[In Our Time] The Long March

The Long March

29/11/2018 by BBC Radio 4

Web player: http://podplayer.net/?id=59443213
Episode: http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/5/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p06t5059.mp3

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss a foundation story for China as it was reshaped under Mao Zedong. In October 1934, around ninety thousand soldiers of the Red Army broke out of a siege in Jiangxi in the south east of the country, hoping to find a place to regroup and rebuild. They were joined by other armies, and this turned into a very long march to the west and then north, covering thousands of miles of harsh and hostile territory, marshes and mountains, pursued by forces of the ruling Kuomintang for a year. Mao Zedong was among the marchers and emerged at the head of them, and he ensured the officially approved history of the Long March would be an inspiration and education for decades to come.


Rana Mitter
Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China and Fellow of St Cross College, University of Oxford

Sun Shuyun
Historian, writer of ‘The Long March’ and film maker


Julia Lovell
Professor in Modern Chinese History and Literature at Birkbeck, University of London

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Start Date: 2019-02-03

End Date: 2019-02-10


  • Again, I seemed to get very little sense of the overall sequence of things from the podcast format, and would have probably understood much more by reading. The Chinese names; and not realising what was Xi or Shi, etc, made things much worse.
  • The bits about Mao Zedong being more effective at propaganda and making his own myth then as an actual tactician reminded me of the Our Fake History podcast about Stalin.
  • I hadn’t known that the Long March was a bunch of long marches, each general taking his own route.
  • The bit in the podcast-only section of the women effectively being sex slaves, and of a childless woman being ‘worse than a hen’, was horrific
  • Another place where the podcast-only section was more insightful than the main program: after spending thirty minutes talking about how the Long March was disorganised and riven with internal backstabbing and purging; I was amazed that it had been successful at all. Then it was revealed that Mao Zedong thanked Japan for invading China; and forcing the Kuomintang to ally with the communists against the Japanese. Ahhhh.
  • Also a new learning – that local leaders / warlords who hated Chiang Kai-shek would give the Long Marchers provisions and hustle them out into the next province out of pure spite.
  • I should try to learn more about these early twentieth century warlords. They seem fascinating.

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