Frederick S. Litten

The CCP and the Fujian Rebellion

[Originally published in: Republican China, vol. XIV, number 1, November 1988, pp. 57-74. When using information or interpretations presented here, please cite either the print version (preferentially), or this one with all necessary details (author, title, full URL).
See also my article on the Long March and its background, at]


The following is an abridged and slightly changed translation of chapter two of my M.A. thesis on Otto Braun's early activities in China.1 The study of CCP-history in the 1930's still shows serious deficiencies, and one of them concerns the role of the CCP in the Fujian rebellion. This article sets out to provide new insights into some problems, historical and historiographical, connected with this event, but should also be seen as a starting point for further studies, which are surely necessary.

The article begins with a short introduction to the background and then presents some information on Chinese Communist historiography of the rebellion. Additionally two important accounts by Otto Braun and the Russian A. G. Krymov are being summarized. Thereafter I will examine three problems more closely: the political co-operation between the CCP and the Fujian rebels, the military co-operation between them, and CCP-internal discussions at that time.

1. Background2

After their endeavor to defend Shanghai against the Japanese in January 1932, the Chinese 19th Route Army was transferred to Fujian. Personal differences with Chiang Kai-shek, dissatisfaction with his appeasement policy and the deployment to a province barely able to sustain its local warlord armies3 created an increasingly rebellious mood among the leadership of the 19th Route Army, especially Cai Tingkai, Chen Mingshu and Jiang Guangnai. Politically they were supported by the so-called "Third Party", which, also opposing Chiang Kai-shek, had some intellectual influence on Chen Mingshu and others, at least in the beginning.4

Plans for setting up a military government had been made by Chen Mingshu and the leaders of Guangxi and Guangdong as early as May 1933; they failed because of Chen Jitang's stance. A few months later new schemes emerged, with Chen Jitang being coerced into support by mutinies among his troops and external threats.5 Help was promised by the leaders of the Guangxi-Clique, Li Zongren and Bai Zhongxi, but also by northern warlords (e.g., Feng Yuxiang); the former, however, warned against an agrarian revolution and an alliance with the Communists, while rumours of the Preliminary Agreement between the Red Army and the 19th Route Army were spreading.

This agreement, concluded on 26 October 1933, mainly concerned a truce between the two armies, but was also intended as a first step toward a fighting alliance against Chiang Kai-shek and the Japanese, if and when the Fujian government complied with conditions regarding freedoms and revolutionary activity.6

The rebellion began unofficially on 18 November 1933 when Cai Tingkai put the Fujian branches of the Central Bank and the Maritime Customs Offices under his control and, on the following day, imposed martial law in Fujian. On 20 November an assembly of provisional representatives declared the People's Revolutionary Government ‒ formally established two days later with Li Jishen at the top; a new flag was unfurled, a new calendar introduced and the removal of Sun Yat-sen's portraits from official buildings ordered. These acts, however, proved to be more damaging than helpful, as potential allies had second thoughts while public enthusiasm was not aroused: not even the students participated actively.7

Among the aims of the new government, stated in various declarations at that time, were: the overthrow of the Nanjing government, regaining sovereignty from the foreigners, per capita land allocation, more freedoms and so on.8 With the possible exception of land reform in West Fujian (prompted mainly by the "Third Party"), nothing was realized and much not even attempted.9 Besides lack of time and money, subversion, etc., I think there was also some kind of indifference on the part of the military leadership, which even extended to military matters.10 After the initial revolutionary elan had slackened,11 they found themselves standing virtually alone against Chiang Kai-shek's armies. Demoralization and disillusionment among the troops and the terrifying air attacks by Nanjing's airforce compounded the problem and goes some way to explain the hasty retreat of the 19th Route Army.12 Although Chiang Kai-shek's real offensive started only about 1 January 1934, three weeks later the rebellion was, for all practical purposes, already put down; the leaders either fled the country or went over to Chiang Kai-shek. One of the most prestigious fighting forces in China had been quite ingloriously defeated.

2. Accounts of the relations between the CCP and the Fujian rebels

Chinese communist accounts

In their first statements on the fall of the Fujian government, the Central Committee (CC) of the CCP and, in a speech before the Second Soviet Congress, Mao Zedong explained that they were not at all surprised about the events as the rebels had tried to take an impossible "third way" between Guomindang and CCP and to deceive the people. They did not want to co-operate with the CCP in fighting against their common enemies, ergo they failed.13 An article by Kai Feng defended the Preliminary Agreement against "some comrades" by asserting that even Lenin had endorsed such agreements as long as they were of one's own initiative and beneficial to oneself.14

Finally, in August 1934, the analysis by Bo Gu was published, which also put the whole blame on the rebels and their failure to co-operate. But Bo Gu saw some deficiencies in the implementation of the CCP's plans too, mainly weaknesses in the sedition campaign against the 19th Route Army while at the same time helping them.15 Thus in 1934 there was no real question that the CCP had acted correctly, a view that soon disappeared.

The resolutions of the Zunyi Conference present a different picture. The political line had at first been correct, but then military-political, especially strategical, errors occurred. Certain comrades, e.g., Bo Gu, had not supported the rebels; on the contrary, they had redeployed Communist troops to the west of the Jiangxi Soviet and branded the utilization of internal differences in the enemy's camp as "adventurism". Only Luo Fu, Chen Yun reports, had tried to reverse the orders, but he came too late.16

A similar step of mainly criticizing the military line was taken by Wang Ming in Moscow. However, he still partly blamed the Fujian rebels for the lack of co-operation, while the Zunyi resolutions and a later analysis by Mao Zedong seem to decouple the behavior of the rebels from the actions which the CCP should have undertaken.17 Concentration on military mistakes can also be found in the stories by CCP leaders given to Edgar Snow in 1936. This led to prominence for Otto Braun who was now held responsible for quite a lot of supposed military errors.18 Moreover, at the end of 1936, Mao Zedong unveiled a plan, he said, dated from the time of the Fujian rebellion, following which the Red Army should have made contact with the 10th Army (Communist) in North Fujian and then threatened Chiang Kai-shek's heartland: the area of Shanghai, Nanjing, etc., by swift maneuvering.19

Since the 1940s another version, which could be called "Maoist", has been predominant. The failure to co-operate was blamed squarely on the "leftist" leadership of the time, especially Bo Gu, Wang Ming and later Braun, who were unable, for their ideological blindness, to see the great chance which had presented itself in the rebellion. Neither politically nor military was any co-operation said to have been attempted; the Preliminary Agreement was forgotten.20 A modern variant is to focus on Braun's role: that he had convinced Bo Gu that the rebellion was only to deceive the people and personally ordered the troops to the west of the Soviet.21

Yet this is not the only version in modern China. In two articles from 1983 a curious mixture of earlier statements can be found which should not be ignored. There is no doubt about the massive mistakes of the "leftist" leadership, but the weaknesses and omissions of the Fujian government are no longer concealed. They did not comply with the Preliminary Agreement, did not prepare for the fight against Chiang Kai-shek and so on.22 This is, in my opinion, an attempt for more differentiation within the given ideological frame, which can also be seen in other areas, whose effects, however, are still small.23

Otto Braun's account of the CCP during the Fujian rebellion

In his memoirs, Otto Braun gives his own version of the events surrounding the Fujian rebellion, which will be summarized here. After the Fujian government had been set up in November 1933, Cai Tingkai sent two negotiators to Ruijin (Jiangxi Soviet) in January 1934(!), whose task was to negotiate a non-aggression pact. Their authority was limited because, as Braun explains, Cai Tingkai still remembered the Fujian campaign,24 but on the other hand did not want to anger the Guangdong government. Only in February, when his position had deteriorated enormously, did he summon up the courage for closer ties; however, it was too late then.

In the meantime, the Central Revolutionary Military Commission (CRMC) had decided to assemble troops in the western part of the Jiangxi Soviet, thus following a plan by Manfred Shtern,25 which had already been made before the rebellion. The aim was to cross the Ganjiang and, bypassing the Nationalist armies, reach Nanchang. Instead of taking action, however, the CCP discussed for nearly a whole month what to do next. Bo Gu and, "half-heartedly", Zhou Enlai recommended co-operation with the rebels, even against the wishes of Cai Tingkai. The Shanghai bureau of the CCP and the Comintern's bureau agreed with Shtern not to work with the rebels, who were ideologically unsound, but to implement Shtern's now slightly modified plan. Mao Zedong wavered, criticized the Fujian government and wanted to wait until the 19th Route Army had been victorious.

Finally a majority agreed to Shtern's plan, Bo Gu gave in ‒ and now a dispute broke out between Shanghai and Ruijin on how to profit from the internal differences in the enemy's camp for use against Chiang Kai-shek's fifth encirclement campaign.

Shtern's modified plan was more grandiose than the original one: it even aimed at Changsha. Braun, who until now had obeyed all orders, no matter how stupid he thought them, began to rebel himself. While ordering reconnaissance at Yongfeng in the west ‒ to show the impracticability of Shtern's plan ‒ he decided to convince the CRMC of the necessity to help the Fujian rebels in the east. He was successful, and even Cai Tingkai agreed.

This happened, writes Braun, at the end of January 1934, when he was on an official trip around the Soviet. He says, he was accused by Lin Biao of doing nothing or the wrong things, but could tell him that just at the moment he was doing quite a lot to help the rebels, which Lin Biao welcomed. The crack troops of the Red Army, the First and Third Army Corps, moved in forced marches to Fujian, but they were too late to decisively influence the outcome. Nevertheless the Red Army occupied some territory in West Fujian and "secured" material and soldiers of the 19th Route Army.

Braun's conclusion is that the chance to break the fifth encirclement campaign and build up an anti-Japanese united front had been wasted by wrong decisions of Shtern and the bureaus in Shanghai and the hesitation and high-demands policy of Mao Zedong.26

Krymov's (Shtern's) account

The following is a summary of an account given by A. G. Krymov, which allegedly describes a report made by Arthur Ewert and Manfred Shtern in spring 1935 to the politcommission of the Executive Committee of the Comintern. It is at best only a second-hand version, which is to be used cautiously, but since it is relatively unknown, yet interesting, it is presented here.27

On 26 October 1933 a preliminary truce agreement was made between the Chinese Soviet Republic and the 19th Route Army, which was broadened within a month when, on 21 November 1933, the Red Army and the 19th Route Army entered into an agreement to stop fighting each other and prepare for joint operations against Chiang Kai-shek and the Japanese. This meant that, on the political side, the recommendations of the Comintern had been observed.

However, in military strategy, errors were committed. Shtern's plan had been to lure Chiang Kai-shek's troops into a "corridor" between Fujian, Zhejiang and Jiangxi and then to attack them from both sides in a pincer movement with support from the 19th Route Army. But when the vanguard of the Nationalist armies met the Red Army, the 19th Route Army did not engage in battle. The Red Army was able to gain some victories at Xunkou and in Fujian, then, however, it took a defensive position. At that time, disagreement began to appear among CC members of the CCP. One group proposed to send the First and Third Army Corps to Fujian, despite the obvious unwillingness of the Fujian rebels to help them. Another group, led by Mao Zedong, wished to wait until the 19th Route Army had been victorious over Chiang Kai-shek's troops in Northwest Fujian.

At the turn of the year, while the CCP was quarreling, Chiang Kai-shek attacked the rebels; the Communists withdrew, and the rebellion was put down.

3. Reconstruction

Political co-operation

As far as explicit comments exist, the view in China today is that the agreement of 26 October 1933 marked an important step; however, the "leftist" leadership had then gotten cold feet and suddenly judged the Fujian government as dangerous. Shtern's account, described above, shows quite a different course. Following his version, the negotiations had continued and led to a second agreement. Such an agreement, dated 21 November 1933, is mentioned in a Soviet Russian history of China28; additionally, Hu Hua dates a version of the Preliminary Agreement in one of his works as 21 November 1933.29 Furthermore there are two leads to suppose the existence of two agreements: the different termini for the agreement, varying from the official title ‒ Preliminary Agreement ‒ to "truce agreement" (e.g., in the Zunyi resolutions), to "fighting agreement" (e.g., in Chen Yun's manuscript), with the last expression denoting the actual military agreement in the original Preliminary Agreement.

Moreover the wording in some Chinese papers30 that the Fujian rebels dclared their government on 20 November 1933 and then concluded an agreement with the CCP suggests a different agreement.

What conclusions can be drawn? There is the slight possibility of an error in all the mentioned sources and the existence of only the October agreement. But a small difficulty would still remain: with whom had the agreement been concluded? For the second party to the October agreement, the original Fujian provincial government, did by rights no longer exist after 20 November. Perhaps the November agreement is thus only a renewed conclusion for "legal" reasons. This would explain the Hu Hua date, but not necessarily Shtern's statement. One could also assume that the November agreement was a supplementary agreement, mentioned in paragraph one of the October agreement, regulating the border between the two groups. Finally there could simply have been two different agreements.

Regardless of which of the last three hypotheses is correct ‒ and these are much more credible than the error conjecture ‒ the Communists did not suddenly break their contact with the Fujian rebels or effect a radical re-orientation in their relations with them after the October agreement. Negotiations and contact obviously continued at least until the end of November.

Military co-operation

Since the Zunyi resolutions, one of the main charges against the Communist leadership of 1933/34 has been their "wrong" military strategy. It showed, according to these charges, in their not supporting the 19th Route Army in any way. Cai Tingkai, one of the leaders of the rebellion, concurs writing about the contrast between offers of the Red Army to help and their inactivity in allowing Chiang Kai-shek's troops to go through their territory and root the rebels.31 Nationalist accounts, on the contrary, state that the Red Army tried to co-ordinate its actions with the rebels, e.g., at Tuancun and Deshengguan.32 A short discussion is in order, especially keeping Shtern's report in mind.

Before the outbreak of the rebellion the Communists had lost the town of Lichuan to the Nationalist armies.33 The importance of this town lay in its being a junction to the 10th Army Corps operating in Northwest Fujian. What is not mentioned in Communist accounts is that Lichuan was a good starting point for operations in West Fujian, if one could not easily march through the area then occupied by the Communists.34 Looking at Nationalist maps showing the distribution of troops at that time, one finds Communist troops between the Nationalist ones around Lichuan and the 19th Route Army in West Fujian.35 Peng Dehuai describes operations of Communist corps mainly east of Lichuan, near the border of Jiangxi and Fujian. He recounts the battle of Tuancun and various maneuvers in that region without once mentioning their possible importance to the survival of the Fujian government,36 although one of Chiang Kai-shek's main passage-ways went through exactly this area, as Nationalist maps readily show. The fact that the Red Army fought in this region until at least mid-December37 means, in my opinion, that back-up for the rebels was at least a welcomed side-effect, as it could be connected with the maintenance of communications with the 10th Army Corps.

Also the statement that the withdrawal of troops to the west of the Jiangxi Soviet had hampered substantially the practicability of action cannot be upheld. Already Liu Bocheng reported that only the First Army Corps had been deployed to the west, and this is confirmed by Nationalist sources.38 The Third and Fifth Army Corps remained in East Jiangxi, West Fujian and even began to regain territory there, e.g., by the conquest of Shaxian in the middle of January 1934.39

This was seen by Mao Zedong, at one time, as proof of the Communist support of the Fujian rebels,40 but I rate these actions as much more selfish because the fall of the Fujian rebels would habe been obvious at that time. Concurrently the Communists tried to take over Cai Tingkai's remaining troops; however, as he writes, he had become suspicious by then and refused it.41

Summing-up it may be said that the Red Army's operations, until the end of 1933, also helped the Fujian rebels, but it is not known if there was any formal co-operation. This would presumably be more due to the inaction of the rebels, thus enabling the Red Army to pursue its own advantage. The failure of military co-operation is surely interconnected with the political co-operation, therefore I do not think that operations in January 1934 were made in co-ordination with or to help the rebels.

CCP-internal discussions

As has been shown in the previous two sections, there existed at least in the beginning on the side of the CCP some willingness to co-operate with the Fujian government. On the other hand we find in the first public declaration of the CC of the CCP quite a different attitude. Written allegedly on 5 December and published 12 December 1933,42 it compares unfavorably words and actions of the Fujian rebels. After about a month of its existence the Fujian government was said to have proved that it was not revolutionary, and, as far as is known, for the first time the expressions "trick" and "deceiving the people" were used. The population was called up to rise independently and to fight against Chiang Kai-shek and the Japanese. A third way between CCP-led liberation and the imperialist Guomindang could not exist.43

Had there been some sudden change of opinion, or how can one explain this polemic against the rebels? Here it proves helpful to consult two more documents, which were written a bit later: the telegrams by Mao Zedong and Zhu De to the Fujian government and the 19th Route Army, dated 20 December 1933 and 13 January 1934 respectively.44 Here the Communists complained, too, about the inadequate efforts of the rebels, but they were much less pessimistic about the nature of the Fujian government. If they achieved their program and the agreement with the CCP, the rebellion could still be successful. Nowhere is the revolutionary (or "unrevolutionary") character of the rebels mentioned.

The difference among the given documents is plain, its reason much less so. Is it the different "audience" or does it reflect CCP-internal discord alluded to in later documents?45 I will now try, with all due caution, to examine the positions of the Communists mainly responsible, by studying reasons for their endorsement or rejection of co-operation as given in the literature.

Chinese treatises see Mao Zedong as supporter of co-operation with the rebels. He is said to have recognized the great chance and rejected the "leftist" behavior of Bo Gu and Otto Braun. These statements in themselves are not very credible. Support to the rebels had been suspended, exactly because the great chance had failed to materialize; "leftist" is an epithet which was not used at that time for the leadership and implied ideological motives instead of real historical interest.46 On the other hand, Braun, Shtern and Gong Chu (a defector)47 accused Mao Zedong of hesitant behavior. This assumption is strenghtened by the two telegrams which support co-operation, but at a price to the rebels. Moreover, those Communists who had been in the Jiangxi Soviet for a longer time had had bad experience with the 19th Route Army. Thus it was more probable that Mao Zedong remained suspicious and did not receive the rebels with open arms ‒ quite a "reasonable" attitude under the circumstances, I think. Nevertheless one can assume that Mao Zedong, if he saw an opportunity to fight against Chhiang Kai-shek, was quite willing to co-operate with anyone, which happened to be the public party line in rough outlines.

Mao Zedong's great antagonist in many accounts is Bo Gu. On the basis of the January program he is said to have been a supporter of co-operation. This program (January 1933) declared the party's intention to begin truce negotiations with any group stopping attacks on the CCP, offering the people its rights and arming the population. It did not, as far as one can tell, allow the establishment of an united front in its later form, and it is not clear to which degree it applied to Guomindang factions.48

This program was surely an important factor in political decision-making; however, with two of the three conditions not having been fulfilled, the January program should have lost credibility as motivation for co-operation. Bo Gu, being painted as a faithful follower of the Comintern, may have backed co-operation in the beginning, but I do not share Braun's conviction that he did it enthusiastically, especially since the great chance is again mentioned. Bo Gu may have had a higher opinion of the 19th Route Army than others ‒ he had seen them fighting in Shanghai ‒ but is this enough for the supposed fervor to ally with them? Interestingly, Zhou Enlai, whom Braun concedes only "half-hearted" support for co-operation, is placed by Gong Chu at the top of the "activists", that group which urged serious efforts to help the rebels.49 The degree to which Bo Gu and Zhou Enlai (and others like Luo Fu) engaged in proposing and enforcing co-operation remains obscure, in particular in the case of Zhou Enlai, on whom Chinese sources are curiously silent.

It is especially important (but also difficult) to determine the positions of Braun and Shtern. Surprisingly Braun condemns Shtern, the Comintern representative, and the CCP bureau in Shanghai by classifying them as opponents of co-operation ‒ i.e., attacking them even more fiercely than Mao Zedong. How can one explain such a judgment? If Shtern and Ewert really rejected any co-operation, then this would be wholly in line with Braun's assertion that despite his, Bo Gu's and Zhou Enlai's positive attitude and Mao Zedong's wavering no measures were taken to help the rebels. But as I tried to show, there was help for the rebels, even if only informally and as a side-effect.

Krymov reports that Shtern tried to support the rebels and was only thwarted by their negative attitude. Strangely he then seems to have had no hand in the withdrawal of Communist troops, an action he disapproves of. I think that Shtern, at the beginning, favored military co-operation; when it could not be realized to the CCP's advantage, he, like Bo Gu and others, may have been content with letting Chiang Kai-shek and the rebels decimate themselves.

At this point the struggle about utilizing the differences in the enemy's camp, mentioned by Braun, may have begun: it was not about helping the rebels or nor ‒ help had been largely rejected by now ‒ but about the future actions of the Red Army, i.e., employment in the east or west or on both fronts, pausing, etc.50

But if Shtern did not deviate too much from the party line, then why does Braun accuse him? Should Braun not have presented Mao Zedong as the saboteur and malefactor, taking into account his well-known antipathy and his ideological world view?51 There are probably two reasons for Braun's strange behavior.

First, tensions surely existed between Braun and Shtern, because Braun, who thought highly of his military expertise, could not really welcome someone else as senior military adviser, especially if Shtern was actually working for the rival Soviet Russian intelligence service.52 In fact, Krymov's article seem to put Braun in his place as Shtern's assistant.53 The fact that Braun obviously passed Shtern's career off as his own may also point to envy.54

Furthermore Braun presents himself in favorable light by his account. Although he is quite self-critical ‒ which heightens the credibility ‒ he makes clear that he was the only one to oppose Shtern's "stupid" plans; conduct which was actually sanctioned by the Comintern later on. This is to show that he thought about the orders he got and did not mechanically execute them.55

What was Braun's position then? He writes he was supporting co-operation with the rebels on the basis of the January program and a Comintern directive, although the rebels were not too keen on an alliance. But, similar to Bo Gu's situation, it remains obscure why Braun should heed the directives of the Comintern, and Shtern and Ewert not. To prove his fervor for co-operation, Braun tells the story of his "rebellion" to redeploy Communist troops, but here he steps into a minefield. He writes that he convinced the CRMC to deploy troops to Fujian at the end of January (or beginning of February) with the explicit purpose of helping the Fujian government. Yet he also speaks about his participation at the Second Soviet Congress which happened a bit earlier, and this proves his undoing.

Mao Zedong declared unexpectedly on 29 January 1934 that the Congress would have to close six days earlier than planned, i.e., on 1 February, because Chiang Kai-shek's troops had put down the Fujian rebellion and were now marching on the Jiangxi Soviet.56 Even if Braun only now learned of the fall of the rebels' government, which seems quite improbable,57 there was no longer any government one could help. But Braun's official trip, when he told Lin Biao of his plans, came after the Congress, thus the whole episode is rendered anachronistic.

There are two hypotheses to explain it. On the one hand, Braun's "rebellion" could have been the result of quarrels with Shtern, connected with the differences within the CCP after the failure of co-operation, which Braun "inadvertently" transferred to a later date. For example, Braun could have wished all troops to remain stationed in the east, whereas Shtern would have wanted to try their luck in the west while the enemy was mainly occupied with the rebels.58 On the other hand, one cannot rule out the possibility that at the beginning of February a concentration of troops could be found in the east, after the First Army Corps had actually been deployed there,59 that one of them did not approve. If Braun had "rebelled", he probably wanted the concentration for tactical reasons, but it did not lead to real success in that area, while in the west of the Jiangxi Soviet Nationalist troops could regain territory.60

These hypotheses, probably both valid, would confirm Braun's account on one point: that he had to submit to Shtern for some time and then disobeyed him, but for military rather than political reasons. Until more sources are available, especially from the Comintern archives, the actual course of events will remain puzzling.


Notwithstanding the inherent uncertainty in writing about historical events, some remarks on the CCP-Fujian government relations can be made quite confidently.

Contrary to most accounts, the then leadership did not suddenly reject political co-operation after the 26 October agreement but continued negotiations and contact at least until 21 November 1933, and it can be assumed even longer. The re-orientation which followed had less to do with ideology than with the military situation. While nearly everyone states that the CCP did not support the rebels militarily, there are indications that exactly that happened nonetheless. It is unclear if the CCP did it intentionally, but that they did it, for a limited period, is reasonable and on record.61 The Red Army fought with Chiang Kai-shek's troops in the northeastern sector of the Jiangxi Soviet at a time those troops should have marched through against the Fujian rebels. This may be explained by the CCP's then allegedly valid strategy not to abandon any territory, but even in that case they indirectly lightened the load of the Fujian government. It is quite incredible that the military leadership of the Red Army should not have been aware of this fact. Besides there are hints (for example by Krymov) that the battles were meant to divert Chiang Kai-shek from the rebels.

When the Communists realized that the 19th Route Army scarcely fought and the motivation for political co-operation disappeared because of the Fujian government's inaction, support was stopped about mid-December and a short time later Chiang Kai-shek's troops began their offensive against the rebels. Coincidence?

It is more difficult to ascertain CCP internal positions and discussions. The few contemporary documents we have are targeted at the public and thus present a reasonably uniform picture. They give the impression that the main responsible persons did not differ much in their assessment and treatment of the Fujian government. To find out what they really thought and proposed is immensely problematic. Personally I do not think they had fundamental disagreements, but tactical differences surely existed, e.g., between Braun and Shtern. The problem is that memoirs and secondary literature don't provide much help as they are more or less systematically distorted. Even accounts in today's less ideological China are not totally reliable, and the same goes for Western literature, as its base is often as insecure. Thus one has to take the utmost care in writing about these things, and my discussions of CCP internal politics is certainly not definitive but a point of departure for further studies. These should concentrate not on Mao Zedong but on other party leaders, such as Zhou Enlai, Bo Gu, Luo Fu, etc., and also, if at all possible, on Shtern and Braun. Not only in connection with the Fujian rebellion have these people been neglected to an astonishing degree.62 Furthermore some rethinking is required on the alleged differences between Mao Zedong and Braun, which are very probably exaggerated, and on the whole theory of two political lines at that time. As I said in the beginning, further studies are surely necessary.


1 My thesis has been published, in German, as #124 of the Arbeiten aus dem Osteuropa-Institut München, Working Paper, under the title, "Otto Brauns frühes Wirken in China (1932-1935)" [table of contents]. I would like to thank Professors Lloyd Eastman and Herman Mast for encouraging me to prepare this translation. Back

2 This section is based mainly on Lloyd Eastman, The Abortive Revolution (Cambridge, MA 1974), ch. 3. Back

3 Gerald Yorke, China Changes (London 1938), 276. Back

4 Fang Qingqiu, "Fujian shibian shulun" [Expose of the Fujian Incident], Lishi Dang'an [Historical Archives], #1 (1983):107. Back

5 Yorke 277f. Back

6 "Fan Ri fan Jiang de chubu xieding" [The Anti-Japanese Anti-Jiang Preliminary Agreement], Hongse Zhonghua [Red China] #149 (14.2.1934): 4. Back

7 Yorke 282. Back

8 Fang Qingqiu 106f. Qiu Guozhen, Shijiu lujun xingwang shi [History of the Rise and Fall of the 19th Route Army] (Taipei n.d.), 133f. Back

9 Yorke 279ff. Qiu Guozhen 136. Back

10 Yorke (p. 278) claims that Chiang Kai-shek stopped payments to the 19th Route Army before the rebellion broke out, thus implicitly forcing Cai Tingkai to rebel. This may explain the indifference, as Chiang Kai-shek's action necessitated a clean break, which the leaders of the 19th Route Army did not really want, so that they continued only for "face". Superimposed would be the genuine wish for revolutionary action by the "Third Party" and other groups, whose influence declined after the initial period. Further study on this question is doubtless needed. [Cf. my more recent note on Chiang Kai-shek and the Fujian Rebellion.] Back

11 Which can be seen in a declaration of 22 December 1933. Back

12 Shen Jiawu, "Shilun Fujian renmin geming zhengfu shibai de yuanyin ji qi yingxiang" [On the reasons of the defeat of the Fujian People's Military Government and its aftereffects], Lishi Dang'an, #3 (1983): 125. Yorke 285. Back

13 Hsiao Tso-Liang, Power Relations within the Chinese Communist Movement, 1930-1934, vol. 1 (Seattle 1961): 254f. Mao Zedong, "Zhonghua suweiai gongheguo zhongyang zhixing weiyuanhui yu renmin weiyuanhui dui di er ce quanguo Suweiai daibiao dahui de baogao" [Report of the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People's Commissars of the Chinese Soviet Republic (CSR) to the Second National Soviet Congress], Hongse Zhonghua, special edition, #3 (26.1.1934): 3. Back

14 Kai Feng, "Lun Zhonghua Suweiai zhongyang zhengfu suo gongbu de dui shijiu lujun de xieding" [On the agreement with the 19th Route Army as released by the Chinese Soviet Central Government], Douzheng [Struggle], #48 (23.2.1934): 9f. Back

15 Bo Gu, "Fujian renmin zhengfu de changsheng ji qi fumie" [Emergence and destruction of the Fujian People's Government], Douzheng, #69 (4.8.1934): 15ff. Back

16 "Zhonggong zhongyang guanyu fandui diren wu ci 'weijiao' de zongjie jueyi" [Final resolution of the CCP Central concerning the fight against the enemy's Fifth Encirclement Campaign], Zunyi huiyi wenxian [Documents on the Zunyi Conference] (Beijing 1985), 15f. Chen Yun, "Zunyi zhengzhiju guangda huiyi chuanda tigang" [Notes for communicating the Enlarged Politbureau Conference at Zunyi], ibid., 37. Back

17 William Dorrill, "The Fukien Rebellion and the CCP," China Quarterly #37 (1969): 46ff. Mao Zedong, "Über die Taktik im Kampf gegen den japanischen Imperialismus," Mao Zedong: Ausgewählte Werke, vol. 1 (Beijing 1968): 181, 191. Back

18 Dorrill 49. Back

19 Mao Zedong, "Strategische Probleme des revolutionären Krieges in China," Mao Zedong: Ausgewählte Werke, 290. A similar proposal had been made to Cai Tingkai, cf. Qiu Guozheng 155. Shtern is also said to have made such a plan, see Otto Braun, Chinesische Aufzeichnungen (1932-1939) (Berlin 1973), 90. Personally I think the plan is quite unpromising. Back

20 One exception would be Liu Bocheng, "Liang tiao junshi luxian de douzheng qingkuang" [Situation of the fight between the two military lines], Zunyi huiyi wenxian, 89. A more thorough study of the historiography of the rebellion, also in the Soviet Union, would be welcomed. Back

21 Wu Xiuquan, Wo de licheng [My memoirs] (Beijing 1984), 73. Back

22 Fang Qingqiu 107ff. The other article is the one by Shen Jiawu, which is more conservative. Back

23 I have not found Fang Qingqiu's opinions in later books. Back

24 This refers to an incursion by the Red Army into Fujian in the middle of 1933. Back

25 Manfred Shtern, later known as General Kleber in the Spanish Civil War, was the senior military advisor of the Comintern in Shanghai. More on him can be found in my thesis. Back

26 The previous section following Braun 68, 87-93. Back

27 A. G. Krymov, "Manfred Shtern ‒ General Kleber," Narody Azii i Afriki [Peoples of Asia and Africa] #1 (1978): 63f. Back

28 Ocherki istorii Kitaja v novejshee vremja [Sketch of China's history in recent times] (Moskva 1959), 640. It is not mentioned in the latest Soviet Russian history of China: Novejshaja istorija Kitaja 1928-1940 [Recent history of China] (Moskva 1984), 80. Back

29 Dorrill 35, note 3. Back

30 E.g., Liu Bocheng 89. Back

31 Qiu Guozhen 140. Back

32 Jiaofei zhanshi [History of the bandit-extermination campaign] (Taipei 1967), 310ff. Back

33 See 1.4 of my thesis. Back

34 The loss of Lichuan could have had strategic importance both for the alliance plans between the rebels and the CCP and the punitive expedition of Chiang Kai-shek if he really controlled the outbreak of the rebellion. Back

35 Maps between pp. 330 and 437 in Jiaofei zhanshi. Back

36 Peng Dehuai, Memoirs of a Chinese Marshall (Beijing 1984), 346ff. Problems with dates in the accounts of Peng Dehuai and Braun obscure some interesting information. Back

37 The battle of Deshengguan was about 15 December 1933. Jiaofei zhanshi 314f. Back

38 Liu Bocheng 89. Jiaofei zhanshi 331. Back

39 Jiaofei zhanshi 320, 331. Back

40 "Zhonghua suweiai gongheguo zhongyang zhengfu wei Fujian shibian xuanyan" [Declaration of the Central Government of the CSR on the Fujian Incident], Hongse Zhonghua #149 (14.2.1934): 3. Back

41 Qiu Guozhen 142. Back

42 "Zhongguo gongchandang zhongyang weiyuanhui wei Fujian shibian gao quanguo minzhong" [Statement of the CC of the CCP to the people of the whole country regarding the Fujian Incident], Douzheng #38 (12.12.1933): 1ff. If it was really written on 5 December 1933, it is not clear why it stated that nearly a month had passed since the establishment of the Fujian government. See p. 1. Back

43 See also Dorrill 39, note 9. Back

44 "Zhonghua suweiai linshi zhongyang zhengfu zhi Fujian renmin geming zhengfu yu shijiu lujun di yi dian" [First telegram by the Provisional Central Government of the CSR to the Fujian People's Revolutionary Government and the 19th Route Army]; "Zhonghua suweiai linshi zhongyang zhengfu zhi Fujian renmin geming zhengfu ji renmin gemingjun di er dian" [Second telegram by the Provisional Central Government of the CSR to the Fujian People's Revolutionary Government and the People's Revolutionary Army], Hongse Zhonghua #149 (14.2.1934): 4. Back

45 Kai Feng 9. Mao Zedong, "Guanyu zhongyang zhixing weiyuanhui baogao de jielun" [Concluding remarks on the report of the CEC], Hongse Zhonghua, special ed., #5 (31.1.1934): 1. Back

46 "Leftist" was then used for adversaries of support, which definitely were not thought to include Bo Gu. Anyway the play with words like "leftist" often obstructs research and should be discontinued. Back

47 Following Dorrill 34; Hsiao Tso-liang 250. Back

48 Hsiao Tso-liang 224f. Xiang Qing, Gongchanguoji yu Zhongguo geming guanxi lunwenxuan [Selected articles on the relation between the Comintern and the Chinese Revolution] (Shanghai 1985), 314. E. H. Carr, The Twilight of Comintern, 1930-1935 (London 1982), 357. Back

49 Dorrill 34. Back

50 Dorrill 42. Back

51 Braun (p. 367) sees his memoirs as a weapon against Mao Zedong. Back

52 Braun was, as I tried to ascertain in ch. 1.3 of my thesis, very probably working for the Soviet Russian military intelligence service GRU (then Fourth Directorate); Shtern is believed to have worked for the rival service, the OGPU. Back

53 Krymov 62. Back

54 The C.V. of Braun given by Wu Xiuquan 67 and Harrison Salisbury (The Long March [London 1985], 38, 41f.) is in fact Shtern's. Back

55 Possibly a reply to accusations of "mechanicalism", etc. Back

56 Hsiao Tso-liang 278f. Back

57 Red Army intelligence is said to have been quite good and Braun would have been one of the first to get the news. Braun 19; Wu Xiuquan 70. Back

58 This should only be taken as an example, because there are too many open points about Braun and Shtern and their respective military strategies and tactics. Back

59 Jiaofei zhanshi 376f. Back

60 Ibid. 377. Back

61 Gustav Amann (Bauernkrieg in China [Heidelberg 1939], 86f) mentions how reasonable it would have been for the Communists to support the rebels ‒ he was not quite sure but believed they had not supported them ‒ and that Chiang Kai-shek anyway prevented the co-operation by attacking the Communists in the northeastern area. He also reports an attack by Communists on Nanchang, but questions whether it was only coincidence. It is quite remarkable that he acknowledged his doubts. Back

62 For example, Luo Fu held the famous opposition statement at Zunyi, and not Mao Zedong. See ch. 4 and 6 of my thesis. Back

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