In January 1941, the Japanese 11th Army split into three routes to attack the Chinese positions. Their main objective was to eradicate Chinese control of the Ping-Han Railway's southern section. Li Zongren, commander of the Chinese 5th War Area, avoided frontal contact with the Japanese as much as possible. Instead, he fought conservatively, diverting his main forces towards the two flanks. Outflanked, the Japanese retreated after taking heavy casualties, and their attack was repelled.