Part Deux: East of the Mountains

In the previous post, Lunghu introduced Sherman X. Lai‘s Springboard to Victory as essential reading for would-be practitioners of regime change.  For what little it’s worth, here are some of Lunghu’s basic reactions to Springboard; the good aspects as well as the not-so-good.

Likes:

  • Lai’s extensive use of Chinese primary sources to flesh out the historical record.
  • Lai’s avowed approach to the topic from an intelligence analysis perspective … and his subsequent somewhat slipshod application of actual intelligence analysis methodology.
  • Lai’s three-pronged look at political, military & economic developments in China during the crucial period 1935 – 1945.
  • Lai’s cautious willingness to critique CCP history and, by implication, its current policies.

Dislikes:

  • Lai’s decision to use a thematic organization of the material (political, military & economic) rather than a chronological one.  This results in too much “meanwhile, back at the ranch” recapitulation of historical events when Lai discusses his second, third and fourth themes.  Let’s agree to blame his thesis advisor for this decision.
  • Sloppy writing and spelling that gets worse as the manuscript progresses.  To be fair, Lai’s English is far better than Lunghu’s Chinese, and Lunghu can definitely appreciate the mental exhaustion that begins to set in after more than four hundred pages of historical exposition.

But enough of this idle chatter!  Let us return to the stirring tale of gallant warriors and bold deeds in the fog-shrouded mountains of Shandong Province … Here, in his own words (as edited and improved by Lunghu), are the main points developed by Dr. Lai in Springboard to Victory‘s introductory chapter: {Lunghu’s gloss appears in curly brackets and red text}

  • Mythology about Chinese Communist Party (CCP’s) contributions to the struggle against Japan has been essential to the legitimacy of the PRC.
  • Scholarship to date has not explored the extent to which external circumstances contributed to shaping the CCP’s war policies. {Or, for that matter, the extent to which CCP organizational methods and practices contributed to their ultimate 1949 victory.}
  • Questions about how and when the CCP built up an infrastructure that successfully supported its army and military operations, as well as how that infrastructure operated, have long remained unexamined and unanswered.
  • Lack of knowledge about the CCP’s military history is the principal barrier to understanding the Chinese Communist revolution.  Suzanne Pepper asserts that the issue of how the CCP achieved victory can not be resolved unless military historians provide their perspective:  China historians “have no way of recognizing, for example, the point at which an overall critical mass might have been reached in terms of sources of grain and military power, making irrelevant further questions about variable civilian responses and local outcomes.”
  • {However, although} Chinese scholars have authored and published a significant number of works dealing with military operations during the War of  Resistance against Japan, the numerous studies dealing with the CCP in Shandong tend to be descriptive rather than analytic.  These efforts have been confined to case studies … and have not provided persuasive explanations for the following questions related to the CCP’s victory in Shandong:
  1. Why did Chiang Kaishek allow the CCP to control such strategically important regions as Shandong?
  2. Why was the National Revolutionary Army (NRA) under Chiang’s command unable to hold on in Shandong?
  3. When and how did Mao Zedong recognize Shandong’s strategic value?
  4. How did CCP leaders recruit, train, equip, clothe and feed their soldiers?
  5. What military strategy did the Shandong CCP adopt and why?
  6. What principal battles did CCP forces fight during the War of Resistance?
  7. How did those engagements begin and what were their significant outcomes?
  8. Why could the Japanese not eliminate the CCP guerrillas?
  • {In part, these shortcomings in historical analysis may stem from the fact that} military historians lack a general theory —a conceptual framework— to explain military change and military history … leaving the discipline in what John A. Lynn has described as “a permanent state of adolescence.”
  • {In Lai’s view} the realistic approach “on the margins of academic disciplines” that is applied in military intelligence research appears to be appropriate in pursuing regional studies such as the case of Shandong during the War of Resistance.  Military intelligence analysis examines how decision-makers perceive the world, take action and influence one other.
  • {Therefore, at the macro level, Lai’s research was} seeking to understand the internal and external frameworks that shaped the CCP’s wartime development.
  • {At the micro level, Lai’s goals were to assist a wide range of scholars in} understanding …
  1. what various CCP jargon terms implied in the context of the CCP system
  2. what CCP leaders were concerned about
  3. how leaders worked together
  4. how they made decisions
  5. how subordinates implemented their orders and directives, and
  6. why some operations were successful while others failed.

{But enough of this idle chatter: how does/did regional insurgency success translate into a larger victory?  Lai concluded that in the Shandong case, eventual military ascendancy resulted from CCP’s superior, adaptable logistics capability that nimbly supported a mobile, resilient guerrilla force.  This logistics capacity grew directly out of the CCP’s ability to create and develop proto-state institutions guided and controlled by the party itself.}

  • At the time of the CCP’s national victory in 1949, about 27 percent of PLA soldiers were Shandong natives. {In case you hadn’t guessed, Shandong has nowhere near 27% of China’s total population. This clearly suggests that Shandong Province was somehow a key to the CCP’s ultimate triumph in the struggle with the Guomindang for control of China.  This is all the more remarkable in light of the fact that Shandong had virtually no CCP presence prior to the Japanese invasion.}
  • {An important aspect of the ‘37 – ‘45 operating environment was that} Shandong’s marginal location during early stages of  the War of Resistance provided the CCP with an opportunity to fill a power vacuum created by the invading Japanese, who had made no detailed plans for their occupation and administration of China before the war began. {Does this sound typically dysfunctional to you?}
  • {What happened?  How did they do it? Lai’s core thesis is that} the Shandong CCP’s commitment to formation of a party-state reached a watershed achievement after it underwent a financial revolution in Shandong during the spring of 1944.
  • {After fundamentally revising its doctrinaire Marxist-Leninist analysis of economic activity in the light of Shandong realities} the CCP built an administrative system down to the grassroots by restoring and modifying a traditional Chinese revenue system, and in the process established {parallel, inter-linked} systems of food staple tribute and finance banking.

{The story of how this happened —and details of the conceptual outlook that facilitated this wartime CCP approach—  are intensely relevant today, because they constitute the foundation of China’s 21st century economic and monetary policy.  The economic principles that guided the Shandong Bureau in 1944 are still alive at the Bank of China in 2012.  Read Springboard to Victory if you would know more.}

Read Lunghu’s next blogpost if the actual book is too much work for you.  But remember, the Idiot’s Guide to Regime Change will also take effort.  So will regime change itself.

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