Xibei San Ma
Playing as Communist China can be very challenging, but also very rewarding at the end. You start small, you are at war and nobody likes you. Your main opponent is Nationalist China - your neighbors with different ideology that are so desperate to get rid of you. And if you're not careful, they will do so without hesitation.
Here are a few considerations about Communist China's general gameplay. More specific options are discussed in the "Strategies" part.
As Communist China, research depends largely on what grand strategy you chose from the start (see : Strategies).
Communist China has decent tech teams for infantry, artillery and some industrial techs ; and a hardly average team for land doctrines. All other research fields are terrible : you especially have no tech team until past 1945 able to do naval or air research. Which doesn't mean that you will not need said techs : just that it will take years to complete.
Globally, if you plan to do anything else but wage a land war with infantry divisions, you will have to plan it very early.
If you're patient enough to play the game into the late 40's and 50's, a few good tech teams become available for naval, air and even nuclear research. But by that time you will probably be already annexed by Nationalist China... or already the master of the world.
Communist China starts with a rather large manpower pool, and also enjoys the blueprints for "infantry 1936", which makes infantry the most suited unit to produce from the start. Do not overlook the usefulness of militia : they can be lifesavers when you need to defend a front while sending your best troops to an offensive elsewhere. Artillery brigades are also very useful, to hold the frontline or to launch offensives with reduced losses against Japanese troops.
Remeber that Communist China's manpower poll, though large, is not infinite, especially if you remain in your 3 home provinces from the start : brigaded infantry divisions can be more appropriate than swarms of militia if manpower becomes scarce, especially if your commanders reach their command limit.
Mountain units can be very useful, but they take longer and are more expensive. There are a lot of mountains in China though, so it's up to you. Don't bother building tanks or mec/mot divisions because you simply have no fuel to support them.
Since you will wage a war of large infantry armies against other large infantry armies (be it Japan or Nationalist China), you will absolutely need at least one headquarter to be able to launch large offensives.
Some possible strategies (see : Strategies) will require a navy, which basically means a very early planning, too.
Your natural trade partner from the start of the game is the Soviet Union. As long as you are not at war with Sinkiang or have some sort of access to Mongolia, you will be able to trade with them.
Nevertheless, provided you are at peace or have a free access to the sea (i.e., before the war against Japan), you can trade with virtually anyone : the UK or France will often offer you fair deals despite the poor relation.
A general HOI2 tip which is especially useful for Communist China : when trading with a partner with whom you have a poor relation, remember to make numerous small deals so that the relations raise up quickly over time : every deal where 1 or more units of raw materials is exchanged helps to improve the relation. Even with a trade partner who totally hates you (e.g. Japan), you can make a series of small, one-sided deals (e.g. one energy against nothing), and the relation will quickly raise up to +50. You can then cancel those deals without suffering any other penalty than the monetary cost of cancelling a deal (remember to group all deals with that country beforehand).
Everybody except for Soviet Union pretty much hates you. Unfortunately, the USSR is quite isolationist at the beginning of the game, and will not let you enter an alliance until it's too late.
Moreover, you start with very little income : you should think carefully about whom you need to influence past +50. Nevertheless, when trying to gain the favors of another country, you can and should always use trade deals to raise the relation from -200 to +50. (see : Trade)
Communist China does not have so many leaders, but enjoys a rather large manpower pool : ultimately, you want all your leaders to be field marshals, to be able to lead large armies into battle. To obtain that, split your initial army into armies of one division each, to let as many leaders as possible gain experience. Promote them before their skill level is too high, so that they keep earning experience at a fast pace. My advice : promote every leader who reaches skill 3 - or skill 2 if you really need high rank leaders quickly. But if you're a hardcore gamer, look into your leader's stats to see what max rank and max skill they have, and act accordingly...
Your initial troops enjoy high experience : do not let it drop after many casualties. Be careful to stop battles when the outcome does not look good, and make sure to reinforce to max strength after each battle so as not to dilute the experienced troops too much at once.
You start full central planning, totally left and authoritarian. There's no use moving those sliders since it would take years to obtain the bonuses from the other end of the ladder.
But you can start switching toward "professional army" since your default land doctrine path ("human wave") does not give a very high organisation by itself. "Interventionism" is another option, but your consumer goods needs are already quite low, so the benefits are not huge : besides that, Mao has a trait that will let your belligerence diminish faster during peace time but increase during war time, adding to the "interventionism" slider effect.
The difficulty with playing Com. China is that the global strategy that will best serve your goals depends entirely on random factors, of which you have no control. These random factors are :
- The Xi'an incident : it is twice random. First, it fires at a random date, usually in March or April 1936, but sometimes much later, or even not at all. Then, Nat. China will have a choice to force a white peace with you, to continue the war, or to forge the unified front. (in Armageddon at least)
- The Marco Polo bridge incident and the Japanese declaration of war : Japan is likely to declare war against Nat. China at the Marco Polo bridge incident ; but it may also choose to avoid the war ; or it may also declare war against Nat. China, Com. China or a warlord much earlier.
- The Unified front : after Japan is at war, Nat. China will have a choice to force Com. China and the warlords into an alliance, or not.
The different strategies exposed here are designed to deal with different risk/reward approaches regarding those random factors.
Important warning ! The annexion of Nationalist China, mentioned in several strategies as a possible option, is at best uneasy : after Nationalist China defeats Guangxi Clique, there is a Chinese victory point in Hainan, which is separated from the mainland by a narrow body of water. The Chinese fleet, though small, can block its access to your troops. If you're lucky they will let your troops cross the strait ; but if the AI has minimal skill, they won't. On top of that, your initial provinces have no access to the sea ; Shanxi (once you annex them...) do offer shore provinces but no harbor ; and you start without the technologies needed to build an harbor and any kind of warship. If you want to have anything floating at sea before mid-1937 to land in Hainan and annex Nationalist China, you will have to plan it very carefully from the start (see below : "The Way of the Wanderer" for details).
The Way of Passivity
This is the "historical" way : do nothing from the start except defend your initial position, and later wage war against Japan along the rest of China.
You hope that Nat. China will hold against Japan, that Japan will declare war against the USA and lose, that the USSR will declare war against Japan and win, and that the "Manchuria to Mao" event will happen. Then hope for the best when the Chinese civil war reignites.
I personnaly never saw the "Manchuria to Mao" event trigger in a 1936 campaign : the game needs to play absolutely historically until the end of the war in the Pacific, and chances are that it won't.
In this Way, you will be restricted to your base 5 IC, 1 tech slot and 3 provinces until Japan is defeated, but you will be allied with Nat. China and the warlords. Raise your relation with Nat. China and trade for blueprints so you can make the maximum with your only tech slot.
The Way of Prudence
This way supposes that Nat. China will choose peace at the Xi'an incident. It differs slightly from the historical path, but with the same aim : to make sure to oust Japan out of China.
In the war against Nat. China, let your commanders gain as much experience as they can, but avoid to destroy Nat. Chinese armies. When the Xi'an incident event fire :
- if Nat. China chooses peace, rejoice and read below.
- if Nat. China chooses war, change tactics and go for the kill : see the Way of War.
- if Nat. China chooses to forge the united front, you're screwed : you're bound to follow the Way of Passivity.
As soon as your troops have redeployed in your mainland after the Xi'an incident, the next step is to attack and annex Shanxi. Since they are not yet allied with Nat. China, they will not be automatically annexed when you have more than 50% of their victory points : take your time and conquer them fully with minimal losses. You can even stay at war a little longer to spare consumer goods : in that case, remember to annex before the Unified front triggers.
Now that Shanxi has been conquered, you share a border with Japan : it's vital to raise your relation with Japan to +50 as soon as possible, even before the annexion of Shanxi (see : Trade) or they will declare war against you (and you only) long before the Marco Polo bridge incident.
You now have 21 IC, 2 tech slots, and about 1 year to prepare for the Japanese invasion.
- During the war against Japan, advancing Chinese troops in Manchuria will claim provinces for Com. China, since your provinces are the one on the border with Japan/Manchuria. Do not annex Manchuria though, because Nat. China would receive all the territory, since they are the leader of the alliance, and those provinces are national for them too.
- This Way gives the best chance that the Chinese will defeat the Japanese, and lets you prepare for the Civil war with a reasonable industrial base (Shanxi, later Manchuria and maybe Korea).
- You will have Nationalist China as a trading partner, and can obtain many blueprints from them during the war against Japan.
- If Nat. China picks "Arrest them all" (i.e. war) at the Xi'an incident, you will have less initial advantage against them than with the Way of War.
- Nat. China will still be more powerful than you after the war against Japan, and the Civil war may be tricky.
The Way of War
The goal is here to defeat Nat. China before the war against Japan.
During the first months of the game :
- try to pocket and destroy as many Nat. Chinese armies as you can.
- do not declare war against any warlord.
- advance prudently into Nat. China territory.
If Nat. China chooses peace (most likely option)
Redeployed in Yan'an : your next goal is Shanxi. As soon as your troops are ready, declare war and rush to annex.
Then mass your troops in the newly conquered Jinan (southern border with Nat. China). The war between Guangxi Clique and Nat. China should start very soon : as soon as it happens, declare war against Nat. China and rush to Nanjing and Shanghai while their troops are away, then fortify a defensive line and try to hold your gains.
Pocket and destroy as many divisions as you can. If Guangxi is doing well, use their border as an anvil to destroy nat. Chinese forces. Guangxi usually does not last long though, but you now have more IC than Nat. China, and eventually more tech teams : outproduce them and maybe you'll be able to annex before Japan enters the dance.
Note that since annexion of Nationalist China is quite difficult and largely random due to the victory point in Hainan, your best choice would probably be to puppet Nat. China : you will receive everything excepted Nanjing ( see the "important warning" in the foreword about annexion ). Another option is to sign a peace treaty giving you as much of China as possible, including Hainan : and then to shamelessly break it and conquer what remains (if you don't mind playing dirty and seeing your belligerance skyrocket).
If the nationalists are still too strong to let you hope a quick victory (June 1937 is your deadline here), try to obtain a favorable peace, including the province of Lanzhou. If you still have time, now that you have a land connexion to the warlords, try to conquer Yunnan and what remains of Guangxi Clique (6 IC and 8 IC respectively), then prepare to defend against Japan. It's unlikely that you'll have time to go after Tibet and Sinkyang in the far west.
If Japan declares war before you could defeat Nat. China, try to obtain a favorable peace treaty. Don't expect too much though : even if you obtain a large buffer of provinces across the Yellow River, you still won't receive that many IC or ressources.
With this strategy, it is vital to raise your relation with Japan as soon as possible : offer them a new deal of 1 something against nothing every week until you reach +50 - if you don't do that they will declare war against you, while all your troops are deep down into China, and you'll have a hard time to recover (and you'll be forced to accept any peace treaty Nat. China will be ready to take altogether).
If the Xi'an incident does not fire or if Nat. China chooses war
Continue from you positions toward Nanjing. Try to annex Nat. China, if you can. If the annexion seems too difficult to reach, try to obtain a peace treaty where you receive at least Lanzhou. Once Nat. China is annexed or once you have Lanzhou, go and conquer Yunnan, Guangxi and Shanxi. If you lack time before the Japanese aggression, conquer only Shanxi.
If Nat. China chooses to forge the united front
As usual : you're bound to follow the Way of Passivity.
- You can get rid of Nationalist China before the Unified front, or at least grab significant gains before it happens.
- If you puppet Nat. China, you can obtain a few blueprints from them.
- This strategy works also if China picks "Arrest them all" (i.e. war) at the Xi'an incident.
- Annexion of Nationalist China is difficult.
- China as a whole will be weaker against Japan during the first years of the war.
- You're very vulnerable to a Japanese early attack while you're busy in China.
- You get 20 points of belligerance after breaking the peace treaty that Nationalist China forced upon you at the Xi'an incident.
The Way of the Wanderer
This is the strategy that will give you the best possible outcome as Communist China in the 1936 campaign, but it requires a very careful micromanagement. The main goal is to annex several warlords then to ally with Nationalist China against Japan. Ultimately, you will be able to conquer Japan before the USA or USSR.
It assumes that the AI will choose the most likely option at each multiple choices event.
If you follow this way, you will need at each step to prepare the next step very carefully, even before your current goals are met : you must never, ever, overkill anything, because you can not affort any delay or waste of resources. Notably, you will need to plan the production of a navy from the very start of the game.
First step : before the Xi'an incident
Your goals here are to train your commanders (not unlike the "Way of Prudence") and to start preparing the production of your first naval taskforce.
In detail :
- army : let your troops and commanders gain experience, but without destroying any Chinese army. Keep your troops in your home provinces, so that they will not lose time to redeploy after Xi'an.
- technology : from the very start, research "Improved construction engineering" with your best tech team (Deng Xiaopin) : you'll need it to build a naval base. It's a 1937 tech but you can not afford to research anything else right now.
- production : start a series of 2 transport ships, and a series of 3 convoys. Yes, you can do that without a harbour : they will just stay in your redeployment pool.
Second step : after the Xi'an incident, Shanxi
Here we assume that Nationalist China choses "peace" at the Xi'an incident (if they chose "arrest them all", see the Way of War).
As soon as you're at peace with Nationalist China, rush into Shanxi. Your goal here is to start building a harbour as soon as possible, while securing your diplomatic position.
In detail :
- war against Shanxi : make sure to conquer Yucheng (or Tianjin) in time to start building a harbor as soon as your tech team finishes researching "Advanced construction engineering". Also, make sure not to lose troops to Shanxi : you will need your experimented troops later.
- production : absolute priority to building the harbor. Also, finish building the transport ships and convoys. If you have spare IC (with the industries captured in Shanxi), build infantry, militias or artillery.
- trade : it's vital to upgrade your relation with Japan through trade (see : Gameplay). As soon as you have a coastal province, you can also trade supplies for resources with the Allies (the UK and France are fair trade partners) : as usual, only what you really need.
- diplomacy : you should delay the proper annexion of Shanxi until Japan is somewhat more friendly toward you. It's also vital to declare war against Guangxi Clique before June 1936 : that will prevent them from DOWing Nationalist China (and thus losing more than half their territory and all their beach provinces).
- research : first Large Front Doctrine (1937 land doctrines) and 1936 infantry (you have the blueprints), then Rear Area Supply Dumps (for the "strategical deployment" mission). In you spare time, infantry and artillery techs.
Third step : overseas, Guangxi Clique
Your harbor (lvl 1) should be completed around March 1937. You should also have 2 transport ships and 30 convoys. That's enough for an amphibious assault against Guangxi Clique. You should land in Guangxi with a couple mountaineer divisions, and ferry all your army there as quickly as possible. When your beachhead is strong, try to annex Guangxi as fast as possible. When this is done, ferry your troops back to Northern China.
Your goal here is to annex Guangxi quickly and prepare to defend against the Japanese aggression.
In detail :
- war against Guangxi : concentrate your forces against victory points and annex. As usual, you can hardly afford to lose any experienced troops, but fortunately, the army of Guangxi is rather obsolete.
- diplomacy and trade : when your relation with Japan reaches +50, cancel your deals. Start to improve you relation with Nationalist China the same way.
- production : nothing but infantry, militias and artillery.
- research : as soon as your research concerning infantry, land doctrines and artillery is up to date, start to research naval doctrines, and aircraft carriers. Yes, that early.
Optional fourth step : Yunnan
Guangxi Clique being not too hard to defeat once your troops have been able to cross the Xi River, you can eventually divert your best troops to wage war against Yunnan. It's unlikely that you will have enough time to annex, but if you manage to capture the capital (Kunming), you can negociate of peace treaty where you gain many province from Yunnan, or even puppet them.
Since in any case you will not receive the capital Kunming, those provinces will not be much use (very few resources and a TC drain), but they may prove strategically useful when the Chinese civil war reignites. But until then, you'll have a war to win against Japan.
This fourth step is a high-risk, low-gain option, and is generally not advised.
Fifth step : defend the homeland against Japan
You have now 41 base IC and 3 tech teams : things are looking good, but it's about July 1937 : Japan will start WW2 about now.
You must hold the northern front along with Nationalist China, with whom you are now allied, and you'll probably have to hold it alone when Japan lands around Nanjing. You will have a couple years of heavy, defensive fighting in the Shanxi area, but then you should be able to push Japan back into Manchuria and even Korea.
Your other goal during this phase is to research what is needed to build a powerful navy.
In detail :
- war against Japan : defensive in mountain provinces or across rivers, until you have enough troops to largely outnumber them and push them back.
- production : spam infantry and artillery brigades, and militias for a defensive use. You will also absolutely need at least one headquarter for offensives.
- research : naval doctrines (remember to buy Nationalist China's early blueprints) and aircraft carriers. Infantry, land doctrines and artillery when needed. Let Nationalist China research things for you as much as you can, but do not count on them to research anything about the navy : they never do. Also, your naval research will be a lot easier if you play with "tech teams takeover" enabled.
- diplomacy : once you start to puch back the Japanese, remember NOT to annex Manchuria : all the land would go to Nationalist China since they are the leader of your alliance. But you will receive full IC from those occupied provinces since they are nationals for you too.
Sixth step : prepare the invasion of Japan
If you did well, you should occupy Manchuria around 1940, then Korea. You will then have something like 80 IC, and 4 or 5 tech teams, enough to let you hope a victory against Japan, weakened after their lost battle in China.
Your goal here is to build a navy powerful enough to protect an amphibious landing during a few days. Do not hope to sink the whole Japanese fleet though.
In detail :
- war against Japan, before you have a navy : be content to defend your beaches in China and Korea. Remember that, after France falls, Japan may receive Indochina and open a southern front, with the eventual help of Siam. That's good news since you share a border with Indochina (former Guanxi provinces), so that means more land gains for you. Moreover, Japan will further exhaust itself there.
- war against Japan, after you have a navy : prepare a landing taskforce. If Japan has not waged war on land since a long time, their coasts will be heavily garrisoned, and you will need marines. If Japan is still sending all it's forces into Burma or Indochina, expect less resistance in the home islands : mountaineers may be sufficient to land and secure a beachhead.
- navy : wait until you have decent carrier models ready (CV-4 or CV-5 in 1942 or 1943) and produce like 6 of them at the same time. Then destroyers as screens.
- research : naval doctrines, aircraft carriers and destroyers. Second priority : marines and land doctrines.
- production : build a large stock of resources in order to be able to divert your whole production into aircraft carriers and marines when the time comes. When possible, build regular troops to garrison the beaches (they will be useful later on against Nationalist China, too). Remember to build naval convoys and escorts.
Seventh step : the fall of Japan and the Chinese civil war
Be careful with your navy and try to secure a beachhead in the Japanese homeland : the rest of the conquest should be easy. Just remember to protect your navy in a harbour when it's not protecting a landing, and to build enough convoys to keep your troops supplied.
After that, you can either :
- puppet Japan : you will receive Taiwan and a couple Japanese provinces in China, but Manchuria will be freed and still at war with nationalist China.
- if your navy didn't take too much a beating, annex Japan (they may have victory points in the Pacific, depending on how the war with the USA went).
Once Japan is defeated, remember that your first and main goal is still to bring the joy of socialism to the Chinese masses : you can delay the puppeting/annexion of Japan and farm their IC until you're sure to outpower Nationalist China in the civil war to come.
- This strategy allows Communist China to become a major power and defeat Japan around year 1945.
- It gives you the best chance to defeat Nationalist China during the civil war.
- It is quite fun to play.
- Requires lots of micromanagement.
- The initial build-up is irrelevant if nationalist China chooses "war" at the Xi'an incident.
The Way of Intrigue
This is the most ahistorical route, and some may consider it gamey. However, it is the easiest and fastest way to win the Chinese Civil War, which will give you an advantage when finally taking on Japan. This strategy is best for those who are having difficulaty fighting Japan with the rest of China early on in the game.
Assuming that Nationalist China chooses peace at Xi'an
The initial goals for this strategy are very much similar to those outlined in the Way of the Wanderer, that is, you must rush to annex Shanxi and build a port at Tianjin in preparation for the invasion of Guangxi Clique. Beware- you will only have a three months at the most to annex the country before Japan DOWs nationalist China, at which point not only will the Nationalists annex all of Guangxi, but declare war on you. Timing is thus crucial- make a beeline for the four or so victory points which are pretty far inland.
This next stage is where this strategy becomes more interesting. Rather than ally with the rest of China against Japan, you actually want to declare war on the Nationalists, at which point you can join an alliance with Japan. (assuming that you have increased relations to +50 through trade). This will allow waves a Japanese troops to pour in from Manchuria, conquring land for you as they go. Allow a year or so of infantry production before you go to war, however, so around early 1939, or a few months earlier if you think you are ready. Another benefit of this alliance is the blueprints that you will recieve from Japan, and if you are lucky (I was) they will generously give you Taiwan and some territories bordering Manchuko. You'll get the latter if AI Japan chooses "Total Occupation" when it gets "The Fate of China."
In the south, where Guangxi clique once was, you must set up defensive positions with mountaineers before the war starts. Concentrate your defenses on heavy industrial areas, especially Guangzhou and Guilin, which supply a third of your industrial base. In the south, your only goal is defense, do not waste men and organization trying to make insubstantial gains. Your efforts here wil be bolstered by Japanese troops from indochina once they recieve it in 1941 as well.
Japan will make a landing in Shanghai in late 1939-early 1940 with a substantial amount of troops (30+ divisions) do not fret, however, as you will recieve the land that Japan conqured onnce you annex the nationals. Besides, durring my playthroughs, Japan took Shanghai and Nanjing and just sat there for the rest of the war.
The rest of China
You should annex the nationals sometime around 1941. Be sure to leave your alliance with Japan as soon as peace is achieved, as Japan will soon attack Pearl harbor, which will drag you into an unwanted war with the allies. This betrayal will anger the Japanese to well under -50 relations, and they will likely declare war on you, especially once you provoke war with Yunnan and Sinkiang, if you do not improve relations through trade. Your next step was given away in the last sentence- finish the unification of China by annexing Sinkiang and Yunnan.
By now, your belligerence will be among the highest in the world, at around 100. The allies, and more importantly Britain, with whom you now share a border, hate you. Improving relations through trade is of the utmost importance, lest they try to take a bite of your new People's Republic.
China as a Superpower
By now, you have 135 base IC and huge manpower base. Your only formidable rivals now are the U.S., Japan, and Germany. The next steps that you take are pretty much up to you. If the Soviets are losing badly on the eastern front, you could loan them some troops to fight the Germans. 40 or so experienced Chinese divisions could tip the balance in favor of communism. If you do this, however, you are resigning your final fight against Japan until much later, perhaps even after 1945.
If, on the other hand, you are itching to reclaim Manchuria, then you must build up you ground forces considerably. construct coastal fortifications and deploy garrisons to coastal provinces with beaches, and build up troops on the northern border. If the game has gone at least partially historically, Japan will be at war with the U.S. and its armed forces will be tied up elsewhere. If you've started research on naval techs, then an amphibious assault on the home islands is plausible. If not, then hold on to your coastal provinces until either the Soviets or the U.S. end the war in the pacific.
Now that you have achieved you ultimate goal, you can turn your attention to building a massive Asian superpower. Who knows? by the 1960s people from New York to Tokyo could be embracing socialism.
- this is the fastest way to become a superpower
- Gives the best opportunity to defeat Japan
- Your belligerence will skyrocket long before WW2 is over
- requires careful timing and micromanagement in the begining
- a rather gamey strategy
Although the game can be very challenging and at times impossible, you will end up having huge benefits if you succeed. Your IC will be at least 250 (after modifications) if not more, your manpower 3.11 or so a day, you will literally be almost twice as powerful as Nat China would have been with same amount of land.
- When all the land is taken, huge IC/manpower and no partisans since the land is already yours.
- Starting with powerful army compared to anyone else in the region (apart from Japan).
- Mao event adds morale and org to your troops in the beginning. (What's that?)
- Most fun you will have if you start kicking ass, Communist China is a rewarding faction.
- Requires careful planning and micromanagement.
- Bad luck at random events may doom your strategy.
- Other nations hate you.
- Almost constant resource shortage.
- Starting with a shrimp of a country with nothing in it and only few units.
- Almost no research to begin with.
- Average to crappy research teams.
- Not that many generals and most suck.