History - Establishing Communist Rule, 1949-57 (Theme 1)


Key Regions of China

  • Beijing (Capitol)
  • Hunan
  • Taiwan
  • Guangdong
  • Tibet (Xizang)
  • Zinjiang
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Key Events (1911-49)

--> 1911: Revolution led by Sun Yat-sen; end of imperial rule (Qing Dynasty)

--> 1921: Chinese Communist Party (CCP) founded

--> 1925: Sun Yat-sen dies; replaced as leader of the Guomingdang by Chiang Hai-shek

--> 1926-7: Nothern Expedition - Guomingdang united China but attacks the CCP

--> 1931: Japan conquers Manchira (North-East China)

--> 1934-5: CCP escapes Guomingdang encirclement via the 6,000 mile Long March

--> 1937: Japan invaded China; Guomingdang and CCP form a United Front

--> 1945: Japan dfeated; full-out Civil War between the Guomingdang and the CCP for control of China, but the CCP is victorious by October 1949

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The Common Programme for China (1949-54)

All except 'political reactionaires' would enjoy freedom of 'thought, speech, publication, assembley etc'

Although it emphasised the leading role within the CCP, it accepted a multiparty system, within which eight political parties recieved legal status

Soviet-style central economic planiing was a goal. The programme urged that the economy be 'centred on the planned... development of heavy industry...'

Mao was named as Head of State

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The New Constitution

Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) held September 1949

662 delegates (including only 16 CCP memebers) drewup the Commong Programme for China

This served as a provisional constitution untill 1954

This programme seemed to suggest there would be a democracy

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Democratic Centralism

The new constitution of 1954 established that power came from the people

The National People's Congress (NPC) was elected; it met one a year to represent the people and in theory had wide powers

In reality, once a decision had been made at the centre, no deviation was allowed

Mao's CCP colleague, Liu Shaoqi, was Chairman of the Staning Committee of the NPC and could alter laws passed by the Congress

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The Role of the CCP

Despite the appearance of democracy, real power lay with the CCP under Chairman Mao

Party Structure:

  • Central Committee = 49
  • Politburo = 25
  • Standing Committee = 5
  • Mao = Chairman of Standing Committee

In 1949 the Party had fewer than 4.5 million memebers in a polutaltion of over half a billion; by 1950 it was 5.8 million

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The Role of the State Council

The State Council was headed by another of Mao's colleagues from the Civil War, Zhou Enlai

Zhou was in charge of 24 ministries including heavy industry and finance

Zhou and Lui were 2 of the 5 members of the Standing Committee of the CCP

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The Role of the PLA

One difference between the PLA in China and the Red Army in Russia is that the PLA had greater political power 

Mao claimed that 'All political power lies in the barrel of a gun'

The Party controlled the PLA through the Military Affairs Commission

The PLA played a major role in consolodating CCP power by supressing over 100,000 'bandits'

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The Role of the PLA in the Early Government of Chi

  • Built China's prestige during the Korean War, 1950-3
  • Killed over 100,000 enemies of the CCP
  • Increased literacy among recruits - 800,000 conscripts per year from 1955
  • Two of the four major posts in the regional bureaux were military
  • Served as roloe models of communist zeal - 'Learn from the PLA'
  • Work teams from the PLA contributed week's free leabour a year
  • Increasingly professionalised - military academies at Beijing and Nanjing
  • Led the reuinification campaigns of the early 1950s
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Campaign to Suppress Counter-Revolutionaries

This campaign was launched in March 1950

It was made easier to accuse enemies of being spied and saboteurs during the Koran War, from Oct. 1950-53

Most vulnerable were those who had worked for the nationalists and businessmen

Feb. 1951: ‘Regulations regarding the punishments of counter-revolutionaries’ were aimed at all forms of political dissent

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At Yan'an Mao had launched a 'Though Reform Movement' involving struggle meetings and self-criticisms. This was then extended nationwide

The Ministry of Public Security ran the campaign

Those who had served the nationalists were asked to register so as to 'start-life anew'

They were told to submit autopbiographies and list friends, on the pretence that they would be treated leniently

In reality, many were rounded up in midnight arrests

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Mass Participations

In April 1951, the Ministry of Public Security produced a manual: 'How to Hold an Accustation Meeting'

The CCP were encouraging ordinary Chinese citizens to organise rallies denouncing CRs

The vicitims (businessmen, landlords etc.) were forced to admit their guilt as the crowds chanted "Kill! Kill! Kill!" Many were executed

The People's Daily published lists of political criminals and their deaths

First half of 1951 equalled in 800,000 deaths

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The Three Antis-Campaign

In 1951 Mao called for a 'big clean up throughout the Party' and the Three Antis Cmapiagn was launches

It was directed against:

  • Corruption 
  • Waste
  • Obstructionist bureaucracy

However, instead of disciplinging the Party, the campaign was used as an excuse to remove civil servants who had formerly served the Nationalists

By 1951 the CCP felt they had enough trained cadres to replace the former nationalist employees

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The Five Antis Campaign

The Five Antis Campaign was launched during Feb-May, 1952

It was dedicated to ending:

  • Bribery
  • Tax evasion
  • Theft of State property
  • Cheating on government contracts
  • Staling state economic information

Targeted middle class and business owners; they were told they would be treated leniently if they confessed and identidied other guilty businessmen. Innocent people were thereby accused

Red 'Denunciation Boxes' were set up on street corners to encourage wives and children to denounce their husbands/fathers

'Tiger beaters' were selected from employees and Party cadres to intimidate and torture the capitalist tigers

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Gains for the CCP from the Campaign against CRs, 1


  • The days of tolerating capitalism were over
  • Shanghai: 90% of businessmen found guilty of at least 1 anti


  • The only way to protect oneself was utter loyalty to CCP
  • This made it easier for Mao to establish personal control


  • Workers and peasants were mobalised in support of the regime
  • Traditional bonds of friendship and family were undermined


  • Guilty businessmen had to sell stock to the state to pay their fines
  • The campaigns established CCP control of businesses
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