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HOI4 (Hearts of Iron IV): Nationalist China Guide

HOI4 (Hearts of Iron IV) Nationalist China Guide

Hearts of Iron IV (HOI4) is a grand strategy game developed by Paradox Interactive and is the fourth entry in the Hearts of Iron series. Many historians consider the Second Sino-Japanese War as the prelude or the start of the Second World War, and this is very much reflected in Hearts of Iron IV, where China starts with the northeast occupied by Japan and the latter ready to escalate the conflict. In this article, we will look into how Nationalist China can build up their armies in HOI4, establish their industries, fortify their borders and coasts, and finally win over Japan and establish China as the dominant power in the Pacific, as it should be.

Related: HOI4 (Hearts of Iron IV): Communist China Guide – Defeat Japan

The Common Path for Nationalist China in HOI4

Starting Moves

China starts off with a multitude of debuffs in HOI4 thanks to its years of exploitation and numerous warlords. Out of all, the most crushing would be the Army Corruption, as it directly hampers our ability to defend against enemy attacks, so we need to be focusing on that.

Nationalist China starts off with 11 military factories in HOI4, so let’s focus on the army and leave any air force or armored units behind. Assign the following factories here:

  • Infantry equipment: 6 factories
  • Towed artillery: 4 factories
  • Civilian trains: 1 factory

In terms of industrial capacity, China has nine free civilian factories, but these are likely not enough, so focus on building more civilian factories until we get to 25–35 factories, after which we can focus on military production once more.

Research engineering and industry to start off, since the technologically disadvantaged Chinese need as much as they can get. After this, we can focus on infantry and artillery research.

Start with the Military Affairs Commission focus and then go down to the Army Reform. We need these two so that we can start reforming the army before the war starts. Likewise, don’t forget to assign a Chief of Army once you fill out your political appointments. Training your units will also help you accumulate the needed XP.

Next, go for the Unified Industrial Planning, then the Expand the Academica Sinica for the extra research slots. Once we’ve completed this, we can move on to the next phase.

Next Phase

China starts with a few available advisors in HOI4, the best being Chiang Ching-Kuo, Lin Sen, and Soong Mei-Ling. Select these advisors in their respective orders, as their boost in political power and stability will greatly aid us.

Following this, select the Chief of Army next: either Zhu De or Chen Jintang will do. We’ll look to avoid Li Zongren and Falkenhausen, with the former costing too much political power and the latter being volatile due to the possibility of him being recalled.

Have all your divisions exercise and focus on gaining as much XP as possible. In the near future, we need to convert all these units to the Sanjiao Jun division template (after you edit it to have nine infantry brigades and a support artillery company).

Now a decision for the garrison has to be made:

  • Train around 100 divisions (at least 5 infantry brigades and some support companies), assign them to 2-3 armies, assign them to an army group, and set the army group to defend the coastlines and ports.
  • Train cavalry and infantry divisions together to act as a quick-reaction force. Use the naval invasion warning to know where to deploy your forces. React quickly to any amphibious landings and quickly collapse on the attackers before they have the chance to consolidate their beachheads.

The first method for coastal defense does not require much micromanaging as the AI will do the job for you, allowing you to focus on the main front, while the second method is the opposite, where you need to carefully manage both the main front and the defense side.

The Diplomatic Path for Nationalist China in HOI4

On this path, we’ll look to build the United Chinese Front as early as possible and focus on taking care of the Japanese first and foremost.

Starting Moves

Along with the Three Principles of the People focus, take the Nationalism focus, then the Foreign Threats and United Front focus. Once the Communists accept the offer, we’ll be allies against the Japanese. We won’t be able to invite the other warlord states yet, but as world tension builds, we can invite them in.

Now that we’ve secured our alliance, we need to be focusing on building up a strong army, as China’s industrial power will take some time to build up, time that needs to be bought by basically a large stack of manpower.

Continue building the standard division (9 infantry and 1 support artillery or 6 infantry and 2 artillery) and assigning them to guard the front against the Japanese in Beijing. We’ll look to ideally have 3-5 divisions per tile against the Japanese on this front, as at this point, the best we can do is hold them back.

Train lots of five infantry brigade divisions to act as a coastal defense force. The goal here is that the Japanese should not be able to even land a single division. We’ll look to stop them at the beaches.

Set all units to train and focus on grinding as much XP as possible before the Marco Polo Bridge incident occurs.

Build some stability before dealing with the industry, as the 35% starting stability of China in HOI4 will go down to 20% if we somehow end at war before any increases are made. Likewise, do the same for your war support, but you can leave it at 80%, as we’ll get a boost when the Japanese declare war.

Be careful when dealing with Inflation, as we do not wish to severely cap our construction and production lines.

War with the Japanese

Once the Japanese complete the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, war is inevitable. We’ll focus on keeping the capital safe for now while repelling any attacks. Our goal here is to make the Japanese bleed while our own forces continue building up. In this effort, we are greatly aided by the large manpower pool of HOI4 China.

Keep an eye out for any possible naval invasions and try to reinforce the area of attack by the Japanese. If they are able to gain any beachheads, we need to isolate them immediately and counterattack before they are able to open a second front. If this is not possible, focus on keeping them at bay.

The key here in the war is to strike where numerical superiority is in our favor and once our military has somewhat modernized. In the military high command tab, there are three army-based generals who’ll do well to aid our efforts.

Look to overwhelm the Japanese, who are cut off from their supply points, overstretched, and where you have the advantage in manpower.

Once you occupy most of Korea, Japan will offer a peace treaty that you should accept for now. We have no navy to invade Japan, so the idea of continuing the fight is going to be difficult.


After that, we can focus on the remaining warlord states. Take action against each one separately, and with your experienced armies, it shouldn’t be too difficult. After that, it’s your playground. You can move into the Soviet Union and seek to take Siberia or take your revenge against the Western powers that enforced the unequal treaty upon China.

Likewise, you can try to build a navy and launch a sneak attack on the Japanese in order to prevent them from attacking you once again. The trick here is to build whatever ships you can, justify against the Japanese, and when the justification is ready, pause the game, declare war, and launch your naval invasion already.

Be sure to already have your ships set up for support invasion duties in the sea areas where your troops will be crossing. Since you’ll have the advantage while the game is paused, your troops will launch their invasion right away, even if the Japanese reestablish control of the seas.

After that, you are free to take action against whichever country fancies your gaze.

The War Path for Nationalist China in HOI4

On this path, we’ll look to subdue most of the warlord states (mainly Communist China, Guangxi, and Shanxi) before dealing with the Japanese and their subjects.

Starting Moves

Like the diplomatic path, take the focuses mentioned, but instead of taking the Foreign Threats focus, take the Prioritize the Interior, Anti-Communism, and Subjugate the Warlords focuses. Similarly, don’t build civilian industries that much and give more focus to your military, as we need to have it fully prepared to fight against everyone.

Adjust your Sanjiao Jun division templates to 9 infantry brigades as soon as possible, then change the division templates of all your units to the aforementioned division.

Set half against the Communists and half against the Japanese near Beijing. The extra divisions will form our quick-response force against the Japanese. Start training as many units as possible.

Once we’re able to declare war on the Communists (they should be your first target), do so and then order your forces to retreat at least a line back. The logic here is that the Communists are too entrenched in their mountain territory.

When they push into the plains of Central China and overstretch themselves, we can attack them from the flanks and encircle them. Losing the mountain bonus will prove fatal for the Communists.

Should they still have enough forces to prove a headache in the mountains, retreat once more to lure them out. If they do not want to go out, abandon a large swath of your territory until the enemy is far enough out to encircle them.

Other Warlords

There’s no guarantee that all warlords will join you, but with the Shanxi and Yunnan cliques, you should perform the mountain retreat strategy once more so that you can keep pushing them until you reach their capital.

The Guangxi Clique and Tibet are easier, as the former’s land is mostly flat and will not provide any bonus to its defenders, and the latter’s forces are too small to realistically hold you back.

Be careful when dealing with Xibei and Sinkiang, as the distance to their capital and victory points will stretch your supply lines, leading to your troops taking forever to just march there. You can leave them alone until you have motorized units and supplies.


Keep preparing for Japan and follow the same strategy on the diplomatic path, though you’ll likely have to rely on your quick response force to counteract the Japanese landings. Still, if it’s possible, try to rely on the coastal defense strategy, as it’s much easier to defend the beachheads than when the enemy has established a firm control.

Once Japan offers a peace deal, it is your choice to accept it or decline. Should you choose the latter, be sure to build as many destroyers as possible, as they are the cheapest ones. Move them to Busan and have your invasion force prepare to cross.

Now comes the tricky part, as you’ll need to wait until the enemy stops patrolling the waters of Japan, and in that brief window span, set your ships to support naval invasions, and your army should be ready to go.

From there, you need to only push against the heartland of Japan until they have no other choice but to surrender.

And that is all you need to know about how to win as Nationalist China in HOI4. Check out other HOI4 interesting guides and articles:

Based in Santa Rosa, Philippines, Jonathan Ledesma is a Freelance Writer for Raider King.
Jonathan Ledesma
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