Hearts of Iron 4 (HOI4) – China Strategy Guide

In Hearts of Iron 4, gamers have the opportunity to guide any country through the challenging period of the Second World War.

Among the more difficult countries to play is one that suffered an early loss prior to the war. China finds itself in a precarious state, facing imminent Japanese invasion less than two years after the game’s start.

If you’re interested in saving this country from its impending downfall, this guide will show you how.

Here, we will outline the specific strategy to use as both Nationalist and Communist China in order to defeat Japan in HOI4.

General Strategy for China

One of the best things about playing as China in HOI4 is that you don’t have to execute anything too complex to achieve victory.

As long as you maintain a steady gun production while also preparing for modernization, you’ll be on your way to defeating Japan in no time.

When it comes to industry, your focus should be on producing Infantry Equipment, with additional production for Artillery and Support Equipment.

It’s best to hold off on putting your troops in Trucks until around 1940, and by that time, you’ll be two years into the Sino-Japanese war.

Whether you’re playing as communist or nationalist China, your primary goal until July 1937 is to unite the warlords to fight against Japan as a unified entity. This can be achieved by either puppeting or conquering the other forces before the war starts.

If you manage to unify China before the war, then you’ll just need to deceive the Japanese into territories with low supply while maintaining a secure line that shouldn’t move until around 1940. At this point, their Manpower and equipment should be low enough to push them back.

As China possesses the largest available Manpower pool in the game, combined with vast territories, it is truly the “sleeping giant” in HOI4.

Below, you’ll find the necessary steps from administrative and military perspectives to win the Sino-Japanese war as either Nationalist China or Communist China in HOI4.

How to Start as Nationalist China in HOI4

National Focuses

Your primary goal in the first year when it comes to National Focuses is to reach the Subjugate the Warlords focus as quickly as possible. This will give you a 50-50 chance to puppet all the warlords of China besides Communist China. If they don’t accept your demands, you will gain a war goal on them, allowing you to quickly take them over before Japan comes.

If they don’t accept your demands, you will gain a war goal on them, allowing you to quickly take them over before Japan comes. This means that you will need to start the game by picking these 4 National Focuses to quickly start unifying China:

  1. Three Principals of the People
  2. Nationalism
  3. Prioritize the Interior
  4. Subjugate the Warlords

In around 9 months, you should be in a very close position to uniting China properly before the war.

Once those focuses are done, your next step is to complete the Anti-Communism focus to finally take care of Mao’s Communist China. After this, any of the three branches are really good for making China more powerful and ready for the upcoming war.


The first problem you are going to find when you start playing as Nationalist China in HOI4 is the complete lack of supply in most states. You will need a supply hub and railway to address this issue.

After that, you should also start building a railway from the Naval Bases towards the other Supply Hubs, since they are separated, and this will mean that your country will use Convoys for supply, which will get destroyed by Japan’s powerful navy.

Also, bring the level of all your Railways to level 2 since you will otherwise have problems sending supply from one hub to the other.


Instantly cancel the production of that Cruiser since you won’t use a navy. Set up a Convoy production line with the maximum available Naval Dockyard potential.

Now, set up three production lines:

  • Infantry Equipment – 6 Military Factories (Hanyan Arsenal Military Industrial Organization)
  • Towed Artillery – 2 Military Factories
  • Anti-Air Artillery – 2 Military Factories
  • Trains – 1 Military Factory


Nationalist China starts off HOI4 with 57 divisions – 28 of them are 8-width Infantry divisions (Juntuan), 24 of them are 12-width Infantry Divisions (Sanjiao Jun), and 9 are 8-width Cavalry divisions.

Don’t train any new divisions, since you have more than enough. Until you modernize the army and make good division templates for the army, don’t even think about pumping out more troops. Split the divisions into three armies and put Hsueh Yueh in charge of the Army Group.


This is the most important part of a single-player game against Japan as China. You will need to create an Intelligence Agency the moment you reach 1937 and start improving relations with Japan. Get the Diplomatic Training branch upgrade and send your first operative to put Diplomatic Pressure on Japan.

How to Beat Japan and Unite the Warlords as Nationalist China

Now it’s the time to unite China. Your first steps should be advancing through the focus tree to get the war goals/puppets and also evolve your army. Try to get Support Equipment as fast as possible since there is no way you can win without some support battalions in your divisions.

When it comes to the upgrades for the Hanyan Arsenal, go for Reinforced Stocks, Advanced Barrel Forging, and Mass Rifle Production since this will allow you to make a lot of guns in less time.

Preparing to Unite China

Around June, you should have the necessary Political Power to recruit a Political Advisor. Once you start the Subjugate the Warlords focus, stop training all your divisions and prepare a few frontlines with the other Chinese countries.

In September, you should have enough PP and Command Power to hire a Chief of Army.

Unifying China

Out of all the warlords, the only one you don’t want to annex is Guangxi Clique. Even if they don’t accept your unification 50/50 choice, and you declare war on them, puppet them. Once you manage to defeat the three warlords, you can do two things: wait and consolidate or justify and attack Tibet.

Fighting Japan

It shouldn’t be long now until Japan attacks you. Japan will start the Marco Polo Bridge Incident some time in July 1937. So, if you can press the Non-aggression pact on the first day of July, you should have managed to avoid war with Japan until at least July 1938. Protecting your ports will be important, along with setting up an elite army to surround Qingdao. One of the main strategies that you can use to ruin the Japanese army is to let them conquer the northern lands of China.

Winning the War

All you need to do to win the war against Japan is to completely kick them out of the mainland. After that, you will usually just have to decide if you want to continue the war and capitulate Japan or end it and basically end your run. You can either attack the Allies to regain your treaty ports from them or wait WW2 out.

How to Start as Communist China in HOI4

Communist China starts in a much worse position than Nationalist China. The first thing you need to do is pump out a lot of divisions. When it comes to industry, you just need Infantry Equipment. The main plan will be to defeat Shanxi, Xibei San Ma, and Sinkiang before Japan attacks China. Once Japan attacks the Nationalists, wait for the perfect moment to join the war.

How to Beat Japan and Unite the Warlords as Communist China

Communist China will be a relatively hard challenge in HOI4 if you don’t want Soviet support. Your main goal for most of the war should be taking Manchukuo for yourself. Once you manage to kick Japan out of the mainland, you will get an event to declare war on the other China. Since you are part of the same faction, they won’t have any troops on the borders, allowing you to easily defeat them.

Though the Nationalist China strategy is much more efficient and faster to complete, the Communist one will require a lot of patience from you as you slowly defeat both Japan and Nationalists.

That’s a comprehensive guide to playing both Nationalist and Communist China in Hearts of Iron 4!