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Reasoning and Effectiveness During Cuban and Chinese Guerrilla Warfare

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Guerrilla warfare in both Cuba and China led to the ultimate success of both armies that employed it. The differences in their tactics were mainly caused by the different contexts of the two conflicts, but otherwise, the practices of guerrilla warfare were very similar.

The reasoning behind Cuba and China’s use of Guerrilla warfare originates from the basic elements and end goal that are specific to Guerrilla warfare. In all cases, Guerrilla warfare is the result of the oppressed no longer being able to endure being oppressed by a much larger aggressor. Guerrilla warfare is what a nation inferior in arms and military equipment will use when faced with a larger aggressor. The oppressed generally had the upperhand when it came to understanding the terrain, climate, and the society in general. This was very important to have when it came to defeating the oppressor’s army. The ultimate goal of Guerrilla warfare was to be able to gradually develop into normal forces and to eventually be able to participate in a traditional mobile war.

Guerrilla warfare can be formed by the combination of various forces. Some of these include the masses of the people, regular army units temporarily detailed for the purpose, regular army units permanently detailed, the combination of a regular army unit and a unit recruited, the local militia, deserters from the ranks of the enemy, and former bandits and bandit groups. The Cuban Revolution, as well as the Chinese Civil War relied on the masses of the people and volunteer leaders and revolutionaries.

The Cuban revolutionaries wanted to overthrow the already implemented oppressive government, but were in a weaker position, as they didn’t have an organized army. The guerrilla forces formed mainly in less urbanized areas that were under less pressure from the oppressive government forces. Guerilla warfare was therefore necessary in this situation, because a large conventional army couldn’t be formed without raising suspicion.

An important aspect to consider when evaluating guerrilla warfare in China and Cuba is the differences between the initial use of guerrilla warfare and the similarities in their tactics. Guevara recognized that ideal conditions for revolution very rarely come to exist spontaneously. This led to Guevara’s “foquismo” or “foco” theory that states that these conditions can be brought about through guerilla warfare, which was ultimately effective in the Cuban revolution. Moa, on the other hand, had to wait until the oppressed had reached their limits of oppression and were ripe for revolution. Another difference between the two conflicts was that Guevara’s purpose in using guerilla warfare was to overthrow the Cuban government, whereas Mao began using guerrilla warfare against Japanese invaders.

Their tactics were very similar in that neither of the forces were ever willing to take part in a battle they were not sure they could win. Additionally, the Cubans and Chinese both followed the rule described in Mao’s quatrain, “The enemy advances, we retreat; the enemy camps, we harass; the enemy tires, we attack; the enemy retreats, we pursue” (Lin Biao). Additionally, the success of both forces relied heavily on the people of the country and their knowledge of the landscape.

Guerrilla warfare tactics were effective in reaching the Cuban and Chinese armies to the next stage of warfare. In both Moa and Guevara’s cases, guerrilla armies were able to win—but only after a portion of their force has transitioned to “regular” operations. This was a tactic that could be employed after the guerrilla army had already taken hold and had found some success in the conflict. In the case of Cuba, the struggle was not long, whereas the Chinese guerrillas suffered through decades of fighting. Additionally, many of Mao’s tactics were thoroughly researched based on historical battles, whereas many of Guevara’s theories on guerrilla warfare were very specific to the Cuban revolution. Mao’s tactics proved to be successful after Chiang kai-Shek was unable to recover Manchuria after the first stages of the war. Although these theories may not have found success when implemented elsewhere, they worked effectively for the Cuban revolutionaries.

Mao and Guevara both used guerrilla warfare in very different conflicts, specifically regarding the opposing forces (the Cuban government vs. the Japanese invading force). Another major difference lies in Guevara’s use of the “foco shortcut” to bypassing Mao’s necessary prerequisites of guerrilla warfare. However, there were great similarities between the two armies actual tactics on the battlefield, which ultimately lead to the success on both the Chinese Communists’ and the Cuban Revolutionaries’ parts.

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Reasoning and Effectiveness During Cuban and Chinese Guerrilla Warfare. (2019, April 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 21, 2023, from
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