Revolutionary[edit | edit source]
The son of a small landlord and a native of Huanggang, Hubei province, Lin joined the Socialist Youth League (1925) and matriculated at Whampoa Military Academy when he was 18. While at Whampoa he became the protégé of both Zhou Enlai and the Soviet General Vasily Blyukher. Less than a year later, he was ordered to participate in the Northern Expedition, rising from deputy platoon leader to battalion commander in the National Revolutionary Army within a few months. Lin graduated from Whampoa in 1925 and by 1927 was a colonel.
After the KMT-CCP split, Lin escaped to the remote Communist base areas and joined Mao Zedong and Zhu De in Jiangxi in 1928. Lin proved to be a brilliant guerrilla commander and during the 1934 breakout he commanded the First Corps of the Red Army, which fought a two-year running battle with the Kuomintang, which culminated in the occupation of Yan'an in December 1936.
Lin and Peng Dehuai were generally reckoned to be the Red Army's best battlefield commanders. They do not seem to have been rivals during the Long March. Both of them had supported Mao's rise to de facto leadership at Zunyi in January 1935. According to Harrison E. Salisbury's The Long March, by May 1935 Lin Biao was dissatisfied with Mao's strategy. He says of Mao's circlings to evade the armies of Chiang Kai-shek: "the campaign had begun to look like one of Walt Disney's early cartoons in which Mickey Mouse again and again escaped the clutches of the huge, stupid cat." According to Salisbury, Lin Biao in May 1934 tried to persuade Mao to turn over active command to Peng Dehuai.
"Lin Biao did not present the bluff, lusty face of Peng Dehuai. He was ten years younger, rather slight, oval-faced, dark, handsome. Peng talked with his men. Lin kept his distance. To many he seemed shy and reserved. There are no stories reflecting warmth and affection for his men. His fellow Red Army commanders respected Lin, but when he spoke it was all business... "The contrast between Mao's top field commanders could hardly have been more sharp, but on the Long March they worked well together, Lin specializing in feints, masked strategy, surprises, ambushes, flank attacks, pounces from the rear, and stratagems. Peng met the enemy head-on in frontal assaults and fought with such fury that again and again he wiped them out. Peng did not believe a battle well fought unless he managed to replenish--and more than replenish--any losses by seizure of enemy guns and converting prisoners of war to new and loyal recruits to the Red Army."
Edgar Snow in Red Star Over China focuses more on the role of Peng than Lin, evidently having long conversations with, and devoting two whole chapters to, Peng (more than any individual apart from Mao). But he says of Lin:
"With Mao Zedong, Lin Biao shared the distinction of being one of the few Red commanders never wounded. Engaged on the front in more than a hundred battles, in field command for more than 10 years, exposed to every hardship that his men have known, with a reward of $100,000 on his head, he miraculously remained unhurt and in good health. "In 1932, Lin Biao was given command of the 1st Red Army Corps, which then numbered about 20,000 rifles. It became the most dreaded section of the Red Army. Chielfly due to Lin's extraordinary talent as a tactician, it destroyed, defeated or outmanoeuvered every Government force sent against it and was never broken in battle... "Like many able Red commanders, Lin has never been outside China, speaks and reads no language but Chinese. Before the age of 30, however, he has already won recognition beyond Red circles. His articles in the Chinese Reds' military magazines... have been republished, studied and criticised in Nanking military journals, and also in Japan and Soviet Russia. 
Red Star Over China also has an interesting indication that Lin and Mao were close personally. "Between acts at the Anti-Japanese Theatre, there was a general demand for a duet by Mao Zedong and Lin Biao, the twenty-eight year old president of the Red Academy, and formerly a famed young cadet on Chiang Kai-shek's staff. Lin blushed like a schoolboy, and got them out of the 'command performance' by a graceful speech, calling on the women Communist for a song instead."
Sino-Japanese War[edit | edit source]
As commander of the 115th Division of the Communist 8th Route Army, Lin orchestrated the ambush at Pingxingguan in September 1937, which was one of the few battlefield successes for the Chinese in the early period of the Second Sino-Japanese War (which began before World War II, though it merged into it). After the Battle of Pingxingguan, the Chinese troops captured many of the personal items that belonged to Imperial Japanese Army personnel. Among them is a cloak and a katana which was favored by Lin. He tried the cloak on and took the katana by his side, jumped onto a horse and went for a small "drive". He was then spotted alone by one of the sharpshooters from Fu Zuoyi's troops, who later became the mayor of Beijing after surrendering the city of Beijing to the Communists. The soldier was surprised to see a Japanese official riding a horse in the desolated hills all by himself. He took an aim at Lin Biao in the head and severely injured him. Lin was then given the post of commandant of the Military Academy at Yan'an in 1938. He spent the next three years (1939-1942) in Moscow. After returning to Yan'an, Lin was involved in troop training and indoctrination assignments.
Chinese Civil War (1945-49)[edit | edit source]
With the resumption of Civil War after World War II, Lin was made Secretary of the Northeast China Bureau and commanded the Red Army forces that conquered the Manchurian provinces and then swept into North China. In achieving victory, he abandoned the cities and employed Mao's strategy of guerrilla warfare and winning peasant support in the countryside.
"Within a year he entrapped the core of Chiang Kai-shek's American-armed and American-trained armies, capturing or killing a total of thirty-six generals. Following victory in Manchuria, Lin encircles Chiang's main forces in northern China. The communist took over Tianjin by force , ruin the city. Finally in Peking [Beijing] General Fu Zuo Yi led his army of 400,000 men surrendered to him without a battle."
During this period, several separate Red Armies fought on different fronts. Including Liu Bo Cheng and Deng Xiaoping's achievements in Central China, which were important to his subsequent power. But Lin Biao's achievements have generally been rated as the decisive breakthrough.
Politician[edit | edit source]
Lin Biao's exact role in the 1950s is unclear. It seems he was frequently ill, and so had less of a role that his achievements might have entitled him to.
In his autobiography, Dr. Li Zhisui, Mao's personal physician, writes that Lin was mentally unbalanced rather than suffering from any chronic physical illness. Li's account of Lin's condition is quite a bit different from the official Chinese version, both before and after Lin's fall.
Although Snow writes that Lin led Chinese forces in Korea, this is incorrect. Lin, the rest of the Politburo, initially opposed China's entry into the Korean War. In early October 1950, Peng Dehuai was named commander of the Chinese forces bound for Korea, and Lin went to the Soviet Union for medical treatment. Lin flew to the Soviet Union with Zhou Enlai and participated in negotiations with Stalin concerning Soviet support for China's intervention, suggesting that Mao still trusted Lin despite his opposition to joining the war.
Due to periods of ill health and physical rehabilitation in the USSR, Lin was slow in his rise to power. In 1958 he was named to the Politburo Standing Committee. In 1959, after the Lushan Conference, Peng Dehuai was removed from his position as Minister of Defence and replaced by Lin Biao. As Defence Minister, Lin's policies differed from that of his predecessor. "Lin Biao's reforms aimed at 'de-Russification'. 'Professional-officer-cast' mentality was fought, titles and insignia of rank were abolished, special officer privileges ended, the Yenan type of soldier-peasant-worker combination was restored, and the Thought of Mao Tse-tung superseded all other ideological texts..."
In 1965 an article on revolution in developing countries, entitled Long Live the Victory of the People's War!, was published in Lin's name. The article likened the 'emerging forces' of the poor in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to the 'rural areas of the world', while the affluent countries of the West were likened to the 'cities of the world'. Eventually the 'cities' would be encircled by revolutions in the 'rural areas', following the Thought of Mao Tse-tung. Lin made no promise that China would fight other people's wars, however. They were advised to depend mainly on 'self-reliance'. Lin worked closely with Mao, creating a cult of personality for him. Lin compiled some of Chairman Mao's writings into handbook, the Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong, which became known simply as "the Little Red Book."
Lin Biao's military reforms and the success of the Sino-Indian War (1962) impressed Mao. A propaganda campaigned called "learn from the People's Liberation Army" followed. In 1966, this campaigned widen into the Cultural Revolution.
After the purging of Liu Shaoqi during the Cultural Revolution, on April 1, 1969, at the CCP's Ninth Congress, Lin Biao emerged as primary military power and second in ranking behind Mao Zedong in the party. Even the party constitution was modified to name Lin as Mao's special successor.
As the Cultural Revolution spun out of control, the People's Liberation Army, under Lin's command, effectively took over the country from the party.
Attempted coup and downfall[edit | edit source]
Lin disappeared in 1971, after the failure of an attempted coup. The circumstances surrounding Lin's death remain clouded. He became China's second-in-charge on April 1, 1969, and advocated the restoration of the position of State President, held by Liu Shaoqi until his disgrace. The purpose of the restoration was to ensure a legal transition to power in the event of Mao's death. On August 23, 1970, the CCP held the second plenum of its Ninth Congress in Lushan, where Lin would speak for restoration of the position of President along with his supporter Chen Boda.
Some historians believe Mao had become uncomfortable with Lin's power and had planned to purge him and Lin planned a pre-emptive coup. The Chinese government explanation was that Lin, with the help of his son Lin Liguo, had planned to assassinate Mao sometime between September 8 and 10, 1971. According to the memoir of Dr. Li Zhisui, one of then Mao's personal physicians, Lin's own daughter, Lin Liheng (Doudou), inadvertently exposed her father's plot. Doudou had become estranged from her mother Ye Qun and incorrectly believed that her mother was plotting against her father.
As his plans failed, Lin and his family (his wife Ye Qun and his son) and several personal aides attempted to flee to the Soviet Union. They were chased to the airport by armed PLA officers and guards. According to the PRC account of Lin's death, their prearranged Hawker-Siddeley HS121 Trident plane did not take onboard enough fuel before taking off and the plane is said to have crashed near Undur Khan in Mongolia on September 13, 1971 after running out of fuel, and all on board were killed. After the crash, the Soviets sent a number of field scientists to inspect the scene. The most surprising and mysterious fact is that the scientists concluded that the plane was on its way back to China when it crashed.
It is generally believed that when Zhou Enlai asked Mao Zedong whether air force fighter should be sent to chase Lin's plane, Mao replied with an ancient Chinese proverb: "Just like the sky is going to rain, and a widow is going to remarry, Let it be." Li Zhisui writes that there was a feeling of relief in the Chinese government when word came from Mongolia that there were no survivors. Zhou Enlai reportedly said, "死得好, 死得好" (it's good that they're dead)..
One view is that Lin opposed the rapprochement with the USA, which Zhou Enlai was organising with Mao's approval. This was contrary to Lin's strategy of 'People's War'. Lin, unlike Mao, did not have a history of making compromises and retreats when it suited him.
There was also claims that Lin was secretly negotiating with the Kuomintang on Taiwan to restore the KMT government in China in return for a high position in the new government. These claims were never formally confirmed nor denied by either the Chinese or Taiwanese governments.
Most of the high military command was purged within a few weeks of Lin's disappearance. The National Day celebrations on October 1, 1971 were cancelled. The news of Lin Biao's plot and disappearance was withheld from the general public for nearly a year. When it did break, the people felt betrayed by Mao's "best pupil."
In the years after Lin's death, Jiang Qing, Mao and his fourth wife and a former political ally of Lin's, started the Criticize Lin, Criticize Confucius campaign, aimed at using Lin's scarred image to attack Zhou Enlai. Like many major proponents of the Cultural Revolution, Lin's image was manipulated after the movement; many negative aspects of the Cultural Revolution were blamed on Lin and after October 1976 blamed on Mao's supporters, the so-called Gang of Four. Lin was never politically rehabilitated. In recent years Lin's photos were appeared on many books espacially on history books to show the Chinese are changing the old attitude toward a politician. Lin is regarded as the best military Strategist in China.
Quotations[edit | edit source]
Lin Biao was famous not only for his military skills but also on his language skills. He is very concise in using his language and sumarize into easy to remember quote, such as "four Number Ones". Mao used his talent to make himself into a cult stage.
- "Study Chairman Mao's writings, follow his teachings, act according to his instructions, and be a good soldier of his." - Foreword of The Little Red Book
- "Sailing the sea needs a helmsman; making a revolution needs Mao Zedong thought."
- Comrade Mao Zedong is the greatest Marxist and Leninist of our time. Comrade Mao Zedong ingeniously, creatively, and completely inherited, defended and developed Marxism and Leninism, and upgraded Marxism and Leninism to a brand-new stage."
References[edit | edit source]
- Harrison Salisbury The Long March, page 188
- Harrison Salisbury, The Long March, pp. 191-192
- Edgar Snow, Red Star Over China, Victor Gollancz 1937, pages 109-110.Page 135 in the 1972 Penguin edition, which has a few revisions.
- Snow, Red Star Over China, p. 84
- Edgar Snow, Red Star Over China, 1972 Penguin edition p. 548
- Chen Jian, China's Road to the Korean War, Goncharov, Lewis and Xue's Uncertain Partners, Shen Zhihua, Mao Zedong, Sidalin, yu Chaoxian Zhanzheng
- Edgar Snow, Red Star Over China biographical notes in the 1972 Penguin edition, pp.
[edit | edit source]
- The Lin Biao Reference Archive
- The Lin Biaoist Commnist Party
- Lin Biao Biography From Spartacus Educational
- Biographical Article of Lin Biao Printed in Workers World Newspaper
- Lin Biao on Real Life Heroes Wiki