The Chinese Military History Society held its 2021 annual conference online on May 14. Six papers were presented:
Clemens Büttner (Goethe University Frankfurt), "Recontextualizing the 'Struggles' of Xi Jinping: Comparing Current CCP Ideology to the New Life Movement of Chiang Kai-shek"
Since Xi Jinping's ascendancy to the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and the People's Republic of China in late 2012/early 2013, renewed emphasis on ideological work and increased efforts to reinforce the party's socio-political control have become characteristic of his rule. Accordingly, parallels between Xi Jinping and his -- presumed -- spiritual predecessor Mao Zedong (1893-1976) have been drawn. The revival of the terms "struggle" (fendou) and "fight" (douzheng) since around 2017 has also corroborated the belief that Xi is increasingly resorting to militant Maoist ideological precepts to consolidate his party's grip on power. While this paper acknowledges the recent de-ideologization drive in Chinese politics, it argues that it is hardly leftist: As Xi is neither willing to relinquish his party's exclusive claim to political power nor to abandon his ideological persuasions (and after slowly exhausting pragmatic means to legitimize his rule), he has begun to make use of syncretic ideas and concepts that -- in their entirety -- only converge in the militaristic ideology of fascism: the invocation of increasingly belligerent nationalistic, holistic, (pseudo)-palingenetic, and capitalist-socialist ideas, coupled with renewed party control and charismatic leadership. In order to substantiate this claim, this paper will juxtapose Xi's measures to fortify CCP rule with those taken by Chiang Kai-shek in the 1930s, when he, at the suggestion of military circles, initiated the -- often deemed fascist -- New Life Movement (Xin Shenghuo Yundong) to militarize and mobilize society in an attempt to modernize China and destroy the Communist threat to his claim to national power.
Yu-Ping Chang (Fulbright Taiwan Journal, Research & Reflections), "Chinese Perspectives on Sea Power and Land Power and their Policy Implementation"
This paper explores the debates about sea power and land power in the Chinese writings, both military and non-military. The issues for analysis include definitions and Chinese views on how the possession of both or either one can enhance national security. It further discusses whether and how these perspectives are reflected in the PRC's foreign policy and in the capabilities development of the People's Liberation Army. The views of geopolitics and geostrategies are to be presented along with proposed policy suggestions. Som authors however take an idealistic approach to explain sea power and land power. Various ideas flourish but a set of strategic rationales that supports Beijing's overseas activities in the past fifteen years or so can be found in them. This paper concludes with a tentative but highly possible Chinese geostrategy: consolidating the west and amassing resources through the land to deal with the challenges from the sea while developing naval capabilities. Such rationale rests upon several assumptions implicitly or explicitly recognized by the Chinese authors. This paper will also examine whether these assumptions have so far held up well.
Ernest Caldwell (SOAS, University of London), "From Belligerent to Necessity? Shifting Patterns of Conflict between the Late Western Zhou and the Huai Yi as Evidenced in King Xuan Period Bronze Inscriptions"
This paper reconsiders received and excavated Western Zhou textual remains to postulate changing conflict patterns between the late Western Zhou court and the Huai Yi 淮夷, while also attempting to broaden our understanding of the political and economic relationship between the late Western Zhou court and non-Zhou groups on its periphery. Traditional sources, as well as multiple early Zhou bronze inscriptions, give the impression of a purely antagonistic relationship between the Zhou court and the Huai Yi. However, the content of inscriptions found on late Western Zhou bronze vessels from the reign of King Xuan (r. 827/5-782 BCE) seems to stand in contradistinction to those of previous reigns and traditional sources as they attest to the development of a complex civil-military relationship predicated upon close economic ties. Although there was conflict during this reign, the impetus seems not to have been purely retaliatory, but motivated by a necessity to maintain an economic link with a group that had become an integral part of the Western Zhou economy. Further, these economic developments, paired with increased warfare in the northwest against another group, the Xian Yun 玁狁, appears to have provided the rationale for a shift in the Zhou court policy towards the Huai Yi from the use of military force towards the practice of appeasement. A thorough study of King Xuan period bronze inscriptions and other related source material offers a more comprehensive understanding of the shifting nature of conflict between the Zhou court and the Huai Yi during the late Western Zhou.
Jun Fang (Huron University College at the University of Western Ontario), "Record of Ten Days in Yangzhou: An Eyewitness Account of the 1645 Manchu Assault of Yangzhou?"
Record of Ten Days in Yangzhou (Yangzhou shiri ji) is a well-known “eyewitness account” of the 1645 Manchu assault of the city of Yangzhou by Wang Xiuchu. Its claim that more than 800,000 Yangzhou residents were slaughtered by the invading Manchus during the killing spree of May 20-25 has been challenged by a number of Chinese historians led by Zhang Defang. While Zhang’s persuasive refusal of Wang’s assertion has been approvingly noted by Frederic Wakeman (1985), Lynn Struve (1993), and Tobie Meyer-Fong (2003), many scholars still regard Ten Days as a credible source. A recent study of the early Qing writers’ responses to the dynastic cataclysm unreservedly praises the text as a “truthful testimony to the atrocity of the Manchu conquest,” a valuable source “for checking the validity of historical facts as well as supplementing official history,” and “an immediate response to the traumatic events of the Manchu conquest of the south.”
Building on the previous studies of Zhang Defang and others, this paper argues that the highly exaggerating Ten Days was possibly a nineteenth-century forgery by addressing the following: the text first appeared in 1830s in Japan; the difference on the Manchu attack of Yangzhou between Ten Days and other early Qing sources; the discrepancy between the number of victims following Yangzhou’s fall and the population of the city prior to the bloodshed; the unlikelihood of executing over 800,000 persons by spear-carrying and sword-wielding enemy warriors in six days; Wang’s failure to bring up any specific place names in his account; his inconceivable (linguistic) ability and audacity to converse with the frenzied Manchu troops; the May 27 Manchu distribution of several thousand dan of rice “in a twinkling” and the Yangzhou survivors’ willingness to come out from hiding to accept the relief food.
Esther T. Hu (Boston University), "Chinese Nationalists and Covert U.S. Operations during the Korean War (1951-1953): A Reading from General Hu Zongnan's Love Story"
During the Korean War, the United States was aiming for a diversionary tactic to destabilize China's coast and drain Communist resources away from Korea. At the time, along the China coast lay as many as fifty large and small islands of Nationalist allegiance.
Between President Truman's policy of neutralization and President Eisenhower's repeal of the policy in February 1953, the U.S. government organized its search for anti-communist support under the cover of an import-export firm called Western Enterprises Incorporated.
As Frank Holober writes, "The implication was that guerilla action along the coast was outside official policy and could proceed without restraint, following the precedent set with the 'civilian' Flying Tigers prior to Pearl Harbor and the formal entry of the United States into World War II" (Holober 1999, p. 3). The program was directed by the CIA.
On the Chinese Nationalist side, the Confucian scholar- general Hu Tsung-nan 胡宗南 (1896-1962; Hu Zongnan in pinyin) had been appointed by Chiang Kai-shek to lead the effort. This presentation is a reading from the first English translation of General Hu and Dr. Yeh's love story that describes General Hu's work on Dachen and the raids conducted along the China coast.
[An earlier version of this talk was presented at the New England Conference of the Association for Asian Studies in October 2020.]
Xiaobing Li (University of Central Oklahoma), "The Battle of Jinmen: Amphibious Warfare in PLA History, 1949"
On October 24-26, 1949, the PLA Tenth Army Group, 150,000 strong, launched an amphibious campaign against Jinmen (Quemoy) Island. The GMD garrison, 60,000 men, put up a strong defense with air and naval support and defeated the landing force. The Chinese Communists lost 10,000 men in two days at Jinmen, including 3,000 prisoners. Shocked and angry, Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and President of the newly established People’s Republic of China (PRC), warned his generals that they must learn a good lesson from the PLA’s amphibious disaster at Jinmen. He also postponed all the attacks on the offshore islands in the East China Sea.
This paper evaluates the PLA’s preparations, operations, and problem-solutions during their first large-scale landing campaign in the PLA’s history by examining official documents, field communications, battle assessments and reports. It also includes interviews, recollections, and memoirs of retired generals and veterans. From Chinese perspective, it provides a better understanding of the PLA learning curve in amphibious warfare and indicates how lessons learned from the Battle of Jinmen informed PLA preparations for successful landings at Hainan Island in 1950 and Yijiangshan Island in 1954. What implications does PLA landing experience in the past have for a cross-strait invasion of Taiwan?