The Dragon of the East

The Dragon of the East

In February 1972, American President Richard Nixon traveled to China to reestablish ties with the communist state. The two nations had severed ties with one another following the Communist Chinese takeover in the aftermath of World War II. Nixon_and_Zhou_toastDuring the Korean War, it was Chinese troops that pushed the United Nations and US forces back across the 38th parallel. Chinese support of the North Vietnamese in the Vietnam War only continued the frosty relations between the two powers. With the election of Nixon in 1968 and the promise to withdraw American forces out of Vietnam, the Chinese government felt American influence shift away from the Pacific theater and began to court relations again with the United States.

The 20th century saw radical changes in Chinese governance and propelled the nation into the modern age. The Qing Dynasty collapsed in 1912, and the birth of the Chinese Republic began. The Chinese Republic had open relations with the West, both in Europe and the United States. During World War I, the German colony in Tsingtao was attacked by a joint Anglo-Japanese force. While China remained largely neutral during the conflict, in 1917 China joined the Allies by declaring war on Germany and the Central Powers. In the years following World War I, China experienced an increased threat from communists led by Mao Tse-tung. The Marxist movement continued to grow, threatening the stability of the republic, but on 7 July 1937 Japanese forces invaded China igniting the Second Sino-Japanese War.Tsingtao_battle_lithograph_1914

World War II saw extensive support for the Chinese Republic, with American mercenaries supporting the Chinese air force in their defense against the invading Japanese. Despite their political differences, the communists under Mao Tse-tung joined forces with the Republic of China in defense against the Japanese. The Chinese Nationalist troops eject a shell from a 105mm gun on the Suchow front on Nov. 25, 1948, after it has been fired at Chinese Communists. (AP Photo/J.M. Hogan)war continued until September 1945 when the Japanese finally surrendered to the Allies, ending World War II. As victors in World War II, the Republic of China was granted a seat on the Security Council of the United Nations. With the war against the Japanese over, the Communists under Mao launched an aggressive campaign against government forces. Lacking support from the international community, especially that of the United States, government forces were quickly overrun and destroyed by the communists. By 1949, the Communists had seized control over most of China and had forced the Republic of China’s government and millions of its supporters to flee to the island of Taiwan off the eastern coast of China.

With victory in hand, mainland China fell under the rule of the Communists and a new government under Mao Tse-tung was formed called the People’s Republic of China. The Republic of China remained in place in Taiwan, and despite PRC threats in the decades since their victory in mainland China, no further conventional efforts have been launched against the government to bring about its demise.

Look for more information regarding the history of China in the upcoming Modern War issue #19 with the article “Red Dragon Falling” and join the conversation on Facebook!

About The Author

Kyle is a Military Historian and Managing Editor at Strategy & Tactics Press. A fourth-generation combat Veteran, Kyle retired from the United States Army in 2010. He specializes in military operations from 1945-Present and has written extensively regarding the future of asymmetrical warfare.

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