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Communists poised for victory in China

The Story

A civil war is nearing its end in 1948 as Chinese Communists under Mao Zedong and the Nationalist Guomindang party under Chiang Kai-shek struggle for control of the country. Which party would make a better government for the country of 540 million? In this clip from the CBC Radio program Citizens' Forum, three Canadian observers of the situation debate the merits of each side. Former missionary A.J. Brace is a strong pro-nationalist. He believes that the ability and integrity of Nationalist leaders in China compare favourably with those of any leadership anywhere. Charles Gagan, of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Association, takes the opposite view. He says under the Communists, farmers are no longer beholden to greedy landlords. "In the Communist area, the people were so much happier," he says. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Citizens' Forum
Broadcast Date: Dec. 17, 1948
Guest(s): A.J. Brace, Charles Gayan, Edgar McInnis
Host: Frank W. Peers
Duration: 6:36

Did You know?

• Nationalist and Communist forces were originally united in their revolutionary struggle. But, in 1927, the Communists were exiled from the Nationalist Guomindang (KMT), which was by then led by Chiang Kai-shek.
• Members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) were forced underground. In a few regions they organized largely unsuccessful resistance efforts against the KMT. One such uprising, in Hunan province, was led by a party member named Mao Zedong.

• CCP members fled to remote regions of the country, where they regrouped and, in 1931, began recruiting local peasants for the party's Red Army. Under the Chinese Soviet Republic, a series of Communist-dominated regions, they sought to challenge the KMT for control.
• KMT attacks on the guerrillas in 1934 forced the CCP to retreat from its main stronghold and embark on the Long March to find a new base of operations.

• The Long March took the CCP, led by Mao and Zhou Enlai, from Jiangxi province in the south to Shaanxi province to the northeast.
• As many as 90,000 people took part in the Long March, which lasted a year and covered about 9,700 kilometres, much of it over mountains.
• About 20,000 people finished the march, the rest having died, dropped out or stayed behind as organizers. The rest set up a base in Shaanxi in October 1935.

• Chiang sent Manchurian soldiers to Shaanxi to fight the Communists. But the soldiers preferred to fight Japanese soldiers who invaded Manchuria in 1931.
• In late 1936, the Manchurian soldiers abducted Chiang. He signed an agreement with the Communists to present a united Chinese defence against Japan in 1937.
• At about the same time, the CCP ceased to take direction from the Soviet Union, paving the way for Mao's homegrown version of communism.

• Membership in the CCP grew steadily during the eight-year fight with Japan. By 1945 the party had 1.2 million members.
• A Canadian, Dr. Norman Bethune, travelled to China in 1938 to support the Communists in their struggle against Japan.
• With the end of the Second World War in 1945, hostilities between Communists and Nationalists began anew. But this time the CCP was much stronger.

• The United States intervened in the civil war, but neither side was interested in being faithful to the terms of the truce negotiated by General George C. Marshall.
• The Nationalists received aid and weapons from the United States. But by mid-1948, the Communist-controlled People's Liberation Army had taken much of northern China.
• In the spring of 1949 the PLA launched a major offensive using American weapons they captured from Nationalists.

• With a Communist victory assured, Chiang and his Nationalists fled to the island of Taiwan in late 1949.
• The Communists established the People's Republic of China on Oct. 1, 1949, with its capital in Beijing.
• In Taiwan, Chiang and the Guomindang continued to challenge the CCP's legitimacy as the government of China. Chiang vowed to one day reunite the two territories.

• In 1950, the anti-communist Taiwan was proclaimed the Republic of China. Under Chiang, Taiwan was a single-party state.
• Chiang died in 1975. His son, Chiang Ching-kuo, succeeded him as leader of Taiwan and was elected president by Taiwan's National Assembly in 1978.

Listen to a CBC Radio clip in which the ambassador to China describes the situation one month after the Communist takeover.
• Britain was the first Western power to recognize the new regime in China. Listen to a report about world reaction to the revolution.


Revolution and Evolution in Modern China more