The aftermath of the civil war of 1946 - 1949:
The problems created by so many years of unrest made China difficult to govern, but the situation in 1949 was actually favourable to the Communists:
- Bringing an end to the years of conflict generated goodwill towards the Communists.
- As the Communists extended the areas under their control during the war, they had proved that they were capable of more effective organisation than the Nationalists. Both these factors gave Communists cause for optimism in October 1949.
- Although it may have been wishful thinking, many non-Communists imagined that life under Mao would at least be tolerable, and they would have a role to play in helping to rebuild China. This was because Mao had made it clear that creating a Communist society would be a long-term project. In the short-term, he declared his willingness to work with all social groups. It seemed entirely possible that a new United Front might be constructed, representing middle-class interests as well as those of the workers and peasants. To many, this was a more attractive and realistic option that fleeing to join the Nationalists in Taiwan.
As far as Mao was concerned, the civil war had strengthened his position at the top of the Party. Once the war was over, Mao was unquestioningly regarded as the architect of the new China, and his authority could not easily be challanged. Above all, he had the devoted loyalty of the Chinese army (PLA) behind him.
Mao intended to use this power to restore stability to China, and the only way to do this was to make all political opposition impossible (this is what he had done earlier in Yanan). It was Mao's intention, therefore, to return to a political system where all power lay at the top, in his and the CCP's hands, reinforced by military power.
The civil war had also reinforced for Mao the value of broadening his support base. Initially, the Communists had concentrated very much on cultivating peasant support, which they did by ensuring their Red Army treated the peasants more fairly than the GMD forces, and by organising land redistribution from landowners to poor peasants in the areas under their control. However, as the Reds began to extend the areas they controlled during the civil war, more cities fell under their authority. Initially, Harbin in northern Manchuria was the only…