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History
China: An Unkind Century

Author:  John Tkacik John Tkacik has spent four decades studying and working on China, Taiwan and Mongolian affairs in academia, in the U.S. Department of State, in private business, and with The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He was the editor and primary contributing author of two books, “Rethinking One China” (2004) and “Reshaping the Taiwan Strait” (2007), both published by Heritage.

The Twentieth Century was unkind to the Chinese people. It began with the collapse in 1911 of the last imperial dynasty after decades of corruption, inept governance and social disintegration. From the wreckage of empire, provincial warlords struggled for power and profit at the expense of the people.

The West demanded an "Open Door" to China to assure free access for European and American trade in China's markets regardless of which warlord was in charge, or where. Japan saw itself as the savior of its ancient cultural origins (and its lucrative markets) by moving into China's power vacuum to command it by force of arms – and, in the process, to keep out Westerners. China's Nationalists wanted to unite the nation and throw out the foreigners.

The Origins of Chinese Communism

The small Chinese Communist Party, a creation of Moscow, proclaimed that the nation's poor must unite and destroy the wealthy. In 1923, the Comintern in Moscow ordered the 420 CCP members in China – mostly labor organizers famous for violent protests in China's hinterland cities – to join China's Nationalist Party, itself a political party of Leninist organization if not ideology.

Under the aegis of the Nationalists, the CCP thrived, secretly recruiting over 57,000 members by the spring of 1927, a figure that alarmed the Nationalist chief, Chiang Kai-shek, who himself was planning a military campaign against China's warlords and unite China as a socialist power. In May of that year, Chiang crushed the Communists in Shanghai, killing thousands and sending the CCP leadership into hiding. Mao, however, escaped the purge – he had been organizing peasants in mountainous southeast China and commanded the only serious armed force under CCP control – eventually liquidating 4,400 CCP fighters of doubtful loyalty (the so-called "Anti-
Bolsheviks") at Futian, Jiangxi, in December 1930. 1 Violence had become a hallmark of Mao's political theory – after all, Mao famously declared, "A revolution is not a dinner party . . . it is an act of violence by which one class overthrows another." 2

Over the next five years, nearly surrounded by Chiang's armies in five separate "encirclement campaigns," the core of Mao's forces ultimately eluded destruction in 1935, fleeing in the legendary (if not wholly mythical) "Long March" first west, then north, to sanctuary near the Soviet-controlled Gobi Desert. In 1937, Japan, which had occupied Manchuria in 1932 and had formed alliances with several Chinese provincial warlords, attacked troops loyal to Chiang at the Marco Polo Bridge near Peking (instigated, some say, by the CCP), thus diverting the Nationalist's campaign away from the escaping Communists. 3

China's Civil War 1945-49

For the next decade, until the end of the Second World War, generally free from Chiang's threat, Mao's communists governed their base areas and a population of several tens of millions with a combination of populism mixed with violence against "enemy classes" (landlords, petit bourgeoisie and the like). Mao remembered that, without the respite offered by the Japanese invasion, his communists would likely have been defeated.

"In the past, Japan attacked China, and occupied the better part of China. There are now some Japanese capitalist class representatives who see us and say: We are deeply sorry, we in the past had aggressed against you all. I said: No, if it weren't for your aggression and your occupation of the better part of China. We could not have been victorious; your aggression stirred up the entire Chinese people to rise and oppose you. It was only because of Japan's occupation of the better part of China that the Chinese people all therefore rose up." 4

Not for nothing did Mao's armies resolutely avoid major fighting against Japan in World War II. 5 They were well- positioned in large guerrilla units throughout the countryside in Japanese-occupied Manchuria and North China where they stayed out of the way of regular Japanese troops.

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China
Location:  East Asia
Capital:  Beijing
Communist Rule:  1949- Present
Status:  Under Communist Rule
Victims of Communism:
65 million