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Ian_Lee

Motive for intervention in the Korean War

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Ian_Lee

Thanks for so much additional discussion about this topic after I started it a long time ago.

But now I hesitate to continue engaging discussion on this topic.

Why?

Because some posters are very emotional on this topic. Frankly I don't understand why discussion on an event that happened over 50 years ago can arouse some posters' temper.

Anyway, what I suggested was just a hypothesis. And so far some posters just cited non-PRC source to refute it. But how could western military historians know about Mao's mindset?

Unless PRC declassifies its archived confidential documents on Korean War, my hypothesis could be valid. Or if South Korean spies succeeded to steal them (which they have tried in vain), otherwise my hypothesis is a possibility but not nonsense.

I have to add certain point that it is true just before the massive invasion launched by the North on June 22, 1950, there were skirmishes along the 38 degree parallel. Just on the eve of the attack, the Southern army intruded on the western Haeju area.

But judged by the scale of attack, the North had been preparing a full scale invasion rather than just skirmishes.

Another point is that emboldened by Stalin and Mao, Kim Il Sung might yearn for unification in 1950.

But hardly was that the case with the Seoul government. In fact, President Rhee was alleged to assassinate the other pro-unification political leader Kim Ku (See my other topic on Kim Ku:

http://www.chinese-forums.com/viewtopic.php?t=1335).

Finally, I wonder why so many posters were so angry about MacArthur's proposal to nuke Manchuria. Remember that was war time and as a military leader, MacArthur would propose any daring scheme just to win the war. But of course such scheme was vetoed by President Truman.

On the other hand, after the Chen Po Island Incident in 1969, Brezhnev thought of nuking China. Without US opposition, Beijing might have been turned into ashes! But how come nobody was mad about Brezhnev?

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Cyberian

Your hypothesis need a lot more research. I can pick up some things on your work that lacks logic even thought I am no historian.

Unless PRC declassifies its archived confidential documents on Korean War, my hypothesis could be valid. Or if South Korean spies succeeded to steal them (which they have tried in vain), otherwise my hypothesis is a possibility but not nonsense.

1. The Korean War is not over. Materials released can hurt the PRC-DPRK relationship.

2. The PRC is not going to release the documents just so that you can prove your hypothesis. :roll:

3. Why would the South try to steal the documents? Are the documents from half a decade back going to reveal any plans of the present?

But judged by the scale of attack, the North had been preparing a full scale invasion rather than just skirmishes.

As opposed to the South, who were just singing and dancing in harmony?

You make it sound like this was unpredicatable. And that the South was totally off guard.

Geez, the two Koreas are divided and each side had their own vision of reunification. It was the beginning of the Cold War, and each of the Koreas was backed up by a super power. Who could have thought one of the Koreas would invade the other! :conf:roll:

On the other hand, after the Chen Po Island Incident in 1969, Brezhnev thought of nuking China. Without US opposition, Beijing might have been turned into ashes! But how come nobody was mad about Brezhnev?

No, Beijing would have not. Because:

1. It is unpopular to attack capitals. Especially in significant countries. The USA did not want to nuke Tokyo because of this.

2. Relationship would be hard to mend for the two countries, if capitals are attacked.

3. The Soviets hinted to attack Lop Nor not Beijing. Lop Nor is a nuclear test site in Xinjiang. 0 military base, 0 government building, 0 personnel. Even if it was bombed, it only would have served as a warning.

4. MacArthur wanted to nuke Shanghai, but Truman told him to shut up. Brezhnev only hinted about nuking a Chinese nuclear test site.

5. It is suppose to be the Zhen Bao Island AKA the Damansky Island.

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Ian_Lee

Cyberian:

You are entitled to your own opinion that the South intended to invade the North like the way the North actually invaded on June 22, 1950.

No comment.

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Cyberian

Of course I am entitled to my own opinion just as you are entitled to yours as well as others are entitled to theirs.

I do not see why you had to mention that.

Each of Koreas was pointing the gun at the other, and each side was taking cover behind the super powers' leg like a little brother. If the North didn't invade, the South would have.

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sunyata

thank you Cyberian for your refreshing perspectives...

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Itchyfeet
Because some posters are very emotional on this topic. Frankly I don't understand why discussion on an event that happened over 50 years ago can arouse some posters' temper.

Ian_Lee, I honestly did not mean any offense. Yes I called your hypothesis "nonsense." However, such language is par-for-the-course in normal debates on history, and was not meant to be personal. Perhaps it sounded emotional, but it was simply a rejection of your idea (but not of the value of your starting the topic). Anyway, I apologise if I offended you.

Actually, I also had something to say about Chinese sources, but just as I was about to post something on this my computer crashed or something. I will try to get this up later today when I get the chance, ie the fact that there ARE declassified PRC materials available on the subject.

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Itchyfeet

As promised:

Contrary to what some posters may think, China has released some previously declassified material on China's role and entry into the Korean War. The quality of this material is limited by the fact that the releases have been selective; there is no Chinese equivalent to the Freedom of Information Act or Mandatory Declassification Reviews in their archival processes (as exist in the US National Archives system). Historians have off-set this problem slightly - but by no means entirely - by utilising other sources (eg memoirs, other archives, oral histories, unclassified sources such as speeches and editorials, etc etc), to compare against the limited archival record they have access too.

Chen Jian's 1994 book China's Road to the Korean War: The Making of the Sino-American Confrontation, was largely based on these newly available Chinese sources. As he wrote:

Since the mid-1980s, thanks to China's reform and opening policies, many fresh and meaningful materials concerning China's entry into the Korean War have been released, which offer the basis for this study.

However, he also admits:

While it is apparent that these sources have created new opportunities for fresh studies, it is also clear that they were released on a selective basis and, sometimes, for purposes other than a desire to have the truth known. Indeed, unless scholars, both Chinese and non-Chinese, are offered free and equal access to the original historical documentation, there is always the possibility that a study might be misled by its incomplete databases.

The above quotes, a brief synopsis of Chen's argument, and a useful little historiography of western studies of the PRC entry into the war, see:

http://wwics.si.edu/index.cfm?topic_id=1409&fuseaction=library.document&id=241

Also, Ian_Lee, it might interest you to know that Chen does see an important domestic political dimension in Mao's decision to enter the war, though it is not the same as your hypothesis. He basically suggests that beyond issues of national security, Mao saw the future of the international revolution at stake in Korea, and by extension to future of the Chinese revolution.

http://wwics.si.edu/index.cfm?topic_id=1409&fuseaction=library.document&id=468

I guess you could take this another step and say he was trying to marginalise elements at home whose communist credentials were not up to scratch, but I still can't agree with the idea that he used the battlefield to liquidate "the enemy within."

Still, I concede your point: if this was a consideration in Mao's thinking, even a secondary one, (although I seriously doubt it was) and if evidence did exist in the Chinese sources, the key-holders to the Chinese archives would unlikely make it available to researchers at this time

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Ian_Lee

Itchyfeet:

I accept your apology.

And I am grateful for all the links provided (But I need some time to study them). I am always open-minded to input from new sources.

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bhchao
Finally, I wonder why so many posters were so angry about MacArthur's proposal to nuke Manchuria. Remember that was war time and as a military leader, MacArthur would propose any daring scheme just to win the war. But of course such scheme was vetoed by President Truman.

Astonishment is more like it.

No question MacArthur was a brilliant general. His island-hopping strategy in the Pacific, his adept administration of the postwar occupation of Japan, and finally Inchon proved his remarkable abilities. He knew his Asian history. One of the reasons he pointed out for his idea of Inchon as an amphibious landing site, was that the Japanese planned to enter Korea via Inchon in 1592, due to the port's strategic proximity to Seoul.

But MacArthur clearly wasn't thinking after the Chinese intervened. I presume that he was acting more out of emotion and for the sake of his own ego after the intervention. The overnight success of his Inchon victory was completely erased by the Chinese Communist invasion. So he became very angry and began to act irrationally, calling for the bombing of Chinese cities and a naval blockade of China.

Did he think about the consequences of using 50 atomic bombs to "spread a radioactive belt" across Manchuria? I think not. Such a move would have spread radiation fallout across China and across the entire Korean peninsula as well. The region would have been poisoned for many decades. UN troops would have been sickened. Also it would have devastated US-China relations all the way to the present time.

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Itchyfeet
Did he think about the consequences of using 50 atomic bombs to "spread a radioactive belt" across Manchuria?

Another consequence he obviously did not consider, and a more immediate one, would have been the dsintegration of the UN alliance in Korea. Truman had once said that he reserved all military options in Korea, including, presumably, the tactical use of nuclear weapons. It was a fairly boilerplate statement in the sense that no US president has ever ruled out the reserve option of nuclear weapons as such, but I believe the British were prompted by the statement to quietly inform Washington that they would find any use of nuclear weapons in pursuit of objectives in the war unacceptable.

I presume that he was acting more out of emotion and for the sake of his own ego after the intervention.

Yeah, I think a good argument could be made that MacArthur had more or less lost the plot by this stage. He was completely out of touch with the thinking in the US (dominated by concepts of containment strategy and 'limited war'), since he had not been home for so many years. MacArthur never seems to have come to grips with the reality of war in the nuclear age -- otherwise, how could he have contemplated tactical nuclear strikes on China when the Soviets were clearly obligated by the 1950 Sino-Soviet treaty to respond in kind. As to ego, up until Eisenhower's nomination for the Republican candidacy for the 1952 Presidential, MacArthur still entertained thoughts of becoming president. He obviously wanted a clear cut victory in KOrea to put on his resume; as you might recall, when he returned home after his controversial dismissal by Truman, he based his attacks on the Truman administration on the idea that there was "no substitute for victory." In closed congressional hearings his ideas of taking the war to China were subjected to close analysis and rejected as highly dangerous (ie leading to a nuclear escalation). Unfortunately, at the time this part of the hearings had to remain classified, so MacArthur was able to persist in his claim that he could have taken the war to China and won it without severe consequences for US security.

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PheonixUK

I have read some books that support the notion that Mao used the Korean war to dispose of thouse who difected from the KMT. I have forgotten the titles though

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bhchao

Actually both Mao and Chiang kept their "core ideological" fighting force in the rear while using other "miscellaneous" troops for the front lines.

Mao using former KMT troops to face UN firepower first was similar to Chiang's deployment of warlord troops on the frontlines during the extermination campaigns against the communists in the early 1930's, while keeping his core Nationalist army in the rear.

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bhchao

Mao disposing defected KMT troops first should not be hard to believe at all, although more concrete evidence is needed. He always placed a high emphasis on ideological purity.

Remember Mao's spat with Deng in which Deng replied "It doesn't matter whether the cat is black or white. As long as it catches mice."? Mao became angry. This kind of mindset would be the same kind of mindset that disposes of troops who were not originally CCP.

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Ian_Lee

Though nobody wants to recall the unhappy past, the concurrent political campaign waged in China with the Korean War in early '50s was the "3-anti" and "5-anti".

During those political campaigns, the political objective was to purge the "Black-5 category".

Who belonged to the "Black 5 category"?

Landowner -- anyone who owned an arable small plot;

Wealthy -- any shop owner in town or city (If Stephen Chow was really a candy shop owner in Shanghai in 1940s as portrayed in the popular movie "Kung Fu Hustle", then unfortunately Chow fit prefectly into this category.)

Opposition -- Anyoine dared oppose CCP policy

Bad Guys -- Triad, pimp, thieves, burglars,.....etc.

Rightist -- any KMT personnels who were left behind.

In many areas, a pre-fixed ratio of the population had to fall into such category and be purged.

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Cyberian

Why did you had to mention Stephen Chow? :roll: What does his role at the end of Kung Fu Hustle have to do with China's involvement in the Korean War?

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woodcutter

If you go to war with a super-power, there are a thousand and one things to consider, and the decision must be terribly difficult. The notion that Mao would make such a decision rubbing his hands and saying "heh heh heh now I can get rid of a few old KMT soldiers" is absurd.

Whether he made the most of an opportunity to do so is another thing.

Much the same applies to the launching of war time political campaigns, in my opinion.

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Ian_Lee

Woodcutter:

Of course there were a lot of other reasons that motivated Mao to participate in the Korean War just like Kublai Khan did not invade Japan merely because he wanted to get rid of the Sung soldiers.

But since the other motives have been explored for so many times, I just suggested another possible alternative motive which is so far seldom discussed.

Mao was the kind of exceptional leader that did not like to do things rationally. Judged from what he had done during his 27-year reign in China, I would say everything is a possiblity.

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39degN
Mao disposing defected KMT troops first should not be hard to believe at all, although more concrete evidence is needed. He always placed a high emphasis on ideological purity.

it's just 以小人之心度君子之腹, Mao has more ambitions than to treat some individuals, strickly speaking, he never treated individuals as human being. he saw them as grass. what he wanted to do is to take over Stalin's place in so called communist international and then to effect the whole world. which cuased him was used by Stalin though. so, as you can see, without sending even one soldier to korea, Stalin achieved his goal--to fight US and the rest of the world meanwhile weakened the power of china.

哈哈,听起来象三国演义. (sounds like the Romance of three kingdom. )

it's all fiction, haha

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woodcutter

I quite agree Mao was not exceptionally rational, and that is why I believe his romantic nationalism and imperialism is the thing which is truly underplayed. Nationalism is the kind of thing that makes you risk your neck, more so than plots to get rid of a few soldiers who were already beaten.

By the way, Mongols never needed any excuse to fight anybody, and I agree that the case is similar ie. getting rid of Song soldiers was hardly the issue!

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woodcutter

Look at it this way. Let's say the current Chinese leadership are very worried about an unreliable section of the army. Are they going to launch a war (say with Taiwan) to get rid of them? Not a chance. The consequences are utterly forseeable, both regarding a war, and the effect it will have on the military. Yet, looking backwards at the event and seeing certain annoying generals were destroyed, a historian may make such an argument.

On the other hand, could nationalism cause China to launch a war? Well, it might.

I also think, looking back at history, we have this tendency to see China as the giant chicken shaped entity it is now. At the time of the Korean war, the shape, nature and extent of the Chinese empire, and let's emphasize that word empire, had been in constant flux for as long as anyone could remember. The US troops in Korea were not "in Korea" from a traditional Chinese point of view. They were moving through a traditionally Chinese controlled area (now a communist ally) towards the capital of China. How could anybody who knew history not want to fight them? Mao Zedong was obsessed with history.

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