Returning to China in 1926, Zhu concealed his new sympathies and joined the army of the Nationalist Party—the Guomindang, or GMD (Kuomintang, or KMT). In August 1927, he joined the unsuccessful Communist uprising in Nanchang, Jiangxi (Kiangsi) Province, later considered the birth of the Communist Red Army. Subsequently, he took his troops to join the Communist guerrilla forces of Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung) in Hunan Province. Zhu became commander and Mao political commissar of their combined force, the Fourth Red Army, which moved to Jiangxi in 1929, expanding to 200,000 men by 1933. The two men developed strategies for modern, large-scale Chinese guerrilla warfare, focusing on control of the country.
In 1934, after repeated Nationalist attacks, Zhu's forces escaped encirclement in what became the epic, 6,000-mile Long March to a new base at Yan'an (Yenan) in northwestern Shaanxi (Shensi) Province, during which Mao, with Zhu's support, won control of the Chinese Communist movement. When Communist forces allied with Nationalist troops after the 1937 Japanese invasion of China, Zhu commanded all Chinese Communist troops in what had become the Eighth Route Army. After directing the disastrous Hundred Regiments campaign against Japanese troops in late 1940, Zhu returned to guerrilla operations in Japanese-controlled areas. By 1945, he had built the Red Army into a force of 800,000, controlling much of northern China's countryside. During the 1945–1949 Chinese Civil War, Zhu directed Communist military strategy. From 1949 to 1954, he served as China's defense minister, and in 1955, he became one of ten marshals of the People's Republic of China. Persecuted for several years during the Cultural Revolution, he was subsequently rehabilitated. When he died in Beijing (Peking) on 6 July 1976, Zhu was head of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. Priscilla Roberts
Dupuy, Trevor N. The Military History of the Chinese Civil War. New York: F. Watts, 1969.; Fairbank, John K., and Albert Feuerwerker, eds. The Cambridge History of China. Vol. 13, Republican China, 1912–1949, Part 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.; Salisbury, Harrison E. The Long March: The Untold Story. New York: Harper and Row, 1985.