|Chinese Civil War|
|Concurrent||World War II, World War III|
|Outcome||Nationalist and Communist China annihilate each other, rise of Atomic China. First use of new "nuclear weapons".|
|Republic of China||People's Republic of China|
|Chiang Kai-shek||Mao Zedong|
|• Near-total destruction||• Near-total destruction|
|• Population reduced to approx. 1% of original size (8 million)
• All major cities completely destroyed
The Qing Dynasty, the last of the ruling Chinese dynasties, collapsed in 1911. China was left under the control of several major and lesser warlords in the Warlord era. To defeat these warlords, who had seized control of much of Northern China, the anti-monarchist and national unificationist Kuomintang Party and the president of the Republic of China, Sun Yat-sen, sought the help of foreign powers. Sun Yat-sen's efforts to obtain aid from the Western democracies were ignored, however, and in 1921 he turned to the Soviet Union. For political expediency, the Soviet leadership initiated a dual policy of support for both Sun and the newly established Communist Party of China. Thus the struggle for power in China began between the KMT and the CPC.
During the 1920s, Communist Party of China activists retreated underground or to the countryside where they fomented a military revolt, beginning the Nanchang Uprising on August 1, 1927. They combined the force with remnants of peasant rebels, and established control over several areas in southern China. The Guangzhou commune was able to control Guangzhou for three days and a "soviet" was established. KMT armies continued to suppress the rebellions.
In 1930 the attention was turned to root out remaining pockets of Communist activity in a series of encirclement campaigns. There were a total of five campaigns. The first and second campaigns failed and the third was aborted. The fourth campaign (1932–1933) achieved some early successes, but the Democratic armies were badly mauled when they tried to penetrate into the heart of Communist controlled territory. During these campaigns, the KMT columns struck swiftly into Communist areas, but were easily engulfed by the vast countryside and were not able to consolidate their foothold. Finally, in late 1933, the Nationalists launched a fifth campaign that involved the systematic encirclement of the Jiangxi Soviet region with fortified blockhouses. Unlike in previous campaigns in which they penetrated deeply in a single strike, this time the KMT troops patiently built blockhouses, each separated by five or so kilometres to surround the Communist areas and cut off their supplies and food source.
In October 1934, the CPC took advantage of gaps in the ring of blockhouses (manned by the troops of a warlord ally of the Democrats, rather than the KMT themselves) to escape Jiangxi. The warlord armies were reluctant to challenge Communist forces for fear of wasting their own men, and did not pursue the CPC with much fervour. In addition, the main KMT forces were preoccupied with annihilating Zhang Guotao's army, which was much larger than Mao's. The massive military retreat of Communist forces lasted a year and covered what Mao estimated as 12,500 km (25,000 Li), and was known as the famous Long March.
The march ended when the CPC reached the interior of Shaanxi. Zhang Guotao's army, which took a different route through northwest China, was largely destroyed by the forces of the Nationalists and their Chinese Muslim ally, the Ma clique. Along the way, the Communist army confiscated property and weapons from local warlords and landlords, while recruiting peasants and the poor, solidifying its appeal to the masses. Of the 90,000-100,000 people who began the Long March from the Soviet Chinese Republic, only around 7,000-8,000 made it to Shaanxi. The remnants of Zhang's forces eventually joined Mao in Shaanxi, but with his army destroyed, Zhang, even as a founding member of the CPC, was never able to challenge Mao's authority. Essentially, the great retreat made Mao the undisputed leader of the Communist Party of China.
A Flood of Violence
By 1950, things had been going poorly for the communists, who were on the verge of defeat. Just as the Nationalists seemed poised on the tip of victory, however, another power stepped into the fray. That power was the Soviet Union, already a long time supporter of the Communist cause in China. Now, it intervened directly, under the pretext of liberating the Chinese from their 'capitalist overlords'.
With the Europeans also busy dealing with a Soviet invasion of their own, only the KMT forces stood in the way of the massive Soviet Army when they launched the mammoth Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation. Soviet forces streamed across the border in huge numbers, in a massive pincer movement that aimed to encircle and destroy the Nationalist forces in Manchuria, sweeping in from east and west and overwhelming any Nationalist presence in a brutal and swift campaign lasting a few weeks. In short order, Manchuria was under Soviet control, and a valuable breathing space had been bought for the Red Chinese.
The Soviets were far from done. A large portion of the Soviet forces were now diverted to 'liberate' Korea, aiding the North Koreans and securing much of the peninsula in short order. Simultaneously, the rest of the Soviet forces swept across the rest of China, engaging KMT forces in battle and securing large swathes of territory. The besieged Nationalist Chinese were beaten back by the combined Soviet and Communist Chinese forces, many of its divisions destroyed or forced to surrender. The tide had been turned against them, with the Soviet forces securing territory for Communist Chinese, who themselves increasingly grew in strength, even as the Nationalists struggled with the onslaught of the Soviet forces.
Relief for the Nationalist Chinese finally came in 1954. On the orders of Stalin, the Soviet forces withdrew across the border in order to reinforce the beleaguered Soviet forces in the European theatre, leaving the Red and Blue Chinese to fight it out amongst themselves. The Nationalists had managed somehow managed to hold off the combined Chinese and Soviet onslaught, but at considerable cost. The Soviets had given time for the Red Chinese to consolidate their gains, and now the balance of power had shifted.
A Dragon Awakened
With the Soviet withdrawal, the two sides were now left to fight between themselves, though both the Nationalist and Communist Chinese received substantial aid from the Allied Nations and the Soviet Union, respectively. Using the five years during which the Soviet Union was in China, the Communist Chinese were able to build up their strength even as that of the Nationalists was torn down. While the Soviets had withdrawn, they had left the Red Chinese with substantial quantities of military equipment, in addition to large swathes of territory. The war seemed to have shifted in favour of the Red Chinese.
However, in spite of the fact that they were disadvantaged in terms of military hardware, numbers and territory, the Nationalists had a trump card of their own. Four years of war with the Soviet Union had brutalised their forces, true, but it had also honed their tactics and skills and left those who had survived the stronger for it; the Nationalists that the Red Chinese now faced were experienced and grizzled soldiers, ready and willing to dig in for brutal defensive warfare against their opponent; the corruption, inefficiency and internal conflict that had previously plagued the KMT had been weeded out over those four years; the National Revolutionary Army was much weaker, but at the same time much stronger. As soon as their own war had come to an end, the Allied Nations also provided aid, in the form of large amounts of surplus military equipment and generous loans, to help the KMT get back on their feet as soon as possible.
Rise of the People
With the aim of crushing the weakened KMT once and for all, Mao Zedong launched a massive offensive against Nationalist territory in July 1956. Initial gains by the Communist forces were rapidly made, as the forces of the Red Chinese overran the countryside and captured several towns before meeting major resistance from the Nationalists.
The Communist Chinese were in for a rude shock, however, when they attempted to capture several Nationalist controlled cities. Attempted assaults by Red Chinese forces to take the cities were forced back repeatedly by the Nationalists, heavily relying on defensive tactics, mining areas the enemy was expected to be passing through, setting up barricades and ambushes to funnel Communist troops into selected kill zones, placing ambushes in strategic points and making use of other tactics.
By the end of 1956, the Communist Chinese had suffered major setbacks in trying to take the Nationalist controlled cities. Despite their advantages in numbers and equipment, the tactics and experience of the Nationalist forces allowed them to decimate Communist forces larger than them. Though the Communists succeeded in capturing several cities, the victories were largely pyrrhic, with an immense price in blood paid for victory. Moreover, thousands of experienced Communist soldiers were sacrificed in the offensive, something which forced the Communists to turn increasingly to using uneducated, untrained conscripts, who were far less capable than the hardened soldiers they replaced.
War of Attrition
By January 1957, the Nationalists had rebuilt their strength sufficiently to force the Communists back and begin to go on the offensive. Nationalist forces would first let the Communist forces thin their ranks out in repeated assaults; once the Communist forces had been sufficiently exhausted from the attacks, the Nationalists would then push forward, forcing back the thinned out Communist forces before digging in to secure their territorial gains.
Battle hardened Nationalist forces clashed with masses of ill trained Red Chinese conscripts, resulting in staggering casualties for both sides. However, while the Nationalists had been able to take back several portions of territory captured by the Red Chinese, the Red Chinese still had an advantage in territory and numbers. When the Nationalists attempted to launch several major offensives, Nationalist divisions would find themselves cut off and surrounded by the numerically superior Red Chinese and crushed. The most devastating of these defeats was the 6-month Siege of Changchun, in which the KMT’s New 6th Army, after managing to take Changchun, found itself cut off and encircled by Red Chinese, finally forced to surrender after nearly 300,000 civilian deaths. Facing such devastating setbacks and the loss of thousands of experienced troops, the Nationalists grew increasingly reluctant to go on the offensive, turning more and more to the defence of static lines.
The Communists themselves were smart enough to adapt to Nationalist tactics, concentrating firepower at weak points in the Blue Chinese lines in order to achieve breakthrough and then using their mechanised forces to surge through such gaps and penetrate deep behind the enemy lines. The Nationalists responded by further improving and reinforcing their fortifications and defences, and utilising mechanised divisions to quickly plug such gaps.
The Blockade Run
October 9th, 1959, marked the 4th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. By this time, both sides had managed to achieve a parity of sorts in terms of strength. The Communist Chinese had also begun a massive campaign of economic and social reform three years before, referred to as the “Great Leap Forward”. A massive program of industrialisation, which had aimed at modernising the mostly agrarian Chinese society, began. Mao wanted China to rapidly increase its industrial output, not least to fuel the war effort against the Nationalists.
By 1959, hundreds of new state funded factories had been established in the cities, with thousands of people from the countryside moving to the cities to man the factories. Despite the massive cost of the program and several failures, such as the disastrous attempts to develop ‘backyard steel furnaces’, Communist China now had a modern industry and infrastructure, ready to pump out thousands of tanks and rifles to be used against the Nationalists.
In late October of 1959, the People's Liberation Army launched an enormous campaign with the intent of capturing Nanjing. A massive assault by hordes of men and Battlemaster tanks succeeded in breaking through the heavily fortified Nationalist lines and pushing deep into Nationalist territory, until the Communist Chinese forces neared Nanjing.
The Nationalists had responded by fortifying Nanjing and the People's Liberation Army's assault was blunted by the Nationalists’ seemingly impregnable fortifications and defences, with wave after wave of Red Chinese tanks decimated by anti-tank rifles and gun emplacements, while Nationalist soldiers lured unsuspecting Communist infantry into ambushes before proceeding to cut them down with machine gun and rifle fire. By the fifth week of their campaign, the PLA echelon agreed that the campaign was beginning to take too many losses (2.3 million) and decided to reveal their trump cards. An Armageddon Cannon began to decimate the city's wards while a dozen Overlord Tanks smashed through the Mastiff lines.
The Overlords pushed so deep into Nanjing that they reached the Forbidden City. However, here the Nationalists unveiled their last line of defence. Six dozen Bulldogs opened fire, bombarding the Overlords with high explosive shells, while Crossbow helicopters rained fire from above on the tanks. It took over an hour and a half to fully destroy the Overlords, even after their engines broke down fifteen minutes into the engagement. With the Overlords finally destroyed, Crossbow helicopters raided the unprotected Armageddon Cannon and forced its retreat, while the lack of able tanks prevented the People's Liberation Army from capitalising on their earlier gains. At the end of the battle both sides stood with terrible losses, and both claimed victory.
Stalemate and Desperation
By November 31st, 1959, the battle lines between Nationalist and Communist China seemed effectively set in stone. Nationalist defensive tactics had been refined to the point of universally applicable science; despite numerous offensives by the Red Chinese, most attempts at breaking through the Nationalist lines were met with failure.
While both the Allied Nations and the Soviet Union continued to support their respective sides, by this time the support was a mere trickle compared to the torrent it had once been. With steadily increasing casualties for no apparent gain on the sides of both the Nationalists and the Communists, the war seemed to have stalled. Nationalist held areas seemed virtually unassailable, yet the Communists continued to enjoy superiority in numbers and hardware.
1960 came, and with no noticeable gains by either side, each side redoubled their efforts to destroy the enemy, resorting to increasingly questionable tactics and weapons; people were losing sight of what they had been originally fighting for, and all that mattered now was winning the war and crushing the enemy. The Chinese Civil War was about to enter an even more bloody and horrific phase.
The next eight years would see weapons and warfare the likes of which have never been seen before or since. Scientists on both sides delved into forbidden and dark sciences on the orders of desperate leaders, developing increasingly esoteric technologies to fight the enemy with; from scramblers to Hellmouths to cloning to the ability to literally reanimate the dead; however, the war remained unwinnable. No technology or weapon, however, powerful, could turn the tide of the war in either side's favour, it seemed. What the leaders of the Blue and Red Chinese hoped for was a weapon or technology so powerful that it would end the war in one, swift stroke.
And though no one could have known it at the time, both sides would get exactly what they wanted.
After more than three decades of unrelenting conflict, the Chinese Civil War came to its devastating, final conclusion. Both sides had gained what they wanted; the power to end the war in a single strike, and both sides used it. Perhaps it was a good thing, as it finally put a stop to the war, and in particular the unspeakable horror of the last eight years.
No one can say for certain who dealt the first blow, but on the 9th of August, 1968, two planes were launched, one by each side. Each carried a bomb, and together they would forever change the course of history. Within minutes of each other, Beijing and Nanjing were razed to the ground by atomic bombs. Millions of lives were gone, in an instant. Over the next 3 fateful days, every last remaining major and minor city in China was destroyed by atomic bombs.
The Chinese Civil War ended four days later. Not because of diplomatic negotiations, nor because of a surrender document being signed. It ended, because there was simply no one left to fight any more. The death toll was in the hundreds of millions, destruction was estimated in the trillions of dollars, and an entire country the size of the US, as well as the one of the oldest civilisations in the world, had been wiped off the face of the earth. The final note had been sung, the finale concluded. China, was no more.