1916 Jan 1
, China

Following the collapse of the Qing dynasty and the 1911 Revolution, Sun Yat-sen assumed the presidency of the newly formed Republic of China, and was shortly thereafter succeeded by Yuan Shikai. Yuan was frustrated in a short-lived attempt to restore monarchy in China, and China fell into power struggle after his death in 1916.

Student demonstration, including female students.

May Fourth Movement

1919 May 4
, Tiananmen Square

The May Fourth Movement was a Chinese anti-imperialist, cultural, and political movement which grew out of student protests in Beijing on May 4, 1919. Students gathered in front of Tiananmen (The Gate of Heavenly Peace) to protest the Chinese government's weak response to the Treaty of Versailles decision to allow Japan to retain territories in Shandong that had been surrendered to Germany after the Siege of Tsingtao in 1914. The demonstrations sparked nation-wide protests and spurred an upsurge in Chinese nationalism, a shift towards political mobilization away from cultural activities, and a move towards a populist base, away from traditional intellectual and political elites.

The May Fourth demonstrations marked a turning point in a broader anti-traditional New Culture Movement (1915–1921) that sought to replace traditional Confucian values and was itself a continuation of late Qing reforms. Yet even after 1919, these educated "new youths" still defined their role with a traditional model in which the educated elite took responsibility for both cultural and political affairs. They opposed traditional culture but looked abroad for cosmopolitan inspiration in the name of nationalism and were an overwhelmingly urban movement that espoused populism in an overwhelmingly rural country. Many political and social leaders of the next five decades emerged at this time, including those of the Chinese Communist Party.

Scholars rank the New Culture and May Fourth Movements as significant turning points, as David Wang said, "it was the turning point in China's search for literary modernity", along with the abolition of the civil service system in 1905 and the overthrow of the monarchy in 1911. The challenge to traditional Chinese values, however, was also met with strong opposition, especially from the Nationalist Party. From their perspective, the movement destroyed the positive elements of Chinese tradition and placed a heavy emphasis on direct political actions and radical attitudes, characteristics associated with the emerging Chinese Communist Party (CCP). On the other hand, the CCP, whose two founders, Li Dazhao and Chen Duxiu, were leaders of the movement, viewed it more favorably, although remaining suspicious of the early phase which emphasized the role of enlightened intellectuals, not revolution. In its broader sense, the May Fourth Movement led to the establishment of radical intellectuals who went on to mobilize peasants and workers into the CCP and gain the organizational strength that would solidify the success of the Chinese Communist Revolution.

During the May 4th Movement, the group of intellectuals with communist ideas grew steadily, such as Chen Tanqiu, Zhou Enlai, Chen Duxiu, and others, who gradually appreciated Marxism's power. This promoted the sinicization of Marxism and provided a basis for the birth of the CCP and socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Borodin making a speech in Wuhan, 1927

Soviet Assistance

1923 Jan 1
, Russia

The Kuomintang (KMT), led by Sun Yat-sen, created a new government in Guangzhou to rival the warlords who ruled over large swathes of China and prevented the formation of a solid central government. After Sun's efforts to obtain aid from Western countries were ignored, he turned to the Soviet Union. In 1923, Sun and Soviet representative Adolph Joffe in Shanghai pledged Soviet assistance to China's unification in the Sun–Joffe Manifesto, a declaration of cooperation among the Comintern, KMT, and CCP. Comintern agent Mikhail Borodin arrived in 1923 to aid in the reorganization and consolidation of both the CCP and the KMT along the lines of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The CCP, which was initially a study group, and the KMT jointly formed the First United Front.

In 1923, Sun sent Chiang Kai-shek, one of his lieutenants, for several months of military and political study in Moscow. Chiang then became the head of the Whampoa Military Academy that trained the next generation of military leaders. The Soviets provided the academy with teaching material, organization, and equipment, including munitions. They also provided education in many of the techniques for mass mobilization. With this aid, Sun raised a dedicated "army of the party," with which he hoped to defeat the warlords militarily. CCP members were also present in the academy, and many of them became instructors, including Zhou Enlai, who was made a political instructor.

Communist members were allowed to join the KMT on an individual basis. The CCP itself was still small at the time, having a membership of 300 in 1922 and only 1,500 by 1925. As of 1923, the KMT had 50,000 members.

The Beiyang Army in training

Warlord Era

1926 Jan 1
, Shandong

In 1926, there were three major coalition of warlords across China that were hostile to the KMT government in Guangzhou. The forces of Wu Peifu occupied northern Hunan, Hubei, and Henan provinces. The coalition of Sun Chuanfang was in control of Fujian, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Anhui and Jiangxi provinces. The most powerful coalition, led by Zhang Zuolin, then head of the Beiyang government and the Fengtian clique, was in control of Manchuria, Shandong and Zhili. To face the Northern Expedition, Zhang Zuolin eventually assembled the "National Pacification Army", an alliance of the warlords of northern China.

Feng Yuxiang meets with Chiang Kai-shek in Xuzhou on 19 June 1927.

Canton Coup

1926 Mar 20
, Guangzhou

The Canton Coup of 20 March 1926, also known as the Zhongshan Incident or the March 20th Incident, was a purge of Communist elements of the Nationalist army in Guangzhou undertaken by Chiang Kai-shek. The incident solidified Chiang's power immediately before the successful Northern Expedition, turning him into the paramount leader of the country.

NRA troops preparing to attack Wuchang

Northern Expedition

1926 Jul 9 - 1928 Dec 29
, Yellow River

The Northern Expedition was a military campaign launched by the National Revolutionary Army (NRA) of the Kuomintang (KMT), also known as the "Chinese Nationalist Party", against the Beiyang government and other regional warlords in 1926. The purpose of the campaign was to reunify China, which had become fragmented in the aftermath of the Revolution of 1911. The expedition was led by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, and was divided into two phases. The first phase ended in a 1927 political split between two factions of the KMT: the right-leaning Nanjing faction, led by Chiang, and the left-leaning faction in Wuhan, led by Wang Jingwei. The split was partially motivated by Chiang's Shanghai Massacre of Communists within the KMT, which marked the end of the First United Front. In an effort to mend this schism, Chiang Kai-shek stepped down as the commander of the NRA in August 1927, and went into exile in Japan.

The second phase of the Expedition began in January 1928, when Chiang resumed command. By April 1928, the nationalist forces had advanced to the Yellow River. With the assistance of allied warlords including Yan Xishan and Feng Yuxiang, nationalist forces secured a series of decisive victories against the Beiyang Army. As they approached Beijing, Zhang Zuolin, leader of the Manchuria-based Fengtian clique, was forced to flee, and was assassinated shortly thereafter by the Japanese. His son, Zhang Xueliang, took over as the leader of the Fengtian clique, and in December 1928, announced that Manchuria would accept the authority of the nationalist government in Nanjing. With the final piece of China under KMT control, the Northern Expedition concluded successfully and China was reunified, heralding the start of the Nanjing decade.

The American destroyer USS Noa.

Nanking incident of 1927

1927 Mar 21 - Mar 27
, Nanjing

The Nanking Incident occurred in March 1927 during the capture of Nanjing (then Nanking) by the National Revolutionary Army (NRA) in their Northern Expedition. Foreign warships bombarded the city to defend foreign residents against rioting and looting. Several ships were involved in the engagement, including vessels of the Royal Navy and the United States Navy. Marines and sailors were also landed for rescue operations including some 140 Dutch forces. Both Nationalist and Communist soldiers within the NRA participated in the rioting and looting of foreign-owned property in Nanjing.

Public beheading of a communist in Shanghai

Shanghai massacre

1927 Apr 12 - Apr 15
, Shanghai

The Shanghai massacre of 12 April 1927, the April 12 Purge or the April 12 Incident as it is commonly known in China, was the violent suppression of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) organizations and leftist elements in Shanghai by forces supporting General Chiang Kai-shek and conservative factions in the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party or KMT). Between 12 and 14 April, hundreds of communists in Shanghai were arrested and killed on the orders of Chiang. The ensuing White Terror devastated the Communists, and only 10,000 out of 60,000 party members survived.

Following the incident, conservative KMT elements carried out a full-scale purge of Communists in all areas under their control, and violent suppression occurred in Guangzhou and Changsha. The purge led to an open split between left-wing and right-wing factions in the KMT, with Chiang Kai-shek establishing himself as the leader of the right-wing faction based in Nanjing, in opposition to the original left-wing KMT government based in Wuhan, which was led by Wang Jingwei.

By 15 July 1927, the Wuhan regime had expelled the Communists in its ranks, effectively ending the First United Front, a working alliance of both the KMT and CCP under the tutelage of Comintern agents. For the rest of 1927, the CCP would fight to regain power, beginning the Autumn Harvest Uprising. With the failure and the crushing of the Guangzhou Uprising at Guangzhou however, the power of the Communists was largely diminished, unable to launch another major urban offensive.

Wang Jingwei and Chiang Kai-Shek in 1926.

July 15 Incident

1927 Jul 15
, Wuhan

The July 15 Incident occurred on 15 July 1927. Following growing strains in the coalition between the KMT government in Wuhan and the CCP, and under pressure from the rival nationalist government led by Chiang Kai-shek in Nanjing, Wuhan leader Wang Jingwei ordered a purge of communists from his government in July 1927.

Communist troops prepare for Nanchang Uprising

Nanchang uprising

1927 Aug 1
, Nanchang

The Nanchang Uprising was the first major Nationalist Party of China–Chinese Communist Party engagement of the Chinese Civil War, begun by the Chinese Communists to counter the Shanghai massacre of 1927 by the Kuomintang. Military forces in Nanchang under the leadership of He Long and Zhou Enlai rebelled in an attempt to seize control of the city after the end of the first Kuomintang-Communist alliance. Communist forces successfully occupied Nanchang and escaped from the siege of Kuomintang forces by 5 August, withdrawing to the Jinggang Mountains of western Jiangxi. 1 August was later regarded as the anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the first action fought against the Kuomintang and the National Revolutionary Army (NRA).

Autumn Harvest Uprising in China

Autumn Harvest Uprising

1927 Sep 5
, Hunan

The Autumn Harvest Uprising was an insurrection that took place in Hunan and Kiangsi (Jiangxi) provinces of China, on September 7, 1927, led by Mao Tse-tung, who established a short-lived Hunan Soviet. After initial success, the uprising was brutally put down. Mao continued to believe in the rural strategy but concluded that it would be necessary to form a party army.

Guangzhou Uprising

Guangzhou Uprising

1927 Dec 11 - Dec 13
, Guangzhou

On 11 December 1927, the political leadership of the CCP ordered about 20,000 communist-leaning soldiers and armed workers to organize a "Red Guard" and take over Guangzhou. The uprising occurred despite the strong objections of communist military commanders, as the communists were badly armed - just 2,000 of the insurgents had rifles. Nevertheless, rebel forces captured most of the city within hours using the element of surprise, despite a huge numerical and technical advantage held by government troops. After this initial success for the communists, however, the 15,000 National Revolutionary Army (NRA) troops in the area moved into the city and started to push back the insurgents. After five more NRA divisions arrived in Guangzhou, the uprising was quickly crushed. The insurgents suffered heavy casualties, while the survivors had to flee the city or go into hiding. The Comintern, especially Neumann, were later blamed for insisting that the communists had to hold onto Guangzhou at all cost. Zhang Tailei, the leading Red Guard organizer, was killed in an ambush as he returned from a meeting. The takeover dissolved by the early morning of December 13, 1927.

In the resulting purges, many young communists were executed and the Guangzhou Soviet became known as the "Canton Commune", "Guangzhou Commune" or "Paris Commune of the East"; it lasted only a short time at the cost of more than 5,700 communists dead and an equal number missing. Around 8 p.m. on 13 December, the Soviet consulate in Guangzhou was surrounded and all its personnel were arrested. In the accident the consulate diplomats Ukolov, Ivanov and others were killed. Ye Ting, the military commander, was scapegoated, purged and blamed for the failure, despite the fact that the obvious disadvantages of the communist force was the main cause of the defeat, as Ye Ting and other military commanders had correctly pointed out. Despite being the third failed uprising of 1927, and reducing the morale of the communists, it encouraged further uprisings across China.

There were now three capitals in China: the internationally recognized republic capital in Beijing, the CCP and left-wing KMT at Wuhan and the right-wing KMT regime at Nanjing, which would remain the KMT capital for the next decade. This marked the beginning of a ten-year armed struggle, known in mainland China as the "Ten-Year Civil War" which ended with the Xi'an Incident when Chiang Kai-shek was forced to form the Second United Front against invading forces from the Empire of Japan. 

Japanese troops in the commercial district, July 1927. Jinan's railway station can be seen in the background.

Jinan incident

1928 May 3 - May 11
, Jinan

The Jinan incident began as a 3 May 1928 dispute between Chiang Kai-shek's National Revolutionary Army (NRA) and Japanese soldiers and civilians in Jinan, the capital of Shandong province in China, which then escalated into an armed conflict between the NRA and the Imperial Japanese Army. Japanese soldiers had been deployed to Shandong province to protect Japanese commercial interests in the province, which were threatened by the advance of Chiang's Northern Expedition to reunite China under a Kuomintang government. When the NRA approached Jinan, the Beiyang government-aligned army of Sun Chuanfang withdrew from the area, allowing for the peaceful capture of the city by the NRA. NRA forces initially managed to coexist with Japanese troops stationed around the Japanese consulate and businesses, and Chiang Kai-shek arrived to negotiate their withdrawal on 2 May. This peace was broken the following morning, however, when a dispute between the Chinese and Japanese resulted in the deaths of 13–16 Japanese civilians. The resulting conflict resulted in thousands of casualties on the NRA side, which fled the area to continue northwards toward Beijing, and left the city under Japanese occupation until March 1929.

Assassination of Zhang Zuolin, 4 June 1928

Huanggutun incident

1928 Jun 4
, Shenyang

The Huanggutun incident was the assassination of the Fengtian warlord and Generalissimo of the Military Government of China Zhang Zuolin near Shenyang on 4 June 1928. Zhang was killed when his personal train was destroyed by an explosion at the Huanggutun Railway Station that had been plotted and committed by the Kwantung Army of the Imperial Japanese Army. Zhang's death had undesirable outcomes for the Empire of Japan, which had hoped to advance its interests in Manchuria at the end of the Warlord Era, and the incident was concealed as "A Certain Important Incident in Manchuria" in Japan. The incident delayed the Japanese invasion of Manchuria for several years until the Mukden Incident in 1931.

The younger Zhang, to avoid any conflict with Japan and chaos that might provoke the Japanese into a military response, did not directly accuse Japan of complicity in his father's murder but instead quietly carried out a policy of reconciliation with the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek, which left him as the recognized ruler of Manchuria instead of Yang Yuting. The assassination thus considerably weakened Japan's political position in Manchuria.

The leaders of the Northern Expedition gather on 6 July 1928 at Sun Yat-sen's mausoleum in the Temple of Azure Clouds, Beijing, to commemorate the completion of their mission.

Reunification of China (1928)

1928 Dec 29
, Beijing

In April 1928, Chiang Kai-shek proceeded with the Second Northern Expedition and was approaching Beijing near the end of May. The Beiyang government in Beijing was forced to dissolve as a result; Zhang Zuolin abandoned Beijing to return to Manchuria and was assassinated in the Huanggutun incident by the Japanese Kwantung Army. Immediately after the death of Zhang Zuolin, Zhang Xueliang returned to Shenyang to succeed his father's position. On July 1 he announced an armistice with the National Revolutionary Army and proclaimed that he would not interfere with the reunification. The Japanese were dissatisfied with the move and demanded Zhang to proclaim the independence of Manchuria. He refused the Japanese demand and proceeded with unification matters. On July 3 Chiang Kai-shek arrived in Beijing and met the representative from the Fengtian clique to discuss a peaceful settlement. This negotiation reflected the scramble between the US and Japan on her sphere of influence in China because the US supported Chiang Kai-shek unifying Manchuria. Under pressure from the US and Britain, Japan was diplomatically isolated on this issue. On December 29 Zhang Xueliang announced the replacement of all flags in Manchuria and accepted the jurisdiction of the Nationalist government. Two days later the Nationalist government appointed Zhang as commander of the Northeast Army. China was symbolically reunified at this point.

NRA Generals in Beijing after Northern Expedition

Central Plains War

1929 Mar 1 - 1930 Nov
, China

The Central Plains War was a series of military campaigns in 1929 and 1930 that constituted a Chinese civil war between the Nationalist Kuomintang government in Nanjing led by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and several regional military commanders and warlords who were former allies of Chiang. After the Northern Expedition ended in 1928, Yan Xishan, Feng Yuxiang, Li Zongren and Zhang Fakui broke off relations with Chiang shortly after a demilitarization conference in 1929, and together they formed an anti-Chiang coalition to openly challenge the legitimacy of the Nanjing government. The war was the largest conflict in the Warlord Era, fought across Henan, Shandong, Anhui and other areas of the Central Plains in China, involving 300,000 soldiers from Nanjing and 700,000 soldiers from the coalition.

The Central Plains War was the largest armed conflict in China since the Northern Expedition ended in 1928. The conflicts spread across multiple provinces in China, involving different regional commanders with combined forces of more than one million. While the Nationalist government in Nanjing came out victorious, the conflict was financially costly which had a negative influence on the subsequent Encirclement Campaigns over the Chinese Communist Party. After the entrance of the Northeast Army into central China, the defense of Manchuria was significantly weakened, which indirectly led to Japanese aggression in the Mukden Incident.

First encirclement campaign

First encirclement campaign

1930 Nov 1 - 1931 Mar 9
, Hubei

In 1930 the Central Plains War broke out as an internal conflict of the KMT. It was launched by Feng Yuxiang, Yan Xishan and Wang Jingwei. The attention was turned to root out remaining pockets of Communist activity in a series of five encirclement campaigns.

The first encirclement campaign against the Hubei–Henan–Anhui Soviet was an encirclement campaign launched by the Chinese Nationalist Government that was intended to destroy communist Hubei-Henan-Anhui Soviet and its Chinese Red Army in the local region. It was responded by the Communists' first counter-encirclement campaign at Hubei–Henan–Anhui Soviet, in which the local Chinese Red Army successfully defended their soviet republic in the border region of Hubei, Henan, and Anhui provinces against the Nationalist attacks from November 1930 to 9 March 1931.

Second encirclement campaign

Second encirclement campaign

1931 Mar 1 - Jun
, Honghu

After their defeat in the first encirclement campaign against the Honghu Soviet in early February 1931 and the subsequent forced withdraw to regroup, nationalist forces launched the second encirclement campaign against the communist base in Honghu on 1 March 1931. The nationalists believed that their poorly supplied communist enemy would not have sufficient time to recover from previous battles in the last encirclement campaign, and they must not wait too long to provide more times for their communist enemy. The nationalist commander-in-chief was the same one in the first encirclement campaign against the Honghu Soviet, the 10th Army commander Xu Yuanquan, whose 10th Army was not deployed directly in the campaign, but instead, deployed some distance away from the battlefield as strategic reserve. The brunt of the fighting was to be carried out mostly by troops of regional warlords who were nominally under the command of Chiang Kai-shek.

The communists were not jubilant after their victory achieved in first encirclement campaign against the Honghu Soviet, because they were fully aware the nationalist withdraw was only temporary and it was only matter of time before the nationalists resume their assault on Honghu Soviet. To better prepare the defense of their homebase against the new wave of the imminent nationalist attacks which had already begun, communists restructured their organization in Honghu Soviet. This restructure of communist party apparatus was proven to be catastrophic later on, when Xià Xī carried out huge purges on local communist ranks, resulting in causing more damage than the military actions taken by their nationalist enemy.

The local Chinese Red Army successfully defended their soviet republic in the Honghu region against the Nationalist attacks from 1 March 1931, to early June, 1931.

Third encirclement campaign

Third encirclement campaign

1931 Sep 1 - 1932 May 30
, Honghu

The third encirclement campaign against the Honghu Soviet was an encirclement campaign launched by the Chinese Nationalist Government that was intended to destroy the communist Honghu Soviet and its Chinese Red Army in the local region. It was responded by the Communists' third counter-encirclement campaign at Honghu Soviet, in which the local Chinese Red Army successfully defended their soviet republic in the southern Hubei and northern Hunan provinces against the Nationalist attacks from early September 1931 to 30 May 1932.

Japanese experts inspect the "sabotaged" South Manchurian Railway.

Mukden Incident

1931 Sep 18
, Shenyang

The Mukden Incident, or Manchurian Incident was a false flag event staged by Japanese military personnel as a pretext for the 1931 Japanese invasion of Manchuria.On September 18, 1931, Lieutenant Suemori Kawamoto of the Independent Garrison Unit of the 29th Japanese Infantry Regiment detonated a small quantity of dynamite close to a railway line owned by Japan's South Manchuria Railway near Mukden (now Shenyang). The explosion was so weak that it failed to destroy the track, and a train passed over it minutes later. The Imperial Japanese Army accused Chinese dissidents of the act and responded with a full invasion that led to the occupation of Manchuria, in which Japan established its puppet state of Manchukuo six months later. The deception was exposed by the Lytton Report of 1932, leading Japan to diplomatic isolation and its March 1933 withdrawal from the League of Nations.

Japanese soldiers of 29th Regiment on the Mukden West Gate

Japanese invasion of Manchuria

1931 Sep 19 - 1932 Feb 28
, Shenyang

The Empire of Japan's Kwantung Army invaded Manchuria on 18 September 1931, immediately following the Mukden Incident. At the war's end in February 1932, the Japanese established the puppet state of Manchukuo. Their occupation lasted until the success of the Soviet Union and Mongolia with the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation in mid-August 1945, towards the end of the Second World War.

The South Manchuria Railway Zone and the Korean Peninsula had been under the control of the Japanese Empire since the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905. Japan's ongoing industrialization and militarization ensured their growing dependence on oil and metal imports from the US. The US sanctions which prevented trade with the United States (which had occupied the Philippines around the same time) resulted in Japan furthering its expansion in the territory of China and Southeast Asia. The invasion of Manchuria, or the Marco Polo Bridge Incident of 7 July 1937, are sometimes cited as an alternative starting dates for World War II, in contrast with the more commonly accepted date of September 1, 1939.

Fourth encirclement campaign

Fourth encirclement campaign

1932 Jul 1 - Oct 12
, Hubei

The fourth encirclement campaign was intended to destroy the communist Hubei–Henan–Anhui Soviet and its Chinese Red Army in the local region. The local nationalist force defeated the local Chinese Red Army and overran their soviet republic in the border region of Hubei, Henan, and Anhui provinces from early July 1932 to 12 October 1932. However, the Nationalist victory was incomplete because they had concluded the campaign too early in their jubilation, resulting in the bulk of the communist force escaped and established another communist base in the border region of Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces. Moreover, the remnant local communist force of the Hubei–Henan–Anhui Soviet had also rebuilt the local Soviet republic by taking advantage of the early nationalist withdrawal, and as a result, nationalists had to launch another encirclement campaign later to repeat the effort again.

Fifth encirclement campaign

Fifth encirclement campaign

1933 Jul 17 - 1934 Nov 26
, Hubei

In late 1934, Chiang launched a fifth campaign that involved the systematic encirclement of the Jiangxi Soviet region with fortified blockhouses. The blockhouse strategy was devised and implemented in part by newly hired Nazi advisors. Unlike previous campaigns in which they penetrated deeply in a single strike, this time the KMT troops patiently built blockhouses, each separated by about eight kilometres, to surround the Communist areas and cut off their supplies and food sources.

In October 1934 the CCP took advantage of gaps in the ring of blockhouses and broke out of the encirclement. The warlord armies were reluctant to challenge Communist forces for fear of losing their own men and did not pursue the CCP with much fervor. In addition, the main KMT forces were preoccupied with annihilating Zhang Guotao's army, which was much larger than Mao's. The massive military retreat of Communist forces lasted a year and covered what Mao estimated as 12,500 km; it became known as the Long March.

Long March

Long March

1934 Oct 16 - 1935 Oct 22
, Shaanxi

The Long March was a military retreat undertaken by the Red Army of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the forerunner of the People's Liberation Army, to evade the pursuit of the National Army of the Chinese Nationalist Party (CNP/KMT). However, the most famous began in the Jiangxi (Jiangxi) province in October 1934 and ended in the Shaanxi province in October 1935. The First Front Army of the Chinese Soviet Republic, led by an inexperienced military commission, was on the brink of annihilation by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek's troops in their stronghold in Jiangxi province. The CCP, under the eventual command of Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, escaped in a circling retreat to the west and north, which reportedly traversed over 9,000 km over 370 days. The route passed through some of the most difficult terrain of western China by traveling west, then north, to Shaanxi.

In October 1935, Mao's army reached Shaanxi province and joined with local Communist forces there, led by Liu Zhidan, Gao Gang, and Xu Haidong, who had already established a Soviet base in northern Shaanxi. The remnants of Zhang's Fourth Red Army eventually rejoined Mao in Shaanxi, but with his army destroyed, Zhang, even as a founding member of the CCP, was never able to challenge Mao's authority. After an expedition of almost a year, the Second Red Army reached Bao'an (Shaanxi) on October 22, 1936, known in China as the "union of the three armies", and the end of the Long March.

All along the way, the Communist Army confiscated property and weapons from local warlords and landlords, while recruiting peasants and the poor. Nevertheless, only some 8,000 troops under Mao's command, the First Front Army, ultimately made it to the final destination of Yan'an in 1935. Of these, less than 7,000 were among the original 100,000 soldiers who had started the march. A variety of factors contributed to the losses including fatigue, hunger and cold, sickness, desertion, and military casualties. During the retreat, membership in the party fell from 300,000 to around 40,000.

In November 1935, shortly after settling in northern Shaanxi, Mao officially took over Zhou Enlai's leading position in the Red Army. Following a major reshuffling of official roles, Mao became the chairman of the Military Commission, with Zhou and Deng Xiaoping as vice-chairmen. (After Zhang Gutao reached Shaanxi, Deng was replaced by Zhang). This marked Mao's position as the pre-eminent leader of the Party, with Zhou in a position second to Mao. Both Mao and Zhou would retain their positions until their deaths, in 1976.

While costly, the Long March gave the CCP the isolation it needed, allowing its army to recuperate and rebuild in the north. It also was vital in helping the CCP to gain a positive reputation among the peasants due to the determination and dedication of the surviving participants of the Long March. In addition, policies ordered by Mao for all soldiers to follow, the Eight Points of Attention, instructed the army to treat peasants respectfully and pay fairly for, rather than confiscate, any goods, in spite of the desperate need for food and supplies. This policy won support for the Communists among the rural peasants.

The Long March solidified Mao's status as the undisputed leader of the CCP, though he did not officially become party chairman until 1943. Other survivors of the March also went on to become prominent party leaders well into the 1990s, including Zhu De, Lin Biao, Liu Shaoqi, Dong Biwu, Ye Jianying, Li Xiannian, Yang Shangkun, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping.

Zunyi Conference

Zunyi Conference

1935 Jan 1
, Zunyi

The Zunyi Conference was a meeting of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in January 1935 during the Long March. This meeting involved a power struggle between the leadership of Bo Gu and Otto Braun and the opposition led by Mao Zedong.

The main agenda of this conference was to examine the Party's failure in the Jiangxi region and to look at the options now available to them. Bo Gu was the first to speak with a general report. He acknowledged that the strategy used in Jiangxi had failed, without taking any blame. He claimed the lack of success was not due to poor planning. Next Zhou gave a report on the military situation in an apologetic style. In contrast to Bo, he admitted mistakes had been made. Then Zhang Wentian condemned the leaders for the debacle in Jiangxi in a long, critical oration. This was supported by Mao and Wang. Mao's comparative distance from power over the past two years had left him blameless of the recent failures and in a strong position to attack the leadership.

Mao insisted that Bo Gu and Otto Braun had made fundamental military mistakes by using tactics of pure defense rather than initiating a more mobile war. Mao's supporters gained momentum during the meeting and Zhou Enlai eventually moved to back Mao. Under the principle of democracy for majority, the secretariat of the Central Committee and Central Revolution & Military Committee of CCP were reelected. Bo and Braun were demoted while Zhou maintained his position now sharing military command with Zhu De. Zhang Wentian took Bo's previous position while Mao once again joined the Central Committee.

The Zunyi Conference confirmed that the CCP should turn away from the 28 Bolsheviks and towards Mao. It could be seen as a victory for those old CCP members who had their roots in China and, on the contrary, it was a great loss for those CCP members such as the 28 Bolsheviks who had studied in Moscow and had been trained by the Comintern and the Soviet Union and could be regarded as proteges or agents of Comintern accordingly. After the Zunyi Conference, the influence and involvement of the Comintern in CCP affairs was greatly reduced.

Chang Hsüeh-liang and Yang Hucheng in 1936

Xi'an Incident

1936 Dec 12 - Dec 26
, Xi'An

Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Nationalist government of China, was detained by his subordinate generals Chang Hsüeh-liang (Zhang Xueliang) and Yang Hucheng, in order to force the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang or KMT) to change its policies regarding the Empire of Japan and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).Prior to the incident, Chiang Kai-shek followed a strategy of "first internal pacification, then external resistance" that entailed eliminating the CCP and appeasing Japan to allow time for the modernization of China and its military. After the incident, Chiang aligned with the Communists against the Japanese. However, by the time Chiang arrived in Xi'an on 4 December 1936, negotiations for a united front had been in the works for two years. The crisis ended after two weeks of negotiation, in which Chiang was eventually released and returned to Nanjing, accompanied by Zhang. Chiang agreed to end the ongoing civil war against the CCP and began actively preparing for the impending war with Japan.

A Communist soldier waving the Nationalists' flag of the Republic of China after a victorious battle against the Japanese during the Second Sino-Japanese War

Second United Front

1936 Dec 24 - 1941 Jan
, China

The Second United Front was the alliance between the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to resist the Japanese invasion of China during the Second Sino-Japanese War, which suspended the Chinese Civil War from 1937 to 1945.

As a result of the truce between KMT and CCP, the Red Army was reorganized into the New Fourth Army and the 8th Route Army, which were placed under the command of the National Revolutionary Army. The CCP agreed to accept the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek, and began to receive some financial support from the central government run by KMT. In agreement with KMT Shaan-Gan-Ning Border Region and Jin-Cha-Ji Border Region were created. They were controlled by the CCP.

After the commencement of full-scale war between China and Japan, the Communists forces fought in alliance with the KMT forces during the Battle of Taiyuan, and the high point of their cooperation came in 1938 during the Battle of Wuhan.

However, the Communists submission to the chain of command of the National Revolutionary Army was in name only. The Communists acted independently and hardly ever engaged the Japanese in conventional battles. The level of actual coordination between the CCP and KMT during the Second Sino-Japanese War was minimal.

Japanese troops in the ruins of Shanghai

Second Sino-Japanese War

1937 Jul 7 - 1945 Sep 2
, China

The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict that was primarily waged between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. The war made up the Chinese theater of the wider Pacific Theater of the Second World War. Some Chinese historians believe that the Japanese invasion of Manchuria on 18 September 1931 marks the start of the war. This full-scale war between the Chinese and the Empire of Japan is often regarded as the beginning of World War II in Asia.

China fought Japan with aid from Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, United Kingdom and the United States. After the Japanese attacks on Malaya and Pearl Harbor in 1941, the war merged with other conflicts which are generally categorized under those conflicts of World War II as a major sector known as the China Burma India Theater.

Following the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, the Japanese scored major victories, capturing Beijing, Shanghai and the Chinese capital of Nanjing in 1937, which resulted in the Rape of Nanjing. After failing to stop the Japanese in the Battle of Wuhan, the Chinese central government was relocated to Chongqing (Chungking) in the Chinese interior. Following the Sino-Soviet Treaty of 1937, strong material support helped the Nationalist Army of China and the Chinese Air Force continue to exert strong resistance against the Japanese offensive. By 1939, after Chinese victories in Changsha and Guangxi, and with Japan's lines of communications stretched deep into the Chinese interior, the war reached a stalemate. While the Japanese were also unable to defeat Chinese Communist Party (CCP) forces in Shaanxi, who waged a campaign of sabotage and guerrilla warfare against the invaders, they ultimately succeeded in the year-long Battle of South Guangxi to occupy Nanning, which cut off the last sea access to the wartime capital of Chongqing. While Japan ruled the large cities, they lacked sufficient manpower to control China's vast countryside. In November 1939, Chinese nationalist forces launched a large scale winter offensive, while in August 1940, CCP forces launched a counteroffensive in central China. The United States supported China through a series of increasing boycotts against Japan, culminating with cutting off steel and petrol exports into Japan by June 1941. Additionally, American mercenaries such as the Flying Tigers provided extra support to China directly.

In December 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, and declared war on the United States. The United States declared war in turn and increased its flow of aid to China – with the Lend-Lease act, the United States gave China a total of $1.6 billion ($18.4 billion adjusted for inflation). With Burma cut off it airlifted material over the Himalayas. In 1944, Japan launched Operation Ichi-Go, the invasion of Henan and Changsha. However, this failed to bring about the surrender of Chinese forces. In 1945, the Chinese Expeditionary Force resumed its advance in Burma and completed the Ledo Road linking India to China.

Japanese forces bombarding Wanping Fortress, 1937

Marco Polo Bridge Incident

1937 Jul 7 - Jul 9
, Beijing

The Marco Polo Bridge Incident was a July 1937 battle between China's National Revolutionary Army and the Imperial Japanese Army. Since the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, there had been many small incidents along the rail line connecting Beijing with the port of Tianjin, but all had subsided. On this occasion, a Japanese soldier was temporarily absent from his unit opposite Wanping, and the Japanese commander demanded the right to search the town for him. When this was refused, other units on both sides were put on alert; with tension rising, the Chinese Army fired on the Japanese Army, which further escalated the situation, even though the missing Japanese soldier had returned to his lines. The Marco Polo Bridge Incident is generally regarded as the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War, and arguably World War II.

New Fourth Army incident

New Fourth Army incident

1941 Jan 7 - Jan 13
, Jing County

The New Fourth Army Incident is significant as the end of real cooperation between the Nationalists and Communists. Today, ROC and PRC historians view the New Fourth Army Incident differently. From the ROC point of view, the Communists attacked first and it was a punishment for the Communist insubordination; from the PRC view, it was Nationalist treachery.

On January 5, the Communist forces were surrounded in Maolin Township by a Nationalist force of 80,000 led by Shangguan Yunxiang and attacked days later. After days of fighting, heavy losses – including many civilian workers who staffed the army's political headquarters – were inflicted on the New Fourth Army due to the overwhelming numbers of Nationalist troops. On January 13, Ye Ting, wanting to save his men, went to Shangguan Yunxiang's headquarters to negotiate terms. Upon arrival, Ye was detained. The New Fourth Army's political commissar Xiang Ying was killed, and only 2,000 people, led by Huang Huoxing and Fu Qiutao, were able to break out.

Chiang Kai-shek ordered the New Fourth Army disbanded on January 17, and sent Ye Ting to a military tribunal. However, on January 20, the Chinese Communist Party in Yan'an ordered the reorganization of the army. Chen Yi was the new army commander. Liu Shaoqi was the political commissar. The new headquarters was in Jiangsu, which was now the general headquarters for the New Fourth Army and the Eighth Route Army. Together, they comprised seven divisions and one independent brigade, totalling over 90,000 troops.

Because of this incident, according to the Chinese Communist Party, the Nationalist Party of China was criticized for creating internal strife when the Chinese were supposed to be united against the Japanese; the Chinese Communist Party, on the other hand, was seen as heroes at the vanguard of the fight against the Japanese and Nationalist treachery. Although as a result of this incident, the Communist Party lost possession of the lands south of Yangtze River, it drew the party support from the population, which strengthened their foundations north of Yangtze River. According to the Nationalist Party, this incident was retribution to numerous occasions of treachery and harassment by the New Fourth Army.

Japanese Imperial Army

Operation Ichi-Go

1944 Apr 19 - Dec 31
, Henan

Operation Ichi-Go was a campaign of a series of major battles between the Imperial Japanese Army forces and the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China, fought from April to December 1944. It consisted of three separate battles in the Chinese provinces of Henan, Hunan and Guangxi. The two primary goals of Ichi-go were to open a land route to French Indochina, and capture air bases in southeast China from which American bombers were attacking the Japanese homeland and shipping.

Soviet troops crossing into Manchuria, 9 August 1945

Soviet invasion of Manchuria

1945 Aug 9 - Aug 20
, Mengjiang

The Soviet invasion of Manchuria began on 9 August 1945 with the Soviet invasion of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. It was the largest campaign of the 1945 Soviet–Japanese War, which resumed hostilities between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Empire of Japan after almost six years of peace. Soviet gains on the continent were Manchukuo, Mengjiang (the northeast section of present-day Inner Mongolia) and northern Korea. The Soviet entry into the war and the defeat of the Kwantung Army was a significant factor in the Japanese government's decision to surrender unconditionally, as it became apparent that the Soviet Union had no intention of acting as a third party in negotiating an end to hostilities on conditional terms.

This operation destroyed the Kwantung Army in just three weeks and left the USSR occupying all of Manchuria by the end of the war in a total power vacuum of local Chinese forces. Consequently, the 700,000 Japanese troops stationed in the region surrendered. Later in the year Chiang Kai-shek realized that he lacked the resources to prevent a CCP takeover of Manchuria following the scheduled Soviet departure. He therefore made a deal with the Soviets to delay their withdrawal until he had moved enough of his best-trained men and modern material into the region. However, the Soviets refused permission for the Nationalist troops to traverse its territory and spent the extra time systematically dismantling the extensive Manchurian industrial base (worth up to $2 billion) and shipping it back to their war-ravaged country.

Japanese foreign affairs minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signs the Japanese Instrument of Surrender aboard the USS Missouri as General Richard K. Sutherland watches, 2 September 1945.

Surrender of Japan

1945 Sep 2
, Japan

The surrender of the Empire of Japan in World War II was announced by Emperor Hirohito on 15 August and formally signed on 2 September 1945, bringing the war's hostilities to a close.

Shangdang Campaign

Shangdang Campaign

1945 Sep 10 - Oct 12
, Shanxi

The Shangdang Campaign was a series of battles fought between Eighth Route Army troops led by Liu Bocheng and Kuomintang troops led by Yan Xishan (aka Jin clique) in what is now Shanxi Province, China. The campaign lasted from 10 September 1945, through 12 October 1945. Like all other Chinese Communist victories in the clashes immediately after Imperial Japan's surrender in World War II, the outcome of this campaign altered the course of the peace negotiation held in Chongqing from 28 August 1945, through 11 October 1945, resulting in a more favourable outcome for Mao Zedong and the party.

The Shangdang Campaign cost the Kuomintang 13 divisions totalling more than 35,000 troops, with more than 31,000 of those 35,000 captured as POWs by the communists. The communists suffered over 4,000 casualties, with none captured by the Nationalists. In addition to decimating the Nationalist force with relatively light casualties, the communist force also obtained an important supply of weapons that its force desperately needed, capturing 24 mountain guns, more than 2,000 machine guns, and more than 16,000 rifles, submachine guns, and handguns. The campaign had additional importance for the communists because it was the first campaign in which a communist force engaged an enemy using conventional tactics and succeeded, marking a transition from the guerrilla warfare commonly practiced by the Communists.

On the political front, the campaign was a great boost for the communists in their negotiations at the peace talks in Chongqing. The Kuomintang suffered from the loss of territory, troops, and materiel. The Kuomintang also lost face before the Chinese public.

Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai Shek during the Chongqing Negotiations

Double Tenth Agreement

1945 Oct 10
, Chongqing

The Double Tenth Agreement was an agreement between the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that was concluded on 10 October 1945 (the Double Ten Day of the Republic of China) after 43 days of negotiations. CCP Chairman Mao Zedong and United States Ambassador to China Patrick J. Hurley flew together to Chungking on 27 August 1945 to begin the negotiations. The outcome was that the CCP acknowledged the KMT as the legitimate government, while the KMT in return recognised the CCP as a legitimate opposition party. The Shangdang Campaign, which began on 10 September, came to an end on 12 October as a result of the announcement of the agreement.

An example of a people's commune collective farm.

Land Reform Movement

1946 Jul 7 - 1953
, China

The Land Reform Movement was a mass movement led by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Mao Zedong during the late phase of the Chinese Civil War and the early People's Republic of China, which achieved land redistribution to the peasantry. Landlords had their land confiscated and they were subjected to mass killing by the CCP and former tenants, with the estimated death toll ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions. The campaign resulted in hundreds of millions of peasants receiving a plot of land for the first time.

The July 7 Directive of 1946 set off eighteen months of fierce conflict in which all rich peasant and landlord property of all types was to be confiscated and redistributed to poor peasants. Party work teams went quickly from village to village and divided the population into landlords, rich, middle, poor, and landless peasants. Because the work teams did not involve villagers in the process, rich and middle peasants quickly returned to power.

Land reform was a decisive factor in the result of the Chinese Civil War. Millions of peasants who obtained land through the movement joined the People's Liberation Army or assisted in its logistical networks. According to Chun Lin, the success of land reform meant that at the founding of the PRC in 1949, China could credibly claim that for the first time since the late Qing period that it had succeeded in feeding one fifth of the world's population with only 7% of the world's cultivable land.

By 1953, land reform had been completed in mainland China with the exception of Xinjiang, Tibet, Qinghai, and Sichuan. From 1953 onwards, the CCP began to implement the collective ownership of expropriated land through the creation of "Agricultural Production Cooperatives", transferring property rights of the seized land to the Chinese state. Farmers were compelled to join collective farms, which were grouped into People's communes with centrally controlled property rights.

CCP regroups, recruits, and rearms

CCP regroups, recruits, and rearms

1946 Jul 18
, China

By the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the power of the Communist Party grew considerably. Their main force grew to 1.2 million troops, backed with additional militia of 2 million, totalling 3.2 million troops. Their "Liberated Zone" in 1945 contained 19 base areas, including one-quarter of the country's territory and one-third of its population; this included many important towns and cities. Moreover, the Soviet Union turned over all of its captured Japanese weapons and a substantial amount of their own supplies to the Communists, who received Northeastern China from the Soviets as well.

In March 1946, despite repeated requests from Chiang, the Soviet Red Army under the command of Marshal Rodion Malinovsky continued to delay pulling out of Manchuria, while Malinovsky secretly told the CCP forces to move in behind them, which led to full-scale war for the control of the Northeast.

Although General Marshall stated that he knew of no evidence that the CCP was being supplied by the Soviet Union, the CCP was able to utilize a large number of weapons abandoned by the Japanese, including some tanks. When large numbers of well-trained KMT troops began to defect to the Communist forces, the CCP was finally able to achieve material superiority. The CCP's ultimate trump card was its land reform policy. This drew the massive number of landless and starving peasants in the countryside into the Communist cause. This strategy enabled the CCP to access an almost unlimited supply of manpower for both combat and logistical purposes; despite suffering heavy casualties throughout many of the war's campaigns, manpower continued to grow. For example, during the Huaihai Campaign alone the CCP was able to mobilize 5,430,000 peasants to fight against the KMT forces.

Nationalist Chinese soldiers, 1947

KMT preparations

1946 Jul 19
, China

After the war with the Japanese ended, Chiang Kai-shek quickly moved KMT troops to newly liberated areas to prevent Communist forces from receiving the Japanese surrender. The US airlifted many KMT troops from central China to the Northeast (Manchuria).

Using the pretext of "receiving the Japanese surrender," business interests within the KMT government occupied most of the banks, factories and commercial properties, which had previously been seized by the Imperial Japanese Army. They also conscripted troops at an accelerated pace from the civilian population and hoarded supplies, preparing for a resumption of war with the Communists. These hasty and harsh preparations caused great hardship for the residents of cities such as Shanghai, where the unemployment rate rose dramatically to 37.5%.

The US strongly supported the Kuomintang forces. About 50,000 US soldiers were sent to guard strategic sites in Hebei and Shandong in Operation Beleaguer. The US equipped and trained KMT troops, and transported Japanese and Koreans back to help KMT forces to occupy liberated zones as well as to contain Communist-controlled areas. According to William Blum, American aid included substantial amounts of mostly surplus military supplies, and loans were made to the KMT. Within less than two years after the Sino-Japanese War, the KMT had received $4.43 billion from the US—most of which was military aid.

War resumes

War resumes

1946 Jul 20
, Yan'An

As postwar negotiations between the Nationalist government in Nanjing and the Communist Party failed, the civil war between these two parties resumed. This stage of war is referred to in mainland China and Communist historiography as the "War of Liberation". On 20 July 1946, Chiang Kai-shek launched a large-scale assault on Communist territory in North China with 113 brigades (a total of 1.6 million troops). This marked the first stage of the final phase in the Chinese Civil War.

Knowing their disadvantages in manpower and equipment, the CCP executed a "passive defense" strategy. It avoided the strong points of the KMT army and was prepared to abandon territory in order to preserve its forces. In most cases the surrounding countryside and small towns had come under Communist influence long before the cities. The CCP also attempted to wear out the KMT forces as much as possible. This tactic seemed to be successful; after a year, the power balance became more favorable to the CCP. They wiped out 1.12 million KMT troops, while their strength grew to about two million men.

In March 1947 the KMT achieved a symbolic victory by seizing the CCP capital of Yan'an. The Communists counterattacked soon afterwards; on 30 June 1947 CCP troops crossed the Yellow River and moved to the Dabie Mountains area, restored and developed the Central Plain. At the same time, Communist forces also began to counterattack in Northeastern China, North China and East China.

Siege of Changchun

Siege of Changchun

1948 May 23 - Oct 19
, Changchun

The siege of Changchun was a military blockade undertaken by the People's Liberation Army against Changchun between May and October 1948, the largest city in Manchuria at the time, and one of the headquarters of the Republic of China Army in Northeast China. It was one of the longest campaigns in the Liaoshen Campaign of the Chinese Civil War.

For the Nationalist government, the fall of Changchun made it clear that the KMT was no longer able to hold on to Manchuria. The city of Shenyang and the rest of Manchuria were quickly defeated by the PLA. The siege warfares employed by the CCP throughout the campaigns in the Northeast were highly successful, which reduced a significant number of KMT troops and altered the balance of power.

People's Liberation Army and Type 97 Chi-Ha tanks advance into Shenyang.

Liaoshen campaign

1948 Sep 12 - Nov 2
, Liaoning

The Liaoshen campaign was the first of the three major military campaigns (along with Huaihai campaign and Pingjin campaign) launched by the Communist People's Liberation Army (PLA) against the Kuomintang Nationalist government during the late stage of the Chinese Civil War. The campaign ended after the Nationalist forces suffered sweeping defeats across Manchuria, losing the major cities of Jinzhou, Changchun, and eventually Shenyang in the process, leading to the capture of the whole of Manchuria by the Communist forces. The victory of the campaign resulted in the Communists achieving a strategic numerical advantage over the Nationalists for the first time in its history.

Charge of the Chinese Nationalists during the Huaihai Campaign, Chinese Civil War

Huaihai campaign

1948 Nov 6 - 1949 Jan 10
, Shandong

After the fall of Jinan to the Communists on 24 September 1948, the PLA began planning for a larger campaign to engage the remaining Nationalist forces in the Shandong province and their main force in Xuzhou. In face of the rapidly deteriorating military situation in the Northeast, the Nationalist government decided to deploy on both sides of the Tianjin–Pukou Railway to prevent the PLA from advancing south toward the Yangtze River.

Du Yuming, the commander of the Nationalist garrison in Xuzhou, decided to attack the Central Plains Field Army and capture the key railway checkpoints to break the siege on the Seventh Army. However, Chiang Kai-shek and Liu Zhi overruled his plan as being too risky and ordered the Xuzhou Garrison to rescue the 7th army directly. The communists anticipated this move from good intelligence and correct reasoning, deployed more than half of the Eastern China Field Army to blocking the relief effort. The 7th army managed to hold out for 16 days without supplies and reinforcement and inflicted 49,000 casualties on the PLA forces before being destroyed.

With the Seventh Army no longer in existence, the east flank of Xuzhou were completely exposed to Communist attack. The Communist sympathizer in the Nationalist government managed to persuade Chiang to move the Nationalist headquarters to the south. In the meanwhile, the Communist Central Plains Field Army intercepted the Nationalist Twelfth Army led by Huang Wei coming from Henan as an reinforcement. General Liu Ruming's Eighth Army and Lieutenant General Li Yannian's Sixth Army tried to break the Communist siege but to no avail. The Twelfth Army also ceased to exist after nearly a month of bloody conflicts, with many newly taken Nationalist prisoners of war joining the Communist forces instead. Chiang Kai-shek tried to save the 12th army and ordered the three armies still under the Suppression General Headquarters of Xuzhou Garrison to turn southeast and relieve the 12th army before it was too late on November 30, 1948. However, the PLA forces caught up with them and they were encircled only 9 miles from Xuzhou.

On December 15, the day which the 12th army was wiped out, the 16th army under General Sun Yuanliang broke out from the communist encirclement on its own. On January 6, 1949, communist forces launched a general offensive on the 13th army and remnants of the 13th army withdrew to 2nd army's defense area. The 6th and 8th armies of ROC retreated to the south of Huai river, and the campaign was over.

As the PLA approached the Yangtze, the momentum shifted completely toward the Communist side. Without effective measures against PLA advance across the Yangtze, the Nationalist government in Nanjing began losing their support from the United States, as American military aid gradually came to a stop.

People's Liberation Army enters Beiping.

Pingjin campaign

1948 Nov 29 - 1949 Jan 31
, Hebei

By the winter of 1948, the balance of power in Northern China was shifting in favor of the People's Liberation Army. As the Communist Fourth Field Army led by Lin Biao and Luo Ronghuan entered the North China Plain after the conclusion of the Liaoshen campaign, Fu Zuoyi and the Nationalist government in Nanjing decided to abandon Chengde, Baoding, Shanhai Pass and Qinhuangdao collectively and withdraw the remaining Nationalist troops to Beiping, Tianjin and Zhangjiakou and consolidate the defense in these garrisons. The Nationalists were hoping to preserve their strength and reinforce Xuzhou where another major campaign was under its way, or alternatively to retreat to the nearby Suiyuan Province if necessary.

On 29 November 1948, the People's Liberation Army launched an assault on Zhangjiakou. Fu Zuoyi immediately ordered the Nationalist 35th Army in Beiping and the 104th Army in Huailai to reinforce the city. On 2 December, the PLA Second Field Army began to approach Zhuolu. The PLA Fourth Field Army captured Miyun on 5 December and advanced toward Huailai. Meanwhile, the Second Field Army advanced to the south of Zhuolu. As Beiping was at risk of being encircled, Fu recalled both the 35th Army and the 104th Army from Zhangjiakou to return and support the defense of Beiping before being "surrounded and destroyed" by the PLA.

On their return from Zhangjiakou, the Nationalist 35th Army found themselves encircled by the Communist forces in Xinbao'an. Nationalist reinforcements from Beiping were intercepted by the Communist forces and were unable to reach the city. As the situation deteriorated, Fu Zuoyi attempted to negotiate secretly with the CCP beginning on 14 December, which was eventually rejected by the CCP on 19 December. The PLA then launched an assault against the city on 21 December and captured the city the next evening. Commander of the 35th Army Guo Jingyun committed suicide as the Communist forces broke into the city, and remaining Nationalist forces were destroyed as they attempted to retreat back to Zhangjiakou.

After capturing both Zhangjiakou and Xinbao'an, the PLA began to amass troops around the Tianjin area beginning on 2 January 1949. Immediately after the conclusion of Huaihai campaign in the south, the PLA launched the final assault on Tianjin on 14 January. After 29 hours of fighting, the Nationalist 62nd Army and 86th Army and a total of 130,000 men in ten divisions were either killed or captured, including the Nationalist commander Chen Changjie. Remainder of the Nationalist troops from the 17th Army Group and the 87th Army that participated in the battle retreated south on 17 January by sea.

After the fall of Tianjin to the Communist forces, the Nationalist garrison in Beiping was effectively isolated. Fu Zuoyi came to the decision to negotiate a peace settlement on 21 January. In the following week, 260,000 Nationalist troops began to exit the city in anticipation for the immediate surrender. On 31 January, the PLA's Fourth Field Army entered Beiping to take over the city which marked the conclusion of the campaign. The Pingjin Campaign resulted in the Communist conquest of northern China.

Yangtze River Crossing campaign

Yangtze River Crossing campaign

1949 Apr 20 - Jun 2
, Yangtze River

In April 1949, representatives from both sides met in Beijing and attempted to negotiate a ceasefire. While the negotiations were ongoing, the Communists were actively making military maneuvers, moving Second, Third and Fourth Field Army to the north of the Yangtze in preparation for the campaign, pressuring the Nationalist government to make more concessions. The Nationalist defenses along the Yangtze were led by Tang Enbo and 450,000 men, responsible for Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Jiangxi, while Bai Chongxi was in charge of 250,000 men, defending the portion of the Yangtze stretching from Hukou to Yichang.

The Communist delegation eventually delivered an ultimatum to the Nationalist government. After the Nationalist delegation was instructed to reject the ceasefire agreement on 20 April, the PLA began gradually crossing the Yangtze River on the same night, launching a full assault against Nationalist positions across from the river.

Between 20 April and 21 April, 300,000 men from the PLA crossed from the north to the south banks of the Yangtze River. Both the Second Fleet of the Republic of China Navy and the Nationalist fortress in Jiangyin soon switched sides to the Communists, allowing the PLA to penetrate through Nationalist defenses along the Yangtze. As the PLA began landing on the south side of the Yangtze on 22 April and securing the beachheads, the Nationalist defense lines began to rapidly disintegrate. As Nanjing was now directly threatened, Chiang ordered a scorched earth policy as the Nationalist forces retreated toward Hangzhou and Shanghai. The PLA stormed across the Jiangsu province, capturing Danyang, Changzhou and Wuxi in the process. As the Nationalist forces continued to retreat, the PLA was able to capture Nanjing by 23 April without encountering much resistance.

On 27 April, the PLA captured Suzhou, threatening Shanghai. In the meanwhile, the Communist forces in the west began attacking Nationalist positions in Nanchang and Wuhan. By the end of May, Nanchang, Wuchang, Hanyang were all under the control of the Communists. The PLA continued to advance across the Zhejiang province, and launched the Shanghai Campaign on 12 May. The city center of Shanghai fell to the Communists on 27 May, and the rest of the Zhejiang fell on 2 June, marking the end of the Yangtze River Crossing Campaign.

Mao Zedong proclaiming the foundation of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949.

Proclamation of the People's Republic of China

1949 Oct 1
, Beijing

The founding of the People's Republic of China was formally proclaimed by Mao Zedong, the Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), on October 1, 1949, at 3:00 pm in Tiananmen Square in Peking, now Beijing, the new capital of China. The formation of the Central People's Government under the leadership of the CCP, the government of the new state, was officially proclaimed during the proclamation speech by the chairman at the founding ceremony.

Previously, the CCP had proclaimed the establishment of a soviet republic within discontiguous rebel-held territories of China not under Nationalist control, the Chinese Soviet Republic (CSR) on November 7, 1931, in Ruijin, Jiangxi with the support of the Soviet Union. The CSR lasted seven years until it was abolished in 1937.

The new national anthem of China March of the Volunteers was played for the first time, the new national flag of the People's Republic of China (the Five-starred Red Flag) was officially unveiled to the newly founded nation and hoisted for the first time during the celebrations as a 21-gun salute fired in the distance. The first public military parade of the then new People's Liberation Army took place following the national flag raising with the playing of the PRC national anthem.

Chinese Nationalist army digging in for the Battle of Guningtou, Defense of Quemoy, Chinese Civil War

Battle of Guningtou

1949 Oct 25 - Oct 27
, Jinning Township

The Battle of Guningtou, was a battle fought over Kinmen in the Taiwan Strait during the Chinese Civil War in 1949. The failure of the Communists to take the island left it in the hands of the Kuomintang (Nationalists) and crushed their chances of taking Taiwan to destroy the Nationalists completely in the war.

For ROC forces accustomed to continuous defeats against the PLA on the mainland, the victory at Guningtou provided a much-needed morale boost. The failure of the PRC to take Kinmen effectively halted its advance towards Taiwan. With the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 and the signing of the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty in 1954, the Communist plans to invade Taiwan were put on hold.

Last Boat out of Shanghai

Kuomintang's retreat to Taiwan

1949 Dec 7
, Taiwan

The retreat of the government of the Republic of China to Taiwan, also known as the Kuomintang's retreat to Taiwan, refers to the exodus of the remnants of the internationally recognized Kuomintang-ruled government of the Republic of China (ROC) to the island of Taiwan (Formosa) on 7 December 1949 after losing the Chinese Civil War in the mainland. The Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party), its officers, and approximately 2 million ROC troops took part in the retreat, in addition to many civilians and refugees, fleeing the advance of the People's Liberation Army of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

ROC troops mostly fled to Taiwan from provinces in southern China, in particular Sichuan Province, where the last stand of the ROC's main army took place. The flight to Taiwan took place over four months after Mao Zedong had proclaimed the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing on 1 October 1949. The island of Taiwan remained part of Japan during the occupation until Japan severed its territorial claims in the Treaty of San Francisco, which came into effect in 1952.

After the retreat, the leadership of the ROC, particularly Generalissimo and President Chiang Kai-shek, planned to make the retreat only temporary, hoping to regroup, fortify, and reconquer the mainland. This plan, which never came into fruition, was known as "Project National Glory", and made the national priority of the ROC on Taiwan. Once it became apparent that such a plan could not be realized, the ROC's national focus shifted to the modernization and economic development of Taiwan. The ROC, however, continues to officially claim exclusive sovereignty over the now-CCP governed mainland China.

PLA soldiers training for the offensive (1949)

Battle of Hainan Island

1950 Feb 1 - May 1
, Hainan

The Battle of Hainan Island occurred in 1950 during the final phase of the Chinese Civil War. The People's Republic of China (PRC) conducted an amphibious assault on the island in mid-April, assisted by the independent Hainan Communist movement, which controlled much of the island's interior, while the Republic of China (ROC) controlled the coast; their forces were concentrated in the north near Haikou and were forced to retreat south after the landings. The Communists secured the southern cities by the end of the month and declared victory on May 1.

Wanshan Archipelago Campaign

Wanshan Archipelago Campaign

1950 May 25 - Aug 7
, Wanshan Archipelago

The communist takeover of the Wanshan Archipelago eliminated the nationalist threat to its vital shipping lines to Hong Kong and Macau and crushed nationalist blockade of mouth of the Pearl River. The Wanshan Archipelago Campaign was the first combined army and naval operation for the communists and in addition to damaging and sinking nationalist ships, eleven nationalist ships were captured and they provided valuable local defense asset once they were completely repaired and returned to the active service in the communist fleet. One of the major contributor to the success was the correct tactics of not engaging the overwhelmingly superior opposing naval fleet, but instead, utilizing the numerically and technically superior shore batteries that the communists did enjoy to engage opposing naval targets that were outgunned. The largest island, the Trash Tail (Lajiwei, 垃圾尾) Island, was renamed Laurel Mountain (Guishan, 桂山) Island, in honor of the landing ship Laurel Mountain (Guishan, 桂山), the largest communist naval vessel participated in the conflict.

The nationalist control of the Wanshan Archipelago was mostly symbolic for political propaganda and the battle for the control of the archipelago was destined to fail for the same simple reason just like the earlier Battle of Nan'ao Island: the location was just too far away from any friendly bases and thus it was difficult to support in war, and when the support was available, it was rather costly. Although the largest island provided a relatively good anchorage, there was just not enough land to build any comprehensive facilities and infrastructures to support a fleet. As a result, many of the repairs that could be done locally had the comprehensive facilities and infrastructures been available would require traveling back to the distant friendly bases, thus greatly increased cost. When a major damage occurred, tugs were needed to tow the damaged vessel, and in the event of war when tugs could not be available, the damaged vessels had to be abandoned. In contrast, the communists had comprehensive facilities and infrastructures on the mainland and since the archipelago at the communist's doorstep, they could simply recover the abandoned nationalist vessels and repair them after taking them back to the mainland, and put them back into service to fight against the former owners of these vessels, as the case of the eleven naval vessels abandoned by the nationalists after the battle.

As for the blockade of the mouth of the Pearl River, it certainly caused difficulties for the communists. However, these difficulties could be overcome because there were and still are link between the mainland and Hong Kong, and Macau via land, and for the maritime traffic, the nationalist naval force could only cover the coastal region outside the effective range of the communist's land batteries and the communist could simply move a little deeper into the Pearl River to avoid the nationalist naval force. Though this did indeed increased the cost for the communist, the price tag for the operation of the naval task force performing this duty so far away from any support base was far greater comparatively speaking, because communist transportation was mostly by wooden junks that only required wind, while the modern nationalist navy required much more, such as fuel and maintenance supplies. Many nationalist strategist and naval commanders had pointed out this disadvantage and along with the geographically disadvantage (i.e. the lack of comprehensive facilities and infrastructures), wisely and correctly suggest to withdraw from the Wanshan Archipelago in order to strengthen the defense elsewhere, but their requests were denied because holding on something at the enemy's door step would have a significant symbolic meaning of great political propaganda value, but when the inevitable fall had finally occurred, the resulting disaster had negated any previous gains in political and psychological propaganda.


1951 Jan 1
, China

Most observers expected Chiang's government to eventually fall to the imminent invasion of Taiwan by the People's Liberation Army, and the United States was initially reluctant in offering full support for Chiang in their final stand. US President Harry S. Truman announced on 5 January 1950 that the United States would not engage in any dispute involving the Taiwan Strait, and that he would not intervene in the event of an attack by the PRC. Truman, seeking to exploit the possibility of a Titoist-style Sino-Soviet split, announced in his United States Policy toward Formosa that the US would obey the Cairo Declaration's designation of Taiwan as Chinese territory and would not assist the Nationalists. However, the Communist leadership was not aware of this change of policy, instead becoming increasingly hostile to the US. The situation quickly changed after the sudden onset of the Korean War in June 1950. This led to changing political climate in the US, and President Truman ordered the United States Seventh Fleet to sail to the Taiwan Strait as part of the containment policy against potential Communist advance.

In June 1949 the ROC declared a "closure" of all mainland China ports and its navy attempted to intercept all foreign ships. The closure was from a point north of the mouth of Min River in Fujian to the mouth of the Liao River in Liaoning. Since mainland China's railroad network was underdeveloped, north–south trade depended heavily on sea lanes. ROC naval activity also caused severe hardship for mainland China fishermen.

During the retreat of the Republic of China to Taiwan, KMT troops, who couldn't retreat to Taiwan, were left behind and allied with local bandits to fight a guerrilla war against the Communists. These KMT remnants were eliminated in the Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries and the Campaigns to Suppress Bandits. Winning China proper in 1950, also after Annexation of Tibet, the CCP controlled the entire mainland in late 1951 (excluding Kinmen and Matsu Islands).


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