camp.sunset22nd January, 1949 : As victorious Communist troops marched in Peking today, Chiang Kai-shek, China’s leader for 22 years, announced his retirement. He was going home, he said, “to sweep the graves of his ancestors”. In a farewell message to the Chinese people, the President called for an immediate cease-fire and peace talks. Chiang’s bitter opponent, Communist leader Mao Tse-tung, has rejected the appeal as “utterly unreasonable and hypocritical”. Observers doubt that Chiang’s retirement signals the end of the civil war, which began after Mao’s “Long March” of 1935. The fall of Peking became inevitable after the Nationalists lost 600,000 men – 327,000 of them prisoners – in the key battle of Huai Hai north of the capital. Mao’s forces have now begun to strike south towards Shanghai.

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