In 1950, the Chinese Communist regime was terribly vulnerable. The civil war in mainland China had ended only the previous August with the fleeing of Chiang Kai-shek to the island of Taiwan. Since then, the Chinese Communist government had been engaged in the suppression of hundreds of thousands of anti-communist "bandits" and many secret societies dedicated to the overthrow of the communist state. The mainland Chinese leadership was wrestling desperately with the staggering economic problems caused by 12 years of civil war, 1937-1949.
Agricultural acreage was less than two-thirds of prewar tillage, and output fell by more than 40 percent. Only half of the prewar draft animals remained. Declines in hogs, sheep and fertilizer reached 80 to 90 percent. Farm tools were fewer by 40 to 60 percent. Industrial production had also declined. Compared with the "pre-liberation" peaks, physical output in 1949 Communist China was as follows: petroleum 38.1 percent of capacity, pig iron 13.6 percent, steel 17.2 percent, and metal-cutting machines 29.4 percent.
Communist leaders were still seeking to secure what they considered China’s own borders. On October 7, 1950, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army moved into Tibet. (This was the same day the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution approving the advance of American and Allied forces under the United Nations Command into North Korea.) China completed its occupation of Tibet the following year.
South Korean Refugees
South Korean Refugees
Meanwhile, in the east, Beijing’s attentions were overwhelmingly focused upon eliminating Taiwan (then called Formosa) as the base of Nationalist Chinese opposition to the communist regime in mainland China. Throughout the summer of 1950 invasion barges (called "junks") were being built. Some 5,000 junks assembled, and airfields prepared to support the assault on Chiang Kai-shek’s Taiwan stronghold. The Third Field Army’s deputy commander, Su Yu, declared that the invasion would be "an extremely big problem, and will involve the biggest campaign in the history of modern Chinese warfare." Yet amid all this, Mao Zedong was seeking to demobilize vast masses of his unwieldy People’s Liberation Army. Mao sought to return soldiers to the factories, fields and workshops where they were so desperately needed. The simultaneous demobilization of soldiers in mainland China while preparing for invasion of Taiwan was a problem that leadership in Beijing had failed to resolve by the autumn of 1950.
At the conclusion of the Chinese civil war in 1949, Mao Zedong had visited Moscow in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Union) controlled by the Soviet Communist Party. The widely publicized outcome was a friendship treaty between China and the Soviet Union, a continued Soviet presence in the Chinese region of Manchuria, and $300 million in economic aid to China spread over 5 years. This was one-tenth of the amount Mao had hoped to obtain from Soviet Communist leadership.
The People’s Liberation Army in China was still equipped with arms captured from the Japanese, supplied by the Americans to the Nationalist Chinese or with Czechoslovakian weapons bought on the open market. However, much of this equipment was worn out or stalled for lack of spare parts. The most limited small arms production could not be expected for two or three years. The manufacture of heavy weapons would have to wait until mainland China manufactured enough steel.
Manchuria had housed China’s largest industrial base. However, the Soviets had gutted the factories and shipped the machinery back home. Ammunition supplies were dangerously low because aging reserve stocks were deteriorating more rapidly than China’s few arsenals could replenish them. Communist China, including Manchuria, was producing artillery ammunition in 1950 at a rate close to 90,000 rounds a year. (By way of comparison, 21 United Nations battalions fired 309,958 rounds in support of X Corps during the Battle of Soyang, May 17-23, 1951.) Production of small arms ammunition was approximately 1.25 million cartridges per day. China did not produce enough steel for its own use.
Primitive Field Equipment
In terms of actual field equipment in China, the People’s Liberation Army in 1950 was primitive by any standards. It has been compared to any army of 1914, primarily an army of infantry soldiers without trucks and artillery. No air support and no antiaircraft defense existed. Communications from regiment downward was by telephone or by runners. Normally, each battalion headquarters had only one field telephone, and none below that. Bugles, whistles and runners were the communications methods below battalion level. The local population had provided logistical support during the Chinese civil war. When the Chinese Communist forces entered Korea, these Chinese soldiers were fighting outside of their home territory for the f