Zunyi Conference

Zunyi Conference

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The Zunyi Conference was a meeting 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...

 (CPC) in January of 1935 during 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...

. This meeting involved a power struggle between the leadership of Bo Gu
Qin Bangxian
Qin Bangxian or better known as Bo Gu was a senior leader of the Chinese Communist Party in its early stages, and well-known as a member of the group of 28 Bolsheviks.-Biography:...

 and Otto Braun
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 the opposition led 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...

. The result was that Mao left the meeting in position to take over military command and become the leader of the Communist Party. The conference was completely unacknowledged until the 1950s and still no detailed descriptions were available until the fiftieth anniversary in 1985.


In August 1934, with the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 depleted by the prolonged 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...

, a spy
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
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 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 for the First Red Army 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
' 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, and during the planning to evacuate Jiangxi, the First Red Army was unaware that these other Communist forces were also retreating westward.

Initially the First Red Army, with its baggage of top communist officials, records, currency reserves and other trapping of the exiled Chinese Soviet Republic, fought through several lightly defended Kuomintang checkpoints, crossing 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 through the province of Guangdong
Guangdong is a province on the South China Sea coast of the People's Republic of China. The province was previously often written with the alternative English name Kwangtung Province...

, south of 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...

 and into Guangxi
Guangxi, formerly romanized Kwangsi, is a province of southern China along its border with Vietnam. In 1958, it became the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China, a region with special privileges created specifically for the Zhuang people.Guangxi's location, in...

. At the Xiang
Xiang may refer to:*Hunan, abbreviated as Xiang, a province of China*Xiang Chinese, a subdivision of Chinese language*Chinese family name, Xiang Xiu for instance*Xiang Army, Chinese army organized by Zeng Guofan in the Qing Dynasty...

 river, Chiang Kai-shek had reinforced the KMT defenses. In two days of bloody fighting, 30 November to 1 December 1934, the Red Army lost more than 40,000 troops and all of the civilian porters, and there were strongly defended Nationalist defensive lines ahead. Personnel and material losses after the battle of the Xiang river affected the morale of the troops and desertions began. By a 12 December 1934 meeting of Party leaders in Tongdao, discontent with Bo Gu and Otto Braun appeared. Under these conditions, the Communists met in 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...

 to reshuffle the Party politburo.


In January 1935, after the Red Army took over the city of Zunyi, a town of military importance in 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 :...

, Southwest China
Southwest China
Southwest China is a region of the People's Republic of China defined by governmental bureaus that includes the municipality of Chongqing, the provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou, and the Tibet Autonomous Region.-Provinces:-Municipalities:...

, an enlarged meeting of the politburo
Politburo , literally "Political Bureau [of the Central Committee]," is the executive committee for a number of communist political parties.-Marxist-Leninist states:...

 of the CPC was held. It was once commonly thought to have be held from January 6–8, but now it is accepted to have taken place between January 15–17.

The names and numbers of participants in the conference have always been disputed. These details are of importance to the largely Soviet view that elected members of the party were outvoted by non-members. Those who are most strongly agreed to have attended by all are Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, Chen Yun
Chen Yun
Chen Yun was one of the most influential leaders of the People's Republic of China during the 1980s and 90s, and one of the top leaders of the Communist Party of China for almost its entire history. He was also known as Liao Chengyun ; it's unclear whether this was his original name or a pseudonym...

, 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...

, Zhang Wentian, Bo Gu, Liu Bocheng
Liu Bocheng
Liu Bocheng was a Chinese Communist military commander and Marshal of the People's Liberation Army.Liu is known as one of the "Three and A Half" Strategists of China in modern history...

, Li Fuchun
Li Fuchun
Li Fuchun was a politician of the Communist Party of China and the People's Republic of China.-Biography:Li Fuchun was born in Changsha, Hunan Province. After completing middle school in his home province, in 1919 he traveled to France to attend a work-study program and here he started his...

, 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...

, and Peng Dehuai
Peng Dehuai
Peng Dehuai was a prominent military leader of the Communist Party of China, and China's Defence Minister from 1954 to 1959. Peng was an important commander during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese civil war and was also the commander-in-chief of People's Volunteer Army in the Korean War...

. Chinese sources which show that non-members could not have outvoted members have the following participatipants:
  • Politburo members: Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, Chen Yun, Zhang Wentian, Bo Gu.
  • Alternate politburo members: Wang Jiaxiang, Liu Shaoqi, Deng Fa, the notorious boss of the secret police
    Secret police
    Secret police are a police agency which operates in secrecy and beyond the law to protect the political power of an individual dictator or an authoritarian political regime....

     for the CPC; Kai Feng (He Kequan), leader of CY.
  • Generals: Liu Bocheng, Chief of Staff of Red Army; Li Fuchun, acting director of political department of Red Army (acting General Commissar); Lin Biao, and commander of 1st Field Army ; Peng Dehuai, commander of 3rd Field Army; Nie Rongzhen
    Nie Rongzhen
    Nie Rongzhen was a prominent Chinese Communist military leader, and one of ten Marshals in the People's Liberation Army of China. He was the last surviving PLA officer with the rank of Marshal.-Biography:...

    , Lin's commissar 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...

    , Peng's commissar and another member of 28 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...

    ; and Li Zhouran.
  • Secretariat and chief editor of the CPC newspaper, the Red Star 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...

  • 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 his interpreter
    Language interpretation is the facilitating of oral or sign-language communication, either simultaneously or consecutively, between users of different languages...

     Wu Xiuquan.

Various scholars dispute the attendance of Chen Yun, Liu Shaoqi, Wang Jiaxiang, He Kequan, Deng Fa, Nie Rongzhen, and Deng Xiaoping. On the other hand, Liang Botai, Wu Liangping, Teng Daiyuan, Li Weihan, Wang Shoudao, and Yang Shangkun are also held to have attended by some sources.

Conference agenda and speeches

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

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

The Zunyi Conference confirmed that the CPC should turn away from the 28 Bolsheviks and towards Mao. The Red Army regained its military power, survived in 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....

 and ultimately defeated the KMT with using a guerrilla strategy, and later through conventional warfare as it gained mass peasant support. It could be seen as a victory for those old CPC members who had their roots in China and, on the contrary, it was a great loss for those CPC members such as the 28 Bolsheviks who had studied in Moscow and had been trained by the Comintern and the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

and could be regarded as proteges or agents of Comintern accordingly. After the Zunyi Conference, the influence and involvement of the Comintern in CPC affairs was greatly reduced.

External links