ABSTRACTS FROM THE 2016 CONFERENCE
The Chinese Military History Society held its 2016 annual conference in Ottawa, Canada, on April 14, in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Society for Military History. There were 16 papers presented.
Kenneth Swope (University of Southern Mississippi), “Guerrillas in the Mist: Concerning the Alliance between the Ming Loyalists & Former Peasant Rebels”
On April 25, 1644 the last emperor of the Ming dynasty, Chongzhen (r. 1628-44), hung himself behind the Forbidden City as peasant rebel armies led by the so-called “Dashing Prince,” Li Zicheng, surrounded the capital. Within barely over a month however, the rebels were driven out of the capital by Manchu invaders from the northeast, who relocated their Qing dynasty to Beijing. A little more than a year later with Li Zicheng dead and the Ming loyalist regimes engaged in a desperate struggle to survive in south China, they turned to the very enemies who had defeated them for assistance. Li Zicheng’s widow was given an exalted title by the Ming claimant Longwu (r. 1645-46), and her son and Li’s nephew, along with several other key commanders from his organization, were given noble titles. They were ironically renamed the “Loyal & True Battalions (zhong zhen ying) and almost immediately dispatched into the field to engage the Qing forces. Though their military achievements were mixed and their loyalty to the Ming proved to be dubious at best, the Yongli regime (r. 1647-1662) followed suit by enlisting the services of the remnant armies of the other great peasant rebel leader of the late Ming, the notorious “Yellow Tiger” Zhang Xianzhong, as well. Zhang’s former lieutenants were also given lofty titles of nobility and proved to be by far the most effective fighters against the Qing conquerors, holding out until 1662 in some cases. One of these leaders, Li Dingguo (1620-1662), has gone down in Chinese history as a great patriot and loyal general. This paper will look at the reasons for the alliance between the Ming loyalists and the various former peasant rebel armies and discuss the military and political implications of the arrangement. It will also look at the tactics employed by the resistance armies and examine the question of dynastic loyalty on the part of both the military forces and the populace as a whole in southwest China.
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Kwok-leong Tang (Penn State University), “Proclaiming Success at the National University (告成太學 Gaocheng Taixue): The Qing Military Monuments at Guozijian”
The Qing emperors erected thirteen stone steles at the national university (國子監 guozijian), including seven commemorations, written by the emperors, for military campaigns. Why did the Qing emperors erect so many military steles in the national center of education and culture, even more than the steles for educational purpose? According to the Book of Rites (禮記 Liji) , when the Son of Heaven decided to lead an expedition himself, he should discuss the strategy at school before launching the campaign. When he returned in triumph, again, he should proclaim the success at school. Although the Book of Rites was one of the Six Classics, this ritual had not been put into practice. The Kangxi emperor erected the the first commemorative stele in 1698. Yongzheng and Qianlong inherited and consolidated this re-invented tradition. However, the Qing emperors did not erect steles for every triumphant campaign. Most of these monuments record the campaigns on the western frontier. This paper explores why and how the Qing emperors erected the steles and analyzes their content and function. It hopes to shed some new light on the Qing emperors’ views about the relationship between military success and cultural legitimacy.
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Steve Jackowicz (University of Bridgeport), “Medicine and the Military in Traditional China: Space, Boundary, and Cognate Vocabulary”
There is a long standing interrelationship between the military and medical spheres in society. Military actions rely on medical services to tend to casualties, and medical advances often come from the pressure of military campaigns that generate large numbers of patients. That interrelationship is a linear one of simple paired interaction. However there is a deeper and more subtle relationship that influences military and medical theory. Both disciplines are schools of applied philosophy; real world result is required for the philosophical principles and theoretical approaches to be validated and maintained. Ornate intellectual edifice, which cannot produce a quantifiable result, is unacceptable in both these disciplines. As such there is a cognate type of intellectual discourse that involves observation, supposition, abstraction to principle, manipulation of principle, application, and evaluation of result. This process differs from abstract philosophy wherein the application, efficacy and assessment are often couched in qualitative and unclear parameters which belie an accurate summation of result. This paper seeks to explore the relationship of the military and medical traditions of China, through a structured comparison of the intellectual framework of these two systems of applied philosophy. By exploring the medical and military conceptualizations of space and boundary, and the cognate vocabulary used in these two traditions, a better understanding of the deep structure of the core rubrics within the systems can be derived. Further through comparative evaluation of source texts I will examine the parallelisms and dissonances of the views of space, boundary, power, and strategy.
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Franco David Macri (St. John’s College, Hong Kong), “Hong Kong: Fulcrum of the Sino-Japanese War”
During the Second Sino-Japanese War Hong Kong was a Chinese city of great significance as it became the focal point of imperial conflict in Asia. Hong Kong’s strategic military value rested in its port facilities, as these were connected by rail to China’s 9th War Zone in Hunan. Throughout the course of the war, Hong Kong erved as the most significant conduit of military supplies sustaining Chinese resistance. Because of this situation Hong Kong became a city of geopolitical importance; it was the nexus of coalition building efforts by several large powers. Soviet advisers helped sustain the Chinese army, particularly in southern China. Later, American intervention in China rose steadily throughout 1941. This led to the reinforcement of Hong Kong with forces from America’s Canadian ally to indicate that additional support would follow. Throughout this period the British maintained open logistical doors at Hong Kong and Rangoon. Although the formation of an anti-fascist front did not succeed initially, the rising level of US intervention meant that the Japanese window of opportunity was closing. Thus, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and began a fateful campaign in the Southwest Pacific during December 1941. Part of the opening act included battles at Hong Kong and Changsha to force an end of the war in China. This effort failed in Hunan, and although the Japanese empire expanded rapidly across the Pacific, the result was a Pyrrhic victory at best. British power in Asia was smashed, but for the Japanese, a similar fate was only a matter of time. Hong Kong was an important catalyst that contributed to this process.
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Guo Fang (Academy of Military Science), “Between Peace and War: The Postwar Competition between Chinese Nationalists and Communists in Manchuria”
When, following its victory in the War of Resistance, China was faced with the choice between war and peace, it unfortunately slid step by step into an all-out civil war. The Chinese Communists’ seizure of the Northeast played a decisive role in this process. As soon as the War of Resistance was over, both the Nationalists and the Communists set their sights on the Northeast, but the Communists did better both strategically and in terms of their concrete activities, thus gaining the upper hand. However, the Nationalist Party refused to recognize the position of the Communists, and military clashes between the two sides soon broke out. Under the mediation of the U.S. president’s special envoy, General George Marshall, a ceasefire occurred in the Northeast. But the Nationalist Party overestimated its own strength, misjudged the situation, and planned to end the contest with the Communists in the Northeast by military means. Moreover, Marshall’s own stance was wavering and uncertain; he ended up contradicting himself and had no way of winning the trust of the two parties. The result was that the negotiations for a ceasefire in the Northeast ended in defeat, leading to the outbreak of civil war. The GMD-CCP conflict in the Northeast unfolded against the international backdrop of the emergence of strategic confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. Its essence was a strategic game between the Nationalists, the Communists, the United States, and the Soviet Union; its result not only decided the domestic political situation in China at that time, but also directly influenced the evolution of the postwar strategic framework in East Asia. [Abstract translated by David Graff]
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Adrian Krawczyk (University of Zürich), “Bai Xianyong’s ‘My Father and the Republic’: Biographies of Twentieth-Century Military Leaders and the Discourse of History in China”
In light of the vivid historico-political discourse on the meaning and legacy of the Republican era in the PRC and Taiwan, this paper analyses recently published materials on military leaders of the Republican era, especially those whose ideological orientation was considered ambiguous. Given the revival of interest in the “history of great men” in China, I plan to employ, and to reflect on, biography as a historiographical method. Most prominently, the paper studies Bai Xianyong's reassessment of his father Bai Chongxi's historical impact and personal achievements in the photobiography “My father and the Republic: General Bai Chongxi's Personal Photo Album” (2012). Special attention will be given to the depiction of Bai Chongxi's relationship to Chiang Kaishek in order to explore notions of loyalty in the construction of this patriotic father's narrative. Pursuing a comparative approach, Bai Xianyong's biography will be confronted with materials on general Fu Zuoyi's career provided by his daughter Fu Dongju. By analyzing the rarely studied biographical literature addressing GMD military leaders from various regional and ideological backgrounds, processes of discursive pluralization with respect to historiographical narratives will be explored. Thus, the paper aims at gaining insights into hitherto overlooked dynamic processes that can enrich currently circulating perspectives on Republican China with respect to notions of modernity, masculinity, military education, regional networks and patriotic agency.
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Peter Worthing (Texas Christian University), “A Tale of Two Fronts: China’s War of the Central Plains, 1930”
From April to September 1930 a civil war raged in central China that involved more than one million soldiers, caused hundreds of thousands of casualties, and had a profound impact on China’s modern history. The largest and bloodiest of a series internal revolts within the Nationalist Army in 1929 and 1930, this War of the Central Plains pitted regional military commanders Yan Xishan, Feng Yuxiang, and Li Zongren against Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist regime with its capital at Nanjing. This paper makes two arguments about the War of the Central Plains. First, historians have tended to see Manchurian commander Zhang Xueliang’s September 18, 1930 announcement of support for Chiang Kai-shek and the Nanjing government as decisive in turning back the anti-Chiang coalition. This obscures the fact that military operations had already determined the ultimate outcome of the war, well before Zhang’s public announcement could have any impact on the fighting. Second, it argues that while intense combat took place along the Long-Hai and Ping-Han Railroads, the most important victory of the war came on the southern front. In Hunan, Chiang’s forces defeated Li Zongren’s army, which prevented Li from uniting with Feng and Yan in the north and derailed the general war plan of the anti-Chiang coalition. This marked a critical turning point in the war and made a significant contribution to the survival of Chiang Kai-shek and the Nanjing government.
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SCol Ke Chunqiao (Academy of Military Science), “A Comparison of theMilitary Reforms in China and Japan before the First Sino-Japanese War”
During the 1860s, China and Japan almost simultaneously began military reform programs that had modernization as their core, but the results of the reforms were completely different. There are five main points of difference: (1) China undertook reform without having broken the feudal autocracy of the Manchu Qing dynasty; Japan, however, did so after having overthrown the feudal rule of the bakufu and established the Meiji government which had a bourgeois character. (2) The guiding thought of reform in China was “Chinese learning for the fundamentals, Western learning for application”; in Japan, it was “wholesale Westernization.” (3) China’s military reform had no support from social reform, whereas Japan’s military reform was accompanied by across-the-board social reform. (4) In China, reform proceeded from the bottom upward under the aegis of regional viceroys; in Japan reform came from the center and proceeded from top to bottom. (5) In China, the reform leadership came from a foreign affairs faction composed mainly of regional viceroys, whose thinking clung to the past and who lacked the capability and initiative to reform. In Japan, the reform leaders were the restoration faction that had taken firm control of the central military administration; their thinking was progressive and they had a strong desire for reform. These differences not only determined the outcome of the First Sino-Japanese War, but also decided the paths of development that China and Japan would follow for the next fifty years.
[Abstract translated by David Graff]
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Meiying Li (King’s College London), “Yuan’s Navy: Balancing Imperial Legacies and Republican Needs (1912—1916)”
There is a debate about how deep the Chinese commitment to its naval developments and warfare in the history. One view is that China did navies in fit and start; while the opposite view is that China has always had an interest in naval warfare albeit not with the same level of funding. This paper addresses this debate in a specific transitional period when China assumed temporary unification after the collapse of Qing Dynasty and had to deal with the collision between imperial legacies and republican demands, not to mention the foreign encroachment. This is a very first systematic research on the multifaceted characteristics of the new Republican Navy under Yuan Shi-kai regime (1912-1916). Through investigation into archives including political documents and military reports, personal memoir, academic articles, and the constantly revised programs for naval expansion, this research is to evaluate the financial, personnel, technology investment and efforts in the naval construction; and above all, to privilege the politics, bureaucracy, and economy behind naval expansion during the early twentieth century. By examining the effectiveness and performance of the Republican Navy who had served as Yuan’s military tool to win the Second Revolution in 1913, this paper argues that while Yuan’s autocratic politics may had indeed frustrated those espousing popular civil rights and their shared desire for the quick establishment of representative parliamentary government, it benefited the Republican Navy. Furthermore, the paper suggests that the persistence to develop a modern navy regardless financial, technological and personnel deficiency was due to a dual-role that the Republican Navy had played in that chaotic period. As a military force, the navy was a quick response in inland rivers (i.e., Yangtze and Yellow Rivers), providing transportation and firing powers; as a political instrument, the navy was utilized as a showing-flag in both domestic and international arenas. Analysis of the inter- relationship between the Republican navy and the politics in this interregnum period helps us understand Chinese way of thinking towards maritime strategic policy and naval development, and also fills the vacancy of a big picture of Chinese modern naval history for future research.
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Clemens Büttner (Goethe University Frankfurt), “The Power of Professionalization: Praise and Criticism of the Professional Soldier in Early 20th Century China"
From the late 19th century onwards, military professional training and education were declared responsible for the the -- heavily emphasized -- praiseworthiness of the Chinese military man. Professionalization processes were believed to imbue the Chinese soldier with both the practical skill set and the spiritual values and virtues deemed necessary for the proper performance of his professional duties: loyalty, honor, dutifulness, patriotism, discipline, and obedience amongst others. Yet, the acquisition of such spiritual qualities also came to be demanded from the Chinese people at large as they were expected to aid in the realization of a strong nation-state. In this way, the basis of the claimed praiseworthiness of the Chinese soldier was derived from his assumed role in the process of nation-state building, not his professional role. This paper argues that it was this concurrent pursuit of both political and military goals that ultimately thwarted all attempts at true military professionalism, weakening the Chinese state and furnishing the professional military man with a justification for interfering in political affairs. At the same time, the Chinese belief in the positive outcomes of professionalization was so unshakeable that not even the growing number of military mutinies and other incidents of military misconduct led to a serious questioning the approach taken to professionalization.
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Desmond Cheung (Portland State University), “Afterlives of Loyalists: Official Recognition and Popular Participation at the Shrines of Yue Fei and Yu Qian”
Two of the great paragons of loyalty in Chinese history, Southern Song general Yue Fei (1103-1141) and Ming statesman Yu Qian (1398-1457) were both incorporated into the official ritual system (sidian) by the Ming state in order to promote the ultimate political virtue. Yet neither had a straightforward history as loyal figures. Both were executed for being disloyal and it was only after their posthumous rehabilitation that the family shrines which had been established to commemorate them were converted into official institutions.
This paper analyzes the process of how Yue Fei and Yu Qian came officially to be recognized as exemplars of loyalty, and also how the meaning of their loyalty continued to be debated even after they were enshrined by the state. Focusing on their shrines at Hangzhou (where Yu Qian was born and Yue Fei was executed), the paper will explain how reinterpretations of the loyalty of each figure by officials and scholars were inscribed at the sites. At the same time, the shrines became the focal point of popular narratives of loyalty that members of the wider community helped to make and remake by adding structures and artifacts that embellished their stories. Thus these official sites promoting loyalty required not only the sanction of the state, but the support and participation of the populace at large for their continued existence and enduring appeal.
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Fan Lin (University of Ottawa), “Maps and Troops: Impact of Geographical and Cartographic Knowledge on Military Dispositions during the Song Dynasty (960-1279)”
Considered within the context of Tang-Song transition, the Song dynasty (960-1279) marks a new page of geographical and cartographical knowledge production, attested by its predominant state patronization, systematized writing formats, multiple channels of production and circulation, and prolific image-making. Along the same lines, the Song court also commissioned a large number of diagrams of battle formations (zhentu), topographic maps and military manuals and encyclopedia for the purpose of military training, imperial reviews and inspections, and campaigns.
I argue that there is a strong connection between the making of geographical/cartographic knowledge and military dispositions in the following aspects: first, different from its precedents (gu zhentu), the Song zhentu for military campaigns started to incorporate topographic components; second, geographic knowledge of each circuit and prefecture, which was combined into military encyclopedia like Wujing zongyao (Collection of the Essential Military Canons), was presented in a similar format to map guides (tujing) with highlighted military adaptations; and third, institutional channels of collecting and dealing geographical information was also shared between mapmaking sectors and military sectors in the government, such as artisans following the imperial expeditions and the Bureau of Military Affairs. In sum, the connection between the making of geographical and military knowledge points to a new way of empire building during the Song.
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Ka Ki Alan Ho (McGill University), “Pacifying the Silk Roads: A Study of the Dou Family and Their Governance in Hexi in Early Eastern Han”
According to the "Account of the Western regions" in the History of Later Han the connection between the Western regions and China was disrupted for 65 years (9-73), from Wang Mang's emperorship until 73, when Emperor Ming of Eastern Han sent an expedition to the Western regions. However, in other chapters of the History of Later Han, as well as in Dongguan Hanji, it is stated how in 30 Dou Rong (16 BC - 62), an Eastern Han general based in Hexi, appointed a Grand Protector of the Western regions. How can these two apparently contradictory statements be reconciled?
Such reconciliation requires an investigation of the concrete mechanisms of the Dou family's power as they managed the affairs of the Western regions from their base in Hexi, the gateway to the Western regions. The Dou family in the Western regions is based on the local network the family was able to construct after 23, when Dou Rong was appointed as Commander of the Zhangye dependent state in Hexi by the Gengshi government. The Eastern Han government allowed Dou Rong to nominate most of the governors in Hexi for about a half-century, indicating the family's irreplaceable function in moderating Western regions affairs. Through its investigation of the Dou family, the paper will explore what it meant to control a peripheral area in a period of dynastic transition. It will draw upon received texts as well as archaeologically discovered texts, sites and artifacts.
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Xiaobing Li (University of Central Oklahoma), “Red Guards vs. Red Army: Mao’s Generals in the Cultural Revolution”
The 1960s remain the most controversial as well as crucial decade in the modern Chinese history because of Mao Zedong’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, a nationwide political struggle accompanied by extensive purges. Mao mobilized the young people by encouraging them to join the Red Guards, mass organization of civilians, and launched a disastrous, prolonged movement against the leader’s own political rivals. He also employed the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in a spiritual way to maintain his unquestionable leadership through the entire decade.
The Chinese people paid a terrible price for the Cultural Revolution, and an estimated 20 million died by 1976 when Mao died in Beijing. The Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) began to officially criticize the Cultural Revolution in 1978. Thereafter, both Chinese students and soldiers claimed that they were the victims of the Cultural Revolution and were attacked by the others who were
captivated and inspired by Mao’s cult of personality.
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Pingchao Zhu (University of Idaho), “Failure of Policy: Repatriated POWs of the Chinese Volunteer Army from the Korean War”
This paper examines the debriefing process when the loyalty of the repatriated POWs of the Chinese People's Volunteers (CPV) from the Korean War was challenged. The Chinese cultural view of POWs in general and the insufficient Chinese military regulations on the handling of the repatriation of their own POWs seriously crippled the debriefing process. The fact that the Korean War concluded in a ceasefire (not in a total victory) forced the Chinese government and military to place the blame for not winning the war on the CPV's returned POWs.
Based on Communist China's military regulations and policies on the POWs, the paper studies major factors that contributed to the Chinese attitude toward their POWs. First, cultural understanding imposed a strong resentment upon those who returned as prisoners of war. Second, Communist ideology highly politicized the debriefing process of the CPV repatriates and demanded severely punitive outcomes. Finally, the Chinese military's deficient POW policy played a crucial role in rejecting an honorable status for the repatriated POWs. As the war ended with a ceasefire leaving the nation to face lingering and unsettled issues on the Korean peninsula, the CPV's returned POWs became the scapegoats to bear the burden for the unwanted armistice of the Korean War for Communist China.
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Sherman Xiaogang Lai (Royal Military College of Canada), “Ensured Loyalty versus Professionalism at Sea: A Historical Review of the PLA Navy (1949–1982)”
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) adopted the Soviet tripartite military system, a compromise between loyalty and military professionalism. This system enabled the CCP’s army, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), to wipe out the Chinese Nationalist government’s best ground forces in a decisive campaign in 1949. This triumph resulted in waves of Nationalist armed forces members realigning themselves with the PLA and posed an unprecedented challenge: The CCP and PLA leaders had no naval experience but had to incorporate the newly loyal Nationalist seamen, who had been trained by either the United States Navy or the British Royal Navy, into its ranks, along with their vessels and other naval facilities. This lack of experience affected the trajectory of the PLA Navy (PLAN) tremendously and continues to be felt today. Until the appointment of Liu Huaqing as its commander in 1982, the PLAN had been plagued by internal factional struggles that severely handicapped its development. The proposed article will be a review of the PLAN in the period between 1949 and 1982. In addition to the driving forces behind the PLAN’s development, it will examine specific factors that hindered the PLAN’s growth, ranging from the institutional barriers, the lack of a maritime tradition and a shortage of necessary resources to factional struggles within the PLAN, and it will demonstrate the PLAN’s inherent weaknesses. It is intended to promote further exploration and analysis of China’s naval and maritime policies within a broader perspective.