Loss of trust
In October 1944 Michael Mansfield, a congressman of the State of Montana in the US, came to China as a representative of President Roosevelt. In January 1945 he returned to Washington D.C. and submitted a report to the Congress, in which he noted that the KMT was becoming more and more unpopular with the common people.
Ordinary people were afraid of KMT soldiers and tax collectors. Peasant rebellions, criticism of provincial government officials and students' resistance to being pressganged were all powerful evidence. The CPC was highly organized and disciplined. If there were no guns, they used spears and clubs. The ordinary people's loss of trust in the KMT became clear after the outbreak of the Chinese Civil War in 1946.
Due to the huge demand for guns and ammunition, the KMT's military expenditures surged. This resulted in a series of chain reactions in the KMT-controlled areas, like inflation and unemployment. At that time John Leighton Stuart noted that "Toward the end of February the entire Gold Yuan circulation could have been bought up by 20,000,000 US dollars, so rapid was the inflationary process.
But a month later this could have been done for one half that amount. At the earlier date, the note issue amounted to about thirty billion Gold Yuan, but a month later this had increased 150 percent. The rate of exchange with the American dollar was increasing about ten percent daily, and the cost of commodities was keeping in general the same pace. The situation became grimly comical as the printing presses were unable to issue new notes fast enough for use, and in consequence, interest rates assumed fantastic figures. In April the government had an income of five percent of its expenditures, but more than this amount was expended in its collection."
The skyrocketing prices could hardly enable the people to live. On May 17, 1947 college students in Nanjing said in a demonstration declaration that the endless printing of bank notes "had reduced the living standards for humans to the ones for animals." What they were facing was a severe crisis of hunger and dropping out of school.
Even professors and people with high social status were not much better off. On September 23, 1947 Hu Shi, president of Peking University, wrote in his diary that at a faculty meeting that day all that the participants talked and thought of was eating! Xiang Da said that they were too busy thinking about how they were going to eat the next day to think about plans for a decade or two. They might have all died by then.
Leading Chinese historian Jian Bozan said that hunger and the Chinese Civil War were two sides of the same coin, because hunger was the result of the Chinese Civil War, and the latter was the cause of the former.
John Leighton Stuart says in his memoirs that "In China, even more perhaps than elsewhere, the students serve as an excellent barometer of popular trends." "In September, 1947, it was estimated that in Tsinghua and Yenching Universities about 90 to 95 percent did not want China to become communized. But a year later, this figure had dropped to 60 to 70 percent. They felt so disconsolate that they believed that even Communist domination could not be worse. It would at any rate bring peace and a better livelihood."
In 1948 the Academia Sinica of the National Government elected its first batch of 81 academicians. Of them, nine went with the KMT to Taiwan in 1949, 12 went abroad, one died, and the remaining 59 chose to stay on the mainland. Why did the intellectual elite choose to stay on the mainland? Leading scholar Ji Xianlin recalled in his later years that, like the middle-aged and elderly intellectuals who stayed, he did not understand the CPC, nor did he yearn for communism. But they all knew the KMT, and welcomed the People's Liberation Army (PLA) into the capital, hoping that there would be a changed world from then on.
Because of their deteriorating living environment, intellectuals, students, small businessmen, artisans, professionals and other segments of the population lost their trust in the KMT. They formed a second front against the KMT. As Mao Zedong said, Chiang Kai-shek and the KMT had been surrounded by the people.