International Situation Model Essay

2012 (a)To what extent did the wider international situation (1937-1949) help to ensure that the Communist Party of China (CCP) won the Civil War, leading to the founding of the People’s Republic of China?

Essay Plan

Overall Argument: Sino-Japanese War helped CCP but no international allies during Chinese Civil War (Stalin limited help) - this was won due to GMD errors in military strategy and CCP appeal to peasantry resulting in greater domestic support.

Sino-Japanese War

-Rural Yan’an base for growth, little CCP involvement in conflict.

-Mao’s ironic thanks to Japanese ( they mainly targeted Nationalists)

-Dixie Mission left with positive impression of communists considered them potential leaders, even gave weaponry.

Civil War

-Nationalists received aid from US.

-CCP received only limited support from Stalin who did not think they would get into power.

- CCP support of domestic peasants’ popular policy of land reform - larger domestic support than Nationalists.

This essay will argue that the international situation during the Sino-Japanese War dramatically aided the growth of the CCP to the extent that they could militarily rival the Guomindang (GMD) during the Chinese Civil War. Notwithstanding, during the Civil War itself, the CCP had no major international ally, Stalin providing highly limited support. The Nationalist Party, on the other hand, had substantial support from the United States who furnished them with financial aid to defeat the Communists. However, the international situation wasn’t the only reason the CCP won the Civil War. They had popular domestic policies, and the GMD also made some strategic errors.  

Due to the ambitions of Japan to colonise the whole of China, Chiang Kai-shek had been forced into a United Front with the Communists, whom he had previously persecuted.  This gave the Communists a much-needed respite from fighting the Nationalists. Further to this, Japan principally targeted major Chinese cities controlled by the GMD. The Communist base of Yan’an was not a strategic priority for the Japanese. After the Long March, CCP forces had been depleted to just 7,000 from a small band of 90,000 to begin with. During their time in Yan’an in the midst of the Sino-Japanese War, CCP membership grew to 800,000 in 1940 whilst Mao developed his own brand of Chinese-inflected socialism. By the end of the conflict, the area under Communist control in the north of China had around 100 million people living in it. Mao ironically thanked the visiting Japanese Prime Minister in 1972 stating that if it had not been for Japan’s help, the Communists could not have defeated Chiang Kai-shek. As such, it is clear that the wider international situation of the Sino-Japanese War was a decisive factor in enabling the Communists to win the subsequent Civil War due to their capacity to regroup and grow.

Whilst the Communists took part in far less armed conflict than the Nationalists, many international observers, such as Edgar Snow and Agnes Smedley, visited their base in Yan’an and formed favourable impressions of Communist troops in comparison to their Nationalist counterparts in terms of their morale, organisation and military strategy. Although the Hundred Regiments Offensive against the Japanese in 1940 failed to push the enemy back, guerilla warfare was successful against the Japanese. On the international stage, the Communists were gradually gaining respect from various parties. This acclaim reached its height in the US Dixie Mission when an observation group came to Yan’an to live with the CCP. Members of the group such as John Service were impressed by the political and economic program of the CCP and their request for light weaponry as a deterrent to prevent Civil War with the Nationalists was granted. As such, the Communist propaganda machine was highly effective internationally speaking.

After the end of the Sino-Japanese War, the US were keen to avoid an outbreak of civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists, and brokered a meeting between Chiang and Mao. However, the two sides soon came to blows. Whilst the US hoped the Communists could be assimilated into the Nationalist party, when war broke out they backed the Nationalists fearing the spread of communism in Asia. The US government provided initial funds of $400 million to the GMD. As such, the CCP had lost a vital ally. As for the Soviet Union, Stalin continued to support the Nationalist Party despite having ideological affinities with Mao as a fellow communist. First of all, he simply believed the CCP lacked the military strength for victory. Secondly, Stalin feared that the US might intervene further in the Far East if there was a Communist victory in China. As such, given the international situation during the Chinese Civil War, the odds were firmly stacked against a Communist victory despite their rapid growth during the Sino-Japanese War.

Rather than benefit from the wider international situation, the CCP instead relied upon domestic support during the Chinese Civil War. Chiang’s policy of enforced conscription of peasants gained him many enemies who were, in turn, helpful to the Communists. The main ally of the CCP was the Chinese masses themselves, something which proved to be much more important than international intervention in terms of securing China’s fate. During the Civil War, the CCP made their policy of land reform applicable in all areas under their control, once again appealing to the rural peasantry who had previously been oppressed by landlords who were often GMD supporters. Moreover, Communist soldiers were much better behaved towards local civilians always paying for food and board, in turn inspiring more recruitment to the People’s Liberation Army. Conversely, many GMD soldiers were desperate for supplies, taking items from civilians without payment. This was compounded by many strategic errors on the part of the GMD such as occupying Manchuria where the Communists could wear troops down via guerrilla warfare. Consequently, there are several domestic factors that aided the Communist’s victory in the Civil War despite a hostile international environment.

In conclusion, the Sino-Japanese War was arguably the greatest factor in ensuring a Communist victory during the Chinese Civil War. This can certainly be attributed to the wider international situation as the Japanese primarily targeted the GMD as the government of Republican China. Given this state of affairs, the CCP were given the freedom to grow exponentially in size. Notwithstanding, during the Civil War the CCP were self-reliant without the international backing of the US, something that should have benefitted the Nationalist Party. Their victory can alternatively be attributed to errors in Nationalist military strategy and the domestic support of the Chinese masses.



International Situation Model Essay