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Dec 12, 2012
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A Nation of Sadness
A CWE Republic of China AAR
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A Note from Qwerty
A Note from Qwerty

Welcome to my fifth attempt at an AAR on these forums. Though my last one ended about three years ago after only a couple updates (a record for me), it still serves as an example of the kind of AAR I like to read and write - a history book with only a modest connection to the shenanigans the game spits out. Hopefully I can get to at least the third update this time.

Unlike my past AARs, my interest in the Republic of China came before the idea for the AAR itself. I had read up on Iraq following the 2003 invasion and the process of creating a new government there. I had been interested by the efforts to build a democratic government in a nation that previously hadn't had one. Shortly after, I came upon Jonathan Spence's excellent survey, In Search of Modern China. I started thinking about what a Chinese democracy, emerging in the 1950s and 1960s, would look like. It would be the world's most populous democracy, and an incredibly diverse one too with numerous religions, cultures, ethnicities, social statuses, and beliefs coming up against radically different institutions than the population had encountered before.

What would be the nature of the political parties, if any, that might arise? How would national campaigns, such as general elections or referenda, be carried out? How would it navigate the Cold War? In OTL Maoism offered an alternative to Marxism-Leninism, particularllly in third world countries where the influence of the PRC provided the possibility of an alternative system to American capitalism or Soviet socialism. Might a democratic China serve a similar role, perhaps leading its own pact of Unaligned Nations? Or would it be a vital American ally, ensuring the triumph of liberal democracy in Asia and an earlier death of the Soviet system? These questions led me ever deeper into the history of China during the 20th century (in both the Mainland and Taiwan).

Unfortunately, my reading has far outpaced my writing and thus I have frequently delayed progress on this AAR. Indeed, I had originally written this note as a lengthy essay on the reasons for the defeat of the Nationalists in the Civil War, but I cut it down in the interest of time and practicality. This AAR will be both an exploration in Chinese history and an exercise in time and practicality. So, without further ado...

I would like to thank the developers of the Cold War Expansion Mod I will be using. I would also like to thank the writers and readers in the Victoria II subforum especially, for I have always found myself drawn to the history driven AARs it contains.
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Always a treat to see a CWE mod. Intriguing premise, too. Will follow along.
Welcome back to AAR writing Qwerty! Will follow along with interest!



"The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been."

T'ai-yüan, Shansi Province, China

In T'ai-yüan the people are divided. Two crowds gather in the city's center around a large bronze figure. One has come to honor it, the other to destroy it. It is a statue of an old man. He is bald save for the mustache which rests atop an easy smile. He looks off towards some unseeable distance, one hand lay on his hip while the other holds onto a cane. Foreigners in T'ai-yüan take pictures with the friendly old gentleman, unaware of the deep passions which his image invokes. He is Chiang Kai-shek. To some, the Father of a Nation, who brought peace and stability to a people torn by conflict. To others he is the Generalissimo, the war hero who defended against warlords, Japanese invaders, and Communists. And to many he is the greatest criminal of the century, the fascist dictator who silenced opposition and terrorized his people through the military and a brutal secret police. The mass murderer, who considered violence the most effective form of politics.

Following the defeat of the Chinese Communist Party in the 1940s, Chiang commissioned thousands of statutes and monuments to commemorate himself and the victory. Allies and opportunistic politicians looking to gain influence built many thousands more across the country. By the time of his overthrow, it was nearly impossible to not encounter a bronze Generalissimo in urban China. But since his overthrow every administration - whether national, provincial, or local - has had to deal with the question of what to do with these statues.

The arguments for and against their removal have been hashed out endlessly elsewhere and it is not my intention to go through them. What interests me about this debate is the deep connection of the political to the historical. The old cliche of history being a collection of facts and dates rings hollow for the residents of T'ai-yüan where history is alive. The battle in the city center embodies Faulkner's quote that the "past is never dead. It's not even past."

In early February 2018 I was invited to T'ai-yüan to deliver a lecture at university there about the politics of the post-Civil War era. As the last members of that first generation die off, there has been a growing popular interest in the early Republic. No doubt the present political situation further motivates this interest. The condition of Chinese democracy is more precarious than it has ever been in the last half century. Tensions between a rising nationalism and the increasing liberalization of society - politically, culturally, and economically - combine with the growing populism and personalism that has come with the internet age. There seems no escape from a 24/7 news cycle of clashes in the South China Sea, border skirmishes in remote mountain bases, business scandals in Shanghai, or corruption in Nanking. Liberal democracy is in crisis in China and the world.

As China comes to a crossroads, I think that it is vital to understand the history of the republic. It is a history of triumph, tragedy, and struggle. Numerous times the heart of Chinese democracy has been at stake. The present threats of nationalism, globalization, corruption, and polarization are common themes in the republic's history. In understanding these past struggles we will be better equipped to contend with them whenever they appear.

It is for this reason that I began writing a history of China since the War of Resistance aimed at the general reading public. Although there are many great histories that take place during this period, there has not been a single volume on the period since Cheng Pu-yung's excellent work published back in 1999. Much has happened in the twenty years since then, especially in the historical profession where there have been extensive studies and thousands of new documents have been declassified and discovered. Now is an appropriate time to synthesize this work for a wider audience.

I begin my narrative with the Japanese surrender ending the War of Resistance. Why then and not in 1912 with its official establishment? Or in 1927 when Chiang seized power? Part of this was motivated by concerns of time and length and part of it by my area of specialization. But most importantly it is because the end of the Civil War was seen by many Chinese as the end of the chaos which had wrecked the nation for thirty years. It seemed as though China was once again united. Comparisons were made between Chiang and Ch'in shih huang, the first Emperor who had united the country after the Warring States period. Although it was a republic, the regime used the imagery and dress of dynasty to bolster support. The empire, long divided, had been united.

If Faulkner is to be believed, then the past will always be present (and future). And the past, like the present and future, is fiercely contested. The younger generation is coming of age during a great historical juncture. One of the duties of the historical profession is to remind the public of the past. This means all of the past, even those parts which makes the public uncomfortable. Another duty is to safeguard the past by those who wish to control it or destroy it. Great atrocities occur when the past is taken from the historian or when the historian gives it up to self-interested individuals. I consider this book to be doing my part to fulfill this duty.
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Nicely done. Feels scarily timely, too. Some very tantalising hints dropped in about the course of 20th century China, and its eventual fate in the years after the Millennium.
An interesting opening, looking forward to seeing how CKS leverages his significant advantages post-war more effectively than in real life.

T'ai-yüan, Shansi Province, China

I like the attention to detail - though the idea of Wade-Giles remaining the default system of romanization instead of Pinyin is... disheartening.
Interesting opening, I'll look forward to the rest.
I've never tried this mod by the way, I might give it a shot someday.
Good opening
I also like the fact that you are using threadmarks
Makes it a lot better as a reading experience
Ch. 1 Prelude to Civil War
Ch. 1 Prelude to Civil War


"Do you not understand that the plans elaborated in a little chamber decide success over thousands of miles?"

On August 15, 1945 Emperor Hirohito announced over radio to the people of Japan their surrender to Allied forces. The announcement would be formalized in a written agreement weeks later on the USS Missouri. In China, this meant the end of the eight year War of Resistance which had origins in the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931. China had experienced almost continuous warfare since the overthrow of the Ch'ing dynasty in 1911 with internal conflict often interrupted by war with Japan. Many celebrated its end and looked forward to the reconstruction of the country. August 15 signified the end of external conflict, but internal conflict remained. A persisting question of Chinese history was unanswered: Who would rule?

The international community recognized the Republic of China (ROC), led by Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang (KMT), as the official government of the country. As the largest political entity in China, it ruled over 350 million people and controlled China's industrial and urban centres. Chiang had taken power in 1926 and then undertook the Northern Expedition, a campaign against the country's warlords. The success of the expedition was followed by the Nanking Decade, ten years of relative peace and stability. During the Nanking Decade, the ROC most closely resembled a military dictatorship with significant elements of personalism and fascism. Chiang was the locus of power and the KMT was a weak, corrupt, and inefficient organization dominated by factions vying for close relationships with Chiang. The main political currency of the time was force. While Chiang's rivals were often politicians who had to rely on self-interested warlords for manpower, Chiang had cultivated a following of officers during his time as Commandant of the Whampoa Military Academy. He thus held the loyalty of the best officers and soldiers, ensuring his military supremacy over his rivals. He used this military dominance to maintain control of the country's financial centre, Shanghai, securing vital support for his army.

The second largest political organization was the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Its strength was concentrated in the North, particularly in the countryside where it had at times undertaken revolutionary programmes of land redistribution and at other times provided progressive plans of land reform, rent reduction, and interest rate decreases. Its history with the KMT was complicated. During the leadership of Sun Yat-sen, the KMT had cooperated with the Communists against the warlords under the First United Front. When Chiang rose to power, he initiated a purge by ordering the deaths of thousands of Communists in Shanghai and then expelling the the remainder from the party. The two parties fought one another until the Japanese invasion and the kidnapping of Chiang brought them back into alliance under the Second United Front. Cooperation between the two groups during the war was uneasy. In 1941, clashes broke out in the New Fourth Army Incident, ending the alliance. Even without the alliance, the CCP managed to stay alive during the war through the use of guerilla tactics against the Japanese forces. With victory approaching, it held its Seventh National Congress in April 1945. At the Congress, the CCP affirmed Mao Tse-tung as the leader of the party and enshrined Mao Tse-tung Thought as the party's official doctrine.

In contrast to Chiang and the KMT, the CCP built a popular base of support by appealing to the peasantry. The party had gained adherents mainly among the peasantry through their revolutionary campaigns of land reform and redistribution that pushed out and killed landlords and rich peasants. However, many landlords retreated to the cities and organized groups to retake the countryside and many often did, overturning the work done by the Communists. The countryside was still contested. Yet in 1945, the Communists were still far outnumbered by the KMT. And even if the Communists were to assert full control of the countryside, they would still have to face the KMT which held superior advantages in manpower, firepower, seapower, airpower, and supply lines. At the end of the War of Resistance, the CCP had only 860,000 troops compared to the 2.5 million of the KMT. The relative disadvantages of the CCP would lead to an often dangerous underestimation by the KMT and the Great Powers.


Chiang Kai-shek (top) and Mao Tse-tung (bottom)

Despite a history of conflict, the resumption of civil war did not appear inevitable with the surrender of Japan. There was still the possibility of a Third United Front committed to the reconstruction of China as a multiparty democracy. This was embodied in the goals of a third group, a collection of small political parties that were alienated by the militarism and authoritarianism of the KMT yet rejected the communism of the CCP. This third force, as it was often called, consisted mainly of liberal intellectuals, businessmen, and artists. They held very little institutional power and were unable to either organize a mass movement or else gain access to military power. Still, they often received the backing of American diplomats who saw them as crucial to peaceful negotiations between the two major parties. They were also courted by both the CCP and KMT who saw these third parties as adding legitimacy to their respective regimes.

The presence of foreign powers cannot be discounted in post-war China. Although recognized as an emerging force, China was not considered an equal among the Great Powers. At the Cairo Conference in 1943, Chiang had met with Roosevelt and Churchill to discuss the war with Japan. But Stalin, fearing retaliation from the Japanese, declined to attend. Chiang would not participate in any of the succeeding conferences at Tehran, Yalta, or Potsdam. China's humiliation was furthered at the Foreign Ministers' Conferences in London and Moscow in late 1945. China participated as a non-voting member in both. In London, Chinese delegates watched helplessly as Soviet diplomats protested the inclusion of China and France at the meeting, accusing the Americans and the British of forming an anti-Soviet alliance. In Moscow, the Great Powers pledged their support for a unified, democratic China and promised not to interfere in the country. While nominally encouraging, the Chinese delegates were disheartened that their country was being discussed in the same way as Korea or Iran were, and that China was not recognized as a power to be negotiated and consulted with in its own right.

Interference would be unavoidable for the Great Powers, especially the US and USSR. In August, the Soviets invaded and took control of Manchuria, northern Korea, and parts of Mongolia. The surrender of Japan would not mean the immediate withdrawal of the many Soviets troops stationed in these regions. The United States had been deeply involved in the Chinese war effort by providing resources, soldiers, and strategic advice to the ROC. After the war, US sent aid and diplomatic missions to prevent the outbreak of civil war. America had emerged from WWII as a superpower, and in China it realized the limits of its power. Most of the US diplomats sent to China in the immediate postwar era lacked a solid understanding of Chinese politics. This was best exemplified in George Marshall's comment that the Nationalists and Communists were much like "Republicans and Democrats." Furthermore, US personnel shared the belief of many of China's liberal intellectuals in characterizing the CCP was not actually a revolutionary communist party in the Soviet style, and thus often dismissed the idea of strong Soviet support of the CCP. This also led them to believe that the CCP would eventually agree to give up their independent military forces and join a coalition with the KMT and other parties to establish democracy and rebuild the nation. For their part, the CCP did all they could to perpetuate such a belief. In reality, although both parties had internal conflicts about the possibility of civil war, it was highly unlikely that either group would submit to the other voluntarily.

Long before Japan's surrender, the KMT and CCP took steps to strenghten their post-war position. Manchuria quickly became the source of much frustration for Chiang. At the Yalta conference in February 1945, Stalin had agreed to join the war against Japan with Anglo-American assurance of Soviet claims in China. Upon hearing of the results of this secret meeting, Chiang was furious, but there was nothing he could do to reverse it. In negotiations with the Soviets shortly therafter, Stalin privately agreed to KMT diplomats that he would support Chiang in unifying China. When the Soviet did invade Manchuria, their forces included a brigade of Chinese Communists whom the Japanese had driven to Siberia in the thirties. Additionaly, Stalin informed the CCP of the imminent Soviet invasion, prompting Mao to halt ongoing negotiations with the KMT in the ROC's wartime capital of Chungking and prepare to take as much Japanese territory in northern China as possible. Even after Mao announced in June that he would resume negotiations, CCP soldiers continued attacks on the KMT in Manchuria. Fierce negotiations ensued in Moscow between the Soviets and delegates from the ROC. Stalin still supported the KMT as they were able to provide him with economic concessions which the CCP lacked. Nevertheless, the Soviet occupation of Manchuria would turn out to be invaluable for the CCP and the Soviets. The CCP receive much of the Japanese stores of ammunition plus they gained crucial territory, and the Soviets plundered millions from Manchuria by stripping factories of machinery and equipment.


Joseph Stalin

At the time of Japan's surrender in August, there will still large amounts of Japanese troops in China. In August, US General Douglas MacArthur issued General Order No. 1 designating which Allied forces that Japanese soldiers would surrender to in each region. Although in most of China Japanese forces were instructed to surrender to "Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek", in Manchuria they would surrender to Soviets. Despite the General Order, KMT and CCP forces raced to Japanese occupied territories to accept surrenders. The Communists made substantial gains in the countryside and engaged in several clashes with Japanese forces. Much of the ROC's forces were south of the Yangtze, far from Japanese Manchuria. In order to speed up the ROC armies, the US airlifted around 100,000 Nationalist soldiers to north China.

Japan had set up several puppet regimes in China during the war. Although many Chinese fled to the southwest, many others remained in the new puppet territories. They took jobs in the puppet administration, civil service, and military even if they were unethusiastic about Japanese rule. Surrender meant the immediate collapse of these short-lived puppet governments and with them a mass of newly unemployed soldiers and bureaucrats. Around 2 million Japanese and Korean living in Chinese puppet regimes were forced back to their home countries. Many of the refugees from the southwest returned to find their homes inhabited by strangers. Fights and accusations of treason led to much of this property being returned, and many took advantage of the general chaos to acquire as much property as they could get their hands on. People found themselves suddenly homeless and unemployed as Japanese factories shut down. And to make matters worse, the currency used by the puppet regimes had to be exchanged for the highly inflated Nationalist fabi currency. The government settled upon an arbitrary exchange rate of 200 to 1 for all the currencies, leading to numerous bankruptcies. Although many Nationalists wanted those who had collaborated with the puppet regimes to be severly punished, the KMT could not afford either to conduct the massive amount of trials required nor lose the large pool of soldiers and bureaucrats who would be prosecuted. Instead, the KMT (and the CCP) punished high profile collaborators while absorbing the rest of them into their regimes. The handling of the transition from the puppet regimes brought on economic dislocation, social unrest, and a distrust among the urban population towards the KMT.

In August, Mao travelled Chungking to again hold talks with Chiang overseen by the US Ambassador J. Patrick Hurley. While the two leaders were promising generous concessions to one another, the Americans were transporting KMT troops north and the CCP was advancing into Manchuria. Chiang had initiated the talks with the hopes of securing more aid from the US. Mao looked to negotiation as a means of survival. Stalin did not want to risk civil war against the KMT (and probably the US) especially when he did not think that the CCP would win. Therefore, Stalin told Mao to cooperate with Chiang. The talks concluded in October with both leaders promising to rebuild and reunify the country under a democratic government and that they would establish a Political Consultative Conference (PCC) towards this end. Mao further pledged that the CCP would finally integrate its People's Liberation Army (PLA) into the ROC's military.


Mao and Chiang at Chungking

Meanwhile, the KMT continued negotiations with the Soviets in Moscow over trade, Manchuria, and the CCP. Back in June, Stalin had assured KMT diplomats of Soviet support for the ROC as the rulers of a united China. He also had promised that the Soviets would withdraw from Manchuria within a month of Japanese surrender. But Soviet withdrawal would be repeatedly postponed. In October, the Soviets blocked KMT entry into Manchurian ports. Chiang was restrained in aggressively advancing into Manchuria by his desire for good relations with the Soviets and by his belief that the US likely would not back him in Manchuria if he pursued such a course. While continuing to transport more troops into the region, Chiang lodged protests to Moscow and Washington over Soviet behavior. In response, the Soviets agreed to a withdrawal date (proposed by Chiang) of February 1 and began further negotiations about economic issues and local government in Manchuria.

Chiang's frustration was compounded by the growing anti-war movement in the ROC. The opposition to civil war was mainly led by students and liberal professors. The centres of liberal opposition to the KMT were in the southwestern cities of K'un-ming (controlled by Yünnan warlord Lung Yun) and Ch'ang-sha, inital home of Southwest Associated University. The university was founded in 1937 by professors who had fled Japanese occupation in the north and east, and in 1938 the university moved to K'un-ming. It was as this university, on December 1, 1945, that a protest against civil war led to a brutal suppression that killed four students. More student demoncstrations arose from this December First movement which called for both a peaceful end to civil war and opposed the continued presence of American marines in China. In response, Chiang and the KMT cracked down hard. KMT agents frequently arrested and even tortured student protest leaders and kept informants in the universities. This only served to increase the popularity of the movement and decrease support for the KMT.

In November, Hurley resigned, citing frustrations over "un-American elements" in the State Department working against him and the KMT. US President Truman recognized the growing tensions in China, and so he appointed General George Marshall as Special Envoy to the country. Marshall was one of the most distinguished American generals, having served as Army Chief of Staff during the second World War and gained international fame. Marshall's main purpose was to prevent civil war and oversee a peaceful, unified reconstruction of the country. He was to use the threat of withholding aid to steer Chiang towards cooperation with the CCP. But in the event of war, the US would back the KMT. Marshall himself had very little knowledge about China and its politics. He sincerely believed that peace was possible in China so long as both sides were willing to cooperate. Chou En-lai and the CCP frequently took advantage of Marshall's attitude by presenting themselves as committed to peace and reunification. Chiang lacked such tact and diplomatic cunning, and this led to him to butt heads with Marshall, who often blamed Chiang on the failure of peace negotiations. Chiang did not for one second believe that the Communists were genuinely willing to give up their territory and independent military, and he was angered that Marshall took a different view.


Marshall with Chiang and his wife, Soong Mei-ling

Shortly after arriving, Marshall set up a Committee of Three charged with overseeing the peace process. Marshall chaired the Committee and was joined by a representative from the two major parties, Chou for the CCP and Chang Ch-ün for the KMT. It produced promising results. By January 1946, the Committee had organized a ceasefire with plans for the two parties to unite politically and militarily. They ordered a freeze on troop movements in northern China. In Peiping, the Committee established a truce headquarters to uphold the ceasefire.

On January 11, 1946, the long awaited Political Consultative Conference convened. Its purpose was to organize an interim coalition government to oversee the adoption of a new constitution ensuring a multiparty democracy and a unified armed forces. There were thirty eight delegates in total with eight from the KMT, seven from the CCP, and twenty two independents and members of various third parties. Whereas the KMT and CCP saw the PCC as a means to the end, the third parties considered the PCC to be their goal.

From the outset there was much optimism surrounding the PCC. Chiang gave a speech at its opening in which he declared his support for broad political freedoms and multiparty democratic elections. However, divisions between the KMT and the other parties arose over the constitution. The KMT delegates supported a strong central government and a strong presidency elected indirectly through a National Assembly. The opposition won out with a more democratic, decentralized plan. Another issue arose over the question of Communist controlled territory in the countryside. The CCP delegates argued that they should have the power of self-governance in these areas. The KMT delegates harshly opposed this. The CCP eventually acquiesced
in the PCC's resolution that the Three Principles of the People[1] would be the sole national doctrine and that democratization would take place in a multiparty coalition led by Chiang. The CCP further agreed again to integrate their military into the national military of the ROC. The PCC conluded its session in early February. Marshall applauded the outcome. He saw it as an important step towards the peaceful rebuilding of China.

The PCC proved to be a propaganda victory for the CCP. Marshall and the third parties believed that the CCP were sincere in their support of democratization and unification. Public opinion of the KMT was much less optimistic. Within the KMT, there was opposition to the PCC's resolutions, specifically those concerning the constitution which KMT delegates had opposed. Right-wing and military factions within the KMT expressed their disapproval, although at a party meeting in March the KMT official endorsed the PCC's outcome. But this official endorsement was betrayed by the party's actions. During the PCC, members of the KMT had raided the homes of three third party delegates. After its conclusion, KMT members launched assaults on Communist and third party newspapers. Most important of all, the KMT repeatedly delayed the implementation of the PCC's resolutions.

During this time, fighting had broken out in Manchuria periodically. The Peiping truce headquarters was ineffective in monitoring and upholding the ceasefire. The Soviets were still in Manchuria by the agreed upon withdrawal date of February 1. The Soviets would finally withdraw by the end of April. The KMT and CCP rushed into to fill the vacuum. KMT advances onto Ch'ang-ch'un led to intense fighting in April which ended in the CCP evacuating the city. Marshall was infuriated by what he saw as Chiang's aggressive expansion into Manchuria and by Chiang's sabotage of teams from the truce headquarters. The CCP had maintained their support for a ceasefire and the PCC throughout, but Chiang had refused until KMT forces Ch'ang-ch'un. On June 20, Marshall managed to get the Committee of Three to establish a two week ceasefire in Manchuria to allow negotiations to take place. In July, the peace movement suffered a fatal blow when KMT agents assassinated two prominent leaders of the Democratic League (a liberal, pro-democracy third party) in K'un-ming. The ceasefire expired soon thereafter without being renewed.

Marshall remained in China until January 1947 when he returned to the US to accept Truman's appoint of him as Secretary of State. But long before then it was clear that the peace mission had failed. One last attempt at a ceasefire was organized in August, but failed to reconcile the two parties. Marshall believed that peace failed primarily because of Chiang's unwillingness to cooperate with the CCP, and Marshall's subsequent tenure as Secretary of State would not prove beneficial for Chiang. By the fall of 1946, the civil war was in full swing. The KMT still held significant advantages in manpower, firepower, airpower, seapower, and it enjoyed the (tenuous) support of the US. Yet the ROC was suffering hyperinflation, mass unemployment, deep corruption, and increasing unpopularity. The question of who would rule China was still far from having an answer.

[1] The Three Principles of the People are a set of fundamental political principles outlined by Sun Yat-sen, a pivotal figure in the overthrow of the Ch'ing dynasty and the founding of the Republic of China.
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Thanks to all who have subscribed so far. Next chapter is on the civil war proper. Now, just to answer some questions and clarify things.

An interesting opening, looking forward to seeing how CKS leverages his significant advantages post-war more effectively than in real life.

I like the attention to detail - though the idea of Wade-Giles remaining the default system of romanization instead of Pinyin is... disheartening.

Wade-Giles is a sad sight indeed. Later chapters will deal with romanization and language reform. I've based the romanization mostly on the system used in Taiwan, which is to say that there is a huge mess of romanizations running about. ITTL, Wade-Giles is typically used although place names will often be written in the local romanization and names of people will usually be written in the romanization the person themself uses.

Ooh this looks to be interesting. I wonder if CWE has anything special for China if the nationalists win?

I have played up to about 1960, but I don't recall getting any special event for a Nationalist win. Although I did get a decision to retreat to Taiwan (which I declined of course).

Edit: I'll write up a bibliography at the end of Part I
A very well written introduction to the background of the civil war. Plenty of interesting developments already.
Great background chapter! You've certainly done your homework on the period.

I've based the romanization mostly on the system used in Taiwan

Oh dear. Poor Zhou Youguang... (In all seriousness though, the language nerd in me is very interested to see how you handle Mandarin modernization!)
  • 1Like
Ch. 2 The Civil War
Ch. 2 Civil War


"Victory and defeat are but ordinary events in a soldier's life."

On May 3, 1946 the Nationalist government completed its return to its prewar capital of Nanking. Despite the implications, it was an
unostentatious event. Much of the government was fully occupied with the escalating situation in Manchuria. Even if it had had time for a flamboyant display, it is unlikely that the public would have warmly welcomed a celebration from the increasingly unpopular administration. Instead of a cheering crowd, the Nationalists were met by a demonstration of Nanking University students protesting the delay of the Kuomintang's promised democracy.

Chiang himself was not even present. He was in Peiping meeting with Chang Ch'ün, the Nationalist representative on Marshall's Commitee of Three. By then, peace negotiations were in free fall. All that was left was war.

The Nationalist and the Communist Positions

Before we look at the civil war proper, let us first examine the status of the two opposing forces in 1946. As previously mentioned, the KMT possessed superior firepower, air power, sea power, and sheer manpower. It had about 2.5 million troops. But the KMT was plagued by corruption and incompetency among its officers. Chiang had rose to power because his soldiers and officers had been the best trained and most experienced, but many of his best troops had died fighting the Japanese. Furthermore, most officers had grown old and become corrupted by the regime's perverse incentives.

Compounding this problem was Chiang's policy of appointing non-local governors. This was a holdover from the imperial days of Manchu scholar-officials ruling over distant populaces, but in a war-ravaged country excited by the animating ideas of nationalism, democracy, socialism, fascism, and so on it proved disastrous. It fostered resentment amongst the locals towards the KMT governors. This was most potent in the north, where local saw the KMT as invaders from the south just as the south had seen the Manchus as barbarian conquerors.

In Manchuria, the popular Zhang family had ruled as warlords of the region in the 20s and 30s. Chang Tso-lin, a native of Manchuria's Liao ning provice known as the "Old Marshall", had risen to power in Manchuria as a military supporter of former president and self-appointed emperor Yuan Shikai. He remained in control of Manchuria even after Shikai's death in 1916. In 1928, an officer of the Japanese army blew up a train Tso-lin was on. He was succeeded by his son, the "Young Marshall", Chang Hsüeh-liang. The Japanese officers assumed that Chang, a twenty-seven year old opium addict, could be easily influenced to support Japanese interests in the region. Chang refused to submit to the Japanese military. Instead, he joined the KMT to further reunification of the country.

The Chang family was popular for its roles in the economic development of Manchuria and in the struggles with Japan and other foreign powers. Chiang was not as fond of them. Chang Tso-lin was one of Chiang's most powerful warlord rivals during the 20s. Although Chang Hsüeh-liang joined his forces with the KMT, he irreversibly damaged his relationship with Chiang in the 1936 Hsi-an incident. Frustrated by Chiang's focus on eliminating the CCP over defending against Japanese aggression, Chang and fellow general Yang Hu-ch'eng kidnapped Chiang. For ransom, they demanded that Chiang form a temporary alliance with the Communists to fend off the ongoing Japanese encroachment. Although they succeeded in securing payment, Chiang immediately placed Chang under indefinite house arrest.

In contrast to the KMT, the CCP had only 800,000 troops and no air force or navy to speak of. But what it lacked in size, it tried to make up for in spirit. The CCP enjoyed widespread popular support from poor farmers and debtors of the north owing to their exciting campaigns of land redistribution. They had a total mobilization of its inhabitants towards the war effort. Those who were not in the army proper contributed either through joining patrols, local defense forces, or village guards. Women, when not joining the fighting themselves, participated in maintaining the supply chains. Unlike the KMT, the CCP drew their forces largely from local populations. They integrated Japanese puppet forces and capture KMT troops, who were often eager to leave behind the corruption of the Nationalist army in favor of seeming revolutionary fraternity.

The Communists saw themselves as engaged in a revolutionary struggle. They had a purpose in fighting. The CCP depicted civil war as a clear cut struggle between a corrupt government beholden to unpopular landlords, moneylenders, and industrialists against a revolutionary alliance of peasants, workers, and petty bourgeoisie. While this was brilliant propaganda, its characterization of the Kuomintang was inaccurate. Landlords and industrialists were of course naturally opposed to the Communists, though they were not exactly the puppetmasters of the Nationalist government. Chiang had always derived his power from his excellently trained military and loyal group of cadets he had cultivated while President of the Whampoa Military Academy in the 1920s. He had leveraged this military superiority to secure the support of the financial class, but the financiers and industrialists had never willingly run into the KMT fold. Chiang had won control of Shanghai (the country's financial centre) through the violent suppression and massacre of dissenting industrialists and labor unions. And Chiang had always been lukewarm towards the landlords, who carried out their struggle against the revolutionary peasants mostly by themselves.

Whatever the nature of the Kuomintang was, it is clear that the Communists and Nationalists were much more evenly-matched than most suspected then or now In fact, most historians make the mistake of historical determinism in overlooking the numerous advantages the Communists possessed. It is not inconceivable for things like wars to have gone otherwise.


Chang (front left) next to Chiang sometime in the 30s

The War

The June 1946 two-week ceasefire in Manchuria was the last such ceasefire for the remainder of the war. While attempts are reconciliation continued, none of them bore much fruit. Both Mao and Chiang were intent on war. Therefore, we can place the start of the civil war proper at the end of the ceasefire. Chiang had already been planning a major strategic offensive with the intent of wiping out the Communists in a single blow. The KMT was successful in its May offensives against the CCP in Manchuria. Tu Yü-ming, commanding a force mostly composed of former warlords and Japanese collaborationists, secured the southern Manchuria city of Ssupingkai after months of fighting. Meanwhile, the Communists had capitalized on Soviet withdrawal from Manchuria to move into the northern industrial centres of Ch'ang-ch'un and Harbin. The Soviets had placed the CCP into a comfortable position in Manchuria. Most of the north and centre was firmly under Communist control. Additionally, the Communists inherited a strong supply chain from the Soviets, something which the KMT lacked in the region's south as Chiang and his armies advanced rapidly.

The CCP intially adopted a defensive strategy of consolidation in Manchuria and tactical withdrawal from weak positions in southern and central China. The CCP mainly engaged the KMT in mobile guerilla warfare, exploiting KMT overextension where possible. They frequently retreated to the countryside when the KMT captured Manchurian towns. In July, the KMT pushed back Communists on the North China Plain. Emboldened by victory, Chiang pressed further into the plains. This turned out to be a blunder as the Communst forces led by Chen I had established a strong hold on the countryside there. This came at a cost to the Communists, as Chen had split his forces in order to isolate to separate the KMT. Chang Ting-ch'eng had been sent north with half of Chen's forces. The KMT decimated Chang's forces. Receiving news of Chang's defeat, Chen retreated north into Shantung.

By the autumn, Communist forces were on the retreat in north and central China. At the same time, Tu Yü-ming continued his advanced into Manchuria, defeating Communist forces in the region's southeast. In October, the Communists also lost the crucial city of Kalgan in Hebei province. Kalgan had been something like a second capital for the Communists. It was strategically located along trade and communication routes traveling between the north and south. Adding further insult, Chiang tauntingly offered a truce. The Communists declined. Landlords who had fled to cities organized into "return-to-the-village corps." The corps exacted revenge on their former tenants, massacring thousands of peasants and reclaiming large portions of land. They took advantage of the CCP retreat. Many peasants felt betrayed by the Communist retreat. With Communists on the run and their land revolution in shambles, Chiang was at the height of his power with plans to take Harbin (and thereby Manchuria) by the spring of 1947.


Map of Manchuria - Sipingjie corresponds to Ssupingkai, Xinjing/Changchun to Ch'ang-ch'un, Fengtian/Shengyang to Mukden, and Harbin is the same
But the winter of 1946-1947 held many surprises for Chiang. Lin Piao, CCP commander of the Manchurian forces, had been pushed north of the frozen Sungari river. Mao ordered a reluctant Lin to launch an assault against Nationalist forces south of the river, believing that they would never expect an offensive during an especially harsh winter. From November to February, Lin crossed the river a few times, catching the Nationalists off guard. The offensives were successful, devastating the ill-prepared and overextended KMT army. At the same time, Lin's forces also suffered roughly similar amounts of casualties. But whereas the Communists could raise new soldiers from the local Manchuria population, the Nationalists had to reinforce their armies with soldiers from south and central China, relieving pressure from the Communist guerilla groups there. More significantly, Chiang was forced to delay plans for the Harbin offensive.

In March, Lin launched one final push across the Sungari. His large force of 400,000 battered the Nationalist defenders and then spread out across central and southern Manchuria. Lin's main force marched to Ssupingkai, taking the city after a month-long siege in May. Continuing their advance, the Communists pushed west and reclaimed Ch'ang-ch'un. Continuing south they retook Mukden. By the spring of 1947, the Communists were in firm control of much of Manchuria. Party cadres returned to the countryside and resumed their revolutionary work.

In contrast, the Nationalist position was greatly reversed from what it was just some months prior. In addition to the military situation in Manchuria, there was growing unrest against the Nationalist government. Inflation, deficit spending, and reckless levels of borrowing were not only increasing, but doing so at an accelerated rate. Many had blamed Chiang's authoritarianism and inability to compromise as main causes of the civil war. Student demonstrations grew in size, agitating for peace and implementation of reforms promised by the KMT. As discussed in Chapter 1, many more were dissatisfied with the transition from Japanese to Nationalist rule. General unrest combined with military defeat led also to dissent among the KMT leadership over the value of continued war with the Communists. Some in the KMT even desired a change in leadership. One alternative was seen in Li Tsung-jen, a general in the north. During the 20s, Li was a warlord of the powerful Kwangsi Clique located in the south. The Kwangsi Clique was integrated into the KMT during Chiang's Northern Expedition of the late 20s, and many Kwangsi warlords now held important positions within the party and government. Pai Chung-hsi was Minister of Defense. Huang Hsu-ch'u was governor of Kwangsi. Li and the Kwangsi Clique had become disillusioned with party corruption, war strategy, and Chiang's unwillingness to reform. They believed it was vital to proceed to constitutional democracy in order to secure both the support of the Chinese people and increased American aid.

By the summer of 1947, Chiang has reached a low point. Military defeat, internal unrest, and factional disputes led Chiang to withdraw to the mountains with his wife, Soong Mei-ling, for a few weeks. Chiang was a devout Christian, and legend says that while at his mountain retreat he came across Matthew 5:43-44 - "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you." Compelled by 'Divine Love', he then immediately ordered a plane for Nanking to reconcile with Chang Hsüeh-liang. More likely is that he was convinced by both the sobering influence of Soong Mei-ling and the direness of the situation to cooperate with his former kidnapper.

The meeting between Chiang and Chang was reportedly brief. After only ten minutes, the two concluded a historic agreement. In exchange for continued loyalty to Chiang, Chang would be freed from house arrest and given control of Manchuria. Within a few days, Chang set out for Ta-lien, a major port at the southern tip of Manchuria's Liaotung peninsula. Kwangsi Clique supporters and other anti-Chiang reformists were relieved of their positions in the administration of Manchuria. In their place, Chang empowered local Manchurians who had previously served under him an his family. Old Chang family loyalists joined a native Manchurian force Chang raised in the summer months.

The Americans

Chiang's relations with the Americans were ambiguous throughout the civil war. Shortly after the end of the June ceasefire in 1946 and Chiang's ensuing offensive, Marshall ordered an arms and munitions embargo on all of China in an attempt to force the KMT back to the negotiating table. The embargo's persuasive effects were minimal, especially since the US continued to sell military surplus equipment to the KMT and provided millions in economic and military aid. Yet the aid was relatively small in comparison to the USD$400 million sent to Greece and Turkey in the spring of 1947. This fact, combined with the aid, further compounded Nationalist difficulties as the KMT army stretched itself thinner and thinner against the Communist guerillas.

Adding to Chiang's uncertain relationship with the US was Marshall's appointment as Secretary of State in January 1947, one of the most consequential posts for Sino-American relations. Although the two had made good first impressions with one another, Marshall's time in China and frustration over the outcome of peace talks led to mutual dislike and distrust. Marshall blamed the failure of peace negotiations mostly on Chiang's stubborness and unwillingness to relinquish dictatorial power.

Almost immediately upon entering office, Marshall ordered the withdrawal of all US troops from China and formally terminated American mediation efforts between the Nationalists and Communists. As Secretary of State, he frequently quarreled with both the cabinet and Truman over aid to China. Marshall wanted to make further aid to the KMT conditional on political and economic reform, whereas Truman and the cabinet believed that immediate aid to China was necessary lest the Communist win. Despite resistance, Marshall eventually agreed to lift the embargo in May 1947. This did not fully satisfy American supporters of the KMT.

The so-called 'China Lobby', a group of congressmen and senators sympathetic to the Nationalists, was growing on accounts of efforts by Soong Mei-ling and Wellington Koo, the ROC's ambassador to the US[1]. The China Lobby became especially troublesome for Marshall during his efforts to pass the European Recovery Plan, better known as the Marshall Plan, through Congress in late 1947 and early 1948. The ERP planned to provide several billion in aid for post-war reconstruction to Europe. The China Lobby, led by the internationalist Senator Arthur Vandenburg, promised to delay the passage of the ERP until aid was promised to China. Fearing the delay (and perhaps motivated by 1948 being an election year), Truman and Marshall sent the China Aid bill to Congress in early 1948. It passed, and Truman signed it in early February. The bill promised half a billion US dollars in military and economic aid, with about US$150 million to be sent immediately. The China Lobby and Chiang were satisfied.


George Marshall

Communist Troubles

In any event, America turned out to have little control over Chinese politics. Chang's popularity and use of Manchurian soldiers and administrators allowed both for significant Nationalist advances as well as relief of Nationalist positions in south and central China. Thousands of Manchurian peasants who had been abandoned by the Communists in the winter of 1946-1947 turned now to the hero of Manchuria, the Young Marshall, in his crusade for peace and reunification. By the end of 1947, the Nationalists had reclaimed Ssupingkai, Mukden, and Ch'ang-ch'un and were once again poised to take Harbin by the spring. Outside of Manchuria, the Nationalists took key cities in north China including Yenan, which held special place in the Communist identity owing to its service as party capital since 1935.

The reversal of fortune in Manchuria prompted division within the CCP. On the political side, Mao was challenged by a group of party leaders led by Liu Shao-ch'i. Liu advocated for reopening negotiations with the Nationalists and for moderating the party's land programme. He proposed the party work with reasonable landlords and rich peasants to prevent their integration into Chang's regime. Such pragmatism had precedent. Mao's land programmes had a long history and their scopes had changed numerous times from simple reductions in rents and interest rates to all-out revolutionary redistribution. Nevertheless, Mao consider Liu's gang to be counterproductive and harmful to party unity and discipline at a time when these virtues were needed most.

On the military side, the defeats in Manchuria called for accountability. Who was to blame for the Nationalist advances? The party leadership placed it on the commander of Manchurian forces, Lin Piao. Nevermind the fact that it was Lin's tactical genius which so frightened Chiang into allying with his former kidnapper. Regardless, the PLA's morale was at a lowpoint and the soldiers were clamoring for heads to roll in the PLA leadership. Mao decided upon Lin, who had always been less strategically aggressive than Mao. In December 1947, the CCP relieved Lin of his command. In his place, Mao appointed Chen I, who would carry out Mao's increasingly aggressive, and desperate, strategy.

Political Disputes and the Vice-Presidency

Around the same time, the Republic of China held its first elections to the National Assembly[2] in almost 30 years. The KMT won an overwhelming majority of the seats with the Democratic Socialists and Chinese Youth Party achieving small minorities. Both the Communists and the Democratic League refused to participate. The National Assembly convened in March 1948 and in April nearly unaninmously elected Chiang as President. Competition for the vice-presidency would turn out to be fierce.

While the Nationalist position in the civil war was at its strongest yet, Chiang was still unpopular across large sections of the party and the general public. Li Tsung-jen and the Kwangsi Clique still held significant power and prestige. Owing to his rival with Chiang, Li had been sidelined during the civil war with a minor administrative post in Peiping. Although he supported Chiang's
reconciliation with Chang, Li was still disappointed by runaway inflation and the undemocratic nature of Chiang's rule. Frustrated by his powerlessness at his current post, Li contemplated desertion and suicide. He concluded both options to be ineffective and immoral, and so decided to instead pursue the vice-presidency.

Li began his campaign in March at Shanghai where large crowds enthusiastically received him. He then proceeded to Nanking, where he was just as enthuasiatically received by the stream of National Assembly delegates. Especially supportive of Li's campaigns where Chang's Manchurian delegates, who still bitterly resented Chiang's mistreatment of the region. Chiang attempted several methods to obstruct Li's campaign. First he attempted to get the KMT to agree to nominate only one candidate for Vice-President instead of allowing anyone to run (per the recently promulgated constitution). This failed in the face of Li's and other's resistance to it at party meetings. Then Chiang invite Li to his house where he demanded Li terminate his campaign in order to prevent party division and destruction. Li refused. Chiang, furious, fumed to Li that he would never win election.

Chiang finally decided to back another candidate. In addition to Li, several others had declared: Yü Yu-jen, president of the Control Yuan; Ch'eng Ch'ien, a politically inexperienced general; Mo Te-hui, a nonpartisan Manchurian politician; and Hsu Fu-lin, a member of the minor Democratic Socialist party. Among these, Mo and Hsu were not members of the KMT, Yü was far too old to garner much support, and Chiang disliked Ch'eng just as much as he disliked Li. Chiang therefore decided to raise his own candidate.

Sun Fo was the son of Sun Yat-sen, the legendary revolutionary and 'Father of the Nation.' He had been president of the Legislative Yuan[3] since 1932 and was a key figure in the drafting of the recent constitution. Sun had always been an outspoken liberal and proponent of Western style constitutional democracy. He was one of eight KMT delegates to the Political Consultative Conference in 1946. Like Li, Sun genuinely believed that the KMT should end its era of political tutelage and institute constitutional democracy now. In fact, Sun had been calling for this since the 1930s. Sun had even set up a separate Nationalist Government at Canton (which Li was apart of) in 1931 in protest of Chiang's autocratic arrest of Hu Hanmin, then president of the Legislative Yuan. Despite this, Chiang tapped Sun to run.

Why did Chiang turn to Sun when his record on reform and opposition to Chiang's rule seem so similar to Li's? For one, Sun was so outspoken because his father's mythic status in China assured him continued public support. Public support which Chiang desperately needed. Additionally, Sun was more much more devoted to the party and Chiang than Li despite his reformism. Sun did not desire to see Chiang's removal as much as Li did. Rather, his main goal was and always had been a liberal, democratic reform.

Sun was reluctant to run for Vice-President. He had previously rejected it, knowing that he had much more power, real and constitutional, as President of the Legislative Yuan than he ever would as Vice-President. He likened the vice-presidency to a "cold bench" and an "office merely for the do-nothing rice eaters[4]." Chiang ultimately convinced Sun to run, allegedly with Chiang's assurance that he could (unconstitutionally) hold both the vice-presidency and the presidency of the Legislative Yuan.

As the campaigns progressed, many Chinese felt it to be the first truly democratic election. Chiang was certain to use his position and influence to win support for Li. And there were numerous claims of intimidation and bribery. Yet the fact that one of the President's oldest rivals had a chance at winning one of the most high profile positions in the country inspire hope in the country.

On April 23, the first ballot ended with no one securing the necessary simple majority. Li had 660 delegates. Sun was close behind with 587. Ch'eng got a competitive 500. Yü got 386. Mo and Hsu both had less than 200. After the round Mo, Hsu, and Yü all dropped. The second ballot was held a day later. Li got 1062. Sun, 1006. Ch'eng, 604. Li's campaign believed that Chiang and his supporters were engaging in excessive levels of bribery and intimidation. Notably, Chiang supporters had raided a newspaper in Shanghai that was supportive of Li. Therefore, on April 25 Li withdrew from the race, denouncing the fraud and intimidation during the election. Public pressure compelled both Sun and Ch'eng to announce their withdrawals a day later.

With all the candidates out of the race, the National Assembly declared a temporary recess. Chiang requested (through Pai Chung-hsi) that Li reenter the race. Li accepted and both Sun and Ch'eng rejoined as well. Chiang supporters deescalated activities and kept a low profile for the remainder of the election.

On April 28, the National Assembly cast its third ballot. The results were mostly the same except for Ch'eng's loss of a hundred delegates. Electoral law forced Ch'eng to drop out. Victory became apparent for Li because most of Ch'eng supporters were just as anti-Chiang as Li. Victory became real on April 29 when the National Assembly declared Li the new Vice-President with 1378 delegates to Sun's 1335. Upon hearing the news, Chiang reportedly smashed his radio into pieces.


Sun Fo (top) in the middle of his family, and Li Tsung-jen (bottom)

The End of War
While Chiang was having difficulties in domestic politics, he was enjoying great success militarily and internationally. Two factors contributed to allow the KMT to finally take the prized city of Harbin in the summer of 1948. One was the sudden increase in funding from America's China Aid bill in February. The aid provided direly needed military funding and also helped temporaryil stabilize the precarious Nationalist currency. The second was the Soviets' gradual drift away from the CCP and towards the KMT.

Soviet policy on the Chinese civil war had from the beginning been one of supporting the CCP while not alienating the KMT too much. Stalin had never taken the CCP too seriously as a communist party. First, he did not believe that they could defeat the KMT. Second, Mao's communism did not strictly adhere to traditional European Marxism. Marx had considered bourgeois democratic capitalism as a necessary stage after feudal monarchy on the inescapable road to socialism. China neither had democracy nor industrial capitalism in any real sense. Mao had come to power within the CCP by the success of his alternative form of agrarian communism adapted to the Chinese situation. In the process, he had to overthrow Soviet-style Marxist-Leninists within his own party.

In 1947 and 1948, it became ever more clear to Stalin that the CCP was nearing its end. The CCP had failed to make meaningful military progress and had also angered millions of peasants which they had left to the mercy of their former landlords. Stalin began preparing for a post civil war situation. The Soviets did not want a powerful American ally at its border.

So the Nationalist army, led by Tu Yü-ming marched into Harbin on June 15, 1948. The CCP continued to resist throughout the summer and into the autumn, but the KMT no longer considered the CCP a significant threat to the republic's legitimacy as the sole government of China. The Communists were reduced to a loose network of guerilla fighters. Liu Shaoch'i and several party leaders approached Mao and demanded that the party surrender its arms and assimilate into the republic. Mao refused and denounced Liu and his gang of pragmatists as traitors to the revolution. Liu and the pragmatists left the party in September, forming the Democratic Communist Party (DCP). On October 10, 1948 the DCP formally surrendered to the KMT. Mao fled to Russia with other party leaders. Others remained in China as guerilla fighters or else joined the KMT. Still others went to British Malaya, where its native communists were fighting their colonial overlords.

There was significance to the date of the Communists' surrender. October 10 was Double Tenth Day, the anniversary of the opening shots of the 1911 Wuchang Uprising which kicked off the First Chinese Revolution and eventually birthed the republic. The KMT was holding its annual parade in Nanking, but this year the celebration was more extravagant than ever. Thousands of soldiers, newly returned from Manchuria, marched through the streets. Chiang was paraded through the city, looking especially imperial with his signature cape and cane. Shortly before the parade, Chiang had received news of the Communist surrender, which he announced to the city in his Double Tenth Day speech:

"...For thirty years, China has been divided. Many millions have died for this country, for democracy, for the Three Principles of the People. Let us carry out the remainder of the national revolution as one heart, one mind..."

A more cynical observer could not help but think the whole affair resembled an emperor founding his dynasty. Indeed, it remained to be seen just what the character a post-war Republic of China would be. Would Chiang live up to his promise of democracy and revolution?


[1] Koo enjoyed international fame and prestige on account of his critical role in the founding of both the League of Nations and its successor, the United Nations.
[2] The National Assembly is somewhat like the American Electoral College, although it also had the power to amend the constitution.
[3] The Legislative Yuan most resembles a Western parliament or house of representatives.
[4] Compare this with American Vice-President John Nance Garner's remark of the position being not worth even "a bucket of warm piss."
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I did not quite expect my academic obligations this year to keep me from this for so long, but nevertheless I have more time now to devote to this. I am not quite sure what to do with the next chapter, but I do know that I have some reading to do on Tibet and other regions.
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