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on October 11, 2017
The downside: it's missing good background detail and could use a better discussion of logistics in the final war phases. The upside: it is a very good, fast, readable introduction, about 1.5 layers deep, to the Chinese Civil War. If you just want to know the basics, this book is a good place to stop; if you want to dig in to an expert level, this book is a good place to start.
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on July 13, 2015
For such a short book, far too little of it was about the actual war. Digressions are fine in a long book, but I imagine most people wanting this book will want the war's history only.
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on August 12, 2016
Hack job. Condensed, not interesting. Factually correct. Cliff notes sort of thing.
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on March 1, 2016
Very good quality.
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on August 14, 2013
While it could use more background on the earlier stages of the Chinese Civil War, excellent summary of the latter stages.
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on July 27, 2013
This book provides a 92-page general basics of the Chinese Civil War. I read it in one night. Good overview, but lacks many details of planning, strategy and battle.
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on August 6, 2010
This booklet can be highly recommended to anyone wishing to gain a good and straight overall knowledge of the early years of post-WW2 China. The final years of the Chinese Civil War, the clash between Mao tse dong and Chang kai chek, between the Communist and the Kuomintang -- a struggle which actually started in the 1930s -- is here very well described with a good selection of illustrations. An excellent digest about one of the 20th century's most important chapters.
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on August 9, 2010
Professor Michael Lynch presents a concise overview of the main period of the Chinese Civil War in Osprey's Essential Histories volume no. 61. This volume serves as an introduction to this complex conflict and is likely to be useful for readers looking for a concise history. However, the author focuses primarily on the period 1945-49 and provides only a few pages of background material on a conflict which most sources cite as beginning in 1927 and which actively continued into 1950. The Communist invasion of Hainan Island during March-May 1950 - which involved over 100,000 troops on both sides - is not even mentioned. Even the 2-page chronology has no reference before 1945 or after 1949. Thus, readers unfamiliar with this conflict are likely to have difficulty putting events into context or understanding why the PRC and Taiwan are still at odds. The author's overview of the Civil War covers the main phase of the conflict in sufficient detail for readers to understand why the Communists prevailed (answering the why part of the equation), but without sufficient military detail for readers to understand the `how' part of the equation. While the author does mention some military assistance from the Soviet Union and impressed Japanese POWs, it is still difficult to see how the PLA transitioned so quickly from a guerrilla force into a regular army with heavy weapons. Battles and campaigns are addressed in such general terms, with little sense of numbers involved, casualties or tactics employed, that they have little meaning beyond `lots of Chinese fighting, Nationalists losing.' Overall, this volume is a useful synopsis, but somewhat marred by an overly-restricted timescale and lack of military detail.

The introductory sections provide only very brief background on the opening of the struggle between the Chinese Communists and Nationalists. A key event like the Long March is mentioned only briefly in two paragraphs and then left behind - this was a defining moment for the CCP. Furthermore, the early dynamic of conflict between 1927 and 1939 favored the Nationalists, with the Chinese Communists unable to achieve anything beyond survival in a remote province. Once he gets into the post-WW2 period, I found that the author's narrative was fairly balanced, although leaning a bit toward the Communists. The author contrasts KMT corruption (as if this is unknown in Communist governments) with CCP ruthlessness and brutality on both sides. He divides the military campaign into three main phases, each getting progressively worse for the Nationalists, until they are forced to flee to Taiwan in 1949.

Overall, the maps and narrative and decent as an introduction, but still fairly generic. Few specific units are mentioned or depicted, no strength or casualty figures for battles given, so it is difficult to evaluate what has transpired. The volume begins to decline in quality a bit with the 6-page `Portrait of a soldier' section, which is more about torture and mistreatment of two individuals rather than their training or experience as soldiers. The 5-page section on Mao and CKS is a bit more interesting, but still a bit generic and doesn't offer any of Mao's famous sayings about warfare other than the hackneyed `power grows from the barrel of a gun.' The section on the US and Soviet roles fails to mention key moments, like when the 7th Fleet patrols in the Taiwan Straight helped to prevent a PRC invasion of Taiwan right after defeat on the mainland. US support for Chiang was instrumental in keeping his regime alive and supplied with military hardware for the next two decades.

The author cites four factors for Nationalist defeat: poor tactical leadership, poor soldier training, low morale and lack of effective KMT organization/propaganda. These all seem pretty much on target, although luck certainly played a role, too. Had the Japanese units in China waited to surrender to KMT or other Allied units, or if Truman had not asked for the Soviets to invade Manchuria, the CCP would have been much weaker in 1945 and Chiang might have had more time to consolidate his regime with US help. The author also cites economic hyperinflation as a key contributor to undermining the KMT regime - an interesting point. Overall, the author has written an interesting but incomplete synopsis of the Chinese Civil War and many aspects of the military struggle are covered in rather generic fashion.
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on April 25, 2015
This book is a great addition to the Ospery series. It is a fascinating story about a very important event in post war history that is not well known or understood. The author covers all the essential aspects of this enormous struggle. The prose is crisp and straightforward. The text is augmented with great maps.
The story of the Communist takeover of China is told here with balance and insight. The author compares and contrasts the two essential personalities involved in the war, Mao and Chiang with thought provoking prose that really helps the reader gain insight into this monumental, yet little known struggle. An excellent book.
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on July 9, 2010
This book provides a good overview of the Chinese Civil War in the years after World War II. The coverage of the political background to the war is particularly strong and the discussion of the roles of the US and USSR is even handed and thoughtful. The discussion of the brutal conditions endured by soldiers on both sides was also enlightening, though the sections on civilians felt under-developed. While the descriptions of the war's main campaigns were clear and well illustrated with maps and photos, I was disappointed by the lack of detail on the fighting - this appears to have been a victim of the relatively short length of this series of books. All up, this book succeeds in providing a summary of the war.
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