A map shows the civil war in China from 1927 to 1936.
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The Guomindang and the Communists waged a long and bitter war for control of China. What natural features made the Long March difficult?

In 1926, Jiang Jieshi began the Northern Expedition in order to crush or win over local warlords as he advanced on Beijing. In mid-campaign, Jiang turned on his sometime ally the Chinese Communists, who he saw as a threat to his power. The Communists were winning converts among the small working class in cities like Shanghai.

Early in 1927, on orders from Jiang, Guomindang troops slaughtered Communist Party members and the workers who supported them. In Shanghai and elsewhere, thousands of people were killed. This massacre marked the beginning of a bitter civil war between the Communists and the Guomindang that lasted for 22 years.

Communism and Mao Zedong

Among the Communists who escaped Jiang's attack was a young revolutionary of peasant origins, Mao Zedong (mow dzuh doong). Unlike earlier Chinese Communists, Mao believed that the Communists should seek support not among the small urban working class but among the large peasant masses.

Although the Communists were pursued at every turn by Guomindang forces, Mao was optimistic about eventual success. In southeastern China, Mao and the Communists redistributed land to peasants and offered them schooling and health care.

The Long March

Jiang Jieshi, however, was determined to destroy the “Red bandits,” as he called the Communists. He led the Guomindang in a series of “extermination campaigns” against them. Mao and about 100,000 of his followers fled the Guomindang in an epic retreat known as the Long March. From 1934 to 1935, they trekked more than 6,000 miles, facing daily attacks as they crossed rugged mountains and raging rivers. Mao's forces used guerrilla, or irregular hit-and-run, tactics to fight back. Only about 20,000 of the marchers survived the ordeal.

During the march, the Communists enforced strict discipline. Soldiers were told to treat peasants politely, pay for goods they wanted, and avoid damaging crops. Such behavior made Mao's forces welcome among peasants, many of whom had suffered greatly at the hands of the Guomindang.

For decades, the Long March stood as a symbol of communist heroism and inspired new recruits to follow Mao. At the end of the Long March, the Communists set up a new base in a remote region of northern China.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments