Mao's China

HideShow resource information

The New Power Structure

If the Communists waited too long, their power could be lost and China would slip into anarchy. They also wanted a system to give their regime authority and legitimacy.Planning was done with other groups who were anti-GMD , which helped split nationalist opposition and make the Communist Party appear more widely popular.

Temporary systems were set up to run the country and a provisional consititution was adopted until 1954. Although details weren't finalised in 1954, it was obvious that the Communist Party would be the government and their powe would be based on the partnership with the PLA.Government control of the press was considered normal before 1949 and this continued through  Xinhua (government-controlled press agency) which made sure all daily newspapers reported favourably on government policies and initiatives.

Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC): A conference where the Party invited delegates form 14 other parties and was the first step to creating a new political system unlike that of Chiang and the Nationalists. A number of minority groups involved increased the legitimacy of the meeting as its appearance was broadened. The CPPCC appointed the Central People's Government as the supreme state body and approved the Common Programme (temporary constitution to help China through the next 5 years, declared China a new society based on the alliance of workers and peasants. Guaranteed a range of personal freedoms and gender equality. Gave the right to army and police to surpress any counter-revolutionary actions.)

1 of 22

Constitution and Legislature

China was not yet thought ready for full socialism so it was agreed that there would have to be a transitional period between the workers and the capitalists. However, the future of the 'capitalists' was clearly insecure as Mao showed in his speech on 30th June 1949 where he stated the four classes of people who were allowed to have rights in the New China, referred to as the 'New Democracy'. However, it was very different to the democracy practised in the UK, so it is sometimes referred to as demoratic centralism.

When passing legisation(laws), the central government were just to approve the proposals suggested by the Politburo. The CPPCC began to draft the future constitution and actued as the  legislature before it was published. All existing laws passed by the GMD were abolished.

China was divided into six regions (bureaux) so decisions taken at a national level could be imposed throughout the country and the creation of regional congresses gave the impression that Bejing (new capital) was listening. Four senior Communist officials put into each region (a military commander, an army political commissar, a government chairman and, most powerful, Party secretary) to avoid taking any chances and to keep control.

The constitution was published in 1954, confirming China as a Communist country. Based on the 1936 Soviet Russian Constitution.

2 of 22

From 1954

The CPPCC was in control between 1949 and 1954. The new constitution was published in 1954.

National People's Congress: Legislature (responsible for passing laws), rubber-stamped Politburo decisions.

State Council: New name for the Central People's Government (composed of ministers and heads of departments, acted as the government).

CPPCC: Remained as an adivsory body to the National People's Congress, met annually at the same time as the NPC.

The Communist Party remained in control of entire electoral process. Composition of China changed, from six bureaux to 21 provinces (5 autonomous border regions and two urban centres).

There was no doubt that the PRC was to be run by the Communist Party. Leading CCP officials always held key positions in the state and the army. When Mao stood down as head of state in 1958, he retained his position as Chairman of the Party, because it was where the real power lay.

3 of 22

The Role of the PLA

The PLA was a sign of self-sacrifice, dedication and perseverance it was the world's largest army and consumed over 40% of the state's budget. Because of this expense and the use of manpower, it was gradually reduced from five million men in 1950 to 2.5 million by 1957 under the military of defense, Peng Dehuai. This also meant the Party retained power and the army didn't pose a threat.

The PLA becomes more technically advanced and professional as it gets smaller. After 1949, it remains very important to the PRC, as a means of indoctrination, a workforce to rebuild infrastructure and to reinforce government control. It helped to achieve a status of Great Power for China.

4 of 22

Mao's Dominant Position Within Government

Mao had become Party leader in 1943 after the Rectification Campaign (1941-44) which was a purge of anyone Mao considered to be an enemy within the Party.

In October 1949, Mao was made head of state too, as he was given the position of chair of the Central People's Government. However, this wasn't absolute, as in theory, the collective leadership of the Party was resposible for policies and key decisions were meant to come from Politburo debates. Nonetheless, Mao directed the policies and tended to win debates (examples include the decision to intervene in the Korean War and then to attack the bourgeoisie in 1952 in the 'five antis' campaign.

Although he was a good manipulator, there are examples of where his decisions were not followed. For example, the 1956 Party Congress removed references to Mao Zedong Thought as the guiding policy of the Party when Mao was ill. It took Mao months to gain support for the Hundred Flowers campaign adn there were frequent debates on the speed at which agricultural change should be introduced.

5 of 22

Mao's Dominant Position Within Government- Mao Zed

Mao's main ideas came from the essays he wrote and can be summarised in four main points:

1. Nationalism  Like the GMD, Mao wanted to free China from foreign exploitation. If China's national interest clashed with an other aspect of his ideology, the nationalism came first.

2. Continuing Revolution  Mao believed that 1949 was the beginning of the revolution, not the end. He wanted all generations to take part in the revolution in order to keep it going. It was everyone's responsibility to be on the lookout for enemies to the regime - leading to events such as struggle sessions and the Cultural Revolution.

3. Listening to the People Mao believed the problem with the Russian model of Communism was that they didn't listen to the concerns of the people. To avoid this, Mao wanted to get people involved in discussing policy, but this is debatable as his behaviour during the Hundred Flowers campaign shows.

4. Mass Mobilisation Mao believed the huge population of China was the way to improve the economy and numbers were more important than expert advice. If everyone was given a specific target to achieve, this would be the most effective method of economic improvement.

6 of 22

The Growth of Democratic Centralism

Mao introduced a new form of government in 1954, called the National People's Congress. This was created in order to represent the views of the people, meeting once a year to make laws or change the constitution. Its offical powers focused on electing the chairman of the PRC, war issues and national economic policy.

Mao called this 'democratic centralism' and it meant that the voice of the people would be represented through democratic elections to the National People's Congress. There would be democratically elected local congresses that governed at a local and provincial level.

This could be seen as democratic because locally elected representatives could discuss and debate issues provincially and ultimately in the legislature. But once a policy had been decided by the central government, there was no going back.

7 of 22

Defeating the CCP's Opponents

Mao dealt with potential opponents through his use of deception. He would make promises to different groups (peasant=land redistribution, workers=higher living standards, intellectuals=freedom,businessmen=private ownership) and then break the promises when his power was more secure.In the early years during the CPPCC conference, members of a GMD associate group were even included in the conference to give the impression of inclusivity.

Mao also faced resistance from the remaining GMD military and the provinces who had been declaring independence since 1912. The PLA were sent into the areas of resistance.

At the same time Mao intervened in the Korean War, he launched a wave of terror l(The Great Terror)against opposition to the Party. It began in 1950 and ended by 1951, claiming potentially two million lives. A network of forced labour camps (laogai) was created for those who didn't embrace Mao's ideology.

After the terror, Mao targeted the professionals whose support had become less important over time. Over a million government servants were sacked in the 'three antis' movement of 1951 and businesses were attacked during the 'five antis' movement in 1952. Peasants were no longer allowed private land and businesses were nationalised. 

8 of 22

The 'three antis' and 'five antis' Movements

Although the strength of The Great Terror lessened after 1951, repression still continued. The introduction of the 'three antis' campaign targeted corruptio, waste and decay within the government and was started by the arrest of Zhang Zishan and Liu Qingshan who were charged with embezzling large sums from the Party. Mass meetings were held to denounce managers and officials, who were then investigated. 

Suspects of small-scale embezzelements: flies

Suspects of large-scale embezzelements: tigers

Campaign impressed some (determination to eliminate corruption), but accusations were often false and people didn't stand up for one another.

The purge was widenened in 1952 to the 'five antis' which targeted bribery, tax evasion, theft of state property, economic espionage and fraud. Now, the bourgeoisie who had been encouraged to stay in their jobs were targeted and denounciation meetings were held against them. Workers were encouraged to accuse their employees and denunciation boxes were created for written accusations.

9 of 22

The use of Terror against Opponents of Communist R

Labelling: The GMD had enforced a household registration system in 1945 that was expanded under the new government. Each worker was assigned to a danwei (work unit) which assigned food, housing and clothing through the cadre. This was often used as a method of control, as the cadres could withhold the ration cards. The labelling system was based on the presumed loyalty to the revolution. There were sixty labels that could be divided into good, medium and bad. This was then simplified further into red and black (friend or foe). The children inherited the label of the head of the household. Members of the bad class were monitored (but professionals were not victimised for first 12 months of regime) and attended re-education classes to give the appearance of following a conformist lifestyle. Life was more difficult for those with obvious nationalist connections and they were forced to publicly repent multiple times. All information was written in a dossier (dangan) that followed them.

Crime: Police were ordered to remove those who caused nuisance (mainly beggars and prostitutes) and relocate them to the countryside. Many people approved of this as it was bringing order to a country that was chaotic after the war. However, many people drifted back to the cities as soon as they could and the re-education camps quickly filled. This became worse when soldiers were demobilised from the PLA after the removal of Nationalist opposition. Criminal gangs were also attacked with over 150,00 criminals arrested.

10 of 22

The use of Terror against Opponents of Communist R

The suppression of counter-revolutionaries in the Gret Terror 1950-51: The terror was launched against counter-revolutionaries during the same time as the Korean War, in order to prevent them jeopardizing the gains of the revolution. The invasion of China seemed possible, meaning eveyone needed to unite.

> Tao Zhu (the tank) attacked the Guangxi province, where nationalist supported remained. He claimed to have killed over 46,000 bandits in the next 12 months.

>Luo Ruiqing pressured leaders to kill more 'counter-revolutionaries' meaning in the Hubei province, the killings increased from 220 in January 1951 to 45,000 by October.

Mao suggested a target of one in evey thousand to be killed.

In March 1951, Mao agreed to Rao Shushi's proposal that killings be extended to members of the Party too.

The terror initially affected rural areas more than urban areas, but this changed when a military official was shot dead at a concert. On 28th April police arrested nearly 17,000 people in 16 cities.

11 of 22

Reunification Campaigns 1949-50

Guangdong: Guangdong had been the heartland of the GMD during the Civil War, but the GMD made no attempt to defend it, meaning it ceased to resist the PLA only two weeks after the PRC was declared in Beijing.

Xinjiang: Was used as a buffer state by Russia to prevent invaion from Japan. Its population was mixed, but was 80% Uyghurs (mainly Muslims). Nationalist opposition was subdued through conquest and negotiation by the Communist Party. Future Communist control was established as a Long March veteran was appointed to run the local CCP and army unit. Han Chinese were also introduced to work on construction projects. The state was used as a buffer zone for the PRC.

Tibet: Tibet had been an independent entity since 1913 and had announced its intention to resist the Communist control. However, after India became independent, Britain was no longer interested in protecting Tibet. The UN was busy with the Korean War, meaning there was very little to stop the Chinese invading in 1950. After six months, Tibet was conquered and the PRC began to destroy the Tibet identity, introducing Han Chinese into the area and promoting a Chinese lifestyle. However, support was backed by the American CIA and led to a full uprising in 1959 when the Dalai Lama fled to exile in India rather than waiting to be removed.

12 of 22

The Laogai System

They were described as placecs of re-education rather than punishment. Those who didn't understand the benefits brought by Communism would be educated and then introduced back into society.

However, the system provided most of the terror that frightened the population into conformity. The Chinese prisons couldnt' handle the number of prisoners created by the Great Terror. By 1953, there were two million prisoners and over half of them were working as forced labourers in laogai. The laogai had significant economic value, bringing in 700 million yuan each year by 1955. Prisoners were used during The Great Leap Forward as a way to carry out hazardous tasks, such as mining.

Prisoners ranged from poor farmers in debt to the state to technical experts who were accused of being counter-revoutionaries. However, 9/10 prisoners were political. Many prisoner were falsely accused and conditions were typically brutal, with poor diet, heavy labour and often use of violence.

Thought reform: constant self-criticism and indoctrination meetings so prisoners would forget their previous identities.

13 of 22

The Laogai System 2

Population increased again in 1955 after another purge of counter-revolutionaries. Re-education through labour was introduced in order to accept 300,000 more inmates. There were no trials of prisoners using this method and could be held indefinitely.

Even after being released, prisoners were often ostracised in order for their friends to avoid being called guilty by association.

Placing prisoners under public supervision (guanzhi) was also a way used to deal with the large numbers of prisoners being accepted into the camps. COnvicts were placed under the control of local cadres, and made to do any menial tasks the cadres thought necessary. This method was used far more widely in rural areas.

14 of 22

The Hundred Flowers Campaign and its aftermath 195

By 1956, with the first Five Year Plan coming to an end, Mao called for a public debate on the results of the plan. In April, Mao called on delegates in an address to the CCP to "let a hundred flowers bloom, and a hundred schools of thought contend." It is thought to be influenced by the de-Stalinisation process in progress in Russia at the time, so that Mao wouldn't be subject to the same criticisms as Stalin (so obsessed with creating a personality cult that he lost touch with the people).

Mao had never trusted intellectuals, but knew they contributed to the regime and was perhaps trying to win them over by allowing them to give constructive criticism.

Mao continued to try to promote the idea of a public debate, but got no response, despite his re-using the idea of a hundred flowers in a speech in 1957. Many were reluctant to offer criticism after the media campaign against Hu Feng, leading to the arrest of thousands of intellectuals after he questioned the CCP.

The lack of response led Mao to call on the editor of the People's Daily newspaper, demanding news coverage as he travelled to the countryside to hear the views of the peasants. Slowly, more and more people began to criticise the regime, denouncing individual policies and leaders.

15 of 22

The Hundred Flowers Campaign and its aftermath 195

Suddenly, Mao announced a halt to the debate and turned on the critics, calling them "Rightists" and announcing their intention was to destroy the regime. An anti-Rightist campaign was launched, creating around half a million inmates for the re-education camps.

Mao's power over the CCP increased, but the goodwill of the intellectuals was lost forever.

16 of 22

The Role of the Korean War- Enhancing CCP Control

In June 1950, the Korean War began, between North Korea (Communist, occupied by Russia under Stalin) and South Korea (looked for support from the USA, not Communist.) The North tried to occupy the South, but American forces were sent to defend it.

Mao was initially reluctant to become involved with the war, but was worried about America attacking China and China being left vulnerable if they managed to win. Mao did then intervene after the American forces crossed over into the North. However, Mao was manipulated into supporting the North, as Stalin wanted Kim II Sung (leader of the North) and Mao to fight the Americans without draining Russian resources.

At home, Mao used the war as an excuse to tighten the Party's control over the population, under the pretence that it was more important now than ever to prevent China from coming under attack. Therefore, Mao lauched the Great Terror in 1950 and then initiated the 'three-antis' and the 'five-antis' movements. Mao could now remove any Nationalist opposition or potential emergin opposition. Workers were very eager to denounce anyone in order to get involved.Foreigners were targeted and made to leave the country after their assets had been removed. Life was especially hard for Americans, who were automatically branded as counter-revolutionaries. Hostility was present before the war but escalated (foreigners forced to register with their local Public Security Bureau).

17 of 22

The Role of the Korean War- Enhancing CCP Control

Christian missionaries were also targeted, with accusations such as baby whipping created in order to create an atmosphere of hatred towards them.The Vatican ordered them to stay in their position. By the end of the war, 200 Christian missionaries remained, but only 1 Protestant missionary.

The only group not targeted were Russians, who were arriving in large numbers under the Sino-Soviet Treaty ( a treaty that was more beneficial for Russia, but showed that Mao was willing to become Russia's ally rather than one of the West).

18 of 22

The Role of the Korean War-National Unity

The Party organised a national campaign against the USA, calling on people to "Resist America, Aid Korea, Preserve our Homes, Defend the Nation." Mass meetings were held in the workplace and schools to create anti-American paranoia. Zhou Enlai took charge to organise student demonstrations and patriotic parades. Altohugh most didn't understand the alleged evils of America, those who didn't get involved became persecuted.

Eventually, these rallies created a sense of unity, as China stood up against the powers of the American forces.

People were also pressured into giving up their money as well as ther time. Forced donations were collected and some crops were requisitioned. Taxes were also raised.

In February 1952, Beijing increased the anti-American paranoia by claiming that the American forces were using aerial bombardment to release germs and infested insects into North Korea as well as Manchuria. This continued until 1953, when the campaign was undermined by Russians who said the claims were false.

19 of 22

Human and Financial Costs of Intervention

Manpower losses: The government never published figures, but loss was estimated at 1 million lives. These men were called "volunteers" so that it was less difficult to blame China for the loss of lives. Mao's son was lost in the war, but Mao cosidered the loss to be small compared to the vast population of the company.

The economy: The war damaged the economy as it was completely refocused in order to supply the army with military materials. The financial cost of the war was colossal. Over half of the government budget in 1951 went to the military. Although a lot of resources were provided by Russia, the Chinese had to pay for it all. The rest of the military resources were made in heavy-industry areas such as Manchuria. Food supplies to the army were only kept up by forced food requsitioning from the countryside, which led to some famine. The trade embago of the Usa meant that trade fell by 30% in 1951. This meant there was little to invest in education, health and social reforms.

20 of 22

Human and Financial Costs of Intervention

Manpower losses: The government never published figures, but loss was estimated at 1 million lives. These men were called "volunteers" so that it was less difficult to blame China for the loss of lives. Mao's son was lost in the war, but Mao cosidered the loss to be small compared to the vast population of the company.

The economy: The war damaged the economy as it was completely refocused in order to supply the army with military materials. The financial cost of the war was colossal. Over half of the government budget in 1951 went to the military. Although a lot of resources were provided by Russia, the Chinese had to pay for it all. The rest of the military resources were made in heavy-industry areas such as Manchuria. Food supplies to the army were only kept up by forced food requsitioning from the countryside, which led to some famine. The trade embago of the Usa meant that trade fell by 30% in 1951. This meant there was little to invest in education, health and social reforms.

21 of 22

China's Enhanced International Prestige

The impact on the reputation of the PRC was mixed. It was boosted by the fact that the Chinese armies held off USA forces for almost three years. The PRC could now claim to be the most powerful Communist power as it was China who made the most sacrifices. Furthermore Communist North Korea was a powerful ally to have and reduced risk of invasion in the future.

However, there were international downsides. The USA was now an enemy and the American resolve to prevent countries falling to Communism (The Domino Theory) was heightened. They pledged to keep Taiwan out of Chinese hands and refused to allow the PRC into the UN until 1972.

Relations with the Soviet Union also changed. Mao realised he had been manipulated by Stalin and resented that Russia didn't provide air cover for the PLA. China seemed to have contributed more to Communism than Russia. Relations worsened after Stalin's death, as Mao got on even worse with Khrushchev.

22 of 22

Comments

No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all Mao's China resources »