From Retreat to Victory: The Rise of the Communist Party in the Chinese Civil War, 1935–1949
More than seventy years since the end of the Chinese Civil War, the western treatment of those decisive military encounters that led to establishment of the People’s Republic of China remains hobbled by a number of issues. Not only do most of the English-language literature focus exclusively on the period after the Second World War (i.e., from 1945 to 1949) – in so doing, neglecting the critical period of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) expansion amidst China’s war with Japan – other equally important developments prior to the Japanese invasion in July 1937 are similarly overlooked. Instead of considering those eras as separate events, this dissertation examines the key campaigns across the protracted struggle between the CCP and the Nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) government. How did the Communists – following their military collapse after surrendering their Jiangxi Soviet against the larger and stronger KMT forces in late-1934 – manage to recover, before eventually overcoming their nemesis to take control of China in 1949? By examining the trajectory of the CCP-KMT conflict from the perspective of the insurgency, this study seeks to proffer a military explanation for the CCP’s victory from the vantage point of military history. Towards that end, the thesis will analyse those key events on the battlefield in each important stage of the fighting, establish the contiguity between them, and discuss the consequences of each phase. Adopting a Clausewitzian framework to study those pivotal stages of the armed revolution, the story traces the Party’s strategic retreat during the Long March; its activities during the interregnum of China’s war with Japan; its strategic counteroffensive into the Central Plains; and the most definitive campaign of its strategic offensive that finally delivered the coup de grâce to topple Nationalist rule in China.