China 1949-76- social developments

Foot Binding

  • involved breaking the toes of young girls and folding them back under the foot, which was then tightly bound
  • restricted foot growth to about three inches, which was seen by men as a sign of beauty and distinction
  • was outlawed in 1911 but it still persisted in some rural areas
  • the Communists officially banned in when they came to power, but it was already on its way out
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The Marriage Law 1950

  • changed the basis of marriage from a contractual arrangement of two families to something freely entered into by two individuals
  • Mao refused to go through with his own marriage when he was 14
  • bride price- an amount paid by the groom's family to the bride's family, reflecting her perceived value
  • all marriages and divorces had to be registered with the local government
  • children born out of wedlock had equal rights to other children
  • polygamy and concubinage were outlawed
  • divorce was now availale on equal terms
  • The impact of the law was minimal due to traditional resistance
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Impact of collectivisation and communes of women's

  • The land redistribution campaign of 1950 appeared to have advanced the cause of women's emancipation significantly, as it gave women  the chance to own land in their name for the first time. However, shortly after this no one was allowed to own land privately
  • the communes should have been theoretically beneficial for women, because it was envisaged that they would provide canteens, laundries and kindergartens to free women from domestic chores
  • during the famine years, women had to decide if they or their children would be fed first, if at all
  • lack of food is often cited as the reason that many women were driven into prostitution
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Women and the family

  • Mao and the Communists wanted to destroy traditional family life, since it symbolised the Confucian values that they were committed to overturning
  • in many communes men and women were forced to live in seperate quarters
  • the main victims of the famine were the very young and the very old
  • children were taught to inform on relatives who clung to old attitudes
  • vast numbers of teenagers were uprooted from their families whe they sent the Red Guards uo to the mountains and down to the villages. Those who came back after their time in the countryside found it hard to reintergrate and have been described as the 'lost generation'
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Nature and extent of change

  • arranged marriages were far less common
  • in the first year after the law passed over a million women used the new divorce system to extract themeselves from arranged marriages that did not suit them
  • women made rapid advances in terms of taking up oppurtunities for paid employment, and were entitled to recieve the same pay rates as men
  • the amount of women in the workforce rose from 8% to 32% from 1949-76, but they still remained less than a third of the workforce
  • there was no oppurtunity for women to gain more rights while still retaining their feminine roles
  • women who took up roles in the Red Guard found themselves accepted only if they exhibited the same level of violence as their male counterparts
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Problem of changing traditional views, especially

  • Resistance to female emancipation was strongest in the rural inland areas, where changes were always slower to arrive and be accepted
  • the greatest resistance came in the Muslim provinces of the far West, where arranged marriages formed an integral part of the religious culture
  • attitudes to women's pay for agricultural work were also sloe to change, especially in northern areas, where women had rarely worked in the fields before the Great Leap Forward
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Growth of literacy

  • by the mid-1950s a ntional system of primary education had been set up
  • the national literacy rate grew from 20% in 1949, to 50% in 1960 and 64% in 1964
  • by 1956, fewer than half of children aged 7-16 were in full-time education due to government spending going on the war in Korea
  • 'key schools' attracted the best teachers, where students had to pass strict entrance exams and places were reserved for the children of high-ranking Party officials
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Pinyin

  • Pinyin is a form of phonetic Mandarin
  • It was offically adopted in 1956 to help the spread of literacy
  • Mandarin tended to vary from region to region and it had no alphabet, meaning that each word had to be learned seperately
  • In Pinyin, all of the sounds of Mandarin were given a particular symbol, which made it much more straightforward to learn and write
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Collapse of education after 1966

  • The closure of schools and universities for much of the period between 1966 and 1970 meant that education of some 130 million young people simply stopped
  • teachers had been attacked and ridiculed, the curriculum dismissed as a waste of time and the whole purpose of education undermined
  • After the Cultural Revolution there was a greater emphasis on practical work and vocational training
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Barefoot doctors

  • one million medical trainees, known as barefoot doctors, were sent to provide rudimentary medical help to the rural peasantry
  • it was hoped that exposure to peasant conditions would prevent young medical intellectuals from slipping into bourgeois mindsets that had made doctors the targets of the earlier 'anti' campaigns
  • the scheme was a great success, both on health grounds and from a propaganda point of view
  • 90% of villages were involved by 1976
  • it recieve significant international attention and served as an inspiration to the World Health Organisation, which endorsed similar schemes elsewhere
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Barefoot doctors

  • one million medical trainees, known as barefoot doctors, were sent to provide rudimentary medical help to the rural peasantry
  • it was hoped that exposure to peasant conditions would prevent young medical intellectuals from slipping into bourgeois mindsets that had made doctors the targets of the earlier 'anti' campaigns
  • the scheme was a great success, both on health grounds and from a propaganda point of view
  • 90% of villages were involved by 1976
  • it recieve significant international attention and served as an inspiration to the World Health Organisation, which endorsed similar schemes elsewhere
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Successes and failures of health-care reform

  • from 1952 a series of 'patriotic health movements' were introduced, propaganda drives led by teams of Party workers who explained to the peasantry the importance of hygiene, and the link between dirt and disease
  • hospital treatments for the sick were limited 
  • in rural areas, county hospitals were staffed by trained doctors, but most care was administered at a lower level
  • life expectancy rose from 41 years in 1950 to 62 years by 1970, and infant mortality rates fell
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Attacks on traditional culture in the towns and co

  • imposing the new proletarian culture first required the deconstruction of old attitudes rooted in the past
  • the Land reform of 1950 dealt a major blow to these traditional values, and much subsequent Communist propaganda was aimed atstressing how much 1949 was a fresh start, requiring totally different attitudes
  • the Red Guards became a law unto themselves as they hunted down the 'four olds'
  • their victims included an arbitrary range of people who held onto the four olds and the objects that represented them
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Role of Jiang Qing

  • she described herself as 'Chairman Mao's dog- whoever he asked me to bite, I bit'
  • She set out to purify chinese culture, working with the Minister of Culture and a range of experienced singers, dancers and composers
  • a rigid form of censorship was established which prevented any work (across tyhe entire field or the arts) from appearing in public until it had satisfied her criteria of cultural purity
  • only works relating to contemporary Chinese themes were permitted, so traditional stories had to be updated and put into a modern context
  • she also took advantage of her power over culture to pursue personal vendettas against many enemies from the past, including actresses who had won roles ahead of her in the 1930s and those who knew compromising details of her early career
  • the main result of Jiang's control was to completely stifle creativity
  • she retained her stranglehold over culture until Mao's death
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Attacks on buddhism

  • it had been practiced in China for well over 1000 years and had a significant influence over the development of culture and philosophy in the areas it had become established
  • Buddhism shared some common ground with Communism, since both were atheistic and both deplored the ownership of material goods
  • the contemplative nature of buddhism made its adherents potentially more difficult to mobilise in mass activity, and its pacifist outlook obviously clashed with priorities of the leadership
  • In the Cultural Revolution, some 6000 monastries were destroyed in Tibet, and thousands were killed by Red Guards during the most radical period of 1966-68
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Attacks on Confucianism

  • Confucian ideas had dominated Chinese philosophy for 2500 years
  • the Confucian approach to life aims to make society as harmonious as possible, through showing respect for legitimate authority
  • its stress on upholding traditional authority, particularly through the family, clashed directly with Communist values
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Attacks on Christianity and Islam

  • Christian and Islamic values were clearly incompatible with Marxism
  • Many church buildings were closed down and their property confiscated, while propaganda constantly attacked the behaviour of the Church as an institution
  • Persecution increased during the Cultural Revolution, when religion was identified as one of the 'four olds'
  • many mosques were closed and more were vandalised, while Muslim leaders were frequently humiliated
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Attacks on ancestor worship

  • It was believed that there was a reciprocal relationship between the living and the dead
  • it was the duty of the living to sustain the spirits of the dead by maintaining their graves and setting up ancestral temples; in return, the dead would intercede on the behalf of the living to bring them good fortune
  • in public, the Communists condemned ancestor worship as a superstition that was no longer acceptable in the new China, as part of their wider policy to reduce the importance of the family and to make people look to the future rather than the past
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