Peng Dehuai

Peng Dehuai

Overview
Peng Dehuai (October 24, 1898 – November 29, 1974) was a prominent military leader 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...

, and China's Defence Minister from 1954 to 1959. Peng was an important commander 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...

, the Chinese civil war
Chinese Civil War
The Chinese Civil War was a civil war fought between the Kuomintang , the governing party of the Republic of China, and the Communist Party of China , for the control of China which eventually led to China's division into two Chinas, Republic of China and People's Republic of...

 and was also the commander-in-chief of People's Volunteer Army
People's Volunteer Army
The Chinese People's Volunteer Army was the armed forces deployed by the People's Republic of China during the Korean War. Although all units in the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army belonged to the People's Liberation Army , the People's Volunteer Army was separately constituted in order to...

 in the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

. He fell from favour after criticizing Mao's policies in the Great Leap Forward
Great Leap Forward
The Great Leap Forward of the People's Republic of China was an economic and social campaign of the Communist Party of China , reflected in planning decisions from 1958 to 1961, which aimed to use China's vast population to rapidly transform the country from an agrarian economy into a modern...

 and suffered greatly through the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

, leading to his eventual death.

Peng was born in 1898 in Xiangtan
Xiangtan
Xiangtan is a city in China's Hunan Province that is located on the lower reaches of Xiang river. The hometowns of several founding leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, including Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, and Peng Dehuai are in the Xiangtan Municipal District, as well as the hometowns of Qing...

 County of 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...

 Province.
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Encyclopedia
Peng Dehuai (October 24, 1898 – November 29, 1974) was a prominent military leader 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...

, and China's Defence Minister from 1954 to 1959. Peng was an important commander 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...

, the Chinese civil war
Chinese Civil War
The Chinese Civil War was a civil war fought between the Kuomintang , the governing party of the Republic of China, and the Communist Party of China , for the control of China which eventually led to China's division into two Chinas, Republic of China and People's Republic of...

 and was also the commander-in-chief of People's Volunteer Army
People's Volunteer Army
The Chinese People's Volunteer Army was the armed forces deployed by the People's Republic of China during the Korean War. Although all units in the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army belonged to the People's Liberation Army , the People's Volunteer Army was separately constituted in order to...

 in the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

. He fell from favour after criticizing Mao's policies in the Great Leap Forward
Great Leap Forward
The Great Leap Forward of the People's Republic of China was an economic and social campaign of the Communist Party of China , reflected in planning decisions from 1958 to 1961, which aimed to use China's vast population to rapidly transform the country from an agrarian economy into a modern...

 and suffered greatly through the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

, leading to his eventual death.

Early life


Peng was born in 1898 in Xiangtan
Xiangtan
Xiangtan is a city in China's Hunan Province that is located on the lower reaches of Xiang river. The hometowns of several founding leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, including Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, and Peng Dehuai are in the Xiangtan Municipal District, as well as the hometowns of Qing...

 County of 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...

 Province. He was a rough-hewn man from very humble beginnings. Peng's parents died when he was nine years old, and he then lived with his grandmother, who was a beggar. Before joining the army at sixteen, he had worked in coal mines at the age of 13 and on dam
Dam
A dam is a barrier that impounds water or underground streams. Dams generally serve the primary purpose of retaining water, while other structures such as floodgates or levees are used to manage or prevent water flow into specific land regions. Hydropower and pumped-storage hydroelectricity are...

s of the Lake Dongting at the age of 15. He attended the Hunan Military Academy and served as a Nationalist officer. Until 1916, he was a day laborer and then a soldier in a warlord
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,...

 army for $5.50 a month. He soldiered the rest of his life, some 60 years.

Red Army commander


By the age of twenty-eight, he was a brigade commander in 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...

 Army and had begun a flirtation with radical politics. Peng was forced to flee 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 purge in 1927 and joined the Communist Party of China, participating in the Long March
Long March
The Long March was a massive military retreat undertaken by the Red Army of the Communist Party of China, the forerunner of the People's Liberation Army, to evade the pursuit of the Kuomintang army. There was not one Long March, but a series of marches, as various Communist armies in the south...

. He commanded the Third Army during the Long March.

His contributions to the CPC were highly praised and earned him the nickname "Great General Peng" (彭大将军). As a poem by 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...

 in remembrance of Peng's contributions in the Long March put it,
"[In] High mountains, dangerous roads, deep pits,
Troops ride lengthwise and crosswise, (Red Army circling around the Enemy, [Alternate translation.])
Who dares to [put the] glaive
Glaive
A glaive is a European polearm weapon, consisting of a single-edged blade on the end of a pole. It is similar to the Japanese naginata and the Chinese Guan Dao....

 crosswise and draw the horse to a stop?
Only our [or my, depending on different interpretations] Great General Peng!"

山高路远坑深
大军纵横驰奔
谁敢横刀立马
唯我彭大将军


Peng and 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...

 were generally reckoned to be the Red Army's best battlefield commanders, in addition to Su Yu
Su Yu
Su Yu was a Chinese Communist military leader. He was considered by many to be among the best commanders of the PLA only next to Lin Biao and Liu Bocheng. Su Yu fought in the Sino-Japanese War and in the Chinese Civil War...

 and Xu Xiangqian
Xu Xiangqian
Xu Xiangqian was a Chinese communist military leader.-Biography:Xu was born in Wutai county, Shanxi province, China. He was admitted to the Whampoa Academy in 1924 and held various officer ranks in the National Revolutionary Army between 1925 and 1927...

. They do not seem to have been rivals during the Long March. Both of them had supported Mao's rise to de facto leadership at Zunyi in January 1934. According to Harrison E. Salisbury's The Long March, by May 1935 Lin Biao was dissatisfied with Mao's strategy. He says of Mao's circlings to evade the armies of 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....

:
"The campaign had begun to look like one of Walt Disney
Walt Disney
Walter Elias "Walt" Disney was an American film producer, director, screenwriter, voice actor, animator, entrepreneur, entertainer, international icon, and philanthropist, well-known for his influence in the field of entertainment during the 20th century. Along with his brother Roy O...

's early cartoons in which Mickey Mouse
Mickey Mouse
Mickey Mouse is a cartoon character created in 1928 by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks at The Walt Disney Studio. Mickey is an anthropomorphic black mouse and typically wears red shorts, large yellow shoes, and white gloves...

 again and again escaped the clutches of the huge, stupid cat." (Page 188, chapter 18.)


But according to Salisbury, Lin Biao in May 1934 tried to persuade Mao to turn over active command to Peng.
"A tough Red Army commander who looked a little like a bulldog and fought like one, Peng was a rough-hewn man with strong back and shoulders, from years of early labour... Peng got his first revolutionary spark from a great-uncle who fought with the Taiping
Taiping Heavenly Kingdom
The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom was an oppositional state in China from 1851 to 1864, established by Hong Xiuquan, the leader of the Taiping Rebellion...

s in the rebellion of the 1850s. Then, said the uncle, the Taipings found food for everyone, the women unbound their feet, and the land was shared among the tillers...

"All his life Peng spoke frankly, bluntly, and he wrote in plain, vigorous Chinese, often at great length so that no one might doubt his meaning.

"The contrast between Mao's top field commanders [Peng and Lin Biao] could hardly have been more sharp, but on the Long March
Long March
The Long March was a massive military retreat undertaken by the Red Army of the Communist Party of China, the forerunner of the People's Liberation Army, to evade the pursuit of the Kuomintang army. There was not one Long March, but a series of marches, as various Communist armies in the south...

 they worked well together, Lin specializing in feints, masked strategy, surprises, ambushes, flank attacks, pounces from the rear, and stratagems. Peng met the enemy head-on in frontal assaults and fought with such fury that again and again he wiped them out. Peng did not believe a battle well fought unless he managed to replenish--and more than replenish--any losses by seizure of enemy guns and converting prisoners of war to new and loyal recruits to the Red Army." (Ibid., pages 191-192)


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...

, who stayed for several days in 1936 Peng's compound in Yuwang, near the front lines in Ningxia
Ningxia
Ningxia, formerly transliterated as Ningsia, is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. Located in Northwest China, on the Loess Plateau, the Yellow River flows through this vast area of land. The Great Wall of China runs along its northeastern boundary...

, and
had long conversations with him, has much more to say in his 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...

about Peng than Lin. He gives Peng two whole chapters in his book, more than any individual apart from Mao.

1937 to 1953


During World War II, Peng served as deputy commander-in-chief of the Communist forces and coordinated the Hundred Regiments Campaign. Peng went on to serve with distinction behind Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese lines in North China. After the Japanese surrender, during the late stages of the Chinese Civil War
Chinese Civil War
The Chinese Civil War was a civil war fought between the Kuomintang , the governing party of the Republic of China, and the Communist Party of China , for the control of China which eventually led to China's division into two Chinas, Republic of China and People's Republic of...

 he led the Chinese 1st Field Army in its conquest of 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...

, Gansu
Gansu
' is a province located in the northwest of the People's Republic of China.It lies between the Tibetan and Huangtu plateaus, and borders Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Ningxia to the north, Xinjiang and Qinghai to the west, Sichuan to the south, and Shaanxi to the east...

, Ningxia
Ningxia
Ningxia, formerly transliterated as Ningsia, is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. Located in Northwest China, on the Loess Plateau, the Yellow River flows through this vast area of land. The Great Wall of China runs along its northeastern boundary...

, and Qinghai
Qinghai
Qinghai ; Oirat Mongolian: ; ; Salar:) is a province of the People's Republic of China, named after Qinghai Lake...

 provinces.

On October 8, 1950, he was made the supreme commander of the People's Volunteer Army
People's Volunteer Army
The Chinese People's Volunteer Army was the armed forces deployed by the People's Republic of China during the Korean War. Although all units in the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army belonged to the People's Liberation Army , the People's Volunteer Army was separately constituted in order to...

 during the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

 and served in that position until the Korean Armistice Agreement in 1953. During that same time, Peng also serving as the Defense Minister and as a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China
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...

. He was made a marshal
Marshal
Marshal , is a word used in several official titles of various branches of society. The word is an ancient loan word from Old French, cf...

 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...

 in 1955 after the war's end. However, his treatment of returning Chinese POW's from the Korean war was heavily criticized later.

Based on People's Volunteer Army sources, not made public until the late 1990s, the Chinese armies in Korea from October 1950 to June 1951, partook in five major offensives, inflicted 230,000 combined South Korean/UN/USA casualties, including 36,835 POWs, and captured 187 tanks, 4,954 trucks, five armored cars, 10 aircraft, 3,133 artillery pieces, 45,000 rifles and machine guns while suffering a combined total of 528,000 casualties. Strategic mistakes that led to heavy losses in the Chinese divisions in Korea as well as the American destruction of one Chinese division (the 180th Division
180th Division (People's Republic of China)
-History:The 180th Division was a military formation of the People's Volunteer Army during the Korean War with a standard strength of approximately 10,000 men. It was a component of the 60th Army...

) that resulted in the loss of over 5,000 men in 1951 also led to disfavor in the party. He was to have many clashes with Marshal Lin Biao over military policy, and won most of them.

Fall from power


After touring his native Hunan Province in 1959 and realising the extent of the problems that the Great Leap Forward
Great Leap Forward
The Great Leap Forward of the People's Republic of China was an economic and social campaign of the Communist Party of China , reflected in planning decisions from 1958 to 1961, which aimed to use China's vast population to rapidly transform the country from an agrarian economy into a modern...

 had created, he tried to tell Chairman Mao at the Lushan Conference
Lushan Conference
The Lushan Conference , officially the 8th Plenum of the Eighth Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, began on July 2, 1959 and was an informal discussion about the Great Leap Forward...

 that it was a dramatic mistake. Neither Mao nor Peng wanted a split but once Mao initiated the break with Peng, the whole Politburo and the Central Committee were bound to support Mao. They all quarreled with Peng, with Lin Biao leading the attacks.

He was disgraced in 1959, in part because of his criticisms 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...

's Great Leap Forward that went beyond what Mao considered legitimate. Mao accepted that there had been mistakes, including the 'backyard furnace
Backyard furnace
Backyard steel furnaces were used by the people of China during the Great Leap Forward . These small steel blast furnaces were constructed in the backyards of the communes, hence their names. People used every type of fuel they could to power these furnaces, from coal to the wood of coffins...

s', but still saw the process as generally positive. Mao had even suggested that Peng write a criticism - whether this was a trap or whether Peng went too far is moot. Definitely, Mao started treating him as an enemy. As a consequence, he was removed from all posts and placed under constant supervision and house arrest
House arrest
In justice and law, house arrest is a measure by which a person is confined by the authorities to his or her residence. Travel is usually restricted, if allowed at all...

 in Chengdu
Chengdu
Chengdu , formerly transliterated Chengtu, is the capital of Sichuan province in Southwest China. It holds sub-provincial administrative status...

, 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...

; 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...

 took over the post of Minister of Defense. Peng was eventually exiled, and shunned for the next 16 years of house arrest.

There were other major issues in the 1959 dispute. Peng had made the army more professional and less political, changes reversed when 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...

 replaced him. He had also shown signs of not liking the break with Moscow.
He may also have been blamed for the unsuccessful confrontation over Taiwan the previous year (which had been ordered by Mao Zedong in order to garnish financial and technological aide from the USSR by forcing the US to make a threat to defend Taiwan even with nuclear arms):
"On Sept. 17 [1959] Peking announced that Marshal Lin Piao [Lin Biao] had succeeded Marshal Peng Teh-huai as defence minister…
Marshal Lin Biao was commander-in-chief of the People’s Liberation Army which conquered the whole of mainland China in 1948-49, but owing to a breakdown of health he was inactive for many years. His return to health and to official activity was indicated when, in 1958, he was appointed a member of the Politburo. Marshal Peng, whose fame was not enhanced by the failure of the Quemoy operation in 1958, remained a deputy prime minister." (Britannica Book of the year 1960).

Persecution, death, and exoneration


In the early 1960s, he was put in charge of establishing the "Third Front
Third Front (China)
The Third Front is a massive Chinese development of industry in its south-western interior, where it would be strategically secure in the event of a war.-Origins:...

", a planned strategic base in China's south-west that would have been a fall-back position if China were invaded. But he was arrested in 1966 during the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

 and put in the hands of violent Red Guard torturers, beaten 130 times until his internal organs were crushed and his back splintered. During interrogations he shouted denials to the Red Guards who beat him, and it is reputed that he pounded the table so hard the cell walls shook. Red Guards took him several times to "Peng Dehuai struggle rallies", where he was publicly beaten. He died of cancer on November 29, 1974, still loyal to his own version of communist ideals, which diverged radically from those of Mao.

The Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee 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...

, held in 1978, reexamined Marshal Peng's case and reversed the judgment that had been imposed on him. It exonerated him of all charges and reaffirmed his contributions to the Chinese Revolution.

Internet video


Further reading


  • Jurgen Domes, P'eng Te-huai: The Man & the Image, Stanford University Press
    Stanford University Press
    The Stanford University Press is the publishing house of Stanford University. In 1892, an independent publishing company was established at the university. The first use of the name "Stanford University Press" in a book's imprinting occurred in 1895...

    , 1985, hardcover 164 pages, ISBN 0-8047-1303-0
  • Memoirs of a Chinese Marshal: The Autobiographical Notes of Peng Dehuai. University Press of the Pacific 2005. ISBN 978-1410221377