would later orchestrate, we can conclude that Guo Moruo’s Maoist view is a relatively accurate perspective in the context of the Chinese Civil War.


The United States and president Truman, have often been the scapegoat for the sudden fall of China to the communists and Mao. Nonetheless, Mao himself argues that the pivotal factor in the communist victory was the involvement of another WWII participant; Japan. He shared this idea with the Japanese Prime Minister in 1972, “Had Imperial Japan not started the war of invasion, how could we communist have become mighty powerful? How could we stage the coup d’état? How could we defeat Chiang Kai Shek?”. This essay aims to answer Mao’s rhetorical questions by focusing on the social and military factors which played a key role in the civil war, while investigating whether it was Mao’s strength or the Kuomintang’s weaknesses which led to the unprecedented outcome in this political conflict.

 The Kuomintang’s military weakness, stemming from lack of leadership, unmotivated soldiers, and lack of resources and funds, was ultimately a predominant factor in the outcome of this conflict. Although Chiang’s leadership was passionate and fierce, little of this sort can be said for his immediate subordinates. In communist sympathizer Jack Belden’s China Shakes the World, the American journalist depicts the leaders of the Kuomintang as without a cause. He states that in the years that the KMT held power, not only was the party unable to solve the problems they had identified in the old system such as warlordism, a lack of democracy and overwhelming foreign influence, but they had actually made these evils greater. Although written from a communist sympathizing perspective, this nonetheless shows that much of the missing conviction in the KMT’s leadership came from lack of faith in the success of the party. In addition to unmotivated leadership, the men at the helm of the KMT were highly ineffective in coordinating military efforts as a result of a lacking central command. Generals such as Chen Cheng, Bai Chongxi, and Zhang Fakui, had independent armies, set up in a feudalist system. The soldiers were directly recruited by the respective commanders, and as such these soldiers were the commanders’ personal property. Therefore, in essence the KMT’s army was not a unified legion, but rather a composition of various warlord militias. This in addition to lacking conviction, made the KMT’s leadership highly ineffective in coordinating military actions; a negative weight felt throughout the complete army. In addition to ineffective leadership, the army lacked motivated and volunteering soldiers, resulting in Chiang Kai Shek’s introduction of conscription. This made it legal for commanders to kidnap and force men into fighting in their ranks. These soldiers were poorly trained, clothed, and fed, and discipline was introduced with beatings. Logically these methods were not only tremendously unpopular with the Chinese, but it also largely ineffective in creating a strong army. It is no coincidence that during the civil war, hundreds of thousands of individual Nationalist soldiers deserted, surrendered, or defected to the communists. Additionally, the KMT had counted with American support from 1945 onwards, yet by 1947 with the failure of the American designed Marshall Mission, an attempt to negotiate a unified government between the CCP and the KMT, as well as due to prevalent corruption in the nationalist regime, the United States decided to cut off the financial support priorly given to the KMT. The USA cutting off Chiang Kai Shek’s army funds, resulted in the KMT’s military being inferiorly equipped, and thus while the KMT’s army was larger in soldiers than the PLA, the lack of equipment put them at a direct disadvantage.
Mao’s People’s Liberation Army on the other hand, possessed various characteristics highly in their favour to the outcome of this conflict. First and foremost, the PLA’s control over Manchuria granted by the Soviets, was both a strategic and a technical benefit for Mao’s army. Still today, Manchuria is the industrial heartland of china, and so from 1945 onwards, it allowed for the development of arms for the PLA. Furthermore, as Japan had left Manchuria with haste, the CCP was able to reap the highly modernized Japanese equipment, further enhancing their technological advantage over Chiang Kai Shek’s army. Yet while these factors ensured a military advantage by the CCP, the pivotal factor came through conviction in Mao’s practical communist ideology. Unlike Chiang’s predominantly independent armies, Mao’s PLA was unified under a tightly controlled central command. The army served the party as opposed to belonging to high-ranking individuals, and as such the soldiers fought with high morale, and with the aim of getting promoted and receiving military awards. Additionally, as opposed to the forceful recruitment of the KMT, the PLA counted with an abundance of volunteers and communist supporters. While the composition of these factors ensured a slight advantage for the PLA over Chiang’s army, the main component came from Mao’s ability as a tactician. With highly effective guerrilla tactics in the earlier stages of the war, the PLA was able to use their agility as a weapon against the slow and isolated KMT forces. In a speech given by Mao to his commanders and generals in December of 1947, he outlined how the guerrilla tactics had been the crucial component in the success of the PLA, but that moving forward the army would need to introduce conventional warfare in order to ensure the sustainability of the CCP’s success. This shows that Mao was able to control military versatility, as well as illustrating how his orders were received and implemented by his subordinates.
Following WWII, the Kuomintang and Chiang Kai Shek were faced with numerous social problems. In order to finance the war against the Japanese, the government resorted to printing unrestricted amounts of cash, allowing for the imports of American weaponry, soviet food stocks, and other necessities. While this was a viable alternative in the short-run to supply the Chinese troops, this policy ultimately led to hyperinflation, making the currency valueless while simultaneously sky-rocketing the prices of necessary goods to society. In 1937, the total quantity of money in circulation was 3.6 billion yuan, by 1946 there were approximately 9,180 billion yuan in circulation. Subsequently while in 1937 the consumer price index was at 100, by 1946 it had risen to approximately 378,000. Lenin himself is believed to have said that “the best way to destroy the Capitalist System was to debauch the currency.”. This was no exception in 1946 China, as inflation and resource scarcity predominantly resulted in large discord between society and the government. Furthermore, with the reigniting of the civil war, the funds that had been designated for the reconstruction of Japanese destruction, had to be diverted towards the military, further fuelling inflation and economic duress. Additionally, although the government set up price caps on necessities, production quotas for grain producers and export restrictions as to keep the goods in China, due to highly corrupt power structures they were highly inefficient. Nevertheless, as Chinese historian Dao Yi-Ran states, “the Kuomintang’s decisive social weakness was its detachment from China’s fundamental needs”. Although a communist sympathizer, and thus a critic of the KMT’s policies, Dao rightly identifies the KMT’s shortcomings in social matters. Most, if not all, of Chiang Kai Shek’s policies were directed towards benefiting his capitalist supporters, therefore focusing on urban areas and financial institutions, while largely disregarding the hardships in the rural areas and the fields. Additionally, social justice was completely disregarded by land owners, who under feudalist systems were able to exploit peasants brutally, with virtually no consequences for their actions from the nationalist government. All of these factors resulted in a widespread disdain for Chiang Kai Shek’s government, making society a large opponent of the nationalist cause.
Mao and the CCP on the other hand, offered the majority of society, the idealistic utopia of communism. Mao understood that “The battle for China is[was] a battle for the hearts and minds of the peasants.”. Mao effectively won the hearts and minds of 85% of the Chinese population not merely through persuasive posters and speeches, but rather with decisive actions in the benefit of the peasants. Land reforms were the flagship of Mao’s social revolution and as the communist leader himself put it “the mother of all other work.”. In order to implement effective land reforms Mao established regional leaders, in the form of cadres, with the main role of organizing the redistribution of land, and the retribution on the landlords. This mainly happened in the so called struggle meetings where peasants and laborers met to force wealthy landlords to pay for their actions; often in the forms of torture, beating or even killing, as these prosperous men were branded “enemies of the people”. As the peasants now had their possessions and their land at stake if the communists were to lose the civil war, the PLA now had an abundant amount of volunteering recruits: 5.4 million were mobilized for the Huaihai Campaign alone. Moreover, while these land reforms effectively supplied the PLA with manpower, the peasants were also willing to contribute with food, transport and labour, resulting in better equipped soldiers, as well as significantly higher morale in Mao’s military ranks.

Conclusively, in the civil struggle from 1945 until 1949 between the Communists led by Mao, and the Kuomintang led by Chiang Kai Shek, the CCP came out victorious due to the failings of the KMT, and the effectiveness of the communist policies. Japan’s destruction in China was mainly felt by the governing KMT, and as such Chiang Kai Shek’s side suffered from the economic and social repercussions of a world war. Simultaneously, the communists benefited from the modernized equipment left behind by the Japanese, while additionally effectively making use of the weaknesses of the KMT. Thus while the CCP had many strengths, without the weakening of the KMT by the involvement of Japan, the communists’ strong cards would not have been sufficient to turn the civil war in their favour.


 Why did the Communists win the Civil War in China between 1945 and 1949?   As Karl von Clausewitz once said, “war is nothing more than the continuation of politics by other means”, which also applies to the Chinese Civil War, namely between the Kuomintang (KMT) government and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). From that, J.A.G. Roberts argues, in his book “A History of China”, that the “Nationalists, through error and omissions, lost the political struggle, [while] the Communists profited from the Nationalists’ mistakes and presented themselves as a moderate, efficient and patriotic alternative to Nationalist rule.” This essay will therefore examine the political, social and militarily strengths and weaknesses of the CCP and KMT, to determine why the Communists won the Chinese Civil War. 

While the KMT may have been in power in 1945, the government displayed multiple political weaknesses and failings that allowed the CCP to win the Civil War and become China’s leading government. One leading cause for this was corruption; as America had given the KMT financial aid, it caused many officials to take this money for their own, leaving less and less for the citizens of China. However, it was also Chiang Kai-shek’s stubborn and close-minded leadership that prevented him from addressing the political instability, as he was solely focused on maintaining power. Additionally, the KMT employed tax collectors, which were hated on by the Chinese citizens and called ‘blood-sucking devils’, resulting in hostile feelings throughout the country as the people were constantly bled out by their government. Not only did this corruption cause public tension, it also enhanced the economic hardship the country was facing at the time, and so contributed to the policy of printing extra money to pay for the previous wars. This resulted in hyperinflation, with the price index rising from 100 in 1937 to 378,217 by 1946, which created extreme conditions, especially for the middle and lower classes, who struggled to survive with the little money they had. When labor strikes started rising up, the KMT responded with censorship, beatings and mass arrests, which drove many people to the CCP, in hopes of ending the reign of the KMT. By 1949, China’s economic system had collapsed completely, with the government left discredited and demoralized. As a result, the CCP barely had to prove themselves in terms of political sovereignty, as the corruption and poor leadership within the KMT’s government practically drove the Chinese people to switch sides. This supports Roberts’ argument, that the CCP profited from the KMT’s mistake, in that they failed as a government, and simply had to present themselves as an opposing power that would help rebuild China and get rid of the KMT.   

The perhaps biggest failing of the KMT was their behavior towards the Chinese citizens. Chiang spent the majority of the KMT’s focus on looking after the interests of industrialists, bankers and landowners, whilst ignoring the people that made up around 80% of the Chinese population, the peasants. The peasants were left to fend for themselves, and were often confronted with destitution and starvation, especially as the they had experienced a series of droughts and famines in the early 1930s, with plenty of food being kept from them by profiteering merchants that hoarded food supplies in the big cities. When Chiang decided to go to war with the Communists in 1946, he postponed the economic reconstruction of China, which resulted in heavy taxes, unemployment and even more food shortages. This caused the peasants to lose faith and feel abandoned by their government, and showed how they were only too happy to turn to the Communists, who had eliminated taxes for poorer peasants and won favour through their restrained land policy. One way the CCP gained the peasants’ favour was through propaganda that showcased Chiang’s failings, and strengthened their own cause, as Mao realized that “the battle for China is a battle for the hearts and minds of the peasants”. Through their restrained land policy, they redistributed wealth by confiscating landlords’ estates and restricting rent. Moreover, the CCP army was ordered to be kind and courteous to the peasants, which garnered respect and gratitude from them. Whenever the Communists had secured another area, Mao would send out cadres that would organize ‘struggle meetings’ in the villages, which allowed peasants to meet with their landlords and force them to confess to their bad treatment. This also shows how the CCP knew how to gain power and support, as they decidedly showed support and kindness to the majority of China’s population. Furthermore, the CCP also kept taxation low and required only the upper 20% of the peasants to pay taxes at all. Again, the KMT’s lack of conservation and support for the peasants enabled the Communists to appear as the saviors from the oppressive Nationalistic government, and resulted in the CCP being supported by almost 80% of the entire Chinese population.     

In the end, what caused the KMT to completely lose power was the military, as it was poorly led, dysfunctional and resulted in the troops being disillusioned with the leaders. Despite having the bigger army, Chiang’s military coordination lacked a central command, and resulted with generals leading independent armies, polluted with corruption, as the government was. Officers would use money intended for food for the troops for personal profit, which caused the men to lack proper nutrition and lose morale. Moreover, the military was kept alive through forced conscription, enforced discipline through beatings and even roping soldiers together to keep them from deserting. This angered the lower and middle classes, as they saw how their men were being mistreated, but also the fact that the higher class were never forced to conscript, made many soldiers hold grudges against the government. This again reflects Roberts’ argument, that by neglecting their armies, the KMT lost respect and the CCP was able to show themselves as patriotic and committed, and an army that was worth fighting for. The CCP’s army, therefore, was devoted, effective and eventually even stronger the Nationalists’ army. Not only had Mao changed the name from the “Red Army” to the “People’s Liberation Army”, which prompted public support, he also unified the troops under a tightly controlled central command, that was much more effective and coordinated. He chose generals that were devoted communists, and so superior leaders, and transformed the smaller guerilla groups into a more modern, efficient army that moved faster than the larger, uncoordinated KMT army. Moreover, officers treated the soldiers with respect, educated them and taught them to be kind to civilians, which encouraged even more young men to join the Communist army. Furthermore, the army’s Production Drive of 1941 allowed Mao to sustain a constant supply line of food in preparation for war, which provided the army with plenty of food and gave them the security of being cared for. The lack of care with which Chiang led his army is most clearly seen in the overall loss of soldiers, as the army dropped down to around 1,500,000 men while the Communist army had risen to 4,00,000 men. Consequently, this allowed the Communists to directly challenge the Nationalists by 1948, and resulted in their armies disintegrating and the head of the government fleeing to Taiwan, leaving Mao in control of mainland China by 1949. 

To conclude, it is proven that the failings and weaknesses of the KMT allowed the CCP to not only appeal to the peasants and gain their favor, but also grow their own army and increase their resources to ultimately seize power in 1949. It was through Chiang’s uncoordinated and tyrannical leadership, that the Chinese people longed for a new government, and gladly accepted the CCP as they had supported them when the KMT did not. This in turn coincides with Roberts’ statement, that by the mistakes and negligence of the KMT, the CCP was able to present themselves as the saviors that would end the Chinese peoples’ suffering.  


 One critical factor in Mao’s and therefore, the Communist Party ‘s (CCP) success and victory of the Civil War in China between 1945 and 1949 was not his in particular long-term planning but his opportunism. By the point when the civil war was renewed in 1946, one year after World War two had ended and Japan was defeated and surrendered, Mao’s and his party’s most optimistic hope was that the CCP would be able to retain the bases it had acquired by the end of the Sino-Japanese war. He did not foresee that within three years his Communists forces would have taken the whole of China hence, that China goes communist. However, unlike the question, which is asking why did the communists win the Civil War in China between 1945 and 1949, it could be argued why the Nationalist party, which was in such better initial position than the CCP, could have ever possibly lost. Eventually, it was the Nationalists Party (GMD) who made the victory possible by throwing away their initial superiority. Of course, strengths such as Mao's military genius, his control of the CCP, the People’s Liberation Army's rapid transition from a guerrilla force to a modern army, the skilled generalship of Mao's commanders and the PLA' s land policies which won popular support in the liberated areas contributed to the CCP success. However, as this question does not explicitly state that the arguments of why the Communists won the Civil should be based on internal successes, it can also be looked at external factors which contributed to the Communists winning the Civil War in China which the first paragraph is going to be about.    

One crucial aspect on why the Communists won the Civil War in China was the year of 1948. It is important to consider the social and economic circumstances which were influencing the nation itself and her political situation. The military and political success of the Communists under Mao Zedong obviously played an essential part in preparing the way for their takeover in 1949 but due to the failure of the Guomindang which according to Lionel M. Chassin “owed its weaknesses to its inaction and poor grasp of the economic and military necessities of the Civil War” made the victory happen. Especially inflation has undermined the cultural and economic fabric of society, bringing social chaos and revolution. Hence, also known as the great Chinese Inflation of the 1930s and 1940s. Indeed, the destruction of the Chinese monetary system during this period helped Mao Zedong’s communist movement triumph on the Chinese mainland in 1949. Following the Sino-Japanese war with Chinese casualties of 35 million on the Chinese side (from the Chinese perspective although, many argue that it was at least 20 million), China was left devastated and her hyperinflation rates were growing exponentially between 1937 and 1949. Chiang Kai-shek’s government, him being the head of the legitimate government which was recognised by many countries like the United States and around the world, in order to finance the majority of its spending, covered 65% to 80% of its annual expenditures through money creation. And, during the civil war years of 1946 – 1949, monetary expansion covered 50 – 65 percent of the government’s spending. To meet its revenue needs and to compensate expenditures, the government imposed severe taxes on individuals and companies, and nationalised China’s private banks and finance houses. Money was heavily borrowed from abroad and greatly increased the issue of paper currency. Mao himself has been, despite deliberately demoralising the enemy in his article for the Hsinhua (communist newspaper) in May 1947 with the title The Chiang Kai-shek government is besieged by the whole people, foreseeing the “results of extremely reactionary financial and economic policies long pursued by the government which are then uncontrollable inflation, soaring prices, ever-spreading bankruptcy of the industry and commerce of the bourgeoisie”. By the year of 1948, the total nominal value of notes in circulation (in millions of Chinese dollars) was 374,762,200. The financial failure demoralised the people and discredited the GMD government economically and politically. This claim is supported by Richard M. Ebeling, former president of the Foundation for Economic Education, who said that “the destruction of the Chinese monetary system during this period undoubtedly helped Mao Zedong’s communist movement to triumph on the Chinese mainland in 1949”. Supported by pictures taken which visually strengthen the credibility of this event, such as the one taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson in 1949 with shopping bags or package hanging from the handlebar of the bicycle, containing banknotes. It shows that even in big cities such as Shanghai people hence, the middle class was affected and thus, hyperinflation not only destroyed the peasants’ life but also the middle class’. While urban protests were encouraged by the Communists, Fenby, having lived in China for a large portion of his professional life and having been in well-respected positions for academic journals, writes, that they were "above all, a sign of war-weariness and alienation from a regime that had nothing more to offer”. He also draws parallels to the Russian civil war by saying that “China throughout the 1940s was proving the truth of Lenin’s observation about the power of hyperinflation to undermine a regime”.

However, not only external factors such as the failures of the GMD have contributed to the victory of the CCP as especially internal motives were a driving force. Such as Martin Wilbur himself argues, the flexibility and quality not only defined the leadership of the CCP but were rather “…outstanding characteristics of the Communist approach to mass organization,” and by that implementing various policies in order to integrate itself into the framework of the countryside, the CCP laid the foundation for its eventual success​. Hence, especially land played a pivotal role because the CCP gained the support of those who made up 85% of the whole population of China which were the peasants. Lionel M. Chassin, writing from the perspective of 1965, sees the cause of the Communists winning the civil war when “Mao gave a faith to the peasants of China”. The CCP promised to destroy the power of the landlords and give back the land to peasants which they have once lost. Besides that, the CCP promised to tax the wealthy people rather than the peasants. Due to the fact that the GMD was mainly focused on the elite and high class of China which only made up a small part of the population, C.P. Fitzgerald (having lived in China during the Warlord, Nationalist and Civil War periods give him a unique perspective on these turbulent periods and the developing revolutions) argues that “The Guomindang had long lost the peasants… The scholars were lost to the Guomindang through its corruption, nepotism, misgovernment and inefficiency”. PLA’s land policies won popular support in the rural areas as Mao according to Chassin “cleverly appealed to the instincts of social justice and property ownership”. 

In the militarily perspective, as Norwegian Cold War Historian Odd Arne Westad says, the Communists won the Civil War because they made fewer military mistakes than Chiang Kai-shek. It was the superior military tactics of the CCP which led to the Communist victory in 1949 such as the usage of Red Army’s guerrilla tactics. Mao was a great spokesman for guerrilla tactics as he wrote, “the guerrilla must move among people as a fish swims in the sea”. The People’s Liberation was a modern army which fought in small units and groups. The army itself didn’t belong to any generals or officers which was the mistake of the GMD which then was overshadowed by corruption and tough conscription and training methods. Chiang Kai-shek antagonised too many interest groups in China. The report made by Mao on the 25th December 1947, two years before China went communist, laid out that the military played a crucial part in the victory of the CCP: “Speaking from the military aspect, we were able to do this because we employed the correct strategy”. Unlike the GMD which was dependent on US aid, the Communists had Soviet support and guidance yet, were not reliant on them. 

Overall, it can be said that external as well as internal factors contributed to the victory of the Communist Party in the Civil War in China between 1945 and 1949. By the end of the second world war, there was a lack of a common enemy, i.e. the Japanese invaders, which made them “finally” fight each other. As soon as the country was economically badly hit, the Chinese people turned their backs to those who made it happen and since the communists were sympathetic to the peasants, who also made up almost the entire population, then gained enormous support. Due to a modernised army and the land support gained through land and tax reforms, eased the victory. As Jack Belden, an American Journalist writing China Shakes the World, in the year 1949, “the Guomindang leaders who were sworn to end warlordism, had ended up supporting one of the biggest warlords in Chinese history. In contrast, communist success was found not on ideology but by arousing the hope, trust and affection of the people”. 


            In August 1945, the surrender of Japan following their defeat in World War II meant that the sole factor that connected the two major political parties in China at the time had dissolved, and predictably the alliance between the CCP and the GMD disintegrated. Despite foreign efforts, mainly by the USA, to broker peace talks in August 1945, the peace agreement did not last, due to nationalist attempt to gain greater dominance in the constitution, upon which the communists withdrew. The beginning of the war indicated a clear victory for the Nationalists; they had larger and better equipped armies (a total of 2.8 million troops in 1945), were experienced in conventional fighting, controlled most territory, and due to being recognized by other powers as a legitimate government and the foreign desire to keep Communism out of China, were recipients of significant foreign aid from the Americans, with a total of $3 billion in aid, as well as a stream of supply of arms and advisors. Nevertheless, a mere four years later, on the 1st of October 1949, Mao Zedong, the leader of the Communist party, proclaimed the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing. This essay will examine both the failings of the nationalists and the strengths of the Communists that ultimately led to an unfathomable victory by the Communists.

            Despite the initial advantages of the GMD, the Nationalists misspent the resources provided to them due to a number of reasons, which can mostly be attributed to strategic and militaristic errors, low morale among troops and a general unpopularity among the peoples of China. Historian Michael Lynch argues that the GMD’s military failing and inability to achieve any major victory between the years spanning from 1947 to 1949 were due to Jiang Jie Shi’s lack of patience early in the war. Jiang was eager to establish dominance in the north of China, which is notably the region in which the GMD were least influential, and Manchuria. The struggle for Manchuria, from 1946 to 1947, was crucial to determining how the rest of the war would play out. Mao himself inspired resistance by stating ‘If we hold Manchuria, our victory will be guaranteed.’ This statement would be proven right when, despite the GMD sending some 200,000 troops to Manchuria in 1946, the Communist counterattack would force the Nationalists to hone their focus on the defensive, allowing the Communists to turn the region into a consolidated base. Moreover, it demonstrated to Mao the strategic weaknesses of the Nationalists, contrary to his previous anticipation that their superior resources would translate to military domination, giving him the confidence that he could conquer the whole of China. Therefore, it is evident that, as argued by Lynch, Jiang’s main error from which all his later military problems stemmed was his decision to send the major GMD forces into Manchuria.
            Furthermore, while the GMD had been recognized as a legitimate government by foreign powers at the end of World War II, the violent measures taken to secure the authority of government both shocked foreign sympathizers and alienated supporters in the country. Any protestors to the government were arrested and executed in large numbers, so much so that it had become common by August of 1948 to see street-corner beheadings or shootings by government officials in Shanghai. The lack of a popular following was further augmented by the manner in which the Nationalists ran regions held by them. The expropriation of money and the seizure of property were all contributing factors that caused a widespread resentment toward the regime and would prove advantageous for the Communists, who would use this dissatisfaction to present themselves as defenders of the people. In addition to this, as Jiang would toward the end of the war identify himself as one of the main reasons for the failure of the Nationalists, was the low morale of the nationalist troops. A large portion of the nationalist army was constituted of forced conscripts who consequently lacked purpose and commitment to the party, leading to growing desertions and an increase in moles among the higher ranks of officers in the GMD. There were also some splits that occurred in the ranks of the GMD, causing the birth of rival factions such as the GMD Revolutionary Alliance and the Democratic League, and consequently weakening the functioning of the party. Thus it can be seen that the lack of morale among troops and the lack of a popular following were all contributing factors that made a nationalist success unlikely.
In contrast to the weakness of the Nationalists, the Communists were able to secure a victory due to Mao’s strong military leadership, and by consolidating the support of the people via propaganda and social guidelines given to the soldiers. The historian J.A.G. Roberts, who specializes in Chinese history, argues that the Communists profited from the Nationalists' mistakes and presented themselves as a moderate, efficient and patriotic alternative to Nationalist rule. They were able to attain support and a good reputation among the Chinese people due to a variety of reasons: their success against the Japanese during the second world war, their self-reliance compared to the dependence of their rivals on foreign aid, and the political structures and land policies created in the so-called ‘liberated areas.’ These structures, which included the creation of local peasant associations, education programs and basic medical services, played a significant role in driving the party membership from 40,000 in 1937 to 1 million in 1945. The membership of the party was also what supplied the volunteers of the Red Army. Overall, the Communists were much more successful in gaining popular support than their opposition, and thus had a significant advantage in terms of morale and the ability to obtain food and support from the locals, assets which would prove indispensable in winning the civil war.

Despite the nationalists’ significant advantage to the Soviets in terms of resources and territory at the beginning of the war, the morale combined with the superior military strategy of the Communists was what drove the Communists to victory in 1949. Mao’s military genius has often been credited with being the most significant factor accounting for the CCP’s final victory. Philip Short, a biographer of Mao’s, describes him as having ‘an extraordinary mix of talents. He was visionary, statesman, and military strategist of genius.’ Mao’s military leadership was certainly a key factor in strengthening the Communist army, as it was under him that the Communist forces, who had only been experienced in guerilla warfare up until 1945, were united as an effective modern army by 1949, under the name of the People’s Liberation Army. Furthermore, the PLA compensated the initial lack of weapons by capturing large amounts of resources that were left behind by the Japanese or that were intended for the Nationalists as a supply from the Americans. Shrewd military strategies such as the sabotage of railway lines to impede the supply of troops and resources to the Nationalists, or the destruction of air strips to hinder nationalist air power, paved the way to the establishment of Communist victory across China.

In conclusion, there were a number of factors that led to the triumph of the CCP in the Chinese civil war. While from a materialistic and territorial standpoint, the nationalists were best equipped to win the war and to sustain their regime, there were several weaknesses with regards to strategy, morale and a lack of support that ultimately led to their downfall. The Communists’ conscious act of capitalizing on these weaknesses and showing themselves to be superior in both morale, strategy and popularity would prove to be enough to outweigh the initial advantages of the GMD, and to secure a Communist victory, culminating in the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

Why did the Communists win the Civil War in China between 1945 and 1949?
The Chinese Civil War between 1945 – 1949 cost nearly 6 million lives. The war, fought between the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), was a war on two fronts; between the ideological / political parties and the armies supporting each side. In this essay, three key aspects will be used to identify the reasons for a communist victory. These aspects will be Military, Foreign aid and Ideology.
            Firstly, starting with Military, it would appear that in 1945, the KMT had the superior army of the two. Having 2.7 million troops, they heavily outnumbered the CCP, who had 900,000. The two armies, the National Revolutionary Army (NRA), who fought for the KMT, and the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), who fought for the CCP. These two armies fought very differently from each other and both had strengths and weaknesses. The reason for the NRA having a larger army was down to conscription.  As Rudolph Rummel described the conscription, “this was a deadly affair in which men were kidnapped for the army”. Rummel, a historian who specialises in ideological / political failures, has been previously criticised as having an extremely emphasised estimate for deaths in china between 1945 and 1960. However, the source is still valid as it excludes and statistics. Conscription was not enforced in the PLA. Instead, people opted to volunteer for the cause as many deemed it to be superior. The NRA, having 2.7 million active conscripted personnel was equal in strength to the PLA, having almost 1 million active and willing voluntary personnel. This “will” to fight was arguably the key factor in determining the military success of the PLA. However, the NRA had the best military equipment and had far more than the PLA. The NRA used lease-lent M5 Stuarts from 1943. These tanks were superior to the Japanese tanks in WW2. The PLA used the Gongchen tank, a direct copy of the Japanese Type 97 Chi-Ha tank. The M5 Stuart in NRA use outnumbered the inferior Gongchen tanks. However, the PLA utilising Guerrilla warfare managed to capture many of these M5 tanks and the strength evened out. Likewise, with the general uniforms. The CCP adopted a uniform similar to that of the Soviet Union. This uniform was easily recognisable as being Chinese. However, the NRA bought military uniform from the western powers. During the Civil War however, the Americans supplied the NRA with M1 pot helmets and uniform. This uniform was almost identical to the American uniform and was not easily identifiable. This simple method of identification meant that the Chinese population deemed the PLA’s uniform as being the “non-foreign” uniform. This also effected the ideology of the KMT. Similarly, the guerilla tactics adopted by the CCP and the PLA led to a successful and iconic type of warfare. This was also used as a political weapon, as this type of warfare usually recruited local people into their forces and continued to gain support. The CCP was the true Chinese fighting force.
            Moving onto the second point, Foreign Aid, it is clear to see the little amount of aid towards the CCP actually helped it more than hindering it. The CCP, identifying itself as a Chinese force relied solely on the Chinese people and land. The KMT could not achieve this and relied on foreign aid. Excluding the foreign equipment sent, the KMT became extremely closely tied with America. The KMTs constant dependence of American for monetary support and the dependence on the USSR for military support, meant that the KMT was being hypocritical in claiming Chinese Nationalism. Though the aid was little, the “Soviet” styled military of the KMT created a foreign image of the party. However, the CCP managed to gain the mass support of the Chinese People by being dependent on China, showing true signs of nationalism. The US sent approximately $2 Billion USD on multiple aid packages to the nationalist side during the civil war. The US also helped the mass transportation of NRA troops within China. However, taking all of this into account, the foreign aid in the conflict was minor. With the CCP receiving little to no aid for foreign nations, they appealed the masses in China, ultimately aiding their victory.
            Lastly, focusing on ideology, this played a key factor in determining the outcome of the war. The KMT aimed to enforce three main aspects. These principles were nationalism, democracy and socialism. Already, these three principles conflict each other as nationalism and socialism are usually on two opposing sides of the political spectrum. Nonetheless, these three principles appealed the Chinese people after the fall of the last Dynasty. The KMT also aimed to abolish the War Lords of China and become solely dependent on themselves. Both of these goals were not met. Firstly, in abolishing the Warlords, the Chiang Kai-Shek became extremely similar in nature to the warlords. Likewise, with the self-dependency, the KMT sought help from foreign nations like the USSR and the US. This in itself was extremely aggravating for the Chinese peasantry who were often left behind. On the contrary, the CCP aimed to please and help the masses. They achieved this by appealing to the peasantry. Not only was the CCP aimed at the peasantry, they also managed to achieve their goals. The fact that the KMT was not reliable and was constantly going back on themselves was enough to change the mass support towards the CCP. Mao Zedong, the leader of the CCP, made clear that they were self-dependent and the reliable party of China. During this time, the KMT wished to make China great like in its history, something the CCP did not. The CCP opted for a newer and more modern China, which again appealed to the masses.
            With the support in favour of the CCP, the better military personnel and tactics and the self-dependent nature of the communist, it is clear to see why they became the victors. These strengths alone were enough for the Communists to win, but with the failure of the KMT in regards to forced conscription, hypocritical nature and dependency on foreign aid, it was extremely clear who the winning force would be in the civil war.


America at the Cairo conference of the Allies of WWII in 1943 recognized China as an international power on the world stage with Chiang Kai-shek as its leader. This globally confirmed the authority and governance of the GMD in China. In 1945 the GMD troops outnumbered the CCP four to one, they were better equipped, had a conventional air force, were recognized as a legitimate power internationally, had control over the Chinese railway network, had 4.5 billion dollars invested into them from America, and had control over large cities such as Nanjing, Beijing, Shanghai, and complete control over the province of Manchuria. By 1947 the GMD regained control of the CCP main base in Yunnan. How was it possible that in merely 2 years after the communists’ retreat in Yunnan they were able to gain power over all of China in 1949? In the midst of the communists’ defeat, the turning point in the civil war is credited to the advanced military strategy of the CCP and the poor organization of the GMD, that ultimately gave the CCP chance to expand their power. Furthermore, another contributing aspect is the correlated poor, indecisive leading of Chiang Kai-shek and the cut throat, decisive, yet brutal leadership methods of Mao. This essay will argue that it was in-fact the military battles and dauntless leadership that gave Mao the upper hand in the Chinese civil war, however this would not have been possible without the weaknesses of the GMD.
Historian Victor Shiu Chiang Cheng argues that Mao’s ‘Madrid in Manchuria’ strategy was masterfully planned to exploit the rivalries between the United States, the Soviet Union, and the GMD, and lead to the GMD demise. By 1948 the CCP had almost equal troop numbers to the GMD, still they did not have vast weaponry, raw materials, and control over the main cities of China. A successful expansion Northeast meant for Mao his only chance at the collapse of the GMD, because it targeted the GMD dependency on their allies and their allies’ weaknesses. Mao’s plans were directed at the Soviet Union in Manchuria, as they did not want to involve themselves in the Chinese Civil war in-order to prevent escalation of tensions with America. If this were to be in jeopardy the Soviet Union and America would withdraw their aid in the GMD. On September 12th 1948 quick initiative, and tactics of Lin Baoi with the support of Mao, lead a pinnacle win for the Communist at Jinzhou. This battle in the Liaoshen campaign was significant for ‘Madrid in Manchuria’ as it strategically targeted the Beining Railway, which was the main supply line for the nationalist. The genius strategic plan to cut off the main supply line between Beijing and Harbin that was fueling Manchuria, left the GMD vulnerable. Furthermore, Lin Biao’s masterful first battle strategy may have ultimately been the tipping point for the war. However, the quick success would not have been possible to achieve if it was not for the weak decision making and disputes between General Wei Lihuang and Chiang Kai-Shek. This GMD would have had all the advantageous means to halt and stop the CCP’s Northeast expansion, if they had not provided the time for the CCP to respond to their defense. Both General Wei Lihuang and Chiang Kai-Shek inability to respond rapidly to the CCP attack, despite their superior weaponry and raw materials allowed the CCP to swiftly gain control over Jinzhou. The terrible coordination and procrastination of the GMD allowed a further 8 divisions from the People’s Liberation Army to mobilize in time from Tashan to aid in the communist effort for Jinzhou. This caused GMD to fall in Jinzhou, costing the nationalist major losses such as the capturing of 80,000 troops, a main railway city, and head commander Fan Hanje. Both the incompetence of the Chiang when dealing with his Military Generals and their inability to work with one another gave the CCP the time to seize control over a main city, and a railway network of raw materials. This win also boosted morale for the communists and hope for further wins Northeast, whilst striking fear into the nationalists. The cut off of raw materials forced supplies to be airlifted to other cities such as Changchun. This airlift was unorganized and ultimately failed leaving cities to starve. This allowed for an easy win of the CCP in Chanchung in February 1948 due to Changchun already being weakened by starvation. A couple months later both the Soviet and American support in the GMD was withdrawn, including loans worth 4.5 billion dollars. This reveals the significance a success and a chain effect that a smaller battle can have on the war efforts as a whole, as well as the masterful planning Mao in targeting Manchuria.
Another contributing factor that allowed for the communists to rise in military power and numbers was, as Historian Fairbank argues, their ability to gain the masses through a “bandit method” using both “force and guile, including new teachings, to curry favour with the local people”.  However, many argue that what had allowed Mao to rise in number in the first place was his land reform policies that attracted the masses of peasantry. However, Mao’s Son reveals a more sinister method of gaining the masses, stating that as he was sent to convince the further country side peasants to fight for the CCP in 1948 and that those who would not conform were beaten ruthlessly. Furthermore, that the CCP was a group of thugs that would use any means of brutality, worse than the “Soviet Union”, to achieve their aims. This reveals Mao inserted his power over the masses not through purely appealing to them ideologically, but through merciless actions if people would not reform to the communist ways. Exactly this barbaric, immoral manner allowed him, through the Huaihai Campaign in November of 1948, to mobilize 5,430,000 peasants to fight. This reflects the success of the CCP’s recruiting methods to have yielded success ultimately gaining them the military advantage in the final battles against the GMD. This highlights Fairbanks argument that Mao’s ability to gain numbers was in majority thanks to attracting the masses, but the use of force was vital to attain their military ranks. 
Overall, the combination of Mao’s ability to gain major numbers through vicious means and the implantation of an advanced strategic plans through General Lin Baoi allowed the CCP to maximize their effort and seize the opportunity to gain power over their venerable rivals, the GMD. 

On the 1st of October, 1949, Mao Zedong declared the people’s republic of China, marking the official defeat of the KuoMinTang led by Chiang Kai-Shek. Yet, one must consider: How was this possible when the CCP was not only outnumbered militarily 3:1 but the KMT held full control over the skies. The single explanation for the victory of the CCP therefore was the KMT’s poor leadership and their failure to employ the strengths their weapons granted them effectively. Therefore, this essay will argue that the reason for the triumph of the communists, led by Mao Zedong, was the both military and social failure of the KMT, much rather than the tactical strength of the CCP.
Lenin, himself, famously said “the best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency”, emphasizing the absolute reliance of a country’s stability on its economic and trading strength. Therefore, with the destruction of a country’s currency comes instability and social unrest, as a fear of poverty is a great motivator for political change. This explains the social unpopularity of the KMT, which was caused by their poor economic management. During the civil war the KMT, who was in control of the central bank, greatly struggled to cover its war costs, and resorted to meet 65% – 80% of its annual costs through the creation of money. However, due to the increased supply of the Chinese Yuan, the currency experienced hyperinflation, leading to a rapid decrease in value, which was especially damaging to the peasants, who were dependent on the meek earnings of agriculture and now struggled to survive due to the devaluation of their already limited earnings. This led to incredibly unpopularity of the KMT amongst the peasants, who made up over 85% of the Chinese population. The KMT further lost support due to their corrupt taxation, which exploited the Chinese peasants, and led the country further into absolute poverty. The great dislike and hatred towards the government is reflected in the name 吸血鬼子, which translates to “Blood sucking devils”, which the Chinese gave to the KMT’s tax collectors. However, these were not the sole factors for the unpopularity and lack of esteem of the nationalists amongst the peasants. The general dislike towards the KMT can be traced back to the second Sino Japanese war in 1937. One-year prior, the CCP and KMT had forcibly agreed to form a common front in order to defeat the Japanese. However, during the war the KMT-controlled areas increasingly suffered from shortages and failed to cope efficiently with the refugee crisis, due to their poor agricultural and social management. Meanwhilst the territories controlled by the CCP grew increasingly, flourishing under social and economic reforms, leading to great popularity of the communists amongst the peasants. This would lay the groundwork for the great support the CCP received during the civil war just 10 years later. However, one must question: Why were the peasants of such importance to the triumph during the civil war? For one, the majority of the Chinese population consisted of peasantry, meaning the support of the peasantry was equivalent to the victory if democratic elections were to be held. More importantly, the peasants were the main producers of agricultural products such as food and clothes, highlighting that the two conflicting armies were dependent on the support of the lower classes, in order to survive. Therefore, the KMT’s loss of peasant support was a major factor in their fall, as it deprived them of genuine help in terms of food and clothes and furthermore limited their army to those gained through forced subscription rather than those inspired by the leadership’s aspirations.
Militarily, the KMT was seemingly predestined to be victories, as they not only had quadruple the amount of soldiers than the CCP but held full control of the skies. However, the KMT suffered from its corrupt leadership and the lack of moral amongst the soldiers. Due to the forced conscription, which the KMT introduced in 1949 in a final desperate attempt to triumph, the soldiers were often forced to fight against their will, demoralizing the army greatly, as they thought themselves victims of corruption, rather than fighters for a cause. Chinese marxist historian Jin Cai even argues that the conscription efforts “harmed the regime more than it benefitted it”, as during later stages of the civil war, an increasing component of the CCP’s army consisted of KMT soldiers which had deserted the nationalists as they were increasingly inspired by the communist mission. Therefore, the social failures of the army not only weakened their own forces but furthermore strengthened their enemy, inevitably leading to their downfall. Furthermore, the KMT made some major tactical mistakes, leading to their army growing increasingly impoverish. This can be summarized in the words of Michael Lynch, who argues that: “The Nationalists made things worse for themselves by the way the tried to run parts of the provinces they held”, highlighting, for one, that the KMT’s attempt to control, rather than work with the peasants caused them great unpopularity further decreasing their support and pushing people towards the CCP. However, the second mistake, targeted by Lynch, is the KMT’s focus on the capture and control of cities. Whilst cities provided infrastructure, they did not allow for food production, leading to increasing hunger amongst the army, which in turn caused uprisings amongst the soldiers. This consequently led to physical abuse within the rows in order to assure compliance, creating a cycle of mutiny and hatred within the KMT’s army. The rebellion amongst the soldiers escalated to the point at which they were often tied together in order to prevent desertion, leading to increasing sympathy towards the CCP amongst the rows of the Nationalist Army. Furthermore, the military tactics of the KMT led to rising setbacks and further demoralization amongst both the army as well as the peasantry. A fair representation of these military failures can be seen within the battle of Beijing in January 1949. At this point, the CCP had managed to surround Beijing, and the Nationalists had withdrawn into the city. This battle exemplifies two major failures of the KMT: The failure to manage their resources and the failure to negotiate efficiently. During the siege of the CCP, they were supplied with 144 large artillery guns, 36 of which had been captured from the KMT, highlighting that the failure to manage resources further strengthened the CCP. The effect of the guns can be seen in a quote from Jia Ke, a solider with the CCP, who remembers that when people returned from Beijing after weeks of stalemate, they “had never seen such equipment and they were pretty impressed”, leading a staggering amount of peasants, which had previously fled to Beijing to return to the CCP, seeking safety. The failure to negotiate is very clearly seen in the Nationalist’s final agreement to abandon the city of Beijing to the Communists, as Fu Zuoyi, lead negotiator, wished to not only preserve the historical city but protect himself, as his daughter was part of the communists. This, again, is a reflection of the corruption and personal bias, which led to the downfall of the KMT and the triumph of the communists. However, these weaknesses, weren’t the sole responsibility of the KMT, but can in part be reallocated to the fact that American support wore of and eventually completely stopped, decreasing both the arsenal and man-power support available to the Nationalists.
However, whilst the KMT’s weaknesses are non-negligible, one should take the strength of the CCP into consideration. The pillars of the CCP’s success are threefold: Gaining peasantry support, effective military tactics and targeted resource management. The first and foremost factor, which greatly furthered the success of the CCP, was the gaining of peasantry support, the vital importance of which is reflected in Mao’s famous belief that “[a]n army of the people is invincible”. Abiding by the theory of “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”, the CCP offered the antithesis to the dictatorial and corrupt nationalists. Through the incentive of lowered taxes, they build a basis of supporters, which allowed for a slowly expanding area of influence. Through the targeting of rural areas, the army also benefitted from the sympathy of farmers, which provided the army with sufficient nourishment. Furthermore, the social management of the CCP was aimed at a feeling of communion, which with it brought a fear of loss.  Through including the peasantry supporters in acts of revenge against their former dictators, the communists shared the blame for their crimes amongst their rows, creating a desperate need for victory, as loss would correlate to collective punishment of all aggressors. This led to a loyal and strong group of supporters, who wished to see the communists prosper not just out of sentiment but for their own benefit.  Furthermore, the adaption of the name “People’s liberation army” was a great benefit for the communists as it carried the connotation of savior and support, as opposed to the KMT’s aura of dictatorship and corruption. Therefore, through portraying themselves as the positive counterpoint, they were able to increasingly secure the support of those, appalled by the KMT’s ruthless actions. Furthermore Mao promised an improved literacy program to the Chinese peasants, which served as a great incentive, as with higher education, comes better jobs and increased incomes, which were very desirable to the Chinese peasants at the time. Furthermore, the effective military tactics, especially in the early phases of the war, during which the CCP was still far inferior to the KMT’s great armed forced and American weapons, was vital to the Communist’s triumph. The guerilla warfare allowed for quick attacks with incredibly force, followed by immediate dispersion of the aggressors, which enabled for the quick capture of land and successes against an army superior in both manpower and equipment. This was furthered by allowing the enemy to take back CCP territory, which allowed to soldiers to attack on known terrain and therefore employ incredible force for a minimum period of time. Yet, most important was the discipline within the red army and the strong focus on respect of peasants. These principles were reflected within Mao’s “three rules and eight points of behaviour”, which focused on fairness and gratitude in regard to the treatment of peasants. This, again, provided the antithesis to the brutal and abusive treatment the KouMinTang displayed, in which they would plunder and enslave, rather than bargain and corporate with the peasantry. Finally, targeted resource management was vital to the attraction of sympathisers and development of the army. Through land reform, the CCP was able to produce more effectively, creating bigger yields of crops and attracting the peasantry, who had suffered from the KMT’s corruption, hyperinflation and the destruction of war and was in result dependent on the charity of communism. Furthermore, where the KMT lacked in food and clothes, the CCP mutually benefitted from the charity of peasants who were inspired by their mission and thrived under their support. This can be seen in propaganda from the time, in which one can see soldiers and peasants working side by side, captioned “The peasants love the soldiers and the soldiers love the peasants. Together they are one family”. The presentation of peasants working alongside rather than controlled by soldiers in order to transform land and provide improved resources and possibility for income to the peasants served as a further incentive in order to escape the famine, which was common within KMT controlled areas. Therefore, through its social-orientated to military, economic and social problematics, the CCP was able to provide the positive counterpart to the KMT, creating a great incentive for the peasants of China.
In conclusion, the causes for the victory of Mao Zedong and the Communist party are to be traced back to the starkly contrasting social management and structure of the two parties. Whilst the KMT emphasized absolute obedience with consequences of harsh physical punishment, the CCP represented fairness and development as well as corporation and protection. As a result, the CCP provided a fair greater social incentive to the peasants, who constituted 90% of the Chinese population.


Why did the Communists win the Civil War in China between 1945 and 1949?
At first glance, Communist Party of China’s (CCP) victory may appear to be a rather unexpected turning point in Chinese history. Initially, the Kuomintang (KMT) was the party with the larger military, greater assets, and wealth. However, Chen Jian argues that the KMT’s supposed advantage in 1945 was only superficial, and that the Communist victory was a result of the KMT’s failure to both utilize these resources effectively, and consequently maintain their support from within China and overseas. Additionally, Suzanne Pepper, a Hong-Kong based political scientist, argues that the and the KMT’s underestimation of their opponent’s strengths is too, a reason for their loss in the Civil War. This essay will examine the reasons for Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War by looking at: the KMT’s strategical and behavioral failures/weaknesses, resulting in their loss of support, as well as the CCP’s inherent strengths, causing them to gain support and win the Civil War.

Chen Jian himself argues that Communist victory was strongly aided by Nationalist mistakes in strategy, policy and behavior, leading to their exponential loss of support. First and foremost, Chiang Kai-shek had already lost the battle of leadership to Mao, in the Civil War’s earliest phases: when Chiang decided to go to war against the Communists, this came at the cost of postponing the much-needed economic reconstruction of China. This soon resulted in heavy taxes, huge government debt, inflation, unemployment and food shortages. Economic discontent led not only to labor strikes, but it also called students, newspaper editors and intellectuals to protest against Chiang’s Nationalist government. They wished for an end to the civil war, and a government which included the communists. Nevertheless, the KMT refused to listen to the voices of their people and instead responded with censorship, beatings, mass arrests, and even assassinations. Ergo, it becomes apparent that when they entered the Civil War, they had started on the wrong foot: they failed to see the importance of their people’s approval. Secondly, the National Army set ground for discontent, and effectively mirrored the KMT’s crummy leadership. Although they had more soldiers than the CCP and were better equipped, it failed to impress. The army was poorly led: there was no central command to coordinate it and generals tended to head independent armies and even compete with each other for food and ammunition. Moreover, not many people entered Chiang’s armies willingly, but in fact, most soldiers were drafted against their will or even kidnapped by army “recruited squads”. These soldiers were then poorly trained, clothed and fed, making it apparent that the well-being of their people was not a priority of theirs, and that they failed to use their capital to their benefit. This is also reflected by their possession of advanced equipment (e.g. tanks and airplanes), which they could not utilize as they lacked the infrastructure to support them. Last but not least, the KMT seemed to only care for the city business interest and rural landlords, whilst ignoring the peasants. This was perhaps their most prominent strategical failure: how could the government possibly neglect its country’s majority, and expect to maintain power? In fact, they would not just ignore them, but actively go against them. For instance, in the Communist areas, captured by the Nationalists during the early part of the civil war, corrupt government administrators helped landlords take back the land that the communists had handed over to the peasants. It was no surprise that these peasants would be magnetized to anyone, willing to give them their land. Equally, the decline in much-needed US military and economic aid was only a matter of time. All in all, through its failures, the Nationalist government had essentially handed its power over to the CCP. 

Suzanne Pepper draws our attention to the inherent strengths of the CCP, which led them to absorb supporters. Pepper starts off by raising awareness to the power of Maoism as an ideology for China in the 1940s. Both Marxism and Maoism aim for a proletarian revolution that would change society. However, they correspond to two different social environments, where the former is applicable to industrial nations, and the latter to agricultural nations, e.g. China. At the time, approximately 89% of China’s population lived in rural areas, and for that reason, Maoism advocates a revolutionary movement, which commences in the country-side to gradually infiltrate the cities. Its appeal can be traced to China’s Hukou System (household registration system) which historically, always benefited the urbanities, causing the disparities between the state’s agricultural and industrial sectors to grow progressively. Hence, Mao’s vision of revolution was quick to become the dream of the peasants: they could envisage themselves fighting for their place in Chinese Society, where they were no longer victims of discrimination. Furthermore, the People’s Liberation Army was in complete contrast to that of the Nationalists, which is essentially the reason behind its allure to the people of China. Unlike the National Army, Mao’s army was both united, and disciplined. It was strongly impregnated with communist doctrines and it was supportive of the government, ensuring the continuance of the regime. However, Mao’s Red Army was poorly equipped, which is reflected by the fact that Bamboo spikes were once their main weapon. Nevertheless, they had learned to perfect the art of Guerilla Warfare with which they showed the people that it was possible to achieve victory, even with fewer resources. Moreover, it depended upon the people themselves to organize battalions and other units, ultimately helping to unite the Chinese people for revolution. Consequently, the number of soldiers was rapidly increasing, because of the support the CCP was getting, especially from the peasants. To them, Mao offered a future. He was ordering his followers, and especially his army, not to harm the peasants. This group had been victims of attacks by the KMT and warlords, who would roam areas of China, free from authority. Now, there was finally a group of people to help them. Not to mention, the importance of Mao’s land reforms must be considered, as it involved turning China’s traditional social system and land ownership on its head. With regard to this, British historian, Jonathan Fenby explains: “in this reordering of the peasants’ world, peasants whose families had lived on or below the margin for generations got their revenge on those who had oppressed them.”. This is important, because Fenby sheds light on the symbolic interpretation of the CCP’s land reforms: it mirrors Mao’s success in achieving the central goal, where the peasants overthrow those standing above them. Because of the land reforms’ success, Mao came to represent a man, whose words could be trusted. Equally, it made the peasants fear Communist-loss, as it would mean that they would have to return their land to the landlords. Lastly, we know that the constitution of Maoism played a crucial in the CCP’s support-acquisition; however, the propaganda used to spread its awareness is of almost equal importance. The way in which the CCP used propaganda to speak to the masses, makes it evident that Mao was familiar with both the time and place in which he was acting, but also with the audience which he was addressing. Note, the majority of peasants were illiterate. Hence, the medium of communication was usually one that even a child could comprehend, like that of the propaganda posters which spoke to its spectators through visuals. Without further inspection, three things became obvious: generally, they all depict: an improved quality of life for the peasants, unification among the people of China, and modernization. Not to mention, Mao himself often appeared in these posters. Through this people came to associate him with China’s bright Communist future (depicted in the propaganda), eventually putting him at the center of the much-wanted revolution.  He became the man of the people, and the CCP was soon to be the defender of China. 

In conclusion, the Communists had won the Civil War, because of their inherent strengths which were a groundwork for support, but also because of the Nationalist failures which the CCP had used to their own advantage; essentially, everything that the KMT did wrong, the CCP did right. From the points made above, it becomes apparent that the KMT relied too much on its own strengths (which they had failed to utilize effectively) and failed to see the power of the people. 


Why did the Communists win the Civil War in China between 1945 and 1949?

In 1949 the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was declared, with Mao Zedong as the Chairman. However, when assessing the years leading up to this, the CCP’s victory was not definitive nor, to say the least, expected. The CCP’s opposing party, the KMT seemed to out surpass the CCP not only in terms of sheer size, funding but also in terms of foreign support. Where the communists had 900,000 soldiers the KMT had 2.7 million soldiers. In fact, in 1945 the KMT party leaders, Chiang Kai-Shek was instated as the ruler of China. Even Stalin himself agreed to this, showing the extent of lack of foreign support on behalf of the CCP. While this itself is a very controversial topic, where even today a definitive answer has not been found, a wide range of factors, leading up to Mao’s appointment, will be considered when answering this essay.

Modern China celebrates Mao’s victory of not only defeating the Japanese but also the KMT. Talk about the communist’s strength is a fundamental aspect taught in Chinese education today. While this holds true - to some extent - it is not the only factor which aided the CCP into power. Admittedly, the CCP trained their army to treat civilians well – a polar opposite to the KMT whose main interests lay in large cities, and attentions were not focused on the peasantry. Mao, on the other hand, understood that civilian, or in this case, peasant support was vital for the party’s success, and changed their traditional goal from “Communist worker’s revolution” to “Peasant’s revolution” early on in the campaign. The red army was instructed to compensate for peasant services and to encourage normality in the lives of an area or city’s population, even after it was claimed by their forces. Not only did they treat peasants well, but unlike the KMT, encouraged and supported the peasant’s views and opinions. This can be seen directly reflected in their propaganda posters, which pictured peasants and women in non-traditional roles. Moreover, only the upper (richer) twenty percent of population, under the CCP’s rule, were required to pay taxes. Moreover, Mao instated harsh policies against the rich, including rich landowning peasants. Chalmers Johnson argues that the main factor that lead to the communist’s victory was “on the basis of a loyal constituency of about 100,000,000 peasants during the war”, showing just how large of a factor the support of the population can be to aiding a party into power. This is directly reflected as the KMT found it hard to receive a sufficient amount of food and clothing to support their troops, as all their support was centred in the cities and not in the agricultural sector of China.

The Long March of 1934 is another aspect which helped Mao into power, a march that is comparable to the biblical story of Exodus, as Norman Low argues. It was a turning point for the communist party, which helped unify its people. Mao’s policies were favourable to the masses, as eighty percent of China’s population lived in rural areas. Not only did the CCP have the population’s support, but also used affective tactics such as guerrilla warfare (notably in 1946 under Lin Biao’s orders). During a visit to the Communist base in Nanking, American Naval Attaché, Major Carlson remarked that the CCP had “boundless confidence in their military strategy, and their ability to apply it”. This statement is especially vital, as he had a known bias towards the Communist party. Therefore, it can be seen that Communist strength, in terms of gaining support from the majority of the population, their overall organisation and warfare tactics as well as their propaganda aided the Communist party in rising to power by late 1949.

The idea of the solely the communist’s strength being the main factor which aided in their victory is, however, a less poplar view not only with the KMT but also with foreign (mainly western) historians. The general consensus among Western Historians is that it was the failure and weakness of the Nationalists that aided Mao into power – not the CCP’s inherent strength. In a US propaganda film ‘Why We Fight’ Chiang Kai-shek is depicted as a heroic leader of China. While the United States, did support the KMT for the majority of the civil war. President Harry Truman himself wrote (after the civil war was over) “the Chiangs, the Kungs and the Soongs [were] all thieves," as they had taken $750 million in US aid, all futile with the KMT’s corrupt regime. This only highlights that the inability of KMT to use their resources wisely are one of the main contributing factors to their final loss in 1949. The hyperinflation between 1937 to 1946 illustrates the massive inability of the KMT to work affectively. William H. Hinton stated that it was “not internal contradictions but external pressures were the decisive factor in both these revolutions”. Which reflects the general consensus of the Nationalistic opinion of their own fall. This includes a hindrance in the KMT’s relationship with the US, leading to the suspension of American aid, which caused a great decrease in the KMTs power, as their main supply was cut off. As a result of this the KMT were less able to carry out successful assaults against the KMT.

Moreover, Scott and Howard Boorman, in their journal article “Chinese Communist Insurgent Warfare, 1935-49”, state that “the incompetence, disunity, and inefficiency of many Chinese Nationalist military commanders during the 1935-1949 period unquestionably contributed to the victory of the insurgents”. Leader Chiang Kai-Shek even admits that there was wide spread corruption in the KMT which lead to one aspect of their failure. However, the KMT did blame the foreign intervention, mainly of the US, as a major contribution to their fall. It must be noted that he did, however, appoint his workers, not according to their ability, instead by their loyalty towards him. When China was finally taken over by the communist party, newspapers in America not to mention Truman himself called it the ‘Fall of China’, as despite their best efforts to prevent a rise in Communism, it did eventually fail.

It must be noted that while the KMT did have moral, the majority of them were forced into conscription, and not paid fairly due to the wide-spread corruption of the party. Moreover, Chiang Kai-Shek himself stated that while “The Japanese are a disease of the skin, the Communists are a disease of the Heart”. This only shows how he put most of his effort into defeating the communists and ignoring, the debatably, larger issue in China at the time, being the Japanese. This did not sit well with the Chinese population who were suffering extensively at the hands of the Japanese. The issue of his neglecting of the Japanese was to such an extent that his own subordinates kidnapped him in an attempt to force a change in his policies to emphasise the Japanese instead of the CCP. This is known as the Xi’an incident in 1936.

Therefore, it can be seen that there is no definitive answer as to exactly how the communists won the Civil War. Many different factors attributed to this, and it has been argued that views differ drastically from one another. While the communists believe that the main factor that helped the victory of the CCP was their own strength, the foreign historians and influential people such as Truman (at the time) believed that it was primarily the weakness of the Nationalists. Lastly the KMT blamed the interference of the foreign nations, mainly the US, as one of the primary factors contributing to their loss – however they do note their own failures and weaknesses as well. Therefore, it can be seen that there can truly never be a singular answer to the question of exactly how the communists came to win the Civil War.


On October 1st 1949 the Chinese Communist Party led by Mao Zedong officially defeated the nationalist KuoMinTang led by Chiang Kai Shek and proclaimed the People’s Republic of China. How was this possible when the KMT not only outnumbered the CCP’s army 3 to 1 but, also had absolute control of the skies and foreign aid from the Soviets and Americans? This essay will argue that it was not the strength of the communists, but the weakness of the KMT that led to a Communist victory in the civil war.

The KMT’s weakness in regard to failing to appeal to the peasant population resulted in a Communist victory in the civil war. Firstly, the KMT’s officials appointed by Chiang Kai Shek took no regards towards the traditional ways of peasants’ living and imposed their own will onto the population. The KMT had by the beginning of the civil war in 1945 already been in power for a decade in which they had shown their inefficiencies and self-serving ideals. This made them very unpopular with the peasantry who were angered by their flawed tax system and hyperinflation caused by the printing of large sums of money, as this deflation of money caused by the establishment of the central bank hit agriculture and industries hard. Due to this the KMT tax officials were soon to be known as the “XiXueChong” (blood sucking devils). On the other hand, the soldiers of the CCP were talked about in stories as heroically leading charges against the Japanese. The reason as to why the peasantry was such an important factor in determining who would win the civil war is because they made up 85% of the population and if persuaded they could serve as a valuable ally to gather intelligence and fight in the army. The importance of the peasantry is supported by the American historian James Sheridan, whos key argument is that the support of the peasantry was vital for the victory of the CCP. After his failed success in the early years of the civil war Chiang Kai Shek turned more and more towards the seizing of land and the arresting and executing of protestors, which resulted in an almost total loss of support. This peaked in August 1938 where in the city of Shanghai, people were beheaded and shot on the streets by the KMT troops. The CCP was able to use these incidents to appeal to the masses through propaganda by claiming to be liberating the country from this regime and create a Peoples Republic of China. The newly strengthened support of the CCP by the peasantry and now one could argue the majority of the population gave them the strength to defeat the armies of the Nationalists and win the war.

Another weakness of the KMT which ensured a Communist victory in the civil war in China was its army and leadership. To begin with, the nationalist leadership who were personally appointed by Chiang Kai Shek were not done so based on experience or ability, but rather due to their loyalty. This meant that in military tactics the KMT were weaker than the CCP. However, their army still outnumbered the Communists three to one and they occupied the major cities, where the CCP was held up in Manchuria. The problem is that the KMT’s army was mainly made up through forced conscription. Soldiers were often kidnapped by the “recruiting squad” or drafted against their will. Their discipline was maintained through beating. They had a lack of both food and clothing as the KMT had spent 70% of its reserves paying to build up this army. They were also all poorly trained in comparison to their Communist opponents. All of this led to frequent desertions from the nationalist army as there was a lack of loyalty not only in the basic soldiers but in the officers as well. By the later years of the war the moral had become so bad that the soldiers were tied together with rope whilst marching in order to stop defection from the army. This along with Chiang’s lack of money, lack of support and weak strategy meant that the communists were able to defeat the nationalists in the three major conflicts, which as argued by Michael Lynch, “may be judged to have determined the military outcome of the conflict.” In November 1948, the Nationalists were defeated at Mukden resulting in the loss of northern China. A month later the Communists would defeat the KMT at the crucial railway junction at Hsuchow. Finally, by January 1949 Beijing would also fall to the Communists and by then the nationalists were a spent force and Chiang was preparing to flee to Taiwan.

However, one must also take into consideration how the strengths of the CCP lead to them winning the civil war in China. In comparison to the KMT the CCP had far superior tactics when it came to battle. The Communist and seasoned general Zhu De was in charge of the People’s liberation army and due to the fact that he was outnumbered by the KMT, he helped develop and modernise a new form of warfare. This guerrilla warfare involved highly mobile, self-sufficient and flexible forces fighting using attrition against strategic targets, rather than fighting the traditional massed battles. It allowed the Communists to wear down the enemies and disrupt supply and communication lines without having to face them in a head on battle which they would’ve lost. Soon all CCP troops learnt Mao’s Mantra which summed up the form of warfare and it states, “when the enemy advances we retreat. When the enemy escapes we harass. When they retreat we pursue. When they tire we attack.” However, this strategy would not have been possible without the loyalty of Mao’s army and the support of the peasant population. Mao was able to gather the support of the civilians through his promises. He presented the ideals of equality, land reform which the peasants desired most of all after the Warlord era, the lowering of taxes and the re-allocation of power. The CCP was also able to gather support from the peasants through the use of propaganda which exaggerated the failings of the KMT and showed the communists as brave soldiers fighting for the people. The name of the army alone, the people’s liberation army, made the peasantry feel as though they were fighting for the people and for China. The result of this is that in the conflicts in Manchuria, often the KMT would be sabotaged by the civilian populations. The Red army was simply the positive counterpart to the negative image of the KMT and that message could be easily understood even by the peasants.

In conclusion the weaknesses and the failings of the nationalist KMT was what ultimately led to a Communist victory in the Chinese Civil war between 1945 and 1949. However, one cannot disregard the strengths of the CCP which enabled them to defeat an army that was 3 times the size. Alternatively, nowadays one could argue that the Communists position after the defeat of Japan meant that there was never any doubt that the CCP was going to triumph over the KMT after WW2.


Why did the Communists win the Civil War in China between 1945 and 1949?

Four years before Mao Zedong, on October 1st 1949, victoriously proclaimed the birth of the People’s Republic of China, triumph was, in fact, predicted to favor the Nationalists. With a military might of 2 million soldiers, twice the size of the CCP’s army, and pragmatic backing by the Soviets and Americans, Nationalist victory seemed infallible. How, one must ask, were the Communists thus able to overcome these unfavorable odds? The essence of their triumph lay in their ability to grip and raise the spirit of their people. As Mao Zedong professed on the dawn of the ensuing civil war, “we Communists are like seeds and the people are like the soil…we must unite with the people, take root and blossom among them.” Though Mao’s statement was likely infused with persuasive interpretation of true events, aimed at increasing the party’s morale, the message nevertheless rings true. Atop the China that had been broken over centuries of hierarchical tyranny and foreign intervention, Mao and his comrades were to build a new Communist nation, uniting the country and its people under traditional values to raise them out of bourgeois oppression. This essay will be guided by exploration of the Communist, Western, and Nationalist perspective on this question, with sustained reference to Mao’s emphasis on unity.

The Communist view on the outcome of the Chinese Civil war naturally emphasizes the social and military strengths of the CCP. A leading motif in their tactics was the image of unity, especially highlighted amidst the ranks of soldiers and peasants. Mao not only recognized the peasantry as a dominant demographic whose favor was essential to victory, as in the 1940s they constituted 80% of the Chinese populous, he further appreciated that Communism as it had manifested in the Soviet Union had to be adapted to the socio-political conditions of China. Instead of continuing on the conventional Communist path of a worker’s revolution, Mao had, even 10 years prior to the Civil War, begun to light the fuse of a peasant revolution. Whilst one must consider the lack of historiography’s consideration of the personal opinions of the peasant class, the persuasion of Mao’s party was apparent. Propaganda posters – a means widespread and highly effective in inciting public morale – did not only bear the of soldiers and peasants, but also other minority groups that, in Communism, saw a guided path towards national unity and prosperity. Looking at some of the propaganda posters of the time, one sees that young women, for instance, were openly portrayed in quite untraditional roles such as fighter pilots or infantrymen. The inferior social standing of women was here, for the first time, disregarded, as Mao even attempted to stop the subjugating tradition of foot binding in order to render women abler to fulfill military functions. The publicity brought by Red propaganda, however, was not the only immediate way to gain support from China’s populous. “Wherever our comrades go they must build good relations with the masses, be concerned for them and help them overcome their difficulties…we must unite with the masses,” Mao wrote in 1945. This sentiment was further reflected in his Eight Points, which precisely guided his military personnel how to carry out polite and respectful dealings with civilians. The personal engagement exhibited by the Red soldiers, regardless of what class was dealt with, enabled the Communists to amass great popularity with the wider people of China. The practice of struggle sessions, the implementation of land reform and literacy programs, and the removal of the feudal system in agricultural society became essential to the victory of the CCP in that it portrayed the party as a force of unity, practicing open nationalism under the beloved values of traditional China. It was tactics such as these that provided Mao with a highly effective military force, set apart from the forcibly conscripted and trained soldiers of the KMT by their will to fight and an inherent passion that pervaded the battlefield. As expert historian in the field of Modern China, Edwin Moise argues that though the Nationalist forces held quantitative superiority, this was merely “a case of the sheep outnumbering the wolves,” grasping the underlying strength harbored by the Communists in the unity and unfaltering morale persisting in their soldiers.

A complex and multi-faceted perspective, the Western view originates from the conflictions of international support given to China during the years of the Civil War. On the one hand, the US government felt an obligation to endorse the Nationalists to avoid any display of positivity towards a Communist fighting force, at the risk of being portrayed as ideological hypocrites. On the other hand, there were American reporters like Edgar Snow who, already in the 1930s, had reported back of the spirit of revolution and enthusiastic morale that was being inspired by the Communists. His book, Red Star over China, evoked public sympathy towards Mao and the Red Army that spread throughout the West. Due to the fact that Communism could not be openly supported whilst Nationalism was viewed as progressively destructive, historiography has settled on placing blame for Communist victory on the failures of the KMT, so as to remain faithful to political perspective in wartimes. One such historian is the American John Fairbanks, arguing adamantly that Nationalist weakness is a factor conveniently overlooked by previous historiographical study. Rather, reasons for the outcome of the Civil War were focused on the microcosmic Yenan and its core of Communist leaders, and how victory originated here. Central to the failure of Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalists was their inability to unite the people under shared morale, leading to both public distrust and decreased army efficiency. Conscription and taxation of the lower classes, in particular the peasantry, painted the KMT as nothing more than a continuation of Qing dynasty oppressors, who believed that the unpopular social hierarchy should remain in place. As Fairbanks recounts, the Nationalist training camps, “that tried to indoctrinate [soldiers] with loyalty to the Three People’s Principles, only antagonized them.” But not only were soldiers force fed ideology that, on the contrary, the CCP soldiers learned and lived by heart, these very principles were adhered to falteringly by the KMT throughout the Civil War. The one principle laid out by Sun Yat-Sen that the party disregarded most evidently was Mínshēng, translated as the “welfare of the People”. Instead of working to unify their country, Nationalist leaders acted selfishly, pocketing American aid for personal luxuries and maintaining the favor of their main supporters, the businessmen and landlords of the upper classes, and lacked any consideration of China’s largest demographic: the peasantry. The observations of one US ambassador in June 1947, valuable in its first hand portrayal of the domestic social landscape, found that “Nationalist southern military forces and civil administrators conduct themselves as conquerors, not as fellow countrymen, and exploit the areas under their control.” Chiang Kai-Shek’s party became inherently detached from the true needs of the Chinese populous, losing valuable support and digging themselves further into popular distrust. One harrowing consequence of this disregard for civilian livelihoods came into being even before the start of the Civil War, in the late 1930s, when the corrupt distribution of economic aid resulted in acute hyperinflation. The number of notes in circulation in 1948 had increased by almost 400 million from 1937, as is portrayed expressively in a picture of the time, which, though depicting a middle class individual and hence limiting the portrayal of hyperinflation’s effects on all of society, shows the masses of banknotes that had to be carried home by civilians, as the cost of living became ever so harshly exaggerated. The KMT’s inability to handle the country’s economy evoked a heightened sense of distrust in the population, as their government became increasingly discredited, marking yet another failure by the party that rendered them exposed and unpopular and ultimately led to their defeat.

Nationalism is the third perspective considered here in light of its reasoning for the outcome of the Civil War. Instead of admitting to the party’s faults, KMT officials such as Chiang, himself, placed the blame of their defeat on foreigners, namely the effects of “Soviet interference and American irresolution.” Above all, the Nationalist’s reliance on and public bond to the West seemed like a betrayal to the people of China. Following decades of oppression under the British, German and French, the country’s own government was choosing to forgo its people’s wish for liberation from imperialist influence to take advantage of these historic bonds for which the country had suffered. Furthermore, the decrease in morale and anger after seven arduous years of having fought the Japanese, intensified by the lack of wages and sufficient food in the Nationalist military, led to widespread desertion. But not only did soldiers choose to abandon the KMT, a majority of deserters joined the CCP’s army, souring the odds against Nationalist victory. Argued by historian William Hinton, who, himself, abandoned his post for the Nationalists under the UN relief program to follow and live with the Communists, “not internal contradictions but external pressures were the decisive factor” in determining the CCP’s victory. Also the US and the USSR played an essential role in the defeat of the KMT. Receiving American loans and Soviet public praise, the Nationalists became dependent on the help of foreign nations: a tactic detested by their people and, in the end, proven to be fatal. In 1949, the US suspended its loans, further degrading the party’s economic state, while, a year earlier, Stalin had shifted his favorable support to the Communists, leaving Chiang, succumb to his role of former puppet to these foreign powers, and the KMT defeated. The CCP had, on the other hand, throughout the four years of civil war, stood on its own, flourishing under the faith instilled in it by the people of China, and free from obligation to any pragmatic foreigners. Instead of relying on external support, the Communists had built its political might domestically and hereby gained the legitimacy that had been lacking in Nationalist leadership.

To rule a country is to rule its people – the underlying sentiment that powered the socio-political, military, and economic strategies of the Communist party throughout its resilience amidst the unfavorable odds that had been stacked against them during the Chinese Civil War of 1945-1949. In its shrewd understanding of the fundamental power held by lower classes, the CCP cunningly targeted the needs and desires of the wider populous, harboring the might of the people at its back with the promise of unity that the KMT was progressively neglecting. The seeds with which Mao chose to symbolize the Communists sprouted into flourishing blossoms only by planting themselves into the very spirits and desires of the Chinese people, pathing the way to their ultimate victory.