Deng Xiaoping

The Situation Following Our Triumphant Advance to the Central Plains and Our Future Policies and Strategy


Published: April 25, 1948
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine


On this visit to the Henan-Shaanxi-Hubei Border Area I find the situation very good, the result not only of efforts made by all the Party, government and army comrades here, but also of the countrywide counter-offensives launched in July last year. I have been asked to talk about the current situation and I think the existence of the embryonic Henan-Shaanxi-Hubei Border Area confirms, on the whole, what I have just said about the situation. Over the past nine months there has been a new development in the war situation nationwide; our army has switched to counter-offensive in every area. We have advanced five hundred kilometers from the Yellow River to the Yangtze River. We cannot underestimate the significance of this advance, for China is only a few thousands of kilometers from north to south. Another such advance will bring us to the border of Guangdong and Fujian provinces, with less than five hundred kilometers left and the collapse of Chiang Kai-shek’s reactionary regime imminent. The present advance is indicative of the tremendous change that has taken place in the strategic situation, and as noted by Chairman Mao in his report “The Present Situation and Our Tasks”, our counter-offensive has turned the war around. We have thwarted Chiang Kai-shek’s counter-revolutionary plan, forcing him to go from the offensive to the defensive and from exterior to interior lines; at the same time, we have moved from the defensive to the offensive and from interior to exterior lines, thus changing the strategic situation.

Since our field armies moved to exterior lines, they have suffered hardships, with troops in the Dabie Mountains, in particular, encountering many difficulties. Conditions are somewhat better for troops operating in the Henan-Shaanxi-Hubei Border Area, but they still feel that things are not so easy as before when they were fighting on interior lines in the Taiyue area. In view of this situation, people may ask, “Didn’t we change to a counter-offensive position a bit too early? Wouldn’t it have been better if we had done this a bit later?” Facts have shown that the counter-offensive was launched at just the right moment and that it would have been a mistake if we had delayed it. This is because Chiang Kai-shek’s counter-revolutionary strategy is to continue with the war in the liberated areas, an experience he gained from his protracted war against the people. Comrades who took part in the civil war during the ten-year Soviet period can understand this point. During those years, whether we were fighting in the Central Soviet Area, the Hubei-Henan-Anhui Soviet Area or the Western Hunan-Hubei Soviet Area, we found ourselves encircled by the enemy on all sides. The enemy’s policy was to keep the fighting centred around or in the Soviet areas, trying to exhaust the manpower, material supplies and financial resources in our Soviet areas and make it impossible for us to fight on even if we were victorious in some military operations. During the campaign against the enemy’s fifth “encirclement and suppression”, if we had moved from interior to exterior lines, dragging the enemy out of the Soviet areas in accordance with the principle formulated by Chairman Mao, the outcome would have been better — the Soviet areas would have been preserved and the Red Army would not have been forced to begin the Long March. Unfortunately, the “Left” opportunists didn’t do it that way and fell into Chiang Kai-shek’s trap. This time Chiang Kai-shek wanted to resort to the same trick of restricting the fight to the liberated areas in an attempt to exhaust our manpower, material supplies and financial resources and make it impossible for us to carry on the fight and move out of the liberated areas, so that he could keep his rear area, with a population of 300 million, out of the war and obtain supplies from the area for his military operations. Although Chiang Kai-shek is shrewd in his calculations, we have our Chairman Mao, who is even wiser and saw through them as early as when he began to formulate the concept of the principle for the war of self-defence. He pointed out to us that we should start by fighting on interior lines and then carry the war to exterior lines, that is, to the Kuomintang areas after we had weakened the enemy considerably. By doing so, we could ruin Chiang Kai-shek’s vicious counter-revolutionary strategy. Since, in the initial stage of the war, we were not equipped well enough and still lacked experience in military operations, it was more convenient for us to wipe out the enemy, organize and expand our forces and accumulate experience by fighting on interior lines. Therefore, it was the only choice to fight on interior lines first; in fact, we have already had some victories. In the first year of the war of self-defence, from July 1946 to June 1947, we annihilated a total of 1.12 million enemy troops on all the battle fronts in the country. We organized the dispersed guerrilla units into field armies and accumulated a wealth of experience in military operations. This is the right moment for us to carry the war to exterior lines; otherwise, we shall suffer setbacks. After fighting on interior lines in the Hebei-Shandong-Henan Border Area for one year, for example, the number of chickens, swine and draught animals raised by the local peasants dropped sharply, as also did the number of trees in the villages. We may well ask whether we can afford to restrict the fighting to the liberated areas. If we were bent on fighting on interior lines for the sake of convenience, we would fall into the enemy’s deadly trap.

It has been nine months since we moved out of the liberated areas and we have achieved a great deal. Some comrades are prone to neglect this. Take our columns there for instance. They won many battles in the first year, wiping out nine and a half enemy brigades over 23 days during July last year. However, when they reached the Dabie Mountains, they annihilated only four enemy brigades in all, so that some people suspected that the situation was taking a turn for the worse. If they take a good look, they will see the true picture. First, strategically, we have gone from the defensive to the offensive, advancing 500 kilometers and occupying an area with a population of 45 million; within this area we are able, as a result of our struggle, to control a region with a population of 20 million and wage guerrilla warfare in the region containing the remaining 25 million. In this area the enemy cannot enlist soldiers or collect grain. In other words, the enemy has lost control of one-sixth of its 300 million-strong population. Second, let us look at the number of enemy troops wiped out. According to the latest battle reports, nearly 2.1 million enemy troops were wiped out on battlefields throughout the country from July 1946 through February 1948 and at least 100,000 enemy troops were annihilated in March this year. In other words, the number of enemy troops wiped out over the past nine months since we started the counter-offensive equals the number annihilated in the first year of the war of self-defence. Although we have suffered hardships, we have achieved even greater victories and dealt even heavier blows to the enemy. As for the three field armies operating in the Central Plains, the columns in the Hubei-Henan-Anhui Border Area and the Dabie Mountains area have been weakened to some extent, their forces down by about 15 per cent. However, our forces in Jianghan and Tongbai military regions have been expanded by 100 per cent and 50 per cent respectively; in the Henan-Shaanxi-Hubei Military Region they have been expanded by 100 per cent, and in the Henan-Anhui-Jiangsu Military Region they have increased as well. Therefore, when viewed as a whole, our forces are now more powerful than before.

Comrades, you must be puzzled about the situation in the Dabie Mountains. We occupied over 20 counties and then lost them all, and the main force of the field army moved from the Dabie Mountains to the Huaibei area. Can we say we were victorious? I think we can. As you all know, the Central Plains is very important strategically, leading right up to the enemy’s gateway, with the Dabie Mountains close by. After we changed to the counter-offensive strategy, the Central Plains took the place of Shandong and northern Shaanxi as the enemy’s chief target. Here the enemy has assembled the largest number of troops. The situation in the Central Plains depends on two mountain ranges — the Dabie Mountains and the Funiu Mountains. However, the enemy’s greatest concern is for the Dabie Mountains, which are more important than the Funiu Mountains. Control over the Dabie Mountains is decisive for the general situation in the Central Plains. Strategically, the Dabie Mountains make an excellent base from which to advance. Being close to the Yangtze River and leading directly to Nanjing and Shanghai in the east and Hankou in the southwest, they provide an important springboard for us to cross the Yangtze River, constituting a constant threat to the enemy. Therefore, both the enemy and ourselves will fight for the Dabie Mountains, a matter involving a bitter struggle. We have already established two military areas in the Dabie Mountains, with a population of 12 million, completed extensive deployment for guerrilla operations, dispersed remaining troops to every corner of the Dabie Mountains and built up armed political power at county and district levels. We have gained a firm foothold here and the enemy will by no means be able to drive us out. Facts have shown that we can gain a firm foothold even through guerrilla warfare. So, we are now in a position gradually to use our field armies in mobile fighting in a vast area, something which was impossible for us earlier. The struggle in the Dabie Mountains has moved a step forward to where the local people and our troops are able to maintain the struggle. So far, more than half of Chiang Kai-shek’s troops operating on the southern lines have been pinned down in the Central Plains, making it possible for our army units to win more battles in other parts of the country. Although of all the army units in the country, we have, in the Central Plains, suffered the greatest hardships and losses, strategically we have gained the initiative and achieved an overall victory. Therefore, when commenting on the war situation, the Party Central Committee and Chairman Mao first spoke about the Central Plains and highly praised the achievements scored here.

Some of our Party members are lacking in the Marxist-Leninist way of thinking. Once they see a wisp of cloud over their heads, they come to the conclusion that the whole world is overcast. They make judgements by instinct, predicting the outcome of the revolution by whether or not there are clouds overhead, so that when faced with difficulties, they lose sight of the bright future and prospects for victory and cannot but become disheartened. Our forces are growing and we have more than a few victories to our credit. However, we must admit that fighting on exterior lines is not so easy and convenient as on interior lines. No revolution can be staged with ease, and in future the struggle will become more and more arduous until final victory. Without doubt everyone hopes for a quick victory in the revolution, but he is not so sure when asked whether he dares to win the victory. Not all those who hope for victory dare to win it; victory requires painstaking efforts. Many of our troops from the north fear to cross the Yangtze River, because they are not accustomed to life in the south. However, to achieve nationwide victory they have to cross the Yangtze. Since the enemy still rules an area inhabited by several hundred million people, we have to cross the Yangtze and carry the war to the heartland of the enemy if we want to achieve nationwide victory. Anyone who is afraid to cross the Yangtze is a coward and anyone who yields to difficulties is not a staunch revolutionary. He is a true hero who is ready to overcome difficulties, bear hardships and fight courageously and resolutely to cross the Yangtze River. This applies to local comrades as well. It is a matter involving the political line to follow and determination to carry on the revolution. All comrades working in the Central Plains are shouldering arduous tasks. People throughout the country place their hopes on us, so we should try to work even harder.

The comrades surely want to know how long it will be before we can attain victory. Comrade Ren Bishi stated in his report that if we don’t make mistakes, we shall certainly win in three to five years. Everyone was both surprised and delighted at this statement; delighted because victory is sure to come, and surprised, because it will still take three to five years, which is an unbearable long period of time. In fact, three to five years is not a long time; besides, during this period we have to do our utmost before we can win. Since there are 450 million people in China and only 2 billion people in the world, our victory will mean the victory of one-fourth of the world’s population. It has only been some 20 years, not yet 30 years, since the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, yet under the leadership of such a Party we shall soon achieve victory for 450 million people in the Chinese revolution-this will truly be a great and joyful event.

The precondition for winning victory in three to five years is not making mistakes. What are the mistakes we should try to avoid? As laid out by the Central Committee, we should avoid the ones that concern the following five questions; we shall suffer defeat if we make a mistake of principle in any of them.

1. The war. As mentioned above, under the careful leadership of the Central Committee and Chairman Mao, we have successfully fought a defensive war over the past 21 months, our military forces have been expanding and, being qualitatively already superior to the Kuomintang troops, they will one day be equal in size to them. The most important thing for us now is not to become conceited; the victorious troops, in particular, should be the most cautious and conscientious. Having experienced setbacks, the enemy has become wiser. We should not lose sight due to success; instead, we should constantly review our experience in order to enhance our combat effectiveness. So long as we continue to wipe out eight brigades, totaling 100,000 enemy troops, each month, and hit the target set for the first year of the war of self-defense-97 brigades or 1.12 million enemy troops-the enemy is bound to be defeated. From now on, we need to be more mobile and flexible, carefully choosing battle opportunities. Our victory depends on our “feet”. Whenever we find an opportunity to fight, we should have the courage and lose no time in launching a surprise attack on the enemy. We must dare to remain mobile-to keep moving either to escape from the enemy or to cover much ground to make an attack.

2. Land reform. Before the National Land Conference,79 some comrades in the Party neglected land reform and some were even strongly against it, which was extremely dangerous. What does revolution mean? Revolution means fighting against imperialism and feudalism. Feudalism is the backbone of imperialism. If we do not oppose feudalism and carry out land reform, we shall be unable to support a protracted war and the revolution will not succeed. Even if we capture Nanjing, we cannot say we have succeeded, because the foundation for feudal rule will remain if we do not conduct land reform. Therefore, opposing feudalism is a fundamental task of the Chinese revolution. Since the National Land Conference, the serious tendency relating to land reform has, by and large, been overcome throughout the country. Land reform does not mean simply shouting a few slogans in support; it involves many matters of policy that call for a real solution. In newly liberated areas, for example, there are a few areas where the reform has seen some progress, but, in general, it has not been conducted satisfactorily.

3. Party consolidation. Imperfection in organization and way of thinking exists to a serious degree in the Party, as a result of which the Party will lose its fighting capacity and become unable to accomplish revolutionary tasks. In order to overcome this phenomenon we must consolidate the Party; otherwise, the Party will become decadent. Most of the comrades who have resisted land reform, embezzled the fruits of victory, or been weighed down with “mountain-stronghold” mentality have remedied their mistakes through Party consolidation. Party consolidation must be conducted properly. It should be aimed at educating comrades, achieving internal unity and solving ideological problems. Chairman Mao has said that we should and can help anyone who has failed to meet the minimum qualifications for Party membership to overcome their mistakes. We need correct methods for Party consolidation, just as we need correct policies in land reform. All comrades in the Party, without exception, should subject themselves to Party consolidation. As we all know, each of us has shortcomings and makes mistakes to varying degrees. Therefore, everyone should take part in the movement and examine himself conscientiously. Those who are not conscientious should be helped by others. Those who are really incorrigible should be expelled from the Party. This is the inviolability of Party consolidation. The Chinese revolutionary ranks are very large, the tasks are numerous, and Party members are charged with heavy responsibilities. Whether the Party leadership is good or not and how well the Central Committee’s line and policies are carried out depend on whether Party members measure up to the qualifications for membership. Chairman Mao gives us correct instructions, but if we practices liberalism and always contravene them, we shall fail all the same. If, through Party consolidation, we can unify our will, carry out the Central Committee’s line and policies and increase our fighting capacity, we shall succeed in the cause of the people’s liberation.

4. The policy concerning industry and commerce. In the later Soviet period the enemy imposed a strict blockade on the Soviet areas, with the result that five grams of salt sold for one yuan. We, on our part, made policy mistakes which crippled industry and commerce and erected a barrier against ourselves. When we advance to the Central Plains, policies were contravened in all areas without exception, and we paid for those mistakes. Many comrades attributed the crippling of industry and commerce to the war, saying that industrialists and businessmen had stopped their operations because the enemy had looted them, and few comrades admitted they themselves had anything to do with it. If we fail to discover the true cause, there will be no way of correcting the mistakes, and we shall meet with numerous difficulties. We may have money, but no goods to buy, or we may have goods (such as timber in the Dabie Mountains), but no way to export them. If the oil mill is closed down, there will be no cooking oil available. The pan factory in the Dabie Mountains and the coal pits and the shops connected to the factory can support 30,000 people. If the factory closes down, the 30,000 people will immediately be out of work. If the small street market in Lushan shuts down, at least 10,000 people will lose their means of livelihood and will soon be begging for food from you. In our area 30,000 people live on growing tobacco. If the cigarette factory closes down and no products are turned out for sale in other areas, the 30,000 people will soon have no food and clothing. Whom have we overthrown, the capitalists or the common people? I don’t think we have overthrown the capitalists; instead, we have stripped the common people of their means of livelihood. Bureaucrat-capital refers to that one clique-the four big families-and doesn’t mean bureaucrat plus capital. Otherwise, if a county magistrate opened a shop, we would have to confiscate it. If we fail to make industry and commerce a success, we cannot develop the economy in the liberated areas and the people’s existence will be jeopardized. In that case, even if the Kuomintang didn’t drive us away, we would have to leave and the revolution would fail. Hence the importance of the policy concerning industry and commerce. Private industry and commerce are an integral part of the new-democratic economy and we should help develop them.

5. Execution. If we have people executed indiscriminately, we are sure to be defeated. After reaching the Dabie Mountains, life became hard for our troops and discipline was very lax. At the time people asked us two questions: Can’t you handle your troops any better? Are you going to eliminate counter-revolutionaries again? In the past it was Zhang Guotao who had people killed indiscriminately. Recently, in Yuexi County, an official who came from a landlord’s family killed many people in a small town, causing the breakdown of work in several neighboring villages. Eight or nine of the ten victims, labeled lackeys, were poor people. Execution will solve no problems. When, at a meeting, the participants were asked to vote on who should be executed, some of them raised their hands while hanging their heads, only to regret it on their way back home. This demonstrates that if will kill people wrongly, we are bound to become divorced from the masses.

Generally speaking, before the National Land Conference, the Right tendency was serious. Now it is the “Left” tendency that predominates in the country as a whole, although a Right tendency is to be found in some areas, too. The Right tendency is manifested in that some comrades are not taking an active part in land reform. They take the Central Committee’s emphasis on policies and tactics as grounds for their inaction, saying that the reform can wait because they have to study the tactics first. Other comrades show no concern for Party consolidation, emphasizing their special circumstances and asking why their faction cannot be made an exception. Party consolidation is a serious matter, and nobody is to be exempted from it on account of being a member of a so-called faction or someone’s former intimate or personal friend; these things are feudalistic. Persuasion and education are policies for Party consolidation. We must take a serious attitude towards any comrades who have made mistakes and conduct criticism and self-criticism. In the course of Party consolidation we should put right all erroneous ideas and other mistakes: impurities in ideology and class composition, graft and corruption, bad work style, lax discipline, war-weariness, fear of hardship and of crossing the Yangtze river, etc. it seems that a growing number of people are harboring a fear of the United States, some say they know it is not much use for the United States to supply Chiang Kai-shek with hundreds of millions of dollars and arms, but now they fear the United States may dispatch troops to China and use its atom bombs. Many comrades have no faith in Chairman Mao’s thesis that U.S. imperialism is a paper tiger, believing that the U.S. troops must be very formidable and that we are bound to be defeated. A revolutionary should not think that way. In particular, being Communist Party members whose revolutionary programme or task is to fight against imperialism and feudalism, why should we fear imperialism? It is no so easy for the United States to send troops to China, and even if it did send troops here, I should like to ask: Would you continue to participate in the revolution? Would you still adhere to the anti-imperialist programme? Are you still qualified for membership of the proletarian vanguard? Communist Party members of lofty character should answer: Fight imperialists to the very end! We should have such courage. The last thing Communist Party members should exhibit is the servility Lu Xun used to condemn. We should despise U.S. imperialism, look down on servility, such as fear of foreigners, and boost our own morale. For the United States to send troops would be an international issue and its rhetoric about doing so is only meant to scare people. We should foster a firm belief that we can defeat U.S. troops. We must have the courage to win; all Right sentiments should be repudiated.

The “Left” tendency is manifested in the course of differentiating classes in land reform, where rich peasants are treated the same way as landlords, the interests of middle peasants are infringed upon and middle peasants are rejected; in the new liberated areas impetuosity has occurred in our work, resulting in the broadening of the scope of attack and the adoption of a “Left” policy with regard to industry and commerce. This “Left” tendency is nothing new to us; we adopted a “Left” policy relating to industry and commerce during the eight years of the War of Resistance Against Japan. We failed to carefully study and carry out the relevant directives issued by the Central Committee and the resolution adopted at the Sixth Plenary Session of the Sixth Central Committee, with the result that we shot ourselves in the foot. If we do not overcome this “Left” tendency now, we cannot succeed in land reform or economic development in the base areas.

All these questions involve policy and tactics. We should diligently study the “Essential Points in Land Reform in the New Liberated Areas”, drafted by Chairman Mao, and the report delivered by Comrade Ren Bishi, for these two documents can help solve most of the problems arising in land reform in the new liberated areas. The tactical principle put forward by Chairman Mao is: make use of contradictions, win over the many, oppose the few and crush our enemies one by one. This principle is simple and easy to understand. Who are the many? The poor peasants and farm laborers who make up 70 per cent of China’s population, plus the middle peasants who account for 20 percent, who together constitute the mainstay. In doing anything, we should always think in terms of that 90 per cent of our population and see if we represent their interests and have their support. In the preceding period of land reform, usually no consideration was given to the middle peasants who make up 20 per cent of the population; in fact, among the poor peasants and farm laborers who account 70 per cent of the population, it was only the poor peasants leagues that controlled everything. The so-called line of solely relying on poor peasants and farm laborers is erroneous. The correct line should be to rely on poor peasants and farm laborers and firmly unite with middle peasants, so as to abolish the feudal system. What is meant by making use of contradictions and crushing our enemies one by one? This applies to the landlords and rich peasants, who account for 10 per cent of the population, and means concentrating on striking at some of them and causing the others to take a neutral stand during a certain period of time. As pointed out in the “Essential Points in Land Reform in the New Liberated Areas”, we should strike at the landlords and cause the rich peasants to take a neutral stand. Treatment must be different for big, middle and small landlords, and the total scope of attack should generally not exceed eight per cent of the number of households of 10 per cent of the population. All this is designed to remove obstacles in the mass movement. If we do not differentiate among big, middle and small landlords, even striking at rich and middle peasants, it will be as though we are erecting barriers against ourselves in a battle. We have adopted these tactics in order to eliminate obstacles so that we can make great strides forward. They are not meant for the benefit of landlords, but to facilitate our effort to unite with the masses and lead them to success in land reform. Most of our comrades lack such tactical thinking and even reject it, so their scope of attack is too wide, which creates many obstacles. Such a situation occurred in the Dabie Mountains. There small landlords and rich peasants were driven to revolt and took up spears to fight us, and the masses were harmed, too. Recently, after we rectified the situation, the bandits and diehards laid down their arms. The poor peasants said it would have been better if we had done this earlier. Comrades working in the Dabie Mountains can readily understand this tactical concept, having been paid back for their mistakes promptly and fiercely. Will the comrades working in the Henan-Shaanxi-Hubei Border Area be able to thoroughly understand this tactical concept, too? Yes, they should, although they have not suffered. In short, we should not antagonize too many people. We should try to get as many landlords as possible to take a neutral stand and pacify as many as we can. Whoever does not oppose us today is of benefit to us. If you take this to mean our yielding to the landlords and abandoning of land reform, you are mistaken. We are determined to carry out land reform, and this tactical concept will enable us to speed it up; otherwise, it will be a matter of more haste and less speed.

We should also adopt a correct policy for industry and commerce. We have learned some lessons in this regard. Often you may think you are winning over the many, but in reality you are losing them. When capitalists do business, they naturally want to make money by exploiting others. If a firm goes bankrupt or we confiscate it, it will have a much more adverse effect on the lives of the people than the exploitation of the capitalist does. So in doing things we would first consider by whose side we stand and how we can better serve the masses. Prohibiting capitalist exploitation sounds like a revolutionary idea, but if we make some calculations, we shall find that it is not a revolutionary idea, but an idea that will lead our revolution to failure. Operating in the Central Plains, the hundreds of thousands of our men there need food and clothing. If we neglect industry and commerce, we shall not be able to move forward at all. We have to organize our own economy to meet the needs of war. Our principle is plain living and hard work. It would be absolutely unrealistic if we asked for the same amount of rations as in north China. We should set an appropriate limit to them in the light of actual conditions in the new liberated areas. We need to have a well-defined policy and suitable methods for handling our finances. The excessive issue of paper money is no solution. Unified guidelines, policies and plans, plus help from north China, will solve the problem. If we do not learn how to make use of private industry and commerce in every field of our endeavors in the new areas, it will be impossible for us to solve the problem of supplies. Unlike north China, where we have many publicly run co-operatives with financial resources amassed over nearly ten years and a wealth of experience accumulated over more than six years, the new areas lack such a base as well as other favorable conditions. Therefore, we should take advantage of existing private industrial and commercial enterprises and organize our economy step by step. This merits our attention regarding the mass movement; we cannot allow the confiscation or closing down of industrial and commercial enterprises, including those owned by landlords and rich peasants. If the masses have divided up these enterprises, we must help them resume operation as quickly as possible. at the same time, we should form a united front with the businessmen, urging them to accept the paper money we issue. We should grant loans to businessmen and allow them to buy shares. The economy cannot be organized overnight. We should constantly check tax rates and our policy concerning industry and commerce, focusing our attention on war supplies and the people’s means of livelihood. While opposing profiteering and monopoly, we should still allow businessmen to make some money. Without specific policies, practical problems cannot be solved.

We often say that policy and tactics are the lifeblood of the Party. Without policy and tactics, the Party’s line would be lifeless. A correct line must be ensured through correct policy and tactics. All comrades in the Party should study the Party’s policies and tactics carefully. This is the only way for us to become all powerful and invincible.

(Report delivered at a joint meeting of the Henan-Shaanxi-Hubei Front and Rear Committees held in Lushan, Henan Province.)