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Posted on Jun 10, 2007 in Front Page Features, War College

The Huaihai Campaign

By Joshua Gilbert


Communist combined arms advance during the Huaihai Campaign

The Huaihai Campaign, or the Battle of Xu-Beng, was one of the greatest battles of modern Chinese history, and of the 20th Century. In this battle the Communist East China Field Army and Central Plains Field Army (the ECFA and CPFA) decisively defeated the field armies of the GMD (better known as KMT), or Nationalist Party.

The road to Huaihai was a long one. It was no secret among the Chinese that the leader of the Guomindang, Generalissimo Jiang Jieshi (better known as Chiang Kai-shek) despised the members of the CCP, the Chinese Communist Party. Since 1928, when the Communists first split  with the GMD, he had hunted them, attempting to destroy the Communist threat with bandit extermination campaigns, as he dubbed them. Jiang had been forced against his will by the Xi’an Incident of December 1936 into forming a Second United Front against the threat of Imperial Japan, but once Japan surrendered, tensions intensified once more.

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In 1946 General George Marshall arrived in China in an attempt to find a lasting peace between the GMD and the CCP. But Marshall found that neither side was willing to compromise with the other. When Jiang demilitarized much of his army, to rid himself of the warlords who had joined the Second United Front, he unwittingly gave his hated opponent, Mao Zedong, recruits and much needed weaponry. Mao also demilitarized, but he gained far more than he lost. The uneasy peace between the two parties finally broke down on June 26th, 1946. The final phase of the long Chinese Civil War was on.

The course of the war was unexpected. With funding from the United States, and many veteran formations everyone expected a victory for the GMD over the CCP. But the Nationalist armies were exhausted and demoralized from the long war with Japan. As a result, the fresh and highly motivated People’s Liberation Army were able to score many victories over them. By 1948 the situation was looking bad for the Nationalists, and good for the Communists. When the Liaoshen Campaign which lasted from September 20th to November 2nd ended, the roles of the People’s Liberation Army and the National Revolutionary Army (the proper name for the Nationalist army) were reversed. For the first time the PLA was stronger then the NRA, which the Communists pressed to their fullest advantage. About this time the focus of attention shifted to central China. Su Yu, a Communist strategist, who was putting his master plan in motion.

Su had proposed earlier that year that a "Sudden-concentrate Sudden-disperse" strategy would allow the PLA to make the most of its superiority, by destroying several NRA army groups in a conventional battle. Su Yu had already proven that a conventional battle could be won, so the plan was approved by the Central Military Commission, brain center of the PLA. When the ECFA captured Jinan on September 24th it opened the way for Su Yu’s plan to be carried out. Operations were then begun against the Jinpu Railway line, as the fall of Jinan and the evacuation of Kaifeng allowed for attacks to be staged all along the line. This was to be the lure to draw as many NRA formations to Xuzhou (the area in which this was happening) as possible.

The Jinpu line was essential, as it was the main way to the Yangzi River and Nanjing, the birthplace of the GMD and tomb of Dr. Sun Zhongshan (better known as Sun Yat-sen), father of modern China. On November 3rd  Huang Baitao suggested to his superior Liu Zhi that it would be best to bring in more troops to defend the railway. All reports showed that the powerful East China Field Army and Central Plains Field Army were marching towards them. Liu was an experienced commander, but here he was fraught by indecision. He decided to wait until he could contact Du Yuming, protégé of Jiang Jieshi, the liaison with Nanjing. On November 5th word came down from Jiang approving the plan to reinforce the Jinpu line.

Liu Zhi, overall Nationalist commander in Xuzhou

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  1. It is well documented about this historical even which determined th fate of China.

  2. I disagree with the statement in the article that the Nationalists were “war-weary” from fighting the Japanese while (the article says) the Communists were “fresh.”

    The Nationalists had low morale due to systemic and political shortcomings: internal corruption and dissention, and economic problems.

    The Communists had subsisted for years in the Japanese rear, but morale was high because they seemed to offer a vision of a new China.

    Anyhow, the war against Japan had ended three years earlier.

    • Also the fact that the US provided miss matched ammunition and weapons.


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