Mao's China - 1949-76

A complete set of notes about Mao Zedong's dictatorship of China between 1949 and 1976.

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THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA (1949-76)
The Government of the People's Republic of China: Mao's authority and ideas; his leading
colleagues; the People's Liberation Army; the Hundred Flowers Campaign and its
consequences.
The nature of economic policies: agricultural change in the 1950s and early 1960s; attempts at
industrialisation; five-year plans and the Great Leap Forward.
Social changes, 1949-65: gender, class and culture.
The origins, course and consequences of the Cultural Revolution, 1962-76.
Background knowledge
China before 1949:
Qing government collapsed in 1911 ­ republic set up in place of imperial system but it was
unsure where the real power laid ­ warlords dominated the next 40 years trying to assert
authority.
The Nationalists (GMD) ­ led by Chiang Kaishek and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) led
by Mao Zedong were the two main parties in contention ­ from the early 1930s the GMD
were the nominal party but they were unable to crush the CCP.
In 1937 Japan invaded many of the richest/densely populated areas of China ­ the GMD dealt
with the invasion poorly whilst the CCP were led by Mao from their bases in Jiangxi and Yanan
in a spirited resistance to the occupation ­ by 1945 they became a more powerful force than
the GMD (forced to take refuge in Taiwan).
When Japan surrendered at the end of WW2 Mao turned on the GMD. The civil war lasted
from 1945-1949 with a victory for the CCP ­ GMD were driven to Taiwan whilst in October
1949 Mao declared the People's Republic of China.
Mao at Jiangxi 1927-34 The Long March 1934-5
The GMD and CCP formed a united front The GMD became the official government in the early
against the warlords in 1924 but it wasn't 1930s but was weakened by the Japanese occupation
real. The GMD's aim was to destroy the CCP. (began in 1931). Kaishek seemed more intent in
They launched a systematic extermination in crushing the CCP than protecting China. In 1934 he
1927 ­ Mao took the CCP to the mountains encircled the CCP's base in Jiangxi ­ survived by joining
of Jiangxi province to avoid the attacks ­ and eventually leading an escape north to Yanan ­
helped establish the Jiangxi Soviet over the took over a year. Out of the 100,000 fled from
next 7 years dedicated to a peasant Jiangxi, only 20,000 survived to reach Yanan.
revolution. During the `Futian incident' in
1930 Mao proved he had no qualms in
torturing and executing 4000 Red Army
troops.
The Yanan Years 1935-45 Mao's policy in the countryside 1945-9
With a combination of political and military The CCP committed fearful atrocities against peasants
skill and suppression, Mao managed to in the areas they controlled to force them to join the
impose his authority over the CCP in Yanan. struggle against the GMD. Mao sent his son Anying to
In the early 1940s he fought off attempts by take part ­ said that the barbarity he saw was worse

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Comintern to dominate the party and than anything he had seen or heard of while studying
launched a series of `rectification of conduct' Stalin's USSR ­ anti-landlord rallies meant villagers
campaigns to consolidate his hold. couldn't leave unsheltered areas for 5 days and had to
chant Maoist slogans whilst landlords were publically
paraded ­ condemned on 5th day and kicked and
punched to death whilst crowd shouted `kill, kill, kill'.…read more

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Shanghai and Guangzhou were cities known for gangs and triads (secret societies) in the years of
the GMD. The CCP, when they discovered this, turned on them ­ of the 130,000 `bandits and
criminals' rounded up in Guangzhou, over half were executed. Similarly, in Shanghai, the death
toll was 28,000.
Enforcing conformity:
In order to maintain control, the CCP turned China into a nation of informers.…read more

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America thought the invasion was the first venture of the new Communist block formed by China
and the USSR ­ unlikely as China was pre-occupied with Taiwan, Xinjiang, Guangdong and Tibet.
South Korea appealed to the United Nations but they were currently boycotted by the Soviets so
nothing was done to help ­ they lost all land except around Pusan.…read more

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Beatings and struggle sessions were public humiliation and other `rightists' were forced into
labour camps ­ the only intellectuals that escaped persecution were scientists (useful for making
China into a great military power) and artists (forced to draw propaganda paintings on walls).
`Rightists' were forced into labour camps or dumped in places like North Manchuria where they
had to rig up their own shelters in temperatures of -38degrees.…read more

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Incentives ­To encourage workers [and supervisors] to work harder to reach the targets set,
`incentives' are offered e.g. bigger food ration, better apartment, better schooling for their
children.
How far was the first five year plan a success?
Between 1953 and 1957 China's economic growth rate = 9% - compared favourably with USSR.
What was the USSR's involvement with the plan?
Only country after 1949 revolution that was willing to offer economic aid.…read more

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The building of Tiananmen Square, Beijing begun in 1957 and was completed within 2 years ­
larger than Moscow's Red Square.
Chinese planners spoke figuratively of two soldiers that would lead the nation to victory ­
General Steel and General Grain. They claimed that General Grain was triumphing in the battle to
increase food supplies so General Steel would win his struggle also and turn China into a
successful industrial economy.…read more

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Mao accepted that industrialisation was essential but believed that a massive development of
manpower could achieve the advanced industrialisation needed.
The reform of agriculture
Collectivisation ­ 1956:
Two years after the land was given to the peasants, the government took it back.
Although the peasants were producing more food, it wasn't making its way to the urban workers
­ economic planners blamed this on the peasants for overeating and having larger families ­ must
be brought under strict central control and direction.…read more

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People were called on to end the menace of sparrows and other wild birds who ate crop seeds ­
came out of their houses and prescribed times and made as much noise as possible to prevent
the birds from landing so they eventually dropped exhausted in the sky.
Thousands of dead birds were displayed as trophies.
Villages and regions competed with each other over who could kill the most birds.…read more

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Mao withdrew from the political front line in 1962 and instructed Deng Xiaoping and Liu Shaoqi to
bring an end to the rural crisis and restore adequate food supplies.
The Government of the People's Republic of China: Mao's authority and ideas; his leading
colleagues; the People's Liberation Army; the Hundred Flowers Campaign and its
consequences.
The nature of economic policies: agricultural change in the 1950s and early 1960s; attempts at
industrialisation; five-year plans and the Great Leap Forward.
Social changes, 1949-65: gender, class and culture.…read more

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