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Soviet Northeast China Region

As a result of World War II, Japan lost all of its overseas possessions and retained only the home islands. Manchukuo was dissolved, and Manchuria was returned to China; Japan renounced all claims to Formosa; Korea was occupied and divided by the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.; southern Sakhalin and the Kuriles were occupied by the U.S.S.R.; and the U.S. became the sole administering authority of the Ryukyu, Bonin, and Volcano Islands.

The Soviets saw Manchuria as their sphere of influence, occupied by the Red Army. The long-range Soviet objective in China was identified with the Soviet objective in all areas adjacent to the USSR: to extend the control and influence of the USSR wherever and whenever possible by all means short of war, and to reduce the control and influence of other major powers in such areas. A more limited and more immediate Soviet objective -- reinforced by the urge to achieve security from foreign aggression -- aimed toward continuing control over the resources and development of Manchuria, and the maintenance there of a regime sympathetic to the USSR. Manchuria formed a vital strategic link with Korea and the Soviet Maritime Territory, and possessed agricultural and raw material wealth that significantly complemented the expanding industrial potential of Eastern Siberia. At the same time, denial to the Chinese National Government of Manchuria's substantial resources and industrial potential tended to weaken China's ability to offer effective resistance to further Soviet expansion.

At the close of World War II the Soviet Union not only regained East Asian assets it had lost to Japan in 1905 (Port Arthur, Dairen, and railroad rights in Manchuria), but also looted Manchuria and heightened the USSR's covert influence in China's northwestern province of Sinkiang. [Chinese anger on these scores was mirrored in 1954, when China published a geography book showing Mongolia as still part of China and picturing the huge areas Russia had wrested from China by "unequal treaties."]

Imediately after the Soviet defeat of the Kwantung army and the obvious impotence of the Chinese Nationalist leadership in this area, the Soviet government estalished the "Northeast China Region", a puppet government led by a Soviet lackey Kao-Kang, which simply replaced the Hanchukuo regime it had succeeded. The Soviets immediately reestablished their Tsarist and prewar concessions and control in Sinkiang Province, along the Manchiwian Railway, and in Dairen and Port Arthur. At the same time they looted Manchurian industries built or expanded by the Japanese.

The Sino-Soviet Treaty of 14 August 1945 assured the USSR a position of influence in Manchuria. The USSR was able to obtain important special rights in Manchuria for a period of 30 years, including: joint use with China of the Port Arthur Naval Base Area, which encompasses most of the former Kwantung Leased Territory; lease of one-half of all port installations in Dairen (which the Chinese Government agreed to declare a free port); and joint ownership and operation of the "Chinese Changchun Railway", comprising Manchuria's two main trunk lines.

After a delay of several months, the USSR decided to withdraw its forces comp1etely from Manchuria by the end of April 1946. Management of the Soviet occupation of Manchuria in the period August 1945 to late April 1946 hindered the movement of Nationalist troops, facilitated the establishment of Chinese Communist control, and contributed substantially to the military potential of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) by affording the latter an opportunity to "capture" a large volume of Japanese arms and equipment. At the close of World War II, the Soviets did turn over great quantities of former Japanese arms to the Chinese Communists, but in 1945-46 Chinese Nationalist forces acquired far greater quantities of captured Japanese arms--twice as many rifles, six times as many machineguns, and 10 times as many artillery pieces. Stalin had been far more concerned with the strategic security of Siberia than with brotherly ties to the CCP.

Foremost among Chiang's strategic errors was his decision - taken against American advice - to rush troops to Manchuria in the wake of the USSR's withdrawal from that region in 1946. This move overcommitted the government's already dispersed military forces. Lin Piao, Chinese Comunist Commander-in-Chief in Manchuria, deployed some 300,000 troops in depth throughout the countryside in Manchuria. One by one, the Manchurian cities were surrounded by Lin Biao's 4th Field Army and their KMT garrisons captured. A combined regular and guerrilla campaign along the Peking-Hankow railroad further decimated overall KMT strength. Despite a massive airlift of KMT forces by the United States, Manchuria was lost in October 1948 after 300,000 KMT forces surrendered to the Communists.

Moscow's man, Kao Kang / Gao Gang became Chief Party Secretary of Manchuria (1949). Some analysts claim that China engaged in the Korean War in order to consolidate control of Manchuria, where there was still the possibility of becoming an independent state, or being ceded over to the Soviet Union. Manchuria was firmly under control of Gao Gang, who had significant political disagreements with Mao and was more in favor of the Soviet Union than the Chinese Communist Party. Mao feared that Manchuria might secede. Initially, many top members of the Chinese Community Party opposed engaging in the Korean War. But Mao convinced them that if the North Korean troops retreated into Manchuria, the Americans will pursue them, which could give the Soviets grounds to intervene, bringing troops into Manchuria. With Gao Gang in power, this could lead to Manchuria either becoming a satellite state or a part of the Soviet Union. China engaged in the Korean War to make Korea the battleground instead. Had Gao Gang remained in power, Manchuria could have become an independent state, either as a satellite state of the former Soviet Union.

The Soviets clung tenaciously to Manchuria until 1954, when Mao Tse Tung publicly insisted that the lands and looted machinery be returned and the concessions rescinded. Slowly and obviousiy reluctantly, the Soviets backed down. The first high-level party purge since 1938 took place during 1954 when Kao Kang, state planning chief and sixth-ranking member of the Politburo, and Jao Shu-shih, party organizational chief, were removed from the party and imprisoned together with a number of their associates. Kao's death was later announced. Kao and Jao had both been veteran members of the Central Committee and had been the ranking party leaders in Northeast and East China respectively until 1953. Simultaneously with the purge announcement in April 1955 [the information did not become public knowledge for another year], the party announced a new control commission to check on party discipline. Even in 1979, after extensive investigation of party documents and other materials released during the Cultural Revolution, Frederick Teiwes noted that the causes and outcomes of the Kao Kang purge remained obscure. Kao Kang and Jao Shu-shih were alleged to have attempted to advance themselves to positions subordinate only to Mao himself. Kao Kang was accused of attempting to "set up a separate kingdom."

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Page last modified: 20-11-2011 19:24:28 ZULU