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Who was steering the Long March, Mao or Chiang?


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bhchao

I have read in some sources that the Long March was steered by Chiang Kai-shek, who deliberately allowed the Communists to maneuver across the wide swath of terrain unhindered.

But If this is true, why would Chiang give the Communists breathing room if he wanted to become the undisputed ruler of China?

Given the fact that history is often written by the winner, who tend to exaggerate their own achievements while undermining the other side, it is quite possible that the Long March's "success" may not have resulted from Mao's own initiative, but rather from the decisions that Chiang made.

Liu Bang and his court historians may have done the same thing bashing the prior administration, the Qin, while boosting the achievements of the Han. Tang Taizong and his court historians may have also done the same thing with regards to Sui.

Chiang had command of the air at the time, with a German-trained air force. Mao's Communists were closely monitored by the Nationalists' air surveillance throughout the Long March. The Nationalists monitored their movements from the air, knew where they were heading, and could have easily devised plans to surround or wipe them out. Instead what the Communists encountered was limited "harassments" by the Nationalists from time to time.

Chiang made many dumb decisions during his lifetime. This may or may not be one of them depending on how you look at why he would do such a thing.

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wushijiao
But If this is true, why would Chiang give the Communists breathing room if he wanted to become the undisputed ruler of China?

According to Mao by Chang and Halliday, which is a source many might view as biased and unreliable and unscholarly, Jiang let Mao go because:

1) He wanted to take over Sichuan, Guizhou, and Yunnan. At the time warlords had control over these areas, not Jiang. By letting the communists into those areas, that would give the warlords no other choice than to let Jiang enter and take power. From these Southwest provinces, Jiang could build up China’s power and then fight Japan at a proper time.

2) The second reason is that Stalin had effectively kidnapped Jiang's son Jiang Jingguo. The Soviet Union wanted to work with Jiang while at the same time undermining him by giving support to the CCP. According to the book, because Jiang was willing to be coerced by Stalin through threatens to his son, Jiang never wanted that embarrassing coercion to go public, which might be another reason why the myth of the Long March triumphs were never exposed.

Anyway, who knows how much truth that contains.

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bhchao

Here is a source that says the battle at the Luding Bridge never happened:

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2006/03/10/2003296635

http://www.theage.com.au/news/book-reviews/the-long-march/2006/04/21/1145344265772.html

I read elsewhere that Mao scattered his forces in small groups and made them cross terrain in zig zag directions to confuse Guomindang forces.

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bhchao
2) The second reason is that Stalin had effectively kidnapped Jiang's son Jiang Jingguo. The Soviet Union wanted to work with Jiang while at the same time undermining him by giving support to the CCP. According to the book, because Jiang was willing to be coerced by Stalin through threatens to his son, Jiang never wanted that embarrassing coercion to go public, which might be another reason why the myth of the Long March triumphs were never exposed.

Although the above reason may sound preposterous, it cannot be discredited entirely. Stalin did have political clout over Chiang and Mao. Stalin had a realpolitik approach with the KMT and the communists, with the end desire of seeing the latter prevail at the end. Seeing the KMT and the communists unite against the Japanese, instead of fighting each other, suited Stalin well because it would prevent the Japanese from attacking the Soviet Union from the east in conjunction with German forces from the west.

This could explain why Chiang was spared in the immediate aftermath of the Xian Incident. Zhou Enlai was acting on instructions from Moscow by advising Zhang Xueliang to keep Chiang alive, which was in Stalin's best interest at the time.

Chang's book on Mao may have been biased and unscholarly. However it is not hard to imagine Mao wanting to kill Chiang at the time of his kidnapping. Mao had an opportunist mindset who knew when to spot opportunities and exploit them for his advantage. The Xian Incident was the perfect opportunity to eliminate his chief opponent.

Mao knew his history. At the Hongmenyan banquet during the Chu-Han war, Fan Zheng advised Xiang Yu to use the opportunity to kill Liu Bang. Xiang Yu hesitated and Liu Bang eventually prevailed at the end to become the undisputed ruler of China. Mao may not have been thinking about this specific event, but he would likely seize on these kind of opportunities.

Mao got lucky because Chiang was no Liu Bang.

I think it would be foolish for Chiang to go easy on the communists in the Long March because eventually he got tied down by the Japanese, and that prevented him from exterminating the communists.

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wushijiao
Stalin did have political clout over Chiang and Mao.

Well, the Soviet Union had a tremendous amount of power over the CCP because it was its source of money. Mao was Moscow’s favorite, and that is one of the main reasons he came to power. Of course, Mao would logically bury the idea that the main reason he came to power was that he was the Soviet Union’s puppet. Although, one has to credit Mao in that he very effectively used the Soviet Union’s money and military for his (and China’s) interests. Of all the western imperialist powers, the Soviet Union was the country that received the most benefits from China’s natural resources. In addition to the USSR getting to use Xinjiang and Manchuria and “spheres of influence”, the USSR also received, “a monopoly on all of China’s “surplus” tungsten, tin, antimony for fourteen years, thus depriving China of the chance to sell about 90% of its marketable raw materials on the world market into the mid 1960’s” (Mao, p. 354).

I think it would be foolish for Chiang to go easy on the communists in the Long March because eventually he got tied down by the Japanese, and that prevented him from exterminating the communists.

I agree that Jiang should have wiped them out while he had the chance. I also agree that Jiang was no Liu Bang, but Mao had the solid support of the Soviet Union on his side, while Jiang had a wavering US. Mao was also clever in the sense that he let the KMT and the US do most of the large-scale fighting against the Japanese, while he the CCP stayed back and consolidated power, resources, and personnel. 坐山观虎斗!

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Mao was Moscow’s favorite

Did the Soviet leaders like Mao? I know the Comintern was responsible for funding the CPC and for the ascent in the ranks of the party of a lot of leaders (names like Qu Qiubai, Li Lisan, Wang Ming or Bo Gu come to mind), but did they ever really support Mao?

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wushijiao
Did the Soviet leaders like Mao?

The simple answer is “yes”. According to Mao, again, Stalin personally backed Mao over Zhu De fairly early on (Aug. 1929). Part of the reason is that Mao was considered a “winner”, in that he had successfully created a base in the Jinggang area, which he did without authorization. Nonetheless, many communists were ineffectual intellectuals compared to Mao. Second, some of the more prominent communists, such as Chen Duxiu (陈独秀) were sympathetic to Trotsky, and they also were criticizing Soviet privileges in Manchuria (p. 72-3).

The relationship had ups and downs though. For example, “Years later, Molotov was asked, “We knew (what Mao was doing to us) and we still helped Mao?” To which Molotov replied, “Right. Yes, Yes. I know that it is hard for you to understand. But you must not look at things in such a stark way.” “We looked like fools, but, in my opinion, we were not fools” (p. 237) That quote is in reference to Mao’s refusal to fight the Japanese.

Also, the authors give a general summary of the Stalin-Mao relationship: “Indeed, even though they were at odds, Stalin and Mao understood each other perfectly. Their relationship was based on brutal self-interest and mutual use, and they shared the same long-term goals. However much Mao’s actions displeased the Kremlin, Stalin never for one moment ceased doing business with him” (p. 237).

Again, that is according to just one source, which has a strong anti-Mao bias, but it seems that most of the book’s Sino-Soviet history is well sourced, usually from original documents.

Anyway, I'm now reading Ross Terrill's Chinese edition of Mao: A Biography. I'm just getting into the mid 1920's, so it'll be interesting to see to what degree he emphasizes Soviet backing in Mao's rise to power.

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