From The Dark Valley:
Prince Konoe fostered a fierce chauvinism in Japan as the conflict with China continued. His government regimented the nation in an increasingly dictatorial manner; in fact, Japanese took to using the word “totalitarianism” during the later 1930s, though the system was said to be incompatible with the Imperial Way. Individuals were urged to make sacrifices for the greater good: “Away with frivolous entertainment”; “One soup and one side dish (per meal).” Posters, films, broad casts, lectures and meetings repeated the message, creating a mood of harsh austerity throughout Nippon. By the winter of 1937-8, when school children doffed their warm coats in sympathy for the fighting troops, life at home seemed to be “an extension of the battle line.” “Never before,” declared a Tokyo journal, “have the sentiment and mode of life of the Japanese people witnessed such a great change during so brief a period.” To support the soldiers of the sun abroad no domestic self-denial seemed too extravagant. The Prime Minister himself was subject to right-wing criticism for eating unnecessary lunches. But when death threats followed, Konoe remained languidly indifferent.
The pressure to pinch and scrape left its mark on the entire population. They were pressed to renounce costly ornaments, seasonal gifts and new clothes. Women wearing bright kimonos, cosmetics and permanent waves were publicly rebuked. Later kimonos were compulsorily abbreviated to save material; and some were dyed khaki, while others bore patriotic motifs-arrows, fans, bells. Frills and pleats were removed from Western dresses, though women who really wanted to identify with the military adopted mompez', drab peasant pantaloons. Men wore single-breasted jackets, shirts with attached collars and shortened tails, and trousers without turn-ups. Brass buttons and hair-pins were banished. Iron was as scarce as gold and children were no longer given metal toys. To save timber, matches were shaved by 0.029 of an inch. To save leather, handbags were made of bamboo, willow or cellophane. Shoes were fashioned from shark or whale skin, and there was a campaign in favour of cloth slippers (mi) and wooden clogs (gem). Chemists from the Ministry of Agriculture experimented with tanning rat skins. Designs were even advanced for a national uniform costing 30 yen (less than £2), to be worn by officials and, if times got harder, by everyone.
Economies, enforced by the police, took many forms. Dance halls and mah-jongg clubs were shut down. Shops, restaurants, theatres, cinemas, brothels and other places of entertainment had to close early. Rubber balls, including golf balls, were banned. As well as the “control of pleasure,” the authorities insisted on the “utilisation of waste”--old newspapers, broken pens, beer bottle tops. The government sponsored a huge programme of substitution: raffia for rubber bands; soya bean stalks for wood pulp; plastic, porcelain and glass for metal; rayon for cotton and wool. Many goods were rationed-including petrol, which resulted in the spread of asphyxiating charcoal-fuelled cars, lorries and buses. Japanese fishing-boats reverted to sails. Imports were restricted and over 300 foreign commodities disappeared from the shelves of department stores, including soaps, perfumes, cosmetics, tooth powder, cameras, stationery and clothing. The Ginza was darkened, the “prohibition against neon signs” being officially described as “an enlightened act. ” The Tokyo Olympic Games, scheduled for 1940, were abandoned because the metal for the stands could be used to build a destroyer. For similar reasons Mitsubishi stopped work on its huge new building in the Marunouchi business district. Even the Emperor was subject to the spartan imperatives of the day. He had to give up foreign wine and cigarettes (for others-he himself did not smoke). When the government’s drive to wring gold from its citizens began, he was obliged to swap his gold spectacles for cheap metal ones and change his gilded crests to silver. Until Saionji intervened, Hirohito was actually prevented from convalescing after an illness in his modest, grey-boarded, seaside house at Hayama. He also had to seek military approval before doing anything as effete as collecting marine specimens, a task which involved courtiers in full morning dress wading into the water, bowing and beaching the imperial boat.
Like Stalin’s Russia, Konoe’s Japan seemed bent on starving itself great. Movements were launched to eliminate company banquets and to cut down the amount of food served in private houses. This was small enough in all conscience: the breakfast and dinner-of a typical university professor might consist of nothing more than rice and pickled radish, while lunch would be something like fish soup and boiled cabbage. People were encouraged to ear half-hulled rice, partly because it was more nutritious but mainly because the polished article was over-dressed and gave the “impression of a degenerate western dish.” Patriots, incidentally, served their children rice with a pickled plum in the centre to replicate the national flag. Through its National Mobilisation Act (passed in March 1938) the government not only took control of capital and industry, wages and labour, training and research; it also mobilised goods and materials. It aimed to reduce daily necessities “to the minimum required for sustenance.” So, at a time when eggs, butter, milk and cheese were almost unobtainable at home, they were exported to obtain foreign exchange. In due course other Japanese foods were sold in Peking when they could hardly be found in Tokyo-milled flour, canned crab, fish, fruit, jam.
The tightening of the national belt concentrated the nationalist mind. Japan had always been strictly disciplined but now intellectual uniformity was deemed a matter of survival. Teachers were told to instruct their pupils in “Japanese science” based on “the Imperial Way.” This apparently excluded evolution, since the Japanese claimed divine descent. School sports became more martial. General Araki, now Minister of Education, tried to weed out “spiritual borrowings” from outsiders and to harmonise Japanese sport to the “way of the warrior”. This meant more emphasis on marching, judo and kendo, though baseball, duly purged of alien terminology, remained acceptable.
To assist with their spiritual mobilisation Araki banished books by writers such as Mill, Hardy, Gissing, Shaw, Russell and Aldous Huxley. Subsequently a production of Hamlet was forbidden in case it should provoke dangerous thoughts about royalty. “Thoughts are contraband,” wrote a foreign journalist, and the police were especially keen to stop them from being smuggled into universities. They arrested, intimidated and vetted lecturers.
However, when Chamberlain proved unwilling to offend the Axis whole, Halifax characteristically capitulated. He advised against the loan because of “the risk of an adverse reaction in Japan.”
THE Japanese were not mollified since by this stage Britain was the prime scapegoat for their failure to subjugate China. This failure was harder to bear because, under the hammer of Thor, China was evidently being forged into a united nation. To be sure, the country was so vast, amorphous and diverse that it was less a state than a geographical expression. Bounded by steppe, mountain, desert, forest and ocean, it stretched from the harsh brown plains of the arid north to the lush green uplands of the subtropical south, from the Himalayan peaks of Tsinghai to the Yangtse basin in Kiangsu. The threads holding this immense territory together were sparse. By 1938 China had only 70,000 miles of high road and 10,000 miles of railway track. Language was an equally inadequate means of communication: the province of Fukien alone was said to have 108 dialects. Foreigners were often assumed to be speaking a regional patois and vain attempts were made to talk to them by spelling out words in Chinese characters. Differences of race, religion and even diet (rice versus noodles) fur’ ther divided the inhabitants. In any case, they were for the most part virtually embedded in their native earth. Ninety per cent of the 500 mil, lion souls were peasants: at the mercy of flood, famine, drought and dis ease; subject to warlords, landlords, money-lenders and tax-collectors. The Chinese peasant was so poor, a British ambassador noted, that whereas his equal in the Dutch East Indies could always get a banana, he would "often be heartily thankful if he could get a share in an old banana skin.” Yet the Communist Chairman, Mao Tse-tung, discerned in the ground-down peasant an incipient revolutionary and the Kuominrang Generalissimo, Chiang Kai-shek, perceived him as an insrinctive nationalist. Neither was wrong. Under the agonising imperative of the Japanese invasion, the Chinese masses were mobilised as a political force as never before.
No leader had done more to unite the nation than Chiang Kai-shek. The son of a village merchant, he was born in 1887 near the port of Ningpo and he always spoke (in his high-pitched voice) with the sibilant accents of Chekiang province. His mother brought him up strictly, according to Confucian precepts, and the discipline seemed to be imprinted on his face. It was a mask so expressionless that it often caused comment among Westerners schooled on tales of Oriental inscrutability. The visiting British writers Auden and Isherwood, for example, thought Chiang “almost a sinister presence; he has the fragile impassivity of a spectre.” Yet behind that frozen countenance wild passions raged. Sometimes they erupted into violence. When provoked he would shout, curse, weep, bang the table, throw things, complain of torments like those “Buddha suffered in hell.” He might threaten to commit suicide and his face would change colour, first to “pale green,” then to “terrible white.” Often his tantrums culminated in the order of a thrashing or a beheading. But they were soon over, like his periodic “gusts of passion,” one of which caused him to try to rape the 13-year-old girl who later became his second wife. Chiang’s strongest driving force was a brave, stubborn, cunning and utterly ruthless ambition. To achieve power he made every sacrifice, employed every expedient and tapped every well-spring.
After cutting off his pigtail in defiance of Manchu custom, Chiang scraped and struggled to get the best possible military education-in Japan. In 1911 he returned to fight in the revolution which would, Sun Yatsen hoped, plant in China the three principles of nationalism, socialism and democracy. Chiang also acquired a less wholesome patron in Tu Yuehsheng, boss of the notorious Green Gang and head of Shanghai’s criminal underworld. There the young officer engaged in activities which apparently ranged from “intense dissipation” (one reward for which was gonorrhoea) to extortion, robbery and murder. In 1923 Chiang visited Russia and with Soviet help he was appointed commandant of Whampoa Military Academy in Canton, China’s Sandhurst or West Point. On Sun Yatsen’s death in 1925 Chiang was expected to emerge as the pre-eminent military leader, a Chinese Trotsky. But two years later, having identified Bolshevism as “Red impetialism,” he purged the Kuomintang’s Communist allies. He also tried to establish his legitimacy as head of the Nationalist party by marrying Mei-ling Soong, the beautiful, American educated sister of Sun Yat-sen’s widow. Although he wrote her love letters and called her “Darling“ (one of his few English words) it is clear that this marriage, his third. was a dynastic one. It was, like his subsequent conversion to Christianity a “calculated political move. Not only did it make him Sun‘s heir and gain him Croesus-rich brothers-in-law (T V. Soong and H. H. Kung). it helped to win him friends in the West at the very time he needed them. Within a year Chiang had marched north captured Peking‘ and become. in the eyes of the world. the leader of a unified China.
This was a gigantic illusion. As the American journalist Edgar Snow wrote Chiang was nothing more than “the apex of a loose pyramid of sand". He was a national warlord who had failed to conquer his regional compeers and had to rely on a quasi-feudal fealty, which was often witheld. From his capital, Nanking, he exercised direct control over only five of the lower Yangtse provinces. Elsewhere his rule was constantly challenged in local revolts amounting at times to civil war. In the long run, of course, Chaing's most dangerous enemies within were the Communists. Outlawing these ‘bandits' and putting a huge price on the heads of their leaders, he attempted to crush them in a series of bitter campaigns. He failed, though Mao Tse-tung's forces were eventually driven into the remote fastness of north Shensi. Nor was Chiang successful in dealing with the annual threats to his regime: the alien wedge of Western powers in their privileged concessions, the louring Russian menace and the aggression of Japan. In his house were many mansions and to remain even nominal landlord he had to engage in a perpetual struggle.
Chiang drew Strength from various sources, foreign and domestic. He learned from Hitler, whom he admired, when trying to weld the faction-ridden Kuomintang into a party which would command allegiance througtout the country. His aim, he told the Blue Shirts, an elite band formed in 1932 on the model of Nazi Stormtroopers, was “to spread our revolutionary spirit to the masses of the entire nation.” German military advisers also helped to modernise Chiang’s army, which was taught the goose-step. His security chief, Tai-Li, turned the euphemistically named Central Investigation and Statistics Bureau into such a Gestapo that he was known as “China’s Himmler.”‘ Yet Chiang often spoke the language of Western democracy, especially when Mei-ling was acting as his interpreter. And he did more than simply pay lip-service to capitalist ideals: he achieved much in the way of promoting education, improving communications, developing industry and stabilising the currency. After initial doubts, the publications of Henry Luce in the United States hailed Chiang as a “sagacious” leader and they “clearly preferred Mei-ling to her American counterpart, Eleanor Roosevelt.
Chiang’s “New Life Movement,” launched in 1934 in an attempt to revitalise China spiritually, was a more eclectic affair. With its prohibitions against spitting, smoking, drinking, over-eating, foot-shuffling, using lip stick, burning joss-sticks and letting off firecrackers; with its processions bearing multicoloured dragons and shining pagodas from which fluttered slogans urging people to kill flies and rats, to avoid gambling and women; with its Boy Scout spies to discover miscreants and its squads of bully boys to beat them up, the Movement seemed a cross between Fascism and Evangelicalism. Yet with its emphasis on the ancient virtues of courtesy, righteousness, integrity and a sense of shame, the New Life Movement drew on the tradition of Confucius. Many Westerners disliked its combination of intolerance and hypocrisy, Madame Chiang Kai-shek coming in for harsh criticism on both scores. She was so fond of sermonising that, not content with subjecting Chinese pilots to a course of moral uplift, she “laid down some golden rules for air tactics.” Yet in defiance of the precepts of the new purity campaign, she smoked mentholated English cigarettes, painted her face, imported Paris lingerie, slept between silken sheets and used the most delicious perfume that Auden and Isherwood had ever smelled. According to her socialist sister Ching-ling (Sun Yat-sen’s widow), she spent 4 million Chinese dollars a year on toilet articles, including medicinally-impregnated lavatory paper at 20 dollars a sheet. Still, Chiang made up for his wife’s extravagance by his monastic austerity. Frugal, taciturn, teetotal and non-smoking, he wore an unadorned tunic and seemed a fine advertisement for the New Life Movement. It impressed many Chinese.
It also helped to cloak the fact that Chiang’s regime was fundamentally reactionary and corrupt. Behind Chiang stood the gangster, Tu Yuehsheng, his Green Eminence. With a long egg-shaped head, close-cropped hair, bat ears, dead eyes, cruel lips, large yellow decayed teeth, and the sickly complexion of an addict, the blue-gowned Tu seemed like a caricature of the fictional Fu Manchu. In fact, he was nastier than he looked. It was with his help that the Generalissimo attempted to monopolise the nation’s drug traffic, now more profitable than ever since Chinese opium Was increasingly being used to produce morphine and heroin. This was “an act of stupendous government criminalisation.” It was, as Sun Yat-sen had said, “tantamount to selling out the country.“ But it was also an important revenue-yielding enterprise (a standard one, secretly employed by Mao at Yenan, for example) which did much to sustain Chiang’s regime. And it was disguised with consummate cynicism. Drug shops tamed out their business, supervised by the police, under the name of de-toxification clinics. The Opium Suppression Bureau, far from eradicating the trade in narcotics, actually managed it. One of the Bureau’s members was Tu himself, described in the British-edited Chinese Who's Who of 1933 as a “well-known public welfare worker.”
Whatever his associations, Chiang was widely regarded as the strong man of weak China. The British considered him powerful and dynamic. The japanese recognised that he was chiefly responsible for the national revival; as a Foreign Ministry spokesman in Tokyo later said, “His figure shines brighter than anyone else in the Kuomintang and the government." Stalin thought he had much more to gain from Chiang Kai-shek than from Mao Tse-tung. This was a reasonable assumption since until 1937 Chiang seemed to be succeeding in his campaign to appease the Japanese in order to destroy the Reds. With a ferocity all his own, he had followed the traditional Chinese policy of tackling domestic rebels before foreign aggressors. “Rather slay a thousand innocent men,” he insisted, ‘than let one Communist escape.” By 1934 the Nationalists had almost exterminated the Communists, who set off on the epic retreat to north China which is known as the Long March. It became, in the theology of Chinese Marxists, an exodus like that of the Children of Israel. The chosen cadres also had their own Moses, in the person of Mao Tse-tung.
These are not original analogies, for the odyssey has attained the status if a national myth, with Mao himself as its hero. The Long March has been represented as the migration of the Red Nation, carrying with it, like he Ark of the Covenant, the pure faith that would revolutionise China.
Mao himself was not just the leader but the saviour. He emerged from the ordeal as a superhuman figure charged with “elemental vitality. Foreigners were particularly apt to hail him as a “monumental genius.” To one Western devotee, who met him soon after the Long March, the character of this tall peasant-philosopher, with his long hair and his effeminate hands, was plainly written on his face. She discerned wisdom in his “high, square forehead”; “patience and untold suffering in [his] sparse, painfully knitted brows”; shrewdness and irony in his “large black eyes”; “determination, in his high cheekbones”; “sensuality in his full lips”; sensitiveness to beauty in his “nervous, finely shaped ears”; kindness in the “soft curve of his chin”; “sense of humour in the corners of his eyes and of his mouth.”"
Such romance hid a reality that was hardly less fantastic. The Long March was not an inspired national migration but an improvised military evacuation. Threatened with encirclement by the forces of Chiang Kai-shek, some 86,000 men, mostly young soldiers so countrified that they had never seen a locomotive or an electric light, abandoned their Kiangsi soviet south of the Yangtse River in search of a safe haven. The Red Army Stole away at night, in accordance with principles of deception recommended by ancient Chinese war manuals, shedding its skin like a golden cicada and moving “intangibly as a ghost in the starlight." But it also deceived those left behind-old, young, sick, female-who received no mercy from the Kuomintang. The Red Army was equally ruthless with the men in its own ranks. Moreover, although imbued with revolutionary idealism, some of them even with virginal innocence, they were not above rape, robbery, kidnapping, extortion and murder, their usual victims being landlords, not peasants. Nevertheless the army's positive achievements were worthy of celebration in song and story.
Particular events stand out: the running fights, swift manoeuvres and guerrilla stratagems by which Chiang Kai-shek was eluded and deluded; the clashes with remote hill tribes such as the Miao and Yi (the latter liked to strip stragglers of all their possessions, including clothes, and leave them to starve or freeze); the climbing of the Great Snowy Mountains, where troops were “told to talk in whispers because there was so little oxygen”, the still more hazardous voyage through the marshy, unmapped grasslands on the empty plateau between the watersheds of the Yellow and Yangtse rivers. But no episode was more famous than the storming of the iron-chain suspension bridge over the Tatu River, a swirling torrent that flowed through jagged narrows with the speed of a galloping horse, at Luting. To capture it ahead of Kuomintang reinforcements, Mao sent shock troops racing up the gorge. They wound in “dragon lines” along Steep cliffs, and at night their split-bamboo torches sent “arrows of light glinting down the dark face of the imprisoning river.” They arrived before the Nationalists. Assault teams, armed with sub-machine-guns, Mauser pistols and hand grenades, swung themselves across the hundred-yard-long bridge link by link, since the wooden flooring had been removed on their side. On the far side it remained intact and the Kuomintang guard, which had been shooting wildly, poured kerosene on the planks and set them alight. The attackers charged through the flames and secured the bridgehead. But even this crucial victory is overshadowed by the oft-repeated statistics of the Long March: in a year Mao’s force travelled 6,000 miles, crossed 18 mountain ranges and 24 rivers, captured 62 towns and broke through the armies of 10 warlords. Only a few thousand survivors (including a handful of women) reached Shensi province, walled and moated by nature, where Mao set up his headquarters in the tiny, ancient city of Yenan, “South of the Clouds.”
Living in a candle-lit cave in a bleak, loamy valley so narrow that the sun penetrated only for a few hours each day, eating cabbage and millet, reading and writing copiously, cultivating tobacco in his little garden, Mao rapidly became acknowledged as the warrior-sage of the Chinese revolution. Yet he had begun the Long March in a litter and had not taken command for three months. Despite his growing reputation as a military genius his tactics had sometimes led to bloody reverses in the field and his strategy so reduced the strength of his own contingent that he barely survived the struggle for power inside the Red Army. That he prevailed was a tribute to the peasant stubbornness which ran through his character like “a steel rod.” Beaten as a boy by his father, who had raised himself from poverty by hoarding grain to keep up the price, Mao had revolted against the bucolic life. In 1911, aged 18, he had left his Hunan village to study at Changsha, where, he later joked, he invaded the provincial library “like an ox let loose in a vegetable garden.“ Although he acquired a veneer of education, wrote poetry and became a Marxist, Mao never strayed far from his earthy roots.
He valued manual labour over intellectual endeavour. He admired primitive rebels, distressed farmers who became the outlaw heroes of Chinese novels, the “bandits of despair.” He reviled foreign devils and denounced Chinese subservience to them: “If one of our foreign masters farts, it’s a lovely perfume.” Chewing red peppers and chain-smoking Pirate cigarettes, he remained dirty, dishevelled and uncouth-happy to search his trousers for lice in front of visiting journalists such as Edgar Snow. Privately he sinned against the canons of sexual puritanism which (after earlier espousing free love) be publicly prescribed. Employing brutal means and enduring cruel setbacks, he had struggled for years to exploit the revolutionary potential of the armed rural working class. This he came to appreciate better than anyone, visualising hundreds of millions of peasants rising “like a tornado or tempest-a force so extraordinarily swift and violent that no power, however great, will be able to suppress it.” But at Yenan he grew fat, literally and metaphorically. Bloated on adulation, he was a peasant emperor in the making. Puffed up by vanity, he was a proleptic dictator of the proletariat.
Paradoxically, Mao’s most down-to-earth qualities-his simplicity, self' deprecating humour, rustic common sense-assisted in his deification. His very weaknesses were a source of strength. Mao’s chronic constipation became a cause for concern throughout the Red Army: at Yenan a cheer would go up as news spread that “the Chairman’s bowels have moved.” Mao was a poor orator who “spoke as if his mouth were full of hot congee”; but this endeared him to the huge audiences at his open-air meetings outside Yenan, where listeners at the front relayed his words to those at the back amid murmurs of approval. His awesome popularity, though, rested on his transcendent abilities and achievements. Despite the setbacks Mao had proved his mastery of guerrilla warfare during the Long March, escaping entrapment with bewildering feints and dazzling forced marches, living off the land yet making friends with most of its inhabitants, transforming the whole campaign into a prelude to revolution. At Yenan Mao deployed his formidable organisational skills to build the élite which would mobilise the masses. To turn China Red required certain key measures: creating a model soviet (many peasants thought this was a person), free from exploitation, beggary, unemployment, prostitution, infanticide, child slavery, opium-smoking, foot-binding; seeking Moscow’s blessing, not least by setting up a secret police (given the innocuous title, “Social Affairs Department”) modelled on the OGPU; simultaneously endorsing democracy and human rights in order to conciliate the West; above all, forming a popular front with Chiang Kai-shek to “drive out the invading dwarfs” of Nippon.“ Currency notes printed in Shensi bore such slogans as “Stop Civil War!” and “Unite to Resist Japan!” Before he would seek allies against the Japanese, though, Chiang himself was bent on wiping out every Communist soldier in China.
However, the case that Chinese should not fight Chinese but combine against Japan won increasing support. None championed it more ardently than the warlord Chang Hsueh-liang, known as the Young Marshal, whose father (the Old Marshal) had been assassinated by the Kwantung Army in 1928. Failing to persuade Chiang Kai-shek, he sought to coerce him. When the Generalissimo visited Sian in December 1936, the Young Marshal staged a mutiny. Chiang was staying just outside the ancient city, in the temple-hotel at the hot springs resort of Lintung. He rose early to meditate cross-legged in his night-shirt before an open window. Shots rang out as the Young Marshal’s troops overwhelmed his bodyguard. Leaving behind his slippers and false teeth (which he only wore at night, his wife would complain, when visiting a concubine), Chiang climbed out of the window, scaled a wall and dropped 30 feet, injuring his back in the fall. He limped up a bare, snowy hillside in the grey dawn, seeking refuge and praying for help. It came, he later told a journalist, in the shape of “two white hares. I knew, instinctively, that God had sent them as a sign and that they would lead me to safety.”63 Chiang followed them and found a small cleft in the rocks where he hid. But the soldiers soon found him. Chiang expected the worst and pleaded for a quick death. Instead he was carried down the hill on an officer’s back and imprisoned in the Palace of Glorious Purity, built for Tang emperors within the walls of Sian. There he was visited by the Young Marshal who apologized for the inconvenience.
News of the kidnapping astonished the world. Confusion reigned, com. pounded by strict censorship and unbridled propaganda. London (agog with the abdication crisis) was predictably baffled by the “Chinese Puzzle." Tokyo blamed a Comintern plot. Moscow asserted that Chiang was the victim of a Japanese coup, a claim so absurd that Chinese papers Would not print it for fear of ridicule. Apparently Mao’s first instinct was to urge the trial and punishment of the Generalissimo, who “owes us a blood debt high as a mountain.”" But, pressed by the Kremlin, the Chinese Communist Party soon determined to use him to promote the struggle for national salvation, which would become, Mao hoped, the crucible of social revolution. Having caged Chiang, the Young Marshal’s supporters were fearful of “setting the tiger free back to the mountains.“ But Mao’s urbane lieutenant Chou En-lai argued convincingly that Chiang was indispensable. As the Generalissimo himself told the Young Marshal, "I am the government. ”‘Tortuous negotiations took place to secure his release, which was bought at the price of ending the civil war and concentrating on the foreign aggressors. Chiang showed his gratitude by locking up the Young Marshal for life. But he did not renege on his main pledge. Paradoxically, the “Sian Incident,” as it was called, made Chiang "the popular symbol of what he had opposed for years: a genuine united front against Japan.” As leader of the Chinese, he had to follow them.
Red Menace in order to present the Japanese invasion as “a defence action against Communists.” At the War Exhibition in Ueno Park, for example, a large mural showed red war-planes rising from Moscow, changing colour in mid-flight, and landing at Wuhan in the blue-and-white livery of the Kuomintang. Contrary to the myth that was soon established, Mao husbanded his army as “the germ plasm of the Chinese revolution.”Chiang, on the other hand, flung his best troops into the fray, hoping to show japan that the cost of lighting to the finish would be too high.
Once or twice they scored a victory, notably at Taierhchuang in March 1938, which was hailed as another Guadalajara. Sixteen thousand Japanese soldiers were surrounded and killed, many in vicious hand-to-hand hghting. But for the most part Chiang’s armies were hopelessly outclassed in leadership, training, tactics and equipment. A Russian adviser was appalled to see Chinese units being ferried across the Yellow River on ox-hide rafts as old as the Great Wall. An American military observer described Chiang’s grey-clad troops, who sometimes satisfied their craving for salt with the gunpowder in bullets removed from their cases, as a “goddam medieval mob.”7J They resisted in order to stop the Chinese becoming “the coolies of Japan”;74 but when routed they merged into the countryside to become peasants again. From north and east the “blood-spot Hag” steadily advanced towards the nation’s industrial heartland, the triple city of Wuhan, known as China’s “three furnaces.” Chiang was trading too much space for too little time. Yet retreat was the only way to stave off defeat. Not only did Japan’s murderous firepower prove irresistible on land but Nippon controlled the waters and the skies. Chinese courage and patriotism were not enough. Nor was Chinese propaganda. At an oliicial briefing in Ilankow on 9 Match 1938 journalists learned that “Of aeVen planes brought down by Chinese forces, fifteen Wele destroyed by infantry.”7i