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Militarism and the Chinese communists: a study of the development of communist political authority in the Shansi-Chahar-hopei border region and the Shantung guerrilla area , 1937-1940. Wekkin , Gary Don

Abstract

Political scientists generally recognize two explanations of the extensive peasant support which the Chinese Communist Party acquired in North China during the so-called "Yenan Period" of 1937-1945. One theory posits that the North Chinese peasants gave their allegiance and support to the Chinese Communists at this time because the Communists were the only force resisting the Japanese invasion and occupation of North China; the second theory claims that the peasants supported the Communists because Communist agrarian reforms at this time liberated the peasants from centuries of poverty and class exploitation. Unfortunately, the sharp debate which has taken place between the adherents of these two theories has tended to obscure the search for additional explanations of Communist growth during the Yenan Period. Reliable Communist sources and economic surveys indicate that in two key Communist base areas, the "peasant nationalism" and "agrarian revolution" theories do not explain pre-1940 Communist growth as well as they explain post-1940 Communist growth — additional research on the growth of Communist political authority prior to 1940 is needed. This thesis contends that a comparison of the public behaviour of the Communist armies with that of the warlord armies which preceded them in North China helps explain why Communist rule was accepted by so many peasants during the years 1937-1940. Rape, looting, terror, and crushing military taxes were common fare for the millions of North Chinese peasants who lived under warlord rule from the death of Yuan Shih-k'ai in 1916 until the Japanese invasion in 1937, In contrast, the Communist armies were indoctrinated against molestation of the peasantry, and made every effort to help the peasants economically rather than burden them. The peasants were favorably impressed by the virtuous behaviour of the Communist soldiers, and gave their backing to the political movement these soldiers represented.

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