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Pai Ch'ung-hsi (1893-1966)


Photograph of Pai Ch'ung-hsi (Bai Chongxi)
Wikipedia Commons

Pai Ch'ung-hsi (Bai Chongxi) entered the Kwangsi army as a young man and rose rapidly until the army was destroyed in the chaos of 1921. He joined Li Tsung-jen in the mountains and helped wage a successful guerrilla campaign to regain control of Kwangsi in 1925. Along with the other Kwangsi generals, Pai joined the Kuomintang in 1925 and helped create the strategy for the Northern Expedition of 1926-1928, in which he led the column that took Shanghai. He was profoundly anti-Communist and backed Chiang Kai-shek in the split with the Chinese Communists in 1927, but he joined Li in his rebellion in 1929.  The collapse of the rebellion forced Li and Pai to flee to Hong Kong, but they returned the next year to establish a model provincial government in Kwangsi that continued to resist centralization of control by the national government.

Pai inflicted the worst setback the Communists suffered during the Long March, attacking when the two halves of the Communist force were separated by the Hsiang (Xiang) River and inflicting 50% casualties.

In May 1936, Pai joined with Li Tsung-jen and the Cantonese warlord, Ch'en Chi-tang, in criticizing Chiang for not resisting Japan more forcefully. The three also called for an expedition against the Japanese in north China. The Kuomintang responded by expelling Ch'en Chi-tang while confirming the Kwangsi leaders in their positions, thereby isolating Ch'en and linking Li and Pai more closely to the central government.  The proposal for an expedition was dropped.

When war broke out with the Japanese in 1937, Pai was in command of forces at Shanghai. When that city fell and the Japanese broke into the Yangtze river valley, Pai opposed the stand at Nanking, advocating instead a policy of trading space for time and counterattacking in force only when the Japanese logistics were stretched to their limits. However, Pai directed the Chinese forces at Taierzhuang that set a trap for the Japanese, who suffered over 8,000 dead. He also successfully repelled a Japanese landing in Kwangsi in 1939.

When the Pacific War broke out, Pai was Chiang's chief of staff. He later took command of the war area in the path of the Japanese Ichi-go offensive of 1944 but was largely unsuccessful in checking the Japanese advance.

After the Japanese surrender, Pai directed the Kuomintang occupation of Manchuria. He served briefly as War Minister but resigned in disgust when it became clear that Chiang had all real power. Returning to field command, Pai argued unsuccessfully against the disastrous Huai-hai campaign of November 1948-January 1949. He was unable to retreat with his army to Hainan and fled abroad, dying in exile.

A British intelligence report quoted by Fenby described Pai as

tall, well-built with a high intellectual forehead. A thinker and planner in the realms of both politics and strategy ... A sense of humor ... A Moslem who drinks wine and eats pork.

Pai had genuine military ability, but he was often overruled or denied supplies by Chiang, who had little reason to trust him.

Service record

1893     

Born in  Kwangsi province
1926
Lieutenant general     
Commander, 13 Army
1927

Commander, Shanghai and Woosung Garrison
1927

Commander, 2 Kuomintang Army
1931

Deputy commander, 4 Army Group
1937

Commander, 5 Route Army
1937

Deputy chief of staff, National Military Council
1937

Standing Committee, Central Executive Committee
1938

Minister of Board of Military Training
1938

Commander, 5 War Area
1939

Director, Kweilin Pacification Headquarters
1941

Chief of staff, Kuomintang Army
1945

Commander, 4 Army Group
1946

Minister of Defense
1948

Commander in chief, Hebei Province

References

Dupuy et al. (1992)

Fenby (2003)

Generals.dk (accessed 2008-1-31)
Hsiung and Levine (1992)



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