Deng Xiaoping

Some Suggestions Concerning Our Entry Into New Areas in the Future


Published: August 24, 1948
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine


In view of the things we have learned from work in the new areas over the past year, I now propose some suggestions concerning our entry into new areas in the future.

First, the preparation before action. This should include ideological, organizational. policy, military, and economic preparation. Lack of preparation caused us to suffer a lot when we marched south. Mentally, it is a tremendous strain for peasants to be far away from home and for northerners to be in the south. When they reach new areas (in the south), they must definitely confront many problems. For example, they have to eat rice, negotiate mountain paths and narrow trails, get bitten by mosquitoes and other insects, acclimatize themselves, learn to understand local dialects, and fight battles in mountainous terrain. All this tends to affect the morale of the cadres and soldiers. Therefore, everything should be made clear to them before they set out, explaining to them repeatedly that their attitude towards these problems comes down to the question of whether or not they are truly revolutionary. Clarifying this ideological question can serve to strengthen their morale and confidence. Due to the 10th Column’s thorough mobilization activities, its troops have remained firm and in high spirits ever since they began marching to the south. Organizationally, there must be an adequate number of cadres to go along with the troops, cadres who have been informed of the tasks they have to accomplish, the policies they should pursue and the work style they should adopt. Militarily, there must be formations and equipment suited to mountain warfare and soldiers who have received tactical training for such warfare. As for economic considerations, the troops’ supplies must be guaranteed if we want to prevent policies from being violated and discipline becoming lax after they enter a new area. Major policies to be executed in a new area should be thoroughly explained to and understood by cadres, in particular.

Second, expansion. After entering a new area, the troops’ first and foremost responsibilities are to win battles and occupy territory. These two at once are interdependent and contradict each other. To occupy territory requires a part of the troops or even a part of the main force, reducing the strength of the field armies. However, without territory, there would be no rear areas and the army could not expand itself. Consequently, it would not be able to mobilize the masses, procure military supplies, get the enemy troops dispersed and win battles. Therefore, it is most important to deploy an appropriate number of men to occupy territory. We in the Central Plains did not hesitate to weaken our main formation by deploying a large number of our troops to organize armed units in military regions and sub-regions and in counties, which has proved to be a success. Before deploying troops for expansion, every possible preparation must be made. Lack of preparation forced the army in the Dabie Mountains to spend nearly two months completing expansion. Learning from the army’s experience in the Dabie Mountains, the armies in the Jianghan and Tongbai areas organized beforehand troops, as well as military sub-regions, prefectural Party committees and commissioner’s offices and Party, government and military organs at the county level. As a result, it took them only about 10 to 15 days to complete expansion. Before entering a new area in future, it would be best to separate the functions of field armies and those of military regions. The military region should be a unit composed of Party, government and military organs (including armed forces) at military region and sub-region and county levels, and they should form themselves into temporary detachments when marching into a new area — which is bound to bring about quick results. In addition to the troops which come from field armies, whenever possible it would be best if some could come from local armed forces and militia in old areas, so as not to excessively weaken the strength of field armies.

Third, military operations. When launching an operation, the army should take into consideration the enemy’s situation at the time and place and make an adequate estimate of the difficulties that may occur in the area. In the first few days after the army has moved into the area, it should especially follow the principle of not fighting any battle it is not sure of winning. The main force of our army should refrain from rushing into a battle, because once it has suffered a setback, it would easily fall into a passive position — at best, greatly reduced in number; at worst, forced to withdraw. It is best for the army to operate flexibly over a wide area, seeking to wipe out a weakened enemy. Thus, victory would strengthen the confidence of the troops and both officers and men would have time to gradually familiarize themselves with the terrain and operational conditions, and become more sure of success. After our troops have become familiar with the enemy’s situation and the terrain, the military regions and local Party and government organs have begun to function and wounded soldiers have been accommodated, it is then safer to launch larger-scale battles of annihilation. However, this does not mean the army should refrain from fighting large-scale battles of annihilation it is sure of winning during the initial stage, let alone that the army should avoid any battle, which would naturally be wrong because it would destroy morale in the army. Especially when times are hard, the troops should be encouraged to fight with determination to deflate the enemy’s arrogance — this is the only way to strengthen their morale. That was our experience with the troops in the Dabie Mountains last September. Another important question concerning military operations is the dispersal and concentration of troops. Our field armies and military regions have different functions — the field armies are concentrated in order to fight large-scale battles, while the troops from military regions are dispersed in order to occupy territory, annihilating local reactionary armed bands and fighting small-scale battles — this is the way we will solve this major question. When the enemy is besieged by our main force, he will give up all the cities and strongholds of secondary importance to avoid being wiped out, and then begin to concentrate his forces and attack us from all sides when he outnumbers us; if he is sure of defeating us, he will pursue us, allowing us no time to rest. Therefore, our field armies should also know when to disperse their troops and concentrate them (sometimes in the mountains they have to disperse their troops in order to eat), disperse in order to lure the enemy into spreading out his forces and weaken him, then regroup again in order to wipe out a part of the enemy forces at an opportune moment. The most important reason behind dispersing our troops is to regroup them again and wipe out the enemy. Therefore, dispersing presupposes conditions favourable for regrouping. We could often use our main force to watch the enemy, with another part of our forces seeking favourable opportunities to launch surprise attacks against the enemy. The battle at Xiangfan is a case in point. Sometimes the military regions also disperse and regroup their troops. In order to expand ourselves, most of our military regions disperse almost all their troops to cover local activities. The Third Sub-region of the Tongbai Military Region dispersed a small number of troops from its two regiments to protect local work, while pooling the rest to wipe out reactionary armed bands. As a result, it gained the most victories, kept its troops and local people in the highest spirits and expanded most rapidly. This method — concentrating forces to cut down enemy military strength in the initial stage — is a fairly good one. It is also necessary for our troops to prepare and allocate equipment, light cannons, in particular, before they move into new areas (mountainous areas).

Fourth, supply. This is the first, the biggest, and the most important question of policy we come in contact with in the new areas. Neither during the civil war periods nor in the anti-Japanese war period did we have the experience of providing for our troops in areas where we had laid no groundwork at all. In the Central Plains we used to parcel out the movable property expropriated of local tyrants and sell grain for money with which to buy non-staple foods for our troops, only to incur enormous waste and create utter confusion, which proved that this was impracticable. Since we shall stop expropriating local tyrants in the future, we shall need money to buy many things. For instance, we shall have to buy strips of cloth for making straw sandals and buy paper for handling official business. The expenses will certainly be immense. If we do not use appropriate methods to obtain these funds, we are bound to plunge ourselves into chaos. The methods which we need to adopt are as follows:

1) Carry some silver dollars and give each of our men two dollars every month for half a year to cover the cost of non-staple foods, tobacco and straw sandals.

2) Issue paper money for troops to use and exchange. One drawback is that the money’s value cannot be kept stable and small merchants will be hurt; one advantage is that it can meet our urgent needs and prevent chaos in hard times. The methods for issuing the money should be studied carefully, and the paper money should not be crudely printed.

3) Continue urban taxation, as long as our troops are stationed in a given city, using the existing rates and regulations, and collect an appropriate amount of funds from chambers of commerce.

4) Levy money in townships and villages.

5) Borrow grain from households, possibly through the bao-jia system before a reasonable distribution of burdens can be implemented. As the bao and jia will surely not work wholeheartedly for us, within the army we should have a relatively stable unit in charge of procuring grain. As soon as conditions are ripe, a system of delivering public grain should be put into effect.

6) Turn in all grain and money captured from the enemy, which may help solve some of our problems.

7) Therefore, army administrative organs, which may be called field administrative committees, must be well-formed, shouldering full responsibility for requisitioning and borrowing grain, collecting taxes and raising funds, taking over cities, controlling and handling captured goods, conducting any confiscations necessary, handling currency conversion and other business, as well as administering the supply departments of the army. The field administrative committees are to have sub-committees in army columns and offices in brigades and regiments. It is necessary to prepare large numbers of cadres for this undertaking. After a breakthrough is made in new areas, these cadres will serve as the backbone in financial and economic development there.

Fifth, social policy. The principles embodied in the Central Committee’s directive of May 25 and the methods formulated in the Central Plains Bureau’s directive of June 6 for implementing those principles and the policies executed in Kaifeng are all practicable. So long as we do not make “Left” mistakes and proceed gradually, we can avoid major errors, rally the majority of the people around us in fighting U.S. imperialists and Chiang Kai-shek, and minimize the difficulties of our army. New areas must go through a military stage before entering a period of consolidation. (This is a very general plan.) During the military stage we should adopt tactics to liberate the masses politically by relieving their sufferings; as for the enemies, we should deal them political blows by confiscating their property, purely for political reasons, with the most reactionary ones being the main targets in the struggle. In particular, attention should be given to making full use of political power and strengthening propaganda work. Organs of political power marching with the army take the form of the field administrative committees or the local people’s governments. It is better for these organs, instead of the army, to handle public affairs. When we arrived in the Dabie Mountains, the first thing the people there wanted was “political stability”, because they most feared chaos and anarchy, demanding order instead. “Not to bungle things” is in itself a major policy for uniting with the majority of the people. If we make extensive use of the media, such as propaganda teams, theatrical troupes, propaganda by officers and men, government notices, meetings, forums, lectures and art exhibitions, to explain our views and policies and explode the enemy’s rumours and lies, we can dominate the ideological positions, set people’s minds at ease and create a different atmosphere in the new areas. We can find more recruits, including educated youth, for the army. We can also begin to establish small secret mass organizations, admit a few individuals into the Party in secret or organize underground Party groups. All this was what we did in the early days of the anti-Japanese war, and we benefited much from it, but then we suffered a great deal, because we didn’t do those things when we were in the Dabie Mountains. As soon as a breakthrough has been made militarily, we should generally enter the period of consolidation, shifting the focus of our work over to the reasonable distribution of burdens, gradual reduction of rent and interest rates, with preparations made beforehand, and the establishment of a taxation system, peasants’ associations, Party organizations and training classes on an extensive scale.

Sixth, armed forces. We must do our best to organize local armed forces in all new areas. They provide reliable sources for expanding and replenishing our army and an important force for consolidating occupied areas. Although we adopted a “Left” policy in the Central Plains, we still succeeded in establishing or expanding local armed forces, totalling about 120,000 men. Otherwise, the number would have been larger. When forming such forces, we should not hesitate to transfer cadres and troops from the army to serve as the backbone. It is not advisable to organize militia before the masses have been mobilized. However, when our troops arrive in a new area, there will certainly be many unemployed poor people suffering from cold and hunger who will want to join the army, but they should be recruited in small numbers. We have become out of practice in this work with many years of neglect.

Seventh, the cadres. New areas are in great need of cadres. In the Central Plains there are altogether about 30,000 cadres, out of which 11,000 come from north China, 6,000 from east China, and more than 10,000 from the army. Most of them, however, are cadres at the village level and are not competent enough. If cadres appointed to new areas were all at and above the district level, the number could be much smaller. In the meantime, we always have the feeling our work is being seriously impaired by the lack of cadres, particularly financial and economic cadres. Judging by the number of cadres employed in the Central Plains, the region south of the Yangtze River, with a population of 100 million when liberated, will need 30,000 to 40,000 qualified cadres, which the Central Committee is requested to provide. Meanwhile, a large number of cadres and students have returned to their hometowns from areas controlled by Chiang Kai-shek, waiting for our army’s arrival, and they will form another major source of cadres.

The above are matters concerning our army’s entry into new areas for your information.

(Last part from a comprehensive report to the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and Comrade Mao Zedong. The Central Committee issued a directive on setting up a system of reports on January 7, 1948, making it a rule that the secretary of each bureau or sub-bureau of the Central Committee himself write a comprehensive bi-monthly report to the Central Committee and its chairman.)