In the long struggle towards 1949, the Red Army in China had learnt a few tricks, both from the communists in Russia during the ‘civil’ war and from their own experiences. With fewer fighters, inferior equipment and fewer resources against Chang Kai-Shek’s superior forces (supplied and trained by the Germans, Italians, Americans and English), they had developed a number of rules of engagement.

1. Do not fight any losing battles. Unless there are strong indications of success, refuse engagement.

2. Surprise is the main offensive tactic of the well-led partisan group. Static war must be avoided. The partisan brigade has no auxiliary force, no rear, no line of supplies and communications except that of the enemy.

3. A careful and detailed plan of attack, and especially of retreat, must be worked out before any engagement is offered or accepted. Superior manoeuvring ability is a great advantage of the partisans, and errors in its manipulation mean extinction.

4. The greatest attention must be paid to the mintuan (the landlord militia), the first, last, and most determined line of resistance of the landlords. The mintuan must be destroyed militarily, but must, if at all possible, be won over politically to the side of the masses.

5. In a regular engagement with enemy troops the partisans must exceed the enemy in numbers. But if the enemy’s regular troops are moving, resting, or poorly guarded, a swift, determined, surprise flank attack on an organically vital spot of the enemy’s line can be made by a much smaller group. Many a Red ‘short attack’ was carried with only a few hundred against an enemy of thousands. Surprise, speed, courage, unwavering decision, flawlessly planned manoeuvre, and selection of the most vulnerable and vital spot in the enemy’s ‘anatomy’ are absolutely essential.

6. In actual combat the partisan line must have the greatest elasticity. Once it becomes obvious that their calculation of enemy strength or preparedness or fighting power is in error, the partisans should be able to disengage with the same speed as they began the attack.

7. The tactics of distraction, decoy, diversion, ambush, feint and irritation must be mastered. In Chinese these tactics are called ‘the principle of pretending to attack the east while attacking the west’.

8. Avoid engagements with the main force of the enemy, concentrating on the weakest link, or the most vital part.

9. Every precaution must be taken to prevent the enemy from locating the partisans’ main forces. For this reason, partisans should avoid concentrating in one place when the enemy is advancing, and should change their position frequently – two or three times in one day or night just before attack.

10. Besides superior mobility, the partisans, being inseparable from the local masses, have the advantage of superior intelligence; the greatest use must be made of this. Ideally, every peasant should be on the partisans’ intelligence staff.

From Edgar Snow, Red Star Over China, pp. 275-76.

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