La Chine Nouvelle en Marche
French Communist Youth Cheer on Communist Forces in the Chinese Civil War.
This map and accompanying illustrations were published in 1948 or 1949 in Avant-Garde, the journal of the leading French Communist youth organization, rebranded as the Union de la jeunesse républicaine de France at the time of publication due the United Front approach taken at the time. The flag of the Republic of China (ROC) and the symbol of the Guomindang (GMD, often as Kuomintang) of a white sun on a blue background are used, apparently in reference to the Communists, rather than the “five star” flag of the People’s Republic (PRC), the “8-1” flag of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), or the hammer and sickle flag of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), suggesting that the creators of this map and illustrations had confused some of the details.
At top are portraits of Mao Zedong and his top generals, several of whom would play central roles in Chinese military affairs and politics in the following years. From left to right, they are Lin Biao, Nie Rongzhen, Ye Jianying, Zhu De, Peng Dehuai, Liu Bocheng, and He Long. The illustration at bottom shows a PLA soldier planting a flag into the back of Chiang Kai-Shek, leader of the Guomindang and the national government that had fled from Nanjing to Taiwan. A ragtag group of rebels cheer in the background, while at left the more professionalized and modernized forces of the PLA, using captured American equipment that had been given to Chiang’s forces, advance. An inset map of Asia sits at bottom-left; notably, French Indochina is referred to as Vietnam, surely a signal of the cartographer’s anti-imperialist stance.
The exact publication date is uncertain; Tibet and Xinjiang are shown as part of China, whereas their future status was unclear at the moment of the creation of the People’s Republic on October 1, 1949. At bottom are flags (again of the ROC, not the PRC, CCP, or PLA) that can be cut out, wrapped around pins, and planted on the map to track the advance of the PLA, suggesting that this map was made in late 1948 or early 1949, when PLA forces were rapidly gaining territory. Korea is portrayed as divided, also suggesting a date of late 1948 or 1949.
The Chinese Civil War had been fought intermittently starting in 1927. Previously, the GMD and CCP had been working in tandem to reunify China, fighting a campaign against a string of warlords who ruled different portions of the former Qing Empire. However, ideological tensions and an internal power struggle caused Chiang to turn on the Communists and attempt to eliminate them. After establishing a new national capital in Nanjing, Chiang tried to centralize power and suppress the Communists while also holding off Japanese incursions into Chinese territory. In the end, he was pressured to fight an all-out war against Japan even though he felt that China’s military was not prepared for such a fight. Ultimately, the Second Sino-Japanese War (World War II) dragged on for eight grueling years, as Chiang’s forces were too weak to expel the Japanese, while Japanese forces were too few to occupy all of China. The war against Japan had weakened Chiang militarily and politically, while the Communists had solidified power and developed an appealing program of land reform and agrarian socialism. Even with (somewhat tepid) American support, Chiang was unable to defeat the Communists when civil war renewed in 1946. A combination of monetary crises, a lack of political legitimacy, and military blunders allowed the CCP and PLA to take the offensive in 1948, quickly sweeping down to the Yangzi River. After a pause, they advanced into southern China in the spring of 1949 and what remained of Chiang’s regime collapsed and fled to Taiwan.
Minor loss in center along fold lines.