The Long March: A Mon­u­men­tal Mile of His­tory

China Pictorial (English) - - Special Report - Text by Li Xia

Eighty years ago, the Chi­nese Work­ers’ and Peas­ants’ Red Army ar­rived at their des­ti­na­tion in north­ern Shaanxi Prov­ince af­ter a jour­ney of 12,500 kilo­me­ters. The mil­i­tary ma­neu­ver car­ried out by the army un­der the lead­er­ship of the Com­mu­nist Party of China (CPC) from Oc­to­ber 1934 to Oc­to­ber 1936 would come to be known as the Long March.

The CPC and its army set out on the march west­ward and then veered north, en­dur­ing un­bear­able dif­fi­culty and suf- fer­ing: Lack­ing food, they sub­sisted on grass roots and tree bark. Many wore straw shoes and could barely cover them­selves in the chilly win­ter. They crossed two dozen snow-capped moun­tains, en­dur­ing thin air in places few had ever trav­eled at al­ti­tudes of more than 4,000 me­ters. Of all the swamps that the Red Army crossed, Song­pan Marsh in eastern Qing­hai-ti­bet Plateau was the most dan­ger­ous. Span­ning 15,200 square kilo­me­ters, it con­sists of nu­mer­ous muddy ponds and trenches.

“I had dif­fi­culty breath­ing as the air be­came thin­ner and thin­ner, leav­ing me barely able to talk,” re­called late CPC leader Dong Biwu of the ex­pe­ri­ence of cross­ing a snow-crowned moun­tain dur­ing the Long March. “It was so cold that the steam I ex­haled froze im­me­di­ately and my hands and lips turned pur­ple. Some peo­ple and cat­tle slipped into the icy river and dis­ap­peared for­ever. Those who sat down for a rest were quickly numbed by the cold.”

Along with harsh nat­u­ral con­di­tions, the Red Army was also be­sieged by Kuom­intang forces. Sto­ries of the Red Army tak­ing the Lud­ing Bridge ev­i­dence the fierce­ness of the bat­tle. To stop the Red Army, Kuom­intang troops re­moved the planks on the sus­pen­sion bridge over the Dadu River, leav­ing only 13 iron chains. Even­tu­ally, 22 Red Army sol­diers risked their lives to cap­ture the bridge af­ter a fierce bat­tle. The Long March was a mir­a­cle of hu­man his­tory and a glo­ri­ous epic writ­ten by the CPC and the Red Army.

Af­ter suc­cess­fully lead­ing the Red Army to north­ern Shaanxi, where sup­port from the peo­ple was strong, the CPC de­feated Ja­panese in­vaders and the Kuom­intang one af­ter the other and founded the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China in 1949. The mar­velous Long March laid an im­por­tant foun­da­tion for the vic­tory.

Af­ter its found­ing in 1921, the CPC once joined hands with the Kuom­intang to launch the Great Rev­o­lu­tion aim­ing to over­throw rule of feu­dal war­lords. The Great Rev­o­lu­tion ul­ti­mately failed, as did Cpc-kuom­intang co­op­er­a­tion. The CPC then in­de­pen­dently led the Land Rev­o­lu­tion and or­ga­nized armed op­er­a­tions against the cor­rupt, counter-rev­o­lu­tion­ary Kuom­intang gov­ern­ment. As a re­sult, the Red Army and its rev­o­lu­tion­ary bases con­tin­ued to ex­pand. At its peak in 1933, the CPC­con­trolled Cen­tral Soviet Area that de­vel­oped from rev­o­lu­tion­ary bases in south­ern Jiangxi Prov­ince and west­ern Fu­jian Prov­ince cov­ered 60 coun­ties: pop­u­la­tion of 4.35 mil­lion and ter­ri­tory of about 84,000 square kilo­me­ters.

In 1931, the Ja­panese army staged the Septem­ber 18 In­ci­dent as part of a move to oc­cupy north­east­ern China. To save the na­tion, the CPC be­gan to com­mit to re­sist­ing Ja­panese aggression. How­ever, the Kuom­intang gov­ern­ment as­sem­bled forces to be­siege the Cen­tral Soviet Area, at­tempt­ing to elim­i­nate the CPC and its army. Some CPC lead­ers made the mis­take of stead­fastly stick­ing to left­ist dog­ma­tism, re­sult­ing in the fail­ure of the fifth cam­paign against “en­cir­clement and sup­pres­sion” by Kuom­intang troops. The Red Army was forced to set out on the Long March to re­treat to ar­eas where the Kuom­intang was weak, nearer to the anti-ja­panese fronts, so the CPC could con­serve its forces to de­fend against Ja­panese aggression.

As Deng Xiaop­ing said, the Red Army “was forced to be­gin the Long March.” Al­though the Long March was a mil­i­tary re­treat caused by the left­ist dog­matic er­rors of some CPC lead­ers and be­siege­ment by Kuom­intang troops, the ul­ti­mate goal was to re­sist Ja­panese aggression and save the na­tion. Dur­ing the Long March, the CPC pub­li­cized in­for­ma­tion to make the pub­lic more aware of re­sis­tance ef­forts against the Ja­panese in­vaders and mo­bi­lized peo­ple to join the Red Army. Even in re­mote, se­cluded ar­eas, the army’s ef­forts to re­sist Ja­panese aggression won re­spect and sup­port from lo­cal res­i­dents.

Wher­ever they ar­rived, the Red Army helped the poor over­throw lo­cal despots, dis­trib­ute the land, and abol­ish heavy taxes. A pop­u­lar bal­lad goes, “sup­port­ing the Red Army to win the war is the only way for work­ers and peas­ants to be lib­er­ated.” Slo­gans such as “Poor starv­ing peo­ple, come join the Red Army” and “The Red Army is the sav­ior of the poor” were found in vil­lages the Red Army passed dur­ing the Long March.

When the Red Army ar­rived in Bi­jie City, Guizhou Prov­ince, CPC lead­ers met Zhou Suyuan, a lo­cal dig­ni­tary, and ex­plained Marx­ist the­o­ries and the at­ti­tudes of the CPC. Zhou later be­came com­man­der of the Cpc-led Guizhou Anti-ja­panese and Na­tional Sal­va­tion Army and joined the Long March to north­ern Shaanxi. When the Red Army passed re­gions in­hab­ited by eth­nic mi­nori­ties, its Gen­eral Po­lit­i­cal De­part-

ment is­sued an or­der re­quir­ing all of­fi­cers to un­con­di­tion­ally obey cus­toms and rules of lo­cal eth­nic mi­nori­ties and clar­ify those cus­toms and rules to all sol­diers, rigidly op­pose prej­u­dices of Han supremacy con­cepts and mo­bi­lize all sol­diers to pub­li­cize the goals of the Red Army to peo­ple from all eth­nic mi­nori­ties, es­pe­cially ideas on eth­nic au­ton­omy and equal­ity. The Red Army rig­or­ously im­ple­mented the CPC’S poli­cies on eth­nic equal­ity and re­li­gion, which en­abled it to win trust and sup­port from lo­cal Ti­betan peo­ple in­clud­ing eight em­i­nent monks at the Gui­hua Monastery in Zhong­dian, Yun­nan Prov­ince. The monastery do­nated 5,000 kilo­grams of grain to the Red Army.

In Red Star Over China, Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist Edgar Snow wrote: “The high­es­trank­ing com­man­ders eat and dress the same as or­di­nary sol­diers… The Com­mu­nist Party has no high-paid or cor­rupt of­fi­cials and gen­er­als, but in other Chi­nese mil­i­tary or­ga­ni­za­tions, of­fi­cials em­bez­zle much of the funds in­tended for the mil­i­tary.” De­spite the dif­fi­cul­ties of the Long March, the ideals, courage, wis­dom and ac­tion of the CPC in­spired peo­ple along the route, and many of them joined the Red Army. For in­stance, in Fe­bru­ary 1935, more than 3,000 peo­ple joined in Zhaxi, Yun­nan, and an­other 6,000 peo­ple from Sichuan Prov­ince’s Jiangyou and Zhongba joined the Red Army be­tween April and May 1935. Pre­lim­i­nary sta­tis­tics show that a to­tal of 43,000 peo­ple liv­ing along the route of the Long March joined the Red Army from Novem­ber 1934 to Septem­ber 1936.

Chair­man Mao Ze­dong once said, “The Long March is the first of its kind in the an­nals of his­tory. It is a man­i­festo, a public­ity force, and a seed­ing-ma­chine. Who made the Long March a vic­tory? The Com­mu­nist Party. With­out the Com­mu­nist Party, a march of this kind would have been in­con­ceiv­able.”

The CPC over­came set­backs by con­quer­ing many with few and de­feat­ing the strong with the weak. The key to the vic­tory of the Long March is that the CPC fol­lowed the call of the times, up­held its ideals, re­sponded to the hopes of the peo­ple, and main­tained the spirit of self­less­ness. This is the pre­cious legacy that the Long March left to the CPC, which grad­u­ally fa­cil­i­tated the cre­ation of huge wealth over the course of China’s rev­o­lu­tion and sub­se­quent eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. Just as Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping com­mented, “The Long March was a great ex­pe­di­tion seek­ing ideals and faith, test­ing truth, and break­ing new ground.”

On Oc­to­ber 21, 2016, the CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee held a gath­er­ing to com­mem­o­rate the 80th an­niver­sary of the vic­tory of the Long March. In his speech at the gath­er­ing, Pres­i­dent Xi re­marked, “The great spirit of the Long March is the pre­cious spir­i­tual wealth that cost the Party and the peo­ple a hefty price of painful strug­gle. Across each gen­er­a­tion, we must keep in mind, learn, and pro­mote the great spirit of the Long March, pre­serv­ing its strong spir­i­tual strength that con­tin­ues to mo­ti­vate the Party, the state, the peo­ple, the mil­i­tary, and the na­tion to stride to­ward a brighter fu­ture.” By up­hold­ing the spirit of the Long March, the Chi­nese peo­ple are con­fi­dent about their own de­vel­op­ment and pre­pared to shoul­der re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of all mankind and its fu­ture. This is why the CPC cher­ishes the legacy of the Long March.

Septem­ber 23, 2016: Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and other se­nior state and Party lead­ers in­clud­ing Yu Zhen Zhang Gaoli visit an ex­hi­bi­tion mark­ing the 80th an­niver­sary of the end of the Long March at the Mil­i­tary Mus Bei­jing. by Lan Hong­guang/xinhua

Ngsheng, Liu Yun­shan, Wang Qis­han and seum of the Chi­nese Peo­ple's Rev­o­lu­tion in Septem­ber 24, 2016: Wang Tian­bao (left), for­mer ad­vi­sor of China's Naval Air Force, ex­am­ines a piece of iron chain from the Lud­ing Bridge at an ex­hi­bi­tion mark­ing the 80th an

A unit of the First Front Army of the Chi­nese Work­ers' and Peas­ants' Red Army poses for a photo af­ter ar­riv­ing in north­ern Shaanxi Prov­ince. In Oc­to­ber 1935, the First Front Army com­pleted the Long March af­ter break­ing sieges by the Kuom­intang troops and

The Ji­a­jin Moun­tain that the Red Army crossed dur­ing the Long March in Aba Ti­betan and Qiang Au­ton­o­mous Pre­fec­ture, Sichuan Prov­ince. CFB

Re­mains of a plank road passed by the Red Army dur­ing the Long March. CFB Iron chains of the Lud­ing Bridge over the tor­ren­tial Dadu River. On May 25, 1935, the Red Army took the Lud­ing Bridge af­ter its first bat­tle along the Long March, crush­ing Chi­ang Ka

Oc­to­ber 1936: The main forces of the Red Army, namely the First, Sec­ond and Fourth Front Armies, con­verge in Huin­ing, Gansu Prov­ince, end­ing the Long March that had lasted for two years. CFB A col­ored pa­per arch­way built by the Red Army in north­ern Shaanx

Re­mains of wild veg­eta­bles eaten by the Red Army and a vest worn by a Red Army sol­dier dur­ing the Long March. CFB

A bam­boo hat and a pair of straw shoes worn by Red Army sol­diers in the Long March, which are now housed in the Mu­seum of the Zunyi Con­fer­ence. The bam­boo hat car­ries six Chi­nese char­ac­ters that mean “Chi­nese Work­ers' and Peas­ants' Red Army.” CFB

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