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AS THESE lines are written an earnest effort is being made to compose the long-standing differences between the Communists in China and the Kuomintang Government of Chiang Kai-shek. The good offices of United States representatives have been made available to assist in these negotiations, and the recent action of Soviet Russia in making an alliance with the National Government and in agreeing not to interfere in the internal affairs of China has led to the fresh attempt at compromise to ward off a civil war. No one can predict what turn the negotiations may take. But whether the Communists are brought into the National Government, or whether they remain a dissident faction, they have come to stay as a force of great political importance not merely to China but to Asia and the world.
The reasons for this conclusion, reached after five months of critical investigation in Communist-controlled China and developed against the background of four years' experience in Kuomintang territories, are set forth in the following pages. They are not offered as a survey of all the factors in the twenty-year struggle between Kuomintang and Communist parties in China; that complex chapter of history has often been told from varying points of view. My effort here is simply to set forth why I contend that the Chinese Communist movement is now so strong, and has its roots so well embedded in economic and political realities in China, that it could not be destroyed even in a civil war.
The Communists are entrenched in their former "Anti-Japanese War Bases" in the north and center of China proper, with their capital in the small cave town of Yenan, in the province of Shensi. It is estimated that the extent of this area, which the Communists have been liberating and defending against constant Japanese counterattacks during the last eight years, is some 300,000 square miles. The Communists claim to have 910,000 regular troops, and 2,200,000 militia auxiliaries. These troops are inferior in equipment to those of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. But they are probably equal in numbers and on the whole superior in health and morale. When one compares the military strength of the two sides, consideration should be given to the fact that certain of the Central Government's divisions have obtained equipment and valuable training at the hands of American officers, and to the possibility that the Kuomintang may obtain more of the arms the Japanese are leaving behind than the Communists get.
The Communists claim to control a civilian population of 95,000,000, and to have been able to mobilize them more successfully for the war against Japan than the Kuomintang could do because their "New Democracy," unlike the system of the Kuomintang, operates on a basis of United Front coöperation between all social strata and of freely elected local self-governments (in which Communists occupy only one-third of all seats). They assert that their "New Democracy" has developed a considerable capacity for economic and social progress in the people of the area, and has made them reliable supporters of the régime under which they live. Finally, they claim that their military, political and economic achievements have gained them the sympathies of a large number of people in the Kuomintang areas who are in opposition to Chiang Kai-shek's Government.
The terms on which China would achieve national unity -- equally desired by the Communists and Kuomintang -- have been only one of the two great issues between the two factions. The other, which came to the fore after the Japanese surrender, has been the wish of both to strengthen themselves by gaining control over vital parts of China which had long been under enemy occupation.
Chungking and Yenan have approached the problem of national reunification in diametrically opposite ways. Chungking has insisted that the armies and local administrations of the Communists submit to the Central Government, dominated by the Kuomintang. Yenan has demanded the creation of a coalition government in which the Kuomintang would share power with the Communists and the small democratic parties, on a basis to be determined by free elections, under universal suffrage, in both parts of China.
Negotiations between the two parties were renewed last year, but the ensuing deadlock last spring made clear the irreconcilable character of their positions at that time and increased the danger of an armed conflict between the old opponents. Some elements in the Kuomintang undoubtedly desired a final armed showdown, despite Chiang Kai-shek's declared decision to seek a peaceful solution; and although the Communists stood to gain more by peaceful development than by an armed struggle, they indicated that if necessary they would certainly fight for their program with all their strength and would endeavor to enlist the active support of the still unorganized opposition to Chiang Kai-shek in Kuomintang China.
But it is chiefly the desire for control of the vital Japanese-occupied positions which has threatened China with civil conflict. The main Anti-Japanese War Bases of the Communists form a circle around Peiping and Tientsin in the north, and some others are close to Shanghai, Nanking and Hankow on the Yangtze; most of the railroads of north and central China are flanked by them. As this article is being written, Communist forces are cutting off the Kuomintang troops from Russian-occupied Manchuria. The vast bloc of Yenan-controlled territories stretches from both banks of the Yangtze into the southern fringes of Manchuria and from Inner Mongolia to the China Sea. American transport planes are now to help the Kuomintang armies penetrate into that far-flung network of Communist-held positions, disarm local Japanese garrisons and claim the cities and railroad lines held by the defeated enemy.
United States policy will continue to exert enormous influence on the Chinese situation. In the writer's opinion, the survival of Chiang Kai-shek's régime depends primarily upon one condition: that every conceivable kind of American assistance be extended to it. This fact makes it impossible for the United States to disavow interest and responsibility for the domestic policy followed by the government which it is supporting. Until the fall of 1944, when Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek demanded and obtained the dismissal of General Joseph W. Stilwell, his Allied Chief-of-Staff, American policy seemed to be based upon a desire to promote coöperation between Chungking and the Communists. Thereafter, however, it apparently became American policy to pay less attention to the existence of the Chinese Communists and to give Chiang Kai-shek a maximum of military, economic, financial and moral support. The hope seemingly was that American aid would increase the Kuomintang's offensive strength against Japan but not its power of waging civil war against the Communists. (The futility of the hope was indicated in a recent press statement issued by Lieutenant-General Albert C. Wedemeyer, in Chungking. He said the claim of the Chinese Communists that the Kuomintang troops fighting them near Yenan in July had used new American arms was "probably true," implying that such arms, delivered for use against Japan, must have reached these troops through irregular channels.)
The argument in favor of such a policy was a legalistic one -- that the Chungking régime is the only recognized representative of the Chinese nation, and that hence Chungking's wish for noninterference in its domestic affairs must be respected. The customary analogy cited in support of this view was that the Government of the United States would not tolerate an American Communist party that had entrenched itself, say, in Wyoming and neighboring states, maintained its own armies and local governments, issued its own currency, and demanded that the Democratic Party establish a coalition government in Washington. In such a situation, the argument continued, the United States Government would certainly reject foreign criticism of its conviction that those Communists were rebels with whom the Administration had the right to deal according to its own judgment.
But this analogy obscures the realities of the situation in China. There is no parallel between the political development of the United States and China today. China is still in the formative period of modern nationhood, as America was at the time of the Declaration of Independence. General Chiang Kai-shek himself suggested this in a talk with Representative Mansfield last winter, comparing "China today, with its dissident elements and the revolutionary soldiers of George Washington's time." The fact is that China's revolution, dragging on painfully into its fourth decade, is still in progress, unwon and undecided.
Early in June 1944, a group of foreign newspapermen (of whom I was one) succeeded in obtaining permission from the Chungking Government to visit the Yenan area, which had been blockaded since 1939. Six weeks later an Observer Section of the United States Army followed. The difference between conditions on the Kuomintang and Communist sides was striking, even at first sight; and it became more so after close investigation. The Yenan régime seemed to have solved many of the vital military, political, economic and social problems which Chungking considered insoluble under the circumstances of war. The fact is that, unknown to the world, a second China has grown up behind the blockade wall with which the Kuomintang tried for five years to hide it.
The system of political democracy established by the Yenan régime, while under the general guidance of the Communist Party and still primitive, is genuine; and I believe it is making steady progress. The Communist Party, anxious to enforce its basic United Front principles, does not permit its members to stand for election to more than one-third of the seats in any self-government council. Elections seem to be based on free and universal suffrage.
I watched the meetings of self-government organizations on various administrative planes: village, municipality, county and regional. In these councils two-thirds of all seats seemed in fact to be held by non-Communists. They included popularly elected delegates of the non-party majority of the population, representatives of former Kuomintang organizations in the Yenan-controlled regions which Chungking disowned because of their United Front coöperation with the Communists, and persons who sympathize with, or belong to, China's small democratic parties.[i] The realism of the factual discussions in those meetings, and what I heard from individual members both in public and in private interviews, was fully confirmed by what I saw of life and work in the Border Region. The same type of intelligent farmers, patriotic landlords, merchants and liberal scholar gentry who, in the Kuomintang regions, either have no political rights and duties or cannot assert them against the traditional rule of more or less corrupt village and town bosses, have been activated on the Communist side and have been instrumental in overcoming age-old backwardness and old class disharmonies.
The success of the "New Democracy" imposes on the Communists the obligation of adhering to their course, whatever may happen in the future. A return to the political methods of the period of the Civil War is almost unthinkable for several reasons. In the first place, the "New Democracy" proved infinitely more suitable to the country than the Chinese variety of the "Soviet" system which had become grimly radical during the ruthless Civil War years. Secondly, a relapse into their former policies would cost the Communists the invaluable coöperation of the "bourgeois" United Front elements whose genuine acceptance of the Communist-sponsored "New Democracy" has contributed so decisively to its growing strength and prestige. Thirdly, the Communist Party itself has changed since 1937 from an uncompromisingly revolutionary group of 70,000 or 80,000 hardened Civil War veterans to a well-disciplined but fundamentally reformist organization of 1,200,000 rural people with predominantly nationalistic, petty-bourgeois background. These Communists are mainly "middle" peasants who own private property, and their economic status is improving with the rising prosperity of the Yenan-controlled region. They see nothing wrong in their desire for a further improvement of their economic well-being based on private enterprise, nor in any form of "capital accumulation." On the contrary, the growth of privately owned capital is fostered by Yenan's economic policies because it is considered necessary during that "prolonged stage of democratic development" which is to lay the foundation for a future transition to Socialism.
These men and women joined the party in the course of liberating and defending their homes, fighting side by side with the original party members; and they have shared in the process of introducing reforms of a fundamentally democratic nature. They seem as firmly convinced as the leader of the party, Mao Tse-tung, that China is not yet ripe for Socialism but that this goal -- and beyond it the eventual goal of Communism to which as Marxists they aspire -- can be achieved in slow peaceful progress. The precondition of such progress, it is held, is practical coöperation between a strong and politically responsible Communist party and other groups.
On the upper level, the Yenan régime is not yet controlled by the people. The directing positions of the army, the press and the political organs which determine overall, long-term policies for the 18 self-government units of "Liberated China" are still held by the leaders of the Communist Party. They are responsible, not to a popularly-elected assembly, but to the party-elected Central Executive Committee. This, too, is to be changed; a congress of elected representatives of these local self-governments under Communist control in north and central China is to meet in Yenan late this year to establish a "Chinese People's Liberation Union." A committee, with a maximum Communist membership of one-third the total, is scheduled to take over central control from the Communist Party. When Mao Tse-tung told me in October 1944 about this impending completion of the "New Democracy," he expressed the opinion that the assembly should not insist upon constituting the proposed committee as a full-fledged Chinese Government. At that time he still hoped that an understanding between Chungking and Yenan could prevent China from being split into two separate halves through the coexistence of two national governments.
The "New Democracy" of Yenan is based on economic and financial policies which have succeeded in raising production and improving the standard of living of the people. The Communistled troops are the best fed and most popular in China. Chungking leaders of various Kuomintang factions confessed to me on my return from Yenan that the Communists had surprisingly sound achievements to their credit in the economic field. For the first time in modern history, some of China's great economic problems seem on the way to solution. That is one of the great sources of strength of the Communist régime and a portent for the future. To overlook it is to run the risk of an inaccurate analysis of present and future forces in China.
Firstly, the long-overdue land tenure reform has been introduced. It follows the line marked out by Dr. Sun Yat-sen in 1924 -- a general reduction of the tenants' rents to a maximum of 40 percent of their crops. This reduction of rent is supplemented by local-government guarantees to the landlords that the rent will be paid. (The measures contrast sharply with the Communists' Civil War practice of confiscating landlords' holdings in favor of the tenants.) Secondly, the farmers have been induced to pool their own labor, their draft animals and tools in voluntary, village-wide "labor exchange brigades." Without prejudice to their members' individual ownership in land and crops, these teams work their fields collectively in a much more intensive and productive manner than before and gain time for the collective reclamation of waste land, for increased production in industrial coöperatives and cottage handicraft, and for the manifold political and social activities. Agricultural production has been increased to twice its original level in Yenan's northwestern border region. Thirdly, the traditionally heavy taxation has been reduced through various administrative reforms which prevent "squeeze." Government officials are provided with a sufficient livelihood and at the same time are made responsible to popular control. The need for taxation has also been reduced by an arrangement which enables all troops, government and party officials, and pupils and teachers of schools and colleges to use a certain part of their time for productive work in agriculture or handicraft. This measure was instituted as Yenan's reply to the blockade instituted by Chungking and its stoppage of pay for the Communist-led armies early in 1941. Army garrisons, administrative offices, and educational institutions in the Border Region now cover, on an average, two-thirds of the cost of their upkeep out of the production of their members.
The social and cultural policies of Yenan make the "New Democracy" a logical and workable whole. The administration of justice is largely based on the progressive law codes elaborated but never enforced by the Kuomintang. The public health services are primitive but surprisingly effective. The all-embracing educational efforts aim at old and young, the illiterate and the old-style intellectuals, the politically backward and Communist Party members. The promotion of popular art and culture has an important place in the program. In all these fields revolutionary radicalism has given way to sound reformist attitudes, and whatever Russian influence there may have been in the past has vanished before an earthbound, thoroughly Chinese approach. The aims of these organized mass movements are concrete and practical. The people have awakened to a surprising consciousness of new rights and duties. The degree of popular enthusiasm displayed for victory over the Japanese and for social progress was impressive. I thought it something new and heartening in China.
Many observers have noted that a major source of weakness in the war effort of the Chungking Government lay in the gap that separated its large but ill-supported professional army from the unorganized and politically unawakened population. The Central Government tried to bridge this gap, but the great potentialities for democratic coöperation between the soldiers and the masses of the people have not yet been realized. The strength of Yenan's war effort, on the other hand, derived from the fact that the population itself was made an integral part of the fighting forces, was mobilized to support the Communists in every conceivable way, and was at the same time given a stake in victory over Japan by the promising beginnings of political, economic and social reforms.
Of the approximately 95,000,000 people in the Yenan-controlled war regions, 16,000,000 were members of the Self Defense Corps, trained for important auxiliary services to the fighting forces and available for use in the very front line whenever offensive or defensive operations required. The élite of the Self Defense Corps, primitively armed but experienced in actual warfare, were 2,200,000 militia. The armies themselves grew out of these militia fighters. The Eighth Route Army increased from 80,000 in 1937 to 321,000 in 1944 and to about 600,000 in the summer of 1945; and the New Fourth Army from 15,000 in 1938 to 154,000 in 1944 and to about 300,000 in the summer of 1945.
With their fighting forces deeply anchored in the population, with an aggressive strategy that was not hampered by any need to wait for foreign support and supplies, and with their ingeniously developed guerrilla tactics which made great use of locally-manufactured hand grenades and land mines, the Communists inflicted great damage on the Japanese. The claims of the Communists cannot be checked in detail, but the estimate that their forces, during the last seven and a half years, killed and wounded 511,000 Japanese and 458,000 "puppets" and captured 313,500 rifles and 5,770 machine guns seems plausible. It should be remembered that these statistics represent the sum total of a vast number of defensive and offensive skirmishes and ambushes along thousands of miles of front line, in which, it is claimed, an average of three Japanese soldiers and six or seven puppets were killed and wounded, at the cost of about two casualties on the Communist side.
The Communist-led forces denied the Japanese the economic exploitation and the political consolidation of most of the conquered areas in north and central China. They unceasingly disrupted Japanese communication lines, tied up more and more enemy troops, and ate deeper and deeper into the domain of the Japanese. The effectiveness of Yenan's war effort was confirmed by American pilots forced down in those areas.
The Japanese themselves never ceased to complain about the harm the Communists were doing them. Here are some typical enemy utterances:[ii]
From figures on the results of Imperial Japanese Army action against the Chungking and Communist armies since December 1941 it is clear that the major hindrance to peace in Eastern Asia is no longer the Chungking Government but the Chinese Communist Party. The stubbornness of the Communist troops has far surpassed that of the Chungking troops.
The Imperial Japanese Army and the forces of the New [puppet] Government of China fight the Communists incessantly.
The Communist armies mean fatal injury to North China. They hold vast villages, encircle our strongpoints, and prevent them from obtaining supplies. They disturb incessantly the rear of the Imperial Japanese Army and disrupt communications in order to isolate and blockade the cities, so that supplies and replenishments of the Imperial Japanese Army are hampered by them.
They are clever in relying upon guerrilla tactics and political offensives in harassing us. They absolutely hold the initiative in fighting and always maintain the offensive.
To break through the material difficulties created by our military and economic offensives and the breakup and isolation of their bases, the Communists strove to raise the efficiency of their army and to simplify their administrations.
The Communist Party is extremely stubborn, and this is especially true of its leading groups which are rich in experience, thorough in reviewing operations and studying tactics, and quick in realizing and readjusting their faults and weaknesses.
The Communists are instigating national consciousness and seeking decisive battles against the Imperial Japanese Army in North China.
The Communist bandits are the only hindrance now existing to the revival of China and the defense of Eastern Asia.
Tokyo tried continuously to picture the Chinese Communists as more dangerous enemies of Chiang Kai-shek's régime than the Japanese themselves, their purpose apparently being to instigate the right wing elements in Chungking to civil war, and to sabotage the sporadic negotiations between Chungking and Yenan. For example, the Kokumin Shimbun in Tokyo wrote:
Chungking is surely worried over the increasing influence of the Chinese Communists. Japan is in the same boat as far as this is concerned. . . . Reckless activities of the New Fourth Army . . . are becoming a menace to peace. . . . The Tientsin-Pukow Railway [Japanese-occupied] has been hard hit in its transportation. Activities of the Eighth Route Army are penetrating into North China and forming a cancer to the maintenance of peace. . . . The Chiang [Kai-shek] faction is now in a dilemma. . . . It is not altogether unimaginable that Japan, too, may be seriously affected by the Communist influence if Chungking is not able to pacify the Communists.[iii]
More recently, at a time when the United States was trying to bring Chiang Kai-shek and the Communists to an understanding, a Domei broadcast received by the Federal Communications Commission quoted the complaint of the Tokyo newspaper Mainichi Shimbun that "the activities of the Yenan régime have become more vigorous in coördination with America's Pacific offensive," and that "Communist attacks on the Imperial Japanese Army have been especially marked in Central China," where, for example, "the New Fourth Army is swarming into the Anhwei sector." The broadcast continued with an editorial from the Nippon Times, expressing sympathy with Chiang Kai-shek because of the American pressure for an understanding with Yenan, and warning Chungking that, "The United States pretends that a Chungking-Yenan rapprochement is necessary for the prevention of civil war in China, but a compromise sponsored by the United States would only make civil war inevitable."
Finally, I obtained evidence in Yenan that the Japanese militarists, in working out long-term plans for a comeback after the defeat they then already envisioned, made all possible preparations for the incitement of internal strife in China at the time of their own collapse. Their Chinese "puppet" armies, equipped and trained as an anti-Communist fighting force, were to be ready to serve the rightist elements in the Kuomintang in the prosecution of a prolonged civil war which might lead, first to coöperation between a weakened Kuomintang and a "moderate" Japanese postwar government against leftist elements in both countries, and eventually to a revival of Japanese influence on the continent.
In case of civil war, could the Kuomintang armies hope, even with American support, to achieve more against the Communists than did the Japanese? While probably able to prevent the Communists from occupying and holding most of the strategic positions formerly held by the enemy, could they uproot them in their vast rural strongholds where the Japanese fought them in vain?
In my opinion, they could not. The Japanese have fought the Communists relentlessly with perhaps 300,000 to 500,000 well-equipped, well-led and politically incorruptible troops, and with up to 800,000 Chinese puppet auxiliaries, of which more than one-half are former Kuomintang units which had been indoctrinated against the Communists. It seems also illusory to believe that the Kuomintang could count on the support of "class enemies" of the Communists inside the areas of Yenan's "New Democracy." During the Civil War, landlords, merchants and gentry supported the Kuomintang inside the "Soviet" territories, but it is very unlikely that these groups would show hostility to the present Communist régime. I talked to many bona fide landlords, merchants, members of the old-style gentry, and to former officials and military officers of the Kuomintang who are now active in Yenan's United Front. All of them agreed that not only would the ordinary people support the Eighth Route and New Fourth armies, or even fight on their side, if Kuomintang troops tried to seize any part of "Liberated China," but that the large majority of men of their own class would do likewise.
Chiang Kai-shek's decision to call a National Assembly at the end of this year, and to have it endorse the Draft Constitution, did not brighten the prospect for national unity. The Communists, the small parties, and the other opposition groups inside and outside the Kuomintang interpreted this decision as a bid for the perpetuation of the Kuomintang dictatorship under a democratic disguise, and as an attempt to mislead foreign opinion.
The Communists objected strongly to this National Assembly because its members, who have never met before, were arbitrarily appointed by the Kuomintang almost a decade ago, during the Civil War. They pointed out that, according to a Chungking statement, the replacement of those who have died or gone over to the enemy, as well as "all questions concerning the powers of the Assembly," are to be left to the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang. Ostensibly, they argued, the National Assembly was being called to subordinate the Kuomintang Party to the will of the Chinese people, but the composition of the Assembly made this a fiction. They also objected to the Draft Constitution of the early 1930's on the ground that it was exclusively a Kuomintang product, devised at the height of the Civil War to legalize the power of the party. The Constitution proposes that the National Assembly shall meet for one month every three years. Its grant of powers to the President of the Republic would make him a virtual dictator; for though it contains elaborate guarantees for civil liberties, they are qualified by the ominous phrase used in the Japanese Constitution, "except in accordance with law."
The Communists and the other opposition forces have held out for their demand for a coalition government, to be chosen immediately by a conference of delegates representing all political parties, the Kuomintang, Communist, and semi-autonomous provincial armies, and the local governments in the Kuomintang and Communist areas. The coalition government would function until a truly representative National Assembly to draft a constitution could be chosen by free elections throughout all of China.
I found no indication in Yenan that the Chinese Communists were supported, guided, or even influenced by their Russian comrades during the Sino-Japanese war. It even seemed questionable whether there was much political contact between Yenan and Moscow. And the Chinese Communists, although outspoken in their adherence to Marxism and in their sympathies for the U.S.S.R. -- "as for all fighters against Fascism and reaction" -- impressed me primarily as being Chinese nationalists, men whose 18 years' practical experience in guiding large armies and administrations had made their minds independent of outside influences. They considered that their demand for a genuinely representative government in China reflected the desire of the vast majority of the Chinese people. They held that it was a matter of political principle, permitting no compromise. They said that they were willing to give up their armies and their local administrations to such a government, but to no other.
The direct bearing of the new Chinese-Russian Treaty of Friendship and Alliance on China's precarious domestic situation should not be overrated. By assuring Russia's non-interference in internal Chinese affairs, Russia's support and assistance for China, and Russia's recognition of Generalissimo Chiang Kaishek's National Government as the only central government of the country, it allays suspicion that Moscow is implicated in the conflict between Chungking and Yenan. In the writer's opinion, that suspicion has never had any foundation in fact. The Pact merely reaffirms the continuation of Russian policies of long standing.
Yenan cannot feel abandoned by Moscow, for the Chinese Communists never received Russian support; and they were always in dread lest the Chinese national unity which they were trying to achieve in a purely domestic struggle for the establishment of a coalition government might be jeopardized by a civil war fanned by a foreign power.
Chungking, on the other hand, cannot regard Moscow's assurance that Russia is interested in a strong and friendly China as a green light for a Kuomintang attack on the Communists. For the Chinese National Government must realize that, even though the published agreement is silent on the subject, the Russian promises of support and assistance will materialize only if China makes progress toward internal peace and national unity.
Indirectly, however, the text may come to exert a beneficial influence on the Chinese domestic situation by making it quite clear to skeptics in America that Russia's attitude toward the problem of Chinese unity is fundamentally identical with that of the United States. Washington has been encouraged once more to offer its good offices for a settlement between Chungking and Yenan, and through Ambassador Hurley has brought Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Tse-tung together for negotiations. Probably both Chinese parties will now feel more than ever that America, in its efforts to reconcile them, is speaking in the name of the United Nations.
[i] The overall organization to which these parties belong, the Democratic League, still leads a semi-illegal existence in Kuomintang territories.
[ii] Quoted in sequence from the following Japanese and "puppet" newspapers and magazines: Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo, January 15, 1944; Domei Home Service, February 14, 1944; Mainichi Shimbun, Special Supplement, no date; Tang Chen Monthly, Vol. 7, No. 1; Hsin Chung Kuo, Shanghai, July 10, 1944; Wen Yo, Shanghai, April 1944; Yung Pao, Tientsin, January 7 and 18, 1944 (two quotations).
[iii] Quoted from the American-owned Japanese Advertiser, Tokyo December 27, 1940.