The war to resist aggression has been successfully begun in Korea. We are now witnessing both the courage of the Korean people and the brutality of US imperialism.
Since mid-July the US imperialists have retreated south, swiftly massing their forces in the Taegu region in the south of the Korean Peninsula and trying to entice the Korean People’s Army to attack them. The newly formed Korean People’s Army is courageously forging ahead, determined to drive the American soldiers into the sea. The current situation shows that the war will be a long one.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a new country and the Korean People’s Army is a young force; we are impressed by its valor in combat. Taking advantage of his temporary superiority, the enemy has embarked on conspiracy. Right now the Korean people are confronted with difficulties, but they are holding on courageously, fighting a guerrilla war in the south and putting up resistance in the north. The struggle continues, and so long as they persist, new strength can be generated to defeat the enemy. North Korea has a small territory and all it has to rely on is its 9 million people. They are to be commended for resisting such a formidable foe with what forces they can muster and for being determined to fight for a long time. We cannot but express our admiration.
The Korean question is an international one and it cannot be separated from other international questions. As the Korean people fight on, their struggle will take on more importance internationally. Meanwhile, if they are to win, they must secure international assistance, especially now that they are in difficulty. We should uphold revolutionary morality. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must be victorious; otherwise, a wedge will be driven into the peace camp. And if that happens in Korea, more wedges will successively be driven elsewhere. If the enemy breaks down the east gate and makes his way into our house, how can we devote ourselves to construction?
China and Korea are neighboring countries as closely related as lips and teeth. If the lips are gone, the teeth are exposed to the cold. If the DPRK is subjugated by US imperialism, there will be no security for northeast China. Half of our heavy industry is in the Northeast, and half of the heavy industry in the Northeast is in its southern part, within range of enemy bombers. Just in the two months between August 27 and yesterday, planes of the US imperialists have invaded our airspace 12 times. Recently they not only flew over the Yalu River but came to Kuandian on reconnaissance, strafing and bombing missions. If the US imperialists get close to the Yalu River, how can we have the peace of mind to go about production?
To rebuild China we need to spend from three to five years restoring production, and that is what we are now doing. We have recently drawn up the economic plan for 1951. In accordance with our persistent wish to increase expenditures on economic and cultural development, military spending is reduced from 43 percent of this year’s budget to 30 percent of next year’s. This means that 70 percent of the budget is devoted to economic construction and cultural and educational undertakings, to raising the living standards of government employees and teachers, to purchasing surplus grain from peasants and expanding the production of daily necessities. However, the enemy will not let us fulfill this plan. In a recent letter to Chairman Mao, Henry Wallace expressed the hope that China would manufacture tractors and not divert its resources to building tanks. The fact is that the enemy will not permit us to undertake construction; we are forced to forego manufacturing tractors.
Passive defense would not work; besides, it would be costly. For instance, renovating an airport requires the equivalent of 50,000 tons of millet. If eight were to be renovated in the Northeast and three south of the Great Wall, more than 500,000 tons of millet would be needed. Moreover, substantial expenditures would have to be made for other facilities as well. Then too, factories would have to be moved elsewhere, and that would disrupt our plans for industrial production. Militarily, leaving aside the question of equipment, there is the question of manpower. As the defense line stretched more than 500 kilometers along the Yalu River, countless numbers of troops would be required. Moreover, we would have to keep them there year after year, not knowing when the enemy might invade. Under such circumstances, how could we concentrate on production and construction? Besides, if the enemy succeeded in occupying the DPRK, he would not stop at that. Therefore, if we consider the position the DPRK occupies in the East and its future prospects, we have no choice but to offer it our assistance; and if we consider our relations, which are as close as lips and teeth, the conclusion is the same. We are not just inviting trouble: the enemy is setting fire to our door.
A month ago—that is, before the landing of American troops at Inchon—we wondered whether the US imperialists would halt when they reached the 38th parallel and would then open diplomatic talks. After they seized Seoul, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru told us that it had been agreed at the meeting of foreign ministers of the United States, Britain and France that the 38th Parallel would not be crossed and that if it were, the matter would be brought up for a vote at the United Nations. According to our information, however, they were attempting to lull us into a false sense of security while actually planning to cross the 38th Parallel. Once the crossing was effected, they meant to attack China. We saw through this ploy and therefore stated on September 30: We cannot let the US imperialists’ aggression against Korea go unheeded. News dispatches of October 1 and 2 indicated that US troops had already crossed the 38th Parallel and that the South Korean army had penetrated far north of it. We pointed out to the Indian ambassador to China that what had actually come to pass was different from what Nehru had said would happen and that we could not stand aloof from the Korean question. We asked him to pass that message to Bevin through Nehru. A few days passed, but the enemy continued to advance. Soon afterwards, Bevin indicated to me through Nehru that the enemy troops, having crossed the 38th Parallel, would come to a halt when they were 40 miles from the Yalu River. At that time they had already entered Pyongyang, and at this moment they are continuing their thrust north. It is obvious that they are cheating us once again. If this goes on, if we sit idly by without going to the rescue, the enemy will surely continue his advance, becoming increasingly blatant in his aggression, until he reaches the Yalu River and then makes his next move.
Therefore, we must intervene. But how? A policy decision has to be made. We have intervened before. For instance, we brought the case up at the United Nations, denouncing the act of aggression. But that is no longer enough, and a new policy decision has to be made. The policy of the US imperialists is to engineer a war and gradually escalate it. If we resist the enemy and strike back at him, he may pull in his horns. Otherwise, he will certainly continue his advance as planned.
The US imperialists are pursuing the policy of MacArthur in the East, using Japan as their base, inheriting the mantle of Japanese militarism and taking their cue from history since the Sino-Japanese War of 1894. They are following the old maxim that anyone wanting to annex China must first occupy its Northeast and that to occupy the Northeast he must first seize Korea. While the Japanese imperialists spent 40 years inching their way towards that goal, the US imperialists want to accomplish it in four or five years.
The historical lesson is as follows: When faced with aggression by the Japanese imperialists, one party in China was for resisting while the other party was for making concessions. And concessions were made until the July 7 Incident of 1937. Had it not been for the fight put up by the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese people, there would have been no resistance to Japanese aggression. The Sino-Japanese War of 1894 was a kind of resistance, but it was resistance offered by the rulers and led by a corrupt imperial court. It enjoyed no popular support and ended in failure. If a people’s state had been in place, the outcome would have been different.
It would be a mistake to offer no resistance to US imperialism. That would place us in a passive position, and the enemy would first take an inch and then reach for an ell. On the other hand, if we fight back and cause the enemy to get bogged down in a quagmire in Korea, he will no longer be able to attack China, and even his plan to dispatch troops to Western Europe may be upset. In that case, the internal contradictions between the United States and its allies will grow. In short, if we make concessions, it will only alleviate their internal contradictions, whereas if we intervene, it will aggravate those contradictions. Only if we intervene will the relative strength of the enemy forces and our own be changed. But our way of intervening in the past has now proved ineffective: to be effective it must be backed up by force.
To us the Korean question is not merely a Korean question. Related to it is the Taiwan question. Taking a position against China, the US imperialists have extended their line of defense to the Taiwan Straits, while professing non-aggression and non-interference. They have invaded Korea without justification. If we send troops to intervene, we are justified by the need to defend ourselves and the entire peace camp.
The US imperialists are attempting to intimidate another nation by brute force. We should foil their attempt and oblige them to retreat in the face of difficulties and setbacks. Then it will be possible to settle the question. We shall exercise restraint. If the enemy does retreat, the issue can then be settled through negotiation either at the United Nations or outside the United Nations. For we want peace, not war. The Korean people should be left to settle their own problems, and all foreign troops must be withdrawn. If the Korean question is settled well and if US imperialism does meet with a setback, there may be a change in the situation regarding the Taiwan Straits and the East as a whole. We must work hard for such a change by rallying the people at home and abroad.
However, there is another possibility. As fighting intensifies, the enemy may become more bellicose and make an incursion into the mainland, thereby expanding the war. It is possible that he may stake everything he has on such a move, because there are some among the US imperialists who are spoiling for a fight. We must be prepared for that. We do not want to see the war expanded, but if the enemy wants to expand it, there is nothing that can be done. If our generation is forced to go through a third world war, we shall have to meet it head-on so that our descendants can enjoy peace forever. But we will never instigate a world war. We must do all we can to turn the first possibility into a reality, to make peace a reality. Nevertheless, we must be prepared to deal with the second possibility, to cope with another world war.
Now that we mean to back up our intervention with force, are our forces adequate for the task?
Our army is strong enough, but our navy and air force are not adequate because we began to build them only in the spring of last year. Should we then wait to mount the resistance until our forces have gained strength? No. If we did that, the enemy would overpower the DPRK and become even more domineering, and the balance of forces would be even more in his favor. So we must examine the question from all angles, taking into account its probable evolution. We must increase our strength and temper ourselves in the course of the struggle. The revolutionary forces may sometimes seem to be in an inferior position, but as the struggle develops that will change. Of course, it will take time and we shall have to pay a price. We must also look to the defense of the mainland. The enemy may come and bomb us or use Chiang Kai-shek’s air force to do the job, or he may land on our shores and harass us. We must therefore strengthen our defenses. Politically, we can count on the support of allied and friendly nations as we strive for peace. So far as methods are concerned, we shall provide our assistance in the form of volunteers so that there is no need to declare war. We should give wide publicity to the movement to resist US aggression, aid Korea and defend peace. We must also suppress enemy agents making trouble at home and consolidate unity among the people. Meantime, economic construction must not be suspended. We should rehabilitate key branches of heavy industry, proceed unswervingly with water conservancy, railway and textile projects, and try to raise people’s living standards.
(from Selected Works of Zhou Enlai, Volume II)