The Soviet Union wasn’t the only country promoting communism. Since the late 1920s, Communist leader Mao Tse-tung had been trying to gain control of China from the Nationalist government led by Chiang Kai-shek. The two sides formed a truce during World War II to fight against the Japanese, but as soon as the war ended, their fighting began again. In 1949, the Communists gained control of China and their doctrine began to spread through Asia.
- After Mao Tse-tung gained power, Nationalist leaders and fighters fled to Formosa, which was renamed Taiwan.
- Japan controlled Korea during World War II. When the war ended, the Russians were assigned the northern part of the country, while the U.S. was given control of the southern part. The plan was to allow a national election and slowly help Korea build its own government. But Russia, now the Soviet Union, refused to allow a national election. The country split into two countries, North and South Korea. North Korea became a Communist country. South Korea was protected by the United Nations and American forces as it became a democracy.
- The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, when Communist North Korean troops stormed over the 38th parallel border, which marked the boundary between North and South Korea. President Truman immediately ordered General Douglas MacArthur to lead American and UN troops against the North Korean threat. Troops from 16 countries pushed the North Koreans back, regaining not only South Korea, but most of North Korea.
- On November 26, 1950, thousands of Communist Chinese troops came to fight against the U.S. troops, forcing them back. Truman realized that the war might expand to include not only Chinese troops, but Soviet troops, as well. He understood well the horrors of war, especially the damage a nuclear war might cause. Instead, he decided to work for a truce.
- Truman did not run for reelection. His successor, Dwight Eisenhower, went to Korea to negotiate a truce. The Korean War ended on July 27, 1953. Fifty-four thousand American soldiers had been killed in preventing the spread of Communism. An inscription on the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C. reads, “Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.”
- Vietnam, which was a French Colony until 1945, came under the control of Communist leader Ho Chi Minh. At an international conference, the country was divided into North and South Vietnam. The United States sent financial aid and military personnel to South Vietnam in the hopes of preventing Communist North Vietnam from invading it.
- Fidel Castro successfully led a revolution in Cuba, overthrowing years of dictatorship. Soon after, he created a Communist dictatorship there with strong connections to the Soviet Union. Cuba is only 90 miles off the coast of Florida. American leaders were very concerned that the U.S. might be a target for a Communist takeover.
- Communism: a political and social philosophy in which the state holds all property and gives it to the people to use. Religion, free speech, open elections, and many other liberties are outlawed.
- Truce: an agreement to end fighting; neither party is declared the victor.
Questions and Answers
Question: Does Communism still exist today?
Answer: By the 1980s, Communism had spread over much of Asia, Eastern Europe and parts of Africa and Central America. Today Communism lives on in a few parts of Asia and Europe. However, many of the reasons that Communism became popular in the first place – class systems and inequality – do continue.