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China: Politics of Civil War Era


Harmala Kaur Gupta

CIVIL WAR IN CHINA: THE POLI­TICAL STRUGGLE, 1945-1949
By Suzanne Pepper
University of California Press, Berkeley, 1980, pp. xxi 472, $6.95

VOLUME V NUMBER 5 March/April 1981

The relevance of Pepper's work for a scholar seeking to understand the dyna­mic that informed the politics of China's civil war period cannot be over empha­sized. Not only does Pepper treat us to a most perceptive and brilliant analysis of what went into making a communist victory possible in 1949, when just four years earlier the Kuomintang (KMT) had enjoyed the undisputed confidence of al­most every section of Chinese society, but she also provides us with a wealth of data and documentation on the subject. The story of KMT rule during the period 1945-46 to 1948-49, both in the cities and the countryside, was, as Pepper records, is a sorry one. The venality and corruption of its officials gradually aliena­ted almost every section of the urban and rural population. Government policy makers of the time also revealed both a lack of will and determination to take those· hard decisions so necessary for any kind of economic recovery. Instead, the KMT appeared to have only one obses­sion for which it was willing to sacrifice the interests of all - the continuation of the civil war against the communists. It was perhaps this, more than any thing else, that eventually forced the intelli­gentsia in the cities to come to terms with the reality of a communist alter­native. For, the intelligentsia, that most progressive and advanced section of the population, clung till the very last to the KMT in the vain hope that some how it would read the writing on the wall and reform itself. The student community was also not immune from this species of wishful thinking. As late as 1948, as Pepper notes, a survey conducted amongst students in the University of Shanghai revealed that whiie a substan­tial number (72 per cent) favoured re­form of the political system and the creation of a coalition government, only 3.7 per cent favoured national rule by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) alone. Of course this can also be attribut­ed to the fact that most of them were cut off from the reality that existed in the countryside and were thus prone to argue that since neither the KMT or the CCP were in a position to win, the civil war would be a long draw out indecisive affair. Unlike the KMT, the CCP appeared to possess both the will and the ability to implement a programme which ...


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