Immediate post-war clashes (1945–1946)[edit | edit source]

Under the terms of the Japanese unconditional surrender dictated by the United States, Japanese troops were ordered to surrender to KMT troops and not to the CPC, which was present in some of the occupied areas. In Manchuria, however, where the KMT had no forces. Chiang Kai-shek ordered the Japanese troops to remain at their post to receive the Kuomintang and not surrender their arms to the Communists.

The first post-war peace negotiation was attended by both Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong in Chongqing from 28 August 1945 and concluded on 10 October 1945 with the signing of Double Tenth Agreement. Both sides stressed the importance of a peaceful reconstruction, but the conference did not produce any concrete result. Battles between the two sides continued even as peace negotiations were in progress, until the agreement was reached in January 1946. However, large campaigns and full-scale confrontations between the CPC and Chiang's troops were temporarily avoided.

In the last month of the Pacific War in East Asia, the Japanese Kwantung Army was 2 million strong in Manchuria and along the Chinese-Mongolian border. Later in the year Chiang Kai-shek realized that he lacked the resources to prevent a CPC takeover of Manchuria following the scheduled Japanese departure. He therefore made a deal with the Japanese to delay their withdrawal until he had moved enough of his best-trained men and modern material into the region. On 15 November 1945, an offensive began with the intent of preventing the CPC from strengthening its already strong base.

Chiang Kai-shek's forces pushed as far as Chinchow (Jinzhou) by 26 November 1945, meeting with little resistance. This was followed by a Communist offensive on the Shantung (Shandong) Peninsula that was largely unsuccessful, as all of the peninsula, except what was controlled by the US, remained in Nationalist hands. The truce fell apart in June 1946 when full-scale war between CPC and KMT forces broke out on 26 June. China then entered a state of civil war that lasted more than three years.

Resumed fighting (1946–1949)[edit | edit source]


Shangdang Campaign (1945)

Background and disposition of forces[edit | edit source]

By the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the power of the Communist Party grew considerably. Their main force grew to 1.2 million troops, with a militia of 2 million. Their "Liberated Zone" contained 19 base areas, including one-quarter of the country's territory and one-third of its population; this included many important towns and cities. However, the Japanese turned over all of their weapons and a substantial amount of supplies to the Nationalists, who received Northeastern China from the Japanese as well.

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Nationalist warplanes being prepared for an air raid on Communist bases

After the war with the Japanese ended, Chiang Kai-shek quickly moved KMT troops to newly liberated areas to prevent Communist forces from receiving the Japanese surrender. The US airlifted many KMT troops from central China to the Northeast (Manchuria). President Harry Truman was very clear about what he described as "using the Japanese to hold off the Communists". In his memoirs he writes:

It was perfectly clear to us that if we told the Japanese to lay down their arms immediately and march to the seaboard, the entire country would be taken over by the Communists. We therefore had to take the unusual step of using the enemy as a garrison until we could airlift Chinese National troops to South China and send Marines to guard the seaports.

—President Truman

Using the pretext of "receiving the Japanese surrender", business interests within the KMT government occupied most of the banks, factories and commercial properties, which had previously been seized by the Imperial Japanese Army. They also conscripted troops at a brutal pace from the civilian population and hoarded supplies, preparing for a resumption of war with the Communists. These hasty and harsh preparations caused great hardship for the residents of cities such as Shanghai, where the unemployment rate rose dramatically to 37.5%.

The US strongly supported the Kuomintang forces. Over 50,000 US Marines were sent to guard strategic sites, and 100,000 US troops were sent to Shandong. The US equipped and trained over 500,000 KMT troops, and transported KMT forces to occupy newly liberated zones as well as to contain Communist-controlled areas. American aid included substantial amounts of both new and surplus military supplies; additionally, loans worth hundreds of millions of dollars were made to the KMT.

Outbreak of war[edit | edit source]

With the breakdown of talks, all-out war resumed. On 20 July 1946 Chiang Kai-shek launched a large-scale assault on Communist territory with 113 brigades (1.6 million troops). This marked the final phase of the Chinese Civil War.

Knowing their disadvantages in manpower and equipment, the CPC executed a "passive defense" strategy. It avoided the strong points of the KMT army and was prepared to abandon territory in order to preserve its forces. In most cases the surrounding countryside and small towns had come under Communist influence long before the cities. The CPC also attempted to wear out the KMT forces as much as possible.

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The PLA enters Beijing in the Pingjin Campaign

In March 1947 the KMT achieved a symbolic victory by seizing the CPC capital of Yan'an. The Communists counterattacked soon afterwards; on 30 June 1947 CPC troops crossed the Yellow River and moved to the Dabie Mountains area, restored and developed the Central Plain. At the same time, Communist forces also began to counterattack in Northeastern China, North China and East China.

By late 1948, the KMT eventually repulsed attacks on the northern cities of Shenyang and Changchun and seized control of the Northeast after suffering numerous setbacks while trying to take the cities, with the decisive Liaoshen Campaign. The New 1st Army, regarded as the best KMT army, was able to break out of a brutal six-month siege of Changchun that resulted in more than 150,000 civilian deaths from starvation. The Northern Campaign resulted in the Nationalist conquest of northern China. It lasted 64 days, from November 21, 1948, to January 31, 1949. The KMT suffered heavy casualties while securing Baotou and Hohhot.

After the decisive Northern Campaign the KMT effectively smashed the backbone of the CPC army. Vyacheslav Molotov with support from Khorloogiin Choibalsan, offered Mao safe passage to the unoccupied Soviet Union. Mao accepted Molotov's position and on 21 April retreated to Kyzyl. By late 1949 the KMT was pursuing remnants of CPC forces northwards in China-Mongolia frontier regions. In addition, the Ili Rebellion was a Soviet-backed revolt by the Second East Turkestan Republic against the KMT from 1944–49, as the Mongolians in the People's Republic were in a border dispute China. A Chinese Muslim Hui cavalry regiment, the 14th Tungan Cavalry, was sent by the Chinese government to attack Mongol and Soviet positions along the border during the Pei-ta-shan Incident.


Mao Zedong proclaiming the establishment of the People's Republic in 1949.

On 1 October 1949, Chiang Kai-shek declared an end to the civil war with victory going to the KMT government. Mao Zedong and an unknown number of Communist Chinese had retreated from China to the Tuvan Autonomous Oblast in April.

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