Zhu De [Chu Teh]
Commander and founder of Chinese Red
Army and Field Marshal of the people's Liberation Army
"What kind of war to fight depends
on what kinds of arms we have ..."
Marshal Zhu De
Zhu De is regarded as a founder member of
the Red Army (the forerunner of the people's Liberation Army
[PLA]), and the military tactician who engineered the revolution
from which emerged the people's Republic of China. He was
one of Mao Zedong's closest comrade-in-arms during the revolution
and civil war in China. He commanded the Chinese Red Army
against Jiang Jieshi's [Chiang Kaishek] Nationalist Army in
1930-1933 and in the Long March; against the Japanese in Sino-Japanese
War, and again against the Nationalist Army in the Civil War
of 1945-1949. Together with Mao Zedong, they made a formidable
team during the Communist struggle to power. While Mao formulated
political doctrines and Zhu De provided the military leadership
to transform the doctrines into action. They laboured to reorganise
the Red Army into a force fit to resist attacks by the Kuomintang,
warlords and Japanese troops.
Zhu De was born in 1886 in Yilong county,
a hilly and isolated section north of Sichuan Province. Hailing
from a large farming family of humble origins, Zhu De was
one of thirteen children. He was raised by his elder uncle,
a landlord. After his elementary and secondary education which
was funded by his clan, Zhu De went to Chengdu to study physical
education before joining the army.
Zhu De was one of the few privileged Red
Army leaders to receive professional military education. Zhu
De entered the Yunnan Military Academy in Kunming in 1908
and went on to teach in the academy after his graduation.
He participated in military campaigns with armies of the Yunnan
warlords. He commanded units along the China-Laos border and
the China-Vietnam border during early Republican years. During
this time, Zhu De developed a strong opium habit but managed
to recover from the addiction in 1922 at a Shanghai hospital.
Zhu De began to read Marxism and Leninism
in Shanghai. The turning point came in late 1922, during his
mid-30s, when he went to Europe. He first went to Germany
to study at the Gottingen University (1922-25) before joining
the Communist party with Zhou Enlai and others as his sponsors.
He was arrested twice for his revolutionary activities and
was eventually exiled. In July 1925, he travelled to the Soviet
Union to study military affairs before returning to China
After taking part in several abortive Communist
uprisings in Huzhou, Shunqing, and Nanchang in 1927, where
Zhu De played the role of a "highly-placed 'mole' in
the local Nationalist forces", he moved into the Fujian
Province and reorganised his units into the "Nine Revolutionary
Army". Influenced by his early military training, Zhu
De emphasised conventional fighting methods. Other Chinese
Communist leaders such as Mao Zedong, however, preferred guerrilla
units and tactics. By 1928, Zhu De joined forces with Mao
at Jinggangshan where the Fourth Army of the Chinese Workers
and Peasants' Red Army was formed with Zhu De as commander.
Zhu De adopted the "lure the enemy in deep" principle,
concentrating on a superior force to destroy the enemy one
by one. Using a combination of regular mobile and partisan
guerrilla operations, Zhu De and Mao achieved significant
victories against the Nationalist encirclement campaign in
Mao and Zhu De forged a close political
relationship during this period. Both men opposed the Li Lisan
line of attempting to take large cities during 1930. Zhu also
sided with Mao during the Futian Incident where there was
a revolt against Mao in the same year. This was a critical
juncture because it coincided with the imminent launch of
Chiang Kaishek's five annihilation campaigns against the Communist
stronghold. Under great pressure, the Red Army was forced
to abandon the Jiangxi Soviet in late 1934. Zhu De assumed
the post of Commander-in-Chief of the famed Long March, which
relocated the Communists in Yan'an a year later.
When the Sino-Japanese War broke out in
1937, the Nationalist and Communist formed the second United
Front against the Japanese. Zhu De was named deputy commander
of the Second War Zone and commander of the Eighth Route Army,
the re-designation of the Red Army. He led the main force
of the Eighth Route Army in the North China front to conduct
independent guerrilla warfare in coordination with the military
operations of the Nationalist troops. In March 1938, he directed
the combined forces of the Nationalist and Red Army and defeated
the Japanese in Shanxi province. After the victory against
Japan, the Red Army was once again embroiled in civil war.
During this time, the Communist military units were re-designated
the people's Liberation Army. Zhu De continued as a Commander-in-Chief.
By 1947, the war was turning decisively in favour of the Communists.
Victory came within months. Zhu De was accorded a place of
honour in Tiananmen when Mao pronounced the establishment
of the people's Republic of China on 1 October 1949.
After founding the people's Republic of
China, Zhu De served in various positions such as the Vice-Chairman
of the party's Politburo, member of the Military Affairs Committee,
Defence Minister and many political appointments. During this
time, he led delegations to many parts of the world including,
Moscow, Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia. In October 1950,
at the direction of Zhu De, the PLA (styled as the 'Chinese
People's Volunteers [CPV]') entered the Korean War with the
primary motive of maintaining North Korea as a buffer against
a possible attack by "American imperialism". The
objective was met but at a high cost: between half a million
and a million battle deaths. He was awarded the rank of field
marshal in 1955. In 1959, he relinquished all other military
posts, retaining his title of marshal in the PLA.
On 6 July 1976, Zhu De died at the age of
90, six months after Zhou Enlai's death and two months before
Mao Zedong's death. Zhu De is remembered to this day as a
brilliant military tactician. Together with Zhou Enlai and
Mao Zedong, Zhu De is recognised as among the most influential
founding members of the people's Republic of China.
Klein, Donald W and
Clark, Anne B (ed), Biographic Dictionary of Chinese Communism,
1921-1965, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,
197, vol. 1, pp. 245-254.
Shambaugh, David and Yang,
Richard H (ed), China's Military in Transition, Clarendon
Press, Oxford, 1997, p. 195.
Smedley ,Agnes, The
Great Road; The Life And Times Of Chu Teh, New York, Monthly
Review Press, 1956.
Shum Kui-kwong, Zhu
De (Chu Teh), St Lucia: University of Queensland Press,
William W. Whitson, Chen-hsia
Huang, The Chinese High Command; A History Of Communist
Politics,1927-71, New York, Praeger,1973.