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1941 - New Fourth Army Incident / Wannan (South Anhui) incident

In 1941, because of the hostile actions of the Kuomintang against the CCP and its refusal to take active measures against the Japanese invaders, the Soviet government decided to stop the supply of arms to China and to recall military advisers and other specialists. In the same year, Soviet volunteer pilots were also recalled from China.

In 1936 the Spanish Civil War broke out and the Soviet Union sent men and supplies to the Republicans, while Germany and Italy supported General Franco’s insurgents. But on 23 August 1939, German-Soviet negotiations culminated in the The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, with a trade and credit agreement, a Non-Aggression Pact, and a secret Protocol defining spheres of interest in Eastern Europe. The Japanese were well aware that the Nazi-Soviet Pact had radically altered the situation In the East. Japan immediately sued for an armistice on the Mongolian border and began negotiations with the Soviet Union on outstanding problems.

The united front with the KMT was the most important policy for the Chinese Communist Party. In this stage, this policy was not decided independently, by the Chinese Communist Party alone, but was strongly influenced by the basic Asian strategy of the Comintern (Communist International, the Third International). Of course, this Stalin’s policy.

The Japanse invader advanced into the great cities of Canton and Hankow. With their fall, in the late autumn of 1938, China lost to the enemy its last comparatively modern city ports. The balance of power within consequently shifted toward those elements whose power restedupon the feudal hinterland. The prisons and concentration campsbegan to fill - not with Japanese, nor with Chinese traitors, but with CCP leaders. Strained relations began to develop between Kuomintang and Communist troops. In March of 1940 an armed clash occurred between Central Army and Eighth Route Army troops in southern Hopei. All efforts at conciliation on the part of liberal elements within Kuomintang China proved unavailing. Chiang’s idea of a United Front stemmed from his wish to have control, or at least heavy influence, over the movements and operations of the CPC.

Ho Yin-ching, the KMT Minister of War, was one of the most aggressively anti-Communist Nationalist generals and also one of most pro-Japanese. In 1930 Ho Yin-ching became Minister of War of the Nationalist Government. In 1931 he personally took command of he bandit suppression campaign in Kiangsi, Hunan, Hupeh and Fukien. Between 1933 and 1935, as Chairman of the Peking Military Council, he played a leading role in the policy of appeasement which eventually allowed Japan to take the control of northern China almost without resistance. In the fall of 1940 Ho was a prime mover in bringing about the Nationalist clash with the Communist-led New Fourth Army.

The New Fourth Army [N4A], originally composed of scattered units of the former Red Army, had grown strong in Central China and was occupying highly important ground recaptured from the Japanese just south of the former capital, Nanking. This Communist nucleus had been reinforced by recruits from many other political groups and established a guerrilla base of great military value.

At the beginning of October 1940, the chairman of the Jiangsu Provincial Government, Han Deqin, assembled 26 regiments (more than 30,000 troops) in an attempt to recapture Huangqiao, and Chen Yi Su Yu led the "New Fourth Army First Battalion" (more than 7,000 troops). Because of the contradictions between the various ministries, the Communist troops boycotted the offensive. In the battle, only about 15,000 troops from the KMT were in the force, resulting in their defeat.

In late 1940, Chiang ordered the entire New Fourth Army to move north of the Yangtze. Most of the New Fourth Army had already moved to the north when Chiang issued this order. At first, upon Chiang’s request, the small contingent of the New Fourth that remained agreed to move by Chiang’s deadline of 31 December. However, out of fear that the proposed route was too dangerous, the CPC instructed the New Fourth to head south instead. This action was a clear violation of Chiang’s orders.

Initial cooperation between the CCP and KMT weakened and was finally destroyed as a result of the New Fourth Army Incident also known as the South Anhui Incident or the Wannan Incident, occurred 06 January 1941, inflicting several thousand casualties [estimates that it resulted in the death of over 80,000 CCP soldiers are evidently absurd]. Regarding the “New Fourth Army incident”, later Mao wrote that 9,000 of its soldiers were slain in southern Anhwei. After the CCP Hew Fourth Army ignored KMT warnings to cease operations south of the Yangtze River, KMT forces attacked and captured the New Fourth's headquarters. The unequal battle between the 8,000 men of the Communist New Fourth Army and 80,000 Nationalist troops resulted in heavy losses among the Communists. Some 4,000 Communist soldiers who were not killed or executed were sent to a concentration camp located in Jiangxi.

There are various accounts and interpretations of this episode. Fan Lipei believes that this incident was due to the previous Huangqiao incident, which was the national government ’s retaliatory action against the Huangqiao incident.

The Communist Party believed that this was a serious "anti-communist climax". It believed that the victims of the New Fourth Army were martys and the responsibility for the incident is entirely in the Kuomintang. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China decided to gradually withdraw from the United Front. The War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression continued. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China proposed to take an offensive in politics, take a defensive posture in the military, and resolutely attack. The correct policy of the second anti-communist climax of the Kuomintang die-hards. Zhou Enlai led the Southern Bureau in Chongqing and violently counterattacked the Kuomintang diehards in politics and propaganda.

The Japanese decision to move south from China, into the territories of the Western colonial powers, further stimulated a rapprochement with the Soviet Union. As the Japanese newspaper Hochi said on September 21, 1940, “If Japan wants to advance southward, she must be free of any misgivings in the North.” After the signing of the "Soviet and Japanese Neutral Treaty" in April 1941, Soviet military assistance ceased. The Soviet—Japanese Pact also operated to prevent the Japanese from joining with the Nazis against the Soviet Union. The conclusion of the Soviet-Japanese Pact greatly surprised Hitler. Nonetheless, Germany began Operation Barbarossa in June 1941.

Chiang was waiting for the Americans to participate in the war against Japan so that he could devote more resources to exterminating the Communists. From 1941 through the end of the war, over 200,000 KMT troops, including some of Chiang's best, maintained a blockade of the CCP forces in the north, ensuring that the CCP received no supplies, but also doing little to support the war against Japan. After the United States' entry into the war in December 1941, Chiang concentrated entirely on isolating and destroying Communists and in acquiring and hoarding lend-lease equipment for future use against the Communists.

According to the US War Department at the end of 1943 the areas controlled by the different forces in China can be decomposed as follows:

  • 38% of the population was located in the area (210,000 sq km) occupied by the Japanese or controlled by the pro-Japanese Nanking government.
  • 30% of the population was in the area (400,000 sq km) controlled by the Communists.
  • 23% of the population was located in a guerrilla area (173,000 sq km) between Japanese and Chinese forces.
  • 8.7% of the population was in the area controlled by the Kuomintang.

The area controlled by the Nationalist became even smaller in the fall of 1944 when the Japanese forces pushed forward to occupy the airports from where American bombers could made raids on Japan. The Soviet grand strategic plan may well have projected a Communist China, but only in the sense that it projected a Communist world in general. The fact that the Chinese Communists were successful in 1949 was just as surprising to the Soviets as to everyone else.

Much of the presentation of this history was radically changed during the Cultural Revolution. According to Lin Biao, the real resistance to Japan was the relentless defense by the people and the PLA while the KMT “followed a policy of non-resistance.” Lin Biao’s Long live the victory of the People’s war contended that while the Japanese easily defeated the KMT, the Communists, under the wise policy of Mao Zedong, moved behind the enemy’s lines and set up anti-Japanese base areas which grew to 100,000,000 people from 1937-1940. This framework of history effectively credits the Communists with the bulk of the resistance to the Japanese with Mao as the central figure in building the resisting force. Acknowledgments to the fact that the Nationalists bore the brunt of resistance and that the Japanese kept the KMT at the core of their military strategy are neglected. Furthermore, the efforts of the Allied powers in weakening the Japanese force in the Pacific Theatre does not work its way into the account.

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Page last modified: 14-06-2019 18:04:41 ZULU