Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sichuan invasion

The Sichuan Invasion, also known as the Chongqing Operation, Chongqing Campaign or Operation 5, was the Imperial Japanese Army's failed plan to destroy the Chongqing-based Chiang Kai-shek government during the Second Sino-Japanese War. It was to be a stepping stone for Japan's final control of the mainland. The operation started in spring of 1942, after the first phase of operations had been concluded in south China, and continued through spring of 1943. The operation is noted for Japan's sustained bombing of cities in central west China.

The Basic Plan

The basic plan was to make a multi-front breakthrough to Sichuan from northern Shanxi, central Hubei and southern Hunan. Heavy aerial support and bombing of Chongqing supported the advance of Japanese Army and collaborationist forces. Japanese Navy patrol boats from the Yangtze river provided further bombardment. Chiang Kai-shek discussed the invasion in his book ''Soviet Russia in China'', stating:

The Imperial General Headquarters sent the order for drawing down 16 divisions and logistics support units from Japan reserves, Manchukuo and Southern Areas to reinforce the Japanese expeditionary forces in central China area, to prepare the principal force of ten divisions in south Shanshi and other support group conformed by six Divisions of Ichang in Hubei amongst other Divisions located in Changde, in Hunan, for striking Sichuan and the occupation of Chongqing in September 1942.

By coincidence, September 1942 was also the time when the Wehrmacht was closing in on Stalingrad. The actual invasion involves Japanese units first occupying Wanxian, from where the Japanese could advance to Chongqing-proper in . To cut off the escape routes of Chinese refugees, the occupation of North Guizhou was planned, which could be used to stage an attack on Chengdu through Yibin. The north Japanese army division had the option to either advance towards south Shaanxi to capture Xian, or towards Hangzhong to take Chengdu directly. Alternatively, Japan could have utilized airborne forces to cut off Chinese escape routes and take the Chongqing metropolitan area directly.

Interests in Sichuan region

Both Chiang Kai-shek and suspected that the intense bombing of Chongqing by the and the was to support the diversionary Japanese operations against metropolitan Chongqing, as part of the invasion of Sichuan. It was also possible that the Japanese army hoped that a terror campaign against Chongqing would force the Chinese authorities to break from the and make a separate peace with Japan.

Sichuan Invasion

Japanese plan

According to General Chiang Wei-kuo, should the invasion be successful, the Japanese might have intended to put Wang Chingwei's puppet regime in charge of Chongqing. The Japanese might also persuade Chiang Kai-shek to join Japan's Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere and to even assist in a future Japanese offensive against the Soviet Union in Siberia and Central Asia. Another possibility was the installation of a Japanese civilian or military Governor-General to administer the area as an Imperial Japanese Army fief in mainland Asia, which could later be expanded to include Tibet and Xinjiang as well.

Factors affecting the Sichuan Invasion

Due to opposition against Japan from other Allied countries, the Sichuan Invasion was not enthusiastically carried out. In particular, the United States' counter-offensive against Japan heavily undermined the possibility of an invasion. Chiang Kai Shek stated:

But in June 1942, Japanese forces suffered the humiliating defeat in the Battle of Midway, and in August the U.S] forces initiated the counteroffensive against the Solomon Islands, with a landing at Tenaru River, Guadalcanal . The Japanese suffered frequent losses at the end of September 1942, and decided to delay the implement of invasion plan for Sichuan. Later in November, the Japanese forces having been totally defeated in Guadalcanal, , the situation was turned around, with Japan losing all possibility to transfer with impunity its forces in the area . At the end of 1942, the planning for the Sichuan Invasion was suspended.

Last operative attempt to invade

However, the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters was still in favor of an invasion. Hence the Japanese China Expeditionary Army produced a new plan for the capture of Sichuan, which was based on the previous 1942 plan. The May 1943 "Battle of West Hubei" was part of this new attempt to advance to Sichuan.

Nevertheless, by then the Nationalists Chinese Armies gained the support of the "Flying Tigers" of the United States, which was commanded by General Claire Chennault. In subsequents battles, the Japanese army suffered defeats in hands of the Nationalists Chinese Armies. In light of these defeats, the Japanese forces was obliged to occult for six months before a new offensive could be mounted. During this period the Chinese Army sent seven Army envoys to Yunnan and India to clear the China-Burma route.

In fear of Chinese reinforcements through the cleared route and having sustained much losses in the Battle of Changde, the Japanese army switched their attention to Yunnan to prevent future Chinese counter-offensives from that area.

Shu (state)

Shu was an ancient state in what is now Sichuan, China. Shu derived its power from the Chengdu Plain, with its territory primarily in the central and western Sichuan basin, as well as in the upper . Shu was conquered by in 316 BC. Its capital was at Chengdu.


Shu is first mentioned in history as an alliance member with in overthrowing the Shang Dynasty, taking part in the Battle of Muye. In the archaeological record, post-Muye Shu showed a culture with advanced military technology equivalent to that of the Zhou states; however, Shu military technology stagnated for the next several centuries, mirrored by its lack of mention in recorded history.

Legend states that Shu was ruled at one time by the mythical king, Duyu , and his descendants. Shu was later ruled by the Kaiming kings. During the later half of the Spring and Autumn Period, Shu culture increasingly borrowed from and cultures; for example, Shu copied the practice of boat coffin burials from Ba. The archaeological evidence also shows that Shu interacted with the cultures to the south in Yunnan and Guizhou.

During the Warring States Period, Qin and Chu increasingly encroached on the Han river valley. Clashes with Shu inevitably began to arise; Shu fought Qin in 387 BC and Chu in 377 BC.

Conquest by Qin

Archaeological evidence shows that several gallery roads from Qin to Shu were built during the Warring States Period over extremely difficult terrain, the Qinling Mountains and the Daba Mountains. Although legend attributes the building of the first gallery road, the ''Stone Cattle Road'' , to the last Kaiming king , the roads were probably built by Qin to prepare for its invasion of the Sichuan basin.

Qin took advantage of a dispute between the last Kaiming king and his brother, the Marquis of Zu, to invade Shu. The Marquis of Zu had allied with Ba in attacking Shu. In response, the Kaiming king invaded Zu and sent the Marquis of Zu into exile in Qin. The Marquis of Zu then appealed to King Huiwen of Qin to invade Shu.

At this critical juncture, King Huiwen's two primary advisors, and Sima Cuo, held opposing views on invading Shu. Zhang Yi believed that Qin was close to winning control over the Central Plain, arguing instead for an attack on Qin's traditional nemesis, . On the other hand, Sima Cuo argued that invading Shu would greatly increase the agricultural wealth of Qin, tipping the balance of power in Qin's favor. King Huiwen agreed with Sima Cuo and sent his two advisors to lead the invasion of Shu. Qin defeated Shu and killed the last Kaiming king.

Shu under Qin rule

Qin turned Shu into a commandery and applied a strict process for integrating Shu into Qin. Qin sent officials to rule directly in Shu and actively encouraged migration of people from Qin into Shu. Although Qin tried to placate the populace by retaining the Kaiming rulers as the Marquis of Shu, Shu would rebel many times against Qin; in turn, Qin would respond by reinvading or suppressing Shu.

When King Huiwen died in 311 BC, a Qin official in Shu, Chen Zhuang, led a rebellion against Qin. Sima Cuo, Zhang Yi and Gan Mao led Qin forces into Shu and suppressed the rebellion. In 301 BC, Marquis Hui of Shu, a Kaiming descendant, rebelled. Sima Cuo led Qin forces into Shu and suppressed the rebellion. Marquis Hui's replacement, Marquis Wan, also rebelled against Qin. This time, the Qin governor in Shu, Zhang Ruo, suppressed the rebellion. After the last rebellion, the Kaiming descendants were permanently removed from actual power.

After securing its control over Shu, Qin used Shu as a place of exile, a practice later followed by the Han Dynasty.


Nanzhong was an ancient region consisting of modern-day Yunnan, Guizhou, and southern Sichuan in southern China.

The region was the homeland of the rebellious Nanman tribes, led by Meng Huo. In 225 AD, the famed statesman Zhuge Liang led three columns into Yunnan to pacify the tribes. His seven captures of Meng Huo is much celebrated in Chinese folklore.

Meng Zhixiang

Meng Zhixiang was a Chinese general and later founder of the Later Shu kingdom, one of the Ten Kingdoms of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, in 934.

Service under the Later Tang

Meng Zhixiang was an army commander under the Later Tang Dynasty , which was in control of northern China. He commanded the forces that overthrew the Kingdom in 925, incorporating the kingdom into the . Meng remained in Chengdu as the military governor, all the while plotting the overthrow of authority and naming himself emperor.

Founder of the Later Shu

Meng Zhixiang got his chance to realize his ambitions as the Later Tang Dynasty was going through a period of decline in the mid-930s. The ’s relations with the had soured and in general, domestic governance within the dynasty had declined. In 934, Meng declared himself emperor, restoring the Kingdom that he helped to overthrow less than a decade earlier.


Although Meng Zhixiang did not reign long as emperor as he died the following year, his son, Meng Chang reigned very ably for three decades until the Song Dynasty incorporated the Later Shu into its domains during the process of reunifying the Chinese realm. Chengdu became a center of art and culture, especially the Amidst the Flowers Anthology and its importance in the development of .

Meng Chang

Meng Chang was Emperor of Later Shu , one of the located in the Sichuan basin.

Accession to the Throne

Meng Chang, posthumously known as Houzhu was the son of Meng Zhixiang, the founder of the Later Shu kingdom. When his father died in 934, he named himself emperor of the kingdom.

Rule and Fall

Meng ruled ably for three decades. The Later Shu became one of the centers for the arts and literature, where it flourished with support from the court. An anthology of lyric poetry known as the Amidst the Flowers Anthology was compiled in 940 It was also among the most stable of the southern kingdoms.

A new force arose in the north in 960 when the Song Dynasty replaced the Later Zhou Dynasty, the last of the . made it his mission to reunify the realm. forces forced Meng Chang to surrender in 965 on the road to the reunification of most of China.

Liu Xiang (warlord)

Liu Xiang or Liu Hsiang was one of the warlords controlling Sichuan province during the Warlord era of 20th century China.

During the period from 1927-1938, Sichuan was in the hands of five warlords: Liu Xiang, , Liu Wenhui, Deng Xihou, and Tian Songyao. No one warlord had enough power to take on all the others at once, so many small battles occurred, pitting one warlord against another. Large conflicts seldom developed, plotting and skirmishing characterized the Sichuanese political scene, and ephemeral coalitions and counter-coalitions emerged and vanished with equal rapidity.

However Liu Xiang was the most influential of the Sichuan warlords. He controlled Chongqing and its surrounding areas. This region, sitting on the banks of the Yangtze River, was rich because of trade with provinces down river and therefore controlled much of the economic activity in Sichuan.

From this position of strength, between 1930 and 1932 General Liu Wenhui and Liu Xiang improved their forces, organizing a small airforce at Chengdu, of two Fairchild KR-34CA aeroplanes and an unknown number of Junkers K53. In 1932 Liu began putting together the " and Tank Corps of Chungking". Armored cars were built in Shanghai based on the 1931 truck with a 37 mm gun and 2 MGs in a crude turret.

In 1935, Liu ousted his uncle and rival warlord, Liu Wenhui, becoming Chairman of the Government of Sichuan Province. A family-brokered peace was arranged which mollified Liu Wenhui with control of the neighbouring Xikang province, a sparsely populated but opium-rich territory on the periphery of Han China and Tibet.

At the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War Liu Xiang lead the Sichuan 15th Army at the Battle of Shanghai and 23rd Army Group in the Battle of Nanking, and was made Commander in Chief of the River Defence Forces for the Yangtze River. Liu Xiang died in 1938; some suspected he was poisoned by Chiang Kai-shek. Liu's death and the arrival of the central government in Chongqing in 1938 brought reforms that eventually put an end to the major warlord garrisons. The Sichuan faction broke up and a lot of Sichuan units turned their loyalties over to Chiang Kai-shek and became essentially Central army units.


*1921 - 1922 Governor of Sichuan Province
*1921 - 1922 Military-Governor of Sichuan Province
*1923 - 1924 Military-Governor of Sichuan Province
*1923 - 1924 Governor of Sichuan Province
*1924 Governor of Sichuan Province
*1925 - 1926 Military-Governor of Sichuan Province
*1935 - 1938 Chairman of the Government of Sichuan Province
*1937 General Officer Commanding 15th Army
*1937 Commander in Chief 23rd Army Group
*1937 - 1938 Commander in Chief River Defence Forces

Liu Wenhui

Liu Wenhui, or Liu Wen-hui was one of the warlords of Sichuan Province during China's Warlord era. Liu Wenhui who rose to prominence in Sichuan in the 1920s and 1930s, came from a peasant family. At the beginning of his career, he was aligned with the Guomindang, commanding the Sichuan-Xigang Defence Force from 1927 to 1929. The western part of Sichuan province was then known as Xikang. Bordering Tibet, the region had a mixed population of Tibetans and Han Chinese.


He was then made Chairman of the Government of Sichuan Province from 1929, but his relationship with Chiang Kai-Shek was unstable as was the province he governed. Sichuan was in the hands of Liu Wenhui and four other warlords: , , Deng Xihou, and Tian Songyao. No one warlord had enough power to take on all the others at once, so many small battles occurred, pitting one warlord against another. Large conflicts seldom developed, plotting and skirmishing characterized the Sichuanese political scene, and ephemeral coalitions and counter coalitions emerged and vanished with equal rapidity.

In May 1930 his province was invaded by the army of Tibet. With the province locked in internal struggles, no reinforcements were sent to support the Sichuan troops stationed in Xikang. As a result, the Tibetan army captured, without encountering much resistance, Garze and Xinlong . When a negotiated ceasefire failed, Tibet expanded the war attempting to capture parts of southern Qinghai province. In March 1932 their force invaded Qinghai but was defeated by the Qinghai warlord Ma Bufang in July, routing the Tibetan army and driving it back to Xikang. The Qinghai army captured counties that had fallen into the hands of the Tibetan army since 1919. The victory on the part of the Qinghai army threatened the supply lines to the Tibetan forces in Garze and Xinlong. As a result, this part of the Tibetan army was forced to withdraw. In 1932 Liu Wenhui in cooperation with the Qinghai army, sent out a brigade, to attack the Tibetan troops in Garze and Xinlong, eventually occupying them, Dege and other counties east of the Jinshajiang River.

In 1932 Liu Wenhui drove the Tibetans back to the Yangtze River and even threatened to attack Chamdo. At Batang Town, Kesang Tsering, a half-Tibetan, claiming to be acting on behalf of Chiang Kai-shek, managed to evict Liu Wen-hui's governor from the town with the support of some local tribes. A powerful "freebooter Lama" from the region gained support from the Tibetan forces and occupied Batang, but later had to withdraw. By August 1932 the Tibetan government had lost so much territory the Dalai Lama telegraphed the Government of India asking for diplomatic assistance. The Sichuan and Tibetan armies confronted each other across the Jinsha River until the Xikang-Tibet Gangto Ceasefire Agreement was made in June 15, 1933. By early 1934 a ceasefire and armistices had been arranged with both Liu Wen-hui and Governor Ma of Chinghai in which the Tibetans gave up all territory to the east of the Yangtze but kept control of the Yaklo district which had previously been a Chinese enclave to the west of the river.

Finally Liu Wenhui was ousted from Chengdu by a rival warlord, his nephew, Liu Xiang in 1935, when Liu Xiang sided with smaller warlords against Liu Wenhui. A family-brokered peace was arranged which mollified Liu Wenhui with control of the familiar neighbouring Xikang province, a sparsely populated but opium-rich territory on the periphery of Han China. Liu set up headquarters in the city of Ya'an and set about the highest priorities of a warlord: self-preservation and self-enrichment. Self-enrichment was relatively secure through the illicit but uncontrollable opium trade; survival entailed maintaining troops but using them as little as possible. In this, the territory of Xikang province was advantageous to Liu Wenhui, since its marginal position effectively insulated him from rival warlords, and from military engagements ordered by the central government.

During the GMD pursuit of the communist forces during the Long March, this conflict between the two leaders came to a head. Chiang repeatedly ordered Liu to bring his troops against the fleeing communists, but Liu made excuses, while secretly allowing safe passage for the Red Army in a non-aggression pact consistent with the first priority of a warlord: preserving one's troops and one's power. Thus the engagements around Xiakou in 1934 did not involve Liu Wenhui's 24th Route Army, but the 21st army of GMD troops garrisoned just across the Sichuan border in Mingshan.

From 1939 as Governor of Xikang Province Liu Wenhui tried to establish the infrastructure needed to support the remote province. Its transport was primitive and it had no industry to speak of. Large projects such as the hydroelectric plant built in 1944 promised to bring the area into the modern world. Liu Wenhui also promoted education as a way to improve Xikang’s situation.

Liu walked the tightrope of allegiance throughout the 1940's. He made sure that his forces saw as little action as possible, while at the same time he was careful not to arouse the full wrath of Chiang Kai-shek, and thereby continued to reap the benefits of wearing the Nationalist mantle.

As Governor of Xikang Province Liu switched sides from his half-hearted alignment with the Kuomingtang to siding with the Communists in 1949. He was rewarded with a bureaucratic post in the new communist government in Beijing. For the rest of his life, the former warlord served in various capacities in the Communist party, including as the minister of Forestry Ministry. Although Xikang ceased to exist in 1956 as part of the land reform, Liu Wenhui’s measures gave the area a solid basis for development. The hydroelectric plant he constructed in 1944 is still in operation. Kangding, once the provincial capital, is now a thriving town. In his last days, against governmental ban and relatives' objection, Liu Wenhui convinced his relatives to go to Tiananmen Square to pay his respect to Zhou Enlai when the Chinese premier passed away.


*1926 General Officer Commanding 24th Division
*1927 - 1929 General Officer Commanding Sichuan-Xigang Defence Force
*1929 - 1935 Chairman of the Government of Sichuan Province
*1935 - 1949 General Officer Commanding 24th Army
*1938 Director of the Generalissimo's Headquarters Chungking
*1939 - 1950 Governor of Xikang Province
*1944 - 1945 General Officer Commanding 22nd Corps