Zhu De

Zhu De

Zhu De (Chu Teh), the son of a wealthy landlord, was born in Sichuan, China, in 1886. He joined the Sun Yat-sen rebellion that overthrew the Qing dynasty in 1911. When the Kuomintang (National People's Party) was suppressed in 1913 by General Yuan Shikai, Zhu De was forced into exile. He returned in 1916 and established himself as an important warlord.

In 1922 Zhu De travelled to Europe where he met Zhou Enlai. He now joined the Chinese Communist Party and after living in the Soviet Union returned to China in 1926.

Chiang Kai-Shek eventually emerged as the leader of the Kuomintang. He now carried out a purge that eliminated the communists from the organization. Those communists who survived, including Zhu De, managed to establish the Jiangxi Soviet.

The nationalists now imposed a blockade and Mao Zedong decided to evacuate the area and establish a new stronghold in the north-west of China. In October 1934 Mao, Zhu De, Lin Biao, and some 100,000 men and their dependents headed west through mountainous areas.

The marchers experienced terrible hardships. The most notable passages included the crossing of the suspension bridge over a deep gorge at Luting (May, 1935), travelling over the Tahsueh Shan mountains (August, 1935) and the swampland of Sikang (September, 1935).

The marchers covered about fifty miles a day and reached Shensi on 20th October 1935. It is estimated that only around 30,000 survived the 8,000-mile Long March.

Zhu De played an important role in developing the military tactic of guerrilla warfare. During the Second World War Zhu De successfully led his soldiers to victory. As soon as the Japanese surrendered, Communist forces began a war against the Nationalists led by Chiang Kai-Shek. Zhu De now became Supreme Commander of the People's Liberation Army and they gradually gained control of the country and on 1st October, 1949, Mao Zedong announced the establishment of People's Republic of China.

Zhu De remained in charge of the People's Liberation Army until 1954 when he became deputy chairman of the People's Republic of China. He was also chairman of the National People's Congress (1959-67) until being denounced by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution.

He was restored to power in 1971 and served as head of state and chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. Zhu De died in 1976.

Primary Sources

(1) Mao Zedong, interviewed by Edgar Snow in Red Star Over China (1936)

In May of 1928, Zhu De arrived at Jinggangshan, and our forces were combined. Together we drew up a plan to establish a six-xian Soviet area, to stabilize and consolidate gradually the Communist power in the Hunan-Jiangxi-Guangdong border districts, and, with that as a base, to expand over greater areas. This strategy was in opposition to

recommendations of the Party, which had grandiose ideas of rapid expansion. In the army itself Zhu De and I had to fight against two tendencies: first, a desire to advance on Changsha at once, which we considered adventurism; secondly, a desire to withdraw to the south of the Guangdong border, which we regarded as 'retreatism.' Our main tasks, as we saw them then, were two: to' divide the land, and to establish Soviets. We wanted to arm the masses to hasten those processes. Ou policy called for free trade, generous treatment of captured enemy troops, and, in general, democratic moderation.