Why Did the Communist Gain Power in 1949 in China?

In 1949, after a long lasting contest for leadership, the Communists were able to gain power. In 1900, China was ruled by the Manchu dynasty, however less than in half a century a completely new government came into power. The Qing government had already been weak due to European countries because they gained great influence in China’s affair by using forces. They became so unpopular that people plotted to overthrow them. Despite the fact that the revolution of 1911 failed to overthrow them, it made the government collapse.

People needed changes. But none of the leadership or the Party government could achieve what they promised in order to make the lives of people better in China. The Communist used clever tactics to achieve their aims and used terror to some extent in places where terror benefits them. They got support of peasant in the countryside easily as Mao Zedong, their leader knew exactly what should be improved or changed, and he understood the need of peasants; as he was peasants as well.

Factors such as failures of the Guomindang, Japanese invasion of China, the strengths of the Chinese Communist Party and the characteristics and personal roles of Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek need to be taken into account to understand why the Communists gain power rather than the Guomindang in the Civil War. As the warlord’s era ended in 1927, the unification of China occurred in 1928 under the rule of Chiang Kai-shek of GMD. But it was not a united China.

The China Communist Party retreated to the countryside of Jiangxi and Hunan province. Despite the fact that the Guomindang had much more rule in China, than the Communists did, however, the Guomindang could not control these two provinces and the Communists could win the support of the peasant in Jiangxi and Hunan province. This shows that the Communists were stable and they could control their provinces without the interference of the Guomindang; it shows successes of the Communists. It can be seen as a failure of the Guomindang Party.

Chiang Kai-shek started extermination campaigns against the Communists to wipe them out, between 1930-34, but as Mao Zedong, the leader of the Communists and Zhu De, the Commander-in-Chief of the Red Army used clever tactics such as luring the Guomindang units into Communists and they attacked each unit separately; these campaigns were total failures. In 1931 the Japanese Kwantung Army occupied Manchuria, and continued to occupy provinces. Chiang Kaishek didn’t wish to fight the Japanese; he favoured relying on the League of Nations to stop the invasion.

Chinese people wanted Chiang Kaishek to declare war on Japan. But he rather wanted to achieve national unity by wiping out the Communists before risking a major war against Japan. The Communists wanted to fight Japan and enounced that all the Chinese people should unite to defend the nations. However, Chiang Kai-shek ignored the demands of the Communists for a ‘united front’ and in 1936 he started another extermination campaign against the Communists. Finally, in December 1936 Chiang Kai-shek was forced to agree to form a united front against the Japanese.

On one hand, it can be seen as success of the Guomindang because now they had the opportunity to wipe the Japanese out, but on the other hand it can be seen as a failure as well, because they could not achieve national unity as they now fought with the Communists against the Japanese Army. It led to the fact that, the Communists were still in existence and the Goumindang could not get rid of them. The war was too short that the Guomindang had managed to defeat Japan, but not the Communists.

During the Japan-China war of 1937 and 1945, China was really two nations in one. China was divided between the Communists and the Guomindang; two Chinas. The Japanese didn’t have total control of the occupied areas, because they did not have enough manpower to occupy the whole country, therefore they left unguarded many areas where Chinese moved back and took control. The Japanese invasion of 1937 and the retreat of Chiang Kai-shek to Chongqing gave the Communists many opportunities to expand the area under their control.

And even the Japanese operation against the Communists had opposite effect, because Three All Campaign’s aimed at turning people against the Communists by burning down their villages and crops, murdering the peasants made the peasants hate the Japanese even more and help the Communists attack them. The Japan-China war was a great success of the Communists because, by 1945, they controlled eighteen ‘liberation areas’ in the countryside. Invariably it was the Reds to whom the Japanese submitted.

However, after the Japanese retreat, the Communists and the Guomindang raced for control the areas that Japan had occupied. The USA became involved, because the US did not want the Communists to win control of China. They supported Guomindang troops to seize most other coastal cities and ports. The USA did not want to renew the civil war, therefore send General George C. Marshall to bring the two sides together in December 1945. He managed to sing a truce between them but it broke down in early 1946. The Civil War started. Guomindang seemed stronger because their military power was helped by America.

Chiang Kai-shek was recognised as the true leader of China. Communists were not in good position, because they did not have air force and navy, they had few railways and they only had an army of 1 million men. It seemed really weak; they did not even have the help of a foreign country. US government had given 200 million dollars to Chiang Kai-shek to defeat the Communists, but they cut off all aid to Chiang, which weaken his position even further. He was unable to achieve a single major victory between 1947 and 1949. The Communists managed to defeat the Guomindang.

It was the Communists superior strategy which helped them to achieve their aims. On 1st of October, 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the existence of the People’s Republic of China. Mao was a strong leader who understood the need of peasants, due to his peasant’s background. He shared big estates of lands between the peasants. The Red Army’s engineers made thousands of new farming tools, and Mao introduced Social Reforms such as abolition of prostitution and sale of women, child slavery, murder of unwanted babies and foot binding of peasants.

These Social Reforms made thousands of peasants’ lives better. Mao even set up an agricultural school. Despite he used terror in some places, he was beloved by peasants. However, Chiang Kai-shek used extreme terror and hence people hated him in the countryside and made them turn away from him. The Guomindang rather use forces to get support of the peasants, it was the coercion of Guomindang. Chiang Kai-shek adopted the idea of country governed by a single supreme leader like in Europe. He started to call himself the Generalissimo like Hitler did in Germany, he called himself Fuehrer.

The Guomindang was strongest in towns and cities, got the support of bankers, merchants, businessmen and landowners. But the peasants did not have reason to support a government which took their taxes. However, the Communists believed in the principle of equality, therefore the top leaders of Communist Party lived in caves as most of the towns people moved to caves because of the Japanese bombing their town was flattened. They did not have any special luxuries. The Communist never treated the peasants badly, however the Guomindang did.

The Guomindang was in power for ten years, but could not do any significant in China to make the lives of people better; the Communists were that government who could offer something completely different. The time had come for the Communists in China to use their opportunity to demonstrate their strength and ability to govern China. The Communists with the use of Mao Zedong’s superior tactics and his background were able to gain power after the long lasting Civil War of China. Chiang Kai-shek did not make any effort but use forces and terror to help the peasants, who made a large percent of the population.

Mao Zedong knew exactly, what he needed to do in order to get support of the peasants; he used his opportunities to take control. The Communists made through bad and good times of China, such as the war with Japan, and they were able to think logically to achieve their aims. They were able to defeat the Guomindang in the Civil War of China, despite the fact that Guomindang had the support of the USA. When there is a will, there is a way. They were more than able to find this way to gain support and gain power in 1949.