Mao 1946 - 1976

Mao History 

HideShow resource information

Chapter 3: Mao and the Party.

Mao and the Party:
- At a ceremony on 1 October 1949, from reviewing stand on top of the Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tiananmen), Beijing (once the entrance to the imperial palace), Mao Zedong announced the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
- Shortly afterwards, both the new gov and the Communist party would take over the buildings to the left and right of the Forbidden City, while the residential area to the south would be demolished to make way for Tiananmen Square.

Mao and Marxism: 
- By 1949 Mao established himself as the leader of the Chinese Communist Party. 
- In the 28 years since he had joined the Party as a young activist he had developed his owe, distinctive brand of revolutionary communism.
- Over the years there had been many debates and divisions within the party over ideological issues but, on many of the key issues, Mao’s thinking had proved to be much more relevant to the situation in China than any of the other leading communists.
- This was largely because of the leadership of the CPC in its early years had been in the hands of men who had been trained in revolutionary theory and practice in the USSR. 
- These ’28 Bolsheviks’, as they were known, followed orthodox Marxist theory which emphasis the importance of the industrial works - the proletariat (working classes according to Marx) - in the revolutionary class struggle that would lead eventually to a communist society.

 - Their priorities, therefore, were to build a communist party membership in the cities among the workers in factories, transport, industries and mines. 
- Mao, on the other hand, argued that the industrial workers were only a small percent of chinese population - only 1% in the 20s = that they could never form the basis for a mass revolutionary party. Moreover, the communist party was driven out of cities by Chiang Kai-shek’s forces after ’27.

1 of 11

Chapter 3: Mao and Marxism 2

Mao and Marxism: 

  • - Mao believed that the chinese peasants, mostly poor and exploited by the wealthy landlords, had the potential to become a revolutionary leadership. 
  • - Mao’s strategy of concentrating on the rural areas proved to be the only realistic course of action open to the CPC in the early 30s and 40s; it ensured first the survival of the communist party and later its eventual victory.
  • - Also helped to ensure that Mao emerged from the various power struggles within the CPC as the Chairman, and leading theorist, of the party.
  • - Mao’s position as chairman of the party was largely due to his role as the leading theorist. Mao Zedong Thought had become the official doctrine of the communist party. 
  • - In Gov after ’49, Mao was not involved in the day-to-day making and implementing of policy , this he lead to other leading communists. 
  • - He saw his role as being to lead to keep alive an ideological debate within the Party over the underlying principles on which the policy should be based - what Mao referred to as the ‘general line’ . 
  • - By dominating the ideological debate and periodically purging those people who were seen to be deviating from the correct ideological path, Mao sought to control the party and the gov.
  • - Mao Zedong Thought was a set of ideas that changed and adapted over time. Much of his theology was based on Marxism but he adapted Marxism to chinese conditions and added some ideas that were very much his own.
  • - The most important of these ideas were self reliance, continuing revolution, class struggle, learning from the people and mass mobilization.


2 of 11

Chapter 3: Self reliance and continuing revolution



 Mao was a chinese nationalist as well as a revolutionary communists.
- He shared with the GMD the desire for china to be restored as a powerful, independent nation because he had been deeply affected by China’s humiliation at the hands of the western powers and Japan during his youth.
- The revolution was fought to liberate china from foreign control as much as to free the people from feudal landlords.
- Once in power, Mao was determined that china should no be reliant on foreign powers.
- Although the communist gov sought aid and advice from the USSR in the 50s mow was never comfortable with this unequal relationship and there were continuing divisions in the communist party over the extent to which China should follow the example of the USSR in developing its economy.
Continuing revolution: 
- For Mao, the revolution did not end when the communist party took power in ’49.
- In many ways the revolution was just beginning. This was partly because, in the early years of communist rule, the class enemies - the landlords and bourgeoisie - still owned most of the property in china and still largely controlled the economy. 
- Mao also believed that commitment to the revolutions aims and values can largely through actual involvement in the revolutionary process itself; those who participated in violence against landlords and the confiscation of their property were more likely to fight to prevent a return to the old ways. 
- Mao believed that it was essential for each new generation to be involved in revolutionary struggle, both to prevent the threat of counter revolution and to ensure their continuing support for the regime.
- Whereas many of Mao’s colleagues believed that China needed political stability in order to achieve economic development, he always placed a higher priority on maintaing the revolutionary zeal of the masses. 

3 of 11

Chapter 3: Class struggle

Class struggle:
- For Mao, the revolution was essentially a class struggle and continuing this struggle was the key to maintaining the revolution. 
- He believed that there was danger that the communist part itself, once established in power, could become a new ruling class that could exploit people in ways similar to the old ruling class.
- In power, communist officials would enjoy the benefits of rank and privilege that would detach them from the people they were suppose to serve. 

- So, he believed the communist party needed to be periodically rectified, as had happened for the first time in Yan’an Rectification campaign of ’42.
- In this campaign Mao consolidated his leadership of the party by forcing members, even at the most senior levels, to confess their past errors of thought and make a public statement of the correctness of Mao Zedong Thought.
- Many members suspected of ‘erros’ were publicly humiliated; some were tortured to confess their crimes, as a result of which a number died or committed suicide. 
- During these campaigns, Party officials were subjected to struggle meetings at which they faced public criticism and were forced to make self criticisms, after which many were made to undergo re-education by attending indoctrination meetings and working in the fields with peasants. 

Learning from the people: 
- Mao believed the communist party should be embedded in the people; the party should listen to the concerns of the people and learn from them.
- He also argued that the masses should participate in discussions on policy. In Mao’s eye, the people should act as a check on the power of the communist power, ensuring that its rule did not become unjust and dictatorial. 
- Mao was determined that the Chinese communist party should not follow the example of the USSR where the communist party behaves in a communist way, issuing orders but not listening to the peoples concern.

4 of 11

Chapter 3: Mass mobilisation

Mass Mobilisation:
- Mao argued that the communists party main task in gov were to mobilize the people in mass campaigns to achieve specific objectives.
- He had firm faith in the essential goodness of the people and believed that china’s millions, once mobilized and enthused with revolutionary zeal could achieve anything. 
- Mass mobilization might be used, therefore, to carry out major works such as the building of dams or roads, the cultivation of areas not previously used for farming or even major industrial projects.

 - Mao did not believe that managers and experts were the key to economic advance. Nor did he accept that people needed to be offered extra money to persuade them to work harder.
- Once the part had convinced people of the superiority of socialism he believed that people would willingly work harder for the greater common good.


-Mao was the chairman of the communist party and its chief ideologist. In a party as large as the Communist party, however, it was perhaps inevitable that not every leading figure was in total agreement with Mao.
- There had been splits and divisions before the communist party came to power in ’49, and there would be many disagreements and debates once it was the party of government. 
- Mao sometimes experienced difficulty in getting his ideas accepted. In these circumstances he needed to fall back on another key aspect of his personality - his flexibility.
- For Mao, the key to his earlier success had been his ability to work our what course of action would be best suited to a particular set of circumstances.

- Sometimes this led him to make tactical alliances with groups that could be useful to him. In the struggle against the Japanese he was prepared to co-operate with the GMD and even the landlords in order to build a united front. 
- Once the Japanese had been defeated, the priority changed and Mao concentrated on defeating the GMD in order to win power.
- He used the same tactical flexibility in his dealings with his own party. If one group of leading communists were reluctant to follow his ideas, he turned to other or even groups outside the party to get his way.
- For Mao, his ideological goals were fixed; tactics, however, were fluid.


5 of 11

Chapter 3:

The challenges facing the new government in 1949: 
- In 1949, china’s economy and its people were exhausted after years of war and conflict. Been through decades of internal conflict culminating in the civil war of 1946-49. Been through decades of internal conflict culminating in the civil war of 1946-49. In addition to this there had been 8 years of war against the Japanese occupation. Left a damaging legacy for a new gov:
- As peasants had been taken away from their farms to fight in these wars, agriculture production had fallen and food shortages were a serious problem in urban areas. Industrial production had also fallen. 
- The nationalist GMD gov had left a legacy of soaring inflation and the finical situation had been made worse by GMD officials taking all of China’s reserves of foreign currency with them when they fled to Taiwan.
- Internationally, the communist victory had created a rift between china and the western powers; cut off from trade and contact with the West, China’s only source of foreign assistance was the USSR.
- Internally, the new gov was not yet in full control of all areas of china, particularly the outlying provinces and semi-autonomous regions. No gov since 1911 had succeeded in breaking down the power of local warlords or overcoming chinas deep social and ethnic divisions. 

- If the new gov were to succeed in its aim of transforming chinese society it would need to build a new sense of national unity in which the diverse elements of chinese society were brought into line with the new political direction of the state.

- In the short term, the priority of new gov was to stabilize the economic and political situation and extend its control. It did this in a number of ways: 
- Inflation was brought under control through strict regulation of the economy; public expenditure was cuts, taxes were raised and a new currency - the renminbi - was introduced.
- The property of GMD supporters who had fled to Taiwan was confiscated by the state.
- All foreign assets in china, apart from those in the USSR, were confiscated.
- The banks, gas supply, electrical supply and transport industries were nationalized. 
- In three ‘reunification’ campaigns in ’50 and ’51, the PLA established central gov control in three regions; Xizang (Tibet), Xinjiang and Guangdong.
- A new system of gov was established in which the dominant position of the communist party was legitimized.End of short term.

6 of 11

Chapter 23:

The challenges facing the new government in 1949 (2):
- Although many of these measures were radical in themselves, the general tone of the new gov’s approach in its early years was one of caution.
- Mao made clear that the ultimate aim of the regime was to build a communist society in china but, according to Marxist-Leninist theory, China was not yet at the stage of development when communism was possible.
- In order to develop agriculture and industry, Mao recognized that the communist regime would need the support of the ‘national bourgeoisie’ - the factory owners, businessmen and the intelligentsia. 
- It was the educated middle classes who provided the personnel for government officials and factory managers.
- Therefore, Mao tried to build the new regime on broad foundation and pursed policies that would not alienate potential middle class supporters. 
- For example, shareholders and owners of enterprise that were nationalized were given compensation as long as they were willing to cooperate with the regime. 
- He was also prepared to tolerate the existence of other political parties: 14 parties (excluding the CPC) participated in the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in september 1949. 
- However, these parties were only tolerated as long as they did not threaten the CPC’s grip on power.
- In pursing these polices, Mao was continuing and building on the ‘general line’ which, under his leadership, the CPC had been following in Yan’an since 1936.
- Under their policy, which Mao sometime referred to as a United Front Policy, he invited the national bourgeoisie and landlords to participate  in building a new China under the leadership of the CPC.

7 of 11

Chapter 3:

A ‘People’s democratic dictatorship’:
- “All the experience the Chinese people have accumulated through several decades teaches us to enforce the people's democratic dictatorship, that is, to deprive the reactionaries of the right to speak and let the people alone have that right.Who are the people? At the present stage in China, they are the working class, the peasantry, the urban petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie.  These classes, led by the working class and the Communist Party unite to form their own state and elect their own government. Democracy is practiced within the ranks of the people, who enjoy the rights of freedom of speech, assembly, association and so on. The right to vote belongs only to the people, not to the reactionaries. The combination of these two aspects, democracy for the people and dictatorship over the reactionaries, is the people's democratic dictatorship.”
The new system of government for the People’s Republic of China contained 3 separate but parallel strands.
- Strand 1: The state bureaucracy at national, regional and local the levels. 
- Strand 2: The communist party at national, regional and local the levels. Heart of the government structure in the new PRC. All important debates about policy and all the key decisions were taken by the by the peoples standing committee, itself a select group of 5 under Chairman Mao taken from the Politburo.  

 - Strand 3:The Peoples Liberation Army.
Below the level of central government, the Communist party dominated the gov of the provinces and local administration in towns and villages. 
- Gao Gang, a Politburo member, was the provincial governor in Manchuria, a job he combined with being Part Chairman and military commander in the same area.
- Deng Xiaoping in the south west, Peng Dehuai in the north west and Lin Biao in the central southern region all combined political and military commanders.
- In theory there were representatives assembles within this structure that brought a democratic element to the constitution. A Political Consultive conference was held in ’49 to formally establish the new republic. 
- Within the party structure there was the national Party Congress that brought together representatives from Party branches from all over the country to debate policy issues and make decisions. 
- However, this congress met infrequently. After ’49, the next Congress was not called until 1956. Even when Congresses did meet, they merely agrees polices that had already been decided by the Politburo.

8 of 11

Chapter 3: Harry Truman 'To secure these rights'

Mass Party Membership:

- Membership of the CPC stood at 4,448,000 in October 1949. By December this increased to 5,821,604.
- In a country of 500 million people, therefore, party membership was very much the preserve of a small minority. Following the Leninist concept of an elite vanguard party, membership of the CPC was restricted to those who could demonstrate their commitment and ideological correctness.
- Within the larger membership there was an even more select group of party cadres.
- Party cadres permeated all levels of gov and administration, the legal system, schools and colleges and the PLA. Through them the CPC was able to ensure that both the governmental system and the armed forces were operating strictly in accordance with the with the political direction of the state.
The CPC established branches in all aspects of national life such as factories, shops, schools, offices, neighborhoods and PLA unites.
- CPC members also took leading various mass organizations including trade unions, the All-China Federation of Democratic Youth and the All-China Federation of Woman.
- At a local level there were many ‘mass autonomous organizations’ through which the CPC sought to involve ‘the masses’ in its efforts to transform society.
- Urban neighborhood committees, public security committees and people’s mediation committees took on responsibility for matters of public health, policing and the resolution of disputes, all under the watchful eye of the CPC and its cadres.
- These mass organizations challenged the energies of the Chinese people and encouraged a sense of participation in building a new and better society, but their activities were closely scrutinized and directed by the communist party.
- At the base of the governmental pyramid in the new china was the danwei or work unit. Every employed chinese citizen living in an urban area belonged to a work unit; those who did not work came under the supervision of a resident’s committee.
- The work units, led by party cadres, controlled the allocation of housing, grain, cooking oil and cloth. The work unit also issued permits to travel, marry, enter the army of university and change employment. 
- Party cadres enjoyed a privileged lifestyle compared to that of ordinary chinese citizens. For those who had ‘joined the revolution’, the CPC functioned as a king of family unit.
- In return for absolute loyalty to the head of the family, the Party provided for its members. Under a system known as the ‘iron rice bowl’, party and government officials, employees of State-run enterprises and military personnel were guaranteed employment and an income for life.

9 of 11

Chapter 3: continued...

- The work units, led by party cadres, controlled the allocation of housing, grain, cooking oil and cloth. The work unit also issued permits to travel, marry, enter the army of university and change employment. 

- Party cadres enjoyed a privileged lifestyle compared to that of ordinary chinese citizens. For those who had ‘joined the revolution’, the CPC functioned as a king of family unit.
- In return for absolute loyalty to the head of the family, the Party provided for its members. Under a system known as the ‘iron rice bowl’, party and government officials, employees of State-run enterprises and military personnel were guaranteed employment and an income for life.

10 of 11

Chapter 3: PLA

The role of the People’s Liberation Army:
- By 1950, the PLA had become an enormous military force. With 5 million men under its command and its effort to build a new air-force and navy, spending on the PLA accounted for over 41% of the total state budget
- It was clear to china’s Communist rulers that, if china were able to afford to spend money on economic development, expenditure on the armed forces would need to reduced. It was also necessary to release men from military service so that they could engage in productive work.
- Therefore in 1950 it was decided to begin a partial demobilization of the PLA, which resulted in a reduction in size to some 3.5 million men by ’53. 
- Even after these cuts, however, the PLA still received 800,000 new conscripts every year, each man serving for three years.
- This meant that millions of young Chinese men passed through the PLA’s ranks, emerging after 3 years having been trained in warfare and indoctrinated in the ideology of the communist party.
- The PLA occupied a special place in the mythology of the Chinese communist revolution. In the struggle against the Japanese and later against the GMD, the PLA’s solider heroes had come to epitomize the revolutionary virtues cultivated by Mao: discipline, self sacrifice, endurance and perseverance against overwhelming odds.

- These were the virtues that Mao wished to install in the chinese population at large and PLA troops were held up as role models for others to emulate. These virtues again demonstrated by Chinese troops during the Korean War (50-53) when ‘volunteer’ units of the PLA fought against the USA, British and other international forces.
- The endurance and heroism of chinese troops in Korea was celebrated by a number of films, plays and works of literature.
- As well as having propaganda value the PLA could be put to more practical uses in china itself. As all military units had political commissars embedded with them, the PLA troops were thoroughly well indoctrinated in communist ideology.
- Part of their role in the countryside was to pass on the communists ideology to the peasants. They were also put to work on many public work projects such as rebuilding bridges, roads and railways that had been damaged in the wars.
- Some demobilized the PLA units were actually restricted for this new role. The First Field Army, based in Xinjiang, became the Production and Construction Army with the task of developing untapped mineral resources and agriculture land.

11 of 11


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all China in the 20th century resources »