The CMHS held its 2113 annual conference in New Orleans in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Society for Military History. The CMHS conference was sponsored by the Center for the Study of War and Society, University of Southern Mississippi. Eleven papers were presented.
Andrew R. Wilson (U.S. Naval War College), "The Three Myths of the Sanbao Eunuch: Re-conceptualizing the Voyages of Zheng He"
Between 1405 and 1433, the Sanbao Eunuch Zheng He led seven voyages into the Indian Ocean. Not only were the distances covered truly impressive, the scale of the enterprise was astounding. And yet, for most of the last 600 years, these epic argosies have been little more than an historical afterthought. In recent decades, however, Zheng He has reappeared in the narrative of Chinese and global history, and along the way the Sanbao Eunuch has accumulated three appealing, but deeply flawed myths.
Myth #1: In 1421 Gavin Menzies claimed that a contingent of Zheng He's sixth argosy circumnavigated the globe. This myth is based on a misunderstanding of Ming motivations and on flawed assumptions about the sailing qualities of the treasure fleet.
Myth #2: Over the last decade the Chinese government and the PLA have tried to re-imagine Zheng He's voyages as a parable for China's peaceful rise. This myth is based on a complete misunderstanding of why Zheng He was chosen for this command, how the missions were organized, and why they traveled to the locations that they did.
Myth #3: The end of the voyages began China's fundamental retreat from the sea. The "Retreat" myth is by far the truest of the three, but it is grossly over-stated. Ming China remained connected to the maritime world and at several points the Ming showed itself eminently capable of going to sea.
This paper addresses these three myths and shows where their perpetuators have "missed the boat."
Nathan H. Ledbetter (U.S. Army), "Reifying the Barricades: Historiography Issues in the Study of the Battle of Nagashino (1575)"
While researching the tactical facts surrounding the Battle of Nagashino, three historiographic issues became apparent. First, most secondary authors were not concerned with how the actual battle itself was conducted, but rather the political results it influenced. Second, authors who did concern themselves with how the battle was actually fought failed to critically evaluate their sources, primary or secondary, and privileged one of two competing primary source texts over a comprehensive analytical comparison. This despite the existence of at least nine primary sources accounts, each containing the contradictions, biases, and flaws to be expected from historical documents. Third, despite the suggestion of a few historians that archaeology and terrain analysis might be useful to clear up some of the controversies surrounding Nagashino, no such analysis had been completed in detail. Accordingly, historians arguing the assorted controversies surrounding Nagashino, such as numbers and emplacement of guns by the Oda or the reasons for Takeda Katsuyori's ill-fated assault on Oda positions, are basing their positions on flawed historical interpretations. Therefore, this paper focuses on tracing the historiography of the battle, outlining the interpretive flaws, and explaining how alternative analytical approaches to Nagashino are necessary to resolve outstanding controversies. This sets up a subsequent analysis of Nagashino using military doctrinal concepts to suggest possible solutions and further avenues of research.
Elisabeth Kaske (Carnegie Mellon University), "Is There a Counter- history of the Hunan Army?"
In the history of the Taiping Rebellion and other major rebellions of mid-nineteenth century China, the irregular Hunan Army has always been seen as the decisive new military force that secured the survival of the Qing dynasty, when the traditional regular armies collapsed, victims more of their own decadence and corruption than of the effects of the war. Hunan Army military leaders, many of whom subsequently occupied high provincial positions, have become the heroes of this story of victory. In reality, "Hunan Army" often designated a style of organization rather than the provenance of soldiers or commanders. These troops were a diverse lot, and the commanders were only loosely related and did not always collaborate. Moreover, they also suffered failures and committed atrocities against the civilian population. This paper studies how early histories constructed the Muslim wars in Gansu in the 1860s and argues that the modern image of the Hunan Army has to a substantial degree been shaped by the historiographic efforts of Hunan Army leaders like Zeng Guofan and Zuo Zongtang who commissioned histories of its successes to be written by literati. Alternative views were few, and they were easily suppressed.
Ricardo King Sang Mak (Hong Kong Baptist University), "Western Advisers and Late Qing Chinese Military Modernization: A Case Study of Constantin von Hannekin (1854-1925)"
Major works on Western advisors in modern China pay much, if not too much attention to these sojourners' cultural arrogance, moral rightness and, above all desire to change China. However, they were people with different skills and worldviews and they came to China for different reasons. Their careers in China were in many ways determined by the successes they achieved and the frustrations they encountered. Their experiences in China are thus simply too diverse for one to make meaningful generalizations. This paper attempts to expose untold stories of Constantin von Hannekan who played a leading role in China's coastal defense construction in the period 1879-1886. Drawing principally on his personal correspondence, which was published in Germany in 1998 but remains underutilized, it aims not only to assess this German officer's actual contribution to China's military modernization, but also to present his life drama in China which was interwoven with hope, greed, ambition and betrayal.
Chi Man Kwong (Hong Kong Baptist University), "Warlord Officers: Anguojun Officers during the Northern Expedition and Beyond, 1925-1949"
This paper tries to offer new insights into the officers of the Chinese warlord armies during the early Republican Period. Specifically, it looks at the mid-ranking officers (regimental to corps level, as well as staff officers) from the Anguojun (National Pacification Army) that had resisted the Kuomintang's Northern Expedition (1925-1928) and their careers until 1949. These officers were seen by the contemporary and subsequent observers from China and aboard as nothing more than mercenary soldiers who were motivated mainly by self-interest, ambition, and personal connections. The topic of Chinese "warlords" has been explored by scholars such as Diana Lary, Ch'i Hsi-sheng and Arthur Waldron, who focused on issues such as the warlord politics, power structure of the warlord cliques, weapons and organizations of the warlord armies, as well as the ideologies (or the lack of) of the warlords. While there were numerous studies on the major warlords such as Zhang Zuolin, Feng Yuxiang, Yan Xishan, Wu Peifu and the Guangxi Clique, little attention has been paid to the mid-ranking officers of the warlord armies, who were responsible for the running and maintenance of those armies. Using biographical and statistical as well as archival sources about the officers who served in the Anguojun (1925-1928), this paper looks at this often-overlooked group and challenges the stereotype of the warlord officer by discussing their origin and education, experience during the Northern Expedition, and subsequent career until 1949.
Peter Lorge (Vanderbilt University), "Sourcing Saltpeter in Song Dynasty China"
This paper will argue that the Northern Song dynasty acquired its saltpeter in north China from saltpeter earths. By the Northern Song, the technique for producing saltpeter from saltpeter earths was well known to the common people in the areas where these earths occurred. Since this northern saltpeter appears to be the only source of saltpeter during the 11th and early 12th centuries, Song gunpowder recipes must have been using northern saltpeter in their gunpowder. The sources do not allow us to track the rate of saltpeter production, but it must have grown considerably over the 11th century as more and more gunpowder weapons were manufactured and used.
The loss of north China to the Jurchen Jin in 1127 deprived the Song government of its main sources of saltpeter precisely in the period when the use of gunpowder weapons on the battlefield vastly increased. Moreover, the staff from the government arsenals and other knowledgeable technicians dispersed with the fall of the capital, spreading their skills and gunpowder technology more widely. At present we can only speculate on how the government of the Southern Song acquired sufficient saltpeter for its burgeoning gunpowder demands. On very circumstantial evidence, it may well be that the loss of north China forced the Song to develop a new way of acquiring saltpeter through composting manure.
Peter Dekker (Independent Scholar), "Design Features of Composite Bows and Their Consequences on the Battlefield"
Composite bows are widely regarded as advanced and powerful bows but there are still many misconceptions on the origin of their design, or the advantages and disadvantages against simpler wooden self-bows. Moreover, apart from their basic construction this group of bows shows so much variation in design that we can hardly speak of "the" composite bow. I would like to take the opportunity to debunk some common myths about Asian composite bows, and deepen the audience's understanding about the various types of bows, the focus behind their construction and the reasons behind their successes.
The results of this research are based on the study of various Asian archery cultures, study of a large group of actual antique bows and arrows, and an analysis of their methods of use and deployment. Hard data was gained by testing accurate replicas of various types of major bows in their military draw weights.
Edward A. McCord (George Washington University), "Soldiers as Vectors of Violence in Warlord Atrocities: A Social Analysis"
One of the most shocking manifestations of the warlord era was the frequent occurrence of devastating military atrocities as various cities and towns were pillaged by advancing or retreating forces in war or plundered during mutinies by forces of occupation. Although military violence against civilians is a frequent occurrence in all warfare, the conditions of warlordism itself played an important role in the frequency and nature of the bingzai, or "troops disasters," of this period. For example, the failure of financial resources to keep up with the constant need to expand military forces often led warlord commanders to condone looting by their troops in lieu of providing regular pay. While such conditions offer some insight into the military violence of this era, the actual nature of troop disasters was also determined, just like natural disasters, by the specific "agent" that produced the disaster. So, just as floods are defined by the destructive capacity of water, the vector for bingzai was a human agent, specifically soldiers. Although the volitional and personal nature of human agency is again an important feature of all military atrocities, this paper attempts to view warlord atrocities within specific social contexts of the lives of the soldiers of this era.
Eric Setzekorn (George Washington University), "The Military Identity in Late Republican China: Chinese Structures and Ideas of a Global Military Profession, 1945-1949"
After WWII, Chinese leaders struggled to re-define China's military system into a form consistent with an international role as one of the "Big Five" global powers. This intellectual challenge was most clearly expressed in the two political-military debates: nationalization (guojiahua 國家化) and professionalization (zhiyehua 職業化).
Chinese debates concerning the "proper" structure of civil-military relations coalesced around the idea of a national army, accountable to a national government rather than a political party. The public discussions and eventual policy decision for military nationalization, as expressed in the 1947 Republic of China Constitution, borrowed from global norms the idea of constitutional government supremacy over an apolitical military.
Within the ROC (Republic of China) military establishment, global ideas of military professionalization accentuated officer affinities for a purely military role rather than a hybrid political-military "Party Army." Military publications of the period, most notably professional journals produced and read by military officers, exhibit an unmistakable emphasis on global military affairs and international conflict.
Although the defeat of the ROC forces in 1949 limited the direct application of these global trends to China directly, understanding the patterns and process of the integration of Chinese military development into global norms increases our understanding of Republican era military history and contemporary debates within the PRC.
Brian J. DeMare (Tulane University), "Rethinking Frontline Propaganda in China's Revolutionary Wars"
For Western observers of the Chinese Civil War, the battlefront staging of revolutionary dramas by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) represented a powerful strategy to mobilize soldiers and win popular support. Mao Zedong, influenced by Soviet examples of revolutionary propaganda and the traditional Chinese faith in the power of drama to influence audiences, had insisted on utilizing drama on the battlefield since the inception of the Red Army. The continual channeling of scarce funds and talented personnel into performance-based propaganda speaks to the belief of the CCP that revolutionary dramas were one of the essential keys to military victory, a belief that has been uniformly reaffirmed in subsequent scholarly studies of Communist propaganda, both in the PRC and the West. Through the investigation of the role of Communist-directed drama in the CCP's battles against the Guomindang and Japan, my paper directly addresses the linkages between propaganda and war, highlighting the challenges and promise of revolutionary drama within the context of war. Exploring the Second Sino-Japanese War, my paper elucidates the limited function of revolutionary propaganda, while also debunking claims of vast numbers of amateur propagandists. As I argue, it was not until the Civil War that propaganda played a critical role at the battlefront, albeit in unexpected ways. Propagandists supported the war effort by engaging in political work and performing shows to motivate soldiers, but their most important task was in fact working with the massive number of enemy soldiers captured by the PLA during the conflict.
Laura M. Calkins (Texas Tech University), "Sino-Viet Minh Military Cooperation Along the Border, Early 1949"
In late 1948 the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) began to activate small cells in the border provinces of Guangxi and Yunnan in anticipation on the advance of PLA troops into southern China in force. Some of these cells initially received minor assistance from Viet Minh units active on the Indochinese side of the international border. Liaison between the CCP in the North and the active militarized cells in the south was reportedly run through a leadership center in Hong Kong. With the advance of the PLA towards Central and Southern China, the balance of military advantage in the border area began to change. Beginning in January 1949 experienced Chinese Communist military commanders from northern China were being sent to the south, particularly to Yunnan and Guangxi provinces. A military offensive by their forces culminated in an attack on the Guomindang arsenal at Kunming on 27 January 1949, and by the following month a substantial number of hsien in Yunnan were controlled by pro-PLA "bandits." In early March pro-Chinese Communist guerrillas crossed into Tonkin and assisted Viet Minh operations against the French. Despite brief battlefield collaboration, there was little consensus at higher levels between Chinese and Vietnamese Communist leaders about the overall strategy for military operations in the border area. Greater cooperation developed in mid-1949, as the Chinese began sending more troops to the South. By the third quarter of 1949, cross-border cooperative efforts were being led by the Chinese, but the Viet Minh retained independence from the approaching PLA, not least by forming their own first division-strength unit, "Group 308," in August 1949.