- Sep 13, 2012
History is filled with so many 'what ifs'...
History is filled with so many 'what ifs'...
When the name 'China' is evoked together with World War II, most people realize that the Middle Kingdom fought for the Allies as part of the crusade against Fascism. However, few people -- even among the modern Chinese -- truly realize the tightrope act that the official government had to walk during this tumultuous time, or how the events left a lasting mark on Chinese sensibilities that continues to the present day...
After the Xinhai Revolution and the collapse of the Qing dynasty, the Nanjing Assembly elected Sun Yat-Sen as the first president of the Republic of China (ROC). But with no military power to back up his political position, Sun handed the presidency to the Imperial General Yuan Shikai. Yuan put an end to last Qing Emperor, Puyi, only to declare himself the next Emperor of China in 1915. His deeply unpopular reign lasted no more than a year, but it left China in total anarchy. The various groups who rebelled against the Qing resented Yuan's betrayal of the revolution and despised his attempt to re-establish a centralized monarchy. As a result, one region after another declared their independence from the Beiyang Government, plunging China in decades of Warlordism.
It did not help that many of these warlords were supported by foreign powers, who found them easier to manipulate than a united, nationalistic, and democratic assembly. Supplied with arms from outsiders, China became a quagmire of infighting and regional conflicts. It would take a decade before Chiang Kai-Shek, the military autocrat of the Nationalist Kuomingtang (KMT) party and Sun Yat-Sen's successor, launched the successful Northern Expedition in 1925 and returned a semblance of unity to China.
But in defeating the northern warlords of the Beiyang Executive Government, Chiang antagonized their foreign backer -- Japan -- which lead to direct Japanese interference in Chinese affairs. This would led to the Mukden Incident (1931), the Shanghai Incident (1932), and others, all counting down to an inevitable outbreak of hostilities between the two historic powers of Far East.
Chiang knew that his time was short. He would have to win his Civil War against the Communists, solidify his authority over the remaining warlords, and modernize China both industrially and militarily, all within the span of just a few years. Otherwise, there was no doubt that the Middle Kingdom would lose its independence and fall to foreign subjugation once more.
He almost succeeded too... except in the game of power and politics, there was no 'almost'.
In our timeline, Chiang and his Kuomingtang (KMT) government made great leaps and bounds, yet failed to accomplish any of those objectives in time. He routed the Communists from their southern enclaves and forced them into the Long March, but they were not wiped out. He subjugated the various warlords in name, yet they retained both local and military autonomy which they used to undermine him at every turn. He befriended the Germans -- the only European power who treated the Chinese on equal footing thanks to their defeat (and loss of colonies) in WWI. But war struck before either his industrialization or military modernization efforts could mature, and Hitler would pull out in favor of a Japanese ally in WWII.
This abject failure led to a slow death of the KMT government. The Second Sino-Japanese War would severely weaken the Nationalists, while the Communists were strengthened by their populist land-reform policies and their conduct during the war won the support and trust of the rural populace. Worse yet, Chiang's insecure hold on power led him to rely on wealthy elites and corrupt officials, which lead to disorganization, low morale, and hyperinflation. It opened the path to power to his Communist adversary, Mao Zedong, a populist reactionary who understood little about state administration and economy. It would not be until the 1980s -- under Deng Xiaoping -- when China would see another attempt at modernization that was unmarred by revolutionary politics.
But what if...
German Sd.Kfz.222 Scout Cars equipped to the KMT Central Army
What if Chiang was able to crush the Communists and solidify his authority as the legitimate government of China prior to his showdown with the Japanese? With his positioned secured, he would no longer have to rely on the support of corrupt officials and warlords to stay in power. The armies of China would be brought under his heel, held accountable to centralized command rather than local power brokers. As such, the KMT would have entered WWII with a vast (if poor quality) army that actually worked together, instead of squandering several hundred thousand men in the opening years as various army groups focused on their own interests with no regard for their allies' flanks.
What if Chiang retained the support of his greatest allies -- the Germans -- in his attempt at rapid modernization? He would have kept the German advisors that he considered his personal friends, instead of being saddled with a toxic relationship with the American General Stilwell. He would have an ally whom he actually trusted and was grateful to, instead of the US, UK, and USSR whom he all saw as Imperialistic powers that only sought to manipulate China for their own benefits.
How might have this affected Asia? Chiang was a staunch Anti-Imperialist and a devotee of Sun Yat-sen's Pan-Asian revolution philosophy. Even in our timeline when he relied on the Allies for aid, he openly supported Asian independence movements, much to the annoyance of the British and French. How might a unified China have affected the Indian, Burmese, Vietnamese, and Indonesian independence movements? Might the Azad Hind and India's great hero -- Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose -- actually have succeeded?
And in turn, the Germans might actually have the support of reliable allies in the Eastern Front which truly decided the war. After all, Japan had lost all interest in Russia after Khalkin Gol, and never saw Germany as anything more than an ally of convenience to tie down the European powers while they claimed the Pacific for themselves.
This is the alternate history scenario: "Blue Sky, White Sun, and a Wholly Red Fort".
(Meeting Hitler: left- H.H.Kung, ROC Minister of Finance and step-brother to Chiang Kai-shek; right- Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Indian Independence Hero)
Author's PrewordThis AAR will be driven not just by the events represented in the game, but also the colorful personalities of China during this crucial time in history. Playing Stellaris has taught me that a strategy game is far more interesting when it is treated less like a game and more like the story of a nation and its leaders, and the story of China during WWII is a truly fascinating one. Because of this, I will be attempting to stay as true to some of the main characters as possible (minus tweaks necessary to make this premise work), and this work will draw heavily upon historical sources.
To enhance this goal, I will be using the Edge of Darkness mod, which is dedicated to the 1933 scenario and built on top of WiF2 (World in Flames 2). Furthermore, as a modder myself, I will be scripting many more events myself to set up the premise and add flavor to it.
I actually first attempted this AAR run five years ago in late 2012, though it is highly unlikely anyone here now has read that. Unfortunately, circumstances in life at the time kept me from finishing it, and the DH v1.03 scenario for 1933 wasn't great at modeling the Chinese situation in the mid-1930s. Well, all of that has changed. DH v1.04 greatly enhanced the events of pre-war China. Meanwhile, several years of historical reading has also left me far more knowledgeable than before, as well as far more interested in historical immersion than simply having a good time in-game. It is partly because of this that Hearts of Iron 4 has proved so thoroughly unsatisfying, so as a result I'm returning to this old title that its developers have imbued with so, so much love and replay-ability.
It's just not the same without the feldgrau and jackboots...
Table of Contents:
Prologue - December 11, 1949, Taipei
Chapter 1 - The Fourth Bandit Extermination Campaign (Jan - July 1933)
Chapter 2 - Unity or War! (1933 - Feb 1934)
Chapter 3 - The 60+6 Division Plan (1934 - May 1935)
The Second Sino-Japanese War
Chapter 4 - The Tianjing-Shanghai Incident (May 11, 1935 - May 18)
Chapter 5 - Washing the Young Marshal's Shame (May 18, 1935 - June 22)
Chapter 6 - Grinding through Narrow Korea (June 22, 1935 - September 11)
Chapter 7 - Five 'Must's and Three Offers (September 12, 1935 - October 1)
Chapter 8 - The Red Sun Fades, The White Sun Rises (October, 1935 - November 9)
The Push for Modernization
Chapter 9 - Leader Paramount (November 10, 1935 - December 30)
Chapter 10 - The Anti-Comintern Proposal (January 1, 1936 - February 8)
Chapter 11 - The Sturmtruppen and the Yangtze Project (February 9, 1936 - April 1)
Chapter 12 - The Seeds of Conflict (April 2, 1936 - October 9)
Chapter 13 - Xinjiang Uprising, Taiwan Bloodstained (October 10, 1936 - December 30)
Special 1 - National Rural Reconstruction Movement
The Road to War
Chapter 14 - The Germany Affinity (January 1, 1937 - May 30)
Chapter 15 - Roots of A Global War (June 1, 1937 - December 30)
Chapter 16 - Clash of Propaganda (January 1, 1938 - March 30)
Chapter 17 - The Future Dream (April 1, 1938 - December 30)
Chapter 18 - A Rising Thunder (January 1, 1939 - August 30)
The Twilight Hour
Chapter 19 - Blitzkrieg on Speed (September 1, 1939 - November 30)
Chapter 20 - The New CC Clique and Azad Hind (December 1, 1939 - March 15, 1940)
Chapter 21 - The Final Hour (March 16, 1940 - June 4)
Situation Report - June, 1940
Special 2 - Chiang Kai-shek's Generals and the ROC
The Hindustan Liberation War
Chapter 22 - Vanguards of the Revolution (June 4, 1940 - June 11)
Chapter 23 - The Old Alliances Fracture (June 12, 1940 - June 24)
Chapter 24 - The Partition of Indochina (June 24, 1940 - June 26)
Chapter 25 - The Axis Alliance (June 27, 1940 - July 2)
Chapter 26 - The Red Fort (July 3, 1940 - July 13)
Chapter 27 - The Drive to the Sea (July 14, 1940 - July 22)
Chapter 28 - The Domino Effect (July 23, 1940 - August 10)
Chapter 29 - The Final Push (August 11, 1940 - September 15)
Chapter 30 - The New Order in Asia (September 16, 1940)
Chapter 31 - The 59th Indian National Congress (September 17, 1940 - September 18)
Chapter 32 - United Front in Southern Asia (September 19, 1940 - September 21)
Chapter 33 - Churchill's Gambits (September 22, 1940 - October 23)
Chapter 34 - Honor of the Navy (October 24, 1940 - November 13)
Chapter 35 - The Singapore Question (November 14, 1940 - December 30)
[ ... ]
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