POLITICAL DYNAMICS OF CHINA'S NORTHWEST

Created: 7/7/1944

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OrriCE or Strategic Servicesnalysis Branch

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POLITICAL DYNAMICS OF CHINA'S NORTHWEST

Northwest

The Chinese Central Government considers as one of its greatest assets the strategic area known as China's Northwest. Although the definition of Its boundaries varies from time to time and person to person, the region at present may be conveniently taken to comprise the historic northwestern Chinese province of Kansu, the former northeasternprovince of Tsinghai on the south, Nlngsia and the western part of Suiyuan on the north, and the west-central part of Shensl unoccupied by tbe Chinese Communists on the east Sparsely populated Into the rest of China, the Northwestarge role Incalculations for post-war economic expansion.

Perhaps even more Important, it Is the key to Chinese control of lands dominated or formerly dominated by the Soviet Union {Outer Mongolia ands well as of Inner Mongolia, and Tibet. The Chinese are concerned with possible expansion of Soviet influence and have clearly announced their own intention of establishing China's sovereignty over Inner Mongolia and Tibet. In addition,ossible strategic objectiveapanese military drive designed to extend Japan's north China position or toaselank attack on Chungking. Finally, the Northwestotential base for Allied operations against the Japanese.

Chinese Central Government use of the Northwest for military purposes In the war against the Japanese has been limited. Chungking's control over much of the area has scarcely passed the nominal stage. Kansu and Shensl are old provinces of China proper, but have onlyemerged from feudal warlord control. The rest of the region has been formed into new provinces fairly recently, Suiyuan. Nlngsia, and Tsinghaihe governors of these provinces, althoughby the Central Government and theoretically subject to itsactually administer their territories in semi-autonomous fashion. The necessity for united action against the Japanese and the shift of the national capital from Nanking to Chungking have accelerated the nationalisation of the Northwest, but relations between the Government and some'of the provinces remain tenuous.

Pattern of the Northwest

In addition to the normal decentralizationountry emerging from warlordlsm, the complicated ethnic pattern of the Northwest has

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evere obstacle to the national mobilization of Its power. Although thereumber of other fairly large ethnic fragments In the area, tbe politically significant groups In the Northwest are four: the Chinese, the Muslims, the Tibetans, and tbe Mongols. Their modes of life and their inter-relatlonshlpe are dynamic factors upon whichboth Japanese efforts to exploit ethnic stresses and Chineseto build national strength In China's Northwest.

The Chinese, predominant In Kansu and Shensl and scattered throughout the Northwest, are numerically the greatestong, unbroken Chinese traditionredominant strain of Chinese stock have always existed in the Northwest. Moreover, frontier conditions have persisted' in parts of the region down to the present time and garrison colonies have been constantly moved to the ever-shiftingWhileonsiderable slniflcatlon of the non-Chinesethese Chinese themselves hardened under the pressure of warlike races and the rigorsifficult climate and uncertain diet. They haveugged, daring, and rather dour, conservative peopleroud contempt for down-country Chinese.

The Muslims, forming large minorities In Tsinghai, Kansu, and Nlngsia constitute the second largest population group In the Northwest. While ethnically distinct from other groups, they are primarily bound together by religious ties. With the greatest concentration of believers, the most active schools of Islamic doctrine, and the greatest degree of Muslim-controlled political and military power, these Muslimare the most self-conscious, homogeneous, and exclusive In China Muslims of the Northwest are fanatical and fiercely Intolerant.undamentalist-reformed Mohammedanism, has been given forthright official patronage by Ma Pu-fang, Governor of Tsinghai, and hasuritanical revival of distinctive religious practices and taboos that have sharpened the differences and antagonism between Muslims and non-Muslims

Although subsistence economy among the Muslims Is Identical with that among the Chinese of the area, thereistinct tendency on the part of the Muslims to monopolise or appear In predominant proportions in trades such as those of carter, muleteer, fur-trader, and cattle-trader, which require hardihood and daring. Above all they make formidable soldiers. Although the Muslims are divided linguistically into groups speaking Chinese,nd Mongolian, and at times display certain strong antipathies to one another, theylose-knit religious group In opposing the Chinese.

The Tibetans of the Northwest, mostly In southern Tsinghai, are bound together bytrong racial consciousness, and religion.

This essential homogeneity is some tiroes obscured by striking differences between the nomads and sedentary peoples, and by the complexity of village, lamasery, and tribal control systems, but ls none the less real. The ties between the Tibetans of the newly organised Chinese province of Tslnghai and the central Tibetans of the Lhasa area are strong There must be approximately one-half million Tibetans In the Northwestalmost equally divided between sedentary and nomadic peoples.

The dominance of religion, Lamaiam. is the most Important single aspect of Tibetan life and culture. Family life, tribal and lntra-trlbal controls, and the distribution of wealth all fall within the sphere of religion Religious leaders control or at least strongly Influence all Tibetan political and economic reactions. The weight of religiousalways falls on the aide of Intransigent conservatism that resists all change, whether from outside or Inside the society.

Although the sedentary Tibetans areittle more numerous than the nomads, the nomadic Ideal dominates Tibetan life. It hasadmiration for Spartan virtues, an extreme restlveness underemphasis on trade,endency to violent, direct action regardless of the consequences. The preoccupation with firearms amountsania. Many Tibetans who have horses to sell have refused to part with them for anything but guns, and the Chinese Government has been forced to connive at gun-running In order to secure remounts for the Chinese army. The combination of this fierce, nomadic Ideal with the actual fact that therereat many Tibetan farmers firmlyIn most of the tillable valley bottoms, has enabled the Tibetanshole toirm resistance to the advance of the Chinese.

d. Mongols

The Mongols of the Northwest, predominant in Sulyuan and in parts of Nlngsla and Tlnghal, have been rather thoroughly penetrated by Tibetan or Chinese culture. The religious aspect of Mongol culture everywhere Is vory much under Tibetan lamasery domination, and the prestige of Lhasa as the sacred city has remained high. The culture of the Mongols In Sulyuan and Nlngsla is already breaking up under the Impact of Chinese pressure from the southeterioration of the leadership by lamas and the Mongolian nobility baa weakened thepattern of the society. Moreover, the Mongols of this region are all nomadic and have been comparatively defenseless against theof the Chinese farmer and Chinese political domination.

Ill Chinese-Minority Relations

Between all of these racial groups economic competition, racial prejudice, and religious Incompatibility produce stresses and frictions. But the antagonism of the three minority groups towards the Chinese is the basic political fact of the Northwest.

a. Chinese-Muslim Relations

The Chinese of the Northwest are afraid of being unable to repress their Muslim neighbors or keep themafe distance. Within lessundred years three major Muslim rebellions have broken out with devastating effect, and to the Chinese the contempt of death which tbe fiery Muslims show In battleittle Inhuman. The ratherloyalty of Kansu to the Central Oovernment is largely based on thisomplete warlord independence would seem hazardous to the Kansu Chinese, despite their numerical superiority, because of their bloodthirsty neighbors. Consequently Kansu has constantly looked to the Central Oovernment for effective, if distant, protection.

Theor their part, hate and despise the Chinese. The hatred Is based on the weight of Chinese culture, official power, and economic competition thrown against them, and the scorn is directed at tbe Chinese as Idolaters and pig-eating pagans.

b. Chinese Tibetan Relations The general Chinese attitude toward the Tibetanind of greedy arrogance. The Chinese look upon the wealth of the Tibetan as theirs to exploit cither by taxation or by trade. The Chinese are fullythat the Tibetan Is Infhiltcly barbarous, and regard it as altogether legitimate to put Chinese colonists on Tibetan land and to nullify Tibetan political organization as much as possible. Under certain circumstances, particularly in border areas, this viewpoint Is coloredearful respect for the Tibetans' occasional preference for forceful action.

Tibetan dislike of the Chinese springs from resentment of this superior attitude and Is Intensified by the constant economic pressure of land-hungry Chinese.tationary or declining population, the Tibetans feel constantly on the defensive. Moreover, tbe freedom-loving Tibetans have seldom paid any regular taxes to their own rulers and associate the Chinese with the idea of outrageous tax assessment At the same time the Tibetansittle contemptuous of the Chinese lack of the Spartan virtues they admire.

c. Chinese-Mongolian Relations

The Chinese attitude toward the Mongols is much the same as their attitude toward the Tibetans. But exploitation of the Mongol, particularly the appropriation of his land, has proceeded much further. Only the presence of tbe Outer Mongolian People's Republic under Soviet auspices and tbe erection of tbe Japanese puppet Mate of Meng-chiang in Inner Mongolia have caused the Chinese to adopt amore conciliatory attitude in .order to keep from losing that small portion of Mongolia which they still have.

IV. The Northwest and the Chungking War Effort

At present the Central Oovernment cannot be certain of support from any of these minority groups. The outstanding leader of the

il Pu-fang, Governor ol Tslnghai. is said to pride himself onersonal friend of the Oeneralisslmo. But beyond sending between two and five thousandear for the Chinese army, he has taken no active part in the war. At the beginning of hostilities Ma made the gesture of sending two divisions to the (rent, but they were soonIn the meantime sporadic, conveniently- timed Tibetan rebellions have given Ma an excuse for building up his own armed forces andarms from the Central Government. While Chungking's greatGeneral, Pal Ch'ung-hsl, has attracted Muslim support forIn other parts of China, his liberalism and religious laxity won him no respect among the Wahhablist regions of the Northwest.

Ma Hung-kwel. relative of Ma Pu-fang and Governor of Nlngsla. has been even less robust in his support of the Central Oovemment. He is reported to have traded with the Japanese, supplies ol wool goingdown the Yellow River to Paot'ow or across the semi-desert Gobi.

If the two Muslim regimes in Tslnghai and Nlngsla could be Induced to give whole-hearted support In fighting the war against the Japanese, the Allied position In the north could be Immeasurably strengthened. Reinforcements could be sent to Chinese troops carrying on desert patrol warfare In western Sulyuan. Central Government troops could proceed to this front along the natural communications tines parallel with the Yellow River. Most important, perhaps, the fighting manpower of the Muslims could be directed at the Japanese. In the plains of Mongolia and northern China the Muslim cavalry would be especially effective.

Partial Muslim cooperation could possibly be wonystem of payment according to results delivered, arms and equipment being paid to the Muslims as they made military gains. But to get thorough support the Chinese Central Oovemment would be obliged toolicy toward racial minorities that clearlyonsiderableand security to the Muslims after the war. Although it is doubtful if any ol the Muslimsapanese victory they have at present no evidence that they would benefit by assisting the Chinese to win. The Muslims, judging from past experience, are probably sure that the successful end of the war lor the Chinese would mean an attempt by the Central Government to end the Muslim menace.romise of secure autonomy given by the probable victors, Japanese or Chinese, would enlist active Muslim participation In the war.

Chinese-Tibetan relations have deteriorated since the establishment of nominal Chinese authority over the northeastern part of Tibet. The old Tibetan control system, based on tribal organization and lamasery authority, weakened without strong substitute being provided. Banditry and lawlessness Increased, and armed, mounted, desperate Tibetans formed an enormous refugee class fighting toomewhat anarchic way of life. The Chinese Oovemment has made several quite fruitless attempts to draw levies of soldiers for the present war from Tibetan Chiefs, and have been mildly successful In collecting wool, sheepskins,

and remounts. Farther removed from the actual front than the Muslims and somewhat less martially proficient, the Tibetans have contributed very little to the Chinese war effort and would probably continue to give little aid in any event.

On the other hand, thereossibility of Japanese organization of Tibetan aid in supportilitary drive into theapanese propaganda effort of several years standing hasairlyimpression in many Tibetan areas that the Japanese wished to be known as co-rellgionlsts dedicated to the restoration of the Chinese Emperor. Since the Tibetans can date most of their troubles from the time of the founding of the Chinese Republic, theyostalgic memory of the days when they were the somewhat pampered vassals of the Empire. The co-religionist tie is very appealing to Tibetan sentiment, and the Tsinghai Tibetans would take advantage of, and colncldentally assist, any weakening of present controls by Japanese pressure on China.

Under present conditions the Mongols of the Northwest areistinct liability to the Chinese Government's war-activities. They have little future before them as an ethnic unit and consider themselvesand betrayed by the Chinese. With little to lose, they might decide to throw in their lot with the Mongols of the puppet state of Mengchlang andestward advance of the Japanese.

The complicated Internal pattern of racial stresses In China'sclearly requires an enlightened, skilful Chinese administration in order,inimum, to prevent Japanese encroachment and, at ato develop the Northwestase for operations against the Japanese. With the removal of the urge to prepare or to engage in war against each other, the minority groups might contribute their meager resources for the war,attempts atby Japan, which would then constitute tbe only real threat to their cultural and ethnic autonomy,

V. Chungking Apprehensions in the Northwest

The present policy has not looked in that direction, but has indicated three other objectives in the Northwest. In tbe first place thehas longesire to make central Tibet an Integral part of China, an aim defined in no uncertain terms in his book, China's Destiny. Widely accepted rumors stated that the Chinese Government bad planned an attempt at the conquest of Tibet Just before the outbreak of the Slno-Japanese war and againrobably due to theof the provincial governors to follow orders, no major encounters occurred. But the Northwest Is potentially usefulase for Chinese penetration of central Tibet

The Northwest is also being usedase for the colonization and military development of Slnkiang Province, from which the Soviet Union withdrew support in the fallhe Chinese approach route to Sinkiang is flanked by Muslims, who are linked by ethnic and religious

ties with dissatisfied non-Chinese groups in Slnklang. Moreover, recent clashes on tho Slnklang-Outer Mongolia border have highlighted the possibility of future conflicts of interest on the Sino-Sovietevelopment for which the Chinese Government clearly Intends to be prepared.

Finally, the Chinese Central Oovemment Is estimated to beseveral hundred thousand troops under Hu Tsung-nan In the Northwestlockading force against the Chinese Communists.the Communists seem to have had little effect on the political orientation of the peoples of the Northwest. The peoples of this area, possibly because of Ingrained conservatism and favorable conditions of land tenure, have been generally opposed to Communism. Whilepropaganda might conceivably bring some support to theby retailing the successes of the Communist peasant-betterment program In Shensl, the Chinese have fairly completely walled off the Isolated Communist area from the Northwest. Nevertheless, the Central Government Isreat proportion of Its political and military energies in the Northwest to the preparation of powerful opposition to the Communists.

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