Victory Comes from the People’s Support
During the Chinese People’s War of Liberation (1946–1949), led by the Communist Party of China, the assistance provided by farmers and ordinary people effectively ensured the victories of three major military campaigns.
During the Chinese People's War of Liberation (1946–1949), led by the Communist Party of China (CPC), three major military campaigns took place between September 12, 1948, and January 31, 1949. They were the campaigns of Liaoshen, Huaihai and Pingjin, and are considered milestones of China's revolutionary history. The victories of the three major military campaigns are inseparable from the support they received from the people. Chen Yi (1901– 1972), commander of the East China Field Army of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), said, “The Huaihai Campaign victory was won by the masses who pushed wheelbarrows.”
Decisive Battles for a Nation’s Destiny
After the victory of the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1931–1945), China was faced with two fates and two possible futures. The CPC, representing the fundamental interests of the majority of Chinese people, strived to build an independent, democratic, prosperous and strong nation through peaceful means. However, the Kuomintang (KMT) regime, which represented only landowners and the bourgeoisie, attempted to grasp the fruits of the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression by launching a civil war to maintain its reactionary rule of autocracy and dictatorship. On June 26, 1946, a total of 220,000 KMT government troops attacked the CPC'S Central Plains Liberation Area, marking the beginning of what would become a comprehensive civil war. On the night of June 30, 1947, a total of 120,000 PLA troops led by Liu Bocheng (1892–1986) and Deng Xiaoping (1904–1997) crossed the Yellow River and launched the Southwest Shandong Campaign, which served as a prelude to the strategic attack of the People's Liberation War.
By the end of 1947, KMT troops were forced to change their strategy from one of strategic attack to one of comprehensive defence, and the Chinese revolutionary war reached a new historical turning point.
In the autumn of 1948, the People's Liberation War entered a decisive stage of national victory, and the time for launching decisive battles was ripe. Under the leadership of Chairman Mao Zedong (1893–1976) and the Central Military Commission—and with the active support of the people—the PLA kicked off the important Liaoshen, Huaihai and Pingjin campaigns. These were the battles that would ultimately determine China's future.
The Huaihai Campaign was focused in Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province, and covered from Haizhou in the east to Shangqiu in the west, and from Lincheng in the north to Huaihe River in the south. During the campaign's first stage, from November 6 to 22, the East China Field Army of the PLA annihilated 100,000 KMT troops directed by Huang Baitao (1900–1948) in Nianzhuangyu. During the campaign's second stage, lasting from November 23 to December 15, the
PLA'S East China Field Army and Central Plains Field Army destroyed another 100,000 KMT troops directed by Huang Wei (1904–1989) in Shuangduiji. The third stage of the Huaihai Campaign lasted from December 15, 1948, to January 10, 1949. The PLA launched a general offensive on KMT troops, and completely defeated around 200,000 troops from the two corps directed by Qiu Qingquan (1902–1949) and Li Mi (1902–1973). During the Huaihai Campaign, though suffering more than 110,000 casualties, the PLA wiped out 555,000 KMT troops after 66 days of arduous fighting, and liberated Eastern and Central China north of the Yangtze River.
Supporting the Front Lines
The Huaihai Campaign was the largest military campaign during the People's War of Liberation, and its victory not only came from the valiant fighting of 600,000 PLA troops, but also included important contributions from more than 5.4 million farmers who supported the PLA on the front lines.
At the beginning of the campaign, it was estimated that a 1,500-ton food and materials supply would need to be transported daily by wheelbarrows to the front lines from hundreds of kilometres away. These massive consumption requirements for the campaign astonished the PLA headquarters, and applied unprecedented logistical pressure.
The People's War of Liberation needed the support of the people. The enthusiasm and determination of the people when it came to supporting the front lines was greater than had been expected. All people—soldiers and civilians alike—hoped that the civil war would end earlier, and were determined to contribute however they could to this goal. During the campaign, along the transportation line, numerous farmers used wheelbarrows, animals and boats to deliver food and ammunition to the PLA on the front lines day and night. This support from the people to the PLA was a great force helping to overcome the various difficulties and hardships.
At the National Museum of China, a wheelbarrow used to transport materials to the PLA on the front lines during the Huaihai Campaign is on display to the public. The wheelbarrow was used by Dong Lisheng (1922–1990), a role model, and one of numerous farmers who provided logistical support to the PLA during the People's Liberation War.
Dong Lisheng was a native of Dongqingdun Village in Jiangsu Province. Her father made a living by selling salt. In 1938, the Eighth Route Army directed by the CPC liberated Dong's hometown. Her family was later given a plot of land, and their life was secured. In 1943, she joined the CPC. During the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, due to a cruel blockade imposed by the enemy, salt could not be transported into the resistance base areas set up to combat the Japanese. Dong disguised herself and went to obtain salt in a city occupied by the Japanese army; while there, she boldly pried into the enemy's intelligence. In 1946, she served as a director of the Women's National Salvation Association of Dongqingdun
Village. In 1947, during the Battle of Central Shandong, she signed up to volunteer for frontline support. During the battle, Dong crossed mountains and rivers in central and southern Shandong for more than two months. In November 1948, during the Huaihai Campaign, Dong pushed her wheelbarrow on a long journey to transport food to PLA troops. Because of her outstanding work, she was selected as a role model of public front-line supporters.
In reality, Dong was only one of countless selfless logistics team members. Though they transported rice and flour, they ate only sorghum, pepper and pickled radishes. Millions of people like Dong braved wind and snow, endured hunger, travelled over mountains and rivers, and rushed under the enemy's heavy fire to complete a variety of logistical tasks in support of the PLA on the front lines. The victory of the three major military campaigns demonstrated the great power of the people during times of war. The tremendous efforts made by farmers and ordinary people who provided logistical support to the front lines were unthinkable. They greatly reinforced and encouraged the PLA on the front lines both in material supplies and in spirit. The assistance provided by the people effectively ensured victory during the strategic and decisive battles.