Unity against communist China’s ‘United Front’ (1) : On history and today

The Taipei Times, Taiwan, Sunday, Nov 16, 2008-

The civil war between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was filled with bloodshed and brutality. There were two main strategies adopted by former CCP leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東) against the KMT, government officials and the public. The CCP implemented terrifying acts of suppression, torture and slaughter. On the other hand, it employed “united front” tactics, trying to win over KMT members and supporters and sowing division.

In August 1947, Mao promoted land reform in northern Shaanxi Province. In enforcing the reform, people were put in urns filled with salt water and drowned or had boiling oil poured over their heads. Local cadres who were not aggressive enough in dealing with landowners were stoned to death.

Even Mao’s aides considered this tyrannical, but he never changed his approach. His reason was simple: Brutality and violence is the best warning, and whoever refuses to listen or holds a different opinion will receive such punishment.

Mao achieved his purpose in early 1948 when he received reports saying 160 million people in CCP-controlled areas were terrified as a result of brutality. A pro-Communist US correspondent stationed in CCP-controlled areas reported that after people had been killed using brutal measures, peasants became very cooperative when asked by the party to provide labor, grain and money.

Mao also made good use of his “united front” strategies. On April 23, 1949, the CCP went all out to cross the Yangtze River and occupy the former Republic of China capital of Nanjing. The KMT fled with the gold in the national treasury and priceless antiques from the National Palace Museum in Beijing. However, when the KMT also wanted to remove several advanced electrical engineering companies, then-Industry and Mines minister Sun Yueh-chi (孫越崎) intervened and handed over all state-run heavy industry facilities to the CCP.

As a result, the CCP took over more than 1,000 functioning factories and mines and an almost completely intact industrial system. Why did Sun suddenly turn hostile toward the KMT? It later came to light that the CCP had worked on Sun before bringing its “united front” strategy to Nanjing.

The united front strategy included sowing division, bribery, infiltration and defections. Party operatives would first coax their targets, then use profit and benefits as bait. Sun’s conversion was just one example.

The fact that the People’s Liberation Army met with no resistance at the KMT stronghold of Jiangling County in Hubei Province when crossing the Yangtze River, and that Fu Zuoyi (傅作義) surrendered without a fight during a battle on the outskirts of Beijing, were indicative of the success of the “united front” strategy.

The CCP’s two-pronged strategy has remained in place since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. Domestically, the party implements terrifying oppression while relying on a “united front” approach internationally.

The establishment of diplomatic ties with the US was the ultimate vindication of the “united front” strategy. In March 1972, with Mao’s permission, a Chinese table tennis team went to Japan to participate in the 31st World Table Tennis Championship. World champion Zhuang Zedong (莊則棟) ran into US team member Glenn Cowan on a bus, and a photo of him shaking hands with Cowan made headlines in Japanese newspapers. After being informed of the news, Mao was quoted as saying in Beijing that “Zhuang Zedong not only plays table tennis well, he also promotes diplomacy.”

This paved the way for the US table tennis team’s visit to Beijing, which created a butterfly effect and the establishment of US-China diplomatic ties, reshaping strategic relations in Asia.

The same is true of CCP strategies toward Taiwan. When dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) retreated to Taiwan in 1949, Mao requested that Soviet leader Joseph Stalin provide military aircraft and submarines to help invade Taiwan. Harboring misgivings about the US’ response, Stalin was not willing to risk a confrontation and turned down Mao’s request.

After the CCP failed in its artillery war on Kinmen, Mao’s successors pushed for the establishment of diplomatic ties with the US, prompting the CCP to change strategy and adopt the “united front” tactics as its primary method for annexing Taiwan. The cross-strait threat now posed by missiles targeting Taiwan only plays a supporting role. (to be cont’d)

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- The Taipei Times