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Home >> China
UPDATED: 14:58, September 25, 2006
Party has not forgotten ordeals of 70 years ago
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Ruijin in the 1930s was no place for lily-livered people. Living conditions in the capital of the first state established by the Communist Party of China (CPC) were harsh. However, one man regularly consumed coffee and cigars, delivered to him from big cities like Shanghai and Guangzhou. At home he was served a succession of nutritious and delicious dishes. Almost every day, he ate duck cooked by his exclusive chef.

The culinary delights were not, however, matched by success on the battlefield. His rigid military tactics were a key factor in the setbacks suffered by the Red Army during the encirclement campaigns led by the Kuomintang (KMT) armies, and contributed to the loss of the whole revolutionary base.

This triggered the beginning of the "strategic retreat" of the First Division of the Red Army on October 16, 1934, a 12,500-km trek full of hardships, bloodshed and do-or-die battles now universally known as the Long March.

In the early stages of the Long March, his poor sense of military tactics were a factor in the decimation of the Red Army, whose numbers slumped from 86,000 to 30,000 at the end of 1934.

In January 1935, in the third month of the Long March, he was deprived of his command over the Red Army at an enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee in Zunyi in southwest China's Guizhou province.

In the summer of 1939, with no useful role to play, he left China and returned to the Soviet Union. He died of an illness in East Germany in 1974.

This man was the German Otto Braun. Sent to Ruijin in early 1933 by the Comintern, the Soviet Union's policy maker for communist parties in other countries, Braun was supposed to provide military advice to help the CPC in their civil war against the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) regime.

The CPC's almost unconditional obedience to the Comintern in the early 1930s meant that Otto Braun exercised virtual supreme authority for military command and had enormous prestige, even though this 27-year-old First Lieutenant knew very little about China apart from having a Chinese name, Li De.

He rejected Mao Zedong's advice of splitting into small units and fighting guerrilla campaigns, and insisted that the base be defended with trenches and blockhouses.

Experts from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) say his advice did "enormous harm to China's revolution."

Braun was selected this summer by Global Times, a Beijing-based newspaper affiliated to the Communist mouthpiece People's Daily, as one of the 50 foreigners who have shaped the contemporary and modern history of China.

"The downfall of Li De on the Long March marked a turning point for the CPC and the Chinese revolution it led," said Liu Jingfang, a researcher in the Department of CPC History at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee.

Handing over military command to a foreigner who lacked a basic understanding of the country and adhered rigidly to Comintern resolutions and Soviet Union experience showed the immaturity of the CPC at that time, said Prof. Wen Liming, director of the Department of Ideology History of the School of Chinese Contemporary History of CASS.

According to him, after Li De was removed from his post, the Chinese Communist Party took the opportunity to independently reconsider its strategy. Mao Zedong entered the inner circle of power and began to gain the final say.

"The Long March is unprecedented, and the situation was extremely dangerous and complicated throughout the journey. The Chinese communists had to deal with sickness, uncertainty, inferior numbers, harsh weather and harsh terrain, and every day was a struggle to survive," said Prof. Liu Jingfang.

According to her, the fact that communication with the Comintern broke down during the Long March was a blessing in disguise because it put an end to external influences on the Party's independent decision-making.

Many experts believe it was the Long March that helped the CPC to become what it is today. The famous "seeking truth from fact", the Party's most sacred guideline, was proclaimed at the Zunyi meeting. The doctrine advocates that the Party should always think by itself in a practical way.

The Party has used this principle to put together a set of policies covering the military, economic, foreign affairs and religious fields over the past half century.

After New China was founded in 1949, the CPC adopted an independent and peaceful foreign policy. It refused Moscow's attempt to include it in the Soviet Union's global strategy and rebuilt relations with the United States of America, while making many friends in Africa.

The manufacture of the atom bomb and long-distance missiles showed the country's determination to be master of its own fate.

Deng Xiaoping, who was himself a veteran Red Army soldier, inherited the legacy and in the late 1970s introduced reforms known as the "Economic New Long March", based on the idea of "building socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Experts say that Deng-style modernization combines the advanced experience of capitalist countries with Chinese ideology. That is to say, economic and political reforms can only be carried out if they fit "specific Chinese situations".

According to some experts, the recent establishment of Party branches in Wal-Mart supermarkets is another example of the country's determination to impose its own influence and trace its own route in the era of globalization.

"As a ruling party leading a nation of 1.3 billion people, the Communist Party of China will inevitably face numerous difficulties in the future."

Only by strengthening its governance capacity in an independent way can the CPC keep growing stronger and achieve one success after another," Prof. Liu Jinfang said.

Source: Xinhua

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