DICTATOR VS. PEOPLE
52. Loot of Manchuria
ONE of the first men I met in Manchuria was a Western intelligence officer who told me the only funny story I heard during my entire stay in China's northeast. This story which was well known in diplomatic circles in Manchuria had peculiar interest because it symbolized the techniques that a few of Chiang Kai-shek's officials were then using to prove that Russian soldiers were fighting in the ranks of the Chinese Communists beyond the Great Wall.
According to this story, during the withdrawal of the Soviet Union's Red Army from Manchuria, a Russian straggler was cut off from his units and captured by Chiang Kai-shek's troops. My friend, the foreign officer, hearing of his capture, was able to interview the soldier and had quite a long conversation with him.
The soldier, an affable fellow, admitted his Kuomintang hosts were treating him well, but expressed bewilderment at Chinese habits. "Tell me," he said to the foreigner, "why do Chinese take so many pictures? One day, they stick me in a trench, hand me a tommy gun and photograph me from a dozen different angles. The next day, they dress me in Chinese uniform, give me a rifle and take a dozen more pictures. Then, sometimes, they get Russian civilians to lie down on the ground and they take their pictures, too. I don't understand it."
The foreigner was nonplussed by the soldier's story, but filed it away in his mind for future reference. Some time later, representatives of Chiang Kai-shek's army in the Northeast presented him with a set of pictures they had taken of Soviet nationals that had allegedly been killed by Kuomintang troops in a fight with Chinese Communists. Among these supposedly dead warriors, the foreigner noted some white Russian civilians with whom he was personally acquainted. He was about to mention this when he was handed a photograph of the Russian soldier with whom he had previously spoken. There, just as he had described himself, was the soldier in a trench with a tommy gun. There he was again, in various other pictures, in Chinese Communist uniform and with a Chinese rifle.
The Kuomintang officials carefully explained they had taken the pictures from the dead soldier's pockets, just a few days before.
"He was a Russian," they said, with patriotic indignation.
"I know," said the foreigner, no longer able to control himself. I talked with him the other day."
That ended the attempt to convince this particular Westerner that Russians were fighting on the Chinese Communist side in Manchuria. It did not, however, end the attempts of some of the American interventionists or a few (not many) of Chiang Kai-shek's officials to convince the outside world that Communist successes were primarily due to Russian interference in China's civil war.
The chief factor in causing some of these men to harp on Russian influence in the Chinese war was probably the military situation in Manchuria itself. Since the beginning of 1947, Chiang had been on the defensive in the northeast. The Communists controlled 90 percent of Manchuria, two-thirds of the railways, the majority of the soy bean and kaoliang lands, nearly all the timber without which the railways could not be rebuilt and, most important of all, the grudging, but growing respect of the Manchurian people. The only thing Chiang Kai-shek controlled was the big cities and industry, and this last was losing its importance, for what the Russians hadn't looted, Chiang was unable to get going.
Such a colossal failure outside the Great Wall had profound repercussions inside China proper. Many high Kuomintang officials by 1947 had concluded they could not beat the Communists in Manchuria by themselves. Lacking the power to overcome the Communists and harboring few illusions about the loyalty of the Manchurians, who had already become disaffected, these men were waging a war of wits to convince both their own subjects and the outside world that the historic Hun, Mongol and Tartar barbarians had risen again in the person ot the Soviet Union. In such a propaganda war, American interventionists, of course, became a useful ally.
Yet no neutral observer believed in this Russian interference. In many months in Communist North China I had seen no evidence of it. Nor did I hear much evidence of it in Manchuria. Although it seems obvious that the Chinese Communists will be closely linked to the Soviet Union in the future, the most that could be said about Russian help to the Communists in the midst of China's civil war was that part of the Japanese arms captured by the Russians might have fallen into the hands of the 8th Route Army. But Chiang Kai-shek had captured far more arms from the surrendering Japanese than the Communists ever did. It is also probably true that in 1948 the Russians gave the troops of Communist General Lin Piao some trucks in exchange for Manchurian products. The Communists, however, got far more transport from America than they ever got from the Russians. This attempt to blame Chiang Kai-shek's defeat on Roosevelt and the Russians won't do.
Just why, then, were the Communists winning in Manchuria and Chiang Kai-shek losing? There were many reasons. But first it is necessary briefly to examine a few facts of history. When the Japanese invaded Manchuria in 1931, Chiang Kai-shek not only left the Manchurians entirely to their own fate, but at the same time he squashed all patriotic demonstrations inside the Great Wall, censored all books dealing with anti-Japanese sentiments and even banned the singing of China's most popular song, "Arise," which was written in commemoration of the Mukden incident of 1931 This alienated many Manchurians.
Although they had been deserted by China's ruler, some of the more daring Manchurians began to organize resistance bands which became known as the Manchurian Volunteers. All through those years when every foreign nation was recognizing Japan's right to Manchukuo and when Chiang Kai-shek accepted Japanese sovereignty over Manchuria, these small guerrilla bands fought the Japanese. Most of the leaders were killed and in the end the bands could survive only in small numbers.
However, when the Russian Red Army drove out the Japanese in August 1945, the Manchurian Volunteers appeared again and grew swiftly. They took over the rural areas and captured some Japanese arms, while the Russians were taking the railways and the big cities. At the same time a few regular Communist 8th Route Army troops already fighting in southern Manchuria drove north and contacted the Volunteers. A little later, forces of the 8th Route Army operating inside the Great Wall also drove north under Communist general Lin Piao who amalgamated all these elements. There were in the beginning perhaps only fifty thousand regular Communist troops.
While this was going on, the United States rushed nearly two hundred thousand of Chiang's troops into Manchuria by ship and plane. Chiang's officials and officers might have contacted the Volunteers as did the Communists and won them over. However, they adopted just the opposite course. They contacted landlords who had been agents for the Japanese for fourteen years and organized them into armed bands to fight the Volunteers and the Communists. In other words, the Kuomintang, true to its own semifeudal nature, allied itself with the most hated elements in Manchuria and thus laid a basis for a class war. This gave the Communists an opportunity to win rural Manchuria, as they won rural North China.
Strangely enough, the Russians at this time helped Chiang Kai-shek and not the Chinese Communists. For while the Volunteers and General Lin Piao's bands were taking oyer the countryside, the Russian Red Army installed Chiang's officials in all the Manchurian cities and protected them for many months. At the same time, Chiang officially asked the Soviet Union to stay in Manchuria longer than originally scheduled so that he could have more time to bring in troops by American transport. Both the Russians and the United States, therefore, helped the generalissimo. Later when the Russians evacuated Harbin and other north Manchurian cities they took with them, at Chang's request, all the officials whom the generalissimo had appointed to rule those cities. They saved these officials from the Manchurian people and returned them safely to Chiang. In thus relying on both the Russians and the United States, Chiang Kai-shek admitted that he could not control Manchuria without foreign armed help.
With the evacuation of the Russians, Chiang Kai-shek, now having five American-equipped armies in southern Manchuria, began a drive to the north. Held up by a bloody battle at Szepingkai, he managed at last to reach the city of Changchun where his march came to a halt under the terms of the Marshall truce agreements. It has been assumed by some people, especially those with an interest in discrediting George Marshall and the Truman administration, that this truce prevented Chiang from conquering Manchuria. But there is not the slightest evidence to suppose that Chiang's troops, already spread thin, could have continued on for hundreds of more miles and captured Harbin and Tsitsihar on the borders of the Soviet Union. Even supposing they could have, such an operation would have resulted in ultimate disaster, for it would have put Chiang at the end of an even longer supply line than the one he unsuccessfully tried to support in southern Manchuria.
Suppose for a moment we forget that Chiang deserted the Manchurians in 1931, forget that he allied himself with puppet landlords and not the Volunteers, forget that the Russians installed his officials in the cities - forget all this and suppose for a moment that the Russians did help the Communists in Manchuria. Even taking all these assumptions for granted, I found that Chiang Kai-shek had been defeated in the Northeast for reasons entirely unconnected with Russian help.
As in Formosa, another area outside of China proper that was highly developed by the Japanese, the Kuomintang in Manchuria had established a military, economic and political structure that Bullitt, Republican party leaders and some Democratic congressmen, would have done well to study since it indicated that the regime of China's dictator was quite incapable of adding to the substance of a country, but was only capable of devouring it.
By the summer of 1947, when some quarters were proclaiming that Manchuria was being betrayed to Stalin, the Kuomintang could point to three major accomplishments itt the Northeast.
It had destroyed at least half of the forces and a good part of the effectiveness of seven armies, trained and equipped for them by the Americans.
It had ruined, with the aid of prior Russian looting, a powerful agrarian and industrial economy bequeathed it by the Japanese.
It had lost the good will of many Manchurians who, instead of revolting against Chiang Kai-shek as did the Formosans, had gone over to the Communists.
The Kuomintang armies that had been bled white in the civil war in Manchuria and cut down to Communist size were not traditional Chinese rabble troops. They were among the best units Chiang Kai-shek ever had, certainly the best-equipped armies in Chinese history. They represented the culmination of a dream General Joseph W. Stilwell had when he was making his forlorn retreat out of Burma in 1942. He could not fly American equipment to China, so he decided to fly Chinese soldiers to American equipment in India, build up an army and retake Burma. This he successfully did. But he soon thought that he was building an army that was going to fight the Chinese Communists after the war and not the Japanese during the war. On this ground, he opposed Chiang Kai-shek, lost out, went home and died a brokenhearted man. Since General Stilwell before his death believed Chiang Kai-shek had lost the mandate of the people and no longer had the right to rule China, he would perhaps from a political standpoint have been happy to see how Kuomintang troops in Manchuria had deteriorated. As an army officer, however, he would have been saddened by the sight of well-tempered combat units that had become little better than gendarmes and garrison troops.
Not only bad the army deteriorated physically, but its morale was completely shot. A squabble had broken out between General Tu Liming, commander in chief in Manchuria, and General Sun Li-jen, a graduate of Virginia Military Institute. The Americans, who had disliked Tu ever since his failure to launch an attack in Burma in accordance with American orders, sided with Sun and tried to get Tu relieved. In the end, both were relieved.
Changes in command produced no improvement. Nepotism and bribery had rotted the moral fiber of units once famous for their discipline. A colonel I knew had a chance to become a battalion commander, but had to step aside when he could not pay his superiors for the job. Put in charge of a regimental transport unit, be was forced to give the supply depot officer one-seventh of all his gasoline. His superiors took another seventh for their personal graft. He only kept his vehicles rolling by selling lubricants and grease on the black market and buying gasoline. Padding of pay rolls, ended by the Americans in India, had begun again. As a result, when a division went into combat, it often had only 60 per cent of its supposed strength. Worse than that, pay was often not forthcoming and soldiers had to indulge in petty looting.
Garrisoned in towns because of the high command's defensive complex, idle officers were turning to the charms of feminine companionship as a surcease from the rigors of war of which they had long become tired. Chiang's officers kept some Japanese girls who were supposed to be repatriated to Japan locked up in their rooms and forced others into prostitution. Not only in towns did one see Japanese girls consorting with Kuomintang officers, but also riding on supply trains in the company of lieutenants and captains. Standing at the doors of freight cars dressed in foreign-style kimonos, under which they apparently wore nothing, these girls spiced up the scenery for a jaded traveler, but what they contributed to beating the Communists was a mystery.
The slow physical and moral disintegration of Chiang Kai-shek's Manchurian army was a strange contrast to the ever-growing strength of the Northeast United Democratic Army run by the Communist commander Lin Piao.
In 1945 and 1946, while American ships and planes were transporting Kuomintang troops to the Northeast, the Communists who were marching overland through the Great Wall passes had only scattered bands of troops, numbering from forty thousand to fifty thousand men. By 1947 this force had grown to nearly three hundred thousand men, of which at least one hundred twenty thousand men were organized into a striking force of six corps of three divisions each. It was very obvious, as I wrote at the time, "Communist forces will eventually drive Chiang's forces out of Manchuria or annihilate them where they stand."
While the Kuornintang was rapidly blunting the edge of the army delivered to them by the Americans, it was at the same time doing even worse damage to the powerful Manchurian economy left them by the Japanese. Chiang's forces then controlled 80 percent of the industry in the Northeast, but they had only io per cent going. Much of this could be put down to Russian looting and some to the war, but a great deal of it could be put down to Kuomintang corruption and inefficiency.
I gained numerous examples of this all over Manchuria, but here I shall only mention the conditions obtaining in the Fuhsun coal mines. About Fuhsun, where was located one of the biggest open coalpits in the world, the Japanese had built a miniature Pittsburgh, with subsidiary industries in shale oil, gas, paraffin, mobile oil, coke, asphalt, high carbon steels, cements and various smaller industries. At the height of their production, the Japanese had mined twenty thousand tons of coal a day. The Chinese had got it up to five thousand, but now it had fallen back below two thousand principally because of army interference in the mine. Ten thousand workers had been conscripted along with eighteen thousand civilians to build defense works. None of these workers were fed or paid by the army. The miners could stand that but they hated the fact that frameworks, steel rods, valuable vanadium, rust-resisting steels and timber supposedly taken from the mines for defense works, seldom went into defense works but went by cart to Mukden for sale.
Chiang's officers and soldiers in Fuhsun city were very arrogant. They requisitioned houses and buildings and materials without orders. Sometimes they broke the windows of mine managers' homes in the middle of the night, crawled into the houses and threw the managers out.
While I was in Fuhsun, I stayed at the mine hospital which provided free medical treatment to its workers. Alongside the hospital was a nurses' home. Soldiers, under orders, tore some of it down to get bricks for defense works. A few bricks went into pillboxes but most into the black market.
I met a Chinese doctor who had been educated in Germany. "Everything is rotten," he said. "Gendarmes come into our hospital, take what they please, even our medicines and sell it on the black market. They don't give a damn for anybody."
I went to see one of the assistant managers who was then in charge of the mine - a man who had been educated in America, an engineer and also a businessman.
"Chiang's gendarmes," he said, "tell us they are here to protect us from the Communists who would take our mines and homes from us, but what's the difference if we lose jhem to Chiang or the Communists, we lose them anyway."
An even more embittered mine staff member said: "The Communists don't need to come here, everything is divided already."
Somewhat better than conditions in industry were those existing in agriculture. But even here, the same Kuomintang tactics, practiced in China proper had been exported beyond the Great Wall. Soy beans, which were once the greatest export product of Manchuria, were no longer a source of wealth to the natives. The Northeast China Command had dictated that soy beans could only be exported by the Central Trust, a government monopoly, or the army. Though the Central Trust was getting ten cents a pound for its product, the farmer who sold to the trust was getting only three cents a pound. Of this he was allowed to keep little as he was forced to contribute most of his sale money to equipping and clothing local defense units.
Due to lack of transport, v ar and old-fashioned skullduggery, Manchuria's whole export trade was in bad shape. No banks in Manchuria were allowed to deal in foreign exchange and it was impossible for local firms to do any foreign trade. The central government at Nanking had allowed the Northeast no import quotas and all produce came from ports below the Wall with consequent high extra transport charges. These two regulations were enough to ruin any local firm. Angry Manchurian businessmen said they were made purposely to favor Shanghai trading companies in which Chiang's officers and officials had invested.
Red tape was also stifling trade and giving southern officials a chance to squeeze small Manchurian merchants. No merchants could export goods from Manchuria without a permit from the Foreign Trade Commission. But small, poorly dressed merchants could not even get in the building harboring the trade commission without paying a bribe to the guard at the door. Once in the building the clerks had to be bribed before one could even talk to someone who was empowered to issue a permit. As a result, desperate small traders were buying permits through brokers or trying to smuggle goods through the Great Wall.
It was not only Manchurians who were disgusted, but even many officials in Chiang Kai-shek's own government. I met an English-speaking official in the Trade Bureau in Mukden. "Our government," he told me, "is corrupt, but in the Northeast it's specially corrupt. Everyone around me in my office is robbing and stealing. I have to connive at extortion. I have come to hate my work. I can't stand any more. I'm going to resign and get out of here."
A decade of Japanese rule had inured Macchurians to most anything. But the Japanese, like all capitalist barons, put something into the country at the same time they were robbing it. The Kuomintang, the Manchurians complained, took, but put nothing back.
This trade of Japanese efficiency for Kuomintang corruption wouldn't have been so bad, the Manchurians felt, if at the same time, they had traded in their slavery under the Japanese for freedom under the Kuomintang. However, all the Manchurians received in a political way from the Kuomintang was one-party rule, military law and the secret police.
The lip service the Kuomintang paid to democracy particularly nauseated the Manchurians. People's Political Councils which were merely advisory and had no legislative, executive or judicial functions had been organized in several provinces so that the "Voice of the people" could be heard. In Mukden, seventeen councilors were elected in the following fashion. Blank ballots were distributed to Kuomintang district and ward leaders, who handed them out to the people to sign and/or "chop"
with their seals. When the ballots were returned, the local party headquarters then filled in the names of the men they wanted elected. In some cases, the ballots were not even distributed. The ward leaders merely collected merchants' seals and stamped the ballots themselves. Many people did not know why their seals were collected and did not even know they were supposed to have voted. A provincial council was "elected" in the same way.
Worse than any lack of democracy was the lack of freedom in the Northeast. There was not even a pretense of a free press, freedom of assembly or free speech. In Mukden, I found all but one newspaper were run by the army or its secret service organs, and that one was subsidized by army and party. Since all printing presses had been seized by the army, it was impossible for a private person to have his say in print. The most liberal publication in the city was the news bulletin put out by the United States Information Service which reprinted articles from American newspapers, some of them about China. Chiang's secret service men often did not like these articles and they called on the USIS in person and raised violent protests. In fact, they at one time became so threatening that the American in charge had secretly to ship out one of his Chinese employees on an American Army plane to Shanghai. Later, however, the Communists in Peiping practiced just as bad measures of intimidation against USIS.
Chief watchdogs of tyranny in the Northeast were skilled SS operators trained by Tai Li, dead but not forgotten chief of Chiang Kai-shek's gestapo. Sent from Sian, long the headquarters of the anti-Communist movement against Yenan, these men were ostensibly concerned with ferreting out Communists. In practice, their job amounted to suppressing all criticism of the government which they did by accusing any critic of Communism. Even worse, Manchurians claimed the operators of the Special Service Section were getting rich by squeezing bankers, merchants, landlords and former high-ranking Manchukuo officials. With funds squeezed from puppets and their rich associates, the SS men were opening small department stores, restaurants, import-export firms and dance halls which they operated clandestinely in cellars.
All the nepotism, extortion and oppression practiced by Chiang's officials and army officers in the Northeast had endeared them to few Manchurians. The natives felt - and rightly, too - that Chiang's southerners had no desire to stay in Manchuria. In several minor Communist offensives, mayors had fled from their posts without orders. When officials cleared out of danger spots in such a precipitate hurry with their wives and mistresses and loaded with so many gold bars the Manchurians but drew the conclusion that the southerners were just in Manchuria to get rich and were leaving as soon as the chance of making money disappeared. The flight of Chiang's officials in time of danger, however, was not without comfort to the local people. When the Communists by-passed the city of Changchun in one of their offensives and cut the railway below the city, instead of being alarmed at being cut off from the outside world, many people breathed a sigh of relief.
"Whew!" they said. "We're cut off. That's good. Now those Kuomintang turtle eggs can't come back."
From all I saw in Manchuria I got the feeling that the people would have driven Chiang Kai-shek's forces from the country immediately if they had the chance. There were three symptoms that clearly showed their sentiments. One was the feeling that the Japanese were, after all, not so bad. They gave the people security, kept the industries going, kept prices down and operated the country on an efficient basis.
The second symptom of anti-Nationalist feeling was the increasing popularity of the Chinese Communists. Because they were Communists, they had to live down the bad name left by the Russians and also the name of bandits given them by Chiang Kai-shek's propagandists. They did this to a startling degree. Distribution of captured food stores increased their popularity with the poor. Because there was no confiscation of business and commercial houses the fears of the town merchants had been somewhat allayed. Ordinary human sympathy also won them respect, if not popularity. In street fighting in the cities, the nationalist commander refused to allow civilians to leave their homes so that many noncombatants were killed. Whenever the Communists occupied a street, however, they allowed the people to escape the fighting and go wherever they pleased - to the Kuomintang side, if they liked. This action made a tremendous impression on the people of Manchuria.
Finally, another proof of Chiang Kai-shek's failure in the Northeast was the revival of the Manchuria-for-the-Manchtiriafls movement. People who backed such a movement wanted a dominion status (like Canada) under the Chinese Republic. They wanted to elect their own officials and not have them appointed from above. "Our ancestors came from China," they said, "but we don't want the rotten traditional system of China put back on top of us." These men also did not want the Communists.
The army and secret police were well aware of this growing feeling of discontent among the Manchurians. They were afraid of another Formosa revolt. Actually, there was no need for a revolt. All those who wanted to oppose the government could let off steam by running over to the Communists in the countryside.
Nevertheless, the government was trying to squash the revolt before it happened. They did not give the people bread, but they did give them circuses. They were rather grim affairs.
You could see them any day in the city of Changchun, then cut off from Mukden by Communist raids against the railway. I flew up there in an American Army plane, over the Communist-held countryside. In this former capital of Manchukuo, which the Japanese built for Emperor Henry Pu Yi, there was near the center of the city a great traffic circle which in Japanese times was known as Universal Harmony Circle. When the Russians came to drive the Japanese out, they erected a monument there, put a plane on top of it and called the place Utopia Circle. Later, the Chinese arrived, put up a large picture of Chiang Kai-shek and embossed it with two chauvinistic slogans: "Up with the country!" "Up with the race!"
On my arrival, this circle was noteworthy for two features. On one side, there was a "flea" market where were sold the goods looted by the people from hospitals and factories and the materials requisitioned by officials from the people. On the other side of the circle, there was a public execution ground.
During the week of my arrival, a "criminal" a day was killed in this circle. All the executions were announced ahead of tune in the papers. A rainy spell, however, brought the executions to a halt. Perhaps the authorities did not want to kill without an audience.
As far as I know, the executions may still have gone on after I left. The victims? A twenty-year-old girl accused of Communism. A sixteen-year-old boy accused of spying. A fifty-six-year-old woman accused of spreading rumors. At other times, those to be done away with were just "bandits."
There was a Roman air about it all. The victim's hands were tied behind him. A board inscribed with his crime was fitted against his back. Then he was made to kneel in a cart and drawn to the circle.
As he stepped from the cart, the crowd sighed, and parted to let him through. Then he knelt on the ground, a soldier of the Changchun garrison stepped up close behind him, quickly raised a revolver and pulled the trigger. The crowd grunted. The body fell forward. The people went away.
Far above the execution ground towered the picture of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. His lips, as the artist had painted them, were parted in a smile.
I left Manchuria with the feeling that unless Chiang Kai-shek evacuated his troops back below the Great Wall, he would suffer a terrible catastrophe. I wrote so at the time, including many of the facts given above. Not a word of mine was published in America. In the meantime, the interventionists continued to promote the thesis that Chiang could be saved in Manchuria. The support of these men may have been a factor in making Chiang hold on to an untenable position. Thus, the very men who wanted to help him were instruments for effecting his military suicide. For Chiang's position in Manchuria was irretrievable. General Wedemeyer had advised him not to go there in the first place. From the standpoint of grand strategy, Chiang had failed in Manchuria because he had not been able to win the North China Plain and link up his capital and his main bases of supply with the Northeast. His fronts had no unity. His position was very similar to that of von Rundstedt's in Normandy. The German general wanted to get out, Hitler refused. Chiang's generals also wanted to get out; American advisers told him to get out; Wedemeyer said his position was hopeless. But Chiang refused to budge.
The causes of Chiang's defeat in Manchuria, however, went far deeper than any strategy. The spirit of his army was disintegrating in the chemical processes of the Chinese Revolution. Torn from their villages in the south and exported beyond the Great Wall, the soldiers and even the officers felt they were in a foreign country, where their feelings and those of the native population were refracted through entirely different mediums. They could not help but notice the looks of hatred thrown at them like so many knives by the sturdy Manchurian people. A mood of angry frustration, followed by feelings of guilt, burned away at the soldiers' heart.
As the Communists moved in on villages, Chiang's army was torn loose from its social moorings. Psychologically, the soldiers felt completely lost. The further the army got away from the good Chinese earth, the more did it become like a balloon which, rising from the ground, gets ever higher until its internal tensions cause it to burst. In drawing away from the villages, Chiang Kai-shek's Manchurian army was also building up internal tension, and its bursting point was not far off.
A very striking picture of the loss of internal self-confidence in the army was furnished me on the train I traveled on from Mukden to Peiping. At a stop along the way, a Chinese cavalry general entered my compartment and seated himself opposite me. I nodded to him, but gave no indication I spoke Chinese. In a short while, an infantry colonel entered the compartment and engaged the general, who was unknown to him, in conversation. By many subtle remarks, the two officers began feeling out each other's sentiments toward the war. The general would make a slight criticism, the colonel would cap it with a stronger one, and the general would follow with a still more bitter comment. Soon both were denouncing the conduct of the war.
"I am a cavalry commander," said the general. "You can use cavalry for reconnaissance, patrol or a charge, but I'm just guarding a railroad. But how can I guard it? The peasants come and take up the tracks. What can I do about that? I am a Northeasterner; shall I shoot my own Northeastern farmers? I ask for orders. But I don't get orders. Nobody has any idea how we should fight. I often wonder why we are fighting. Fourteen years, the Japanese occupied our woods and rivers and hills, and now here we are killing each other again."
The colonel nodded. The conversation lapsed for a moment. We were drawing near to Shanhaikuan where the Great Wall comes down to meet the sea. The colonel looked out the window, then turned back. "You know," he said, "I don't think the 8th Route needs to take Changchun and Mukden. They'll just take the countryside all around, organize the militia, then they'll come down here by the Great Wall and cut us all off. I don't know what the higher authorities are thinking of. We ought to get out of here or stop fighting."
The colonel sounded so lugubrious and the general looked so sad that I could not help but burst into laughter. They both looked at me. "You understand Chinese then?" said the general. I nodded.
"There's no way," he said. "No way. Useless."
Indeed this general was right. There was no way. The soldiers of Chiang Kai-shek on Manchurian soil did not wish any longer to fight. They began to fraternize with the Manchurian people and then with the 8th Route Army. It was this fraternization that broke up Chiang Kai-shek's vain hopes to hold on to Manchuria. Slowly his hold on the territory beyond the Great Wall weakened and crumbled away.
In the meantime, inside the Great Wall far to the south and also far from the borders of the Soviet Union, China's dictator was threatened from still another direction. The Chinese people were in almost open revolt against the despot who had ruled them for twenty-two years.