Hearts of Iron IV: Communist China Guide

The year is 1936 and tensions over China are progressively escalating. China’s longevity hangs in the balance, locked in a vicious civil war between the Kuomintang and Communists. Amidst civil war, the mighty Japanese Empire continues to build up her arsenal preparing for expansion on the continent. Now, the time has come for you to fight for the Communist China in Hearts of Iron – for Chairman Mao!

Hearts of Iron IV: Communist China Guide


Welcome, after a long break Hearts of Iron IV nation guides are finally back. In this guide you should a concise overview of how to improve your Hearts of Iron gameplay as Communist China, detailing aspects such as general advice, national focuses, research, and military tactics. This nation came as part of the Waking the Tiger DLC, placing new attention on China and its conflict with Japan. I’ve played Communist China frequently finding them enjoyable, but difficult. Of course, China itself is a historically difficult place to fight, due to its mountainous landscape and poor infrastructure. Alongside this, the Communists under Mao Zedong infamously went on a retreat known as the ‘Long March’ to evade superior Kuomintang forces led by Chinese nationalist, Chiang Kai-Shek. The developers at Paradox took this into account when creating the nation, providing players with some horrid traits that greatly impact your military, industry, war support, stability, and political power. However, these can be quickly countered with the national focus tree, which will be explained in this guide.

Check out my other nation guides. I’ve also released France Guide, Soviet Union Guide, The Netherlands Guide, and German Reich Guide. Also, let me know what nation you would like to see in my next guide in the pool below.


General Advice

Obviously, the biggest downfall for Communist China is the lack of industry and military prowess in comparison to neighboring states like Japan and China. But they have a massive manpower advantage, meaning you can throw men at the enemy without having to worry about manpower – the traditional communist tactic. Below are the rules I would recommend following, even if you choose not to adopt my other advice.

Hearts of Iron IV: Communist China Guide - Unify China under Chairman Mao Zedong

  1. Invade Shanxi and Xibei San Ma as soon as possible to further increase manpower and aid industrial growth. You can get war goals from the focus tree (Exploit Weak Neighbours) that I would rush before Japan declares war in 1937.
  2. At the start of the game, convert all your troops to the reserve template, freeing up equipment giving you more divisions to invade Shanxi and Xibei San Ma (24 divisions works well). 
  3. Agrarian Socialism is best because you can produce firearms easier and Mao stays leader (of course). 
  4. Get additional research slots when you can – will help advance your military rivaling Japan when they invade. 
  5. Once you go to war with Japan, prepare a military coup. Japan will be forced to divert troops making it easier to wipe them off the continent.
  6. Ban the Opium Trade, as stability will increase – essential to industrial output.

National Focus and Political Power

Communist China have a fantastic focus tree that allows you really to expand as a nation and build up. However, with there being so much choice you must prioritise. This list below shows the focuses you ‘should’ do first:

  1. Land Redistribution 
  2. The Yan’an Base Area
  3. Focus on China
  4. Exploit the Weak Neighbours
  5. Literacy Program
  6. Strengthen the Central Secretariat 
  7. Agrarian Socialism
  8. Rectification Campaign 
  9. Maoism 
  10. Enforce the Three Rules
  11. Ban Opium Trade
  12. Infiltration (useful for when you go to war with China)

Communist China have some great choice when it comes to spending your political power, with an order of prioritisation again being required. Unlike major nations in my previous guides, free trade should be avoided as Communist China simply lacks the resources until it fully reclaims the entirety of China. See below:

Hearts of Iron IV: Communist China Guide - Communist China can spend their political power in some useful areas

  1. Extensive Conscription (more industry over manpower)
  2. Silent Workhorse 
  3. Ma Jin (army expert – defense) 
  4. Xu Xiangqian (infantry expert)
  5. Ye Jianying (logistics) 
  6. Nie Rongzhen (regrouping)
  7. War Industrialist

Research in brief

As with most nations, modernising your industry and military is the most important – especially for Communist China. When you start the game, you only have two research slots, hence why I’ve recommended going down the ‘Literacy Programs’ focus as soon as you have completed ‘Exploit the Weak Neighbours’. However, place no attention on your air force or navy, as it is a waste of time until you have reclaimed China from the nationalists. Find my list below:

Hearts of Iron IV: Communist China Guide - Focus on building your industry so you can really advance China

  1. Electronic Mechanical Engineering (research reduction time bonuses)
  2. Industry (concentrated industry)
  3. Land Doctrine (Grand Battleplan – defense bonuses useful for war with Japan)
  4. Artillery (improve division effectiveness)
  5. Infantry equipment and support companies (engineer and recon companies very useful for Chinese terrain)

Division Templates

Reading comments on previous guides, this seems to be a popular section. The below templates will be different to the ones I recommend for major nations such as France, as Communist China in Hearts of Iron simply lack the resources and industry for an advanced military early-game. As I stated earlier in the guide, you should have 24 divisions at the start of the game in the reserve template to help with the Shanxi and Xibei San Ma invasions. However, these will struggle to attack and defend against Japanese forces/templates. See my recommended below:

  1. Infantry: 9 divisions, support artillery, recon company, and an engineer company (though not as important).   
  2. Motorized: recommend this when you invade China for speed advantage with 7 motorized and 2 rocket artillery (your industry will need to be well built up for you to use this – infantry most important).

Dealing with Japan

If you play with historical focus, Japan will invade China in the summer of 1937. For some reason, China seems to be pathetic at defending (even though they managed to hold off Japan in WW2). As tempting as it may be, you don’t want the Soviets to get involved as it will escalate a full-blown war with the entire Axis, prolonging the war with China joining the Comintern also. Instead, bide your time and join the United Chinese Front attempting to cut the Japanese front into two halves. This can be made easier by preparing a military coup in mainland Japan, forcing them to send troops back. The strength of your coup can be increased, if you boost communism in Japan (although be careful as you will have less political power to spend). Of course, here a Mao music montage that will further increase the strength of your coup:

The Sun is Reddest, Chairman Mao is Dearest

When attacking, ensure you have enough divisions to defend your borders and look for gaps in the line where you can encircle Japanese troops. In addition, the nationalist AI love to throw men at the enemy, so let them suffer casualties wearing down the Japanese forces before you attack. 

Dealing with China

Once Japan has been wiped off the continent, they will sign a white peace, bringing peace to the continent – but not for long. Now, is the best time as Communist China in Hearts of Iron as you can focus on building up your army and allying with Stalin. Again, you must make use of your manpower and throw your men at the enemy. This conflict shouldn’t be too hard, as long as you have a fairly advanced military and enough divisions (70-80+ should suffice). Then, China will be yours. If you haven’t already, please be sure to check out our previous HOI4 guides on the Soviet Union, France, and the German Reich.


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    Japan is now unable to be coup’d due to it’s high stability, any ideas?

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    Tried 3 times. 24 reserve units before Japan attacks just barely happens on regular. Therefore 24 units and taking over both the other countries before the attack is certainly impossible. I don’t know if this is based on an old version but this just doesn’t work if you are trying for achievements period. Shanxi immediately places all of their units on the border as soon as I start justifying and while I win the attacks the movements are just too slow even with setting the army up with two mountaineers. Please let me know if I am doing something wrong but I followed to the letter the guide.

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      Please note that the guide was released last year in January, so the info might be out of date if the game was patched a couple of times since then

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      You’re thinking like a major country. This was also a hurdle for me.

      Do not wait for them to fully equip or fully train. Prioritize equipping the training infantry, deploy as soon as possible (seems to go in groups of 4), and your 24 barely trained divisions can still take on Xibei San Ma before the end of 1936.

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      Just shit them out, the important thing is quantity, not quality

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    The focus tree in my game looks nothing like the one you described. What would the difference be? I’ve recently purchase through steam. I think my version is Husky v1.9.1.

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      Do you have the expansion pack with the focus tree for communist china? it’s waking the tiger DLC

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    There’s a way to make taking over mainland China easy .Once you join Chinese United Front wait for another country to join and then immediately leave and join Comintern .Once Japan declares war on China ,do a war goal on Mengkukuo ,you will get both Mengkukuo and Manchukuo ,however the Soviets will get Korea.Garrison the bulk of your army in Chinese victory points then put the other troops on frontline with China then justify on the country that joins Chinese United Front ,then declare war on that country ,your units will take the Chinese victory points that arent guarded,you will have to do micro managing.China will captitualate and the peace conference will happen but Japan may get the peace conference instead but you should have a large enough army to take back China.

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    Could you do a guide for the Chinese Warlord “nations”? In particular I’d love to see you delve into how to succeed with Manchukuo and Guangxi Clique.

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    Please do Italy guide

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      Hi Gustav, it’s one of the countries I intend to do. With the release of the Man the Guns DLC, Britain, Mexico and the Netherlands are likely to take priority due to their new focus trees.


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