A War with China

hammer-and-keyboard-in-star2-300pxThis Post Received a Comrade’s Corner Citation

In 1927, Chiang Kai-shek had mostly suppressed the Chinese Communists and solidified much of China underneath a single government based out of Nanjing. Now he began to set his sights upon Manchuria, severing ties with the Soviets who had much already invested in Manchuria. The Soviets managed and exercised their complete control of the Chinese Eastern Railroad out of Manchuria, since the Soviet Union had secured its interests through treaties with the Chinese government, formally based in Peking, and the Chinese warlords in the area.

By 1929, Chiang Kai-shek saw the complete Russian ownership of the railroad, and the fact that 75% of employees and all of the controlling posts were Russian, as a threat. Chiang Kai-shek accused the Soviets of using railroad funds and employees as agents to spread communist propaganda across China. He also accused the Russians of plotting with warlord Feng Yu-Siang to overthrow the Chinese government. This last charge was particularly serious as many Chinese warlords had the individual capability to pose a serious threat to the Chinese government. Chiang Kai-shek ordered a raid on the Soviet consulate to find documentary support of his charges. He did and began arresting Russians throughout China.

The Chinese then began to push north, capturing key soviet controlled economic points in Manchuria and arresting Soviet citizens and officials along the way. Although many in Moscow did assume that the local Russian consulate was working to overthrow the Chinese government long before Chiang Kai-shek issued his charges, the Soviets responded to the arrests and charges by claiming the documents the Chinese found were poorly made forgeries and mobilizing Russian troops and tanks to the Chinese border. The Soviets also encouraged Soviet citizens across Russia to hold demonstrations and marches against the Chinese government, to which the citizens obliged. The Soviets also released provocative documents, statements and articles.

However just as the world began to anticipate a large scale war between the Soviets and the Chinese, swift Soviet military action by the Soviet general who helped train Chiang Kai-shek to unite China quickly put an end to the violence. The conflict ended so suddenly that few even realized there was a conflict. The Chinese were forced to accept the 1924 agreed upon terms and conditions of the railroad. However, the railroad quickly became unprofitable during Stalin’s five year plan. In 1935, the Soviets sold the Chinese Eastern Railroad to the Chinese government, who soon lost control of it to the Japanese.


Chinese Railway Incident

The War Nobody Knew

Soviet Interpretation of the Chinese Raid



Image: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/ZQoKWAKYAX4/hqdefault.jpg

19 thoughts on “A War with China”

  1. I chose this topic as well. It interested me how badly the Chinese wanted to have a conflict with Russia and forged a number of papers to push their need for expansion. Also, the speed at which Russia was able to mount a counter offensive against the raids against checkpoints along the railway and to save the consulate impressed me. It is sad however that the conflict over the railroad and the profit from it was all for nothing in the end under Stalin’s five year plan.

  2. Solid post this week. This really highlights how the struggle between communism and “the west” was not mutually exclusive to mean the USSR and the United States. It is easy to see it the path of communism as a narrow one pursued by the USSR and its proxies with little resistance from nations not directly related to the U.S. This, however shoes that there was a struggle long before the Cold War began This is an interesting topic that opens the door to further inquiry. Namely, why did Stalin’s Five Year Plan render the railroad virtually useless. Overall, good post this week and good detail.

  3. I think the thing this ‘conflict’ shows is the real power of the Soviets, if it was doubted. To me that is very interesting. The reach and power of these people is interesting and the lack of success for the Chinese is evidence of this.

  4. This brief conflict is an interesting one, it really seems that the Chinese were really in no position to effectively counter any Soviet threats considering their fragmented consolidation of power. The effectiveness of a swift Soviet counter seems to support this, though I wonder if in its absence all out war would have been able to materialize. The relationship with China and the USSR and now Russia has always been a complex one even when their policies eventually aligned.

  5. Prior to reading your post, I did not know that a conflict between them even existed in 1929, just knew there were always tensions between the two countries. Did any fighting between the two sides occur or was the force of the Soviets too powerful at the start? Also were there any clear end goals for China or was it more of a political power move?

    1. There was some fighting but not much. Imagine regular police officers going to war with an army. Chaing Kai-Shek was largely fueled by nationalism. His end game was to completely unite China and all Chinese claims. I’m sure he just saw the Russian involvement in the CER as a threat to Chinese nationalism because all positions of authority were held by Russian nationals. 75% of all employees were Russian nationals in an organization that was supposed to be a joint effort. Also, the warlords that still existed did pose a very serious threat to China. They each hard their own massive armies, economies and societies. Many of the actual warlords were considered completely crazy too. For example, the one the Chinese accused the Russians of conspiring with would baptize his citizens and soldiers with a fire hose at close range, often.

  6. I really enjoyed this post! Last semester I took history of modern China and so I found it interesting to learn about this conflict from the opposite perspective.

    1. Yeah, I took Revolutionary China this time last year and read the Chinese history of this event. When I read the Russian documents I found, I didn’t even recognize this conflict at first. Their side is so different.

  7. Like Iain, I never knew about this conflict prior to reading your post, but I find this very interesting. To me, it brings up a lot of questions about what would have happened if any a war had actually materialized between the Soviet Union and China. Also, was it ever determined if the papers found by the Chinese were legitimate or forged?

    1. When I read about this conflict in the Revolutionary China class I took, the Chinese historians still seem convinced the Chinese police found legitimate Soviet documents plotting to overthrow Chaing Kai-Shek. He was a student of communism in Russia and studied directly under the very same Soviet General that was sent in to counter him. Once he moved back to China, he quickly decided that communism would not work in China and was bad for the Chinese people, which is also why he obsessed over defeating Mao, to the point that it cost his government mainland China. It makes sense that the Soviets would want to remove him from power, especially since it all seemed hopeless for Mao and the Chinese communists at this point in time. Believe it or not, the Japanese actually saved communism in China by invading and making Chaing Kai-Shek look like a weak fool.

  8. This is a really great post about Sino-Soviet relations, especially at the start of the Soviet Union. I just had a quick question. Did the Chinese communists played any role in this confrontation or did Chiang Kai-Shek purely want to fight Russia?

    1. Chaing Kai-Shek absolutely hated Communism. After studying it, he truly believed it was the worst possible thing for China. After all, it was just recently that the Chinese had modernized and escaped their highly outdated ways underneath imperial rule. It was probably a combination of that and the fact that Chaing had just successfully united the majority of China under one government. He had Mao and the Chinese Communists all but beat. He had had so many successes that he was probably way too over confident and he couldn’t adapt militarily to fighting wars any way, but the way he was taught. This is largely what made Mao so successful in combating the nationalists after World War Two.

  9. I think it is very interesting how the Soviets controlled the Chinese railroads, and were able to exercise their influence throughout China via the railroad system. I find it rather interesting that the Russians/Soviets just gave up the railroad, and essentially some of their influence.

  10. This is a really cool post that did an awesome job of explaining the conflict. I’m surprised by Kai-shek’s foresight on this – I knew that he eventually lost China to Communist forces and had to move his government to Taiwan, but I didn’t know that he saw Communism as a threat this early on.

  11. China and Russia have a very long history of territorial ambition and resulting conflict. I’m sure that the railroad was simply used as an excuse by the conflict to justify another border war with Russia.

  12. I, like many others, had very little knowledge of this conflict before reading your post. It is incredibly interesting how the Soviet forces were able to defeat the Chinese so easily. I think this conflict, and ultimately swift Soviet success, really united Russia during a time of slight instability. The Chinese provided a common ally for which the Soviet military and populace to mobilize, giving them a sense of national pride and confidence. They would need these headed into WWII.

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