The Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) loss to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in the past two elections reminded me of how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) also experienced defeat by the KMT. Many lessons can be learned from the loss. Although the DPP is not the CCP, it can learn from the CCP’s strategic thinking.
In 1927, KMT leader Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) purged the party of communists and the CCP suffered a major defeat, although it maintained some military power. The KMT army surrounded the Communists’ Jiangxi base, while CCP leadership was unable to extract itself from a struggle to eliminate left and right-liners in an attempt to assign blame.
In 1933, the KMT’s 19th Route Army, which had been transferred to Fujian Province from Shanghai, established the anti-Chiang Fujian People’s Government (福建人民政府) and wanted to cooperate with the CCP.
This caused debate in the party: Mao Zedong (毛澤東) wanted to join forces with the group, but fellow CCP leader Wang Ming (王明) didn’t want to get involved in what he saw as an internal KMT conflict. He even thought that pretending to be a moderate way was the best way to deceive the people, thus making the 19th Army appear to be the most dangerous enemy.
Wang headed up the CCP mainstream and had the support of Moscow’s Comintern, and in the end the CCP didn’t join forces with the Fujian government.
After Chiang defeated the Fujian People’s Government, he directed his full force against the CCP’s Jiangxi base for his fifth encirclement campaign.
The resourceful Mao was stripped of his military power for being a rightist, and Wang and Zhou Enlai (周恩來) fought the KMT together.
The CCP was inferior to the KMT in terms of money, arms and personnel, and suffered heavy losses. The CCP was forced to abandon its base and in 1934 fled westwards on the Long March.
The defeat taught Mao an important lesson and he made plans to strike back. In January 1935, he regained command over the army at the Zunyi Conference. When the army reached the north of Shaanxi in October that year, it had lost 90 percent of its troops, and almost all its members from the old Jiangxi base. The CCP stopped fighting Chiang, instead joining him in the fight against Japan.
The KMT was divided over this development and in the end Marshal Chang Hsueh-liang (張學良) kidnapped Chiang in Xian to force him to cooperate with the Communists in the second united front against Japan.
The Sino-Japanese war broke out in 1937. The CCP abandoned its policy of attacking landlords and dividing the land among farmers, and instead began lowering rent and interest. The Communist army merged with the national army.
On the surface, the CCP seemed to have given up its fundamental ideology: winning the support of intellectuals and moderates in KMT-controlled areas.
But the CCP did not give up command of its own army. They changed their tactics to both cooperate with and oppose Chiang, and to force him to fight the Japanese, while the CCP grew stronger as its two enemies destroyed each other.
In 1939, Mao summarized the three main priorities for the Chinese revolution: building up the party, helping the KMT in the united front against Japan and encouraging armed struggle. I understand building the party to mean maintaining the fundamental communist ideology: The highest aim was the struggle to establish a communist society while avoiding the establishment of a new democratic society that would include capitalism.