Chu Teh 朱德 T. Yü-chieh 玉階 Chu Teh (18 December 1886-), commander in chief of the Chinese Communist forces for many years, became associated with Mao Tse-tung in 1928, when their forces combined to form the Fourth Red Army and to establish the central Communist base in Kiangsi. During the 1930's and early 1940's Chu and Mao developed the military and political tactics which established and gradually extended Communist power in rural areas. From 1950 to 1959 Chu served as vice chairman of the Peking government. He then became chairman of the standing committee of the National People's Congress.
The Chu family moved from Kwangtung to west China at the turn of the nineteenth century and settled in the Hung district, an isolated and mountainous area in northern Szechwan. Chu Teh's grandparents were buried in Szechwan, but the customs and dialect of their native Kwangtung were preserved in the family, until in Chu Teh's generation they began to speak Szechwanese as well as Cantonese. He had thirteen brothers and sisters, of whom eight reportedly were still living during the Second World War. His father died in 1920. His mother, who came from a family of itinerant actors, lived until 1944. About 1895, Chu Teh was adopted by his father's elder brother, who then was the titular head of the family.
Chu Teh received his elementary education according to traditional Chinese requirements in his native village of Tawan. He then moved to the county seat of Hung, some 30 miles to the north, where he lived at the home of his teacher, a scholar of advanced years who was attracted to the reform ideas of K'ang Yu-wei (q.v.). In 1905 he sat for the district examinations; but after the examination system was abolished and changes were made to modernize the educational system, he abandoned the usual schooling and obtained his father's consent to enroll in a modern school at Nanch'ung. In 1906-7 he studied at the Shunch'ing Higher Primary and Middle schools at Nanch'ung, where one of the teachers was Chang Lan (q.v.), a prominent Szechwanese scholar. Chu Teh went to Chengtu, where he studied at the Chengtu Higher Normal School in 1907-8. He then returned to his native district of Hung, where he taught physical education at a higher primary school recently opened by former classmates from Chengtu.
Chu Teh soon decided on a military career. With a group of young Szechwanese, he went to Kunming in 1909 to enroll in the Yunnan Military Academy, where he received instruction in modern military science and weapons. During his student days in Yunnan, Chu joined the T'ung-meng-hui and became associated with the Ko-lao-hui [elder brother society], a Chinese secret society with firm roots in southwest China. He also became acquainted with the Hunanese patriot and military leader Ts'ai O (q.v.), who had gone to Yunnan in the spring of 1911 at the invitation of the provincial viceroy to command the 37th Brigade and to teach at the Yunnan Military Academy. Through Ts'ai O, Chu Teh became acquainted with the ideas of Liang Ch'i-ch'ao (q.v.), who had been Ts'ai's teacher, and with concepts of military discipline and leadership drawn from the writings of the nineteenth-century Hunanese scholar-general Tseng Kuo-fan. Chu was graduated from the Yunnan Military Academy in July 1911. Chu then entered Ts'ai O's 37th Brigade as a second lieutenant in charge of ordnance. That brigade included a regiment of Szechwanese troops, to which Chu Teh, as a known T'ung-meng-hui activist, was assigned for political work. On 30 October 1911 Ts'ai O, as the senior military commander at Kunming with republican sympathies, led his brigade in a successful revolt against Manchu authority. The next day, Ts'ai O was selected by the revolutionaries as the first republican governor of Yunnan. Chu Teh and his Szechwanese regiment then returned to their native province to attack the erstwhile Manchu governor general Chao Erh-feng (see Chao Erh-sun), whose headquarters was at Suifu (Ipin). Chu patrolled the Suifu sector of Szechwan until the spring of 1912, when he returned to Kunming to become a detachment commander and instructor at the Yunnan Military Academy. In 1912 he also became a member of the Kuomintang. From 1913 to 1915 Chu, who had been promoted to major, was stationed on the Yunnan-Indo- China border.
Beginning in 1915 Chu Teh, with the rank of colonel, commanded the 10th Regiment of the revolutionary army in Yunnan. In December 1915 Chu Teh and his regiment participated in the revolt organized by Ts'ai O and Liang Ch'i-cha'o against Yuan Shih-k'ai, who planned to become monarch. In January 1916 Ts'ai O led the forces of his National Protection Army from Yunnan into southern Szechwan. Chu Teh participated in the sharp fighting against pro-Yuan units commanded by Ts'ao K'un (q.v.) along the southern border of Szechwan from Luchow (Luhsien) to Suifu. The fighting reached a stalemate, which was brought to an end only by the death of Yuan Shih-k'ai in June 1916. Ts'ai O was named governor of Szechwan in July 1916. He made Chu Teh commander of the 13th Mixed Brigade of the 7th Division of the Yunnan Army in Szechwan. That brigade, which included Chu Teh's 10th Regiment of Yunnan troops, had its headquarters at Luchow.
From 1916 to 1921, Chu Teh served as a brigadier general in southwestern Szechwan. The period was one of persistent strife among the Szechwan generals—some allied at various times with powerful northern commanders such as Wu P'ei-fu, others under the influence of T'ang Chi-yao (q.v.) in Yunnan. Chu learned much about political complexities and parochial attitudes. He also became acquainted with other Szechwanese military officers, notably Yang Sen (q.v.) and Liu Po-ch'eng (q.v.), who later became a prominent commander under Chu in the Chinese Communist forces. After 1919 Chu presided over a household composed of some 20 members of his family, including his parents and three married brothers who held posts under his command. Like many of his military contemporaries, he smoked opium.
In 1920, however, Chu Teh's semi-autonomous position was undermined when fighting broke out between the Szechwan generals and the Yunnan forces under the nominal authority of T'ang Chi-yao. Yang Sen and a regiment of the Yunnanese troops surrendered to the Szechwan general Liu Hsiang (q.v.). Chu and his Yunnan troops moved to Chengtu, but soon -were driven out. Chu retreated into Yunnan at the end of 1920 when the Szechwan generals declared the autonomy of their province. He allied himself with Ku Pin-chen, a Yunnan general opposed to T'ang Chi-yao. T'ang was driven out of Yunnan in 1921, and in September of that year Chu Teh was rewarded by being named commissioner of public security in the Yunnan provincial government. He held that post only briefly, however, because T'ang Chi-yao soon regained power in Yunnan and forced Chu Teh to retreat into the region between Szechwan and Tibet. Trekking through remote and mountainous terrain, Chu Teh crossed the Tatu river, reached Yaan in western Szechwan, and eventually arrived at Chungking.
Chu Teh then abandoned his active but unproductive career as a provincial military and police officer in Szechwan and sought new opportunities. In the winter of 1921 he visited Shanghai, where he talked with Sun Yat-sen and with Ch'en Tu-hsiu (q.v.). Chu determined to begin a new career; he succeeded in overcoming the opium habit at this time. In the autumn of 1922, with financial assistance from Yang Sen, he sailed from Shanghai for Europe.
After landing at Marseilles, Chu went to Paris, where he lived with Chinese students from Szechwan who had gone to France under the work-study program (see Li Shih-tseng). In October 1922 he moved to Germany, where he settled in Berlin. He met Chou En-lai, who was working to organize Chinese students in Western Europe, and joined the German branch of the Chinese Communist party in late 1922. After a year in Berlin studying German, he moved to the University of Göttingen in Lower Saxony. Although he was an indifferent student who had difficulty with German, Chu Teh retained his student status during 1923-24. He returned to Berlin in the spring of 1924; there he continued his political activities and helped to edit a mimeographed weekly Communist newsletter, allegedly the first Chinese-language periodical to be published in Germany. Together with Chou En-lai and others, Chu organized the German branch of the Kuomintang, since the Communists, in accord with Comintern policy, were collaborating with that party in Europe as well as in China. Chu remained in Europe after Chou En-lai returned to China in 1924.
Chu Teh participated in several student demonstrations which attracted the attention of the Berlin police. In 1925 he was arrested twice: once for protesting the arrest and execution of Communists in Bulgaria, and once for participating in anti-imperialist demonstrations that followed upon the May Thirtieth Incident in Shanghai. Because of his police record, Chu Teh was expelled from Germany in June 1926. He returned to China by way of the Soviet Union and arrived in Shanghai that summer.
In October 1926 Chiang Kai-shek appointed Yang Sen commander of the Twentieth Army of the National Revolutionary Army, then stationed in the Wanhsien-Ichang part of the Yangtze valley. Because of his earlier association with Yang, Chu Teh was made head of the political department of the Twentieth Army. He appointed workers to handle the tasks of political organization and indoctrination. When Yang Sen discovered that Marxist-Leninist influences had penetrated his 14th Division, he suddenly arrested and executed a number of important cadres. Chu Teh left the Twentieth Army and went to Kiangsi.
He arrived at Nanchang in January 1927 and got in touch with Chu P'ei-te (q.v.), the commander of the Third Army of the National Revolutionary Army, who was responsible for garrisoning the area. Chu Teh, who had been Chu P'ei-te's teacher years earlier at the Yunnan Military Academy, obtained a position with him at Nanchang. He was named to command a new officer training regiment, and he began at once to train cadets to serve as political workers. In April 1927 the Kuomintang headquarters at Wuhan named Chu P'ei-te governor of Kiangsi to succeed Li Lieh-chün. Chu immediately appointed Chu Teh to head the provincial public security bureau. During the first seven months of 1927, Chu Teh held important military training and security responsibilities at Nanchang.
Until the summer of 1927, Chu Teh concealed his Communist party membership and had no direct contact with the top command of the Chinese Communist party. On 1 August 1927, however, while Chu P'ei-te was absent from the city, Chu Teh made clear his affiliation by participating in a Communist attempt to seize Nanchang. Forces led by Ho Lung and Yeh T'ing (qq.v.), with the assistance of Chu Teh's men, surrounded and disarmed the two regiments that Chu P'ei-te had assigned to guard the city. The Nanchang uprising, later celebrated as the birth of the Chinese Communist army, was shortlived. When Nanchang proved untenable, the rebels marched southward to establish a base in Kwangtung. Chu Teh then commanded a mixed force made up largely of former garrison troops and cadets from Nanchang. In September 1927 the retreating Communists took Swatow, but were driven out after a week. Chu assembled the remnants of his forces and marched to Jaop'ing, Kwangtung.
In Kwangtung, the Communists were given shelter and rations by Fan Shih-sheng, a Yunnan army commander associated with the Third Army of the National Revolutionary Army. Fan then controlled northern Kwangtung and adjacent areas of southern Hunan. The troops under Chu Teh's command were temporarily enrolled as a unit of Fan Shih-sheng's army. After the defeat of the Communists at Canton in December 1927, however, the Kuomintang authorities at Canton ordered Fan to disarm Chu Teh's troops. Fan permitted the Communists to leave, and Chu ordered his men to move into southern Hunan. There, in January 1928, they occupied the town of Ichang, raised the Communist flag, and established a soviet government. However, Chu Teh's forces soon were driven northward into central Hunan, where they were designated the First Division of the Chinese Workers and Peasants Revolutionary Army. Ch'en Yi (1901-; q.v.) served as political commissar.
During the winter months, Chu Teh's group had established contact with another small band of Communists, led by Mao Tse-tung, who had retreated to the Ching-kang mountains on the Kiangsi border after Mao failed in his attempt to foment a peasant uprising in Hunan in the autumn of 1927. The two Communist groups were united in April 1928, and Chu Teh and Mao Tse-tung met for the first time. The two men combined their military forces to form the Fourth Red Army, with Chu Teh as commander and Mao Tse-tung as political commissar. The name of the army was selected to commemorate the Communists in the Nationalist Fourth Army (see Chang Fa-k'uei), which had revolted at Nanchang in August 1927. The troops of the Fourth Red Army remained in their inaccessible Ching-kang mountain refuge through 1928.
Nationalist military pressure then forced them to retreat. Leaving P'eng Te-huai (q.v.) to fight a rearguard action, Chu and Mao made their way across Kiangsi. In 1930 they established a base at Juichin in southeastern Kiangsi and began to build what was to become the central Communist base. From 1929 to 1931 Chu Teh campaigned in western Fukien and in the East River district of Kwangtung. Late in 1929, he was driven out of Kwangtung by the Cantonese general Ts'ai T'ing-k'ai (q.v.) and was forced to retreat into southern Kiangsi. In mid- 1930 the Chinese Communist party organization, then dominated by Li Li-san, called for frontal attacks on cities in central China with the purpose of gaining control over the strategically important Yangtze valley. The Chu-Mao forces attacked Nanchang, but soon abandoned their efforts; P'eng Te-huai's assaults on Changsha, Hunan, also were unsuccessful. Chu Teh briefly occupied the city of Kian, Kiangsi, in October 1930, but he and Mao apparently withdrew their support of the Li Li-san group in Shanghai.
By 1931 Chu Teh's army, now known as the First Army Group of the Chinese Workers and Peasants Red Army, was the strongest of the Chinese Communist military units in central China. This supremacy was confirmed in November 1931, when the Chinese Communists in Kiangsi convened the first All-China Congress of Soviets at Juichin. Mao Tse-tung was elected chairman of the central soviet government and Chu Teh was made commander in chief of the Chinese Workers and Peasants Red Army. The congress established a formal government and elected a central executive council of 63 members. Chu Teh was elected to the council and was named commissar for military affairs of the Chinese soviet republic. He also became chairman of the revolutionary military committee.
As Communist strength in the rural areas of south central China increased, the Kuomintang, having established a new National Government at Nanking in October 1928, worked to consolidate military and political power throughout China. Beginning in the winter of 1930, Chiang Kai-shek launched five successive campaigns to destroy the Communists' bases and to defeat their armies. From 1931 to 1934, Chu Teh played a leading role in directing the Communist military operations in Kiangsi, and his reputation as an able and imaginative combat commander increased. As commander in chief of the Red Army, he established firm working relationships with the military officers who later led the Communist armies to conquer the entire mainland, and he also became popular with the Communist troops. Chu also rose in political prominence. He was elected to membership on the Political Bureau in January 1934, when the sixth Central Committee met at Juichin just before the opening of the second All-China Congress of Soviets.
By the autumn of 1934, Chiang Kai-shek's troops finally had surrounded the Kiangsi base. The Communists were forced to evacuate the base. Chu Teh took charge of the actual military evacuation, which began in October 1934. He assigned Hsiang Ying (q.v.) and Ch'en Yi to remain behind and divert a portion of the Nationalist troops. The main body of the Communist forces from Kiangsi then began the historic Long March. During that journey Chu Teh served as the commander of the First Front Army. Mao Tse-tung supposedly gained control within the Chinese Communist party at a special meeting of the Political Bureau held at Tsunyi, Kweichow, in January 1935, but he still met with some opposition in the party. In July 1935 the Communist forces from Kiangsi succeeded in making a rendezvous in mountainous northwest Szechwan with the Communist Fourth Front Army under Chang Kuo-t'ao and Hsu Hsiang-ch'ien (qq.v.), which had moved to Szechwan in 1932. After debate regarding policy and long-term aims, the Communist forces separated. Chang Kuo-t'ao, with Chu Teh and Liu Po-ch'eng as well as Hsu Hsiang-ch'ien, moved westward into Sikang. Mao Tse-tung, with P'eng Te-huai, Lin Piao, and the First Front Army, pushed northward into Shensi province. Communist statements made after 1936 indicated that Chu had either been held under duress by Chang Kuo-t'ao or else had voluntarily accompanied Chang to avoid fighting between the Communist forces; some observers suggested that Chu broke with Mao Tse-tung at that critical juncture on the Long March. In any event, the Communists in Sikang were joined in June 1936 by the Communist Second Front Army of Ho Lung and Hsiao K'o, which had been forced to flee from its Hunan-Hupeh-Szechwan-Kweichow base. Perhaps through the influence of Jen Pi-shih (q.v.), the political commissar of the Second Front Army, the decision finally was made to leave Sikang and to march northward. Chu Teh arrived at the Communist base in Shensi in October 1936 and rejoined Mao Tse-tung.
After the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war in July 1937 and the uneasy combination between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communists, Chu Teh continued to hold high office at the Communist wartime capital at Yenan. In 1937 he became commander in chief of the Communist Eighth Route Army, with P'eng Te-huai as his deputy. In January 1938 the National Government officially designated it the Eighteenth Army Group and appointed Chu Teh deputy commander of the First War Area and a member of the Supreme National Defense Council. Chu was active for a brief period on the Shansi front in the winter of 1937, but commanded no troops in later war years.
During the Second World War, Chu continued to be one of the prominent Communist leaders; he was commander in chief of the Chinese Communist military forces and also was vice chairman of the People's Revolutionary Military Council, headed by Mao Tse-tung. In the party hierarchy, he ranked second on the Political Bureau and was a member of the five-man Secretariat of the Central Committee. By the spring of 1945, when the Chinese Communist party convened its Seventh National Congress at Yenan, party membership had expanded to 1,200,000, and regular Communist armed forces to 900,000 men. Chu Teh's senior position was recognized officially when he was elected the second-ranking member of the presidium of the congress. The 24 April 1945 session was highlighted by Mao Tse-tung's opening political report, On Coalition Government, which summed up Chinese Communist political planning as it had developed during the Yenan period. The following day, Chu Teh gave the major military report, Lun chieh-fang-ch'ü chanch'ang (The Battle Front of the Liberated Areas), which reviewed the experiences of the 1937-45 war years and set forth the military tasks the Chinese Communists would have to accomplish. In June 1945, at the conclusion of the Seventh National Congress, Chu Teh was elected the second-ranking member, after Mao Tse-tung, of the Central Committee, the Political Bureau, and the Secretariat of the Chinese Communist party.
By the time of the Japanese defeat in 1945, the Communists controlled some 19 Communistorganized base areas. Immediately after the announcement of the Japanese surrender, Yenan issued orders to troops under its command to "step up the war effort," to accept the surrender of Japanese troops and Chinese puppet troops, and to take over their arms and equipment. Two telegrams from the commander of the Eighteenth Army Group to Chiang Kai-shek (11 and 16 August 1945) stated that the Communists were proceeding independently in handling Japanese surrender arrangements, in defiance of National Government orders. The Communists later confirmed that Mao Tse-tung himself, not Chu Teh, had drafted these messages.
After the collapse of United States mediation efforts in China and after the outbreak of civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists in the summer of 1946, Chu Teh was named commander in chief of the People's Liberation Army, the official designation of the Chinese Communist military forces. In March 1947, when a Nationalist drive forced the Communists to evacuate Yenan, the high command separated. Mao Tse-tung, Chou En-lai, and Jen Pi-shih remained in northern Shensi, while Liu Shao-ch'i, Chu Teh, and an alternate working group moved to the Communist-controlled Shensi-Chahar-Hopei base. In early 1949, after the Communist capture of the major north China cities of Tientsin and Peiping, the party leaders reunited in Hopei. Late in March 1949, they moved to Peiping, where Chu Teh established the headquarters of the People's Liberation Army. He continued to head the army until 1954.
Chu Teh was almost 63 when the Chinese Communists established a new regime at Peking in October 1949. In recognition of his long association with Mao Tse-tung, he was elected senior-ranking vice chairman of the Central People's Government. In 1954 he became vice chairman of the People's Republic of China and of the newly organized National Defense Council. When Mao Tse-tung announced at the end of 1958 that he planned to relinquish his administrative responsibilities as chief of state, it was thought that Chu Teh might succeed him in that office. In April 1959, however, the Second National People's Congress elected Liu Shao-ch'i Chairman of the Central People's Government and Madame Sun Yat-sen (Soong Ch'ing-ling, q.v.) and Tung Pi-wu (q.v.) vice chairmen. At the same time, Chu Teh relinquished his office as vice chairman of the National Defense Council and became chairman of the standing committee of the National People's Congress.
In August 1955 Chu headed the Chinese Communist delegation to the tenth anniversary celebrations of the victory over Japan, held at Pyongyang, North Korea. In December 1955 he led the Chinese Communist party delegation to attend the second congress of the Rumanian Workers' party in Bucharest. In January 1956 he visited Berlin to attend the celebrations marking the eightieth birthday of the East German Communist leader Wilhelm Pieck. He then visited other Communist countries of Eastern Europe. In February 1956 Chu Teh, with Teng Hsiao-p'ing (q.v.) as his deputy, headed the Chinese Communist delegation to the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. At the congress, Nikita Khrushchev made a bitter statement denouncing Stalin. The top command of the Chinese Communist party later charged that Khrushchev's speech had been given without prior consultation with Peking or with the leaders of other Communist bloc parties. The fact that Chu Teh made favorable mention of Stalin in a conventional speech of greetings at the congress indicates that neither he nor Mao had advance knowledge of Khrushchev's plans. The Chinese Communist party leadership reacted slowly to Khrushchev's statement. Chu Teh remained in the Soviet Union for more than a month after the end of the congress and made a trip to Warsaw to attend the funeral of the Polish Communist leader Boleslaw Bierut. After leaving the Soviet Union, Chu stopped briefly at Ulan Bator (Urga) in the Mongolian People's Republic to confer with Mongol leaders before returning to Peking on 2 April 1956. On 5 April, the Peking People's Daily published its first major editorial on the "de-Stalinization" question.
In September 1955 Chu Teh became the first Chinese Communist general to be awarded the rank of Marshal of the People's Republic of China; at that time he also received all top military decorations of the regime: the Order of August First, first class; the Order of Independence and Freedom, first class; and the Order of Liberation, first class. After 1955, however, Chu Teh did not take an active part in the affairs of the headquarters of the People's Liberation Army, or in the key military affairs committee of the Chinese Communist party. As the elder statesman of the military establishment, he did participate in the important military conference held by the Chinese Communist top command from May to July 1958.
Chu Teh still retained his senior position in the Chinese Communist party. When the Eighth National Congress met in September 1956, he was elected to the fifth position on the Central Committee, ranking after Mao Tsetung, Liu Shao-ch'i, Lin Po-ch'ü, and Teng Hsiao-p'ing. After that congress, Chu was elected a vice chairman of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist party and a member of the standing committee of the Political Bureau.
Chu Teh's first wife, whom he married in the autumn of 1912, was the daughter of a Yunnanese who had been active in the reform movement of 1898 and in the revolution of 1911 She died in 1916 after giving birth to a son. In 1917 Chu married Ch'en Yu-chen, a Szechwanese girl from a small town near Luchou, where Chu was then serving. Ch'en had been active in the revolution of 1911 and had taken part in the opposition to Yuan Shih-k'ai's monarchical attempt in 1916. Chu and his second wife later separated. In 1928, after his return from Europe, Chu Teh married Wu Lan-ying, an educated Hunanese whom Chu met when his Communist forces occupied her native place. She was captured and executed by the governor of Hunan in 1929. Shortly thereafter, Chu Teh married K'ang K'o-ch'ing, a girl in her late teens who was a Communist guerrilla in Kiangsi. Chu met her when his troops were campaigning in the vicinity of her native Wanan, a small town on the Kan River. K'ang K'o-ch'ing, one of the few women who survived the rigors of the Long March, spent the years of the Sino-Japanese war at Yenan. She helped mobilize the women of China for political purposes. After 1949 she served on several overseas cultural missions. In September 1957 she became a vice chairman of the Women's Federation of China.
Aside from several statements on Communist military doctrine made in 1937 and 1938, Chu Teh's principal published work on military affairs was his report at the Seventh National Congress of the Chinese Communist party in April 1945. An official English translation, The Battle Front of the Liberated Areas, was published at Peking in 1952 (revised edition, 1962). Chu Teh recounted portions of his career in a series of interviews with the American correspondent Agnes Smedley in Shensi in 1937. Miss Smedley supplemented Chu's account in preparing an English version; the resulting book was published in New York in 1956 under the title The Great Road.