Wednesday, July 20, 2005

KMT - CCP Civil War History III

"Peter Vladimirov from the Third International, or the Comintern, who was sent by Moscow to Yan'an as a liason between the Chinese and Soviet Communist parties, kept a detailed record from 1942 to 1945. The CCP refused his requests to visit the frontline. He later found that the CCP and the Japanese never engaged each other in fighting. So what were the CCP doing? "They were planting opium in Shaanxi!" he said. They used the huge profits from the sale of opium to buy arms to strengthen their position and wipe out KMT troops." –Ming and Chang

"Vladimirov was an unquestioning Communist, though, as a patriot, he was alienated by what he saw as Mao's 'organic dislike' of the Soviet Union. This colors his broader ideological verdicts, but, as reportage of what was going on in Yan'an, his diaries leave no doubt of the need for serious revision of the picture propagated after the Communist victory. This cannot be taken as a vindication of Chiang's regime vis-à-vis his major foe, but it does show that, as so often during the Generalissimo's life, the black-and-white picture of events which became conventional wisdom after his defeat in 1949 should be shaded in grey." – Jonathan Fenby

It is instructive to keep in mind what the thesis of the authors is: In response to the CCP's recent admission that the KMT did play a large part in the resistance, the authors maintain that, in fact, the traditional KMT account is entirely vindicated: the CCP not only didn't fight the Japanese much between 1942 and 1945; they not only financed themselves with opium sales in that period; but these things were exclusively so of the CCP, while the KMT had an exemplary record of fighting valiantly with hands clean of opium selling.

Fenby makes it clear that Stalin never believed the Maoists could gain control of the country, and the Soviet leader consistently chose to make alliances with Chiang rather than with the Maoists. Vladimirov's account is historically useful, but with the caveat that, as Stalin's envoy, he was a hostile witness. It is true that after being decimated by the Third Army Incident, the Three Alls campaign and the Hundred Regiments campaign the Red Army didn't do much fighting of the Japanese. The same is true of the Nationalists. Fenby describes a KMT offensive starting in late 1939 and the aftermath:
"Overall the campaign was a considerable failure. By April 1940 it was all over. As a result the Generalissimo and those around him reverted to their belief in a long-term struggle dependent on the United States’ eventually going to war and defeating Tokyo. The failure of his last big offensive further decreased Chiang's authority over the regional power barons, including the Communists. To try to counteract this, he increasingly deployed central army troops to keep regional forces in check and assert Chungking's presence, rather than putting them where they could best fight the Japanese.”

Note the dates: by April 1940, Chiang had mounted his "last offensive" and repositioned his troops to contain the Red Army at the expense of the war against the Japanese. By contrast, the Hundred Regiments offensive took place in late summer of 1940; the New Fourth Army Incident in January 1941 and the Three Alls campaign in 1941. The evidence suggests that the KMT deprioritized the struggle against Japan earlier than the Communists.

The opium charge is similar. The Communists did, in fact, sustain themselves in Yan'an with extensive sales of opium – accounting for 40% of their revenue at the peak – and, yes, this is in stark contrast to the official CCP version. But the implication that the Communists were exclusively financing themselves from opium is outrageously at odds with every objective account of the KMT's history. The Communists, according to Fenby, were clean of opium during the Long March period, and after the war they dealt with the problem conclusively, which the KMT had never done when they were in control of the country. Opium was in the DNA of the KMT. Their very roots were in the notorious Green Gang of Shanghai – an opium syndicate. There was never a time – before the war or during – when opium was not a crucial source of funding for the KMT. To puncture the myth that the CCP never indulged in this business is one thing – to suggest that the KMT was comparatively clean defies belief.