Deng Xiaoping

A General Account of the Struggle Against the Enemy Over the Past Five Years


Spoken: January 26, 1943
Published: March 15, 1943
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine



Our struggle against the enemy in north China, which has become increasingly intense and grave over the past five years, can be roughly divided into three stages.

In the first stage the advancing enemy troops mounted frontal attacks, but they were short of armed strength in north China, lacked experience and underestimated the strength of our Party and our army, thus providing us with very good conditions for establishing anti-Japanese base areas in the course of the struggle. During that period we took full advantage of the enemy’s weaknesses and opened up new opportunities. At a time when the troops of the Central Army were withdrawing from north China to the south, our Party and army put forward the basic slogan, “Persist in armed resistance in north China and the Eighth Route Army will fight together with the people of north China to the death”, and adopted the fundamental policy of persisting in the struggle behind enemy lines. The struggle against the enemy at that stage centred around opening up new opportunities, establishing base areas and expanding such areas. This was conducted in our area in the following manner.

Militarily, first of all we deployed part of our troops along the northern section of the Datong-Puzhou Railway in 1937, burning planes at Yangmingbu, for instance, and then we had all our troops fighting battles at Qigencun, Huangyadi and Guangyang along the Zhengding-Taiyuan Railway — all were defensive operations fought on the enemy’s flanks and rear in co-ordination with friendly forces that were launching frontal attacks; it was only after the fall of Taiyuan that our division began to fight alone, as we did when smashing the enemy’s six-point convergent attack along the Zhengding-Taiyuan Railway. In 1938 we fought three battles against the enemy’s “mopping-up” operations, the fiercest of which was fought in smashing the enemy’s nine-point convergent attack in southeastern Shanxi, before enemy troops laid siege to Xuzhou. We set up an ambush with the bulk of our troops along the Handan-Changzhi highway, beating back enemy troops along the Licheng-Shexian sector, recovering the Changzhi area, and fighting all the way to the Daokou-Qinghua Railway. In this way we expanded our influence and established the Southeastern Shanxi Base Area. Towards the end of 1937 we sent detachments eastwards to southern Hebei on reconnaissance missions, and in the spring and summer of 1938 we formally entered southern Hebei to form the Southern Hebei Base Area. During the battles at Xuzhou and Wuhan, we organized assaults along the Beiping-Hankou Railway and the Tianjin-Pukou Railway. The dozen massive assaults we launched along the Beiping-Hankou Railway, in particular, rendered significant support to the Kuomintang troops making the frontal attacks.

Politically, through our policy of “persisting in armed resistance in north China”, we foiled the enemy’s policy of “using Chinese to subdue Chinese and sustaining the war by means of war”. We struck hard at the enemy’s lackeys, crushed the “associations for the preservation of order” in the vast areas of southeastern Shanxi and southern Hebei, and the feudal organizations utilized by the enemy, such as secret societies, self-defence corps and joint village associations, and established anti-Japanese governments in many areas. We also wiped out sixty to seventy thousand men of the Imperial Army’s assistant forces and feudalistic armed forces of bandits and secret societies that had become puppets of the Japanese aggressors, established anti-Japanese guerrilla forces everywhere, and increased the regular armed forces by several times. We conducted, both extensively and intensively, propaganda and education for resisting Japan and saving the nation, arousing the people’s enthusiasm for resistance to Japanese aggression and thwarting the enemy’s ploy of “calling back the displaced refugees and restoring public order”, designed to deceive the people. Incessant guerrilla operations on both sides of the railways crippled, to a considerable degree, the enemy’s scheme of protecting the railways.

Economically, we did not adopt any measures to speak of, nor did we pay any attention to work in this area. Although the enemy had accomplished a great deal, he failed to attain the goal of “sustaining the war by means of war” because the vast rural areas were under our control.

Our military and political struggles served to confine the enemy troops within their strongholds and blockade lines. It was a period of major progress for our side.

In the second stage enemy troops returned to north China and carried out a plan of “maintaining public order and conducting mopping-up operations”. Consequently the struggle in north China became severe. During that period our policy was to “consolidate north China and develop central China”. This was implemented in our area in the following manner.

Militarily, we launched ten battles against the enemy’s “mopping-up” operations. The year 1939 saw in the Taihang area the enemy’s capture of the Handan-Changzhi highway and our recovery of it. In 1940 we took the initiative to destroy communication lines on a large scale, thereby thwarting the enemy’s policy of building “prisoners’ cages”. The major struggles included: destroying the communication lines in southern Hebei throughout the year, the Baigui-Jincheng Campaign in May and, in particular, the Hundred-Regiment Campaign, fought from August 20 to the end of the year, all of which served to frustrate the enemy’s scheme of attacking Chongqing, Kunming and Xi’an. The fierce fighting throughout 1940 considerably weakened both the enemy and ourselves, but the enemy suffered more casualties than we did (at a ratio of nine to seven).

Politically, the base areas were becoming increasingly consolidated. In 1939 our Party and army grew to a considerable extent, a large number of people were mobilized and an anti-Japanese regime began to take shape. The establishment of the Joint Administrative Agency of the Southern Hebei, Taihang and Taiyue Areas in the summer of 1940 was of major political significance in unifying efforts to strengthen base areas in our strategic zone, and especially so in our struggle against the enemy. For nearly half the time during that stage we were being attacked by the Japanese aggressors and Chinese collaborators simultaneously. On the one hand, the diehards made outrageous attempts to sabotage the anti-Japanese base areas and, on the other, the enemy tried to seize every opportunity to sow discord between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party in close co-ordination with the diehards’ attack on us. In 1939 southern Hebei, Taihang and Taiyue were in a very grave situation. It was not until the beginning of 1940 that the correct policy of our Party, the wise and direct leadership of the Northern Bureau of the Central Committee, Zhu De and Peng Dehuai, the support of the people and military victories brought about a change in the situation, consolidating the base areas, cementing domestic unity, and foiling the enemy’s schemes and intrigues for sowing discord.

Economically, we were still paying little attention to work in this area in 1939. The people lived in destitution and the army experienced extreme difficulties in obtaining supplies. In enemy-occupied areas we did no work among the people except asking them for supplies. Consequently, little money and materials were requisitioned. This was a period of extreme poverty for us (worst in the Taihang area). Not until 1940, when we began to tend to economic matters and pay attention to production and conservation of the people’s financial resources in the base areas, while combatting the concept of “regarding enemy-occupied areas as our colonies” (as a result of which our people refused to go and work in those areas), were the masses in the base areas able to recover from their dire straits. Moreover, in 1939 we issued Southern Hebei Bank notes and increased our economic strength, thus ensuring our military supplies. During that period, however, we accomplished very little in our economic struggle against the enemy.

As for the struggle against secret agents, we engaged in limited defensive work only, and so the enemy succeeded in sending secret agents to our areas.

In this stage more base areas were consolidated, but work in the enemy-occupied areas was neglected. Although we repeatedly called for rectifying this situation, little change was made. Our practice of asking people for supplies in enemy-occupied areas in 1939 left a very bad impression on the people there and seriously damaged our political prestige. Our absence from those areas in 1940 did nothing to reverse this setback; in fact, it provided the enemy with the opportunity to consolidate and expand the areas they occupied. Leftist errors in policies occurred in southern Hebei after the punitive war in 1940 and in southeastern Shanxi before and after the December Incidents of 1939. These errors impaired the building and consolidation of the base areas and, at the same time, helped the enemy expand his social foundation. The Licheng meeting in April 1940 put an end to the confusion and stressed the three major guiding principles for Party, army and government development, with the aim of consolidating the base areas. Producing notable results, the meeting was successful and right on the whole, though there were some one-sided shortcomings and errors evident over certain issues. For example, there was too little emphasis on the work among the masses in the base areas and work in the enemy-occupied areas, the significance of guerrilla warfare was underestimated, the role of the regular forces was overstressed and local armed forces were reorganized or amalgated into larger units — lonly to further facilitate the enemy’s advance and bring on our retreat. Through our struggle under extremely difficult circumstances, we consolidated the anti-Japanese base areas and began to build them up at this stage. The enemy, on his part, achieved considerable success, in part, because of our negligence of political work in his areas and certain mistakes in our policies.

In the third stage the enemy carried out the “tighten public security” campaign, while we intensified our efforts to struggle against him and build up our base areas. Both sides continued to step up their endeavours, bringing the struggle to a stage of unprecedented acuteness. This was manifested in our area in the following manner.

Militarily, we fought 19 major battles against the enemy’s “mopping-up” operations, and 515 minor ones against such operations and harassment raids. In the space of two years we carried out as many as 7,976 military operations. At the start of 1941, we began to stress the building up of military areas, corrected the mistake of reorganizing and amalgamating local armed forces, and overcame the laissez-faire attitude towards them. We established basic units for county and district militia and gradually developed them, turning quite a number of regular troops into local armed forces. The buildup of people’s armed forces, mainly the militia, has laid the foundation for guerrilla warfare waged by the masses. Having grown considerably in size and combat effectiveness over the past two years, these forces are playing an increasingly substantial role. The number of guerrilla groups has risen too. All this has greatly contributed to our strength in protecting the base areas. Although we began to pay more attention to conducting guerrilla operations in enemy-occupied areas in 1941, very little was achieved for a lack of understanding of the significance of this on the part of local people. However, in 1942 we formed armed working teams, shifted our attention to enemy-occupied areas and communication lines, started and intensified the struggle within the enemy’s “crisscross network”. Then, after the Northern Bureau of the Central Committee and the Military Sub-commission initiated the struggle against the enemy’s “nibbling” operations, significant results were achieved. Although the base areas had been shrinking steadily, after May 1942 the situation began to turn around. The anti-Japanese government considerably expanded the area under its jurisdiction in the Taihang area. While the situation regarding the base areas in southern Hebei was deteriorating, we successfully maintained our guerrilla warfare on the plains. There were a good number of successes in Taiyue, and a breakthrough was made in Yuenan and the Zhongtiao Mountains. In certain areas, however, not enough attention was paid to carrying the struggle into enemy-occupied areas.

Politically, the Northern Bureau of the Central Committee released a series of explicit policies towards the end of 1940 and established the Provisional Assembly of Representatives and the Government of the Shanxi-Hebei-Shandong-Henan Border Area in 1941. Marked progress was made in every aspect of work to build anti-Japanese base areas. However, little attention was paid to mobilizing and organizing the masses in 1941, so that development of democracy and other work remained just “pie in the sky” without any real progress. When the Northern Bureau advocated a revolutionary dual policy for enemy-occupied areas, people in certain areas did not understand that this was a policy of offensive action and so they pulled back their forces, further facilitating the enemy’s “nibbling” tactics. However, after this was put right, some success was achieved, especially in the work among the puppet troops in southern Hebei. The year 1941 saw almost no success in the struggles against the enemy’s “nibbling” actions, against the enemy’s use of secret agents or against his activities in the areas under his occupation; but much headway was made in various places in 1942, because we adopted a policy of “when the enemy advances, we advance”, established a few covert guerrilla base areas within the enemy’s crisscross network, and accumulated a wealth of experience in this regard in Taihang, Taiyue and southern Hebei.

Economically, in 1941 we already pointed out the need to intensify our economic struggle against the enemy. We did not meet with much success, because we were still groping our way in the dark. For example, the Hebei currency was worth far less than the currency issued by the puppet government, which resulted in soaring prices. However, there was a radical change in 1942. In the Taihang area we were not only fairly successful in building up base areas, but also gained some experience and began to win some major victories in the economic struggle in the enemy-occupied areas. However, our economic struggle in southern Hebei and Taiyue remained fruitless, while the enemy gained many successes. This deserves our attention. There will be a special report on this matter later, so I shall not dwell on it now.

In our struggle against secret agents, we were not vigilant enough in dealing with the multifarious, bizarre secret-agent activities conducted by the enemy against our base areas before 1941. We began to give some attention to this matter only after various astonishing incidents, such as the riot instigated among the followers of Li Gua Taoism in Licheng and the riot among the people in Chaiguan. Yet, in general, we lacked a deep understanding of the enemy’s cruelty. We have seen some improvement since the development of the mass movement, but we must still appeal more strongly to our comrades to sharpen their vigilance.

As for culture and propaganda, we launched three political offensives against the enemy in 1941 and conducted extensive political propaganda and agitation in the enemy-occupied areas, which played a considerable role in combatting the enemy’s “tighten public security” campaign and heightening people’s morale in resisting the Japanese aggressors. In 1942 we launched three more political offensives, which were co-ordinated with guerrilla operations and, in some enemy-occupied areas, with the people’s struggle against press-ganging and rationing, the most successful being the one directed at the enemy’s fifth “tighten public security” campaign. This was because in political offensives previous to this we generally undertook very little propaganda work, but in the offensive against the enemy’s fifth campaign we focused our attack on the enemy’s plundering of grain, through a truly unified struggle in which many small armed units took powerful actions in conjunction with appropriate propaganda, agitation and struggle against Chinese collaborators, “associations for the preservation of order” and secret agents. It must be pointed out, however, that in political offensives over the past five years we have generally ignored organizational work in the enemy-occupied areas. Things are vastly different now following the outbreak of the Pacific War, our political offensives and improvement in our work in the enemy-occupied areas in 1942. Our political influence has been greatly extended and the people have come to realize that Japan is doomed to defeat, which forms the foundation for our organizational work in enemy-occupied areas. In the past we intolerably neglected such work in those areas and, therefore, we should make it our most urgent task in the days ahead.

To sum up, during the first three of the enemy’s five “tighten public security” campaigns we were far from vigilant; as a result the enemy attained substantial success. In the last two campaigns, in particular the fifth one, although the enemy was quite successful, he failed to achieve anything more than that, because we waged a fierce struggle and won an enormous victory.

The above is a brief account of our struggle against the enemy.


What can we learn from our struggle with the enemy and the changes it has brought about over the past five years?

1. Both the enemy and we have capable leadership and political keenness. We know how to analyse our experience, study the enemy and work out countermeasures. The enemy also knows how to study us, learn from his experience and steadily improve his principles and policies. Therefore, our struggle with the enemy is not just a contest of military strength, but one involving all our abilities. It is not just a battle of strength; even more important, it is a battle of wits. Now that the enemy and we are both fighting in a planned and organized way, the struggle will require more skill and become more intense. Our cadres at the lower levels seem far from being capable of waging such a complex struggle, so sincere efforts must be made to strengthen the lower levels and enhance these cadres’ abilities to fight the enemy.

2. We should always keep in mind two features of the struggle against the enemy: the protracted nature of the war and our weak position in relation to the enemy. We should, therefore, work to weaken the enemy, preserve ourselves, covertly build up strength and prepare for a counteroffensive. In the past we had a poor understanding of this principle and often made the mistake of revealing our positions, which always resulted in great losses on our side — incurring either retaliation or sabotage by the enemy. We must see to it from now on that we do not reveal anything about our activities. We should learn how to discreetly amass strength from all quarters and cause the enemy to regard us as inferior. We should use every means to put the enemies off their guard. Only in this way can we build up our strength and strike the enemy where it hurts the most. The enemy also attaches great importance to secrecy. For example, a document from the enemy’s 110th Division prescribes the tactic of “not shocking or disturbing the enemy before making a sudden leap”. This shows that the enemy has actually been doing the same thing and has been quite successful (as in their preparations before each “mopping-up” campaign and “nibbling” operation). Therefore, we must act secretly on the one hand, and try to find out what the enemy is planning to do on the other.

3. The outcome of our struggle with the enemy is determined by the attitude of the people and, above all, by the attitude of the people in the enemy-occupied areas. Even if they oppose the enemy but remain neutral towards us, this will only benefit the enemy. Therefore, it is essential that we adopt correct policies in the base areas, but even more important, we should formulate a whole set of clear-cut policies for the enemy-occupied and guerrilla areas. Otherwise, we will make mistakes which the enemy is likely to use to his advantage. The enemy is, in fact, adept at taking advantage of our weak points to make up for his basic weaknesses inherent in the contradiction between China and Japan. Experience has shown that, for a while in the past, people in the enemy-occupied areas took a neutral or even unfriendly attitude towards us, because our policies were erroneous, which allowed the enemy to expand his strength tremendously. Experience has also shown that if we do no work in the enemy-occupied areas, the base areas will shrink; if we fail to hold firmly to the guerrilla areas, not only will the base areas shrink, but we shall also lose advantageous positions from which to advance towards enemy-occupied areas. Moreover, experience has shown that we are bound to fail if we resort to oversimplified and rigid work methods in enemy-occupied and guerrilla areas and that we must consider the local circumstances, do everything to protect the people’s interests, and put forward appropriate methods for the struggle against the enemy, if we want to win the support of the people and achieve victory. In particular, experience has shown that leaders who care about the people’s problems and help them find ways to combat the enemy and protect their interests will enjoy popular support.

4. Whether in the base areas or in enemy-occupied or guerrilla areas the starting point for all our policies and work must be to magnify the contradiction between China and Japan, a principle which we must resolutely pursue — this will hit the enemy where it hurts the most. Great changes favourable to us are now taking place in the enemy-occupied areas. Basically this can be seen in the tremendous increase in people’s enthusiasm for resistance to Japan and the increase in contradictions between the enemy and the puppet forces. We should get a good grip on this basic feature in developing our work, fully understand the essence of the contradiction between China and Japan, expand the Anti-Japanese National United Front, and unite all the anti-Japanese factions of various strata in the struggle against the enemy. Experience has shown that in enemy-occupied areas it is best not to magnify the class contradiction among the Chinese; the basic idea should be to unite all Chinese in the fight against the enemy. In this way we can further spread our work in enemy-occupied areas; if we do otherwise, we shall be unable to gain a foothold there. Experience has also shown that achieving unity of the Chinese against the enemy involves a struggle, too. The struggle should be directed mainly against those few individuals who fail to understand the just nature of the war of resistance and who try to disrupt unity, assist the enemy or pursue their own selfish interests, but it should be peaceful and political. Strong measures should be used only against the Chinese collaborators and secret agents who are totally committed to working for the enemy and are utterly detested by the people. In the base areas we should pay close attention to solidifying unity. For instance, the enforcement of the decrees on the reduction of rent and interest rates and reasonable distribution of the burdens in the base areas is absolutely necessary for fully arousing the masses, thereby laying a solid foundation for the united front and bringing this greater anti-Japanese force into play. However, we must still make sure that we shall only mobilize the masses within the united front. Holding the base areas requires not only the mobilization of the masses in general, but also the unity of people from all strata. If we neglect either, our mistake will be to the enemy’s advantage.

5. The building up of base areas (including the armed forces, political power, the masses and the Party) cannot be separated from the struggle against the enemy. Experience has shown that without base areas we cannot persist in the struggle against the enemy; without the struggle against the enemy, attempts to build base areas behind closed doors will imperil survival of the base areas. In the days ahead we should devote more thought to the base areas, work hard to further develop them and carry on a tenacious struggle to safeguard them. For the same purpose, we must organize powerful resistance in the enemy-occupied areas.

6. Our struggle with the enemy boils down to the formula that when the enemy advances, we advance, too. Now that the enemy is bent on advancing towards us, we must advance towards him, for only in this way can we disrupt or check the enemy’s advance and consolidate our own positions. Consequently, guerrilla warfare will steadily increase in the base areas of north China, and the same will happen in the enemy-occupied areas. To gain the initiative in such an interlocking, complex struggle, we must become very familiar with the enemy, figure out his patterns of activity, and take advantage of all the opportunities the enemy may offer us. When the enemy conducts a “mopping-up” operation in an area, people in other areas should seize the interval to combat the enemy, while people in the area under enemy attack should co-ordinate their fight with operations on the exterior lines to gain the initiative. A “when the enemy advances, we advance” type of struggle can also be applied to the covert struggle. The enemy’s secret-agent activities in our base areas and our efforts to covertly build up our strength in enemy-occupied areas, as well as in the puppet troops and organizations, will grow increasingly intense. In short, we must pay close attention to the matter of gaining the initiative in the struggle against the enemy.

7. The guiding principle behind our military operations is: guerrilla warfare is basic, but lose no chance for mobile warfare under favourable conditions. Due to our lack of an adequate understanding of this principle in the past, we emphasized the building up of regular forces to the neglect of local and people’s armed forces over a long period of time, making the mistake of reorganizing or amalgamating local armed forces or taking a laissez-faire attitude towards them. This seriously impeded our struggle against the enemy. In addition, we were not fully aware of the protracted nature of the war and of the enemy’s relative strength. In the days ahead (before we launch the counteroffensive) more guerrilla operations will be conducted in the base areas, and mobile warfare will be out of the question on the plains and will be kept to a minimum in mountainous areas. Therefore, we should develop extensive guerrilla operations with mass participation. Success was achieved in this respect in 1942, and we should provide more effective leadership to guerrilla operations in the future. We should cherish the armed forces and militarize Party cadres.

8. The enemy conducted “warfare in every field” against us and we waged a “unified” struggle against him. Past experience has shown that wherever “unified” leadership was exercised successfully, the effort against the enemy was powerful; internal friction and bickering only cause us to relax or lose control of the struggle against the enemy, resulting in great losses. We should carry out the decision of the Central Committee on unifying organization of the base areas behind enemy lines, exercising unified leadership, and ensuring leadership over work in the military, political, economic and cultural fields and in enemy-occupied areas, as well as close co-ordination of work in these fields. In order to intensify our struggle against the enemy, we must unify leadership and keep in step.

9. In the past our comrades generally had a clear understanding of the need to persist in armed resistance behind enemy lines and achieve victory, but not of the need to consolidate our positions in north China after the war, as can be seen from their neglect of the work in enemy-occupied areas over the past few years. From the very beginning of the war of resistance, however, the Kuomintang focused its efforts on infiltrating the puppet troops and organizations and hiding there for a long time to prepare themselves for the postwar days. They secured the lead start and made considerable headway, whereas we made serious strategic errors and must compensate for them through hard work. Our comrades were not sufficiently aware of the political significance of each and every move of our struggle behind enemy lines and its potential impact on the country as a whole. Due to this, they often failed to keep the overall situation in mind and sometimes were not careful enough in what they did and said or in making policy decisions, and they lacked a thorough understanding of the policies of the Central Committee. These are the chief manifestations of assertion of independence and impurity in Party spirit, as were criticized by the Central Committee. Obviously, it is our duty not only to achieve victory in the war of resistance, but also to build up the base areas, persist in the struggle against the enemy behind enemy lines, set a good example for the entire nation and strive for unity in national economic development after the war. Therefore, when formulating policies and taking actions, we should not only take the base areas into account, but also their impact on the country. This point should be fostered among our cadres, especially among our leading cadres.

10. The Central Committee and Comrade Mao Zedong, the Northern Bureau of the Central Committee, Commander-in-Chief Zhu De and Deputy Commander-in-Chief Peng Dehuai have always issued explicit guiding principles and directives on persevering in the struggle behind enemy lines. On the whole, we have carried them out and, therefore, have been successful over the past few years. However, when we do not adequately understand the directives issued by the Central Committee and our higher authorities, we are bound to make mistakes. For instance, our poor understanding of guerrilla warfare and our neglect of the work in enemy-occupied areas has impaired our work seriously and has caused considerable losses. This has taught us a lesson: Every cadre must, in his own work, carefully study the directives from the Central Committee and his higher authorities and try to apply them to his own working circumstances. This provides an important guarantee that we can overcome serious difficulties, achieve victory in the war of resistance and rebuild the country after the war.

(The second and fourth sections of Part One of “A General Account of the Struggle Against the Enemy Over the Past Five Years and the Policy for the Struggle Against the Enemy in the Future”, a report produced at a meeting of senior cadres of the Taihang Sub-bureau of the CPC Central Committee. It was carried in Combat, No. 15, (supplement) published by the Taihang Sub-bureau on March 15, 1943.)