The Japanese Surrender and the Marshall Mission:
After the Japanese surrendered in WWll, the United States occupied many ports and transported many GMD troops to Japanese and Communist-controlled areas. The United States was highly anti-Communist and wanted to keep China’s government in the hands of the Nationalists. In Manchuria, the Soviet Union assisted the Communists in gaining some control. The GMD had many problems when trying to regain control, including stabilizing currencies and keeping consistent punishments for Japanese puppet officials.
The United States attempted to push for reunification of China and facilitated conversations between the leaders of the GMD and the Communist party. While it seemed as if the leaders came to somewhat of an agreement, the local militias and troops continued to have skirmishes. President Truman of the USA still believed there was a way to avoid a civil war, so after Ambassador Hurley resigned, Truman sent General George Marshall over to work things out. On paper, there was peace and hope, but the military clashes continued.
Tensions between China and the United States rose because of both military and civilian attacks until Marshall decided his mission was a failure and left the fate of China to the Chinese.
Land Reform and the Manchurian Base:
The CCP was able to gain control in the north of China because of its ability to enter poor communities and make the peasants turn on the rich. The poor latched onto the Communists’ ideals and attack the wealthy and disliked in the community and redistribute their land to the peasants. In other areas of China, however, especially the northeast and central parts, the threat of returning landlords was always there. Forty-nine counties occupied by the Communists were taken back over by the GMD.
In Manchuria, Communists went into hiding during the war, but slowly resurfaced after Japan’s surrender. Guerrilla groups formed and joined up with the Eighth Route Army. As they explored cities, they found weapons and equipment that the Soviet Union had left behind. They also found out that the Soviets had taken a lot of food and machinery from Manchuria, including top-line equipment from laboratories, hospitals, and power generators. The Communist guerrilla groups still were not strong enough to maintain a presence in southern Manchuria, so their base was in Harbin, a city overrun with crime and eventually the bubonic plague, which came from infested rats that the Japanese released.
The Communists continued to takeover estates and huge areas of land while building up a conventional army. Several attacks on the GMD’s army pushed the GMD back, broke their moral, and showed the first signs that the Communists might win over Manchuria.
The Losing Battle with Inflation:
The GMD faced many economic problems after the war, and their one response to the problems was to just print more money, increasing the inflation. There were almost 2,000 strikes in Shanghai in 1946 alone. The government tried to solve this by guaranteeing higher wages and disbanding certain unions. When that was not enough for the people, the government implemented price and wage ceilings, but that backfired as well. Inflation just continued to grow; money had almost no value.
The GMD then attempted to change the currency system and forbade wage or price increases. That failed as well because inflation continued to rise and no one could afford anything. China basically became a barter economy.
Defeat of the Guomindang Armies:
As the economy was failing under the GMD, so were its armies. The Communists gained more and more control, and the GMD would not fall back. That led to the Communists isolating 100,000 GMD troops in Jinan. Feeling confident, the Communists decided to switch from guerrilla warfare to conventional warfare. Each side won and lost some battles, but in the eyes of the public, the Communists were ahead, as they refused to kill civilians, unlike the GMD, who killed 14 students during a demonstration. After many defeats, the GMD left Manchuria, but attempted to hold onto north and central China.
The Communists continued to conquer large cities in China, and occupied them with strict discipline. They allowed businesses to continue, prevented looting, and introduced a new currency. They also absorbed GMD officers and soldiers into the CCP army.
It appeared to be a lost cause for the GMD. Chiang was succeeded as president by Li Zongren, who tried to negotiate Mao Zedong’s terms of GMD’s surrender. The Communists also sunk a US ship and attacked a British ship, showing their anti-imperialist ideals. Li Zongren refused to accept Mao’s terms, so the Communist armies continued their campaign and won the remaining areas of China. On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong announced the formation of the People’s Republic of China.
This chapter ends exactly where the United States feared it would: with China becoming a fully Communist nation. The tensions that began between China and the US have obviously not resolved, although there have been ups and downs in the relationship. This chapter was one of the last times the United States is seen working alongside of many Eastern countries as it completely cuts ties with Communist nations after this. The question must be raised, then, if the United States should have done more, or at least done something differently during the time of the Marshall Project.