China 1949-76- government


Key development, 1911-49

  • Qing dynasty of emperors, who had been in power since 1644, overthrown in 1911
  • After ten years of unrest Chiang Kai-sek and the Nationalist Party defeated the warlords and brought China under central control
  • In the Nanking decade (1927-37) Chiang tried to destroy the Communists by driving them into the interior of China
  • In 1934 around 100,000 Communists embarked on a retreat, where Mao asserted hus leadership over the Party
  • open civil war broke out between the GMD and CCP in 1946
  • In December 1949, Chiang flew to Taiwan and left Mao and the Communists in control
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Aftermath of the civil war of 1946-1949

  • the end of years of conflict brought goodwill to the Communists
  • Communists had proved that they were more organised than the Nationalists
  • Mao had declared willingness to work with social groups who had China's interests at heart
  • Civil war had strengthened Mao's position at the top of the Party and had the devoted loyalty of the Chinese army
  • To restore stabilty he needed to make all opposition possible
  • Mao saw the value of a wide support base, including peasants
  • In general terms, after the civil war it looked promising for the Communists
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China's industry, agriculture and infrastructure

  • Chinese economy crippled by 12 years of war
  • by the time the Japanese were defeated in 1945, China's industrial output stood at 25% of its pre-war level
  • critical food supply- disruption in agrulculture cause by peasants being conscripted
  • Henan suffered a famine during the war, killing 2-3 million people
  • finances devasted by the war years as GMD had payed for war by printing and borrowing money, causing hyperinflation
  • In 1949 the inflation rate was at 1000%
  • China was largely agriculural but only 15% of land was cultivable
  • growing population
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The organisation of the government

  • theoretically very free- peasant/worker alliance, wide range of freedoms eg gender equality, but in reality the army could suppress of counter-revolutionary activity
  • not ready for full socialism- four classes of people could have rights, everyone else (five 'black catagories) would be repressed- 'New Democracy'
  • Common Programme- new constitution
  • central government just rubber stamped decisions made by the Politburo
  • new constitution 1954 confirmed China as a Communist country (based of Soviet Constituion 1936)- Communist Party retained control of the entire electoral process- all power remained in Politburo
  • Party employed 720,000 in 1949, eight million in 1959- increased power but could slow of revolution- bureacrats wanted to keep staus quo to safeguard their careers
  • real power lay in Chairman of the Party
  • party membership restricted to those who could prove commitment and ideological correctness
  • trained Party members (cadres) ran civil service, legal system, school and the army locally
  • every employed system belonged to a danwei (work unit) led by a Party cadre which permitted people to travel, marry and change jobs
  • PLA worlds largest army- 5 million men in 1950, 40% of state budget, means of indoctrination
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Mao's dominant position within government

  • became Party leader as a direct result of the Rectification campaign in 1943, made head of state in 1949
  • not absolute power because key decisions were debated in the Politburo- Mao still set the pace and direction of policies
  • he was a formidable politcal manipulator and became increasingly difficult to challenge
  • Nationalism- Mao's most important element of his ideology- wanted to free China from foreign exploitation
  • Continuing revolution- didn't want stagnation and wanted everyone to actively participate in the revolution
  • Listening to the people- thought that this is where Russia went wrong- wanted people to get involved with discussing policy
  • Mass mobilisation- mass campaigns directed at achieving specific targets, and China's main asset was its huge population
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The reunification campaigns, 1949-50

  • Guandong- GMD heartland during the civil war, but GMD made no attempt to defend it and the province capitulated to the PLA two weeks after the PRC had been declared in Beijing
  • Xinjiang- Russians had been developing it as a buffer state in case of Japanese invasions- 80% of its population were Uyghurs, most of whom were Muslim- nationalist opposition was subdued throigh conquest and negotiation. It became a security buffer zone for the PRC
  • Tibet- had been an independant state from 1913 and wanted to resist Communist conquest. Britain were no longer interested in protecting it after India became independant. In May 1951 Tibet came under Chinese sovreignty, and the PRC bgan a campaign of destroying Tobetan identity by bringing in Han settlers and promoting Chinese lifestyle
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Use of terror against opponents of Communist rule

  • Labelling- every individual given a class label that specified their family background, status and occupation, the labels were simplified to just 'red' or 'black'- friend of foe. Children inherited the label of the head of the household in a family
  • Crackdown on crime- petty criminals and 'nuisances' were removed from cities and put in the countryside, particularly targeting beggars and prostitutes. Many that were sent away drifted back to the cities and re-education camps were quickly filled. criminal gangs and triads were also targeted- over 150,000 criminals were arrested and over half of them were executed
  • Suppression of counter-revolutionaries in the Great Terror, 1950-51- the war in Korea gave Mao the perfect excuse to crush whoever still stood in the Communists way back home. severe measures against disloyal elements were seen as justifiable. The terror was brutal and widespread to remove opponents and deter others. An estimated 710,000 were killed in the year of terror and several million were sent to labour camps or subjected to surveillance by the PLA
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The three and five antis movements, 1951-52

  • three antis launched october 1951- corruption, waste and delay
  • mass meetings were held at which managers and officials were denounced by their work colleagues
  • small scale embezzlement suspects were 'flies', large scale corruption suspects were 'tigers'
  • accusations were often false and fear stopped people from standing up for each other
  • five antis launched january 1952- bribery, tax evasion, theft of state property, fraud and ecnomic espionage 
  • denounciation directly targeted the bourgeoisie
  • denunciation boxes sped up the process
  • roughly 1% of victims were shot, 1% were sent to labour camps, 3% were jailed for more than ten years and the rest were fined, although fear of humiliation drove many to commit suicide
  • fines destroyed the old business class by destroying their wealth and financed the korean war
  • the movements reinforced Mao's position at the top and made lower cadres realise that opposition was too dangerous
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Development of the laogai system

  • meant to be places of re-education rather than of punishment
  • two million prisoners by 1953, over half of whom were working as forced labourers in laogoi
  • under the Great Leap Forward, prisoners were used to do the most hazardous jobs
  • camps also of significant economic value
  • thought reform invloved endless self criticism and indoctrination meetings
  • when the prison population ballooned in 1955 a new layer of imprisonment was added, re-education through labour, to absorb 300,000 more inmates
  • victims were sent without trial and could be held indefinitely until the police decied that they had bee sufficiently 're-educated'
  • the amount of people who died in the camps could have been as high as 25 million
  • to avoid prison congestion people were placed under surveillance
  • this controlled the local cadres and was mainly used in rural areas
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Hundred Flowers Campaign (1957) and its aftermath

  • a call for open debate about the Party and its policies
  • initial lack of response due to fear after the purges
  • Mao summoned the People's Daily newspaper to give coverage to the debate and emabrked on a state-managed railway tour to engage with peasants
  • when people finally did come forward, there was floods of criticism and suggestions for improvement became denunciations of policies and even of individual leaders
  • a sudden halt to the debate- a speed which suggests that Mao planned to do this the whole time
  • he rounded on his critics and labelled them 'Rightists'
  • about half a million more people went to labour camps
  • Mao had lost the goodwill of intelectuals forever
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War's role in enhancing CCP control, suppressing o

  • further measures to tighten control could be easily justified due to the danger of the PRC coming under attack from USA due to events in Korea
  • Mao needed to remove Nationalist sentiments, but also any chance of people emerging as future opponents
  • local leaders were given roles in organising the details of wartime terror
  • Americans were branded as counter-revolutionaries and Chritisan missionaries had partcularly hard vilification
  • Mao used the war to promote national unity by organising a campaign against the USA
  • there were student demonstrations and anti-American slogans were endlessly chanted
  • forced donations of up to three months salary were collected from professionals in the cities
  • the Party used  the paranoia of health concerns to kill the five main pests- , and the more controversial cull of dogs
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Human and financial costs of intervention in Korea

  • estimated loss of one million people, mostly conscripts
  • losses were unimportant to Mao due to the vastness of the population
  • economy had to be entirely refocused to supply the military with the supplies needed to sustain three years of war
  • over 50% of government spending in 1951 was on the military
  • Food supplies in the army were kept up by forced requistioning in the countryside
  • Further difficulties were caused by the trade embargo on Chinese goods imposed the the USA when China entered the war
  • debts caused by military spending meant that there was little money to go into education, health provision of economic infrastructure- progress in all these fields were set back years
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China's enhanced international prestige

  • China's prestige was boosted from managing to keep US forces at bay for three years
  • preservation of a friendly, Communist North Korea gave China greater security from future attack
  • USA was now the enemy
  • CIA began plotting to undermine Chinese control of Tibet
  • Relations with the Soviet Union suffered due to the war as Mao resented Stalin notgetting more directly involeved with the fighting
  • Sino-soviet relations got even worse after Stalin's death because Mao didn't like Khrushchev either
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