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The Spanish Church that sheltered the CCP during the Civil War

By Javier García

Yan’an, Jun 11 (EFE).- The Virgen de Begoña church on the outskirts of Yan’an, built by Spanish Catholic Franciscans, was the unlikely headquarters of Chinese Communist Party Central Committee assemblies in 1938, a decisive moment of the war, according to Mao Zedong.

After the Long March, Communist militants retreated to this small town in the northern Chinese province of Shaanxi, to gather their strength to continue fighting another 12 years until the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.

The Franciscans had finished construction of the church in 1934, when it became the largest building in Yan’an, where no more than 3,000 people lived.

It could only serve its religious purpose for two years, until Chinese communists, under Mao’s leadership, arrived in Yan’an and established their headquarters there.

 The church would host key moments of the war, such as the secret 1936 meeting between Zhou Enlai, Mao’s lieutenant, and Zhang Xueliang, a commander from the northwestern stronghold of the Kuomintang army.

During that meeting, both parties agreed on a ceasefire in order to cooperate in a common fight against the Japanese occupation.

But the most critical moment the Spanish church witnessed was the sixth plenary session of the CCP’s 6th Central Committee, a two-month discussion determining party structures and the offensive against the Japanese.

Years later, Mao Zedong would identify two crucial moments in CCP history, one of which was that Central Committee meeting in 1938 in Yan’an.

That assembly came up with the concept of “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” which differentiated China from the USSR at the time, and to this day continues to underpin Chinese policymaking.

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