Campaign to Suppress Bandits in Western Guangxi

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Campaign to Suppress Bandits in Western Guangxi
Part of Chinese Civil War
Date April 15, 1951 – September 1951
Location China
Result Communist victory
Belligerents
Flag of the National Revolutionary Army
National Revolutionary Army
PLA
People's Liberation Army
Commanders and leaders
Taiwan Wu Zhongjian China unknown
Strength
13,000+ 20,000+
Casualties and losses
20,000+ Low

The Campaign to Suppress Bandits in Guangxi (桂西剿匪) was a counter-guerrilla / counterinsurgency campaign the communists fought against the nationalist guerrilla force that mostly consisted of bandits and nationalist regular troops left behind after the nationalist government withdrew from mainland China. This campaign is the last stage of the Campaign to Suppress Bandits in Guangxi, after which the last nationalist force left in Guangxi was annihilated. The campaign was fought during the Chinese Civil War in the post-World War II era in the western Guangxi, and resulted in communist victory.

Strategies[edit]

The nationalists had faced a precarious dilemma in waging the campaign against its communist enemy because of complex situation they had faced, and consequently, made several grave miscalculations which contributed to their eventual failure.

Nationalist miscalculations[edit]

Like other nationalist futile attempts to fight guerrilla and insurgency warfare against the communists after being driven off from mainland China, the very first grave strategic miscalculation made by the retreating nationalist government contributed at least equally if not greater than the enemy's political and military pressure to the nationalist defeat in this campaign. The very first strategic miscalculation made by the retreating nationalist government was identical to the earlier one the nationalist government had made immediately after World War II, when it had neither sufficient troops nor enough transportation assets to be deployed into the Japanese-occupied regions of China, and unwilling to let these regions falling into communist hands, the nationalist government ordered the Japanese and their turncoat Chinese puppet government not to surrender to the communists and allowed them to keep their fighting capabilities to "maintain order" in the Japanese occupied regions by fighting off the communists. This earlier miscalculation resulted in further alienation and resentment to the nationalist government by the local population, which had already blamed the nationalists for losing the regions to the Japanese invaders during the war. Half a decade later when the nationalists were driven from mainland China, they had made the similar miscalculation once again in their desperation, this time by enlisting the help of local bandits to fight the communists, and ordering the nationalist troops left behind to join these bandits in the struggle against the communism. However, the bandits were deeply feared and hated by the local populace they plagued for so long, and nationalist troops left behind joining the bandits certainly did not help them win the support of the general population. In fact, it served the exact opposite, strengthening the popular support of their communist enemy.

The second grave strategic miscalculation made by the retreating nationalist government was also similar to the one the nationalist government had made immediately after World War II, when it attempted to simultaneously solve the warlord problem that had plagued China for so long with the problem of the exterminating communists together: those warlords allied with Chiang Kai-shek's nationalist government were only interested in keeping their own power and defected to the Japanese side when Japanese invaders offered to let them keep their power in exchange for their collaborations. After World War II, these forces of former Japanese puppet governments once again returned to the nationalist camp for the same reason they defected to the Japanese invaders. Obviously, it was difficult for Chiang to immediately get rid of these warlords for good as soon as they surrendered to Chiang and rejoined nationalists, because such move would alienate other factions within the nationalist ranks, and those former Japanese puppet government's warlords could still help the nationalists to by holding on to what was under their control and fighting off communists, and they and the communists would both be weakened. Similarly, the bandits the nationalist governments had failed to exterminate were obviously not good candidates for evacuation to Taiwan half a decade later, and using them to fight communists appeared to be the only logical alternative. If the communists were great weakened by the bandits, then it would the nationalists would have easier time in their counterattacks to retake China. If the bandits were defeated, then the nationalists would have easier job to eradicate them later after retaking China. However, just like those warlords, these bandits were only interested in keeping their own power also, and thus did not put any real efforts to fight the communists like some of the nationalists who were dedicated to their political cause. The eradication of bandits by the communist government only strengthened its popular support since previous governments (including the nationalist government itself) dating back from Qing Dynasty had failed to do so.

The third grave strategic miscalculation made by the retreating nationalist government was similar to the second one, but this one was about its own troops left behind. The nationalist government had faced a dilemma: the highly disciplined troops were in desperate need to defend Taiwan, the last nationalist island sanctuary. The less disciplined second rate and undisciplined third rate troops, both of which mostly consisted of warlords’ troop were definitely not suited to be withdrawn to defend the last stand nationalists had made, and they were not given the top priority for evacuation. Instead, they were left behind to fight the communists behind the enemy line, but such move had alienated many of the troops left behind, and it was impossible to expect them to fight their communist enemy with the same kind of dedication like those nationalist agents who believed in their political cause. Compounding the problem, due to the need of bandits’ knowledge of local area, they were often rewarded with higher ranks than the nationalist troops left behind. As a result, the former-nationalist regular troops turned guerrilla fighters lacked any willingness to work together with the bandits they once attempted to exterminate, especially when many of the bandits had killed their comrades-in-arms earlier in the battles of eradications / pacifications. Many loyal nationalists were enraged by the fact that they had to serve under the former-enemy they once fought. Similarly, the bandits lacked the similar willingness and attempted to expend those nationalist troops whenever they could in order to save their own skin.

The fourth grave strategic miscalculation made by the retreating nationalist government was financial / economical: due to the lack of money, those bandits turned guerrillas were mostly provided with arms, but not sufficient supplies and money. The bandits turned guerrilla had no problem of looting the local population to get what they need, as they had done for decades, which inevitably drove the general popular support further into the communist side. The little financial support provided by the nationalist government was simply not enough to support such guerrilla and insurgency warfare on such a large scale. Another unexpected but disastrous result of the insufficient financial support was that it had greatly eroded the support of the nationalist government within its own ranks. The wealthy landowners and businessmen were the strong supporters of nationalist government and as their properties were confiscated by the communists and redistributed to the poor, their hatred toward the communist government was enough to cause many of them to stay behind voluntarily to fight behind the enemy line. However, the landowners and businessmen were also longtime victims of bandits due to their wealth, and many of them had suffered even more than the general populace who had far less wealth. As these former landowners and businessmen turned guerrilla fighters were ordered to join their former bandits who once threatened, looted, kidnapped and even killed them and their relatives, it was obvious that such cooperation was mostly in name only and could not produce any actual benefits, and the alienation and discontent toward the nationalist government harbored by these once ardent nationalists would only grow greater.

Another problem for the nationalists was the strong disagreement among themselves over how to fight the war against their communist enemy. Military professionals preferred to fight a total war, incapacitate the enemy's ability to fight, but this inevitably conflicted with the interest of another faction of strong supporters of the nationalist government: the landowners and businessmen, who joined bandits to oppose such tactic. The reason was that landowners and businessmen supporting and joining the nationalist guerrilla firmly believed that the nationalists would be able to retake mainland China within several years and they would be able to regain their lost lands, businesses, and other properties that were confiscated and redistributed to the poor by the communists. As the nationalist military professionals in the guerrilla suggested and destroyed the production facilities and businesses as part of the total war, the landowners and businessmen would not be able to regain any valuable properties after the return of the nationalist government because those properties had been destroyed. The bandits agreed with the businessmen and landowners to oppose the idea of total war for a different reason: when the properties were destroyed and productivity dropped, they would not be able to loot enough supply to survive. As a result, despite the animosities between the bandits and landowners and businessmen, they were united together in the opposition to the military professional faction of the nationalists.

Communist strategies[edit]

In contrast to the nationalists, communists had much simpler but effective strategy because communists did not have the dilemma the nationalists had, and all they had to do was to eradicate bandits. The job of fighting a counterinsurgency and counter guerrilla war was made much easier for the communists by the grave strategic miscalculations nationalists they had made themselves, and communists exploited these to the maximum for their advantage. As with all other bandit eradication campaigns fought at the time, the most important communist strategy was to mobilize the entire population to fight the bandits, and furthermore, additional strategies were devised specifically to fit the local situation to fight the bandits.

Order of battle[edit]

Nationalists:

Communists:

  • 219th Division
  • Units of 217th Division
  • 6 regiments of Nanning and Baise Military Sub-regions
  • 13 battalions of communist forces from Guizhou and Yunnan

Campaign[edit]

After the nationalist government was driven off from mainland China, it ordered the troops left behind in western Guangxi to join forces with local bandits to attack communists to harass the communist enemy. By March 1951, over 70 bands of bandits totaling over 13,000 strong were active in western Guangxi, and succeeded in temporarily taking two towns Xilong (西隆) and Xilin (西林), while another 13 towns were attacked. In response, communists decided to eradicate these bandits and formed the Western Guangxi Bandit Eradication Task Committee and the general headquarters for bandit eradication in April 1951, commanding forces that was primarily consisted of formations from the 53rd Army of the XXI Corps. Troops deployed included the 219th Division, a portion of the 217th Division, 6 regiments of Nanning and Baise Military Sub-regions, and 13 battalions of communist forces from Guizhou and Yunnan.

On April 15, 1951, the campaign formally begun and within several days, over a thousand bandits were killed by the communist 219th Division in the area it was responsible for. The Independent Regiment of Baise Military Sub-region succeeded in annihilating the Anticommunist National Salvation Army of the Border Area of Guangxi – Guizhou, killing its commander Lu Feipeng (陆飞鹏) along with over a hundred bandits. In the regions of Eastern Orchid (Donglan, 东兰) and Windy Mountain (Fengshan, 风山), the communist 649th Regiment succeeded in killing over five hundred bandits. By end of May, the communists annihilated most of the bandits, succeeding in capturing nationalist commanders assigned to lead these bandits, including Wu Wu (), the chief-of-staff of the 7th Army Group of Anticommunist National Salvation Army, and Huang Zhaoyin (黄兆辰), the commander of Chinese Liberation People's National Establishment Communist Eradication Army of Vietnam – Guangxi Front. The nationalist commander in charge of the region, Wu Zhongjian (), the commander-in-chief of 7th Army Group of Anticommunist National Salvation Army was killed in action, along with most of his staff, some of whom were airdropped into the region earlier to help to fight communists.

The loss of the experienced political military officers proved to be serious blow to the nationalist cause because without their presence and help, the bandit force was simply capitulated. By the end of September 1951, the last remaining bandits were annihilated, with the complete destruction of Anticommunist Uprising People's Army headed by its deputy commander-in-chief, Lu Senglin (卢森林). This final defeat suffered by the nationalists cost the nationalist over thirteen thousand fighters, and it was the conclusion of the Campaign to Suppress Bandits in Guangxi, as well the larger Campaign to Suppress Bandits in Guangxi, with the organized armed resistance against communists in Guangxi ended for good.

Outcome[edit]

Although sharing the common anticommunist goal, the nationalist guerrilla and insurgency warfare was largely handicapped by the enlistment of bandits, many of whom had fought and killed nationalist troops earlier in the eradication / pacification campaign, and also looted, kidnapped and even killed landlords and business owners, an important faction that supported the nationalist government, but now must united against the common enemy, which is half-hearted at the best. Compounding the problem further with additional differences within the ranks of the nationalist guerillas themselves, the futile nationalist guerrilla and insurgency warfare against its communist enemy was destined to fail.

See also[edit]

References[edit]