The Great Southwest included Yunnan and Guizhou provinces and present-day Sichuan and Tibet, with a total area of 2.3 million square kilometres. It was the last territory held by the Kuomintang before they fled from the mainland. To liberate the Southwest, the PLA adopted the tactics of outflanking and encircling the enemy. The Second Field Army, commanded by Liu Bocheng and Deng Xiaoping, and a corps of the First Field Army, led by He Long, advanced from the south and the north respectively and swiftly liberated the entire Southwest except for Tibet, ultimately driving the reactionary Kuomintang forces from the mainland.
Vast in area and poor in communications, the Southwest had a long border line and a large population of many nationalities, so that the liberating armies had to deal with complicated relations among many different peoples. There were hordes of stragglers and disbanded soldiers in the area, because the Kuomintang had deployed over 900,000 troops there. Furthermore, the region swarmed with local bandits and secret agents, and the feudal forces were deep-rooted. The havoc wreaked by the reactionary forces over the long years had resulted in a dilapidated society, a ruined economy and a wretched life for the people. Given the existing conditions, it was a monumental task to build a new life on this vast, complex, newly liberated land.
Deng Xiaoping served as First Secretary of the Southwest Bureau, Vice-Chairman of the Southwest Military and Administrative Commission and Political Commissar of the Southwest Military Command. While leading a campaign to wipe out fleeing bandits and Kuomintang diehards, Deng, along with Liu Bocheng, He Long and others, did everything possible to unite with everyone who could be united with and to win over everyone in the enemy camp who could be won over. With great care and discretion, they tried to break down traditional animosities among different peoples and to bring about national unity. Lastly, by mobilizing the masses, they accomplished agrarian reform and other social reforms and built democratic governments at different levels. Thus they brought about stability in the Southwest.
Under their leadership industrial and agricultural production was quickly restored. One major project they decided to undertake, despite the fact that there were many other tasks clamoring for attention, was the building of the Chengdu-Chongqing Railway. On July 1, 1952, when the railway was officially opened, a dream cherished for decades by the people of Sichuan came true at last.
At this same time Deng Xiaoping and his comrades were also working hard to prepare for the liberation of Tibet. In 1951, when Tibet was peacefully liberated, it was one of their units that planted the five-star red flag on "the roof of the world".
In less than three years since Deng Xiaoping and the others had come to work in the Southwest, fundamental changes had taken place. The entire region had begun to thrive as if spring had returned to the land.
(Deng Xiaoping Pictorial)