Week 8

This week, we discussed the struggles between the Nationalists (Guomindang) and Communists (CCP) for control of China during the first few decades of the twentieth century. There was no central power in China after the last emperor abdicated in 1912. It was a very chaotic time. In class, we discussed how the year 1927 was a turning point in Chinese history that people don’t always think of as such. The GMD, the CCP, and the Comintern (The Communist International, controlled by Soviet Russia) negotiated an alliance in 1924 (Moise 58). The GMD and CCP split in 1927 when Chiang Kai Shek’s army fought them in the Northern Expedition, and they had military battles since then (Moise 66).

I found it interesting how the Chinese communists wrote about and drew posters depicting The Long March. The crossing of the Luding Bridge was an event that features in PRC propaganda as a representation of the strength and courage of the CCP. The Nationalists were attacking the Jiangxi Soviet and had them surrounded, so the Red Army and the CCP retreated to the west and the north over the course of a year (Chen 296). Only ten thousand of the one hundred thousand members survived (Chen 296). The author of the primary source we read (I could not find his name) was part of the Red Army. He said that their group crossed the Luding bridge under machine gun fire by the Nationalist army, laying new planks across the bridge and fighting at the same time (Chen 298-299). It is a remarkable story of survival.

In class, we looked at artistic representations of Mao and The Long March. The first two paintings on our course slides show Mao in the center and portray him as a leader. They were probably from after 1949 when the CCP won the civil war and he took power over China. The first painting is of Mao and a group of soldiers at the beginning of the Long March. He stands out wearing all black, and a boy is hugging him, which could represent kindness. In the second, he is leading a group of soldiers that look tired while he is standing up straight and leading them. The artists were likely under political pressure to portray Mao as a hero because he was a dictator at the time. They used Mao’s role in The Long March to reinforce his control in China. 


Moïse Edwin E. Modern China: A History Third ed. Harlow, England: Pearson/Longman, 2008.

“The Tale of the Luding Bridge.” In The Search for Modern China: A Documentary Collection, Third ed. Edited by Janet Chen et. al., W. W. Norton & Company, 2014.

Painting of soldiers walking up a hill during the Long March. Mao Ze Dong is wearing all black and is standing in the center of the painting, leading the troops
Painting of Mao leading the Long March






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