Chiang Kai-shek had secured Nanjing as his capitol city in northern China. Once exiled and hiding during World War I, CKS returned to lead the Nationalists who were actually part of a broader band of political groups. But by the late twenties, the schism between the Communists and the Nationalists was complete. The Communists had set up shop in their own political headquarters in Wuhan. Like a whack-a-mole game the Kuo Min-Tang government’s influence and army reached but did not cross the reach of the Yangtse river, but once it crossed the river, small warlord arose and began to fight for territory.
It was an odd time for China as three groups were vying for a large coalition and national government, and the Japanese were purloining everything they could. It was almost as if the Japanese were reprising the very colonial signature that the Europeans had carved out in South America and Africa. They had put their samurai swords into their scabbards and hung up their Hakamas and dressed in tuxedos and high hats. They hung their bows and arrows on hangers and instead wielded the firearms and cannons and emerging artillery of the Western world. Unfortunately large scale massacres on each side made the Chinese civil war one of the bloodiest on Earth with up to 7 million dead.
The Japanese may have planted a bomb in Mukden that sparked a military operation to capture and occupy Manchuria. The Chinese were too weak to resist so the acting emperor, Puyi, was actually just a Japanese vassal. That said, the Japanese took no sides in the civil war as it aided their cause to keep the Chinese off of their railroads and outposts.
Mao Zedong was not the best military commander for large scape operations. He was a genius at insurgency. Chang Kai-shek’s five major campaigns to annihilate the Communists from 1927 to 1934 culminated in a massive Communist withdrawal called the Long March. It began in October 1934. The Communists were looking a safer base of operations and so 100,000 of them all that was left of the millions that began the war, headed north. The Kuo Min-tang army almost encircled them but heyr slipped away through the extremely dense forests. They crossed mountains, rivers, and almost impenetrable jungles. It was this 6000 mile slog that killed 92,000 Chinese Communists. It was this struggle and in this reduced company that Mao Zedong emerged as the leader the Chinese Communist party.
Though he was not on the governing council when the march began, he rose through the survivors. He is widely now for this famous quote in his treatise in Guerrilla Warfare. Years of combat had turned him into a competent insurgent leader. He was no angel. He abandoned the injured who had acquired wounds in the pursuit of Communism. He abandoned the aged and the poor and even his own son.
In guerrilla warfare, select the tactic of seeming to come from the east and attacking from the west; avoid the solid, attack the hollow; attack; withdraw; deliver a lightning blow, seek a lightning decision. When guerrillas engage a stronger enemy, they withdraw when he advances; harass him when he stops; strike him when he is weary; pursue him when he withdraws. In guerrilla strategy, the enemy’s rear, flanks, and other vulnerable spots are his vital points, and there he must be harassed, attacked, dispersed, exhausted and annihilated.
– Mao Tse-tung