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PLA History

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) was built on several millennia of tradition and a century of Western military innovations. It traces its origins to the August 1, 1927, Nanchang Uprising in which Guomindang troops led by Chinese Communist Party leaders Zhu De and Zhou Enlai rebelled following the dissolution of the first Guomindang-Chinese Communist Party united front earlier that year. The survivors of that and other abortive communist insurrections, including the Autumn Harvest Uprising led by Mao Zedong, fled to the Jinggang Mountains along the border of Hunan and Jiangxi provinces.

On August 1, 1927, the Communist Party of China (CPC) launched an armed uprising in Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi Province. The Nanchang Uprising led by Zhou Enlai, He Long, Ye Ting, Zhu De and Liu Bocheng gave birth to the armed forces of the CPC and marked the beginning of CPC's independent leadership over armed struggles. On August 7, 1927, the CPC Central Committee convened a meeting on August 7 in Wuhan. At the meeting, the general principle of carrying out Agrarian Revolution and armed resistance against Kuomintang reactionaries was made.

On September 9, 1927, under the leadership of Mao Zedong, the peasants living in the Hunan-Jiangxi border area launched the Autumn Harvest Uprising. On September 29, 1927, Mao Zedong carried out experiment to "establish branches of the CPC at the level of companies" in the Autumn Harvest Uprising troops during the Sanwan Reorganization, which symbolized the beginning of an army of the Chinese people under the leadership of the CPC. In October 1927, the Autumn Harvest Uprising troops led by Mao Zedong arrived in the Jinggang Mountain area and created the first countryside revolutionary base area there. On December 11, 1927, under the leadership of Zhang Tailei, Ye Ting, Yun Daiying and Ye Jianying, the armed workers and some troops commanded by the CPC launched an uprising in Guangzhou to fight against the Kuomintang rightists' slaughter of members of the CPC and its supporters.

In April 1928, led by Zhu De and Chen Yi, the workers' and peasants' revolutionary army composed of the remained troops of the Nanchang Uprising and the armed peasants from southern Hunan Province joined forces in the Jinggang Mountain with the workers' and peasants' revolutionary army established by Mao Zedong after the Autumn Harvest Uprising in the Hunan-Jiangxi border area. In October 1928, the Central Military Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) was set up. On December 28 and 29, 1929, the 9th Party Congress of the Fourth Army of the Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army was held in Gutian Village, Shanghang County of Fujian Province, which was later called the Gutian Meeting. At the meeting, the fundamental principles of building the Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army were established and the questions on how to build an army mainly composed of peasants into a new-type army of Chinese people under the absolute leadership of the CPC were answered. The Gutian Meeting is a milestone in the history of the building of the Communist Party of China and the army.

In March 1930, the Central Military Department of the CPC was renamed the Central Military Commission of the CPC. On August 23, 1930, the First Front Army of the Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army was formed in Liuyang County, Hunan Province. On November 7, 1931, the Fourth Front Army of the Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army came into being in Huang'an County, Hubei Province. On November 25, 1931, the Central Revolutionary Military Commission of the Soviet Republic of China was established in Ruijin, Jiangxi Province.

In December 1932, the Fourth Front Army of the Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army marched to the northern Sichuan Province and started to create the Sichuan-Shaanxi Border Base Area. On May 8, 1933, the general headquarters of the Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army was set up. On July 11, 1933, the Provisional Central Government of the Chinese Soviet Republic of China made a decision to set the August 1st - the date of the Nanchang Uprising - as the anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army. Since then, the August 1 each year has become the Army Day of the Chinese People's Liberation Army. In October 1934, the First Front Army of the Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army withdrew from the Central Base Area in Jiangxi Province and embarked on the Long March. Joining forces under the leadership of Mao and Zhu, this collection of communists, bandits, Guomindang deserters, and impoverished peasants became the First Workers' and Peasants' Army, or Red Army -- the military arm of the Chinese Communist Party. Using the guerrilla tactics that would later make Mao Zedong internationally famous as a military strategist, the Red Army survived several encirclement and suppression campaigns by superior Guomindang forces. In those days, there were 30 thousand people in the Red Army but hundred thousand people in the KMT army. Facing the attack of KMT, the Worker-peasant's Red Army successfully resisted four "Encirclement and Suppression" Campaigns in 1930, 1931 [two], and 1933 under the leadership of Mao Tse-tung; but the fifth time, the Red Army failed.

When the fifth "Encirclement and Suppression" Campaign broke out in 1934, the Left Tendency policies were carried out in communist-led Area. Wang Ming, the representative of the Left Tendency, who commanded the secret organization of CPC in the KMT-led area, launched the revolutionary movements openly. Finally, 30 thousand soldiers of the Red Army couldn't fight against the hundred thousand soldiers of the KMT face by face. Because of the failure of resistance to the fifth "Encirclement and Suppression" Campaign, the Red Army was forced to begin the Long March.

Party internal politics forced the Red Army temporarily to abandon guerrilla warfare and resulted in the epic Long March of 1934-35. On November 16, 1934, the 25th Army of the Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army abandoned the Hubei-Henan-Anhui Border Base Area and started its Long March. From January 15 to 17, 1935, the Zunyi Meeting, an enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, was held at Zunyi, Guizhou Province during the Long March. The Zunyi Meeting organizationally ended the domination of Wang Ming's "Left" adventurism in the CPC Central Committee, established the correct leadership of the new Central Committee represented by Mao Zedong,thus saving the Red Army and the CPC from destruction at a most critical juncture.

In March 1935, the Fourth Front Army of the Red Army launched the Jialin River Campaign and then evacuated the Sichuan-Shannxi Border Base Area to start the Long March. On September 16, 1935, the 25th Army of the Red Army ended its Long March by joining force with the Red Army troops in northwest China at the Yongping Town of Yanchuna County of northern Shaanxi Province. On October 19, 1935, the main force of the First Front Army of the Red Army led by the CPC Central Committee arrived at the Wuqi Town in northern Shaanxi Province, which was the terminal of the Long March.

From December 17 to 25, 1935, the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee held an enlarged meeting to make the policy and strategic guide line of the Anti-Japanese National United Front. On February 20, 1936, the anti-Japanese forces in different places in northeast China were reorganized into the Northeast Anti-Japanese United Forces. On July 5, 1936, the 2nd and 6th Corps and the 32nd Army of the Red Army merged to form the Red Army's Second Front Army in the Long March. In July 1936, the 1st Route Army of the Northeast Anti-Japanese United Forces was established. In October 1936, the First, Second and the Fourth Front Armies of the Red Army jointed forces in the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Area.

The Red Army's exploits during the Long March became legendary and remain a potent symbol of the spirit and prowess of the Red Army and its successor, the PLA. During that period, Mao's political power and his strategy of guerrilla warfare gained ascendancy in the party and the Red Army. In mid-January 1937, the leading organs including the Central Committee and the Central Military Commission of the CPC transferred from Bao'an County to Yan'an, a city in northern Shannxi Province. In the following 10 years, Yan'an became the seat of the headquarters of the Chinese revolution.

Mao's military thought grew out of the Red Army's experiences in the late 1930s and early 1940s and formed the basis for the "people's war" concept, which became the doctrine of the Red Army and the PLA. In developing his thought, Mao drew on the works of the Chinese military strategist Sun Zi (fourth century BC) and Soviet and other theorists, as well as on the lore of peasant uprisings, such as the stories found in the classical novel Shuihu Zhuan (Water Margin) and the stories of the Taiping Rebellion. Synthesizing these influences with lessons learned from the Red Army's successes and failures, Mao created a comprehensive politico-military doctrine for waging revolutionary warfare.

People's war incorporated political, economic, and psychological measures with protracted military struggle against a superior foe. As a military doctrine, people's war emphasized the mobilization of the populace to support regular and guerrilla forces; the primacy of men over weapons, with superior motivation compensating for inferior technology; and the three progressive phases of protracted warfare- -strategic defensive, strategic stalemate, and strategic offensive. During the first stage, enemy forces were "lured in deep" into one's own territory to overextend, disperse, and isolate them. The Red Army established base areas from which to harass the enemy, but these bases and other territory could be abandoned to preserve Red Army forces. In the second phase, superior numbers and morale were applied to wear down the enemy in a war of attrition in which guerrilla operations predominated. During the final phase, Red Army forces made the transition to regular warfare as the enemy was reduced to parity and eventually defeated.

Whampoa Military Academy
Huangpu Military Academy

Founded in 1924 and named The Nationalist Party of China (KMT) Army Officer Academy, commonly known as Huangpu Military Academy, its predecessor was Guangdong Naval Academy and Army Academy in the Qing dynasty. Altogether seven batches of officers had been trained in Changzhou Island, Huangpu before it was moved to Nanjing in 1930.

Huangpu Military Academy was funded by Dr. Sun Yat-sen with assistance from the former Soviet Union and the Communist Party of China (CPC) as a new type of military school aiming to train revolutionary military officers. With Sun Yat-sen as the general director; Chiang Kaishek, president; Zhou Enlai and Xiong Xiong, dean of the political department in succession, Huangpu Military Academy is the witness of the first KMT-CPC cooperation and has established itself as one of the well-known military academies in the world which have turned out so many famous military talents and officers.

Many relics, such as the Huangpu Military Academy Gate, Sun Yat-sen's old residence, the monument to Sun Yat-sen, the academy club, swimming pool, the Jishen Park, the monument to Northern Expedition, the Mausoleum for the Martyrs of the East Campaign as well as Baihegang Fortress still remain at the site to this day.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:46:08 ZULU