Long March

Long March

Overview
The Long March was a massive military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 retreat undertaken by the Red Army of the Communist Party of China
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

, the forerunner of the People's Liberation Army
People's Liberation Army
The People's Liberation Army is the unified military organization of all land, sea, strategic missile and air forces of the People's Republic of China. The PLA was established on August 1, 1927 — celebrated annually as "PLA Day" — as the military arm of the Communist Party of China...

, to evade the pursuit of the Kuomintang
Kuomintang
The Kuomintang of China , sometimes romanized as Guomindang via the Pinyin transcription system or GMD for short, and translated as the Chinese Nationalist Party is a founding and ruling political party of the Republic of China . Its guiding ideology is the Three Principles of the People, espoused...

 (KMT or Chinese Nationalist Party) army. There was not one Long March, but a series of marches, as various Communist armies in the south escaped to the north and west. The most well known is the march from Jiangxi
Jiangxi
' is a southern province in the People's Republic of China. Spanning from the banks of the Yangtze River in the north into hillier areas in the south, it shares a border with Anhui to the north, Zhejiang to the northeast, Fujian to the east, Guangdong to the south, Hunan to the west, and Hubei to...

 province which began in October 1934. The First Front Army of the Chinese Soviet Republic, led by an inexperienced military commission, was on the brink of complete annihilation by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek was a political and military leader of 20th century China. He is known as Jiǎng Jièshí or Jiǎng Zhōngzhèng in Mandarin....

's troops in their stronghold in Jiangxi province.
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Encyclopedia
The Long March was a massive military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 retreat undertaken by the Red Army of the Communist Party of China
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

, the forerunner of the People's Liberation Army
People's Liberation Army
The People's Liberation Army is the unified military organization of all land, sea, strategic missile and air forces of the People's Republic of China. The PLA was established on August 1, 1927 — celebrated annually as "PLA Day" — as the military arm of the Communist Party of China...

, to evade the pursuit of the Kuomintang
Kuomintang
The Kuomintang of China , sometimes romanized as Guomindang via the Pinyin transcription system or GMD for short, and translated as the Chinese Nationalist Party is a founding and ruling political party of the Republic of China . Its guiding ideology is the Three Principles of the People, espoused...

 (KMT or Chinese Nationalist Party) army. There was not one Long March, but a series of marches, as various Communist armies in the south escaped to the north and west. The most well known is the march from Jiangxi
Jiangxi
' is a southern province in the People's Republic of China. Spanning from the banks of the Yangtze River in the north into hillier areas in the south, it shares a border with Anhui to the north, Zhejiang to the northeast, Fujian to the east, Guangdong to the south, Hunan to the west, and Hubei to...

 province which began in October 1934. The First Front Army of the Chinese Soviet Republic, led by an inexperienced military commission, was on the brink of complete annihilation by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek was a political and military leader of 20th century China. He is known as Jiǎng Jièshí or Jiǎng Zhōngzhèng in Mandarin....

's troops in their stronghold in Jiangxi province. The Communists, under the eventual command of Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

 and Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai was the first Premier of the People's Republic of China, serving from October 1949 until his death in January 1976...

, escaped in a circling retreat to the west and north, which reportedly traversed some 12,500 kilometers (8,000 miles) over 370 days. The route passed through some of the most difficult terrain of western China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 by traveling west, then north, to Shaanxi
Shaanxi
' is a province in the central part of Mainland China, and it includes portions of the Loess Plateau on the middle reaches of the Yellow River in addition to the Qinling Mountains across the southern part of this province...

.

The Long March began the ascent to power of Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

, whose leadership during the retreat gained him the support of the members of the party. The bitter struggles of the Long March, which was completed by only one-tenth of the force that left Jiangxi, would come to represent a significant episode in the history of the Communist Party of China, and would seal the personal prestige of Mao and his supporters as the new leaders of the party in the following decades.

Time line


  • 1930: Unofficial founding of the Jiangxi–Fujian Soviet by Mao Zedong and Zhu De.
  • 1931: December, Zhou Enlai arrives in Ruijin and replaces Mao as leader of the CCP.
  • 1932: October, at the Ningdu Conference
    Ningdu Conference
    The Ningdu Conference was a meeting of the Communist Party of China held in the Banshan Ancestral Hall in the village of Xiaoyuan , Ningdu County, Jiangxi Province...

    , major CCP military leaders criticize Mao's tactics; Mao is demoted to figurehead status.
  • 1933: Bo Gu and Otto Braun arrive from the USSR, reorganize the Red Army, and take control of Party affairs. They defeat four encirclement campaigns.
  • 1933: September 25, start of the Fifth Encirclement Campaign
    Fifth Encirclement Campaign
    The Fifth Encirclement Campaign is an abbreviated name used for several different encirclement campaigns launched by the Nationalist Government with the goal of destroying the developing Chinese Red Army and its communist bases in several separate locations in China during the early stage of...

    . Bo and Braun are defeated.
  • 1934: October 16, breakout of 130,000 soldiers and civilians led by Bo Gu and Otto Braun, beginning the Long March.
  • 1934: November 25 - December 3, Battle of Xiang River
    Xiang River
    The Xiang River , in older transliterations as the Siang River or Hsiang River, is a river in southern China...

    .
  • 1935: January 15-17, Zunyi Conference
    Zunyi Conference
    The Zunyi Conference was a meeting of the Communist Party of China in January of 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 result was that Mao left the meeting in position to take...

    . The leadership of Bo and Braun is denounced. Zhou becomes the most powerful person in the Party; Mao becomes Zhou's assistant.
  • 1935: June-July, troops under Zhou and Mao meet with Zhang Gutao's troops. The two forces disagree on strategy, and separate.
  • 1935: April 29 - May 8, crossing of the Jinsha River
    Jinsha River
    Jinsha River is the westernmost of the major headwater streams of the Yangtze River, southwestern China.Its headwaters rise in the Wulan and Kekexili ranges in western Qinghai province, to the south of the Kunlun Mountains, and on the northern slope of the Tanggula Mountains on the border of the...

    , a major tributary of the Yangtze.
  • 1935: May 22, Yihai Alliance with the Yi people
    Yi people
    The Yi or Lolo people are an ethnic group in China, Vietnam, and Thailand. Numbering 8 million, they are the seventh largest of the 55 ethnic minority groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China...

    .
  • 1935: May 29, CCP forces capture Luding Bridge
    Luding Bridge
    Luding Bridge is a bridge over the Dadu River in Luding County, Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, China, located about 80 kilometers west of the city of Ya'an. The bridge dates from the Qing Dynasty and is considered a historical landmark...

    .
  • 1935: July, CCP forces cross the Jade Dragon Snow Mountains
    Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
    Mount Satseto, known in Chinese as the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is a mountain massif near Lijiang, in Yunnan province, southwestern China. Its highest peak is named Shanzidou...

    .
  • 1935: August, CCP forces cross the Zoigê Marsh
    Zoigê Marsh
    The Zoigê Marsh , also known as the Ruoergai Marsh or the Songpan Grasslands, is located in the eastern part of the Tibetan Plateau and forms the largest high-altitude marsh area in the world.. The marsh areas are mainly located in northern Sichuan Province, but extend into southern Gansu and...

    .
  • 1935: September 16, CCP forces cross the Lazikou Pass
    Lazikou Pass
    The Lazikou Pass is a narrow mountain pass in the Min Mountain Range, Têwo County, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, southern Gansu, China. The pass forms a gateway between northwestern Sichuan and southern Gansu...

    .
  • 1935: October 22, Union of the three armies in Shaanxi, end of the Long March.
  • 1935: November, Mao becomes leader of the CCP. Zhou becomes Mao's assistant.

The Red Army in 1934


Although the literal translation of the Chinese Cháng Zhēng is “Long March”, official publications of the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 refer to "The Long March of the Red Army" (Chinese traditional: 紅軍長征, Chinese simplified: 红军长征, pinyin: Hóngjūn Chángzhēng). The Long March most commonly refers to the transfer of the main group of the First (or Central) Red Army, which included the leaders of the Communist Party of China, from Yudu
Ganzhou
Ganzhou is a prefecture-level city in southern Jiangxi province, People's Republic of China. Its administrative seat is at Zhanggong .-History:...

 in the province of Jiangxi, to Yan'an
Yan'an
Yan'an , is a prefecture-level city in the Shanbei region of Shaanxi province in China, administering several counties, including Zhidan County , which served as the Chinese communist capital before the city of Yan'an proper took that role....

 in Shaanxi. In this sense, the Long March lasted from 16 October 1934 to 19 October 1935. In a broader view, the Long March included two other forces retreating under pressure from the Kuomintang: the Second Red Army and the Fourth Red Army. The retreat of all the Red Armies was not complete until 22 October 1936, when the three forces linked up in Shaanxi.

The divisions of the "Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army" (紅軍) were named according to historical circumstances, sometimes in a nonconsecutive way. Early Communist units often formed by defection from existing Kuomintang forces, keeping their original designations. By the time of the Long March, numerous small units had been organized into three unified groups, the First Red Army (紅一方面軍/红一方面军/Hóng Yī Fāngmiàn Jūn), the Second Red Army (紅二方面軍/红二方面军/Hóng Èr Fāngmiàn Jūn) and the Fourth Red Army (紅四方面軍/红四方面军/Hóng Sì Fāngmiàn Jūn). Some translations refer to these same units as the “First Front Red Army", “Second Front Red Army” and “Fourth Front Red Army" to distinguish them from the earlier organizational divisions. The First Red Army formed from the First, Third and Fifth Army Groups in southern Jiangxi under command of Bo Gu and Li De (Otto Braun). When the Fourth Red Army under Zhang Guotao
Zhang Guotao
Zhang Guotao was a founding member and important leader of the Chinese Communist Party and bitter rival to Mao Zedong. During the 1920s he studied in the Soviet Union and became a key contact with the Comintern and organized the CCP labor movement in the United Front with the Guomindang...

 was formed in the Sichuan
Sichuan
' , known formerly in the West by its postal map spellings of Szechwan or Szechuan is a province in Southwest China with its capital in Chengdu...

-Shaanxi
Shaanxi
' is a province in the central part of Mainland China, and it includes portions of the Loess Plateau on the middle reaches of the Yellow River in addition to the Qinling Mountains across the southern part of this province...

 border area from several smaller units, no standard nomenclature of the armies of the Communist Party existed; moreover, during the Chinese Civil War central control of separate Communist-controlled enclaves within China was limited. After the organization of these first two main forces, the Second Red Army formed in eastern Guizhou
Guizhou
' is a province of the People's Republic of China located in the southwestern part of the country. Its provincial capital city is Guiyang.- History :...

 by unifying the Second and Sixth Army Groups under He Long
He Long
He Long was a Chinese military leader. He rose to the rank of Marshal and Vice Premier after the founding of the People's Republic of China.-Early life:He Long was a member of the Tujia ethnic group...

 and Xiao Ke
Xiao Ke
Xiao Ke was a general in the People's Liberation Army of China, former vice chairman of the CPPCC, as well as principal of the University of Military and Politics.-Early life:Xiao was born in Jiahe County, Hunan Province of China....

. A “Third Red Army" was led by He Long
He Long
He Long was a Chinese military leader. He rose to the rank of Marshal and Vice Premier after the founding of the People's Republic of China.-Early life:He Long was a member of the Tujia ethnic group...

 who established his base area in the Hunan-Hubei border; by 1932 his forces were soundly defeated and in October 1934 merged with the 6th Army Corps led by Xiao Ke to form the Second Red Army. The three armies would maintain their historical designation as the First, Second and Fourth Red Armies until Communist military forces were nominally integrated into the National Revolutionary Army
National Revolutionary Army
The National Revolutionary Army , pre-1928 sometimes shortened to 革命軍 or Revolutionary Army and between 1928-1947 as 國軍 or National Army was the Military Arm of the Kuomintang from 1925 until 1947, as well as the national army of the Republic of China during the KMT's period of party rule...

, forming the Eighth Route Army
Eighth Route Army
The Eighth Route Army was the larger of the two major Chinese communist forces that formed a unit of the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China which fought the Japanese from 1937 to 1945. In contrast to most of the National Revolutionary Army, it was controlled by the Communist...

 and the New Fourth Army
New Fourth Army
The New Fourth Army was a unit of the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China established in 1937. In contrast to most of the National Revolutionary Army, it was controlled by the Communist Party of China and not by the ruling Kuomintang. The New Fourth Army and the Eighth Route Army...

, during the Second Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

 from 1937 to 1945.

Civil war



The Communist Party of China (CCP), founded in 1921 by Chen Duxiu
Chen Duxiu
Chen Duxiu played many different roles in Chinese history. He was a leading figure in the anti-imperial Xinhai Revolution and the May Fourth Movement for Science and Democracy. Along with Li Dazhao, Chen was a co-founder of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921. He was its first General Secretary....

 with Soviet support, initially collaborated with the Chinese Nationalist Party or Kuomintang (KMT), founded by the revolutionary republican Sun Yat-sen
Sun Yat-sen
Sun Yat-sen was a Chinese doctor, revolutionary and political leader. As the foremost pioneer of Nationalist China, Sun is frequently referred to as the "Father of the Nation" , a view agreed upon by both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China...

. After the unexpected death of Sun in March 1925, a power struggle within the KMT favored Chiang Kai-shek, whose Northern Expedition forces succeeded in wresting control of large areas of China from local warlords
Warlord era
The Chinese Warlord Era was the period in the history of the Republic of China, from 1916 to 1928, when the country was divided among military cliques, a division that continued until the fall of the Nationalist government in the mainland China regions of Sichuan, Shanxi, Qinghai, Ningxia,...

, establishing a unified government in Nanjing
Nanjing
' is the capital of Jiangsu province in China and has a prominent place in Chinese history and culture, having been the capital of China on several occasions...

 in April 1927. Unlike other nationalist leaders, like Wang Jingwei
Wang Jingwei
Wang Jingwei , alternate name Wang Zhaoming, was a Chinese politician. He was initially known as a member of the left wing of the Kuomintang , but later became increasingly anti-Communist after his efforts to collaborate with the CCP ended in political failure...

, Chiang was hostile to continued collaboration with the Communists. This initial period of cooperation to unify China and end the unequal treaties broke up in April 1927 when Chiang Kai-shek struck out against the Communists
April 12 Incident
The April 12 Incident of 1927 refers to the violent suppression of Chinese Communist Party organizations in Shanghai by the military forces of Chiang Kai-shek and conservative factions in the Kuomintang...

. Unsuccessful urban insurrections (in Nanchang
Nanchang Uprising
The Nanchang Uprising was the first major Kuomintang-Communist engagement of the Chinese Civil War, in order to counter the anti-communist purges by the Nationalist Party of China....

, Wuhan
Wuhan
Wuhan is the capital of Hubei province, People's Republic of China, and is the most populous city in Central China. It lies at the east of the Jianghan Plain, and the intersection of the middle reaches of the Yangtze and Han rivers...

 and Guangzhou
Guangzhou
Guangzhou , known historically as Canton or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province in the People's Republic of China. Located in southern China on the Pearl River, about north-northwest of Hong Kong, Guangzhou is a key national transportation hub and trading port...

) and the suppression of the Communist Party in Shanghai
Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

 and other cities drove many party supporters to rural strongholds such as the Jiangxi Soviet organized by Mao Zedong. By 1928, deserters and defecting Kuomintang army units, supplemented by peasants from the Communist rural soviets, formed the Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army. The ideological confrontation between the CPC and the KMT soon evolved into the first phase of the Chinese Civil War.

The Jiangxi Soviet




By 1930, the Communist Red Army had established the Chinese Soviet Republic in the provinces of Jiangxi and Fujian
Fujian
' , formerly romanised as Fukien or Huguing or Foukien, is a province on the southeast coast of mainland China. Fujian is bordered by Zhejiang to the north, Jiangxi to the west, and Guangdong to the south. Taiwan lies to the east, across the Taiwan Strait...

 around the city of Ruijin
Ruijin
Ruijin is a county-level city of Ganzhou in the mountains bordering Fujian Province in south-eastern Jiangxi.The name derives from the ancient God, Rui Jin. It is most famous as one of the earliest centers of Chinese communist activity...

, including industrial
Industry
Industry refers to the production of an economic good or service within an economy.-Industrial sectors:There are four key industrial economic sectors: the primary sector, largely raw material extraction industries such as mining and farming; the secondary sector, involving refining, construction,...

 facilities.

After the establishment of the Jiangxi Soviet, Mao's status within the Party declined. In 1930, Mao claimed a need to eliminate alleged KMT spies and Anti-Bolsheviks operating inside the Jiangxi Soviet and began an ideological campaign featuring torture and guilt by association, in order to eliminate his enemies. The campaign continued until the end of 1931, killing approximately 100,000 people and reducing the size of the Red Army from 40,000 to less than 10,000. Although the de facto leader of the party at the time, Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai was the first Premier of the People's Republic of China, serving from October 1949 until his death in January 1976...

, originally supported Mao's purges as necessary to eliminate KMT spies, after he arrived in Jiangxi in December 1931 Zhou criticized Mao's campaigns for being directed more against anti-Maoists than legitimate threats to the Party, for the campaign's general senselessness, and for the widespread use of torture to extract confessions. Following Zhou's efforts to end Mao's ideological persecutions the campaigns gradually subsided in 1932.

In December 1931 Zhou replaced Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

 as Secretary of the First Front Army and political commissar of the Red Army. Liu Bocheng, Lin Biao and Peng Dehuai all criticized Mao's tactics at the August 1932 Ningdu Conference. The most senior leaders to support Mao in 1932 were Zhou Enlai, who had become disillusioned with the strategic leadership of other senior leaders in the Party, and Mao's old comrade, Zhu De
Zhu De
Zhu De was a Chinese militarist, politician, revolutionary, and one of the pioneers of the Chinese Communist Party. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, in 1955 Zhu became one of the Ten Marshals of the People's Liberation Army, of which he is regarded as the founder.-Early...

. Zhou's support was not enough, and Mao was demoted to being a figurehead in the Soviet government until he regained his position later, during the Long March.

Chiang's Encirclement Campaigns



In early 1933, Bo Gu arrived in Jiangxi with the German Comintern adviser Otto Braun (Li De)
Otto Braun (Li De)
Otto Braun was a German Communist with a long and varied career.His most significant role was as a Comintern agent sent to China in 1934, to advise the Communist Party of China on military strategy during the Chinese Civil War...

 and took control of Party affairs. Zhou at this time, apparently with strong support from Party and military colleagues, reorganized and standardized the Red Army. Under Zhou, Bo, and Braun, the Red Army defeated four attacks by Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist troops.

Chiang's fifth campaign was much more difficult to contain. In September 1933, the National Revolutionary Army
National Revolutionary Army
The National Revolutionary Army , pre-1928 sometimes shortened to 革命軍 or Revolutionary Army and between 1928-1947 as 國軍 or National Army was the Military Arm of the Kuomintang from 1925 until 1947, as well as the national army of the Republic of China during the KMT's period of party rule...

 under Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek was a political and military leader of 20th century China. He is known as Jiǎng Jièshí or Jiǎng Zhōngzhèng in Mandarin....

 eventually completely encircled
Fifth Encirclement Campaign
The Fifth Encirclement Campaign is an abbreviated name used for several different encirclement campaigns launched by the Nationalist Government with the goal of destroying the developing Chinese Red Army and its communist bases in several separate locations in China during the early stage of...

 Jiangxi, with the advice and tactical assistance of his German adviser, Hans von Seeckt
Hans von Seeckt
Johannes Friedrich "Hans" von Seeckt was a German military officer noted for his organization of the German Army during the Weimar Republic.-Early life:...

. A fortified perimeter was established by Chiang's forces, and Jiangxi was besieged in an attempt to destroy the Communist forces trapped within. In July 1934, the leaders of the Party, dominated by the "Twenty-Eight Bolsheviks
28 Bolsheviks
The 28 Bolsheviks were a group of Chinese students who studied at the Moscow Sun Yat-sen University from the late 1920s until early 1935, also known as the "Returned Students". The university was founded in 1925 as a result of Kuomintang's founder Sun Yat-Sen's policy of alliance with the Soviet...

", a militant group formed in Moscow by Wang Ming
Wang Ming
Wang Ming was a senior leader of the early Chinese Communist Party and the mastermind of the famous 28 Bolsheviks group. Wang was also a major political rival of Mao Zedong during the 1930s, opposing Mao's nationalist deviation from the Comintern and orthodox Marxism and Leninism lines...

 and Bo Gu, forced Mao from the Politburo of the Communist Party in Ruijin and placed him briefly under house arrest. Mao was replaced by Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai was the first Premier of the People's Republic of China, serving from October 1949 until his death in January 1976...

 as leader of the military commission.

Mao would later write of this period:
"By May 1928, basic principles of guerilla warfare, simple in nature and suited to the conditions of the time, had already been evolved.... But beginning from January 1932... the old principles were no longer to be considered as regular, but were to be rejected as 'guerilla-ism'. The opposition to 'guerilla-ism' reigned for three whole years."


Chiang's strategy of slowly constructing a series of interlinking blockhouses (resembling medieval castles) was successful, and Chiang's army was able to capture several major Communist strongholds within months. Between January and March 1934, the Nationalists advanced slowly. Bo and Braun continued to employ orthodox military tactics, resulting in a series of defeats and heavy Communist casualties. In October 1934 KMT troops won a decisive battle and drove deep into the heart of the Central Soviet Area. When Ruijin became exposed to KMT attack, Party leaders faced the choice of either remaining and perishing or of abandoning the base area and attempting to break through the enemy encirclement.

In August 1934, with the Red Army depleted by the prolonged conflict, a spy, Mo Xiong
Mo Xiong
Mo Xiong was born in Yingde, and was a close friend of Sun Yat-sen, and member of Tongmenghui, a member of Kuomintang, and a communist sympathizer / agent. He served high ranking positions in both the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China...

, placed by Zhou Enlai in the KMT army headquarters in Nanchang brought news that Chiang Kai-shek was preparing a major offensive against the Communist capital, Ruijin. The Communist leadership decided on a strategic retreat to regroup with other Communist units, and to avoid annihilation. The original plan was to link up with the Second Red Army commanded by He Long
He Long
He Long was a Chinese military leader. He rose to the rank of Marshal and Vice Premier after the founding of the People's Republic of China.-Early life:He Long was a member of the Tujia ethnic group...

, thought to be in Hubei
Hubei
' Hupeh) is a province in Central China. The name of the province means "north of the lake", referring to its position north of Lake Dongting...

 to the west and north. Communications between divided groups of the Red Army had been disrupted by the Kuomintang campaign. During the planning to evacuate Jiangxi, the First Red Army was unaware that these other Communist forces were also retreating westward.

Escape from Jiangxi


Since the Central Base Area could not be held, the Standing Committee appointed Bo (responsible for politics), Braun (responsible for military strategy), and Zhou (responsible for the implementation of military planning) to organize the evacuation. Since the enemy was close, Zhou, in charge of logistics, made his plans in complete secrecy. It was not disclosed who was to leave or when: even senior leaders were informed only at the last moments of the Army's movements. It is not known what criteria were used to determine who would stay and who would go, but 16,000 troops and some of the Communists' most notable commanders at the time (including Xiang Ying
Xiang Ying
Xiang Ying was a war-time Chinese communist leader reaching the rank of political chief of staff of the New Fourth Army during World War II until his assassination by a member of his staff in 1941.- Biography :...

, Chen Yi
Chen Yi
Chen Yi may refer to:* Chen Yi , Chinese communist military commander* Chen Yi , Chief Executive of Taiwan Province* Chen Yi , Chinese composer* Chen Yi...

, Tan Zhenlin
Tan Zhenlin
Tan Zhenlin was a political commissar in the People's Liberation Army during the Chinese Civil War, and a Communist politician after the establishment of the People's Republic of China.Tan Zhenlin was born in You County , Hunan Province...

, and Qu Qiubai
Qu Qiubai
Qu Qiubai was born in Changzhou, Jiangsu, China. He was a leader of the Communist Party of China in the late 1920s.-Early life:...

) were left to form a rear guard, to divert the main force of Nationalist troops from noticing, and preventing, the general withdrawal.

The first movements to screen the retreat were undertaken by forces led by Fang Zhimin
Fang Zhimin
Fang Zhimin was a Chinese communist military and political leader.Born in a poor peasant household in Yixian, Jiangxi Province, he joined the CPC in 1924 and assisted in setting up a provincial Party organization. After the failure of the Shanghai Uprising in 1927, Fang returned to Jiangxi, where...

, breaking through Kuomintang lines in June 1934. Although Fang Zhimin's troops were soon destroyed, these movements surprised the Kuomintang, who were numerically superior to the Communists at the time and did not expect an attack on their fortified perimeter.

The early troop movements were actually a diversion to allow the retreat of more important leaders from Jiangxi. On 16 October 1934, a force of 130,000 soldiers and civilians under Bo Gu and Li De attacked the line of Kuomintang positions near Yudu. More than 86,000 troops, 11,000 administrative personnel and thousands of civilian porters actually completed the breakout; the remainder, largely wounded or ill soldiers, continued to fight a delaying action after the main force had left, and then dispersed into the countryside. Several prominent members of the Chinese Soviet who remained behind were captured and executed by the Kuomintang after the fall of Ruijin in November 1934, including Qu Qiubai
Qu Qiubai
Qu Qiubai was born in Changzhou, Jiangsu, China. He was a leader of the Communist Party of China in the late 1920s.-Early life:...

 and the youngest brother of Mao Zedong, Mao Zetan
Mao Zetan
Máo Zétán was the younger one of Mao Zedong's two brothers. He joined the Communist Party of China in 1923. In 1927, he participated in the Nanchang Uprising, retreating with the Communists to the Jinggang Mountains at its completion...

.

The withdrawal began in early October 1934. Zhou's intelligence agents were successful in identifying a large section of Chiang's blockhouse lines that were manned by troops under General Chen Jitang
Chen Jitang
Chen Jitang , also spelled Chen Chi-tang, was born into a Hakka family in Fangcheng, Guangxi, China. He joined the Chinese Revolutionary Alliance in 1908 and began serving in the Guangdong Army in 1920, rising from battalion to brigade commander...

, a Guangdong warlord who Zhou identified as being likely to prefer preserving the strength of his troops over fighting. Zhou sent Pan Hannian
Pan Hannian
Pan Hannian was a major figure in the Chinese Communist intelligence by the early 1930s and until 1955. He began his work with the Chinese Communist Party in 1926 as a propagandist with the editorial department of the magazine "Oazo" and later with "Crossroads"...

 to negotiate for safe passage with General Chen, who subsequently allowed the Red Army to pass through the territory that he controlled without fighting. The Red army successfully crossed the Xinfeng River
Xinfeng River
The Xinfeng River is a river in Guangdong Province, China and a tributary of the Dong River. It's confluence with the Dong is in Heyuan. The river is dammed by the Xinfengjiang Dam, creating the large Xinfengjiang Reservoir....

 and marched through the province of Guangdong and into Hunan
Hunan
' is a province of South-Central China, located to the south of the middle reaches of the Yangtze River and south of Lake Dongting...

 before encountering the last of Chiang's fortifications at the Xiang River
Xiang River
The Xiang River , in older transliterations as the Siang River or Hsiang River, is a river in southern China...

.

After passing through three of the four blockhouse fortifications needed to escape Chiang's encirclement, the Red Army was finally intercepted by regular Nationalist troops, and suffered heavy casualties. Of the 86,000 Communists who attempted to break out of Jiangxi with the First Red Army, only 36,000 successfully escaped. Due to the low morale within the Red Army at the time, it is not possible to know what proportion of these losses were due to military casualties, and which proportion were due to desertion. The conditions of the Red Army's forced withdrawal demoralized some Communist leaders (particularly Bo Gu and Otto Braun), but Zhou remained calm and retained his command. Most Communist losses occurred over only two days of heavy fighting, from November 30 to December 1, 1934.

Determining the direction of the Red Army


After escaping Chiang's encirclement, it was obvious to Party leaders that Chiang was intent on intercepting what remained of the Red Army in Hunan, and the direction of the Red Army's movements had to be reconsidered. The plan to rendezvous and join He Long's army in Hunan had become too risky. Mao suggested to Zhou that the Red Army change direction, towards Guizhou
Guizhou
' is a province of the People's Republic of China located in the southwestern part of the country. Its provincial capital city is Guiyang.- History :...

, where Mao expected enemy defenses to be weak.

A meeting at Tongdao, close to the border of Hunan and Guizhou, was convened to discuss the direction of the Red Army on December 12, 1934. Zhou endorsed Mao's proposal, encouraging other leaders to overrule the objections of Bo and Braun. Another dispute of the direction of the Red Army occurred soon after, once the Red Army reached Liping
Liping County
Liping County is a county-level administrative district in southwestern China, part of the Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture within the Guizhou province.The county was affected by the Miao rebellion of 1736-36....

, in the mountains of southeast Guizhou. Braun believed that they should travel to eastern Guizhou, but Mao wanted to go to western Guizhou, where he expected KMT forces to be lighter and which borders Sichuan
Sichuan
' , known formerly in the West by its postal map spellings of Szechwan or Szechuan is a province in Southwest China with its capital in Chengdu...

, and to establish a base area there. In a meeting to decide the army's direction, Zhou sided with Mao, making Braun "fly into a rage because he was overruled in the debate." At the meeting it was decided that the Red Army would travel towards Zunyi
Zunyi
Zunyi is a prefecture-level city in Guizhou province in southwestern China. Along with Guiyang and Liupanshui, it is one of the most important cities of the province...

, in western Guizhou.

On January 1, 1935, the Red Army reached the Wu River. Bo and Braun again insisted the Red Army move back to western Hunan to join other Communist troops in the area, but their prestige had considerably declined by that point, and their suggestion was rejected. Even Zhou had become impatient, and proposed a new rule which was put into effect immediately: that all military plans had to be submitted to the Politburo for approval. The movement passed, clearly depriving Braun of the right to direct military affairs. On January 15 the Red Army captured Zunyi, the second largest city in Guizhou. As Mao had predicted, the city was weakly defended, and was too far from Nationalist forces to be under immediate threat of attack. By the time the Red Army occupied Zunyi, it was highly depleted, and counted little more than 10,000 men. Zhou used the peace afforded in Zunyi to call an enlarged Politburo meeting, in order to examine the causes of the Communists' repeated defeats.

The Zunyi Conference



The Communists' Zunyi Conference lasted from January 15–17 1935, and resulted in a reshuffling of the Party politburo
Politburo of the Communist Party of China
The Central Politburo of the Communist Party of China or Political bureau of the CPC Central Committee , formerly as Central Bureau before 1927, is a group of 24 people who oversee the Communist Party of China...

. Zhou intended the conference to draw lessons from the Red Army's past failures, and to develop future strategies for the future. Much of the discussion revolved around whether the defeats of the Red Army were due to unavoidable circumstances, or inadequacies of leadership. Bo Gu, the first speaker, attributed the Red Army's losses to "objective" causes, particularly the enemy's overwhelming numerical superiority, and poor coordination of Communist forces. Braun's interpreter, Wu Xiuquan, later recalled that Bo's arguments did not impress his audience, and that Bo came across as someone attempting to avoid responsibility.

Zhou Enlai was the next to speak. Zhou blamed the Red Army's failures on poor decisions at the leadership level, and blamed himself as one of the three people most responsible. Zhou's willingness to accept responsibility was well received. Zhang Wentian
Zhang Wentian
Zhang Wentian . He is also known as Luo Fu . His names in Wade-Giles are Chang Wen-t'ien and Lo Fu.Born in Jiangsu, he attended engineering school in Nanjing and also spent a year at the University of California. He later joined the Communist Party and was sent to study at Sun Yat-sen University...

, basing many of his conclusions on recent discussions with Mao, attacked Bo and Braun directly, criticizing them for numerous strategic and tactical errors.

After Zhang, Mao gave a speech in which he analyzed the poor tactics and strategies of the two leaders. With Zhou's explicit backing, Mao won over the meeting. Seventeen of the meeting's twenty participants (with the exception of Bo, Braun, and He Kequan) argued in his favor.

Of the three leaders who had controlled the Party before the Zunyi Conference, only Zhou Enlai's political career survived. Zhou was held partially responsible for the Red Army's defeat, but was retained at the top level of Party leadership because of his differences with Bo and Braun at Ningdu, his successful tactics in defeating Chiang's fourth Encirclement Campaign, and his resolute support of Mao. Although the failed leadership of Bo Gu and Li De was denounced, Mao was not able to win the support of a sufficient number of Party leaders to gain outright power at the conference.

A major shift in the Party's leadership occurred two months later, in March 1935. Mao was passed over for the position of General Secretary
General Secretary
The office of general secretary is staffed by the chief officer of:*The General Secretariat for Macedonia and Thrace, a government agency for the Greek regions of Macedonia and Thrace...

 by Zhang Wentian
Zhang Wentian
Zhang Wentian . He is also known as Luo Fu . His names in Wade-Giles are Chang Wen-t'ien and Lo Fu.Born in Jiangsu, he attended engineering school in Nanjing and also spent a year at the University of California. He later joined the Communist Party and was sent to study at Sun Yat-sen University...

, but gained enough influence to be elected one of three members of Military Affairs Commission. The other two members were Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai was the first Premier of the People's Republic of China, serving from October 1949 until his death in January 1976...

, who retained his position as Director of the Commission, and Wang Jiaxiang
Wang Jiaxiang
Wang Jiaxiang , one of the senior leaders of the Communist Party of China in its early stage and a member of the 28 Bolsheviks, with his life of up and down indicating the cruel reality of politics.-Biography:...

, whose support Mao had enlisted earlier,. Within this group, Zhou was empowered to make the final decisions on military matters, while Mao was Zhou's assistant. Wang was in charge of Party affairs.

Escaping Chiang's pursuit



When the army resumed its march northward, the direct route to Sichuan was blocked by Chiang's forces. Mao's forces spent the next several months maneuvering to avoid direct confrontation with hostile forces, but still attempting to move north to join Zhang Guotao
Zhang Guotao
Zhang Guotao was a founding member and important leader of the Chinese Communist Party and bitter rival to Mao Zedong. During the 1920s he studied in the Soviet Union and became a key contact with the Comintern and organized the CCP labor movement in the United Front with the Guomindang...

's Fourth Red Army. During this period, in February 1935, Mao's wife, He Zizhen
He Zizhen
He Zizhen was the third wife of Mao Zedong from May 1930 to 1937.- Biography :He Zizhen was born in Yunshan , Jiangxi, during Qing Dynasty China, and joined the Communist Youth League in 1925. She graduated from the Yongxin Girls' School and joined the Communist Party of China in 1926...

, gave birth to a daughter. Given the harsh conditions of the retreat, the infant was left with a local family (Two Europeans retracing the Long March route in 2003 met a woman in rural Yunnan
Yunnan
Yunnan is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the far southwest of the country spanning approximately and with a population of 45.7 million . The capital of the province is Kunming. The province borders Burma, Laos, and Vietnam.Yunnan is situated in a mountainous area, with...

 province, said by local officials to be Mao and He Zizhen's long-lost daughter).


The Communist forces were harassed by both the Kuomintang and its local warlord allies
Warlord era
The Chinese Warlord Era was the period in the history of the Republic of China, from 1916 to 1928, when the country was divided among military cliques, a division that continued until the fall of the Nationalist government in the mainland China regions of Sichuan, Shanxi, Qinghai, Ningxia,...

. To avoid a fatal confrontation with the enemy, Zhou and Mao maneuvered the Red army south and west, through Guizhou, Sichuan, and Yunnan
Yunnan
Yunnan is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the far southwest of the country spanning approximately and with a population of 45.7 million . The capital of the province is Kunming. The province borders Burma, Laos, and Vietnam.Yunnan is situated in a mountainous area, with...

, feigning attacks on Guiyang and Kunming to disguise their movements. The First Red Army crossed the Yangtze on May 9, 1935, finally escaping determined enemy pursuit, but still had to deal with dangerous mountain passes at heights of up to 4,000 meters, rough climatic conditions, shortages of food, clothing, and equipment, and tribes of local ethnic minorities hostile to Chinese encroachment. The Red Army had to cross mountains and rivers, often capturing river crossings heavily defended by hostile warlords and Nationalist troops, the most famous of which was Luding Bridge
Luding Bridge
Luding Bridge is a bridge over the Dadu River in Luding County, Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, China, located about 80 kilometers west of the city of Ya'an. The bridge dates from the Qing Dynasty and is considered a historical landmark...

.

The Fourth Red Army


In June–July 1935, the troops under Mao united with the Fourth Red Army, led by Zhang Guotao
Zhang Guotao
Zhang Guotao was a founding member and important leader of the Chinese Communist Party and bitter rival to Mao Zedong. During the 1920s he studied in the Soviet Union and became a key contact with the Comintern and organized the CCP labor movement in the United Front with the Guomindang...

, which had retreated west from Henan
Henan
Henan , is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the central part of the country. Its one-character abbreviation is "豫" , named after Yuzhou , a Han Dynasty state that included parts of Henan...

. Zhang had taken a different route of evacuation, and arrived at Lianghekou with 84,000 troops in relatively good condition. The fact that he had control of superior forces gave him the power to challenge the authority of Zhou and Mao, whose power was based largely on the Party's support. Zhang demanded that one of his own generals, Chen Changhao, take over Zhou's position as political commissar of the entire Red Army, and suggested that Zhang himself replace Zhu De on the Military Commission. Zhang argued that such a reorganization would create a more "equal" army organization. On July 18, Zhou relinquished his position as political commissar, and several leading positions were taken over by generals of the Fourth Red Army.

These changes had no long-term significance because Zhang and Mao disagreed with the direction of the army. Zhang insisted on going southwest, while Mao insisted on going northwards, towards Shaanxi
Shaanxi
' is a province in the central part of Mainland China, and it includes portions of the Loess Plateau on the middle reaches of the Yellow River in addition to the Qinling Mountains across the southern part of this province...

. No agreement was reached, and the two armies eventually split, each going their separate ways.

Zhang Guotao's Fourth Red Army took a different route than Mao travelling south, then west, and finally north through China. On the way Zhang's forces were largely destroyed by the forces of Chiang Kai-shek and his Chinese Muslim allies, the Ma clique
Ma clique
The Ma clique or Ma family warlords is a collective name for a group of Muslim warlords in Northwestern China who ruled the Chinese provinces of Qinghai, Gansu and Ningxia from the 1910s until 1949. There were 3 families in the Ma clique , each of them respectively controlled 3 areas, Gansu,...

. The remnants of Zhang's forces later rejoined elements of the Second Red Army before eventually linking up with Mao's forces in Shaanxi.

The Second Red Army



The Second Red Army began its own withdrawal west from Hubei in November 1935, led by He Long
He Long
He Long was a Chinese military leader. He rose to the rank of Marshal and Vice Premier after the founding of the People's Republic of China.-Early life:He Long was a member of the Tujia ethnic group...

, who commanded the KMT Twentieth Army in 1923 before joining the Communist Party of China (CPC). In retribution, Chiang Kai-Shek had He Long's relatives executed, including three sisters and a brother. In 1932 he established a soviet
Soviet (council)
Soviet was a name used for several Russian political organizations. Examples include the Czar's Council of Ministers, which was called the “Soviet of Ministers”; a workers' local council in late Imperial Russia; and the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union....

 in the Hunan-Kiangsi border area, and in August 1934 received command of the Second Red Army, establishing a base in Hubei. An advance party of the First Red Army called the Sixth Group, commanded by Xiao Ke, was sent towards the Second Red Army two months before the beginning of the Long March. Xiao Ke's force would link up with He Long and his army, but lost communication with the First Army that came behind.

On November 19, 1935, the Second Red Army set out on its own Long March. He Long's force was driven further west than the First Red Army, all the way to Lijiang
Lijiang
Lijiang may refer to:*Lijiang, Yunnan , prefecture-level city in Yunnan Province, China*Old Town of Lijiang, World Heritage Site, in Lijiang City*Lijiang Naxi Autonomous County, formerly a county in Lijiang, Yunnan, China before 2002...

 in Yunnan
Yunnan
Yunnan is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the far southwest of the country spanning approximately and with a population of 45.7 million . The capital of the province is Kunming. The province borders Burma, Laos, and Vietnam.Yunnan is situated in a mountainous area, with...

 province, then across the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
Mount Satseto, known in Chinese as the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is a mountain massif near Lijiang, in Yunnan province, southwestern China. Its highest peak is named Shanzidou...

 massif and through the Tibetan highlands of western Sichuan
Sichuan
' , known formerly in the West by its postal map spellings of Szechwan or Szechuan is a province in Southwest China with its capital in Chengdu...

. He Long and Xiao Ke were married to sisters who also accompanied the army. He Long's wife, Jian Xianren, carried the baby daughter she had given birth to three weeks before the retreat began. Jian Xianfo gave birth to a son in the desolate swamps of northern Sichuan. Forces of the Second Army detained two European missionaries, Rudolf Bosshardt
Rudolf Alfred Bosshardt
Rudolf Alfred Bosshardt was a Protestant Christian missionary in China. He served with the China Inland Mission. He was born of Swiss parents in Manchester and was accepted for training by the China Inland Mission in 1920. Within two years he departed for China and was assigned to work in Guizhou...

 and Arnolis Hayman, for 16 months. Bosshardt later related his account of the details of daily life on the Long March in a book.

Union of the three armies


Mao's First Red Army traversed several swamps and was attacked by Muslim Hui
Hui people
The Hui people are an ethnic group in China, defined as Chinese speaking people descended from foreign Muslims. They are typically distinguished by their practice of Islam, however some also practice other religions, and many are direct descendants of Silk Road travelers.In modern People's...

 Ma Clique
Ma clique
The Ma clique or Ma family warlords is a collective name for a group of Muslim warlords in Northwestern China who ruled the Chinese provinces of Qinghai, Gansu and Ningxia from the 1910s until 1949. There were 3 families in the Ma clique , each of them respectively controlled 3 areas, Gansu,...

 forces under Generals Ma Bufang
Ma Bufang
Ma Bufang was a prominent Muslim Ma clique warlord in China during the Republic of China era, ruling the northwestern province of Qinghai. His rank was Lieutenant-general...

 and Ma Buqing
Ma Buqing
Ma Buqing was a prominent Ma clique warlord in China during the Republic of China era, controlling armies in the northwestern province of Qinghai.-Life:...

. Finally, in October 1935, Mao's army reached Shaanxi province and joined with local Communist forces there, led by Liu Zhidan, Gao Gang
Gao Gang
Gao Gang was a Chinese Communist Party leader during the Chinese Civil War and the early years of the People's Republic of China , before becoming the victim of the first major purge within the CCP since before 1949...

, and Hu 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 CPC, was never able to challenge Mao's authority. After an expedition of almost a year, the Second Red Army reached Bao'an (Shaanxi) on 22 October 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 warlord
Warlord
A warlord is a person with power who has both military and civil control over a subnational area due to armed forces loyal to the warlord and not to a central authority. The term can also mean one who espouses the ideal that war is necessary, and has the means and authority to engage in war...

s 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
Yan'an
Yan'an , is a prefecture-level city in the Shanbei region of Shaanxi province in China, administering several counties, including Zhidan County , which served as the Chinese communist capital before the city of Yan'an proper took that role....

 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
Fatigue (physical)
Fatigue is a state of awareness describing a range of afflictions, usually associated with physical and/or mental weakness, though varying from a general state of lethargy to a specific work-induced burning sensation within one's muscles...

, 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.

Aftermath


While costly, the Long March gave the Communist Party of China
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

 (CCP) the isolation it needed, allowing its army to recuperate and rebuild in the north of China. 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. Mao wrote in 1935:
"The Long March is a manifesto. It has proclaimed to the world that the Red Army is an army of heroes, while the imperialists and their running dogs, Chiang Kai-shek and his like, are impotent. It has proclaimed their utter failure to encircle, pursue, obstruct and intercept us. The Long March is also a propaganda force. It has announced to some 200 million people in eleven provinces that the road of the Red Army is their only road to liberation."


In addition, policies ordered by Mao for all soldiers to follow, the Eight Points of Attention
Eight Points of Attention
The Three Rules of Discipline and Eight Points for Attention is a military doctrine that was issued in 1928 by Mao Zedong and his associates for the Chinese Red Army, who were then fighting against the Kuomintang. The contents vary slightly in different versions. One of the major distinctions of...

, instructed the army to avoid harm to or disrespect for the peasants, in spite of the desperate need for food and supplies. This policy won support for the Communists among the rural peasants.

Hostilities ceased while the Nationalists and Chinese Communists formed a nominal alliance during the Second Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

 from 1937 until 1945. During these years, the Chinese Communist Party persevered and strengthened its influence. The Red Army fought a disciplined and organized guerilla campaign against superior Japanese forces, allowing it to gain experience. Following the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the resurgent Communist Eighth Route Army
Eighth Route Army
The Eighth Route Army was the larger of the two major Chinese communist forces that formed a unit of the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China which fought the Japanese from 1937 to 1945. In contrast to most of the National Revolutionary Army, it was controlled by the Communist...

, later called the People's Liberation Army
People's Liberation Army
The People's Liberation Army is the unified military organization of all land, sea, strategic missile and air forces of the People's Republic of China. The PLA was established on August 1, 1927 — celebrated annually as "PLA Day" — as the military arm of the Communist Party of China...

, returned to drive the Kuomintang out of Mainland China
Mainland China
Mainland China, the Chinese mainland or simply the mainland, is a geopolitical term that refers to the area under the jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China . According to the Taipei-based Mainland Affairs Council, the term excludes the PRC Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and...

 to the island of Taiwan
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

. Since the establishment of the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 in 1949, the Long March has been glorified as an example of the Communist Party's strength and resilience. The Long March solidified Mao's status as the undisputed leader of the CPC. Other participants in the March also went on to become prominent party leaders, including Zhu De
Zhu De
Zhu De was a Chinese militarist, politician, revolutionary, and one of the pioneers of the Chinese Communist Party. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, in 1955 Zhu became one of the Ten Marshals of the People's Liberation Army, of which he is regarded as the founder.-Early...

, Lin Biao
Lin Biao
Lin Biao was a major Chinese Communist military leader who was pivotal in the communist victory in the Chinese Civil War, especially in Northeastern China...

, Liu Shaoqi
Liu Shaoqi
Liu Shaoqi was a Chinese revolutionary, statesman, and theorist. He was Chairman of the People's Republic of China, China's head of state, from 27 April 1959 to 31 October 1968, during which he implemented policies of economic reconstruction in China...

, Dong Biwu
Dong Biwu
Dong Biwu was a Chinese communist political leader during the regime of Mao Zedong.-Biography:Dong Biwu was born in Huanggang, Hubei. He was the President of China from 1948 to 1949 and Acting President from 1968 until 17 January 1975 when Zhu De became the succeeding Chairman of the Standing...

, Ye Jianying
Ye Jianying
Ye Jianying was a Chinese communist general and the chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress from 1978 to 1983.-Biography:...

, Li Xiannian
Li Xianniàn
Li Xiannian was President of the People's Republic of China between 1983 and 1988 and then chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference until his death. He was an influential political figure throughout the PRC, having been a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of...

, Yang Shangkun
Yang Shangkun
Yang Shangkun was President of the People's Republic of China from 1988 to 1993, and was permanent Vice-chair of the Central Military Commission...

, Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai was the first Premier of the People's Republic of China, serving from October 1949 until his death in January 1976...

 and Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping was a Chinese politician, statesman, and diplomat. As leader of the Communist Party of China, Deng was a reformer who led China towards a market economy...

.

The Chinese government produced a movie in 2006, My Long March, relating personal experiences of a fictional participant in the Long March.

Myths


The Long March is surrounded by controversial and conflicting accounts of what actually occurred. The myths of the march are difficult to uncover because the Chinese government has prevented independent historians from exploring the topic. The few that were able to do research into the myths of the march have only done so recently and struggle with the fact that many years have gone by since the march took place, hence many of the survivors are no longer alive or able to accurately recall events.

Length


In 2003, controversy arose about the distance covered by Mao's First Front Army in the Long March. The figure of 25,000 li
Li (unit)
The li is a traditional Chinese unit of distance, which has varied considerably over time but now has a standardized length of 500 meters or half a kilometer...

 (12,500 kilometres or about 8,000 miles) was Mao's estimate, quoted by his biographer Edgar Snow
Edgar Snow
Edgar P. Snow was an American journalist known for his books and articles on Communism in China and the Chinese Communist revolution...

 in Red Star Over China
Red Star Over China
Red Star Over China, a book by Edgar Snow, is an account of the Communist Party of China written when they were a guerrilla army still obscure to Westerners. Along with Pearl Buck's The Good Earth, it was the most influential book on Western understanding and sympathy for China in the 1930s...

, published not long after the end of the Long March in 1938. In 2003, two British researchers, Ed Jocelyn and Andrew McEwen, retraced the route in 384 days, and in their 2006 book "The Long March" estimated the March actually covered about 6,000 km (3,700 miles). Jocelyn and McEwen conclude in their book that "Mao and his followers twisted the tale of the Long March for their own ends. Mao's role was mythologized to the point where ... it seemed he had single-handedly saved the Red Army and defeated Chiang Kai-shek". Mao exaggerated, perhaps even doubled, the length of the march, they believe. Their report has been disputed by the Chinese media, citing "The 25,000 li of the Red Army's Long March are a historic fact and not open to doubt." However, even at the time that Edgar Snow's account was written, there were estimates that the distance traveled was closer to 18,000 li (6,000 miles).

Luding/Liu Ting Ch'ang Bridge


The battle for Luding Bridge
Luding Bridge
Luding Bridge is a bridge over the Dadu River in Luding County, Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, China, located about 80 kilometers west of the city of Ya'an. The bridge dates from the Qing Dynasty and is considered a historical landmark...

 has been portrayed as a glorious and heroic moment in Chinese Communist history, analogous to the American Battle for the Alamo
Alamo
The Battle of the Alamo was a battle fought during the Texas Revolution.Alamo may also refer to:-Places:*Alamo Mission in San Antonio, Texas*Alamo, California*Alamo, Georgia*Alamo Township, Michigan*Alamo, Nevada*Alamo, New Mexico...

. The official account of the battle depicts exhausted and depleted Communist forces in a desperate situation, where they must fight across a bridge that is guarded by the numerically superior forces of Chiang Kai-shek and his warlord allies. The Communists send a small volunteer force that braves a hail of gunfire to climb across the bridge on underlying chains and assault the enemy positions on the other side, hence securing the bridgehead for the rest of the army to cross.

However, there is evidence that differs from the official account of the battle. This suggests that much of the fighting was dramatized, by Communist leaders, for propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 purposes. Authors Andrew McEwen and Ed Jocelyn who retraced the route of the Long March, interviewing survivors along the way, said that a woman in her early 80s recalled that local people led the way across the bridge and were all shot and killed. Author Sun Shuyun
Sun Shuyun
Sun Shuyun is a Chinese writer. She was born in China in the 1960s, graduated from Beijing University and won a scholarship to Oxford.Her books include** about the BBC series A Year In Tibet.*-External links:...

 quotes a witness who said that there was a small enemy force on the other side armed with guns that could “only fire a few metres”. They panicked and fled.

Use as propaganda


The Long March has been depicted as a pillar of the Chinese Communist Revolution and has been played out for all its worth by the Chinese government. It has been used as an example to depict the nationalistic fighting spirit of the Chinese people and the rallying call to communism. Many aspects of the Long March have been altered for propaganda purposes by the Communists. For example, the battle at Xiang River
Xiang River
The Xiang River , in older transliterations as the Siang River or Hsiang River, is a river in southern China...

 “which the official history of the Long March identifies as the longest and most heroic battle of the entire campaign, was in fact a major defeat for the Communists, with casualties and desertions reducing the First Army from 86,000 to 30,000 people.”

October 2006 marked the 70th anniversary of the end of the Long March. Dozens of newly released, government approved books were proudly displayed in bookstores, with the intention of showing the heroic actions and drama of the Long March. Meanwhile Chinese television presented, “a feast of Long March-themed entertainment, including a 20-part drama series, documentaries, and even a song-and-dance extravaganza.”

The Long March was longer than was necessary as Mao dragged the Red Army in a huge loop so he could go near the Soviet border to receive arms because the Soviets said that whoever made first contact with them would be recognized as the leader of the Chinese Communist Party. Mao's role in the Long March was often inaccurately reported. It has often been claimed that he walked the entire 6,000 mile distance but in fact he was carried much of the way on a litter by porters and used the time to read. While Mao’s troops suffered huge losses, not a single senior party member was killed or even seriously wounded.

"Kidnap and blackmail appear to have been common recruitment strategies. Female officers sometimes even recruited men with sex rather than be punished for not meeting their quotas. And while, in the popular legend, the Red Army is warmly welcomed by common folk wherever it wanders, this was far from always the case. In China's impoverished 'wild west', where food was short and the weather deadly, if opium could not bribe villagers into giving the 'Red Bandits' food, soldiers often stole the peasants' livelihoods."

While Communist propaganda makes it seem as if people were excited to join the Red Army in reality it appears that not all the participants of the Long March were enthusiastic volunteers. Sun Shuyun
Sun Shuyun
Sun Shuyun is a Chinese writer. She was born in China in the 1960s, graduated from Beijing University and won a scholarship to Oxford.Her books include** about the BBC series A Year In Tibet.*-External links:...

, author of a book on the Long March, interviewed one man who said he was barely into his teens when he was forced to join the Red Army and he only did so because his father was arrested and would not be released until the man agreed to join the army. The man thought of deserting but stayed on because he feared being caught and executed. Driven by desperation and hunger, the armies took hostages for ransom. Purges continued until there were practicably no officers left to command battles.

See also


  • List of Battles of Chinese Civil War
  • History of China
    History of China
    Chinese civilization originated in various regional centers along both the Yellow River and the Yangtze River valleys in the Neolithic era, but the Yellow River is said to be the Cradle of Chinese Civilization. With thousands of years of continuous history, China is one of the world's oldest...

  • History of the Republic of China
    History of the Republic of China
    The History of the Republic of China begins after the Qing Dynasty in 1912, when the formation of the Republic of China put an end to over two thousand years of Imperial rule. The Qing Dynasty, also known as the Manchu Dynasty, ruled from 1644 to 1912...

  • History of the People's Republic of China
    History of the People's Republic of China
    The history of the People's Republic of China details the history of mainland China since October 1, 1949, when, after a near complete victory by the Communist Party of China in the Chinese Civil War, Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China from atop Tiananmen...

  • National Revolutionary Army
    National Revolutionary Army
    The National Revolutionary Army , pre-1928 sometimes shortened to 革命軍 or Revolutionary Army and between 1928-1947 as 國軍 or National Army was the Military Arm of the Kuomintang from 1925 until 1947, as well as the national army of the Republic of China during the KMT's period of party rule...

  • People's Liberation Army
    People's Liberation Army
    The People's Liberation Army is the unified military organization of all land, sea, strategic missile and air forces of the People's Republic of China. The PLA was established on August 1, 1927 — celebrated annually as "PLA Day" — as the military arm of the Communist Party of China...

  • Whampoa Military Academy
    Whampoa Military Academy
    The Nationalist Party of China Army Officer Academy , commonly known as the Whampoa Military Academy , was a military academy in the Republic of China that produced many prestigious commanders who fought in many of China's conflicts in the 20th century, notably the Northern Expedition, the Second...

  • Military of the Republic of China
    Military of the Republic of China
    The Republic of China Armed Forces encompass the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Military Police Force of the Republic of China . It is a military establishment, which accounted for 16.8% of the central budget in the fiscal year of 2003...

  • Military of the People's Republic of China
  • Warlord era
    Warlord era
    The Chinese Warlord Era was the period in the history of the Republic of China, from 1916 to 1928, when the country was divided among military cliques, a division that continued until the fall of the Nationalist government in the mainland China regions of Sichuan, Shanxi, Qinghai, Ningxia,...


Further reading

  • Young, Helen Prager (2000). Choosing Revolution: Chinese Women Soldiers on the Long March. University of Illinois Press, pp. 282 pages. [ISBN 978-0-252-07456-1]

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