USM Open Source History Text: The World at War: World History 1914-1945

Chiang Kai-shek vs. Mao Zedong

By October 1934, the situation for the communist was becoming dire. There home in the province of Jiangxi was increasingly under threat by Chiang’s forces. During the previous months the Guomindang, with the assistance of German military aid and strategic planning, had encircled the main communist army and was cutting off all routes for supplies to reach the CCP’s 100,000 soldiers. The loss or dispersal of this force would have been the end of any coordinated communist action against the Guomindang and would have left the playing field free for Chiang Kai-shek.

In one of the most legendary events of modern Chinese and world history, Mao ordered his army to march out of Jiangxi to the west. It was a march that would last a full year and cover 6,000 miles, ascending peaks 14,000 feet in height, all the while being harassed by nationalist forces. By the end of the so-called Long March, only 40,000 of the original 80,000 soldiers remained alive. Though on one level an enormous disaster, the Long March would prove to be a turning point. The Long March effectively put the communist forces out of range of both the nationalists and the first wave of Japanese assaults. The Long March also quickly became an effective propaganda tool. Mao wrote the following in December 1935, “The Long March is the first of its kind in the annals of History. It is a manifesto, a propaganda force, a seeding-machine… It has proclaimed to the world that the Red Army is an army of heroes, while the imperialists and their running dogs, Chiang Kai-shek and his like, are impotent.”

Despite this confident tone, it is doubtful that Mao would have been able to regain the upper hand on the “running dogs” had it not been for the vicious Japanese invasions a couple of years later. The necessity to meet the Japanese threat coming from the northeast relieved the nationalists’ pressure on the communists and gave Mao and his compatriots space to breath and regroup.

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