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James M. Fenwick

Off Limits

The Wrangle Over China

Part III

(10 March 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 10, 10 March 1947, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.

The warfare between the Kuomintang and the Stalinists has been nearly continuous since 1928 – that is, for nearly twenty years – flaring up and dying down according to the internal necessities of the nationalist regime, the foreign policy of the Kremlin, and the economic, political, and military activity of Japanese and United States imperialism in particular.

Following the catastrophic defeat of the Chinese Revolution in 1927, with the accompanying destruction of the urban proletarian cadres, the Stalinists regrouped inland south of the Yangtze. Chiang Kai-shek conducted a series of operations against them with the ferocity typical of an exploiter whose property rights have been infringed upon.

“For every landlord or ‘bourgeois’ killed,” says Owen Lattimore, “scores of peasants were slaughtered, tortured or burned in their villages; untold numbers of peasant girls were sold into brothels and boys into bondage.” Limited by their isolation from the city proletariat the peasant armies were able to conduct only what amounted to large-scale guerrilla operations.

This phase ended in 1931 with the invasion of Manchuria. From this period dates the slow accession of strength by the Stalinists. By pursuing a policy of mild agrarian reform and by calling for a cessation of the civil war and a united front against the Japanese they began to undermine such spindly support as Chiang Kai-shek possessed. He continued to press the brutal campaign against the Stalinists, however, and offered no effective opposition to increasing Japanese encroachments.

In 1934, impelled by their inability to maintain positional warfare against the Kuomintang and undoubtedly actuated by the necessities of Russian foreign policy, the peasant armies were withdrawn northward in a cruel trek of fantastic length. New positions in Shensi facing the Japanese were taken up.

Japanese Consolidate Gains

In 1937 the Japanese opened up large scale operations. Hankow and Canton fell in 1938. Though relations between the Stalinists and the Kuomintang were relatively good during this period they were able to conduct little more than delaying operations. Ultimately the Japanese were able to occupy one-third of the country, including the prized developed coastal areas. A population nearly double that of the United States fell under their control.

The attack on Pearl Harbor permitted the United States to extend more substantial help than the previous “unofficial” military aid and “economic” loans. Costly military operations were initiated merely to ensure a land route for convoys to carry supplies to the Nationalist forces. Nearly a billion dollars and an unknown number of lives were consumed building the Ledo road. Up to V-J Day alone $875,000,000 in Lend-Lease material was sent to China, a great portion of it airborne over “The Hump.”

Chinese troops were trained and equipped by American personnel. A military mission headed by General Stilwell was flown into China to take charge of military and, in the nature of things, political operations as well. The Chinese liberation movement, deformed as if had been under Chiang Kai-shek, became the almost totally responsive tool of United States imperialism.

The abrupt end of Stilwell’s attempt to create an efficient fighting machine foreshadowed the Marshall fiasco. An effort by Stilwell in 1944 to eradicate the “inertia, corruption, inefficiency, and questionable motives” in the Kuomintang, and an attempt to force the lifting of the blockade of the Stalinist troops, which prevented their receiving U.S. materiel, led to the recall of Stilwell at Chiang Kai-shek’s insistence. Chiang Kai-shek could not risk the arming of the Stalinist troops who menaced the property rights of his backers.

The Imperialist Land Rush

Following V-J Day the imperialist land rush begai? for the territory formerly held by the Japanese. Blackmailed by the fear of Stalinist penetration, the United States flew yearly 500,000 Kuomintang troops to sfrategip areas. For similar reasons large quantities of surplus materiel were turned over to the Kuomintang by the United States. The Kuomintang occupied the main eastern and northern cities such as Shanghai, Nanking, Tientsin, Tsingtao, and parts of the countryside. The Stalinists took over- large rural areas from the Yangtze river north, including such cities ag Kalgan, Chengteh, Huaiyin, and Harbin.

Before the news could be assimilated that the war which had begun fourteen years before in Manchuria had ended, the prostrate country was subjected once again to civil war between the Stalinists and the Kuomintang.

Superimposed upon this was a catastrophic economic crisis.

Transportation, vitally necessary for the delivery of food in a country where hunger is endemic, was in chaos. Railroad lines existed in segments, ties having been used for fuel and rails for scrap iron. During the war eighty per cent of coastal and river craft had disappeared. Food and other commodities piled up in seaports and could not be distributed.

Food production had dropped off drastically. Severe requisitioning by the Japanese and the Kuomintang, the destruction of the war itself, the blowing of the Yellow river dikes, which alone flooded two million acres of the most fertile land in the country, the lack of “seeds, fertilizers, livestock, veterinary supplies, insecticides and fungicides, farm implements and machinery, and equipment for the rehabilitation of flooded areas, fisheries and rural industries” – all contributed to an internal crisis which Chiang Kai-shek was both unwilling and unable to solve.

Nine million people had died in the war, and countless millions of others had starved to death or had been wounded. Some 50,000.000 displaced Chinese who had fled from the coastal areas had to be relocated. Some 40,000,000 more rooms for dwellings had to be created.

Foreign trade had come to a standstill. Industry was crippled: ninety per cent of China’s machine and light metal plants had been lost in the war and seventy per cent of the capacity of her coal, electric power, and iron and steel plants.

An inflation which had begun in 1938 was shaping up into an economic tornado.

This was the condition of China when Marshall intervened.

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