One of the main sources of Communism's appeal to the Chinese people was its association in the popular mind with the national liberation struggle against the Japanese. The Japanese occupation of China was a brutal affair, which led to death and suffering on a monumental scale. The Communists waged a relentless guerrilla war against the Japanese as well as the Nationalist Kuomintang. In doing so, they gained a reputation as brave fighters prepared to do whatever it took to defend the country.
For their part, the Communists successfully utilized the language of Chinese nationalism in their propaganda campaigns to bolster their appeal to the people. Mao realized that a narrow concentration on Communist ideology would not be enough on its own to secure the allegiance of millions of Chinese, especially the more conservative peasant population. It was necessary, then, to present the Communists as the only force capable of throwing off the yoke of Japanese oppression and ending with it centuries of national humiliation at the hands of a succession of foreign imperialist powers.
This proved to be a winning strategy. The average Chinese peasant may not have had much grasp of the finer points of Communist theory, but he or she certainly did understand the necessity of China being able to stand on its own two feet. The fusion of Communism and Chinese nationalism, forged in the heat of war and foreign occupation, proved to be an unbeatable force with wide appeal among all sections of Chinese society.