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War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea

The Korean War broke out on June 25, 1950. The Truman administration of the US brazenly intervened with armed forces and gathered the so-called UN Forces to launch a full-scale war against the DPRK. It quickly evolved from a civil war into an international local war of aggression and counter-aggression. In spite of repeated warnings from the Chinese government, the US-led “UN Forces” crossed the 38th parallel and pressed ahead towards the Yalu River and Tumen River on the China-DPRK border, while frequently sent warplanes to bomb cities and villages in China’s northeast border area, setting fire of war to the territory of the newly-born People's Republic of China.

On September 30, 1950, China’s then Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs Zhou Enlai issued a clear warning: "The Chinese People cannot tolerate foreign aggression against China, nor will they stand by idly when the people of their neighboring country are subjected to wanton aggression by the imperialists." However, the US underestimated the determination and strength of the Chinese people so much that it ignored the repeated warnings of the Chinese government.

On October 1, 1950, the troops of the Republic of Korea (ROK) took the lead to cross the 38th parallel, the US troops followed six days later and quickly advanced towards the border between DPRK and China with the intention of occupying Korea as a whole. At that critical time, the DPRK asked China to join in its resistance against the “UN Forces” by sending troops to Korea.

The Chinese Government and people resolutely opposed the U.S. armed intervention in Korea and Taiwan. Chairman Mao Zedong solemnly pointed out on 28 June 1950 that "the affairs of each country in the world should be administered by the people of that particular country, and the affairs of Asia should be administered by the Asian people and not by the United States". He called upon the "people all over the world to unite, be fully prepared and defeat the provocation by U.S. imperialism".

On the arrival of U.S. ground forces in Korea, China clarified its position onintervention. On July 2, 1950, Zhou Enlai, Premier and Foreign Minister of thePRC, informed Stalin that “if the Americans cross the 38th parallel, then Chinesetroops, disguised as Koreans, will take action against them using volunteers.” Zhoualso requested that “Soviet Air Forces be sent to provide air cover.” On July 5, Stalin agreed to the Chinese request, promising that “we will do our best to provide the air cover for these units.

On 30 September 1950, Premier Zhou Enlai solemnly declared that "the Chinese People can not tolerate foreign aggression against China, nor will they stand by idly when the people of their neighboring country are subjected to wanton aggression by the imperialists". And he warned the United States that if u.s. troops should cross the 38th parallel, "we would not sit idly by, we would definitely intervene". But the U.S. ignored China's warning and the U.S. troops landed in Inchon on 15 September, crossed the 38th parallel on 7 October and pressed on towards the Sino-Korea border.

In the face of the emergency situation, after making thorough discussions and weighing advantages and disadvantages, the Politburo of the CPC Central Committee reached the consensus that China should and must join the war, which was a strategic decision of historical significance.

Mao Zedong’s decision to fight the United States, however, strengthened Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s trust in him immeasurably and dispelled his suspicions of China, forming the cornerstone for a strong Sino-Soviet alliance. In fact, the international order of the 1950s and 1960s was largely forged within the framework of the Korean War. Consequently, the reason for China’s interventionin the Korean War has been an important topic in much scholarly research.

Until the 1980s, interpretations of China’s involvement in the Korean War reflected the changing political and intellectual environments in the West in general, and the United States in particular, rather than the perspective of China itself. During the 1950s, Western scholars were influenced by the intensifying Cold War and argued that China’s entry into the Korean War was primarily due to Stalin’s direction to expand Communism.

On the other hand, in 1960 Allen S. Whiting, using Western intelligence sources, Chinese journals, newspapers, and Beijing’s radio broadcasts, insisted that China’s intervention was essentially a reluctant reaction to a perceived security threat. He stressed that it was only after MacArthur’s successful Incheon landing in mid-September and his subsequent advance toward the 38th parallel that the Chinese leadership began making the necessary military preparations, concluding that an imminent threat to China’s border security compelled China to intervene. Whiting’s argument was widely accepted in the West and developed by other historians. Specifically, Melvin Gurtov and Byong-Moo Hwang argued that after the failure of Chinese efforts to deter UN forces from advancing beyond the 38th parallel, PRC leaders began to push for large scale military intervention in Korea.

Gerald Segal believed that U.S. troops crossing the 38th parallel, nomatter how much they were accompanied by soothing words of honorable inten-tions towards Chinese sovereignty, could not be tolerated in Beijing. There was virtually unanimous agreement among Western scholars that the U.S. decision to cross the 38th parallel triggered China’s intervention and that if UN forces had stopped before the 38th parallel, China would not have intervened.

With the declassification of Chinese documents and memoirs beginning in the early 1980s, however, Chinese scholars began to insist that the rapid U.S. engagement in the Korean War and Truman’s announcement of the dispatch of the 7th Fleet to the Taiwan Strait confirmed to Mao that a major direct Sino-U.S. con-frontation was imminent and inevitable. Therefore, Mao took the initiative and chose the most favorable time and battlefield for China — namely Korea — due to its proximity to the Soviet Union and Northeast China, China’s industrial center.

In 1994, Chen Jian considered the previous scholarship to be “Western impact, Chinese response” and “American-centered approaches.” He contended that “the Party’s revolutionary nationalism, its sense of responsibility toward an Asian-wideor worldwide revolution, and its determination to maintain the inner dynamics of the Chinese revolution” constituted the three fundamental rationales dominating Beijing’s formulation of foreign policy and security strategy at the time. Noting that Mao pressed ahead with sending troops, irrespective of Stalin’s refusal on October 11, 1950 to offer prompt air cover, Chen Jian asserts that Mao persuaded Peng Dehuai not to resign as commander of the Chinese People’s Volunteers (CPV), believing that “Korea’s fate concerned both the vital security interests of China and the destiny of an Eastern and world revolution.”

Chen Jian believed that Mao’s primary motivation was the global expansion of Communism. Chinese scholar Shen Zhihua argued that despite Stalin’s notification on October 14, 1950 that “the Soviet Air Force cannot enter Korea to participate in CPV ground operations even after two or two and a half months,” Mao proceeded to send troops to Korea because he ultimately wanted to obtain Soviet security guarantees and economic assistance for the future.

Immense in numbers, the five-million man Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) were primarily a light infantry force composed of ten thousand-man divisions, lacking artillery, tank, or air assets. They relied heavily on mortars for fire support. Their primary offensive tactic was to get close enough to Allied units to overwhelm them with sheer numbers. Possessing a limited logistical capability, the Chinese Army relied on primitive—but effective technology. They used simple communications like bugles, whistles, and flutes. Normally, three divisions comprised an Army [the approximate size of a U.S. Corps]. Up to six Armies would be controlled by an Army Group. Three Army Groups made up a Field Army, the highest organizational level.

Led by Commander-in-chief Peng Dehuai, the Chinese People's Volunteers crossed the Yalu River on 19 October 1950 and this marked the beginning of the Chinese people's efforts to aid Korea and resists U.S. aggression. Shouldering the trust of the motherland and the people, the Chinese People's Volunteers (CPV) troops crossed the Yalu River on October 19, 1950. "There was no ceremony, no flowers, and everything was going on in the dark night," said Wu Songlin, an 88-year-old CPV veteran, "There is only one common idea in everyone's mind: to protect our homes and defend our country!"

As the UN forces approached the Yalu River in late 1950, Beijing’s response was to intervene militarily. Named the “People’s Volunteer Army” to avoid overt conflict with the United States and United Nations forces, troops infiltrated in large numbers to surprise the allies. Maintaining strict operational security and avoiding aerial detection and attack, they hid by day and marched only at night. They also employed deception by referring to Armies as “units” and divisions as “battalions,” thereby disguising the size of elements.16 After entering Korea, the Chinese People's Volunteers worked alongside the Korean People's Army, quickly drove the U.S. troops from the Sino-Korean border back to the south of the 38th parallel. Only a fraction of the Chinese People's Liberation Army had entered Korea. Some 200,000 Chinese constituting the XIII Army Group of the Fourth Field Army faced the Eighth Army in western North Korea.10 With six armies, each with three infantry divisions and a total of about 30,000 men, two artillery divisions and the bulk of a third, a cavalry regiment, and two truck regiments, the XIII Army Group had entered Korea during the last half of October, crossing the Yalu at Sinuiju and Manp'ojin. Forces from four of its armies had fought the Eighth Army and X Corps in what the Chinese called their First Phase Offensive between 25 October and 6 November. The air attacks on Yalu bridges opened by General MacArthur on 8 November obviously had no chance to interdict the group's movement across the river.

The IX Army Group, part of the Third Field Army, had entered Korea with three armies during the first half of November. The leading army had crossed the Yalu at Manp'ojin, the other two at Lin-chiang on a big bend in the river about sixty miles northeast of Manp'ojin. Far East Air Forces planners had not selected the highway bridge at Lin-chiang as a target for the Yalu bombings, judging it less important than the crossings at Hyesanjin and over the lower reaches of the river. With the Manp'ojin crossings (a highway bridge and a railway bridge) standing despite the bombing and with the Lin-chiang bridge untouched, the IX Army Group had crossed the river with little difficulty, then moved southeast to the Changjin Reservoir in the X Corps zone. Although a Chinese army normally comprised three divisions, each in the IX Army Group had been reinforced by a fourth, giving it about 40,000 men, and the group a strength approaching 120,000.

A major reason UNC intelligence failed to reveal more closely the extent to which the Chinese had entered Korea was their concerted effort to avoid aerial observation through a rigid march and bivouac discipline, movements under the cover of darkness, and substantial use of secondary roads. In fact, UNC aerial reconnaissance had made small opportunity to observe the Chinese. Other than Mosquito control aircraft operating at the front, the Far East Air Forces had no planes committed to visual reconnaissance, and as of 8 November available photo reconnaissance aircraft were committed mainly in support of the attacks on the Yalu bridges. The five large-scale campaigns from October 25 of 1950 until June 10 of 1951, which fundamentally changed the situation of the Korean War and forced the "UN Forces" to switch to strategic defense with the battlefront stabilized near the 38th parallel. After 5 campaigns, the two opposing sides found themselves locked in a stalemate roughly along the 38th parallel. The U.S. Administration saw no hope in unifying Korea by armed force and proposed talks on a cease-fire.

Starting from July 10, 1951, the US government had to conduct armistice negotiations with China and DPRK in Kaesong, an inter-Korean border town of the DPRK. The armistice negotiations went on and off for two years amid battles. The armistice agreement was finally signed on July 27, 1953. The CPV and the Korean People's Army, fighting side by side, defeated the US-led "UN Forces" and won the war. As armistice negotiations began, both the Chinese and North Koreans - especially the Chinese - remained occupied with restoring units shattered over the past three months, most of which had moved far to the north to reorganize, and reequip. The immensity of the problem of refitting them was indicated in estimates placing enemy casualties suffered in April, May, and June above two hundred thousand and in visible battlefield evidence of tremendous losses in weapons and equipment. The size of the problem was also implicit in the 1 July response of Kim Il Sung and Peng Teh-huai to General Ridgway's offer to negotiate: "We agree to suspend military activities [during the course of negotiations]."

As armistice negotiations opened on 10 July 1951, the opposing ground forces were almost even in numbers, the Eighth Army totaling about 554,500, the Chinese People's Volunteers and North Korean People's Army some 569,200. New units had recently joined each side. Chinese and North Korean casualties by 10 July had reached an enormous figure. Estimates of the total varied, but all were close to 1 million. Of these, Eighth Army prisoner of war compounds held about 163,000, more than 85 percent of whom were North Koreans. The remaining casualties were almost evenly divided between Chinese and North Koreans. U.N. Command losses [KIA and wounded] after a year of fighting stood near 294,000. South Korean casualties had mounted to 212,500, American losses to around 77,000, and losses among other U.N. units to about 4,500.

The War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea was not a popular topic for Chinese films in the past few decades, but Sacrifice, a film commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Chinese People's Volunteer (CPV) Army's participation in the War, ignited moviegoers anticipation across China, putting it in position to set another box-office record following the success of blockbuster Chinese war film The Eight Hundred.

Due to current China-US tensions, the Chinese public sensed hostility and bias from the US government. Add to this the timing of the 70th anniversary of the war, this created an atmosphere in which the Chinese people want to see a victory against the US in cinemas and, by watching the film, show their respect for the martyrs and veterans of the war.

The narrative of Sacrifice is unprecedented for a war movie in terms of its solemn presentation of this historic and political topic. The film is about the last battle between the CPV Army and the US-led "UN forces" before the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement in 1953 - the Battle of Kumsong, which marked an absolute victory by the CPV against US and South Korean forces.

The story is not about the main battle but narrows its focus to a bridge that the CPV forces must protect to prevent Chinese forces on the frontline from becoming trapped and get annihilated by the enemy. Dominating the air, US forces have sent in fighter jets and bombers and called in artillery strikes to hit the bridge several times. But the CPV soldiers rebuild it again and again so that the thousands of Chinese troops can cross the bridge effectively to fight in the main battle.

The heroes in the movie are all ordinary soldiers rather than senior commanders, and the sacrifices they made while fighting against the better-equipped US forces were many, but none of them were afraid of death. Some even fearlessly attracted the attention of US fighter jets to draw fire off of the troops crossing the bridge. Sacrifice is not only the name of the film, but also the main message that the film's three directors want to convey as this was the key reason why Chinese troops could defeat the US despite the latter's overwhelming advantages in firepower and resources.

The production team of the film is made up of China's top directors and actors, including Guan Hu, who directed the hit war film The Eight Hundred, which grossed $460 million worldwide in 2020; Guo Fan, who filmed The Wandering Earth, the third highest-grossing film in China; and Wu Jing, the lead actor of Wolf Warrior 2, the highest-grossing film in China.

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Page last modified: 01-08-2021 14:08:04 ZULU