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China's Civil War

Page history last edited by Elaine DeVoss 9 years, 6 months ago

The Impact of China's Civil War: 1945-49


This map illustrates how the Civil War between the Nationalists and Communists played out in its final five years. Jung Chang's family in Wild Swans was living in Jinzhou in Manchuria at the time.



Bitter enemies, Mao and Jiang enjoyed a momentary toast after the Japanese surrender ending World War II.



As Jung Chang describes in her memoir, Wild Swans, many Japanese struggled to accept their surrender, and many Chinese showed no mercy on their former colonialists:



One morning a few days after the surrender [August, 1945], the Xia's [her family] Japanese neighbors

were found dead. Some said they had poisoned themselves. All over Jinzhou Japanese were committing

suicide or being lynched. Japanese homes were looted and my mother noticed that one of her poor neighbors suddenly had quite a lot of valuable items for sale. Schoolchildren revenged themselves on their Japanese teachers and beat them up ferociously.  Some Japanese left their babies on the doorsteps of local families in the hope that they would be saved.  A number of Japanese women were raped; many shaved their heads to try to pass as men. (76)







Three more armies would make their way into Jinzhou in the ensuing months ostensibly as liberators of the Chinese. First came the Russians who regrettably ended up "liberating" key Chinese possessions and taking them for themselves (including oil refinery equipment):


 Russian soldiers would walk into people's homes and simply take anything they fancied---watches and clothes in particular.  Stories about Russians raping local women swept Jinzhou like wildfire. Many women went into hiding for fear of their "liberators."  Very soon the city seething with anger and anxiety. (77)  



The Chinese Communists followed the Russians a week later. They were a rather "rag-tag" appearing bunch. Despite Soviet recognition and American support of the Nationalist government (quite a bit of support in the U.S. case), the Communists had the strongest bases in Manchuria (see map above). 


     When [my mother] got [to the meeting] she saw a number of shabby Chinese men--and a few women--

     making speeches about how they had fought eight years to defeat the Japanese so that ordinary people

     could be the masters of a new China. ... These were Communists--Chinese Communists. ... The women

     Communists at the meeting wore shapeless clothes exactly like the men. My mother thought to herself:

     How could you claim to have defeated the Japanese? You haven't even got decent guns or clothes. To her,

     the Communists looked poorer and scruffier than beggars. (78) 



The Communists, however, needed time to gain followers and thereby gain a military advantage, so without both, they retreated back into the countryside. "To surround the cities with our countryside and eventually take the cities" was Mao's dictum. (79) Into the vacuum arrived the Guomindang army, nattily attired and heavily supplied with American arms. The excitement in Jinzhou was short lived, however. Soldiers searched for concubines. The GMD proved to be incompetent in getting the local economy going again. Corruption became widespread. 



Much worse than this [corruption] was the blatant looting. Dr. Xia [Jung Chang's grandmother's second husband] was visited every now and then by soldiers who would salute punctiliously and then say in an exaggeratedly cringing voice: "Your honor Dr. Xia, some of our colleagues are very short of money. Could  you perhaps lend us some?" It was unwise to refuse. Anyone who crossed the Kuomintang [Guomindang] was likely to be accused of being a Communist, which usually meant arrest, and frequently torture. (86)






Such behavior could and did lead to disillusionment, even among those loyal to the Nationalists. In her own case, Jung Chang's mother had already become fed up with the plight of women and the weight of "tradition" and "morality", which had given license to the "barbarity of age-old customs." In 1947 she was ready for change. (91)



  My mother had been turning more and more strongly against the Kuomintang for some time. The only

  alternative she knew was the Communists, and she had been particularly attracted by their promises to 

  put an end to injustices against women. Up to now, at the age of fifteen, she had not felt ready to commit

  herself fully. The news of Cousin Hu's death made her mind up. She decided to join the Communists. (93)







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