The Chinese Military History Society held its 2015 conference in Montgomery, Alabama, on April 9, 2015, in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Society for Military History. The following papers were presented:
Man-tak Kwok (University of Cambridge), "7,000 Men to Capture a Capital: On the Northern Campaign of Chen Qingzhi"
In 529 AD, Chen Qingzhi 陳慶之 (484 – 539), a 45-year-old Liang commander who had even no proper knowledge of archery or equitation, managed to achieve something that no other general had done before, capturing the Northern Chinese capital from the South, albeit for merely 65 days. The campaign started with a Northern Wei prince, Yuan Hao 元顥 (? – 529), fleeing to Liang and seeking military assistance to seize the throne. Taking advantage of the situation, Emperor Wu of Liang (Xiao Yan 蕭衍 , 464 – 549) ordered Chen to escort the prince with 7,000 soldiers. Traditional sources report that on the way they reduced 32 cities and beat more than 3,000,000 men in 47 battles. In less than eight months, Emperor Xiaozhuang of Northern Wei (Yuan Ziyou 元子攸 , 507 – 531) was forced to take flight and the capital city of Luoyang fell in the hands of Chen and Yuan. However, as the Wei troops sent to subdue regional revolts began to regroup and strike back, Chen and Yuan's forces failed to hold out and were ultimately defeated. Surprisingly, modern reflections over Chen's deed are lacking and hardly go further than a simple analogy with Alexander's defeat of the Persians or a complete denial for the campaign's exaggerative elements. This paper attempts to track the course of Chen's campaign, to solve the disagreements between southern and northern materials, and to argue against its supposed political insignificance due to the brief duration of Luoyang's occupancy.
Peter Chen-Main Wang (National Central University), "Marshall and Wartime China"
"The Stilwell Incident" was a harsh and bitter experience to both the Americans and the Chinese. Yet the impact of this incident did not end with the recall of General Joseph W. Stillwell, commander of the US forces in China. The one who gave Stilwell definite support and shared with Stilwell's viewpoints toward China was General George C. Marshall, then the chief of staff of the US Army, and later the President's envoy to post-war China to mediate the civil war. Marshall's tenure included Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense in the Truman Administration. Yet few scholars of WWII have devoted enough time and efforts to explore Marshall's strategy and attitude toward China in WWII.
Marshall's contact with China starts with his role as the executive officer of the 15th Infantry regiment in Tianjin from 1924 to 1927. Marshall was once proud of his learning of Chinese and his associations with famous warlords in the north, like Zhang Zuolin, witnessing the civil war between warlords. It will be curious to find out if his earlier experiences exerted any influence on his wartime attitude toward China. Looking from another side, a great number of Nationalist documents, including the recently released Chiang Kai-shek diaries will help us examine Marshall's accuracy in understanding and dealing with China during WWII.
An examination of the relation between Marshall and wartime China will not only help us better understand Marshall's attitude and military strategy in dealing with China, but also unveil the nature of US-China military relations in a tumultuous time.
Ricardo K.S. Mak (Hong Kong Baptist University), "Interpreting Constantin von Hanneken's Three Reports on the Battle of the Yellow Sea"
For over a century, scholars in various disciplines and in different countries have searched assiduously for a full explanation of China's seemingly one-sided defeat at the Battle of Yellow Sea (17 September 1894). For historians, new sources can always provide new pieces that help fill blank spaces in a puzzle. Constantin von Hanneken (1853-1925), Vice-admiral of the Beiyang Navy, was one of the very few eye-witnesses who left behind detailed reports about the battle. His two unreleased reports entitled "The Conditions of the North China Navy and its Performance in the First Phase of the Sino-Japanese War" (Bericht über die Zustände in der nordchinesischen Flotte and über ihre Tätigkeit während der ersten Hälfte des japanisch-chinesischen Krieges) and "A Report on the Unsuccessful Attempt to Create a Royal Chinese Army During the Sino-Japanese War 1894-95" (Bericht über das Scheitern des Organisationsplan für Bildung einer Kaiserlich-chinesischen Armee während des chinesisch-japanischen Krieges 1894/1895) remain underutilized. His "Notes by Major Hanneken," submitted to Li Hongzhang right after the battle, has once been available in Japanese only. A thorough investigation of the above materials sheds new light on the tactics, logistics, leadership, war supplies and preparation, etc. of the Beiyang Navy, and the actual fighting in the battle.
Chi Man Kwong (Hong Kong Baptist University), "Introduction of Modern Military Science in Republican China: Northeast Journal of Military Studies of the Fengtian Army as Example"
The Fengtian Army (fengjun) could trace its root from the modernized militia of Fengtian Province during the late Qing Reform in the early 20th century. Under the stewardship of Zhang Zuolin, the army gradually expanded into one of the most efficient and modernized military forces in China, complete with air and naval branches, until the fall of Manchuria in 1931. Its pivotal role in geopolitics of Northeast Asia and in the civil wars in China during the early republican period has been extensively studied. However, the role of the Fengtian Army in introducing modern military science to China has been little understood. In addition to the establishment of the military academies in Manchuria, the most important one being the Military Academy of the Three northeastern Provinces (Dongsansheng jiangwutang), it also established one of the first peer-reviewed journals of military science in China, Dongbei junshi zazhi (Northeast Journal of Military studies, 1924- 1931). The journal, contributed mainly by officers of the Fengtian Army, was read not only by Fengtian officers but also soldiers from other military factions and even public intellectuals. It covers not only technical issues such as latest military technology in Europe but also lessons from the First World War, strategies and tactics, combined arms warfare, and even discussion of civil-military relations. This paper attempts to illustrate the use of Dongbei junshi zazhi as a source to revisit our understanding of military change during the early Republican Period.
Eric Setzekorn (George Washington University), "Qing Warfare and the Ethnic Cleansing of 1860's Shaanxi"
The near unraveling of the Qing Empire during the 1850's and 1860's was only staunched by a series of large-scale "pacification" campaigns and among these, the campaign in Shaanxi is critical to understanding late-Qing military history and ethnic warfare. The Qing effort to reconquer Shaanxi resulted in the destruction of the Muslim population in the province, with the Hui population dropping from over 1.5 million, roughly thirty to forty percent of the total Shaanxi population, to only tens of thousands. Despite this cataclysmic result, this article argues that the ethnic cleansing in Shaanxi was not the result of intentional, racially motivated policies by Qing military leaders.
Kenneth M. Swope (University of Southern Mississippi), "The Bitter End: The Annihilation of the Kuidong 13 in the Early Qing"
The late Ming peasant rebels Li Zicheng and Zhang Xianzhong are well known in the West as well as in China for their roles in bringing about the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644. Moreover, many in the West are familiar with the stories of Zhang's principal lieutenants, who led the so-called Southern Ming resistance to the Qing conquest of China from 1647-1662, even retreating into Southeast Asia to carry on their efforts. But these men were not the only remnant peasant rebel leaders to offer resistance to the Qing, nor were they even the last. In fact, the final holdouts against Qing rule on the mainland were members of a loosely allied group of former subordinates of Li Zicheng and independent warlords known as the "13 Houses" or the 13 Families of Kuidong (Kuidong shisan jia). From their base area along the Sichuan-Huguang border, these bandit elements alternately allied with other anti-Qing forces or pursued their own ends, trusting to the rugged terrain and the multiplicity of rivals to ensure their survival against the Qing onslaught. According to some sources they even supported one of the renegade Ming princely claimants to bolster their legitimacy and shielded him their mountain fortresses. At the height of their influence they controlled most of eastern Sichuan and nearly captured Chongqing from the Qing in the early 1660s. They were allegedly greatly loved by the local populace who lamented their fiery extermination by Qing armies in the summer of 1664. This paper will shed light on this obscure group of warlords and analyze them within the fluid political context of southwest China during the Ming- Qing transition, drawing attention to their portrayal in the historical record and their links to other anti-Qing forces.
Peter Lorge (Vanderbilt University), "The Martial Arts and Qi Jiguang's Military Method"
Qi Jiguang's Jixiao Xinshu contains the second earliest extant Chinese discussion of the martial arts. For modern scholars of Chinese martial arts, this work presents both a touchstone and a conundrum. General Qi's chapter on boxing places unarmed combat skills within the military context and describes not only individual schools of martial arts but also a simplified new fighting system. Unarmed combat skills are therefore portrayed as an important basic component of a soldier's training. Yet when General Qi revised his training manual many years later, he removed the chapter on unarmed combat. Unfortunately, Qi Jiguang did not explain his reasons for changing his manual.
This paper will attempt to explain why the later version of the Jixiao Xinshu removed the chapter on unarmed combat, along with three others. I will argue that Qi's second edition of his manual was a further refinement of his military method based upon experience. His experience showed that unarmed combat was neither useful in war or as physical training for soldiers. Part of the reason for this was that the increasing use of firearms and polearms over swords and bows. This trend would be reinforced when the Japanese invaded Korea at the end of the 16th century. Qi Jiguang's later revised manual was therefore a leading indicator of where combat was going and the separation of unarmed combat from battlefield effectiveness.
Xiaobing Li (University of Central Oklahoma), "The Forgotten Battle: Two Stories of the Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War, 1950"
From November 25, 1950, the Chinese People's Volunteer Force (CPVF) launched the second campaign against MacArthur's "home-by-Christmas" offensive in the Korean War. While 240,000 Chinese troops attacked the U.S. Eighth Army's I and IX Corps on the west, CPVF Ninth Army Group, totaling 150,000 men, attacked the U.S. X Corps, including the First Marine and Seventh Infantry Divisions, at the Chosin Reservoir in the east. After December 24, when the battle was over, both Ninth Army Group and First Marine claimed their victory at the Chosin Reservoir. For more than 40 years, Chinese military historians had remained unmoved on their stand on the Battle of Chosin.
In the 1990s, however, the different opinion in China began to challenge the official conclusion of the battle, and question if the Ninth Army Group had actually won the battle. Untold stories emerged with evidence of misinformation, broken communication, and unpreparedness.
This paper focuses on the two Chinese stories by comparing their battle plans, command decision makings, tactical flexibility, problem solving methods, and combat effectiveness. The comparison may highlight new and penetrating insights into the Chinese operational behavior and their learning curves.
Li Jie (King's College London), "A People's Army Fighting A People's War: The Continuity and Change in PLA's Warfighting, 1950-79"
Since the late 1920s when the Soviets first introduced the new "operational" level of warfare, the way of conventional warfighting had been gradually evolving from absolute destruction of the enemy's troops through concentrated annihilation to disruption of the enemy's defense system through fragmenting, simultaneous, and echeloned strikes across the whole theater. Through examinations of military writings, military exercises and actual fighting experiences/troop deployments in three empirical cases (the 1950-53 Korean War, the late 1960s' Sino-Soviet confrontation, and the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War), this paper finds that the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) understanding and practice of warfighting from 1950 to 1979 had been heavily influenced by Mao Zedong's military thoughts, particularly his People's War Theory, notwithstanding that Peng Dehuai (1953-58) led a modernization program and Lin Biao (1959-1971) covertly professionalized part of the regular forces, particularly the Air Force, closely associated to him. I argue that such an absence of conceptual breakthrough in warfighting is due to Mao's dominance within the Chinese politics and the PLA and his preference for a mass army, primarily concerning about domestic stability. Strategic situation only played a subsidiary role in Mao's thinking on modernizing PLA's warfighting. The Chinese case in 1950-1979 challenges the generally agreed view that Balance of Power Theory is a more powerful tool, compared to Organization Theory, for the study of military doctrine, especially when threats become sufficiently grave (Posen, 1984). Future comparative studies could include this Chinese case to re-test the credibility of the two theories.