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.