The history of 19th century and 20th century China, leading up to the Chinese Revolutions, the Republic of China and then the People's Republic of China.
This podcast was inspired by Mike Duncan's Revolutions. This podcast follows him by telling the stories leading to the Chinese Revolutions.
The episodes cover the Opium Wars, Taiping Rebellion, foreign treaties and concessions bringing trade and Christianity to China, the Boxer Rebellion, China's 1911 Revolution, the Warlord Period, the KMT and the rise of the Communist Party of China. The Chinese United Fronts are discussed. Personalities like the Empress Dowager Cixi, the Qing emperors, Earl Li Hongzhang, Kang Youwei Sun Yat-sen, Yuan Shikai, Wu Peifu, Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong are featured. The experiences of Chinese working overseas, including in Australia, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa and the United States of America are also brought to life. We have looked at stories from the late Qing Dynasty. Now we are looking at the stories of the Republic of China, the Communist International (Comintern)'s interest in exporting world revolution to China and the United Fronts.
For more information and content see: https://chineserevolution.substack.com
Cover art: "Mao Zedong. 1893-1976" by josephbergen is licensed under CC BY-NC-N
Image: "Dr-Sun-Yat-Sen-chinese-garden" by Damahevi is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.
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The National Palace Museum Treasures During the Second Sino Japanese War
55:21The treasures of the National Palace Museum, originally the Forbidden City, followed China's path. They escaped the invading Japanese by leaving Beijing, first for Shanghai, then Nanjing and then followed southern, central and northern routes to Sichuan and safety. The Chinese government followed a similar path, as did countless Chinese individuals and families. Japanese bombers followed these refugees west, devastating China. But the Chinese people, Chinese government, Chinese culture and the antiquities from the National Palace Museum survived the Sino-Japanese War. This is the story of China's survival during the war.Topics like wartime inflation, the Chinese victory at Taierzhuang and the government decision to breach the Yellow River dikes and to flood Chinese land are also discussed.Image Source: National Palace MuseumMain Source: Brookes, Adam. (2022). Fragile Cargo: The World War II Race to Save the Treasures of China's Forbidden City. Atria BooksSecondary Source: Bloch, Kurt. Far Eastern War Inflation. Pacific Affairs , Sep., 1940, Vol. 13, No. 3 (Sep., 1940), pp. 320-343. Pacific Affairs, University of British Columbia Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
The Beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Nanjing Massacre
25:23On July 7, 1937, the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II began with the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. It is also known as the Lugou Bridge Incident. Within days of the small skirmish with 100 Chinese garrison troops, the Japanese had brought in 180,000 troops. After that, the fighting between the Chinese and the Japanese did not stop until 1945.Japan then attacked Shanghai. Nationalist troops resisted for three months, including with hidden artillery that killed the Japanese Empress' cousin during an amphibious landing. But the Japanese eventually captured China's largest port city and turned their attention to the national capital of Nanjing, after sacking the historic, cultural city of Suzhou.Chiang Kai-shek ordered Nanjing to be both defended and evacuated. Treasures from the Forbidden City were moved west, along with government officials. Soldiers were brought in and they fortified in anticipation of the attack. Refugees streamed west, including some to Nanjing. Trapped between the attacking columns and the Yangzi River, only a small number were able to evacuate once the battle was lost. Those who were not able to find refuge in the Nanjing Safety Zone were most often killed or raped and murdered. The Nanjing Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanking, was one of the worst war crimes in human history.John Rabe, a Nazi, helped save thousands, perhaps even two hundred thousand lives as he led the Nanjing Safety Zone. He used his Nazi armband to get Japanese soldiers to leave the Chinese alone. He reported Japanese abuses to German officials, including Hitler, but in Germany, after being transferred back to Berlin, he was taken and interrogated by the Gestapo.Robert Wilson, a surgeon, refused to leave and gave medical care day and night for free, at the cost of his own health.Minnie Vautrin gave up food, took beatings and had her life threatened for protecting Chinese in the Safety Zone, which the Japanese did not recognize. Her efforts to save Chinese lives and spirits cost her life. She told the Chinese that China would not perish and that Japan would fail in the end.It did and War Criminals were tried and executed, both in Tokyo and in Nanjing, for acts during the Nanjing occupation.The Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall is today a place of remembrance and of education.Image: "Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall" by kevin dooley is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Chiang Kai Shek is Kidnapped
16:23After the Long March, the Chinese Communists were mostly in northern Shaanxi, wanting a breather. Japan had continued its aggression in China after it set up the puppet state of Manchukuo under Emperor Pu Yi. It manufactured incident after incident and had expanded its army’s reach into northern and northeast China. It was trying to influence Inner Mongolia and Hebei, around Beijing. It looked to set up warlords as puppet leaders under Japanese control.Students and intellectuals in Beijing and other Chinese cities began protesting against the Japanese and against politicians that they perceived as being too friendly to Japan. It was a reminder of earlier demonstrations against Japan like the May Fourth movement of 1919. The Communist Party and Comintern supported these student protests against Japan. The Soviet Union was very concerned by Japan’s aggression and the fact that Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan had signed an anti-Comintern pact in late 1936. Stalin wanted either an anti-Japanese China, or alternatively, a Communist controlled buffer state between it and Japan. Chiang Kai-shek and his KMT government in Nanjing was prioritizing pacifying internal enemies before resisting foreign aggression. Chiang was not against resisting Japan. He had done so when Japan had attacked Shanghai and at other times, but Chiang Kai-shek's strategy was clear-cut. First, eliminate the internal threat posed by the Chinese Communists, then turn attention towards the aggressive expansion of Japan.His subordinates, especially Generals Zhang Xueliang and Yang Hucheng had other ideas. They then kidnapped Chiang Kai shek and placed him under house arrest in Xi'an. Negotiations ensued. Madame Chiang Kai Shek and Zhou Enlai both travelled to Xi'an. Eventually Chiang was released and Zhang Xueliang volunteered to travel with him back to Nanjing.Zhang was then put under house arrest for 5 decades.This ended the encirclement of the Chinese Communists and started the Second United Front. This time, they would focus on resisting Japanese expansion into China. But Japan was furious by this development and the Xian Incident helped cause the Second Sino-Japanese War.Image: "1937 China Nanking Chiang Kai-Shek" by manhhai is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
The Long March
41:44Zhou Enlai planned in secret the details of the Chinese Communist's escape from the encirclement of the Central Soviet. He identified a Guangdong warlord who preferred to save his troops rather than fight the Red Army.The First Red Army was able to pass through a number of blockhouses, before reaching the last of Chiang Kai-shek's fortifications near the Xiang River and suffering major casualties. They lost their heavy weapons and almost half their troops at that battle.Then the Red Army moved quickly and often at night on The Long March. They reached northern Guizhou, close to the base of the Second Red Army, and rested.At the Zunyi Conference, the 28 Bolsheviks lost their previous influence over the Communist Party of China and Mao Zedong began his rise to power. Mobile and guerilla warfare again became military policy.The destination for the Long March changed at this point and instead of staying in Guizhou, the First Red Army tried to cross north into Sichuan. Faced with defensive resistance and at risk of annihilation, the First Red Army crossed the Chishui River four times. They escaped destruction, but now chose to move west and then north through Yunnan. They reached western, rather than eastern Sichuan.The Long Marchers faced Snowy Mountains and a treacherous bog.The First Red Army finally met up with the leader of the Fourth Red Army, Zhang Guotao, but couldn't reach agreement on a destination. Zhang preferred that they all settle around Sichuan, where he already had built a base and had the strongest Red Army.Mao preferred to continue travelling to northern Shaanxi. His column arrived there in late 1935 and in 1936, moved within northern Shaanxi to Yenan.It is said they crossed 18 mountain ranges and 24 rivers to reach there. Early on, Mao saw the Long March's myth-making potential and used it to turn this military retreat into a story of the Communists trip through the wilderness to a new land. It was symbolic of the journey from the old China to the new promised China.Zhang Guotao's column was soon defeated and, having lost his military strength, Zhang also lost power in the Communist Party and after a trial and self-criticism, went over to the Guomindang.Chiang Kai-shek might have allowed the Communists to retreat westward in order to follow them and take greater control over autonomous provinces like Guangxi and Sichuan. Because of the Long March, he was able to influence Sichuan for the first time and later made its then city of Chongqing his capital during World War II.The Communist Party leadership survived because of the Long March, but most ordinary soldiers did not. Mao's wife gave birth painfully along the way. Of the approximately 80,000 troops who left the Central Soviet, only about 7,000 arrived in northern Shaanxi, and that was with recruitment along the way. Yet much had changed, including greater autonomy of the Chinese Communists from Moscow.Please let me know what you think of the podcast here !Image: "Map of the Long March 1934-1935-en" by Chinese_civil_war_map_03.jpg: User:Guimard derivative work: Rowanwindwhistler (talk) is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Encircling the Chinese Soviet Republic
23:35Mao Zedong had been chosen as President of the Chinese Soviet Republic, but he never controlled its Red Army. Wang Ming and the 28 Bolsheviks had more control, including over land policy and preparations to defend against the Fifth Encirclement Campaign.On land, the Communist Party of China officials didn't want land redistribution to result in a countryside of middle peasants holding private property. With the Land Investigation Movement, they wanted to root out any hidden landlords or rich peasants. But what they didn't change was the limited amount of land to divide among a huge rural population. The result was that basically everyone would farm at the subsistence level.Chiang Kai-shek was preparing for the Fifth Encirclement Campaign against the Chinese Soviets. This time it would be Seven Parts Political and Three Parts Military. His wife and he advocated for the New Life Movement. The Chinese people should live according to the four virtues.He also carefully prepared for the military campaign by supervising the construction of roads in Jiangxi and block houses. The Chinese Soviets would be blockaded and logistics and supplies improved.Otto Braun, Comintern Representative and Communist military strategist, through out the previously successful strategy of Luring the Enemy In Deep and guerrilla warfare and copied the KMT's blockhouse strategy. This time, the Communists would defend the territory of the Chinese Soviet Republic and only commit to Short, Swift Thrusts. Soviet territory was stripped bare to commit the resources for the new blockhouses and supplies for the Red Army defences.It was a disaster for the Red Army and for the Chinese Soviets. The armies were wiped out by conventional warfare against a numerically and economically superior opponent. Residents, especially "class enemies" began to defect to the KMT. Eventually, even soldiers and Communist officials defected too.The Fifth Encirclement Campaign was a great success for the Nationalists. The Chinese Soviet Republic was defeated, and this time, the Chinese people supported the KMT. Mao Zedong would blame the defeat on the Communists on Wang Ming and the 28 Bolsheviks. Mao would further rise to power. But first, would come The Long March.Please let me know what you think of the podcast here !Image: "Map of the Northeast Jiangxi Soviet" by SilverStar54 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.Music by Slipstream Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Japan Attacks Manchuria and Shanghai
22:37In September 1931, junior officer's of Japan's Kwantung Army in Manchuria set off explosives to make it look like a Chinese attack on Japanese interests along the South Manchuria Railway. This is often called the Mukden Incident or named after the nearby Liutiao Lake. The Kwantung Army then attacked Zhang Xueliang's nearby garrison and, with Japanese reinforcements, moved into the rest of Manchuria.In 1932, the puppet state of Manchukuo was formed, with Puyi, the last Qing Emperor, as Chief Executive and then Emperor of Manchuguo. Few states other than Japan recognized the new State.China increased tariffs on Japan complained to the League of Nations, which investigated and requested that Japan withdrew its troops. Instead, Japan withdrew from the League of Nations.Zhang Xueliang, the Young Marshal, did not resist the Japanese takeover of his territory. But over 200,000 provincial army soldiers and long-time bandits did. Railcars were attacked and railways torn up. The Japanese responded by bombing hideouts and killing civilians in the process.Then Japan's naval marines attacked the Chinese controlled part of Shanghai, in further unprovoked aggression following some anti-Japanese protests resulting from Japan's moves in Manchuria. China's 19th Army and Chiang's 5th Army under the command of the 19th Army, resisted Japan fiercely. For 33 days they fought a modern urban warfare battle and then Chinese soldiers defended against combined arms attacks in the river delta outside Shanghai. Japan's Navy couldn't win and needed help from its Army. Still, the Chinese resisted and Japan had to bring in more and more soldiers and equipment to save face. A negotiated settlement resulted in Japanese troops withdrawing and China demilitarizing Shanghai.Japan had begun a new period of aggression against China and a 14 year war was beginning. The Nationalist government now was faced with a new threat. Not only did it have to face internal challenges like warlords, strong provincial governors and Communists committed to overthrowing the government. It also battled an aggressive and powerful country to its east that was beginning its invasions.Please let me know what you think of my recent podcast changes here !Image: "25126-Changchun" by xiquinhosilva is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Conflict Among the Communists
41:26Mao had long desired revolution to peace. Even as a student, he wrote of his desire for the destruction of the old universe.Thanks to his teacher Yang Changji, he met early leaders of the Communist Party, got a job as a junior librarian in Beijing and met his second wife. Yang Kaihui fell deeply in love with Mao and stayed loyal to him, even after Mao left her and took a new wife. She preferred to be executed than to renounce Mao.Mao felt ignored by the urban intellectuals at Peking University. Later, those intellectuals and students who had travelled to France and Moscow, controlled the Communist Party of China. Many of them believed urban workers were key to the Chinese Revolution. They started putsches trying to capture key Chinese cities. Those efforts failed and even more urban communists were captured and eliminated.Gu Shunzhang, head of the Communist Secret Service was arrested and chose to collaborate and revealed the names and locations of key Communists. Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam was arrested and deported. Others were killed, including the Secretary General of the Chinese Communist Party. Li Lisan was blamed for this failures.Mao Zedong survived in Jiangxi and Fujian provinces by leading Soviets there. He led investigations into local conditions, including in Xunwu, before land redistributions. Mao came to understand in detail the peasant situation, who were the revolutionary classes and who were the true counterrevolutionaries.At times Mao and his group called other Communists counterrevolutionaries and engaged in purges. They were not alone. This was a challenging time for Communists.They benefited from the KMT armies being distracted. First by the Central Plains War and then by Japan's invasion of Manchuria. Efforts by Chiang Kai-shek to eliminate the Communists would have to wait.Please let me know what you think of my recent podcast changes here ! Image: "Burning up Land Deeds by Gu Yuan (1919-1996)" by lukenotskywalker60 is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Chiang Kai-shek's Strong-Arm Tactics
33:14Chiang Kai-shek used strong-armed tactics to fundraise for his army and government. Kidnapping, ransoms and execution were part of his tactics. He allied with the Green Gang of Shanghai, as did the French authorities.Shanghai businessmen were kidnapped and held for ransom unless they bought Nanjing's bonds during the Northern Expedition.T.V. Soong found a better way to sell Chinese bonds. He increased the interest rate. He also abolished the likin system in areas under Nationalist control, gained control over Chinese tariffs and negotiated the return of some Boxer Indemnity funds. But he made Japan his enemy and annoyed Chiang by pushing back against the constant demands for more money for the KMT's armies. He was forced out in favour of his brother-in-law H.H. Kung, who understood his job as Finance Minister was to provide Chiang with money for the military regardless of the cost.Deng Yanda and the Provisional Action Committee of the Guomindang offered an alternative to Chiang's leadership. It sought mass appeal by organizing students, peasants and workers. It also gained supporters who had graduated from the Whampoa Military Academy. An insurrection was planned and Commander Chen Cheng appeared ready to bring Deng to power. But instead he was arrested and executed.This was the final straw for Song Qingling, the widow of Sun Yat-sen and sister of T.V. Soong. She had already supported the USSR when it invaded Manchuria in a dispute over the China Eastern Railway. Now she asked a Comintern representative to join the Communist Party. They preferred her to be outside the party, criticizing the Nationalists as a disgruntled ex-KMT member. But she received secret agent training and was loyal to the Communist Party of China until her death, when she was rewarded with a party membership on her deathbed.Please let me know what you think of my recent podcast changes here !Image: "File:Teng-Jan-dah - (Deng Yanda ) 1927.jpg" by Chinarail2 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
The People's Liberation Army is Founded
23:06After the Northern Expedition, the Guomindang (KMT) ejected Communists from the Nationalist Party. The Communist Party of China had no army.Zhou Enlai had inserted Communists into the Nationalists' Army and the Nanchang Uprising was a coup planned to carve a Red Army out from the Guomindang's troops. It succeeded and they briefly formed a Revolutionary Committee in Nanchang and He Long took command. They retreated before Zhang Fakui could attack them.While Moscow hoped they would march south and support the Canton Commune, instead they headed south east to Shantou, along the coast. The hoped for resupply ship from Russia never arrived and the Red Army troops were scattered.Zhu De, future Commander-in-Chief of the People's Liberation Army, survived by assuming a fake name and briefly joining the Nationalist Army again and pretending to be loyal. Then he and his troops escaped north and formed Soviets and burned villages under orders of the Communist Party. He then joined forces with Mao Zedong.Mao had already been in the Ridge of Wells area along with the remainder of troops from the unsuccessful Autumn Hills Uprising. Mao had joined forces with bandits and then taken over those gangs and absorbed them. His forces were raiding and looting from "the rich", which included farmers with a few hens.Mao and Zhu and 3000 troops then moved in 1929 before Chiang Kai-shek's troops could capture them. These early days for the Red Army and for Mao's leadership in the countryside held plenty of lessons. They were surviving and learning.Please let me know what you think of my recent podcast changes here !Image: "People's Liberation Army" by Kent Wang is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
The War of the Central Plains
24:17Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi) wanted to shrink the Chinese armies following the Northern Expedition. However, the warlords wouldn't agree without a fight. The result was the War of the Central Plains when Chiang defeated the warlords who had helped him win the Northern Expedition. One by one and then as a group they resisted his efforts to assert Nanjing's control over the provincial and regional armies.Thanks to the classic Chinese Empty Fortress Strategy, the Nationalists were able to deter Li Zongren from taking the underdefended Wuhan. They then got between his columns and interrupted his supply lines. This allowed the KMT to win the southern campaign and to move troops north to then push Yan Xishan and Feng Yuxiang back.Over 1 million soldiers fought in the war and the casualties were about 300,000 dead, injured or captured. Chiang Kai-shek was able to overcome a three front war and emerge dominant, better able to turn his attention from Warlords to the Communists and to Japan.Please let me know what you think of my recent podcast changes here !Image: "File:Central Plains War.png" by SY is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.