Deng Xiaoping

Mobilize New Recruits and Conduct Political Work Among Them


Written: January 12, 1938
First published: February 12, 1938
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine



Currently we are suffering a temporary and partial setback in our defensive war against Japan, but this is not final defeat. The final outcome of the war will be determined by a protracted war of resistance.

In order to continue in the present war, we must take full advantage of the valuable experience we have gained from the past six months’ fighting. We should not only study strategy and tactics, but also do our utmost in every possible way to build up and expand the national armed forces by mobilizing the people to join the army, replenishing the existing corps and organizing new armed units in order to support an arduous, long-drawn-out war.

There is no question that the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation are ready to fight to the death in the forefront against the Japanese aggressors and to win the liberation of their nation at the cost of their own flesh and blood. However, this does not mean that recruitment is completely without problems. First of all, we have not exploded the traditional myth that “a good man doesn’t join the army”. Second, not enough attention has been paid to education in the need to defend the country, and to fight Japan in particular, among the masses. This important work has remained utterly inadequate even since the war of resistance broke out. Third, some people have used coercion in recruitment — a mistake that has made it most difficult for us to enlist new recruits and has resulted in those forced to join the army lacking a strong will and the courage to fight, and one that could even cause antagonism between the people, on the one hand, and the government and army, on the other; this would only play into the hands of the Japanese aggressors and Chinese collaborators. Finally, the government’s policy of giving preferential treatment to families of soldiers who are fighting against the Japanese aggressors in order to reduce their problems to a minimum has not been properly implemented, so that the soldiers are not able to fight without worries about their families and people are lacking the determination and courage to join the army.

If we soberly review our experience in recruiting soldiers over the past few months, we can see that, because of the aforesaid mistakes made in some areas, people may fail to realize that the future of the nation hangs in the balance and that they should rush to the front with the deepest hatred for the foreign foe, and they may, therefore, become increasingly reluctant to join the army. They may fail to realize the importance of the government’s policy of building up and expanding its defence capability in order to achieve final victory in the war of resistance; moreover, among some people, dissatisfaction with the government may increase. People may fail to realize that the arduous struggle now being conducted by the officers and men at the front is closely related to the fate of the country and their families, they may fail to carry forward the fine tradition of unity between the army and the people during the days of the Great Revolution, and they may fail to warmly support the army and show gratitude in order to encourage it to win the war of resistance in the end; moreover, some people may become disgusted with the army and be loathed to join it. In addition, the Japanese aggressors, Chinese collaborators and Trotskyites may use these mistakes to incite people to revolt, as a way to threaten and harass the rear areas in the fight against the Japanese aggressors. These phenomena are serious enough to demand our close vigilance, even if they are to be found in only one or two villages and among a very small number of people.

It is true that our recent recruitment efforts have been quite successful and our troops at the front have generally been kept replenished. This does not, however, mean that we can continue those undesirable methods of recruitment, since they can help supplement the army only for a short period of time and they can never serve the needs of a protracted war of resistance. Only when the inappropriate methods are corrected will successful recruitment be ensured for the future.


Pointing out the inappropriateness of the recruitment methods and the bad results and effects they may lead to is not meant to be passive criticism, but is designed to encourage people to work out ways to correct them and adopt appropriate methods, so as to provide the front with a steady flow of replenishments and organize enough new troops.

It should be understood that people all over the country detest Japanese aggression. So long as we adopt the appropriate methods of recruitment and persuade and arouse the people, they will surely rid themselves of unhealthy attitudes and, with great determination and courage, go to the front, or encourage their husbands, sons or brothers to do so, to fight for the glorious cause of national liberation. This has been fully borne out by the notable success achieved in some areas.

These areas have gained the following valuable experience from which we can learn.

People there have carried out adequate propaganda and agitation activities. They have made use of various means of propaganda — operas, songs, “wall newspapers”, mass meetings, brief lectures, private talks, and so forth — to explain to the masses about the current situation and the way for them to survive, and to expose the cruelty of the enemy. This widespread and thorough publicity promptly aroused the enthusiasm of the masses to fight the Japanese aggressors, and they volunteered to join the army. This method of recruitment has proved far more effective than coercion.

People there have united with anti-Japanese activists and persons respected by the masses (not careerists, who are out for power and money) in order to carry out recruitment with their help, which has yielded very good results.

People there have worked among families of anti-Japanese soldiers, inviting family members of servicemen of every army unit to meetings or even dinner parties, when possible, at which they explained various questions concerning resistance to Japan, showed them the respect they deserve, presented them with honour plaques, and asked for their opinions. When difficulties arose, people there asked the local governments and mass organizations for help. In this way everyone considered the families of anti-Japanese soldiers to be examples to follow and many commendable wives, parents and older brothers have come forward to send their husbands, sons and younger brothers to the army.

People there have urged local governments and mass organizations to co-ordinate efforts in publicizing the need to recruit new soldiers and in giving them encouragement and warmly sending them to the front.

Above all, the troops stationed there have set an example in maintaining discipline and, at the same time, establishing close contact with the people by holding evening gatherings for soldiers and civilians and inviting local people to dinner (usually one member representing a family is invited by a company). All this has made a deep impression on the people, dispelling their fear of the army, exploding the myth that “a good man doesn’t join the army”, and making it easier for the government and army to enlist recruits.

There, the soldiers themselves have been sent to enlist recruits. So long as they are friendly to the people and do not bother them, the results are often admirable.

People in some of the areas that are located in the enemy’s rear flanks or are often subject to enemy harassment have organized the masses to wage guerrilla warfare over wide areas. By expanding and strengthening their combat effectiveness, these guerrillas have gradually become regular forces, adding to our national defence capability. Some of them can possibly be mobilized to join the regular troops, on condition that guerrilla warfare is not impaired or weakened. This approach is extremely important today, when many parts of our territory have become enemy rear areas, since it not only serves to strengthen our national defence troops but also is of great strategic significance in a protracted war of resistance.

We fervently hope that all troops can be duly replenished and expanded. We also hope that, before implementing a conscription system throughout the country, both the government and the army will make use of this experience. Of course, our experience is still incomplete, but so long as we resolutely give up coercion in recruitment and stress propaganda, education, organization and persuasion when mobilizing the masses, we can enrich our experience and become more successful with each passing day.


As far as recruitment is concerned, we should try to fulfil the quotas and, at the same time, through political work, ensure that recruits are highly motivated and enthusiastic about going to the front. This is most important to the enhancement of the troops’ combat effectiveness. Completion of these tasks relies on co-operation between the recruitment organizations and the army.

Inappropriate methods make it extremely hard to consolidate the troops and enhance their fighting capacity. Therefore, those armed units that are in urgent need of recruits should avoid using such inappropriate methods and do more effective political work. The latter cannot be ignored even if appropriate methods are used.

We should see that, since new soldiers are ordinary people before they join the army, they have a strong attachment to family life, are not used to army life and lack military skills. We should, therefore, take practical steps and work hard to help them settle down, so that they will soon become accustomed to army life and skilled in fighting.

We cannot agree with the idea that these aims can be attained only by officers’ strict control. Rigid discipline and rational control are indeed essential, but they have to be combined with political work. That is to say, our soldiers should not only have weapons in their hands but, more important, they should also be armed mentally. Totally repressive measures can produce only undependable, superficial effects; they cannot rouse the soldiers’ initiative or bring out their matchless fighting capabilities, much less unite the soldiers to carry on this arduous struggle under all kinds of adverse conditions.

Political work should, and can, greatly help the new recruits to settle down in the army and enhance their combat effectiveness.

We should co-operate with organizations in charge of recruitment in holding grand recognition and sending-off ceremonies for newly enlisted soldiers, and on their way to the front the local people should be organized to greet them and see them off. On their arrival at the front, the troops should also warmly welcome them.

As soon as the new recruits enter the army, we should understand the circumstances under which they were enlisted and their feelings and anticipate any problems that might arise. Then we should explain things to them, particularly the need to resist Japanese aggression, in order to heighten their political awareness.

In the army we should encourage veteran soldiers to be friendly to the new soldiers and to help them learn military skills and political affairs and not to bully them. At the same time, we should see to it that the new soldiers get their food, clothing and other supplies and that their difficulties and hardships are reduced to a minimum, so that they will be content to be in the army. These are the key factors for stabilizing the army.

We should exercise rational control and put more stress on education and persuasion, so that the new soldiers will conscientiously observe the rules of discipline and study hard.

We should encourage the new soldiers to write to their families, telling about their pleasant life in the army and urging their family members to resist Japanese aggression and save the nation. We should also allow their family members to visit them in the army barracks, show solicitude for them and entertain them.

All this will not only help remedy the errors made during enlistment, but will also facilitate future recruitment. We hope those in charge of political work will do their best, and we also hope military officers will help them in this regard.

Improved enlistment procedures and political work in the army and advanced strategy and tactics will enable us to turn out a huge armed force for national defence, possessing great skill and the best fighting capabilities, which will finally defeat the Japanese imperialists.

(First published on February 12, 1938, in Vols. III and IV (a combined issue) of the Frontline, a weekly launched by the general political department of the Eighteenth Group Army of the National Revolutionary Army. At the time the article was written, the author was serving as deputy director of the political department of the Eighth Route Army and soon to become political commissar of the 129th Division of the Eighth Route Army.)