Political And Economic Failures Of The Kuomintang

Essay, Research Paper

I. IntroductionDuring the final years of the Sino-Japanese war (1944-45), hegemony over Mainland China was distinctly split between the contending authorities of the Kuomintang (KMT or Nationalist Party) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Despite attempts to settle their differences through American-mediated negotiations, in August of 1945, Chiang refused Mao s demand for a free election, and Mao would not give up arms without a KMT guarantee to relinquish its one-party monopoly. By the end of United States President Truman s Marshall Mission, those differences, through four years of attempts at negotiations and limited physical fighting, remained decidedly irreconcilable. In 1949, the Communist forces had clearly overwhelmed the Nationalists, causing Chiang Kai-shek, his government, and his followers to seek refuge on Taiwan (Formosa). Some observers of the Communist takeover, such as Wan Yah-Kang in The Rise of Communism in China: (1920-1950), concentrate their analysis of civil war between 1945 and 1949 on the basic strategy of the Chinese Communist Party and its aptitude to fill the political vacuum passively left by the Nationalists. Correspondent A. Doak Barnett, however, acknowledges that the Communists would not have been able to achieve victory in China if the Old regime and society had not virtually disintegrated in the late 1940 s. This in mind, one must take note that action taken by the Kuomintang, as opposed to passive Kuomintang performance, must have been a factor resulting in the failure of Chiang Kai-shek s Nationalist government. Consequently, which action of the Kuomintang, under the leadership of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, was most significant in evoking the failure of the Chinese Nationalist movement between 1945 and 1949? In his book, Soviet Russia in China: A Summing-up at Seventy, Chiang Chung-Chen (Chiang Kai-shek) points to the following errors in policy and strategy[:] the resumption of diplomatic relations with Soviet Russia the reorganization and integration of the Communist troops into the National Army the Government s handling of the problem of the Northeast Provinces and the signing of the truce agreement with the Chinese Communists. While the reasons provided for these failures of the Nationalist government are not without basis and documentation, the analysis that Chiang Kai-shek had furnished may be slightly biased and incomplete. Chiang Kai-shek s explanations for the failure of the Nationalist movement were written and translated in retrospect years after the fact. While the Generalissimo s account is clearly first-hand in that it is written by a man who held a key position during the transpiration of the Nationalists defeat, the nature of his exposition may be laced with attempts at vindication for his decisions and policies.Thus, examination of contemporary analysis by a variety of historians combined with carefully considered narration from key participants of the period have brought about the following conclusions regarding the failure of the Chinese Nationalist movement between 1945 and 1949. Chiang Kai-shek s inability to appeal to the Chinese public through his inefficient economic policy and his part in the corruption within his administration are each factors that have largely contributed to the Communists defeat of the Kuomintang. These factors are shadowed, however, by the state of Sino-American relations, especially the Nationalists response to the one-sided American policies regarding the mediation between the contentious factions. Therefore, although Chiang Kai-shek s domestic economic and political policies largely contributed to the overwhelming of the Nationalists forces by the Communists, Chiang Kai-shek s foreign relations with America entailed the most significant factor evoking the failure of the Nationalist movement between the years 1945 and 1949. II. Domestic Support: Key to the Chinese Communists Party s Success By the end of 1945, the Kuomintang, when compared to the Communists, held most of Mainland China s territories, all the major cities and rail lanes, and a militarily superior army of 2+ million regulars and 1+ million militia. Through 1948, the Nationalists army maintained a two to one advantage over the Communists. Furthermore, the Nationalists received much American military support, supplies, and advice through the time of war s conclusion in 1949. It would appear that Chiang Kai-shek held the upper hand for first few years of the civil war. What then did the Generalissimo lack, rendering useless the advantages he held at the onset of the war?In order to examine the relative importance of the factors evoking the failure of the Chinese Nationalist movement between 1945 and 1949, a criterion with which to measure the significance of the defined factors must first be determined and assessed. The outcome of the Chinese Civil War between 1945 and 1949 indicates Chinese domestic support as the key to the Chinese Communists Party s success. While the Kuomintang may have held more territory, and a militarily superior militia, by 1949, it was apparent that the Nationalist Government was clearly operating without regard for its functions as a government to serve the public. The policies adopted by the Kuomintang, Chiang Kai-shek s naivete toward domestic inflation and land reform and his inefficient utilization of American support, provided the public with little incentive to support the Nationalists in their struggle. Thus, this analysis of the relative significance of the factors that caused the Nationalists failure in its battle for China will use the extent to which each policy roused Chinese domestic support as the criteria with which significance will be measured. Thus, to review my thesis given the established qualifications, Chiang Kai-shek s response to American policy roused significantly less support for the Nationalist movement than his domestic political and economic policies.III. The United States: Big Brother to Nationalist China Through attempts to mediate the conflict between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communists, the United States had assumed the position of Big Brother to Chiang Kai-shek s Nationalist government. By 1944, it was believed that the United States, by virtue of a [sic] sympathy, position, and economic resources would enjoy a greater influence in China than any other foreign power. China was to be the United States of the Asian continent, a vast united and liberal-democratic power. Mainland China bore the fertile ground on which American-inspired capitalism and businesses could take root. Chiang Kai-shek s response to America s China policy proved to be highly ineffective, gaining little support for the Nationalist party by the Chinese. However initially well intentioned, the American ideals and the Sino-American policies that transpired thereafter entailed the most significant factor directly resulted in the failure of the Nationalist movement the Kuomintang s acceptance of American mediation in its conflict with the Communists. On the contrary, Chiang Kai-shek justified the necessity of accepting American mediation with the fact that at the time the Government was ready for an honorable settlement for the sake of domestic peace. He suggests that, had Nationalist government not accepted American mediation, the Kuomintang would have perished against Soviet imperialism or Russian hegemony in the Northeast Provinces. Furthermore, the Nationalists may have recognized the Communists initial approach to negotiations as a delaying tactic meant to preserve amiable relations with the Kuomintang while its military was still relatively weak. Despite this recognition, Chiang Kai-shek claimed that the acceptance of the truce agreement was made to preserve the Nationalists aim to build up China as a democratic nation. In order to achieve democracy, a compromise would have to be reached between the Kuomintang and Communist factions. The inherently contradictory nature of Sino-American policy, however, inhibited the realization of this Nationalist goal. The wish for a worthy cause seems to have contributed to the critical views held by American officials toward the Nationalists government despite its limited influence over and understanding of Chiang Kai-shek and Sino-American relations in the early 1940s. Between September 1944 and November 1945, General Patrick Hurley attempted to implement a policy to fortify the Nationalist government by urging economic, administrative, and democratic reforms, and a coalition with other parties. The Chinese Communists appeared willing to enter a coalition government and place their military forces under that government so long as they retained a position of strength in lieu the compromise. The Nationalist, however, wanted first to have explicit control over the military before providing the Communists with the shared authority component of the agreement. As negotiations on the coalition were veering toward deadlock, Hurley s sympathies went to the side of the Nationalist government. Although some members of his staff recognized that his position as mediator would be hopeless unless he remained impartial to the conflicting factions, Hurley continued exerting comparatively lesser pressure on the Nationalists to reform its administration and resolve on a compromise with the Communists. At this time, John Carter Vincent, director of Far Eastern affairs from the year 1945 to 1947, recalled that we [Americans] were terribly concerned over the result of an outbreak of general civil war in China. Upon Hurley s resignation and amid rising resentments from both the Nationalists and the Communists, President Harry S. Truman recognized that the United States must exert whatever influence we might have to prevent civil war. The alternative to a coalition government in China appeared to be Soviet backed and all-communist. In response to mounting European influences for the United States to pursue an anti-Soviet and anti-Communist policy, President Truman sent General George C. Marshall on what became known as the Marshall Mission. In December of 1945, Truman instructed Marshall to seek the unification of China by peaceful democratic methods. Marshall was faced with carrying out an inherently contradictory foreign policy. Ideally, the United States wanted the peaceful unification of China under a liberal democratic government. Given the nature of the conflicting Nationalist and Communist parties and their present and potential military capabilities, the prospect of peace and democracy would not be achieved without a compromise. At one point in the latter part of 1947, Nationalists and Communists met as the Political Consultative Conference and agreed to an uneasy truce that entailed (1) a military truce, (2) a political and constitutional agreement, and (3) an agreement on the reorganization and control of military forces. Despite negotiations, the civil war was only suspended. However willing both parties were to negotiate terms of compromise under American mediation, their reluctance to wholly agree to the other party s requests sealed the failure of the Marshall Mission. In 1947, General Marshall returned to the United States and washed his hands of China and the idealistic American policy that remained unrealized over the course of a year of futile negotiations. In early August of 1949, America s State Department issued a 1054-page White Paper on China attributing the failure to counter the Communist revolution strategy to the basic weakness of Chiang s government. In this document, Secretary of State, Dean G. Acheson attempted to justify the failure of America s policy by stating The unfortunate but inescapable fact is that the ominous result of the civil war in China was beyond the control of the government of the United States. Nothing that this country did or could have done within the reasonable limits of its capabilities could have changed that result; nothing that was left undone by this country has contributed to it. Acheson s White Paper on China contains a curious exposition on Sino-American policy during the Chinese Communist rise to power. While its initial purpose was its utilization as a tool of propaganda, justifying the results of the United States policy toward China during the time of the Kuomintang-Communist conflict, this paper now further attests to the extent of America s misunderstanding of China s internal dilemma. During the first few years of the war, the United States approached the internal conflicts in China on the side of the Nationalist and especially Chiang Kai-shek. This approach was consistent with the propaganda that between 1936 and 1945, had portrayed Chiang Kai-shek as a hero, a soldier-saint, and a savior of modern China [and] a defender of democracy, renowned by Time magazine with Madame Chiang Kai-shek as Man and Wife of the Year and even compared to George Washington in the pamphlet China America s Ally as a great [revolutionary] leader in war and peace. While these philanthropic notions of leader Chiang Kai-shek went on to advance America s view of Chinese Nationalists, this American benevolence toward China was transformed into an exaggerated notion of Chinese friendship for the United States. America, too concerned with anti-Communistic sentiment and burdened by years of pro-Chiang Kai-shek propaganda, fell short of perceiving the similarities between the origins and struggles of the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communists. While both factions were conceived amid the anti-Western and nationalist ideas the swept through China during the 1920s America s shrouded understanding of each party s ideologies brought about the partial nature of its policies. The White Paper and the response it elicited illustrate America s fervent efforts feed the myth that the United States had lost China [due to] treason and reconcile its part in the Kuomintang s loss of Mainland China.

Despite America s rejection of the failure of its Sino-American policies, Chiang Kai-shek s employment of American assistance did little to endow domestic support for the Nationalist party. As opposed to the Communists Ta, Ta! T an! T an! Fight awhile and talk awhile, then fight and talk again! strategy, the Nationalists did not equally emphasize fighting and negotiating. Rather, the Kuomintang paid disadvantageous, selective attention to fighting preparations, negotiations, and America s obscure assistance. While the United States had supplied Chiang Kai-shek with $3,078 million in military and economic aid accompanied by professional military advice between VJ day and March of 1949 very little of this American assistance found its way to any other Chinese leaders. This ambiguous policy even received the following assessment from Communist leader Mao Tse-tung:Judging by the large amount of aid the United States is giving Chiang Kai-shek to enable him to wage civil war on an unprecedented scale, the policy of the U.S. Government is to use so-called mediation as a smokescreen for strengthening Chiang Kai-shek in every way and suppressing the democratic forces in China through Chiang Kai-shek s policy of slaughter so as to reduce China to a virtual U.S. colony. Due to its fruitless results, American policy, upon reaching the Chinese people, was met with little gratitude and support. Sino-American relations and Chiang Kai-shek s utilization of their policies, by rousing little if not discouraging domestic support for the Nationalist movement, is the most significant cause of the defeat of the Kuomintang by the Chinese Communist Party between 1945 and 1949.IV. Chiang Kai-shek s Economic Policies Of the factors leading the Kuomintang s defeat by the Chinese Communists between 1945 and 1949, the inefficiency of Chiang Kai-shek s economic policy immediately prior to and during the civil war is often named. Prior to 1945, Chiang Kai-shek s domestic economic policy held bilateral aims directed toward sustaining University education, the future of China, while investing in the strength of the military. To achieve these results, the Nationalists did not utilize students in the war effort but rather provided them stipends with which to continue their education. Furthermore, it was from the peasantry that the Nationalists conscripted soldiers and, through the late 1940s, received a majority of their funds through taxation. After the Sino-Japanese war, attempts at balancing the budget and stabilizing the currency took their toll on the Chiang Kai-shek s attempts at economic reconstruction. These economic difficulties combined with Communist propaganda and demoralization affirms the significance of Chiang Kai-shek s domestic economic policy as a factor inducing the failure of the Nationalist movement.With regard to the establishment of education, the secret police of the government set up training centers that tried to indoctrinate [professors] with loyalty to the Three People s Principles. These actions discouraged the support of the domestic intellectuals by wearing down the trust that lay between them and the government. The Kuomintang whether they were unaware or merely ignorant to the actions of the secret police continued with their investment in education. Instead of learning to live off of the agricultural yields of the land as the Chinese Communist were doing, the Kuomintang economy relied heavily on flagrant fees and taxation to defer the costs of the Sino-Japanese war. This action led to economic instability that was further aggravated by inflation. After the Sino-Japanese war, the Nationalist government was faced with the issue of balancing the budget that had been upset by large military expenditures. To most efficiently balance the budget, the Nationalists would have to decrease the size of its military. The Communists foiled these plans, however, when they engaged in conflict, forcing the Nationalists to maintain their numbers in order to maintain militarily superiority. Furthermore, the Nationalists access to Northern China and Manchuria, the most highly industrialized regions of Mainland China, was impeded by Communist control of and actions in the countryside, north of the Yangtze River. There, the Communists cut off Nationalists lines of communication by destroying industrial factories and mines followed by impeding the subsequent reconstruction efforts. Thus, Kuomintang attempts to move into Manchuria and Northern China were considerably hindered by limited lines of communication outside of those areas.Mismanagement of the economy, in which inflation due to decreases in production was on the rise, diminished domestic support of the Nationalists. Although inflation initially aided agricultural producers by raising crop prices, it was soon offset by heavy increases in taxation. When production ceased under the Nationalists diminishing control of China, it was not resumed in cities recuperating from the war. This resulting decrease in production led to inflation, higher unemployment, and decreases in consumption. As a result, starvation and local corruption continued throughout the countryside. In addition, as troops, liberated from the Japanese, returned to the provinces, they brought with them increased burdens of taxation and requisition. To assist the Nationalist and oppose this Communist behavior, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration provided supplies and repaired power lines and lines of communication with nearly $650,00,000 in aid. This assistance, of which America had contributed over seventy per cent, was halted in 1946. In Soviet Russia In China, Chiang Kai-shek makes known that it was probably to bear on my Government to accept its mediation recommendations so as to help restore domestic peace in China. What’s more, to enjoy economic prosperity depended on demobilization and reconstruction, which, in turn, depended on the American Government s attitude toward the Chinese Communists intrigues. Thus, when Communist propaganda succeeded in weakening Sin-American cooperation, the Chinese people began losing heart in the matter of national reconstruction. While Chiang Kai-shek s economic policies discouraged Chinese domestic support, its roots in America s China policy rank this factor less significant than the Sino-American relations on which this factor hinged as a cause of the Nationalists loss of the mainland. While American economic assistance played a significant role early on in Chiang Kai-shek s economic policy, its absence in the currency reform of 1948 an aspect that cannot be overlooked in the examination of the Nationalists economic policy. The conversion of specie and foreign currencies into gold yuan was meant to cope with difficulties in the money market between September 1945 and February 1947. Instead of creating fixed prices or correcting inflation, the Nationalist government was unable to create any long-term currency stabilization plan causing prices to rise 85,000 times in six months. While this policy was realized absent American facilitation, it further deteriorated what was left of people s confidence in the currency after Sino-American relations had taken place.V. Chiang Kai-shek s Political PoliciesMany historians, such as John King Fairbanks in The Great Chinese Revolution and Wan Yah-Kang in The Rise of Communism, have pointed to the Nationalists failure in the mishandl[ing] of its citizenry that led to the alienat[ion] of major components of the Chinese people. This began by The Nationalists request for Japanese generals to surrender their forces and weapons to the official commanders of the various Chinese war zones, all Kuomintang officers. This demand aggravated the Communists, placing Chinese forces against Chinese a highly unpopular move after a united victory over Japan. In addition, due to the great emphasis Chiang Kai-shek placed on economic policy after the Sino-Japanese war, the Nationalists focused much of their efforts on war preparations instead of civilian development. These unfavorable policies widened the gap between the public and the Nationalist government.During the Sino-Japanese war, Communist forces had infiltrated much of the Northeast countryside of China. While they besieged the Japanese, they also won peasant support through their implementation of agrarian and land reforms. These reforms involved improvements such as the provision of peasant demands, the betterment of agricultural cooperation, and the mobilization of villagers against the present local authorities. Thus, upon the Nationalist takeover of Northeast China cities, the villagers and countryside were unwilling to accept Nationalist authority unless the reformed local governments instituted by the Communists were also accepted. Consequently, the Nationalist government, in lieu of the domestic resentment that Chiang Kai-shek s economic policies had developed, found itself highly opposed in the countryside by both the Communists and the peasants. In Pahsien, for example, the Kuomintang was viewed as an uninspired, listless, rootless organization that apparently is not interested in doing much of anything except maintain its monopoly position in politics and government service. Although Chiang Kai-shek controlled most of China in 1948, the Communists were quickly gaining peasant support from its large-scale movement to redistribute land. Furthermore, new peasant recruits as well as surrendered KMT troops enthusiastically joined the Communist-led ranks of what became known as the People s Liberation Army (PLA). It is interesting to note that after Chiang Kai-shek had withdrawn from Mainland China to the island of Taiwan, his government introduced a series of controversial but ultimately successful reforms. His land reform policy remains the most notable of them. Ironically, had he introduced and implemented some of these reforms while on the mainland, the Communists might not have gained such a strong presence there. While the Nationalists relied on American airplanes to carry food and supplies to the troops, the PLA could rely on the advantage of large, organized legions of peasant laborers. Chiang Kai-shek s military focus, similar to his economic policies, had many of its roots in American aid and assistance. Thus, as a factor leading to the failure of the Nationalist movement between 1945 and 1949, Chiang Kai-shek s political policies remain secondary to the Sino-American policy factor. VI. Conclusion In December of 1948 Secretary of State, Marshall, summarized the American analysis of the situation in China by stating that in order to achieve the objective of reducing the Chinese Communists to a completely negligible factor in China it would be necessary for the United States virtually to take over the Chinese government and administer its economic, military and government affairs. Clearly, America s foreign policy toward the Nationalist government in China between 1945 and 1949 held great influence in the Kuomintang s performance against the Communists in the war. While propaganda, such as Acheson s White Paper on China and the loss of China myth, have attempted to estrange American foreign policy from this tragic period in China s history, the repercussions of Chiang Kai-shek s actions, seen through the diminishing support of the Chinese people, affirm the significance of this factor in evoking the failure of the Nationalist movement. To readdress the question, which action of the Kuomintang, under the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek, was most significant in evoking the failure of the Chinese Nationalist movement between 1945 and 1949? Whereas many of Chiang Kai-shek s economic and political policies were dependent upon the American government s attitude toward China, the origins of the diminishing domestic support that these policies procured can also be traced to Sino-American relations. Consequently, the most significant factor in evoking the loss of Mainland China by the Nationalist party embody the Sino-American relations under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek between 1945 and 1949.


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