Geography Reference
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isolated units and then ambushed them individually, inflicting enor-
mous casualties. A fourth campaign launched in mid-1932 against
other soviets in other provinces also ended in defeat for Chiang
Kai-shek's government. The fifth and final campaign, launched
against Jiangxi in October 1933, was a massive, well-coordinated
assault, with 750,000 Nationalist troops, air support, and German mili-
tary advice. The Chinese Communists were defeated in this attack and
were forced to evacuate the province.
The reasons for the Communists' defeat in this last campaign are
controversial. Mao, a classic guerrilla warrior, disliked traditional
positional warfare and preferred to lure enemy units into isolation
and then wear them down through hit-and-run guerrilla tactics. Other
Communist strategists and Otto Braun, a German military advisor to
the Chinese Communists, opposed Mao's tactics and pointed out that
soviets in other provinces had defeated campaigns against them
through European-style positional warfare. They ultimately had their
way, and the results for the Chinese Communists were disastrous.
Chiang's massive fifth campaign was intelligently conceived and com-
petently coordinated, and his troops advanced slowly and steadily
instead of rushing forth and being “lured in deep.” They built block-
houses and left reinforcements in conquered areas before advancing
farther, and a slowly constricting ring of troops was eventually estab-
lished around the Communists, cutting them off from the outside
world and depriving them of salt, a commodity in desperately short
supply. By late 1934, facing impending defeat, the Chinese Commu-
nists decided to concentrate all of their firepower and break out of
the encirclement at one point. Mao disagreed with these tactics and
argued for classic guerrilla tactics: Communist troops should slip
through the encirclements at night in small fire teams and regroup
later elsewhere. Once again overruled, Mao angrily watched the
breakthrough successfully achieved in late 1934, but at a very high cost
to the Red Army. The Long March had begun.
The Long March is one of the pivotal events in the history of the
Chinese Communist movement. Around 400,000 people started out,
but only 40,000 made it all the way to Yan'an. The rest deserted or were
killed or captured. It was a make-or-break struggle for the Chinese
Communists who participated in it, and the few who survived became
a core generation for Chinese leadership well into the 1980s and even
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