Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Chinese Communist Struggle Againt Japanese Imperialism 1937-1945 PART I

War is the highest form of struggle for resolving contradictions, when they have developed to a certain stage, between classes, nations, states, or political groups, and it has existed ever since the emergence of private property and of classes.

               Mao Zedong

Mao Tse Tung, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung, (Peking:  Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1976), p. 58.  Hereinafter referred to as Little Red Book.

When Mao wrote this, Japan had already been in China for over 30 years as an occupying power.  It had established itself in China as a result of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. In the aftermath of the Russo-Japanese War, as part of the spoils of its victory, the Japanese Army captured Port Arthur and Mukden from the Russians, and forced them out of southern Manchuria.[1] In the 1905 Treaty of Portsmouth which formally ended the war, Russia ceded to the Japanese the southern half of Sakhalin Island, their railroads in southern Manchuria, and the Russian lease on Liaotung Peninsula.

By 1931, the Japanese regional army, the Kwangtung Army, disdainful of the civil government in Tokyo, on its own initiative, staged the “Mukden Incident”, claiming that the Chinese had tried to blow up the Japanese controlled Southern Manchurian Railroad in Mukden; Manchuria was overrun.  The Japanese quickly established control over Manchuria in 1931-1932, created the puppet state of Manchukuo in February 1932, and placed Henry Pu Yi, the last Manchu Emperor, as its emperor.  US Secretary of State Henry Stimson initiated a "Non-Recognition Doctrine" vis-a-vis Manchukuo, not recognizing governments  established through aggression and demanded that Japan withdraw from Manchuria.  The League of Nations censured Japan for the invasion as well.  Japan ignored the Stimson doctrine and withdrew from the League in 1933.

China's ill-fortune was a blessing for the Chinese Communist Party.  The CCP had been almost decimated by Chiang Kai-shek in 1927-1928 during the Shanghai uprising and the Kuomintang (KMT)/Chinese Communist Party (CCP) split.  As a result of the KMT's white terror campaign the CCP’s membership decreased from an early 1927 figure of about 60,000 to 20,000.[2]  By 1933 the Central Committee of the CCP was obliged to leave Shanghai and move to the Kiangsi region where Mao had established himself.  Mao's rise can be attributed to this period.  During this time, however, Chiang Kai-shek conducted a series of campaigns to rid China of  Communist influence and Communists.  The CCP, though able to mobilize the peasantry, could not fight Nationalist armies;  Chiang eventually got the upper hand.  In late 1934 the CCP took off on a 6000 mile trek which became known as the Long March.[3]
Its objective was to establish a new territorial base at the periphery of nationalist power.  About 100,000 individuals began the year-long trek, with only about 4,000 finishing it.  At the end of the Long March in October 1935, the CCP become entrenched in the Shensi Province in Northwest China.

The extreme remoteness of this area was one of its greatest strengths, enabling the Communists to operate freely and unopposed, and to establish their main base areas here.  The geo-physical characteristics of Shensi province, which became the central base for the Chinese Communist Party and the Red Army, include yellow thick-layered loess soil-acolian dust (very fine grained) from a few feet to 250 feet in depth blown in over the ages from the deserts in the North.  It is a dry area, with frequent droughts, with a climate that is very cold in the winter to over 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.  The landscape of the country is one of steep-sided valleys, gullies, and cliffs which enables the people to cut their homes directly into the vertical cliff faces.[4]  Very little industry was located in this area and transportation was rudimentary with few railroads.

By the end of 1936, the Red Army strength at Shensi totaled around 80,000 men.  Mao and his colleagues faced two primary tasks:  how to feed and equip the Red Army, and how to win over the peasantry.  Obviously, the first was dependent on the second.  Through land confiscations from rich landlords, suspension of taxes, and exemplary conduct on the part of Chinese Communist Party cadres such as helping the peasants with their harvest and growing their own crops, the peasants became supportive of the communists.  For example, Mao Zedong tells us that the Communist Eighth Route Army "put into practice a code known as "The Three Rules and the Eight Remarks.""[5]

These were:


1. All actions are subject to command.

2. Do not steal from the people.

3. Be neither selfish nor unjust.


1. Replace the door when you leave the house.

2. Roll up the bedding on which you have slept.

3. Be courteous.

4. Be honest in your transactions.

5. Return what you borrow.

6. Replace what you break.

7. Do not bathe in the presence of women.

8. Do not without authority search the pocketbooks of those you arrest.

Using such simple rules of engagement and conduct, the Chinese Communist Party and the Red Army were able to accomplish both of their immediate tasks.

In its political program, the Chinese Communist Party advocated a 'United Front' strategy with the Kuomintang against the Japanese.  This strategy, in accord with the 'United Front' strategy promulgated by the Seventh Congress of the Communist International in 1935, called for communist cooperation with all groups and political parties opposed to Japanese fascism.  Essentially, the Communist International's strategy called for communist parties to unite with nationalist parties in the common struggle against the larger threat of fascism.  In China, the "United Front" was created as a result of the so-called "Sian Incident" of December 1936.  A group of Nationalist Chinese generals led by Chang Hsueh Liang placed Chang Kai-shek under house arrest and kept him prisoner until he agreed to work with the Communists against the Japanese. In August 1937, Chiang even appointed Chu Teh, who was leading the Communist forces, as commander of the Eighth Route Army, and in the following month issued a communiqué announcing the KMT- Chinese Communist Party reconciliation.[6]  In all cases, the “United Front” strategy was purely a marriage of convenience which, in the Chinese case, was not destined to last for long.
Regardless, to the Japanese a potential peace between the Kuomintang and the Communists was considered a major threat to their plans of eventually controlling and pacifying all of China. Hitherto, the Japanese had been steadily encroaching upon Chinese territory, for example by exploiting Mongol restlessness and through a myriad of incursions in the periphery of Manchuria. On 7 July 1937, some Japanese troops, part of the China Garrison Army which was there as a result of the Boxer Protocol of 1901, broke into a small town near Beijing, allegedly searching for a comrade. A fire fight broke out between Chinese and Japanese soldiers and, this so-called Lukouchiao, or Marco Polo Bridge Incident, set off the Sino-Japanese War which lasted until the autumn of 1945.

While the Japanese invasion of China was disastrous for Chiang Kai-shek, it provided a tremendous opportunity for the Chinese Communist Party and the Red Army. It allowed the Chinese Communist Party to claim political legitimacy as patriots fighting the Japanese and, through the Red Army's military efforts, to promote their political program among the population. The success of these efforts can be measured by the growth of personnel: at the beginning of 1937, communist forces totaled about 100,000 men in northwest China. By 1945 these forces had grown to more than 900,000[7].

Aiding the Communist cause was the barbarous behavior of the Japanese armies in China.  In one early incident, Japanese troops from Lieutenant General Yanagawa Heisuke's 10th Army occupied Nanking, the Nationalist capital, in December 13, 1937.  In the ensuing few weeks, they killed between 20,000 to 200,000 people (the figures vary depending on the sources).[8]

Regardless of the actual figure, it was widely condemned by the rest of the world as an act of inhuman proportions. Events such as these, this particular episode becoming known as the "Rape of Nanking", differing from others only in scale, helped to rally the Chinese people against the Japanese invaders and to ensure world censure against Japanese actions. The Americans, in particular, were highly incensed and by 1938 had stopped selling aircraft and scrap iron to Japan, this incident being one of the reasons for initiating this policy. Regardless of how the world felt, by October 1938 the Japanese had taken Hankow, moved into the south by sea-borne operations, taken Canton, and had begun a tight blockade on the China coast. The KMT moved its capital first to Wuhan, and then eventually to Chunking further inland. This move cutoff the KMT from its roots, and instead of being the central government of China, became a fugitive in a mountain redoubt.

However the size and primitiveness of China which combined with the nationalistic feelings of an aroused Chinese populace, prevented the Japanese from fully controlling and defeating China itself. Though the Japanese had driven nationalists forces out of North China into the western areas, they were unable to control more than a few strategic points. The peasants smoldering with hatred for the Japanese, it was relatively easy for the Communists to convince the peasants that they were the real defenders of China. In order to effectively do this, they established nineteen main guerrilla bases behind Japanese lines and set up effective operations from these areas, as well as establishing their own Communist-sponsored governments, which gave the Communists political legitimacy among the people.

[1]   Thomas E. Gries, Series Ed.,  Atlas for the Second World War:  Asia and the Pacific, The West Point Military History Series, (Wayne, NJ:  Avery Publishing Group Inc., 1985), Map 37.

[2] John King Fairbank, The Great Chinese Revolution 1800-1985 (New York: Perennial Library, 1987), p. 227.

[3] Fairbank, p. 233.

[4] Central Intelligence Agency, People's Republic of China Atlas, (Wash DC: US Government Publishing Office, November 1971).

[5] Samuel B. Griffith, Brigadier General, USMC (Ret), trans., Mao Tse-Tung on Guerrilla Warfare (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Inc., 1961), p. 92.

[6] Saburo Ienaga, "The War in China: A Clash of Political Values," Reading G, Course A653 Asian Military History, (Ft Leavenworth KS: US Army Command and General Staff College, Class 1994-95), pp. 113.

[7] Whiting, Kenneth R. Chinese Communist Armed Forces, AU-11. (Maxwell Air Force Base AL: Air University Press, 1967), p. 34

[8] Meiron and Susie Harries, Soldiers of the Sun: The Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army, (New York: Random House, 1991).

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Maginot Line and Ballistic Missile Defense


The Maginot Line has traditionally been viewed by military historians and thinkers as an example of the catastrophe that a defensive orientation combined with an obsolete conception of the nature of future war will produce. That the Maginot Line did not fulfill the purpose originally assigned to it certainly gives credence to these conclusions. However, it must be noted that (1) the Maginot Line indeed did fulfill the main role assigned to it as the Germans did not penetrate it; and (2) the German outflanking of the Maginot Lien was the result of German operational flexibility and of French strategic inflexibility and political limitations rather than a defect in the concept of a defensive line in itself.

The Maginot Line is of conceptual relevance to efforts in developing ballistic missile defenses on a strategic level. Hence the Maginot Line revisited.


The concept of fortifications on a vast scale are not new in history. The Great Wall of China was began during the Qin Dynasty (221-206 B.C.) to keep out nomads from the north out. It went through various additions and expansions until what we have now which was built by the Ming's during the sixteenth century. What impact the Great Wall had on french strategic thinking is unknown, but certainly as a precedent it did not go unnoticed as will be shown later.

The experience of World War I was traumatic for France who although considered a victor, it was a certainly a phyrric victory at best as a whole generation of Frenchmen perished on the battlefields, which according to Anthony Kemp, totaled 1.4 million killed, 4.3 million wounded, and 500,000 missing. Further, the doctrine of the offensive which had guided French strategic and tactical thinking had also been a victim of the machine gun and barbed wire. As a result of these considerations, Marshal Pétain who had been appointed Inspector General of the Army, in 1921 became convinced that the answer to France's future security needs lay in what he described as 'battlefields prepared in peacetime.' "which he understood as a continuous front on the principles of the wartime trenches." What Pétain envisioned was a system of fortifications around the French frontier like those of the Battle of Verdun which would safeguard France. It was with this strategy of positional warfare that France went into war in 1940. On January 4, 1930, the French National Assembly voted for the appropriations for a "Great Wall on the eastern frontier." André Maginot, the Minister of War, was responsible for the construction of the fortifications and therefore bear his name. By 1936 some seven billion francs had been invested in the Maginot Line and the fortifications were largely complete. The purpose of the fortifications was: (1) to protect the frontiers against a surprise attack initiated without a declaration of war; (2) in case of a formal declaration of war, to protect the frontiers during the critical three weeks needed for mobilization; (3) after mobilization, to provide a core resistance and to ensure the industrial potential of the nation, and the nation itself.

The Maginot Line did stop the Germans; who had to plan around it. Hitler thought that the next war would be quite different than that envisioned by Pétain. Hitler has become an avid supporter of General Heinz Guderian's concept of fast armored warfare. He is said to have remarked that: "I shall manoeuvre [sic] France right out her Maginot Line without losing a single soldier." The Germans instituted a number of deception plans to make the French think that a real attack, or at least a serious secondary attack, would come from Army Group C which was facing the Maginot Line. As it was there was never an intention to actually attack the Maginot Line head on, when it could be outflanked. Therefore, as a defensive shield against a German invasion the Maginot Line was successful. It was only taken from the rear in the last days of French resistance. So why is the Maginot Line considered to be a failure?


The Maginot concept would have worked if it had been carried to its logical end which would have been to fortify the whole French frontier. As was pointed out previously, the Germans clearly realized that the only way to attack the Maginot Line was to go around it. So why was the plan of a full Maginot Line stretching around the entire frontier of France not carried through? Besides the financial considerations which certainly had an impact, two key diplomatic and political issues are salient. First, if the Maginot Line had been constructed all around France's borders, this would have meant, in political terms that France had no confidence in the Belgians, Belgium being a traditional invasion route against France. In practical terms, this meant throwing the Belgians to the wolves, and it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for the weak French governments of the Third Republic to do this. The second point is that if line had been completed, there was the likely probability that British would not come to France's aid in case of war and British aid was central to French strategy and planning. France truly felt that it could contain a German thrust but would need British help to repel the Germans back across their borders. The only way to get the British in was to show that both French and British were fighting for Belgium against German aggression. Thus the line was only completed along the eastern portion of the border and not the along the north. The French did not consider that they would have to ask for Britain's help to save French soil itself. Thus these political and diplomatic considerations entered the national security calculus, limiting the expansion of the line, and which combined with French strategic misconceptions such as the impenetrability of the Ardennes to large armored formations, led to France's defeat in 1940. Hence, the Maginot Line did not fail; France failed by not completing it and through an antiquated military strategy that did not credibly foresee the possibility that the Germans would attach through the Ardennes; bypassing the Maginot Line.

The concept of the Maginot Line must be considered when planning for a ballistic missile defense shield of the nation; and/or  of theater air defense. The desirability to shield our nation, and military forces in theater, from ballistic missiles is quite in line with the French desire to protect their nation from attack by building impenetrable fortifications. What we must learn from the French experience is that military considerations must be integrated within the larger context of the national security environment. Building their military strategy around fortifications which they knew to be incomplete due to political and diplomatic considerations is the cardinal sin that the French military committed. Another lesson that may be gleaned from the French experience is that these defenses should not be piecemeal but rather should be complete in order to be effective.


Fairbank, John King. China: A New History. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1992.

Horne, Alistair. To Lose a Battle: France 1940. London: Macmillan and Co Ltd, 1969.

Kemp, Anthony. The Maginot Line: Myth and Reality. New York: Stein and Day/ Publishers, 1982.

"Maginot Line." In The Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century Warfare, gen. ed. Noble Frankland. 1st US edition. New York: Crow Publishers, 1989.

Monday, September 3, 2012

On War, Part VIII: Friction in War

1.7 Book One, Chapter 7: Friction in War

If one has never personally experienced war, one cannot understand in what the difficulties constantly mentioned really consist, now why a commander should need any brilliance and exceptional ability. Everything looks simple; the knowledge required does not look remarkable, the strategic options are so obvious that by comparison the simplest problem of higher mathematics has an impressive scientific dignity. Once war has actually been seen the difficulties become clear; but it is still extremely to describe the unseen, all-pervading element that brings about this change of perspective.

Everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult. The difficulties accumulate and end by producing a kind of friction that is inconceivable unless one has experienced war… Countless minor incidents—the kind you can never really foresee—combine to lower the general level of performance, so that one always falls far short of the intended goal. Iron will-power can overcome this friction; it pulverizes every obstacle, but of course it wears down the machine as well. (Book One, Chapter Seven, p. 119)

GIV: The above should be read by every reporter, pundit, politician and would-be commander who is ready to offer ready-made [non]solutions—to problems they do not understand.

Friction is the only concept that more or less corresponds to the factors that distinguish real war from war on paper. The military machine—the army and everything related to it—is basically very simple and therefore seems easy to manage. But we should bear in mind that none of its components is of one piece: each part is composed of individuals, every one of whom retains his potential of friction. In theory it sounds reasonable enough… In fact, it is different, and every fault and exaggeration of the theory is instantly exposed in war. (Book One, Chapter Seven, p. 119)

This tremendous friction, which cannot, as in mechanics, be reduce to a few points [every soldier is a source of friction, etc.], is everywhere in contact with chance, and brings about effects that cannot be measured, just because they are largely due to chance. (Book One, Chapter Seven, p. 120)

Action in war is like movement in a resistant element. Just as the simplest and most natural of movements, walking, cannot easily be performed in water, so in war it is difficult for normal efforts to achieve even moderate results. (Book One, Chapter Seven, p. 120)

Moreover, every war is rich in unique episodes. Each is an uncharted sea, full of reefs… An understanding of friction is a large part of that much-admired sense of warfare with a good general is supposed to possess. To be sure, the best general is not the one who is most familiar with the idea of friction, and who takes it most to heart (he belongs to the anxious type so common among experienced commanders). The good general must know friction in order to overcome it whenever possible, and in order not to expect a standard of achievement in his operations which this very friction makes impossible… Practice and experience dictate the answer: “this is possible, that it not.” (Book One, Chapter Seven, p. 120)

Friction, as we choose to call it, is the force that makes the apparently easy so difficult. (Book One, Chapter Seven, p. 121)

[GIV: A clear sense of priorities is also necessary to overcome friction. Don’t waste energies on the unimportant; concentrate on the main objective.]