Herewith the unvarnished truth about China's undeclared civil war, as revealed by one of China's most celebrated writers

LIN YUTANG January 1 1945


Herewith the unvarnished truth about China's undeclared civil war, as revealed by one of China's most celebrated writers

LIN YUTANG January 1 1945

THE question of civil war is on every North American’s mind whenever the question of China is brought up. Therefore I have to write about it here. Moreover it is essential to an understanding of the whole China situation. So far the public abroad has had a decidedly one-sided picture. Commentators talk as if, first, the Chinese Government were deliberately discriminating against the Red Army and were seeking a civil war for the pleasure of it; second, as if the Chinese Government were not fully determined to avoid a civil war and solve the Communist question by political means; third, as if the Government ought now to give the Red Army supplies with which to fight its own National Army; and fourth, as if Allied help given to Chungking would be used in fighting the Chinese Communists rather than Japan. These are untrue and uncharitable assumptions.

The paramount question for China is national unity. Who sins against unity in time of war sins against the nation as a whole. The problem of China’s unity means exclusively the problem of the Chinese Communist Party. Without the problem of the Chinese Communists, there is no problem of unity at all, since even the most backward provinces are not under suspicion of planning an open or secret revolt against the Government. No possible disunity can arise from the generals or “warlords,” and no one suggests it. No one suggests or even dreams of revolts from Yünnan, Szechuen, or Sinkiang. This fact alone, the unselfish devotion of all generals and all factions to the cause of the nation above the cause of private expansion, has made it possible for China to fight against Japan.

The pro-Communist charges against Chungking have been rather fulsomely repeated in America, and Chungking has refused to tell its story at all, regarding it as a domestic issue. The result is only confusion. The Chinese Government has strictly censored anticommunist news both at home and abroad. Rightly, it does not wish to present a picture of disunity and hesitates to tell the story of Communist sabotage of the war of resistance. But one must either ignore the Communist question or stand above both parties and hear both sides.

In view of the importance of the subject, it is my opinion that North Americans are fully entitled to hear the facts about the history and origin of the conflicts. The Chinese Government does not wish to tell the story for the sake of face and appearance, and the Chinese Communists do not want to tell the story because it makes ghastly reading of their record in this war. Thus a complete black-out on the six-year-old civil war is established. But obviously, without knowing the character and the extent and magnitude of this civil war, there can be no intelligent discussion of its solution, peaceful or otherwise, and no understanding of the grim struggle that looms ahead for the future of China.

The history of this fratricidal conflict constitutes the most inglorious chapter of the China war, and I have no desire to let the Japanese gloat over it. Unfortunately the Japanese already know the full story and have been known to “celebrate” frictions between Central and Communist troops. It is doing nobody any good to minimize this civil war and call it occasional “clashes” when battles lasted as long as 15 Hays, troops involved at one time numbered 40,000 men, when systematic and organized campaigns were carried on for years from one province to another, with the intent of annihilating the opponent accomplished by determined pursuit and wiping out of remnant forces, and when they involved successive attacks on three provincial government offices, the hounding out of the provinces of two governors and the capture of a third.

When the National Army was surrounded and outnumbered by the Japanese on three sides and surrounded by the Communists on the fourth side in the Taihang Moqntains, the Communists united with the Japanese in destroying the Twenty-Seventh Army of the National forces and ambushed and wiped them out at three places, Pingshun, Kaoping, and Kushien, on July 8, 1943, according to the official telegram of General Chiang Ting-wen. After several such clashes had taken place a Chinese Government official told the facts to a foreign correspondent, but the story was then banned by the Kuomintang censors.

Nobody’s interests are served by glamorizing the Chinese Communists or by underestimating them as a harmless, innocuous party of political innocents. For it is my conviction that, following their aggressive tactics of expansion, against which the Central troops are powerless unless Chiang Kai-Shek orders an open war, the Chinese Communists will have control of half of China, if the Japanese succeed in cutting China by half and if another year lapses before they are driven out.

The facts themselves are sufficiently clear. The Chinese Communists have now established themselves, though incompletely, in five or six provinces of the Japanese-occupied areas. As these areas were in the enemy rear Chungking’s control was incomplete and they were ideal ground for freebooters. But from the very beginning there were Chungking-appointed civil administrations and military commanders of war areas, with guerillas and regular troops, responsible for carrying on operations in Hopei, Shantung, Kiangsu and Anhwei. Besides there were many people’s Armies (minchun) of different sizes, and Peace Preservation Corps (paoantui) organized by the villagers for self-defense. There were Chungking-appointed magistrates in every hsien, San Min Chuyi Youth Corps, War Area Service Corps, and Kuomintang agencies doing underground work. These were all organized under designated “war areas” by the Military Affairs Commission with National units in charge. The operational area assigned to the Communist troops, first known as the Eighth Route Army and later as the Eighteenth Army Corps, was in northern Shensi, eastern Suiyuan, Chahar and northern Hopei, which includes the Peiping and Tientsin area. The other Communist Army, the New Fourth, was assigned an area on both sides of the Yangtze River, between Nanking and Wuhu, covering sections of Anhwei and Kiangsu. If this disposition of troops laid down by the national unified command had been obeyed, there would have been no friction at all.

Naturally, in their plan to seize control of the areas not designated to them, the Communists found it necessary to eliminate both the Central troops and the “people’s armies,” and to attack Kuomintang agencies and Kuomintang-appointed county magistrates and governments.

A further important incentive was the fact that it was much easier to capture rifles and ammunition from their Chinese brothers than from the enemy. After every victory the Communists became stronger by so many rifles. Everywhere they went their first job was to capture rifles and ammunition from the minchun and the paoantui and collect grains and cash. The Chungking troops further had the disadvantage of being far separated from their bases. Time and again they fought until their ammunition was exhausted. When General Ku Chutung decided to strike back, the result was the clash with the New Fourth Army, which was disarmed. The Communists told the world this was civil war. It looked indeed very much like it.

The plain fact then is that the Chungking troops have not gone into Communist areas to attack them, but the Communists have come out to attack other Chinese units in occupied areas in the name of fighting the Japanese. The Communists openly admit now they have run all over Shantung, Hopei, Kiangsu, Anhwei and even Hupeh, and are a little proud of their victories and their growing strength. But they have not captured these territories from the Japanese but from the other Chinese by bloody battles. From the very beginning the process of penetration and expansion was characterized by armed and underground conflicts with other Chinese soldiers, and with extremely subtle and able tactics of boring from within. In no instance have the Communists been able to capture territories which the Japanese intended to hold. As they have not yet been able to establish perfect control over the occupied areas, where Chungking military and civil organizations are still operating today, the result is a continued futile and disheartening fratricide, while the Japanese have been able to get all they want in manpower and resources.

The Communist expansion they are now boasting about has not been a peaceful expansion, but one achieved by “armed struggle” and “bloodshed,” in the exact words of Mao Tsetung, China’s Communist dictator and party boss at Yenan. The Communist statistics must be read afresh. For every Japanese they claim to have killed, they have killed at least five Chinese. For every town they have captured from the Japanese, they have captured 50 towns from other Chinese. Of the hundreds of “clashes” per year they claim to their credit, a fair percentage must include those with Chinese “enemy.”

Robbed Fellow Chinese

WHILE I take pride in the fact that they have captured ammunition from the Japanese, I am aware that half of their weapons have been robbed from other Chinese guerillas and regular units. Against their claim to have held down 350,000 Japanese troops and 200,000 puppet troops in the occupied areas must be counted the fact that they have held down half a million Chinese soldiers holding down the same Japanese and their puppets in the same areas. Alongside their vociferous criticisms of the absence of a free press in Chungking and their energetic demand for national unity, why do not the Chinese Communists and their American fellow travellers give us some idea of the free press in Yenan and the facts of this civil war as they see it? Why do they prefer to present the “blockade” against them as an unaccountable mystery?

Under peace circumstances the Central troops would not have allowed this state of things to drag on. But if Chungking had accepted the challenge there would have been open civil war, and this had to be avoided at all costs. The situation was therefore ideal for the Chinese Communists. The different campaigns form a well-thought-out sequence following steady southward direction. Victorious over their Chinese brothers and growing strong on Chinese defeats, the Communists pushed on from Hopei to Shantung. One need not go into all the campaigns in Shantung, Shansi, Anhwei and Kiangsu. The tactics of penetration of preparatory disarming of small paoantui units and people’s army units, obtaining control of outlying hsien towns, accumulating supplies and arms, followed by strong, powerful sudden thrusts in overpowering numbers and encircling movements, were of the same general pattern, directed and carried out with determination, cunning and superb courage. One must admit that General Chu Teh, commander of the Red Army, is one of China’s best military strategists, and Mao Tsetung one of the best tacticians in political propaganda.

There can be no question as to who was the deter mined aggressor. It is not to be supposed that Chiang Kai-Shek could not plan concerted attacks and encircling movements as well as Chu Teh. If Chiang had wanted civil war his General Hu Tsungnan’s troops at Sian could easily have gone into the Yenan area and crushed the Communists. They didn’t have to be satisfied with a “blockade.” Naturally the conflicts continued and flared up again and again with greater severity.

Because of the character of this planned and deliberate aggression against Central forces I believe the Communists will, by following the same tactics, soon obtain control of Honan, Hupeh, Hunan and Kwangsi, that is, wherever the Japanese come. I do not believe that while this situation continues there is any way of stopping them short of a declared civil war. But I think that the Chinese Government will continue to appease them by letting them advance steadily from province to province rather than risk a civil war in the midst of the war against Japan.

The past record of the Chinese Communists exhibits sufficient astuteness in propaganda and unscrupulousness of method to warrant the assumption that after the war they will adopt whatever tactics and put on whatever front they may deem necessary to achieve political power in China and accomplish their final, unchangeable objective. Their unscrupulousness in creating ruthless internecine warfare, even when the enemy is still on Chinese soil, is matched only by their slickness in championing China’s national unity abroad. And while they do not care a farthing for freedom of the press and of thought and individual rights and have established the most rigorous party dictatorship in Yenan, they have succeeded in making themselves out as steady champions of freedom of the press and constitutional government in Chungking. We may therefore expect that in the postwar period they will not only put on a democratic front, but even a procapitalist front, as the American Communists are doing, in order to achieve political power. And because I have great respect for Mao Tsetung’s political genius I believe he will soon abandon violence and seek a legal position by “constitutional” means, probably planning to end up as China’s Reichs-Chancellor.

But the Chinese Government at Chungking, for the present at least, will not talk about domestic troubles. This has created a curious situation. The Government is placed at every step in the utterly false position of having to deny things that exist. I met Richard Watts after he had come away from a press conference. I asked him if it wasn’t a dull conference, and he said, “No, on the contrary, it was a very lively meeting.” Some correspondents had forced a discussion of the perennial report of a “blockade” of the Communists. The Chinese spokesmen were compelled to quibble and ask, “What do you mean by blockade?” Then the Communists in Chungking, like Tung Pi-wu, asked, “Why don’t you go and see the blockhouses on the border?”

Again, some time ago the correspondents asked if it was true that the Red Army hadn’t been paid. It would have been easy to explain why Chungking military headquarters could not be expected to pay very promptly a hostile Army that was daily engaged in fighting its own troops and attacking government offices—acts tantamount to rebellion. Instead, the spokesman denied the charge. The correspondents then asked, “When did the headquarters pay the Red Army last, and how much per month?” The answer was vague. The Government kept up the fiction that the Red Army was still a part of the National Army, and therefore entitled to receive pay, and the Red Army kept up the fiction of obeying the Central Government and fighting on a United Front.

The problem of China’s unity is, as I have pointed out, exclusively the problem of the Chinese Communists, but I also feel sure that there is urgent need in China for a party with emphasis on the principle of a better and more abundant life for the common people.

When people speak of the “reactionary” tendency of the Kuomintang, they mean that in the economic and political sense the party’s record as a whole shows it has failed to emphasize the rights of peasant and labor and the common people. Nowhere in Kuomintang China, that is, in the China administered by Chunking, have I yet seen or heard the common people of China played up as the all-important individuals whose happiness is the state’s final aim to look after and whose vote it is the politician’s strategy to bid for. Nowhere yet have I seen the common people made to feel that they are important. Yet until the people of China are made to feel that the “little people” are the important people, China will fail in the final analysis to qualify for the title of democracy.

Three Steps

I am therefore of the opinion that three things should be done. First, a Bill of Rights should be immediately and rigidly enforced. Second, the Chungking Government should at once grant constitutional status to all political parties in China which are not backed by a separate Army, as a preparatory step toward the coming constitutional period. This will be similar to the interim period before the final peace settlements for Europe. There are a few unimportant political parties in existence, and many important lessons may be learned in the working of party politics. The Government will thus be in an unassailable position, and any time the Chinese Communist party is willing to hand over its private army to the unified national command it will be entitled to the same status and privileges as the other parties. Third, the Kuomintang should develop within its own ranks a vigorous movement, which may be called the “left,” bidding for the support of peasant and labor and the common people in competition with the Communist ultraradical platform. The formation of such a party will be the most courageous and statesmanlike act that Kuomintang leaders can take at present.

There is no question that in a sense the Communists are “democratic.” But the Communists are democratic only in the sense that they have always theoretically stood for the rights of the peasants and labor, and they are ahead of Chungking in organizing the people for self-government, that they have workers’ unions, peasant unions, women’s unions, that they stand for the peasants against the landlords, and have reduced the interest on loans. These are democratic features. They are democratic in the sense that Soviet Russia is democratic. Yet the Soviet regime in China is no less a dictatorship, even as Soviet rule in Russia is a dictatorship, and it has all the strength and the vices of dictatorships. At best it can be described as “democratic totalitarianism.” A totalitarian state working for the interests of the people certainly has its strength, its ability for carrying through reform programs, as is amply illustrated by Soviet Russia. The question is whether that is the kind of democracy China wants.

The Chinese Communist regime has been able to mobilize manpower and resources more thoroughly than the Chungking Government, because its control of the people’s lives is more rigid. It has no freedom of speech, no freedom of belief, it rules by regimentation and by terror, by secret agents and local commissars in the Army and in civil administrations; it goes through the farce of packed popular elections; it terrorizes the population that dares to dissent or refuses to co-operate; it enforces complete party discipline, the party dominates everything, and party members have exalted privileges; it carries out “purges,” “liquidations,” in a drastic and unscrupulous manner; and finally replaces the landlord and employer with the state as the master. Consequently the people are terrorized. In Chungking people of all classes can criticize the Government freely in public places. But in Communist areas the peasants all “praise” the regime and have nothing to say against it. The degeneration of the peasantry under Communist rule in occupied areas is, from all reports, a clear and certain fact. The final test of a regime is whether the people dare to talk against the regime, and that is a pretty good test of what we mean by “democracy.” I should like to hear the foreign correspondents returning from Yenan report that they have been able to find one farmer who did not “praise” the regime as a regime of perfection.

Actually, the situation is not so frightening as this seems to forebode. The Chinese Communist Party is caught in the process of a transformation, not by Kuomintang argument, but by the shape of events of this war. Russia began to talk differently when she began to ask and receive Allied war supplies; so will the Chinese Communist Party when Allied help and supplies are desired by them. The tone of their attacks on capitalist thieves and imperialist butchers will be softened considerably. Marxian ideas are being modified by the force of events and by certain Communist leaders realistic enough to see it. One of the most interesting lessons of this war is that the national instinct is deeper than the class instinct. According to Marxian dialectic the German Communists should have proved useful to Stalin. They weren’t. England should have fought with Germany against Russia because of capitalist affinities. She didn’t. American labor should have approved of the American Communists’ loyalty to Moscow in its attitude toward the European war, both during Stalin’s pact with Hitler and after. It discredited them. Russia herself should have gone on with the Comintern. She dissolved it. Even as Russia moves toward democracy, nationalism, private property, the family, and the church—that is, away from Marxism— so will the realistic Chinese Communists. Even as Russia begins now to sing songs of its ancient national heroes instead of the Internationale, so the Chinese Communists in time will go back to the family and Confucianism. They will say: “All we were trying to do was to imitate democracy and we never meant proletariat dictatorship when we said it.” The Chinese family and Confucianism and pride in one’s own historical heritage will be too strong for them. They will then become as pro-Confucian and pro-nationalist as the anti-Communist Kuomintang Minister of Education, Chen Lifu. So history will play pranks with men’s ideas.

The Chinese Communists in establishing their own separate regime did so out of a sincere conviction, and their aim is to improve the lot of the primary producer. On this fundamental aim there is not ground for difference; the difference between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party lies in the method of carrying out the social revolution, whether by gradual reforms or by methods of violence and a proletariat dictatorship. In any modern democracy such political differences should be settled by democratic means. The Chinese instinct for compromise is strong. No matter what the Chinese Communists have done, all will be forgiven when they are willing to unite with the rest of the nation.