The Long March

1996-half-oz-gold-red-army-long-march-coin-rev While historically there were several long marches during the Communist insurgency period (1927-1937) of the Chinese Civil War (1927-1950), perhaps the most well known is the Red Army withdrawal from Jiangxi that began on 16th October 1934. This Long March was a legendary military retreat and subsequent escape to the north and west by a surrounded Communist army. It was on the verge of being destroyed by Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist (KMT) forces, but following their breaking of the KMT blockades, the Communists travelled approximately 12,500 km to make good their escape and consolidate their forces. Mao Zedong, the eventual leader of the Communist Party of China, and many other key political players and leaders, including Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping, were on this march.

The route of the Long March passed through some of the toughest terrain in China and lasted some 370 days. Only about one tenth of the force that originally broke out of the Jiangxi Soviet in 1934 completed the march, which ended in northeast Shaanxi in October 1935. This was due to a combination of the harsh conditions endured by the troops, desertions in the early days of the march, and heavy casualties sustained in clashes with Nationalist forces. October 1936, one year after Mao’s army arrived, marked the end of the Long March, when the Second Red Army joined them, resulting in the unification of three Communist armies.

The Long March allowed the Communists armies to consolidate in the relative safety of northern China and allowed the survival of the leadership structure, cementing Mao’s position at the head of the CPC. It became an important instrument of propaganda, becoming a symbol of the resilience and spirit of survival and inner strength of the Communists. The conduct of the troops and the policies of land reform promoted by the leadership on the march earned the CPC support among the peasants they had encountered along the way.

The Long March is commemorated in two anniversary coin series: one series, issued in 1996, celebrates the 60th anniversary; the other, issued in 2006, celebrates the 70th anniversary.