The Second Sino-Japanese War, while a disastrous immediate cause for the downfall of Nationalist rule over China, was not the sole cause. The downfall of the Guómín Dǎng (Chinese Nationalist Party) can also be attributed to the the failures of the Nationalist Decade, and not to mention the rise of the Communists as seen in Yán’ān and the development of Máoism made therein; along with the actions of both the Red Army and the Guómín Dǎng.
The Second Sino-Japanese War proved a difficult obstacle to overcome for the Guómín Dǎng, and the reactions of the Guómín Dǎng to the war were detrimental to the continuation of Nationalist rule. The decision of Jiǎng Jièshí to fight a war of attrition against the Japanese due to the Guómín Dǎng’s inferior numbers, whilst the best choice out of a lot of bad options, naturally left a grand sentiment of war-weariness among the Guómín Dǎng troops; troops which, even staged fighting between Guómín Dǎng and Communist forces, and even temporarily incarcerated Jiǎng himself. The Rape of Nanjing dealt a heavy morale blow to the Guómín Dǎng, lacking a will to fight such an uphill war, while the Communists were secure in the rural countryside of Yán’ān. The mistreatment of Guómín Dǎng troops detracted from the appeal of a nationalist rule, depicted instead as a brutal and domineering one, where 1,500,000 troops died from mistreatment and disease alone, and half of conscripted forces died from hunger, thirst, exposure and disease before even making it to training camps. A lack of will the fight the Japanese and instead, a choice to stockpile American Aid for an ensuing Civil War, led to a nationalist downfall as the Guómín Dǎng was not adequately equipping their troops to fight the war against the Japanese, which would cost the nationalists countless troops that would have been essential for a Civil War against the Communists. Perhaps the final nail in the Guómín Dǎng’s coffin, was the decision of Jiǎng to destroy the dam at Huāyúankǒu, that would flood the surrounding areas and kill hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, devastating crops and leaving even more homeless in order to halt the Japanese advance – for what turned out to be all but two months. This alienated Jiǎng Jièshí from the people – a tyrant, who would sacrifice his own people for the safety of his ruling party, despite the best on intentions. Thus the Sino-Japanese War was a major pivotal cause in the downfall of the nationalist Guómín Dǎng.
The downfall of the Nationalists however, can also be attributed to the rise of the Communists. The advances made at Yán’ān in the Shǎnxī province, illuminated the Communists as a party of ideological superiority. The land taxation reform at Yán’ān took land away from rich landlords and distributed it to peasants – requiring only 20% of their grain as taxation, attracted a great deal of peasants and intellectuals to Yán’ān for their radical and innovative policy, and away from the Guómín Dǎng. Social reforms such as women’s association for wives with abusive husbands, as well as evening classes and innovating learning techniques such as stitching Mandarin characters on the packs of Red Army Soldier’s – which increased the literacy rate exponentially – showed a benevolence and level of goodwill that was a clear contrast from nationalist rule, foreign to so such progressiveness. Máo Zédōng’s own ideological development of Máoism, and his concept of mass lines, won the admiration of the Chinese people, as a party that should learn from people, a government that was from the people to the people. This created immense unity and cohesion among the Communist community at Yán’ān, while the Guómín Dǎng bore the brunt of the Japanese invasion, and the burden of the failings of the Nationalist Decade.
The actions of the Red Army also played a crucial role in the downfall of the Guómín Dǎng. The actions of the Red Army were essential to the appeal of communist virtues over those of the Guómín Dǎng nationalists. Instilled with discipline and purpose by Máo at Kiangsi, the Red Army was almost an antonym for the Nationalist Revolutionary Army. While the nationalist army would be typical of a traditional army in tactics and in conduct, the Red Army would employ guerrilla tactics and altruism in their conduct among the people. The three main rules of discipline of the Red Army required that the soldiers “do not take anything” from the masses, while the Eight Points for Attention included politeness, compensating for damage, paying fairly for items, to not ill-treat captives and to not take ‘liberties’ with women. While it is unfortunate that these rules of conduct were atypical in themselves, it was a massive propaganda victory for the communists – a truly benevolent army if ever there was, an army of revolution, that detracted from the public appeal of the Guómín Dǎng.
The Long March and the Battle of Lúdìng Bridge was essential for a Communist rise to power, and a Guómín Dǎng downfall. The failure of Jiǎng Jièshí to eliminate the Communists on the march was an embarrassment for his regime. The fact that the communists could evade extinction at the hands of the Guómín Dǎng for a year alone was an extraordinary feat in it’s own right. While some historians such as Jung Chang and Jon Halliday attribute communist success in the Long March, more to luck and Guómín Dǎng blunders than to any strategic genius, journalists such as Edgar Snow describe the Battle of Luding Bridge as an “ecstasy” and “an Odyssey unequaled in modern times”, which was indeed how it was viewed by the Chinese Communist Party, and the rest of China. The legendary Red heroes of China has succeeded, and Jiǎng Jièshí had failed – a failure that would haunt the Guómín Dǎng in the ensuing Civil War, having not eliminated the communists at their most vulnerable, that would ultimately cause the downfall of the Nationalists.
While the Second Sino-Japanese War was unquestionably the short-term immediate cause of the downfall of the Nationalists, other events such as the establishment of a Communist Revolutionary base at Yán’ān and the Long March and the Battle of Luding Bridge, as well as the ideas of the development of Máoism at Yán’ān, the actions of individuals such as Jiǎng Jièshí and popular movements such as the actions of the Red Army and the Guómín Dǎng, also played an essential role in the reasons for nationalist downfall, and a communist rise to power.
Ethan James Hunt
VCE History: Revolutions Unit 4
Catherine McAuley College
Approximately 30 minutes allocated time
A4 summary sheet allowed
To what extent was the Second Sino-Japanese War the major cause of the downfall of the Guómín Dǎng?