Winning Over the Puppets: Conclusion

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 4:25 pm

This posting is part of a series which comprise a draft dissertation chapter. Read more about it here. The first posting is found here. The post preceding this one is here.

There was a girl whose father was executed by shooting. She cried continuously as she faced the war criminal and accused him of the crime. Then she climbed up onto the stage and beat him to death with a stone.
Reaction: The masses were moved and began to cry.

-Example case from the “Oppose Treason and Voice Grievances” campaign in Rizhao county, Public Security Bureau Report, 1946.

The Communist Party in Shandong province understood just as well as the Nationalist regime that the tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers who helped maintain the Japanese occupation in the peninsula were as valuable for their manpower and their rifles as they were reviled for their treason and their violence. This value did not diminish with Japanese surrender and the approach of a devastating civil war. The Party’s wartime efforts to win over military collaborators, shield them from retribution, and redeploy them were renewed in the postwar period, but as we saw, this was punctuated by a short period in which tens of thousands of Chinese treated as prisoners of war found themselves caught up in twin processes of reform and retribution in the fall of 1945 and spring of 1946. Here too the Party pressed hard to limit the scope and severity of retribution through its policy of magnanimity, but found this impossible to achieve.

If puppet soldiers feared retribution in the mass trials carried out throughout Shandong in 1945 and 1946, their alternative was to be a part of Chiang Kai-shek’s “conspiracy” to merge his troops with the puppets. Just as the major puppet army commanders who were won over to Communist control in Shandong, including Mo Zhengmin, Zhang Xixian, Han Shouchen and later Wu Huawen, retained command of their forces and went on to successful postwar careers in the People’s Republic, many puppet commanders in the province were able to rejoin the Nationalist army, and some estimated 100,000 puppet soldiers joined them. These include Zhang Tianzuo, Ning Chunling, Wang Jimei, and Wang Jinyang. Some, such as Cao Keming survived the civil war in Shandong and joined the Nationalist retreat to Taiwan.

The fate of puppet commanders who stayed in the few Nationalist controlled areas was not guaranteed, however. Two of the most important wartime puppet army generals, Zhang Buyun and the former Japanese citizen Zhang Zongyuan were both executed after being tried by the courts of the Nationalist administration. Zhang, tried for “pillage, murder, and treason,” was executed in Qingdao, January 1948.

Zhang Zongyuan’s origins made his case more complicated. Even though the Nationalist government’s law for the punishment of treason did not stipulate that those charged have Chinese citizenship and, in fact, tried number of foreigners for the crime, Japanese prisoners of war were to come under the laws for prosecution as war criminals. Though born in Japan, Zhang Zongyuan claimed ties to a Chinese ancestor that had joined the crew of a Japanese pirate ship during the Ming dynasty. Zhang’s convoluted case resembled the challenge faced by the Nationalist government in prosecuting the last Chinese and later Manchurian emperor Puyi’s cousin Kawashima Yoshiko, as well as a small number of accused Taiwanese traitors who could claim they were Japanese citizens during the time they committed their alleged treason. Like Kawashima Yoshiko, who at various times described herself as Chinese, Manchurian or Japanese, after his arrest Zhang Zongyuan could not seem to make up his mind whether he wanted to be treated as Chinese or as Japanese. A military investigation looking into the problem was equally confused and ruled he had two native places. It claimed this merely made the severity of his crime, which was to include “war crimes and treason” (戰犯漢奸) among others, all the more serious. He was executed in Shanghai, in June, 1948.

On the Communist side, those puppet soldiers who were subjected to mass trials in the Oppose Treason campaign of 1945 and 1946 were sentenced in a legal process which was not terribly concerned with particular crime its convictions were filed under, even if its campaign was ostensibly organized to target those guilty of collaboration. On the contrary, from the Party’s perspective, the key was to tie this process to its preparations for full scale land reform by linking it with the Rent and Interest Reduction campaign. As a report from northern Binhai put it, “The Oppose Treason campaign is a movement with two sides. One is the national struggle (民族鬥爭). It is a struggle of all the classes against the small time traitors. Secondly it is a class struggle, a way to attack landlords who maintained their wealth through their treasonous acts.” Of these, the second was by far the most important. Puppet soldiers were thus largely peripheral to this process, all the more so because they often came from relatively humble origins and were needed in the fight against the Nationalists.

From the perspective of the population, however, the military collaborators who were briefly subjected to mass justice were as reviled as the Japanese occupier. Indeed, for those who lived in areas without regular Japanese patrols, these Chinese military collaborators were the only face of the long occupation. Having stood by during the war while dozens of small groups of military collaborators transformed overnight by the Enemy and Puppet Work teams into units of the army of resistance, it is not terribly surprising that many had little patience for the Party’s “policy of magnanimity” when their opportunity finally came for retribution.

Note:  If you have any interesting information about 伊達麟之介 / 伊達順之介 / 伊達順之助 / 張宗援 / 张宗援 I’d love to hear from you. I’ve been collecting information about him and his fate for a separate article.


The Eight Great Disorders and the Oppose Treason Campaign

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 4:23 pm

This posting is part of a series which comprise a draft dissertation chapter. Read more about it here. The first posting is found here. The post preceding this one is here.

“What have the violations of our policies been like over the past year? Those of disorder…the eight great disorders of luan (wanton, chaotic and indiscriminate) beatings, luan arrests, luan killing, luan punishment, luan imprisonment, luan torture, luan confiscations, and luan sealing off of buildings. One can say this explains the luan state of our policies.” Public Security Bureau Report, Bohai District, 1946

The formal and almost bureaucratic process of purging guilt through repentance and re-education overlapped with a simultaneous process of mass trials for traitors. As Communist control was consolidated over dozens of towns, counties, and even a few cities that had been under some form of occupation by Japanese or puppet military troops, its new administrators subjected their inhabitants almost immediately to two increasingly linked campaigns, the “Rent and Interest Reduction” (減租減息) campaign and the “Oppose Treason and Voice Grievances” (反奸訴苦) campaign. This second campaign was also called the movement to “Settle Accounts with Traitors” (漢奸清算). In the vast territories of Shandong liberated during the aggressive push of Communist forces in the last months of the war, the Oppose Treason campaign was both the main vehicle for retribution against both wartime collaborators and a preliminary blow against local elites that would soon become the main target of the massive land reform efforts that would follow.

Though it was carried out on a rolling basis as areas were liberated, the peak of the campaign in the Shandong base area was in the first half of 1946. It combined the public airing of grievances against collaborators with mass trials of selected suspects. Each town and village was to collectively request the purging of their community. The Shandong provincial archives holds a number of petitions of this kind, all dated February or March of 1946, calling for the new democratic government to punish collaborators. They are often signed by a list of family or clan representatives with an indication of the number of its members. While each of them have some variation in the list of their demands, most include the request that the new Shandong government under the Communist party carry out the, “disbandment of the puppet armies and strict punishment of traitors” Each petition then usually lists some of the local collaborators and their crimes, and sometimes includes and account of the deaths and possessions pillaged in attacks by a particular puppet army unit.

For many communities in Shandong, the Oppose Treason movement and the Rent and Interest reduction movements were the first taste of the large scale mass political campaigns to be felt throughout China in the decades to come. The Oppose Treason campaign does not appear to have focused on puppet army officers and soldiers but for the first time puppet soldiers begin to appear consistently as a category in lists of cases and sentencing reports of treason elimination cadres summarizing their progress. At least some of these puppet soldiers subjected to mass trial were prisoners that had completed the process of registration and repentance but were found to have been guilty of particularly heinous crimes. In the eyes of the local population as well as the local cadres who lived and worked among them, the transfer of puppet soldiers and other collaborationist employees from the repentance and training process to public trials did not happen enough. Acknowledging a growing criticism of its policy of leniency, in the case of puppet soldiers in particular the Public Security Bureau blamed its failures on the difficulty in sharing information about alleged crimes from one county to the next.

As a 1945 report on traitor elimination work in Kunlun county put it, “there is criticism of our paralysis. We think if the [puppet soldiers] confess we should be lenient and after show our magnanimity there is no need to continue to collect material [for their cases].” The problem was also, however, that the reform and repentance process usually included at least one large rally where puppet soldiers and collaborators made their remorse public. In Zhaobei county, this was accomplished over the course of two days in rallies attended by 9,600 men, women, and children. Evaluating their response, the county administration noted that most people felt the government was showing its desire to follow the will of the people, but noted that other criticized it saying, “Today, were they suddenly reborn when they confessed their crime? That is just too easy.” Both administrators and the local populace began to take things into their own hands and the Shandong Party Sub-bureau found it impossible to control the retributive violence it had sought to channel into political mobilization. Reports came in of local militias refusing to hand over their prisoners, or of executing them rather than risk Party “magnanimity.”

Party officials were also eagerly joining in. In Bohai, for example, “the cadres are enthusiastic, but they usually believe that all the world under Heaven is ours. They lack political consciousness in the dealing with puppet police, traitors, and so on and simply view their task as one of revenge.” Throughout the newly liberated districts, Party cadres were engaged in “wanton arrests and killing” (亂捕亂殺), wanton beating, and the torturing of prisoners. “The beatings and arrests have become as regular as one’s daily meal. Where the campaigns are being carried out, every village has its own jail and its own militia.”  The violence also spread to the handling of other crimes as in one village where a few suspected bandits were beaten to death on the spot by a cadre sent to apprehend them without any formal proceedings. Most of the violence, however, seemed to be at the hands of local militias (民兵) and those who attended the rallies organized in the Oppose Treason rallies. In one county carrying out the Oppose Treason campaign, it was reported that 40 treason suspects had been beaten to death by locals, 24 in a second, 8 in the county of Putai, and 20 accused “war criminals” (戰犯) stoned to death in the county of Gaoyuan.

Retributive violence against collaborators, or at least carried out in the name of vengeance against collaboration, is found in formerly occupied territories throughout the world in 1945, and the violent repression of the Japanese and puppet army occupation in Shandong gave its population more than enough reason to demand punishment. Beyond this, at least two factors contributed to the scale of retributive violence in Shandong. The first was the mass character of campaigns themselves. Treason elimination cadres, especially those in Shandong, were on notice for their excesses in earlier years, whether this was mass executions like those carried out at Huxi, a tendency to pursue vendettas and the “subjective” punishments of traitors, or for causing general fear among the peasants when secretly arresting and executing suspects (密捕密決) in the dead of night. The mass trial approach that was developed in the last years of the war tried to combine meticulous stage management of trials with an effort to carry out of the will of the people and thereby win their support. Activists were planted, suspects chosen, evidence carefully prepared, but disappointment expressed at the outcome in some internal reports suggest that the outcome of trials was at lease sometimes genuinely left up to the people, with calls for execution subject to confirmation from the district leadership. It was essential to create the impression that the people were sovereign, while the Party merely carried out its wishes. When it was reported that the people did not feel their will was carried out in treason trials, this was blamed on insufficient preparation by traitor elimination cadres. This process of managed empowerment of the people lay at the heart of the Party’s ability to rapidly gain trust in areas it captured, but was a double-edged sword. The time and manpower required to prepare and direct these trials might have been manageable in wartime years, but in 1945 and 1946, cadres were completely overwhelmed. Their control over the trial process deteriorated as a result.

The second significant factor contributing to the scale of violence in Shandong was the huge growth in people’s militias. These forces, often armed to some degree, played an important role in rapidly expanding a nominal Party presence in areas beyond the wartime base area as the war drew to an end, but they lacked discipline and often ignored directives, especially where Party authority was still weak. The militias of towns began to fight with each other, with militias of one village threatening to arrest the collaborators of neighboring communities. In a reference to the brutal counter-insurgency raids of the Japanese, it was reported in one district that the local militias had been, “carrying out a mopping-up campaign for three months.”

Not surprisingly, word of the uncontrolled violence against puppet soldier prisoners and collaborators alike was beginning to reach the puppet troops that had not yet surrendered. Word of their responses, in turn, made their way back to the Party. “If you are going to surrender, do it directly to the government. If the people’s militia catch you, they will stone you to within an inch of your life,” one was reported saying. Another pointed out the risks of magnanimity being combined with mass rallies where their victims could call for their death, “The government is magnanimous, but if the people in the village aren’t magnanimous, it does you no good.” And again, “There is lenient, and then there is lenient. If they ‘struggle’ the life out of you, what good does it do you?”

This was precisely the kind of distrust that jeopardized the continuing work of the enemy and puppet cadres after Japanese surrender. It could even threaten the base area’s control over whole communities as another report from Jiaodong pointed out. “You must be careful in carrying out the Oppose Traitors campaign. In some villages there were a relatively large number of surrendered puppet soldiers and their families. If they come under attack [by the movement], they will resist us and come under the influence of bad elements.” Most of all, however, it meant more men under arms serving the armies of the Nationalist government. An intelligence report on the state of puppet troops in Luzhong from the summer of 1946 saw this as translating directly into a military threat. There an estimated 50,000 puppet soldiers had joined 38,700 Nationalist forces entering into Shandong after Japanese surrender. The report lamented that these Luzhong puppet soldiers had not been won over and that they had failed to appreciate the Party’s policy of leniency. The reason for this was not hard to grasp, as the report admitted. The soldiers were terrified of the Party’s mass movements, saying, “Even if the Eighth Route Army forgives me, the people cannot.”

Next: Conclusion


Magnanimity, Repentance, and Reform

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 11:02 am

This posting is part of a series which comprise a draft dissertation chapter. Read more about it here. The first posting is found here. The post preceding this one is here.

By the time of Japanese surrender, the work of traitor elimination cadres had gradually moved away from its roots in the liquidation business. During the period of Communist control in the Jiangxi Soviet period, and in Shandong during the early years of the resistance, the traitor elimination work lived up to its name most fully, as its work often consisted of the arrest, trial, and execution of those deemed traitors. Though these were often referred to with the common word for traitor hanjian (漢奸) or, one who has betrayed the Han people, the term most directly referred to the betrayal of the Party and only indirectly the Chinese nation as a whole. Those accused were most often Party cadres accused of Trotskyist or other heterodoxy. They were overwhelmingly “internal traitors” (內奸) who were accused of secretly plotting the destruction of the Party and working in league with international fascism. Following the mass witch-hunt of Trotskyists in the Huxi Incident of 1939, along with several similar incidents, the Shandong Sub-bureau began to slowly deemphasize the threat of Trotskyists in its internal directives to traitor elimination cadres, call for greater attention to the threat of Japanese and Nationalist spies and, most importantly, reform the procedures for the punishment of accused traitors. Increasingly, treason elimination work was to be carried out through the masses in the form of struggle sessions and mass trials.

While treason elimination cadres had to take responsibility for ensuring that liberated zones remained free of enemy spies, the Party purged of its crticis, and uncooperative collaborators in nearby communities kept continuously under threat of liquidation, there was ever greater emphasis on using their work as another way to mobilize or awaken the masses. While enemy and puppet work teams stayed focused on winning over their enemy, treason elimination committees paid closer attention to the number of passive peasants who were transformed into political subjects by a process of mobilization (發動 or 震動起來) than to the number and fate of traitors they apprehended. The reaction of the masses to any given sentencing and their numbers of attendance at mass assemblies were the subjects of extensive comment in treason elimination reports, while the facts of a case or the justice of any ruling were only important when some grave injustice had caused widespread discontent with the Party.

It was this world that puppet soldiers in detention in 1945 found themselves thrust into. Prisoners were were subject to a new set of regulations which merged the crimes of treason with those of war crimes, the “Provisional Regulations for the Punishment of War Criminals and Traitors in Shandong Province.” It called for a sentence of death or 10 or more years of imprisonment for a wide range of crimes including:

1) Those who from start to finish showed loyalty to Japanese imperialism, were guilty of great crimes and had caused suffering for the people.
2) Those who were leading officers or conspirators who served in the Japanese military, intelligence organs, liaisons, or military police.
3) Those who, after Japan declared surrender, refused to surrender, and continued to resist, or killed the people.
4) In the confusion of war caused disorder.
5) Those who were leading officers and conspirators among the puppet military and police, were puppet officials, or who actively destroyed the efforts towards national liberation.
6) Those who killed or abused prisoners
7) Those leading conspirators who, through feudal societies and superstitious organizations served the enemy and actively destroyed the efforts towards national liberation
8) Those who massacred the people.
9) Those who arranged for betrayal and surrender to the enemy or who themselves treasonously surrendered to the enemy and actively destroyed efforts towards national liberation.

And so the list went on. Unlike the Nationalist regime’s own law for the punishment of traitors published in draft form later that winter, these regulations contained no mitigating clauses. They were flexible enough in their definition that they could ensnare almost any military collaborator and sentence them to the ultimate punishment. After all, what puppet soldiers had not “treasonously surrendered to the enemy,” or at least “caused disorder” doing the war? Instead of mitigating clauses for those who had somehow helped the resistance or helped the people, only the magnanimity of the Party allowed traitors a chance to reform themselves, be forgiven, and welcomed back into the community. This “magnanimous policy” (寬大政策) was to serve as a general guide in all treatment of collaborators but, on the ground, puppet soldier prisoners would face  two potential processes of retribution and reform: one administered directly by treason elimination cadres of the Public Security bureau, and the other incorporated directly into the mass campaigns in the local community, in which treason elimination cadres played a more indirect role more akin to theatrical directors.

In the early months after surrender, puppet soldiers found themselves for the first time subject to a joint process of retribution together with other accused traitors. They were required to complete a program of re-education in a special “training unit” (偽組織人員訓練班) which included a process of supplying written confessions and open expressions of repentance (悔過). In Weihaiwei, on the northeastern coast of the Jiaodong peninsula, these training units were assembled October 2nd, 1945. The course they were offered was carried out in two cycles to accommodate the large numbers of puppet employees, and were divided into two stages. The first stage consisted of a period of educational lectures on the nature of the new democratic government, lectures on the Party policy towards land reform, on the resilience of the Eight Route Army, on their accomplishments during the war of resistance, on the Party’s policy of leniency, and then a selection of public confessional speeches by former leading collaborationist officials. Two hours of classes were offered in the morning, followed by one hour of discussion and each day concluded with two hours of informal discussion (座談) in the evenings. The second stage of the course was conducted in small groups, during which time course participants were expected to produce detailed self-criticisms of their past behavior. In order to promote sufficiently repentant behavior, in each group activists (積極份子) were cultivated who would urge the others on. Those who showed remorse passed the course, and would be conditionally released. Particularly stubborn or uncooperative course participants were forced to enroll in an additional short training course.

The first two cycles yielded 178 “graduates,” including 60 “puppet” village mayors, 71 officers of various ranks in neighborhood associations, 13 “puppet” secretaries, as well as a number of commerce chamber members, and city district chiefs. Most of the trainees were from poor backgrounds: 103 were poor farmers, 14 were registered as merchants, and only one a landlord. By the end of the total four months of training courses provided, two hundred more collaborators had completed the training course, and its targets had significantly expanded, including police chiefs, security guards, bandits, spies, “puppet” laborers, “puppet” teachers and students, puppet village level officials, and puppet soldiers.

In Bohai district, a more scaled-down and decentralized process was adopted for an estimated 40,000 puppet soldier prisoners and other collaborators. Those in towns were processed directly by Public Security bureau cadres who manned special “Offices for Repentance” (悔過處), while in the country county government officials handled their cases. Accused puppet soldiers were collectively registered and organized into training units with 70-80 puppet troops each. These units were given a mere two days of intense re-education that was to emphasize the forgiving nature of the Party’s magnanimous policy, the severity of their past crimes, and carry out group exercise of self-reflection and confession.

Not all areas of Shandong had such organized re-education programs for puppet soldiers and other collaborators. In some, areas the processing of puppet soldier prisoners consisted of a more simple process of organizing a single mass rally, and have the assembled puppet prisoners collectively express remorse for their crimes. The sheer numbers involved sometimes made it impossible to do more. For example, in Yongzhi county which had a total population of 180,000 in 1946, there were no less than 10,000 puppet soldiers, most of whom were poor farmers from the area. After asking them to confess their crimes and write letters of self-examination (反省), they were allowed to regain their political rights.

Next: A Settling of Accounts with Treason


Traitors, Puppets, and Divided Responsibilities

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 12:19 am

This posting is part of a series which comprise a draft dissertation chapter. Read more about it here. The first posting is found here. The post preceding this one is here.

The key innovation of the Communist Party in dealing with military collaboration with Japan was that, up until Japanese surrender, its general policy was to treat puppet soldiers as neither traitors nor as war criminal suspects, even if it portrayed them as such.  In propaganda, in Party sponsored publications, and in postwar literature their violence and national betrayal was a regular topic of discussion. Threats made to puppet soldiers who the CCP tried to win over, and the red and black point system also, of course, primarily focused on the seriousness of the crimes they were guilty of. However, the Enemy and Puppet Work Bureau judged its success by the metric of loyalties won, not by criminals punished. Every puppet soldier executed for crimes committed against civilians or resistance forces could potentially frighten away an entire unit of his fellow soldiers. Until a new regime under the leadership of the Communist Party was strong and stable, those lost rifles and the lost fighting ability would not only denied the Party but serve the Japanese or the Nationalist central government that sought its destruction. We already saw this threat become a reality in Laiwu when the Party alienated the followers of the Middle Way society and even more following its attack on the leadership of the Hard Fist Society.

In order to keep enemy and puppet work separate from the process of apprehending and punishing traitors and collaborators in general, the work of the bureau was kept explicitly distinct from the “traitor elimination work” (鋤奸工作) carried out by the Social Affairs Bureau and later the Public Security Bureau. A Shandong Party Sub-Bureau directive clarifying the relationship between enemy and puppet work and traitor elimination work ordered that, “No targeted individual may be handled by both.” Its instructions on how to determine who should assume responsibility were not terribly helpful. Those who were to be won over, it explained, were to be handled by the enemy and puppet work groups, while traitors were to be handled by the traitor elimination cadres. Puppet soldiers generally but not always fell into the former category, something that is mostly confirmed by traitor elimination work reports up to 1945. For example, internal statistics on traitor elimination and police work in the Bohai district for 1944 lists 2,529 arrests in thirteen categories of crimes. Of these, 466 were executed. While there were many categories of treasonous behavior and other crimes listed, none of these listing puppet armies. As we shall see, this changed after Japanese surrender. The two largest groups executed were 181 enemy spies (敵探) and 103 bandits or thieves (盜匪). The same report mentions elsewhere, however, that almost a hundred puppet soldiers had been won over in a discussion of its work with apprehended enemy agents, suggesting at least some flexibility in the divisions of labor. Another 1944 list of punishments meted out in almost 200 cases of treason elimination work in the Jiaodong area included one puppet police officer, who was released, but no other puppet soldiers. Puppet soldiers do appear occasionally in traitor elimination statistics from earlier years, but they were very small in number.

Japanese surrender would bring a number of changes to this arrangement. As we saw earlier, on 14 August the Sub-bureau threatened liquidation to any puppets who did not immediately surrender. On 20 August, new “Shandong Military District Regulations for Handling Puppet Soldiers and Puppet Police” were issued.

1) For those that secretly helped the resistance or surrendered before Japan did so, the regulations confirmed the “three guarantees” that had been offered: not to be disarmed, not to be disbanded, and to be allowed to continue fighting.

2) Even those who had “caused relatively large damage to the resistance efforts but who gave in before Japanese surrender” were to be treated leniently.

3) Those who were under attack by Communist forces and finally gave in under direct military pressure were to have their units reorganized but given preferential treatment.

4) Those who gave up when Japan surrendered were to be given treatment according to the regulations for prisoners of war.

5) Those who refused to surrender were to be liquidated and considered guilty as traitors.

Soon enough, however, article five would lose some of its bite, and the work of combining threats with enticements was to resume. A 25 September directive ordered that the work of the enemy and puppet bureau was to continue but its form and approach would change. Instead of focusing on the upper ranks of puppet soldiers in order to secure large-scale defections, the emphasis was to shift to primarily convert the lower ranks. Also, because the territory under Communist Party control had vastly expanded, cadres were to widen their efforts to register the family members of former puppet soldiers.

From this point on the term “puppet soldiers” became a more ambiguous term. It could refer to those who had previously fought for the Japanese, but increasingly, it could refer to anyone who fought in the central government’s army. During the war, military collaborators with Japan and Nationalist forces were distinguished. The latter called either the “allied army” (友軍) when the Party wished to emphasize the united front but they were more often referred to as the “stubborn army” (頑軍) when relations were hostile. After the war, Nationalist troops who had never fought for the Japanese might find themselves referred to as puppet armies to rob the central government of its claim to legitimacy.

As a result, there emerged a very unfortunate group of former military collaborators caught between two Communist policies. Those who surrendered in time could retain their weapons, unit integrity and sometimes even their commanders. They had picked the right side at a moment when a new stage in the Chinese civil war was about to begin and could potentially avoid punishment for wartime crimes completely—or at least until future political campaigns in the 1950s and 1960s dug up their past sins once again. On the other hand, those who remained safely in Jinan, Qingdao, or a handful of strongholds in the otherwise Communist landscape of Shandong stood a reasonable chance—but as we shall see by no means a guarantee—of continued employment under a Nationalist regime desperate to reestablish its hold on the province. They could then defect to the Communist enemy work bureau when the opportunity presented itself and continue to serve as newly minted revolutionary soldiers.

The puppet soldiers who found themselves faced with the real prospect of punishment, now at the hands of “traitor elimination” cadres were primarily: 1) those puppet soldiers who were already in Communist custody and had neither defected or been released according to the “seven captures of Meng Huo” policy, 2) those puppet soldiers who surrendered to Communist forces in or around August, 1945. After Japanese surrender, these unlucky puppet prisoners of war would find themselves merged together with the ranks of other “puppet government employees” and enemy agents who were the primary targets of the traitor elimination cadres.

Next: Magnanimity, Repentance, and Reform


The Wartime Gains of the Bureau

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:06 am

This posting is part of a series which comprise a draft dissertation chapter. Read more about it here. The first posting is found here. The post preceding this one is here.

The cumulative efforts of the enemy and puppet work of the Communist party in Shandong were considerable, but fell far short of the ambitions of the party. An early 1945 estimate of the total number of puppet soldiers that had been won over in Shandong, based on incomplete statistics, was around 12,000. This was despite the fact that in only the year preceding the report, some 45,000 captured puppet soldiers had been offered the opportunity while under detention. Some of these, it was claimed, had already been captured and released six or seven times, by which time even the rebellious Meng Huo of ancient times had mended his ways. About half of those who were won over came from relatively small groups. Some 140 puppet army units with under 1,000 soldiers each had been won over with a total of around 6,000 rifles.

Three units with more than 1,500 soldiers each, including some 6,500 rifles came over. These were the forces of the three major commanders to defect to Communist control in Shandong during the Japanese occupation: Wang Dao, Ying Zhengmin, and Zhang Xixian. The significant numbers these three defections alone brought over amply explains why, during the war, reports on the work of the Enemy and Puppet Bureau repeatedly lamented its failures to win over larger units. By July, 1945, the number won over had increased to 150 of the smaller units, but only one additional large unit had come over to the Communist side.

If the total number of those won over was indeed around 12,000, this is below the number of puppet soldiers who were claimed as kills up to 1941, let alone the likely far increased kills of later years, when the 115th division and local resistance forces grew more confident and moved to the offensive. Though they are even more likely to be susceptible to wild exaggeration, the cumulative reports of claimed puppet army kills in a selection of wartime chronologies of Shandong regional gazetteers are vastly higher, especially from local skirmishes listed for the summer of 1945 when Communist forces throughout Shandong aggressively attacked strongholds and towns occupied by puppet armies.

It is likely that most of the remaining puppet soldiers, including the 57 units listed in Appendix C1, were in part or whole integrated or reorganized as units in the Nationalist army. Some of these, as we saw in the case of Wu Huawen, would later turn to the Communists when the nationalist cause in Shandong was truly deemed lost by mid-1948.

For the most part, however, when Nationalist forces returned to the province in 1945, beginning with the entry into the province of its new governor He Siyuan, they resumed control of only the small number of towns and strongholds that were still under Japanese and puppet army control. Puppet soldiers as well as Japanese soldiers were instructed to “maintain public order” until the central government could re-established control.

The American marines are welcomed to Qingdao in October, 1945. Above the cannons the text reads, “The merging of Japanese, puppets, and Chiang [Kai-shek’s] forces.” From a selection of Communist propaganda posters from early postwar Shandong. US State Department Central Files China Internal Affairs 1945-1949 893.00B-11-2646

Most Japanese soldiers were eventually disarmed and returned home, though some retained their arms to patrol the streets for months in major Chinese cities and in places such as Shanxi, continued to actively fight in the civil war. Communist propaganda of a “conspiracy” by Chiang Kai-shek to “merge” with the enemy and the puppets was not that far from the truth. The majority of former puppet soldiers in Shandong who were still operating as of August, 1945 would soon have the option of continuing to serve in the Nationalist army. If this was a conspiracy, however, it was one that the Communists shared. If most puppet armies served the Nationalists after the war, it was because of the failures of the Enemy and Puppet Work Bureau to win and retain their loyalty, not because they refused to try.

Next: Traitors, Puppets, and Divided Responsibilities


Zhu De and The Prices of Betrayal

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 3:18 pm

This posting is part of a series which comprise a draft dissertation chapter. Read more about it here. The first posting is found here. The post preceding this one is here.

Attempts to secure the defection of Chinese soldiers fighting alongside the Japanese by means of propaganda and by approaching family members in the villages required considerable time, manpower, and a patient process of wearing down the enemy. Establishing contacts directly with soldiers or junior officers and either appealing to their patriotic virtues or offering promises of protection against any future punishment was direct but dangerous. Perhaps the simplest method to turn the puppet soldiers away from their treasonous ways was to appeal to the same motivation which led many of them to fight for the Japanese in the first place: cold hard cash.

An example of the scale contemplated by Communist plans to supplement its political efforts with the outright purchase of puppet loyalty is found in a January 23, 1945 letter from Commander Zhu De to the U.S. head of the China Theater, General Albert Wedemeyer. “I have a favor that I wish to ask you,” he began, and then requested a loan of $20 million from the U.S. to use for the purpose of bribes.  The amount would be repaid, “following the victorious conclusion of the war against Japan.” Given his earlier career, this pragmatic approach was entirely in keeping with the character of the pragmatic Communist leader of the wartime 8th Route Army, though none of Zhu De’s main works on winning over enemies openly proposed  bribes for puppets to switch their loyalty. On the contrary, he argued that the Eighth Route Army and the New Fourth Armies had an “inexhaustible supply of manpower” thanks to its ability to attract voluntary recruits inspired by a desire to resist Japanese aggression. Instead it was the Nationalists who used “buying,” coercion, and deceit in its efforts to recruit soldiers.  In the January, 1945 letter to General Wedemeyer, however, Zhu suggested that bribery could easily double the number of defections among Japanese collaborator troops achieved by political means.

Table: Zhu De’s Statistics on Puppets Won-Over, January, 1945

Area Men Rifles Machine Guns Mortars Field Pieces
Shandong 11,987 6,540 122 109 26
Shanxi-Hebei-Shandong-Henan 5,821 3,909 60 32 12
Shanxi-Suiyuan 932 550 8 10 3
Shanxi-Chahar-Hebei 1,024 620 13 11 1
Central China 14,075 8,314 134 121 18
Total 34,167 20,159 343 288 60

The approximately 34,167 puppets won-over up to this point, according to the letter, comprised around 3.8% of a total estimate of around 900,000 Chinese fighting on behalf of the Japanese. Zhu argued that political measures alone could probably bring this number up to about 5%. This percentage could be doubled, he argued optimistically, to 10%, or around 90,000, by using “financial” measures. In what can only be described as a proposed investment plan, Zhu outlined the accounting for his estimates. The requested $20 million was to be divided into five parts. $7.6 million was to go towards administrative costs and operations, including the cost of intelligence and liaison work. $1.4 million was to be paid directly to puppet officers ranging from squad commanders and up through platoon, company, battalion, regiment, and even the proposed bribery of ten puppet division commanders. Some 3,000 squad commanders were to be offered $30 each, while division commanders were to be offered $10,000. In addition to these one-time defection bonuses, this fund was to include post-defection awards to officers who were brought over by political measures and “comfort fees.” Third, almost a million dollars was to be set aside for bounties to puppets for bringing over various weapons ranging in value from rifles ($20 each) to artillery ($1,000), as well as valuable communications equipment. Radio sets, for example, were to be purchased at $200 a piece.  Fourth, almost five million dollars was put aside to pay puppets their original salaries for three months, for a supply of clothing and equipment, a fund for gifts, and subsidies for the families of the defected puppets. Finally, a reserve fund of five million was to be put towards using military collaborators for sabotage and demolition operations as well as special missions to assassinate Japanese officers.

It is possible that the letter merely represents one very elaborate attempt by Communists to secure large scale funding from the U.S. in a slightly more indirect manner, and that the funds were never intended to go fully towards bribing military collaborators. However, given Zhu De’s own deep appreciation for the importance of dismantling one’s enemy as well as destroying them in battle, this may well be only the most ambitious proposal for employing “financial measures” in Communist puppet policy. There is little chance Zhu De’s request could have been met but the proposal for a loan to bribe military collaborators did come at a time when the newly arrived commander of U.S. forces in China was actively considering the possibility of arming and otherwise supporting Communist efforts in the war of resistance against Japan. In the aftermath of the replacement of the controversial general Joseph Stilwell in late October, 1944, Zhu was merely taking advantage of a brief opportunity to establish an entirely new relationship with American forces. In the months that followed there were a number of proposals and counter-proposals exchanged on cooperation between Nationalists and Communists, with General Patrick Hurley serving as intermediary. The process was complicated by other negotiations, unknown to Wedemeyer and Hurley at the time, between another U.S. General Robert McClure and the Communists that culminated in an offer to send thousands of American airborne troops to be stationed in Communist controlled territory. The final result of the complicated process was a warning by General Hurley to President Roosevelt that the offer of close military cooperation with the Communists was a dangerous development that threatened the preservation of the Nationalist regime. On 27 January, Chief of Staff George Marshall ordered that no negotiations were to continue that did not also involve Chiang Kai-shek’s government. Three days later General Wedemeyer issued an order to all officers in the China theater directing them refrain from “discussing hypothetical aid or employment of U.S. Resources to assist any effort of an unapproved political party, activity, or persons.”

Note: Long time readers of Frog in a Well will recognize the material used in this section which I wrote about back in 2007, here.

Next: The Wartime Gains of the Bureau


The Registry of Good and Evil

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 11:28 pm

This posting is part of a series which comprise a draft dissertation chapter. Read more about it here. The first posting is found here. The post preceding this one is here.

Enemy Work units targeting puppet armies showed great aptitude in combining the weapons of fear and shame. They also understood that one did not necessarily need to win over a treasonous soldier in a single eloquent appeal through a megaphone. Instead, indirect pressure built over time could eventually wear down an opponent. Nowhere is this better seen in the use of a “black and red point” (黑紅點) system to track the behavior of puppet soldiers. This practice, which was also referred to as the “registry of good and evil” (善惡錄) or the “book of life and death” (生死簿) contained a separate score sheet for each known puppet soldier. In the Luzhong district, Wang Fang implemented the black and red point system for soldiers under Wu Huawen’s command. Whenever a soldier was guilty of an atrocity, an act of pillage, or some other act detrimental to the cause of resistance, they would earn a black point. When they performed an act that aided the resistance, or demonstrated a virtuous character, they were to be awarded a red point. Until they defected to Communist control or the Japanese surrendered, military collaborators and enemy agents could earn a deficit of evil deeds large enough to earn them a death sentence, despite Mao’s directive that puppet soldiers were to be shown mercy regardless of their circumstances. When an enemy agent was executed, the announcement of the death was to be accompanied by a list of acts associated with their black point score, while any red points were to remain a secret.

Besides determining guilt for a future trial—though I have found no reference in postwar trial descriptions that mention the score, the point system could only have a deterrent effect if the score could reach the puppet soldier it tracked. One way this was accomplished was by announcing the black and red point scores directly to the puppets during the nightly megaphone announcements. A more indirect but perhaps more effective way was to pass on updates to the score card not to the soldier, but to his family.

This indirect communication and pressure was achieved through the registration of puppet family members (偽屬登記). By 1944, Binhai military district reported the registration of 1,358 households with relatives in the puppet armies. In Luzhong, 1,295 households were registered and in Jiaodong, 1,895. Registration, which was updated annually, was only the first step. Assemblies of puppet families were called to discuss the impact on the resistance of treasonous military collaboration and, more specifically, the behavior of local puppet soldiers with relatives at the assembly. 120 such meetings were held in Luzhong with over 700 participants. Enemy Work cadres were instructed that the black point crimes of puppet soldier relatives should be read out at the meetings without insult and in a matter-of-fact way. The names of those who committed the acts were not be read out in public. Instead, the families of the puppet soldiers were to be warned privately of the sins of each relative, such that they could bear their family shame in silence and apply pressure on their relatives to return home. Those that did return home were then asked to participate in the rallies and speak to the hardships they suffered as collaborators of the Japanese.

Next: Zhu De and The Prices of Betrayal

Megaphone and Frontline Propaganda

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:35 am

This posting is part of a series which comprise a draft dissertation chapter. Read more about it here. The first posting is found here. The post preceding this one is here.

Don’t shoot,
Listen to me sing the surrender song.
Brothers, listen carefully [repeat]
We are all Chinese,
One! Don’t hate. Two! Don’t hate.
Why do you fight your own people? [repeat]
The Japanese devils have come to our home,
Who wants to serve as their beasts of burden?
If you want to be a soldier you should kill the enemy. [repeat]
The wild warlords act beyond the bounds of reason,
and turn their guns upon themselves.
If you want to be a soldier fight the Japanese,
Recover our lost territory and enjoy peace.
“The Surrender Song” from Laiwu District

One of the most direct ways to win over puppet armies was through frontline propaganda. This could, of course, come in the form of written appeals. In Qinghe, Binhai, and Jiaodong military districts alone Communist forces distributed 160,000 copies of 52 different propaganda items to puppet armies. During the three campaigns against Wu Huawen letters were sent to his officers pleading with them to come over. “Wu Huawen’s wild ambition forced you to become traitors,” one began, “We welcome you to return to our side. Together we can fight the war of resistance and eliminate the great traitor who cheated you: Wu Huawen.” Because many of the soldiers in puppet armies were illiterate, however written propaganda had its limits.

The most effective frontline communication with an enemy force that Communist forces had no direct or indirect relationship with was through the use of nighttime calls through a megaphone (hanhua). Hiding in various locations around a puppet army strong point, these propaganda calls, songs, and chants that were carried out for hours at a time were used to demoralize the enemy through appeals to surrender, threats of future punishment, and the sharing of propaganda news on developments throughout Shandong.

An account of the application of megaphone propaganda against Wu Huawen’s forces can be found in Wang Fang’s memoir. In the winter of 1943, after the completion of the first “Attack Wu Campaign,” Wang personally joined an effort to secure the surrender of some Wu’s troops in a remote fortress. He called out to the enemy, telling them they could join the Eighth Route Army if they only put their weapons down, and that if, instead, they wished to return to their homes, the Eighth Route Army would gladly pay them their traveling expenses. After 30 minutes of these megaphone appeals, shots were fired from the fort, forcing him to relocate. Wang claims that, after another hour of calls from his new location, all 200 of the puppet soldiers inside surrendered.

It wasn’t necessary for an enemy unit to surrender to claim a positive result. In Laiwu, an Enemy Work team under Yu Zizheng carried out megaphone propaganda against one puppet army fort. The fort did not surrender but a friendly relationship was successfully developed. When Japanese forces next carried out a mopping-up campaign in the area, local resistance members were allowed to hide in the fortress. Megaphone propaganda, sometimes called offering “night school,”  (shang yeke), became an ever increasing part of measures to win over puppet armies. By 1944 they had also expanded to include more than just dedicated Enemy Work agents. In southern Shandong, the activity was apparently deemed safe enough a practice that children were given lessons on propaganda calls to the enemy and, “at night they would call out to the puppet armies not to steal their food.”

Broadcasted or shouted propaganda along a long linear front cannot match the isolating effect these efforts must have had in wartime Shandong, or during the civil war after Japanese surrender, when these techniques continued to be used. Communist forces could move relatively freely and very often had their opponents completely surrounded. As the then young Japanese soldier Kuwajima Setsurō, stationed in western Jiaodong, admitted in his memoir, whatever claims there were on the military maps in Shandong, the areas under effective occupation by Japan and its allies in reality consisted only of each county seat and the next largest village. “Almost everything else was under Eighth Route Army control.” When the voices calling for surrender or threatening retribution continued through the night on all sides of a fortification, it is not surprising the impact on morale was considerable.

Next: The Registry of Good and Evil


The Enemy and Puppet Work Bureau in Shandong

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:26 am

This posting is part of a series which comprise a draft dissertation chapter. Read more about it here. The first posting is found here. The post preceding this one is here.

The general policies set out by Mao and Zhu for dealing with puppets were tasked to an Enemy and Puppet Work Bureau (diwei gongzuo bu). In Shandong, a 1940 guide outlined the goals for developing the Bureau in the base area. The task was urgent, it was argued, as puppet armies already occupied over 800 strong points in the province, and even at this early date were believed to outnumber the Japanese occupying soldiers three to one. Separate Enemy and Work Committees were to be set up for each provincial-level administrative division (xingzheng qu), commissioner’s administrative region (zhuanyuan qu, the equivalent of the older provincial “circuits” or dao system used by the collaborationist government), and the county (xian) levels.

These committees were to consist of five members, including a committee head, one staff assistant, one propaganda specialist, one intelligence officer, and one cadre dedicated to operations. The intelligence officer was to focus on collecting information about “internal contradictions” among enemy and puppet forces as well as capture documents that could be of use to the efforts of winning them over. Operations officers were to focus on the creation and management of relationships with puppet army units and agents that had infiltrated their ranks.

Enemy and Puppet Work Committees did not only work with puppet armies, but also with Japanese and Korean soldiers in the Imperial army. It took advantage of a small number of cadres who had studied in Japan or had otherwise gained Japanese language experience. Japanese and Koreans who defected joined anti-war leagues that continued propaganda efforts against the occupiers. Defections among the Japanese were extremely low in number, when compared to puppet armies, and even limited relationships with the latter could yield significant intelligence and other benefits that were less likely to be gained from the occupying army. In Shandong, the Enemy Work Bureau did have high hopes, however, for their work with Korean soldiers. When there was an influx of Korean volunteer recruits (shiganhei) into the 32nd and 59th divisions in the spring of 1944, it was hoped that these Koreans retained sufficient “national consciousness” (minzu yishi) to make them susceptible to overtures from the resistance. Captured Koreans were to be separated from Japanese prisoners and treated according to the lenient policy for puppet armies, with the exception of those captured as spies.

Throughout the war, and even before Mao and Zhu clarified the Party’s policy, the official approach in Shandong was already one of leniency. Puppet soldiers were not to be insulted or criticized. They were not to be searched, and they were to be offered preferential medical treatment. Weapons were to be confiscated, and while they were to receive political education, those that requested to return home were to be released, escorted to the district border, and given travel funds. This already lenient policy had become even more generous by the summer of 1945, even as Japanese surrender neared. For those puppet armies that surrendered or secretly aided the resistance, cadres were to offer “the three guarantees”: “1) to be treated as allies in the war against resistance and not be disarmed; 2) to be given a unit designation in the army of resistance and not be disbanded; 3) to be treated without discrimination and be permitted to further expand as they fought together in the war of resistance.”

Cadres in the Enemy Work Bureau were instructed to first to attempt to develop ties with officers of a puppet army unit, and if that did not work attempt a bottom up approach. Attempts to secretly infiltrate the lower ranks of puppet armies were made throughout the war, but it was found to be an overall ineffective method. Instead, infiltrators sometimes as liaisons with the Party whose identity were known to officers in the targeted unit.

When a relationship was developed with a puppet officer, they were classified either as “two-sided type” (liangmian pai) or “two-sided revolutionary type” (liangmian geming pai) puppets. The latter were seen as reluctant collaborators that were in fact patriotic supporters of the war of resistance that were additionally sympathetic to the revolution. Greater care was taken in working with the former, who were seen as having a reactionary character who were merely acting out of self-interest. For these, an effective mix of the carrot and the stick was to be used combining attacks on their forces with efforts to secure their cooperation. “As you beat them, seduce them; as you draw them in, beat them; beat them and draw them in again and again. When you beat them don’t beat them so hard that you destroy the relationship. As you draw them in, don’t lose your own position.”

Cadres of the bureau were encouraged to be generous in the giving of gifts in order to gain the friendship and trust of a puppet army as long as they did not offer them opium, flour, or prostitutes. When drawing a puppet army unit in, cadres were not to set their goals too high. It was not necessary to secure the defection of all puppet armies. Instead, getting them to remain neutral, passive, and relatively inactive was itself a success. Even in cases where a targeted unit was willing to come over, it was not always permitted. It was recommended that a unit only come over if they were found out by the Japanese, they were soon to be reorganized or merged into another unit, or they were deployed in an assault. The full defection of a unit was to be avoided when it contained a large number of bandit elements that would be difficult to manage, or when it was deemed difficult for the Party to establish control over the territory they were responsible for.

We can see how the carrot and stick approach was supposed to work in the memoirs of Wang Fang, head of the Enemy Work Bureau in the Luzhong military district that included Laiwu and the areas where Wu Huawen was active. Wang targeted one of Wu’s battalions that had been involved in raids in Mengyin and Boshan, which lay just to the south and north of Laiwu, respectively. The force had about 500 men and was commanded by a former bandit named Liu Mingjiu well known, according to Wang, for his propensity for opium, prostitutes, pillage, and killing. Liu’s men were deeply loyal to him, however, and he claimed to follow a code of honor. It was decided that the Bureau would “light a fire in his backyard” and then let him come over to the Eighth Route Army.

Wang travelled to Liu’s fortress together with a company of soldiers. Leaving his men disbursed around the fortress, he approached the gate dressed in a captured uniform together with a Japanese speaking interpreter, and was let into the fortress. He then revealed himself as an agent of the resistance and demanded the surrender of the fortress, declaring it to be surrounded. The commander offered his hospitality and together the two feasted and attempted to out-drink each other. Commander Liu was informed by his own men that an unknown number of soldiers did indeed surround his fortress and Wang combined threats of imminent destruction with appeals to the virtues of joining the resistance over the course of two days of debate. In the end Liu surrendered with all his men and the story of Wang’s successful use of deception and persuasion spread spread Wang’s reputation throughout the district. In a formal ceremony, Liu’s unit was given a new designation as an independent battalion in the resistance army, and Liu was allowed to remain as second in command of his own troops.

How much of this story, which echoes so many similar stories of daring deception found in Chinese military tales, is true is impossible to determine, but Wang offers a sad ending to his tale. The old bandit Liu “could not handle our discipline” and his “old disease flared up again.” Liu and his soldiers deserted the resistance to collaborate once again with the Japanese. He was captured, shot, and his unit disbanded. Puppet armies that were captured and requested release might be captured again without facing execution, but unlike the Nationalist government, the Communist Party was far less forgiving of those who once joined the Eighth Route Army’s order of battle and betrayed its ranks. Treason against the nation—at least under its Nationalist government—and service of the Japanese was one thing, but to betray the Party was another.  Though the Communist Party sought to win over Chinese puppet soldiers and Koreans alike through an appeal to “national consciousness,” a new life in the resistance was to be a one way street.

Next: Megaphones and Frontline Propaganda



Puppet Army Policy and the Seven Captures of Meng Huo

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:49 am

This posting is part of a series which comprise a draft dissertation chapter. Read more about it here. The first posting is found here. The post preceding this one is here.

In a letter to his New Fourth Army commander Chen Yi and its political commissar Liu Shaoqi on 17 August, 1941, Mao answered their request for an official Communist policy towards puppet troops fighting for the Japanese. The party should, he said, patiently follow the policy of ‘seven times capturing Meng Huo.’” Four chapters of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms are dedicated to the story of how the brilliant strategist Zhu Geliang suppressed a rebellion in the south of the kingdom Shu, in modern day Sichuan province. The rebellion was sparked and sustained by the forces of the Man tribe under their king Meng Huo. After defeating the Man in battle Zhu captured the fleeing king in an ambush. When asked what he would do if he was released, Meng said he would raise his troops to fight again, but if captured a second time he would submit. Zhu released Meng Huo despite the protests of his commanders. To these Zhu replied, “I can catch him again with ease whenever I choose to. But the pacification of the south requires that we subdue the hearts of the Man people.” In the chapters that followed, Man was captured time and again, but five times he reneged on his promise to submit to the Shu and end the rebellion. Finally, on his seventh capture, Meng Huo and his family swore the south would not rebel again, “For generations to come, our children and theirs after them will gratefully acknowledge your all-protecting, all-sustaining love, deep as Heaven, vast as earth.”

This most likely apocryphal story of Meng Huo’s repeated capture is mentioned in several sources but found in most detail in the influential Three Kingdoms romance. Though the four character compound ‘seven times capturing Meng Huo’ (qi qin Meng Huo) has been interpreted in more abstract terms since, when Mao used it in 1941, he meant the application of its most literal original meaning.

In principal, whether they are officers or soldiers and no matter what social background they come from, no puppet troop captives are to be killed. Even those elements who have a deep hatred for us and come back to fight us again after being released may be spared execution. That is, the method of repeated capturing and releasing is better than killing, and its impact is greater. In releasing captives, there should be absolutely no posting of bail, and they should not be made to vow that they will never be puppet soldiers in the future. But they can be required to swear that they will not really help the Japanese oppose the New Fourth Army in the future. And if they do actually violate their oath and help Japan fight us, then we should still patiently carry out the policy of “seven times capturing Meng Huo.”

Mao’s own directives emphasized the importance of the task of “winning over and disintegrating” (zhengqu wajie) puppet armies at least as early as his “On the New Stage” report to the Sixth Plenum of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party in October, 1938. In November, he directed that political subversion of puppet regime troops seek to maximize the long-term impact on the enemy. When puppet troops were won over cadres were to “strive to bring them nominally under the command of the Eighth Route Army, and then transform or reorganize them during a process of struggle…”

In late 1940 Mao offered more specific instructions on releasing captured puppets. At this point, however, while the basic policy was to “set them all free,” he allowed for the execution of military collaborators that had “incurred the bitter hatred to the masses.” By May, 1941, the policy had come to settle upon the Meng Huo inspired policy of extreme leniency. In a directive to forces the Shaanxi-Ganzu-Ningxia border region cadres were even ordered to forgo attempts to force those captured to show repentance and removed the possibility of retribution against those guilty of particularly heinous crimes,

Toward enemy soldiers and officers and soldiers of the puppet army captured in battle, carry out a policy of leniency in all cases, regardless of the individual’s situation. Those who wish to participate in the War of Resistance should be accepted and treated favorably. Those not wishing to do so are to be released, and under no circumstances may they be killed, humiliated, forced to confess, or forced to compose statements of repentance. Those who are recaptured after having been released, regardless how many times they have been captured, are all to be dealt with in this manner.

The other important figure in establishing policies towards puppet forces was the head of the Eighth Route Army, Zhu De. He had a long military career before becoming a close associate of Mao Zedong in 1928 and was no stranger to military defections. As a graduate of the Yunnan military academy, he betrayed his own Qing army to participate in the Yunnan army revolt in October, 1911. Already during this earlier revolution he used subversion to persuade other Qing soldiers to defect to the Republican forces. Again in 1916, while serving the Yunnan warlord Cai E during the National Protection War, Zhu helped secure the defection of thousands of Sichuan troops to join the cause of Cai’s National Protection Army (huguojun). As a commander of ostensibly Nationalist troops in 1927, Zhu supported a Communist military insurrection in Nanchang before again briefly integrating his troops into those of the warlord and Nationalist commander Fan Shisheng. While Mao had looked to the Three Kingdoms for inspiration, Zhu could simply look back upon his own career.

In his 1938 essay “On Anti-Japanese Guerrilla War” Zhu De discussed the importance of political warfare against military collaborators. Many of the rank and file and some of the officers among both the Japanese and their collaborators were “unwilling to die for the Japanese conquest of China.” Political tactics, therefore, should be used to compel the puppets to “turn their guns against the Japanese warlords and the Chinese traitors.” In a later essay from April, 1945, Zhu took a more flexible approach than the unconditional mercy Mao proposed and suggested that a diverse range of approaches be taken, urging cadres not to, “apply one hard and fast rule to all puppet troops.” While the diehards were to be destroyed, officers and men who were only “temporarily fooled” by the enemy should be won over. They were to be warned, however, that time was running out. “These puppets have committed many crimes. Unless they cross over to our side soon, they will not have time to serve their country and redeem themselves; and they will be punished as the nation demands.” The puppets would have to, as British commanders claimed the Burma National Army did in the spring of 1945, “work their passage home” by joining the war of resistance.

Next: The Enemy and Puppet Work Bureau in Shandong

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