Useful Notes: The Other Chinese Army

The Republic of China Armed Forces is the military of WWII era China and later Taiwan.

It started from the Guomindang National Revolutionary Army. Their first officers and NC Os were trained under Chiang Kai Shek by Soviet advisors like Major-General Borodin (many of whom were later sent to the Gulags in 1937-8 for the 'crime' of having lived overseas). These forces initiated the Northern Expedition of 1926-28, during which two thirds of the initial NRA crushed the other third (which was led by Wang Jingwei and other leftists within the party). In 1931 they fought the Central Plains War against three (Wu Peifu of Anhui, Yan Xishan of Shanxi, and the Guangxi Clique) of the five (Zhang Zuolin of Manchuria, Long Yun of Yunnan) major warlord factions left in China and won, ending General Wu Peifu as a political force. When in 1930 the Manchurian Warlord Zhang Xueliang (son of Zhang Zuolin) accidentally started a border war with the Soviet Union, NRA forces fought alongside Zhang's in an attempt to defend his territory (and failed, though the Soviets imposed very lenient peace terms). A year later the Japanese Guandong/Kwantung Army Command annexed Zhang territory, ending him as a political force and forcing him to join the NRA with the remainder of his troops.

In 1932 a series of protests over Japanese Imperialism turned hot and became the Shanghai Incident, in which several thousand NRA and Japanese troops fought a limited street-to-street battle in the city. The NRA's performance was so abysmal that Chiang Kai-Shek contacted Weimar Germany and made a deal with them to send them Chinese raw materials in exchange for German weapons, weapons blueprints, armaments factories (yes, factories), and experienced army staff officers who could help him reform the NRA. Alexander von Falkenhausen (who'd been military governor of Belgium in World War One) then headed a team who helped reform some parts of the NRA which were loyal to Chiang just in time for the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937.

During the Second Sino-Japanese War the NRA underwent a second major change when von Falkenhausen's team was forcibly recalled in 1938 and replaced, once again, by Soviet advisors and war material. Soviet aid was so extensive that the NRA actually ended up with more weaponry than they'd had before their horrific losses in the 1937 Battle of Shanghai, but this was undermined by the inexperience and illiteracy of the replacement officer corps and the NRA's increasing inability to pay and feed their troops due to the loss of more than 90% of their pre-war income (which had come from customs duties and taxes on the major cities, all of which were now in Japanese hands). The presence of the Red Air Force was also a mixed blessing, since the Soviets were more interested in using combat in Chinese airspace to train their new pilots than they were in actually protecting Chinese cities from Japanese strategic bombing.

The NRA underwent a final change in the last months of World War II. Although Joseph Stilwell had trained and equipped 100k NRA troops to the standards of a US Army fighting force, these troops were stuck in northern Burma and could do nothing to help defend China herself from Japanese attacks. When Stilwell was fired, his replacement General Wedemeyer allowed some of these troops to be moved to China and helped train and arm other NRA forces there as well. This programme ended when the war did, and although the USA shipped the NRA all the weapons, equipment, and food they couldn't be bothered shipping back to the USA (for free!) no more US training or staff-help was forthcoming. At this point NRA forces were equipped with a bewildering array of German, Soviet, Japanese, and US equipment and trained and headed by officers of vastly different standards, with various loyalties to boot. Two of the old warlord factions (Yan Xishan, the Guangxi Clique) only got stronger during the war, leaving the NRA in a bad way for the Chinese Civil War of 1946-50. Which they lost. Isolated islands (like Hainan) held out until mid-1950 and remnant NRA forces would continue guerilla warfare in western Xinjiang and along the Burmese-Chinese border for several decades (with CIA funds and weaponry), but the NRA basically only existed on Taiwan after that point.

The ROC allegedly sent some special forces against the Chinese Communists in the Korean War through Burma, but this was never proven (though these could merely have been confused with the remnant-ROC forces already operating there). They also sent advisors to Vietnam.

The Taiwanese also sent mercenary pilots with their F-5s into North Yemen to fight South Yemen. Incidentally, PRC helped North Yemen too.

The ROC military is composed of the Army, the Navy, the Marines, the Air Force, and of all cases, the Military Police. The Coast Guard is not under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense but may be attached in wartime.

Conscription was the rule; every 18 year-old, able-bodied male had to serve. In the last few years, the term of service has been regularly shrinking, however...

Tropes embodied:

  • Badass Army: The Marines branch is generally considered to be this, not limited to but especially when compared to the Army branch.
    • The "Lost Army" of ROC Army's 93rd Division. Cutoff by Communist advances in China's southwest provinces during the founding days of Communist China, they escaped into Burma and held on into the 60s, despite being virtually neglected by Taiwan and having to fight both the Chinese Communists and Burmese troops sent to exterminate them, until they either finally evacuated to Taiwan or settled down in Thailand.
    • Current projections by both the US and Chinese governments that were leaked by Wikileaks reveals that they both think that the tiny little island nation's military could easily repel a massive Chinese invasion while inflicting heavy losses due to superior technology, morale, defenses, and China's overall lack of a navy...
    • Badass Decay: ... but that was in 2010. Since then, China's military has poured a fortune into research & development as well as expansion of its air & naval forces while the Taiwanese defence budget has steadily shrunk. PLA has shown everything from stealth fighter to amphibious ships capable of holding 800 troops apiece, if only to show the world that they actually do have a plan on reaching out beyond their own shore. In February 2014, renowned international relations scholar John Mearsheimer published a controversial article called "Say Goodbye to Taiwan", saying it's only a matter of time before the island will eventually reunite with China. In response to that article, the Taiwanese government held a meeting regarding the state of national defence, to which the military estimated it could only hold off a Chinese invasion for a month, at most, without outside aid.
      • Things have been generally allowed to become run down across the board since the early 2000s. Popular opinion is that while the Marines have managed to keep their tough-guy credentials, the Army is at risk of losing theirs if it hasn't already.
  • Butt Monkey: the Nationalist Army almost always loses out in the early stages of the Sino-Japanese War.
    • Although part of it is deliberate; both Nationalists and Communists have been independently agreed on the fact that the China would have lost to Japan on a face-to-face combat; their strategy is to let Japanese take as much land in the beginning such that the Japanese military would be stretched too thin, and the Chinese would have time to prepare a more realistic rebound. As a result, those battles were intended to delay not deter; and before the entrance of the US they used a combination of terrorist and guerrilla tactics to ensure the Japanese would be stretched thin.
  • Conscription: Like all draft-based armies, this is the cause of its share of problems and animosity. It goes back to the transformation from the National Revolutionary Army to Republic of China Armed Forces—officers were almost exclusively (professional) Chinese evacuees from the Civil War, while enlisted men were overwhelmingly (poor) Taiwanese conscripts (a racial divide that unfortunately survives to this day, though is far less severe).
    • Additionally, across the strait the other other Chinese Army gets its manpower from volunteers (making official conscription redundant; they do have millions of men to find volunteers from, after all), as opposed to requiring men to go before a formal draft board. Unlike it's first-rate technology, the branches of the ROC Armed Forces probably cannot count on first-rate morale: hence the shrinking length of mandated service.
    • The ROC army is transitioning to an all-volunteer force, as noted in the main article above where the terms of conscription keep dropping, but volunteers will demand higher pay to keep up with civilian jobs. Coupled with a slashed defence budget, this does not bode well when it comes to maintaining a large number of troops.
  • Putting on the Reich: A surprisingly Allied example, with their Stahlhelm helmets. Justified in that Germany trained the Nationalist Army in the 1930s. It doesn't help that some of the ideology of the Kuomintang had fascist overtones and Chiang for a time expressed his admiration for fascism. The Japanese invasion changed his view, of course.
    • The Nazis also tried and failed to get China and Japan to come to a negotiated peace. But when push came to shove, they opted to side with Japan; this no doubt contributed to Chiang's souring on fascism.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Ironically the ROC forces started to become competent after they were exiled to Taiwan.
    • A large part of ROC Army's defeat on Mainland China lies not in any perceived or real superiority in terms of competency on the Communist side but in the idiotically-bad, morale-damaging mismanagement on the Nationalist side. Veteran formations (that were actually consistently defeating the insurgency beforehand) were broken up, their equipment "re-distributed", regional military commanders still very much divided by inter-clique rivalries, and soldiers demobilized as a result promptly finding themselves employed by the Communists (who at least waited until 1950 before screwing them over). Losing many of the culprits behind the madness to being captured by the Communists was probably one of the best things that happened to the ROC Army at that point.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: When the ROC forces arrived in Taiwan they forcefully took over every factory they could find, including the sugar factories (which had been built by Imperial Japan). Many Taiwanese were beaten up, jailed, or outright slaughtered by the Nationalists for protesting against the Chinese Army's conduct. If the Taiwanese were poor under the Japanese, they were now destitute and starving under the rule of the Nationalists. This is one aspect of the infamous 'White Terror' period- which followed a failed Taiwanese revolt against the new government (only minority elements of the revolt were legitimate troublemakers)- the other aspect being police crackdown and executions. One wonders how paranoid Chiang Kai Shek had got by that point. The revolt remains a very touchy subject in Taiwan, and anything that can be misconstrued as villifying the revolt will be treated as such and met with public opposition. Eventually the minority troublemakers, many of whom in the meantime proudly boasted about having done nothing more than destruction of public infrastructures during the revolt, asked for and actually received the same recognition as those innocent victims.

In fiction:

  • In Zhang Yimou's To Live, the main character joins the Nationalist Army during the Civil War. When he and his friend sleep through a battle in which the Communists wipe out their entire unit, they surrender to the Communists, who let them join up and live in exchange for providing entertainment with their traditional Chinese shadow puppets.
  • Chu Yen-ping's Sige Buping Fande Shao Nian (Forever Friends) is a heartwarming 1996 comedy that deals with the less-than-professional behavior not unheard of in recent volunteers and conscripts in the ROC Army.
  • In the Web Original Alternate History Superpower Empire: China 1912 , they appear to be more competent. In fact, China at this point went back to the Imperial system, albeit modernized. They still use the Republic of China flag since the founding Emperor at the new dynasty is a Han scholar who despite their ideological differences, is a friend of Sun Yat Sen.