On February 3, 1949, the PLA holds a big military parade in Beijing. The parade is meticulously orchestrated to show that:
“…the red army was forcefully stating that it intended to demolish two evils of China’s past: feudalism
and imperialism. The communist army,…, would now ‘liberate’ China.”
An observer noticed
“(it was) the most extensive public display of US military hardware in over a decade." “ This parade of American and Japanese weaponry is also to disguise the military aid of the SU." In 1949, the People's Republic of China is not capable to produce its own ships, tanks, airplanes, and modern weapons.
The navy has captured several GMD ships, of which about 100 are seaworthy. The majority of men (4000) are ex GMD sailors.
Modernization of the People's Liberation Army
The air force has less than 200 airplanes. They are from USA, UK and Japan. However not only the weaponry is foreign, even the soldiers are foreign. In 1949, during the battle around Tianjin, Japanese soldiers manned the captured Japanese artillery.
The PLA soldiers were not used to modern weaponry, so they had to learn this from ex-GMD and Japanese officers and soldiers.
“They did this by creating schools to integrate the equipment and become an army capable of using artillery and tanks in a coordinated manner. Ex-Guomindang officers and soldiers as well as Japanese prisoners of war were employed to this end.” "Not only had the PLA used Japanese soldiers. Yan Xishan (1883-1960) a warlord in Shanxi persuaded 15,000 Japanese soldiers to join his army and this assistance was vital in Yan’s ability to hold out until 1949."
In her pursuit of achieving more unity within the PLA, the PLA mainly looks at the structure of the SU army.
"We must learn every bit of the advanced experiences of the Soviet Union in order to change our armed forces from their condition of backwardness and construct our armed forces into a most superior modernized military force [in the world], so as to be able to assure ourselves of the ability to defeat, in the future, the invasion of the imperialists' armies."
The PLA implements most of the regulations of the Russian army. In 1955, the PLA also introduced the conscription, the grading structure, and salary. This copying of the SU model runs anything but smooth.
"The PLA had not thought through what role its own model of army building should play, one that was based on decades
of war, when it hurried into learning and absorbing a vastly different model. The PLA’s own model can be defined as
follows: a high level of egalitarianism between officers and soldiers; intensive ideological indoctrination with an
emphasis on spiritual commitment; integration with the masses, which was a requirement for waging people’s war; and
(shuangzhangzhi) or the parallel authority of commanders and commissars in combat units, that is, the principle of
collective leadership. In contrast, the Soviet model highlighted professionalism, the importance of hardware, the
superior position of commanders over commissars and reliance on formal institutions. Fundamentally, the clash
centered on whether politics should continue to be in command.”
Fig. 22.1 The military expenditure of the PRC 1950-1954
Source: Chang (1995). Page 120
Neither the Chinese nor the Soviet governments have published a complete account of Soviet loans to China.
Fig. 22.2 Soviet loans to China 1950-1954
Source: Shen (2020). Page 156 In 100 million old rubbles
The PLA is in constant need of SU equipment during the Korean War, Mao Zedong begs on a regular base for new military specialists, guns, anti-aircraft guns, vehicles, and bicycles.
On June 4, 1953, the SU and the People's Republic of China close several important deals, in which the SU will assist in the construction of China’s defense industry. This includes the production of modern weaponry for land forces, air forces, and navy, the modernization of shipyards, and the construction of factories to build airplanes. China in return will deliver raw materials such as tungsten, copper, and rubber to the SU.
In December 1953, the PLA convened a meeting on the experience of the Korean War. Peng Dehuai remarks
“the war to resist US aggression and aid Korea was an important challenge to our army . . . its importance lies in the fact that we must raise the military art of our armed forces to a new level”Deng Hua concludes
“that although nature of war and the army's political quality will still play a decisive role in modern warfare,
[our army's] sources of military materiel and technological conditions will be indispensable factors.”
Lessons learned from the Korea War include
"...from only infantry operations to joint operations with multiple services and branches; from ground operations to three-dimensional ( liti ) operations (i.e., land, air, and sea); from mobile warfare to mobile warfare and positional warfare; and from front-line operations to total
operations in the front and rear, among others. ...it revealed how destructive contemporary warfare could be, especially for the weaker side. Chinese casualty figures are only estimates, but ten Chinese soldiers probably perished for every one American soldier, and an equal number of American and Chinese soldiers were wounded.21 In addition to the destructiveness of modern war, the PLA also learned that logistics and supply problems constrained the scope and extent of offensive operations that it could conduct. Because Chinese forces were not mechanized and traveled mostly on foot, they could not easily exploit any breakthroughs that occurred on the battlefield. "
Chen (2015) concludes in the summer of 1951 the Korea war comes to a stalemate along the 38th Parallel
"In the defensive stage of the Korean War, the PLA underwent huge changes in equipment, personnel, doctrine, and in its interactions with
the outside world. These changes not only enabled the PLA to hold the front until the armistice, but also transformed it from an inward looking Civil War victor to a more internationalised, outward looking Cold War guard equipped with modern weapons from the Soviet bloc, modelling itself on the Soviet military, and defending the Cold War front in East Asia."
In 1949, the PLA started with the construction of its own air force (PLAAF) and navy (PLAN). The base for both of these organizations is the legacy of the PLA.
"The PLAAF must oppose two erroneous tendencies. The first tendency is to believe the PLAAF is a new service that can disregard the legacy of the Army. The second tendency is to be complacent with just some of the Army’s experience. Both of these tendencies are wrong and will impede development.”… “the Air Force will be developed on the basis of the Army."
PLA Air Force (PLAAF)...
The People's Liberation Army Air Force
March 17, 1949, two Soviet-trained aviation pioneers: Chang Qiankun
becomes the commander and Wang Bi the political commissar of the newly formed PLAAF.
Their mission is to expand the air force with as many GMD airplanes as possible and to persuade GMD personnel to work for the PLA.
"In the period 1946–49, the number of Communist Chinese military aircraft fluctuated widely owing to war losses, captures and defections by Guomindang pilots. By the end of the war there were fewer than 200 aircraft left. According to official Chinese accounts, the new regime in Beijing in late 1949 could lay claim to approximately 159 foreign aircraft—US, British, and Japanese—including P-47 and P-51 fighters, Japanese ‘Oscar’ fighters, B-24 and B-25 bombers, as well as
transports and trainer aircraft, although many of these aircraft were not operational.42 In addition, the PLA was
able to capture from the retreating Guomindang some 1278 aircraft engines and more than 40 000 tonnes of aviation
equipment and supplies, nearly all of which was of foreign origin.43"
The leadership of the PLA faced immediate challenges concerning aviation equipment. The equipment left behind by previous forces was predominantly of foreign origin, with very few domestically manufactured items. This included not only aircraft but also essential ground facilities such as airfields, hangars, factories, repair depots, and fuel dumps, which had a significant influence from foreign engineering practices.
The assortment of aviation equipment was so varied and incongruous that it was unfeasible to utilize it as a solid foundation for establishing a new air force or developing a self-sustaining aviation industry. Even if the issue of communism had not strained relationships with foreign suppliers, the sheer disparity in equipment would have posed insurmountable obstacles. Even before the establishment of the PLAAF, discussions were held in Moscow to pursue the development of a standardized and modern air force, along with the indigenous capability to manufacture aircraft.
In September 1949, the SU decided to provide China with 334 planes and artillery pieces, including 360 antiaircraft guns.
Almost at the same time, during August to October 1949, 6 aviation institutes are founded, where 878 Russian experts teach.
On July 10, 1949, Mao Zedong planned to send between 300 to 400 officers to the SU to be trained as a pilot or engineer and to purchase at least 100 airplanes.
“Together with the air force we have now, they will form an offensive unit to support the cross-strait campaign and prepare to seize Taiwan next summer.”
In the years 1949-1950 the SU, at the request of the PRC, provided air protection to the industrial centres of Northeast China and Shanghai against enemy air raids from the GMD regime of Taiwan. On November 11, 1949, after all this preliminary work, the PLAAF is founded. The staff of the PLAAF are all officers of the land forces. The main task of the PLAAF is ‘to be battle ready’ as soon as possible to conquer Hainan and Taiwan. From July 1950 onwards, the PLAAF asks for more airplanes and trainers from the SU.
A different way to achieve this goal is cooperation with the GMD servicemen who are defected or who will defect.
During the Korea War
"The main task of the nascent Chinese air force as well as the Soviet Air Force was to cover transportation corridors and restoration work on airfields, along with hydroelectric generation facilities, the Yalu River bridges, transportation lines to the front and the area north of the Chongju River. "
Prime Minister Zhou Enlai stated in December 1950:
"Construction of China’s aviation industry should be carried out according to the Chinese practical situation . . . We could not just rely on buying foreign aircraft and only carrying out repair by ourselves. The construction road,
therefore, of China’s aviation industry should be conducting repair first, manufacture afterwards and then the design . .
. certain consideration should be given to the planning and arrangement of turning [repair facilities] into a manufacture
factory in the future. Meanwhile, negotiations should be carried out with the Soviets about their assistance for the
construction of our aviation industry."
During the Korean War, the PLAAF grew rapidly, especially in 1953. See table below.
Fig. 22.3 The number of aircrafts delivered from the SU. 1952-1954
Source: Aihua (2011). Page 30
Also, the number of Soviet military specialist advisers in the Chinese air force grows rapidly.
Fig. 22.4 The number Soviet military specialist advisers for the PLAAF. 1949-1954
Source: Aihua (2011). Page 31
From December 1953 onwards, China receives the production rights to produce its own MiG-15bis and starts to design airplanes based on Russian planes. China’s first indigenously produced military aircraft, the CJ–5 trainer manufactured at the Nanchang Aircraft Factory, made its first successful test flight on July 11, 1954.
PLA Navy (PLAN)...
The People's Liberation Army Navy
On May 2, 1949, the PLA layered the foundation for its own navy. Zhang Aiping
is commissioned to build a fleet that makes it possible to transport military troops and support an attack on Taiwan. March 25, 1949, Mao Zedong and
stresses the importance of defection after the mutiny of the troops of the Chongqing cruiser.
"Your rebellion shows that the KMT reactionaries and their American imperialist bosses are on their last legs.
They can damage such a ship as the Chongqing by bombing, but they cannot prevent even more vessels from joining it,
and even more vessels, aircraft, and army units will rebel to join the People's Liberation Army. The Chinese people
are certain to establish their own powerful national defense, and in addition to an army, we must also build our own air force and navy. You, then, are among the vanguard that will build the Chinese People's Navy."
One month later, 25 warships fall in the hands of the PLA after GMD admiral Deng Zhaoxing
defects to the CCP.
November 1949, a navy academy starts in Shenyang with 84 SU specialists. Later on, 711 Russian naval experts in three batches are also dispatched. Along the coastline, rudimentary maintenance and logistics infrastructure are constructed.
Zhang Aiping goes to the SU looking for aid and he buys old submarines, patrol boats, and other vessels.
On October 25, 1949, with the amphibious landing on Quemoy
, the PLAN has its baptism of fire. The supremacy of the GMD at sea and in the air makes this landing a total disaster. The invasion of Dengbu two weeks later turns also out in disaster.
The importance of having a capable navy had already become clear during the campaign around Tianjin.
“… that the campaign to capture Tianjin had to deal with the fact that the city is surrounded by water and crossed by
canals and waterways, as it is the gate to the sea for the North China plain. Nationalist forces had flooded much of
the area by the first week of January 1949, “slowing movement and forcing the Communist forces to gather boats to
conduct their attack.”
In May 1950, when the PLAN is officially founded, the complete fleet of the People's Republic of China exists of
“… a motley armada of 5,000 vessels . . . freighters, motorized junks, and sampans” to use for the invasion of Taiwan; this force was to be manned by “30,000 fishermen and other sailors.”
Some of these fishing boats were used to clear Shantou Harbour of mines. The PLAN established a mine sweeping regiment in April 1950 to clean the Yangzi Jiang of sea mines. With the help of Soviet experts, four landing warships were reequipped as minesweepers. During the Korean War, the PLAN succeeded in laying thousands of mines along the coast of North Korea.
General Su Yu responsible for the upcoming attack on Taiwan
“... estimated that 760,000 tons of shipping, plus 2,000 small boats, were needed to execute this campaign plan, but these forces were not available. The general knew even more troops would be required, since the KMT forces on Taiwan were becoming more capable with the passage of time, but more troops required more
transports and supporting vessels.” The main part of the personnel of the navy are retrained army personnel with little or no marine skills. The early Soviet assistance program included the creation of the Soviet Naval Advisory Mission in Beijing and the dispatch of 500 naval advisers and maintenance personnel in 1950. Already in October 1949, 84 Soviet experts arrived in Shenyang to help China found the Naval Academy
In January 1950, the CMC, appointed an Army general, Xiao Jinguang
, as the first PLAN commander.
In July 1950, the Soviet Union began to deliver naval weapons, equipment, and spare parts for the nascent PLAN. October 22, 1950, Mao Zedong asks for more high-speed torpedo boats, floating mines, armoured ships, small patrol boats, minesweeping equipment, coastal fortress artillery and torpedo bomber planes. The first Soviet transfers of finished naval craft consisted of about 50 World War II-vintage torpedo boats, which occurred in 1951.
"In October 1951, Mao Zedong issued this order to the Central Military Commission: “Coastal defense will henceforth be China’s main frontline defense.” The prerequisite for building a powerful coastal defense is building a powerful navy. Mao Zedong had learned the historical lessons from when modern China’s seas were undefended and foreign enemies had repeatedly invaded by sea. Based on the maritime threats New China faced and the real need for unification with Taiwan, he proposed “building a strong navy,” which was an important part of Mao Zedong’s maritime strategic thinking."
In April 1952, a delegation led by Xiao Jinguang visited the Soviet Union for solving the problem of naval weapons and equipment.
A treaty between the PLAN and the SU is signed on June 4, 1953. The PLAN buys 5 types of ships, including the right to produce these ships (i.e., minesweepers and submarines). In the first Five Year plan, the navy’s development is limited to coastal defense and coastal fortifications.
Until 1957, the PLAN shall expand from 298 to 785 vessels and increase the tonnage from 11.5 million tons to 25 million tons.
During a politburo meeting in December 1953, Mao Zedong explained the duties of the PLAN
“we must build a strong navy”: (1) to get rid of disturbances by ocean pirates and protect the security of ocean channel shipping; (2) to prepare the strength to recover Taiwan at an appropriate opportunity and eventually unify our entire country; and, (3) to ready our forces to resist an invasion of imperialism from the sea. He qualified these goals, however, by noting that the navy had to be built “in a planned, progressive way in accordance with the situations regarding industrial development and finance.”
Mao Zedong is convinced nuclear weapons will not make the difference in a war situation. How dire the weapon, eventually
the people will determine the outcome of the war. In a speech on September 5, 1950, he thus expresses
“We will not allow you [the Americans] to use the atomic bomb [against us]. But if you won't give it up, you may just
use it. You can follow the way you choose to go, and we will do whatever is to our [best] advantages [in encountering you]. You may bomb [us] with the atomic bomb, but we will respond with our hand-grenades. We then will catch your weakness to tie you up and finally defeat you.”
Despite this rhetoric, the political leaders of the CCP are already interested in nuclear weapons from the moment they are negotiating with SU leaders.
“During June through August 1949, … Liu Shaoqi and Gao Gan visited the Soviet Union to lay the groundwork for a fateful meeting between Stalin and Mao Zedong.4 Unexpectedly for the Soviets, Liu Shaoqi, who never acted impulsively, asked for a tour of Soviet nuclear installations. Stalin, however, rejected the request; he did not intend to share his potential nuclear achievements with foreigners, whoever they might be.”
Gobarev (1999) also states that during the negotiations between Mao Zedong and Stalin in January and February 1950, the issue
of military assistance in case of a war should be extended 'with all means at its disposal' in other words “nuclear assurances to China.”
After the death of Stalin, Mao Zedong again approached the SU leaders to provide China with an atomic bomb. The SU leaders reject this demand but are inclined to give more military assistance.
“Khrushchev (during his visit 1954) first repeated Stalin's and his own old argument that there was no need for China to possess the atomic bomb since China, as well as the Socialist countries of Eastern Europe, was already under the Soviet nuclear umbrella.”
From the year 1955 on Mao Zedong is determined to make China a superpower and a way to achieve this is by developing a Chinese atomic bomb. To attain this goal, a nuclear development program is initiated under the leadership of Zhou Enlai and with the help of the SU. The Chinese leaders realize they have to rely on the aid of the SU to develop their own nuclear program and that they cannot rely on the nuclear protection of the SU. A lesson they learned during the Korean War.
The utility of shelters during nuclear attacks is questionable, however, the first 5-year plan provided plans for expanding the number of shelters.
Already in the 1930s several air defense tunnels were built, after 1949 it was decided to maintain and expand the existing shelters. Especially in the coastal areas, to protect against air raids from the GMD regime of Taiwan. In 1952, the city of Fuzhou has constructed shelter facilities to accommodate 70.000 persons.
In the Northeast, additional shelters were built to protect against possible air raids during the Korea War.
Fig. 22.5 Expenditure for economic building 1950-1952
Source: Wen (2021). Page 134
A deficit of more than 12% forces the CCP to downsize the expenditures of the government and the military. The modernization plans in the first Five Year plan have to be altered. The import of new weapons has to be stopped and instead a national defense industry has to develop.
After much debate in August and September 1953 during RMC meetings, the military leaders decided
"First, the force should be reduced by 1.3 million within two years, to 3.5 million (including the public security force). 64 This reaffirmed a previous decision (taken before the budget cap was announced) and would consist mostly of demobilizing infantry units. Second, the growth of the services and branches would be frozen for the next five years. Third, the general departments and military Regions, which had become “excessively large,” would be streamlined and reorganized. Fourth, the CMC would study various systems ( zhidu ) such as conscription, ranks, and salaries to increase efficiency and effectiveness of command necessary for complex, modern operations.65"
Hung (2007). Page 412 [Cite] the British Consulate-General at Qingdao is surprised how easy the takeover of that city on June 2, 1949 is, because
"The troops on entering Tsingtao looked very weary, foot sore and weather beaten, ages vary from 15-50 all wearing apparently new uniforms, the khaki varying very much in colour, from greenish to a ghastly mustard, the political forces wore grey uniforms. There are many women in the forces. The troops do not appear to have much in the way of equipment, this is probably due to the main force not having arrived yet, but they apparently have enough to keep peace and order however. From general appearances, it is a mystery how they walked through the nationalists." Foreign Office Files for China, 1949-1980 FO 371/75764
“During the period 1946–50, the PLA captured, mainly from the retreating Nationalists, some 3 160 000 rifles, 320 000 machine-guns, 55 000 artillery pieces, 622 tanks, 389 armoured vehicles, 189 military aircraft and 200 small warships.17.” Gill (1995). Page 17. In December 1948, the US Military Attaché in Nanjing reported that 80 percent of the weapons and 75 percent of the ammunition that the United States had supplied the Guomindang had been captured.Andrew (2008). Page 163 [↩][Cite]
Cited in Zhang (1999). Page 199. [Cite] Peng Dehuai also states “The experience of the Korean War proves that in modern war if there is no guarantee of ample supply of materiel from the rear, war is impossible to conduct.” cited in Fravel (2019). Page 62 [↩][Cite]
Gill (1995). Page 25 [Cite] "On the eve of establishing the PLAAF, Chinese communist forces had fewer than 3,000 trained aviation personnel. There were 202 pilots, 30 navigators, 2373 mechanics, three engineers and miscellaneous personnel....Airmen from the communist movement constituted 88 percent of the pilots but only 15 percent of the mechanics. Personnel "accepted" from the Kuomintang (i.e., Nationalist) forces represented 85 percent of the mechanics and an even higher percentage of technical personnel.  More than 100 Japanese pilots and technically trained ground personnel remained in Manchuria after 1945. They were part of the initial contingent of instructors at the Northeast Old Aviation Schoo1 19" [↩][Cite]
China Today: The People's Navy 1987. Page 34 [↩][Cite]
Liu (2016). Page 2. [Cite] Yu (2016). "The outcome was the total annihilation of three PLA regiments, totalling over nine thousand soldiers, at the hands of a beat-up and retreating Nationalist contingent." Page 91. He states "...But the problem was not just a lack of vessels but poor planning and hostility from local residents." Page 93. He continues "Most fishermen resisted the PLA demand to surrender
their vessels as troop transports". Page 94[↩][Cite]
Fortifications will come in five areas. The first three of these are in the northeast, which had been identified as the main strategic direction: the Liaodong Peninsula, the area from Qinhuang Island to Tanggu on the coast just northeast of Tianjin, and the Jiaodong Peninsula (which refers to main part of the Shandong Peninsula). The other two areas of focus were the Zhoushan Islands area near Shanghai, and Hainan Island. Fravel (2019). Page 66 [↩][Cite]
Cited in Burkitt (2003). Page 170. [Cite] In 1950, Xiao Jingguang, the commander of Chinese naval forces insisted that "..the navy should be a light type navy, capable of inshore defence. Its key mission is to accompany the ground forces in war actions. The basic characteristic of this navy is fast deployment, based on its lightness." Cited in Ji (1991). Page 139. "In step with this doctrine, the navy established the 'three-point pillars' of its forces; namely, the torpedo boats, land-based naval aircraft and submarines. Of these, the submarine fleet enjoyed priority in development." "Mao's military thinking, centred on the 'people's war', was the fundamental guideline for the formulation of naval plans." Ji (1991). Page 139 [↩][Cite]
Gobarev (1999) Page 3. [Cite] However, as compensation, the Soviets invited the Chinese delegation to watch a documentary about the nuclear test. Since the Soviet Union’s first atomic bomb exploded on August 29, 1949 and Liu Shaoqi had already left Moscow at that time, so the CCP delegation saw was not about the Soviet nuclear test. When Mao Zedong visited Moscow in early 1950, Stalin was able to show Mao Zedong a documentary film of the Soviet atomic bomb test. "...the CCP engaged in a 'systematic programme of collecting Information' on atomic issues.12 Second, China began preparations to survive a nuclear war via the adoption of civil defence measures, notably the construction of air raid shelters and tunnelling Systems.13". Horsburgh (2015). Page 41 [↩][Cite]
Soviet efforts resulted in the substitution of the words 'state of war' for 'military engagement' in the final version of the treaty.9 Therefore, under the new wording, in the event the Chinese became engaged in military actions with no declaration of war, the Soviet Union was under no formal obligation to provide its support, to say nothing about the activation of the nuclear guarantees. Gobarov (1999). Pages 4-5 [↩][Cite]
October 31, 1950 Central Civil Air Defense Preparatory Committee is headed by Zhou Enlai, and its office is set up in the Ministry of Public Security. In November 1953, the first National People's Air Defense Conference is held and the Central People's Air Defense Committee was formally established. [↩]