Korean War Model Essay
2017 (b) How did the People’s Republic of China – so soon after its foundation – come to be involved in the Korean War? What impact did this war have on China and the Chinese leadership?
Overall argument: China became involved in the Korean War due to perceived threat of US invasion and necessity to follow orders of Stalin due to financial and political support provided by the Soviet Union to the PRC. Korean war strengthened Mao’s leadership – US army could be defeated.
-US army neutralize Taiwan strait, Mao cannot invade
- Fear of US invading China via Korean border
- Chinese reliance on the Soviet Union
-Resist America aid Korea campaign
- Financial costs but military victories over US
-Strengthening of Mao’s leadership and beginnings of rift with Soviet Union (Stalin’s Death)
This essay argues that the PRC entered the Korean War due to the perceived threat of a US invasion alongside the need to demonstrate loyalty to the Soviet Union. The war had a profound impact upon the Chinese public who rallied around the war effort whilst the ability to repel the US army’s advance lent greater prestige to Mao and the Chinese leadership.
Since the founding of the PRC in 1949, both Mao and Stalin had feared the possibility of a US invasion. There were legitimate reasons for believing this. Indeed, the United States did not enter into diplomatic relations with the PRC believing that Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Party, exiled in Taiwan, was the legitimate government. Secondly, the US General Macarthur’s troops had not only crossed into North Korea but had advanced north of the Yalu river towards the Chinese border. Moreover, in June 1950, US President Truman sent a US naval fleet into the Taiwan strait, which prevented the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from launching an attack to ‘liberate’ the island of Taiwan which had been Mao’s original intention. As such, the dire state of international relations between China and the US was certainly a pivotal factor in China’s decision to enter into the Korean War in October 1950.
Further to this, China was heavily reliant upon the Soviet Union to provide vital technological expertise and aid to facilitate the rapid industrialisation of the Chinese economy. Given the threat from the US, Mao was inevitably drawn into even closer relations with the Soviet Union. Stalin had implored Mao to enter into the conflict but barely provided any support – no Soviet troops fought in the Korean War whilst Stalin went back on a promise to provide China with aircraft. In 1952, China proposed an armistice with the United States but this was blocked by Stalin and would only be signed after his death, which brought the conflict to an end. Consequently, the support of the Soviet Union, vital to a new-born nation with a predominantly agricultural economy, was instrumental in China’s decision to enter the Korean War. In terms of impact, the conflict prompted a worsening in Sino-Soviet relations.
Naturally, the conflict in Korea had a substantial impact upon the lives of everyday Chinese people. The CCP launched the mass campaign ‘Resist America, Aid Korea.’ Competitions between different danweibroke out as to how much could be raised for the war effort. According to a propaganda poster of the era, 3710 airplanes were funded by public contributions. The United States was infamously branded imperialist and a ‘paper tiger,’ a Chinese idiom Mao used to describe nations that appeared strong but were actually weak. As such, the Korean War enabled CCP domestic policies such as land reform to run smoothly with little opposition as all effort was put into the war which ordinary Chinese people felt was a justified course of action thanks to propaganda campaigns.
The bravery of the People’s Volunteer Army in Korea also provided the CCP with a propaganda victory as the US army were much better equipped in terms of technology. The majority of North Korea was regained just two months into the conflict in December 1950. This increased China’s prestige on the world stage and acted as a deterrent to other nations. Of course, this further encouraged public support for the conflict.
Notwithstanding, the Korean War involved heavy Chinese sacrifices, both financial and military. In 1950, the war accounted for 44% of the CCP’s total budget and a staggering 51% in 1951. Further to this, around 900,000 Chinese soldiers perished and the ultimate result of the Korean War was the simple reversion to the same partition line dividing the North and South as when the conflict started. Therefore, it is clear that the Korean War had a devastating impact on the Chinese economy and the families of many soldiers.
In conclusion, it was perhaps inevitable that China would enter the Korean War due to the wider international situation of economic dependency on the Soviet Union and the military threat of the United States. Whilst the Korean War ended in devastating losses with no tangible military gain, it cemented Mao’s status as a world leader, demonstrated the capabilities of the Chinese Army, solidified Communist ideology amongst Chinese citizens, and prompted a greater independence from the Soviet Union in the wake of Stalin’s death.