” People’s Republic of China”

"China Map"

#AceHistoryNews says on October 1, 1949, the People’s Republic of China was formally established, with its national capital at Beijing. “The Chinese people have stood up!” declared Mao as he announced the creation of a “people’s democratic dictatorship.” The people were defined as a coalition of four social classes: the workers, the peasants, the petite bourgeoisie, and the national-capitalists. The four classes were to be led by the CCP, as the vanguard of the working class. At that time the CCP claimed a membership of 4.5 million, of which members of peasant origin accounted for nearly 90 percent. The party was under Mao’s chairmanship, and the government was headed by Zhou Enlai ( 1898-1976) as premier of the State Administrative Council (the predecessor of the State Council).

The Soviet Union recognized the People’s Republic on October 2, 1949. Earlier in the year, Mao had proclaimed his policy of “leaning to one side” as a commitment to the socialist bloc. In February 1950, after months of hard bargaining, China and the Soviet Union signed the Treaty of Friendship, Alliance, and Mutual Assistance, valid until 1980. The pact also was intended to counter Japan or any power’s joining Japan for the purpose of aggression.

For the first time in decades a Chinese government was met with peace, instead of massive military opposition, within its territory. The new leadership was highly disciplined and, having a decade of wartime administrative experience to draw on, was able to embark on a program of national integration and reform. In the first year of Communist administration, moderate social and economic policies were implemented with skill and effectiveness. The leadership realized that the overwhelming and multitudinous task of economic reconstruction and achievement of political and social stability required the goodwill and cooperation of all classes of people. Results were impressive by any standard, and popular support was widespread.

Chinese Peoples VolunteersBy 1950 international recognition of the Communist government had increased considerably, but it was slowed by China’s involvement in the Korean War. In October 1950, sensing a threat to the industrial heartland in northeast China from the advancing United Nations (UN) forces in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), units of the PLA–calling themselves the Chinese People’s Volunteers–crossed the YaluJiang () River into North Korea in response to a North Korean request for aid. Almost simultaneously the PLA forces also marched into Xizang to reassert Chinese sovereignty over a region that had been in effect independent of Chinese rule since the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911. In 1951 the UN declared China to be an aggressor in Korea and sanctioned a global embargo on the shipment of arms and war material to China. This step foreclosed for the time being any possibility that the People’s Republic might replace Nationalist China (on Taiwan) as a member of the UN and as a veto-holding member of the UN Security Council.

Korean WarAfter China entered the Korean War, the initial moderation in Chinese domestic policies gave way to a massive campaign against the “enemies of the state,” actual and potential. These enemies consisted of “war criminals, traitors, bureaucratic capitalists, and counterrevolutionaries.” The campaign was combined with party-sponsored trials attended by huge numbers of people. The major targets in this drive were foreigners and Christian missionaries who were branded as United States agents at these mass trials. The 1951-52 drive against political enemies was accompanied by land reform, which had actually begun under the Agrarian Reform Law of June 28, 1950. The redistribution of land was accelerated, and a class struggle landlords and wealthy peasants was launched. An ideological reform campaign requiring self-criticisms and public confessions by university faculty members, scientists, and other professional workers was given wide publicity. Artists and writers were soon the objects of similar treatment for failing to heed Mao’s dictum that culture and literature must reflect the class interest of the working people, led by the CCP. These campaigns were accompanied in 1951 and 1952 by the san fan ( or “three anti”) and wu fan ( or “five anti”) movements. The former was directed ostensibly against the evils of “corruption, waste, and bureaucratism”; its real aim was to eliminate incompetent and politically unreliable public officials and to bring about an efficient, disciplined, and responsive bureaucratic system. The wu fan movement aimed at eliminating recalcitrant and corrupt businessmen and industrialists, who were in effect the targets of the CCP’s condemnation of “tax evasion, bribery, cheating in government contracts, thefts of economic intelligence, and stealing of state assets.” In the course of this campaign the party claimed to have uncovered a well-organized attempt by businessmen and industrialists to corrupt party and government officials. This charge was enlarged into an assault on the bourgeoisie . The number of people affected by the various punitive or reform campaigns was estimated in the millions.

The Transition to Socialism, 1953-57

Communism and CapitalismThe period of officially designated “transition to socialism” corresponded to China’s First Five-Year Plan (1953-57). The period was characterized by efforts to achieve industrialization, collectivization of agriculture, and political centralization.

The First Five-Year Plan stressed the development of heavy industry on the Soviet model. Soviet economic and technical assistance was expected to play a significant part in the implementation of the plan, and technical agreements were signed with the Soviets in 1953 and 1954. For the purpose of economic planning, the first modern census was taken in 1953; the population of mainland China was shown to be 583 million, a figure far greater than had been anticipated.

Among China’s most pressing needs in the early 1950s were food for its burgeoning population, domestic capital for investment, and purchase of Soviet-supplied technology, capital equipment, and military hardware. To satisfy these needs, the government began to collectivize agriculture. Despite internal disagreement about the speed of collectivization, which at least for the time being was resolved in Mao’s favor, preliminary collectivization was 90 percent completed by the end of 1956. In addition, the government nationalized banking, industry, and trade. Private enterprise in mainland China was virtually abolished.

Major political developments included the centralization of party and government administration. Elections were held in 1953 for delegates to the First National People’s Congress, China’s national legislature, which met in 1954. The congress promulgated the state constitution of 1954 and formally elected Mao chairman (or president) of the People’s Republic; it elected Liu Shaoqi ( 1898-1969) chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress; and named Zhou Enlai premier of the new State Council.

In the midst of these major governmental changes, and helping to precipitate them, was a power struggle within the CCP leading to the 1954 purge of Political Bureau member Gao Gang () and Party Organization Department head Rao Shushi (), who were accused of illicitly trying to seize control of the party.

The process of national integration also was characterized by improvements in party organization under the administrative direction of the secretary-general of the party Deng Xiaoping ( who served concurrently as vice premier of the State Council). There was a marked emphasis on recruiting intellectuals, who by 1956 constituted nearly 12 percent of the party’s 10.8 million members. Peasant membership had decreased to 69 percent, while there was an increasing number of “experts” , who were needed for the party and governmental infrastructures, in the party ranks.

As part of the effort to encourage the participation of intellectuals in the new regime, in mid-1956 there began an official effort to liberalize the political climate. Cultural and intellectual figures were encouraged to speak their minds on the state of CCP rule and programs. Mao personally took the lead in the movement, which was launched under the classical slogan “Let a hundred flowers bloom, let the hundred schools of thought contend” (). At first the party’s repeated invitation to air constructive views freely and openly was met with caution. By mid-1957, however, the movement unexpectedly mounted, bringing denunciation and criticism against the party in general and the excesses of its cadres in particular. Startled and embarrassed, leaders turned on the critics as “bourgeois rightist” () and launched the Anti-Rightist Campaign. The Hundred Flowers Campaign , sometimes called the Double Hundred Campaign (), apparently had a sobering effect on the CCP leadership.

Historical Timeline:

Dates Dynasty
ca. 2000-1500 B.C. Xia
1700-1027 B.C. Shang
1027-771 B.C. Western Zhou  
770-221 B.C. Eastern Zhou  
770-476 B.C. — Spring and Autumn period  
475-221 B.C. — Warring States period  
221-207 B.C. Qin
206 B.C.-A.D. 9 Western Han  
A.D. 9-24 Xin (Wang Mang interregnum)
A.D. 25-220 Eastern Han  
A.D. 220-280 Three Kingdoms
220-265 — Wei
221-263 — Shu
229-280 — Wu
A.D. 265-316 Western Jin  
A.D. 317-420 Eastern Jin  
A.D. 420-588 Southern and Northern Dynasties   
420-588 Southern Dynasties  
420-478 — Song
479-501 — Qi
502-556 — Liang
557-588 — Chen
386-588 Northern Dynasties  
386-533 — Northern Wei  
534-549 — Eastern Wei  
535-557 — Western Wei  
550-577 — Northern Qi  
557-588 — Northern Zhou  
A.D. 581-617 Sui
A.D. 618-907 Tang
A.D. 907-960 Five Dynasties
907-923 — Later Liang  
923-936 — Later Tang  
936-946 — Later Jin  
947-950 — Later Han  
951-960 — Later Zhou  
A.D. 907-979 Ten Kingdoms
A.D. 960-1279 Song
960-1127 — Northern Song  
1127-1279 — Southern Song  
A.D. 916-1125 Liao
A.D. 1038-1227 Western Xia  
A.D. 1115-1234 Jin
A.D. 1279-1368 Yuan
A.D. 1368-1644 Ming
A.D. 1644-1911 Qing
A.D. 1911-1949 Republic of China (in mainland China)
A.D. 1949- Republic of China (in Taiwan)
A.D. 1949- People’s Republic of China

#History2Research

Chinese history is a vast field of intellectual inquiry. Advances in archaeology and documentary research constantly produce new results and numerous new publications. An excellent and concise survey of the entire course of Chinese history up to the 1970s is China: Tradition and Transformation by John K. Fairbank and Edwin O. Reischauer. For a more in-depth review of modern Chinese history (beginning of the Qing dynasty to the early 1980s), Immanuel C.Y. Hsu’s The Rise of Modern China should be consulted. Hsu’s book is particularly useful for its chapter-by-chapter bibliography. Maurice Meisner’s Mao’s China and After: A History of the People’s Republic presents a comprehensive historical analysis of post-1949 China and provides a selected bibliography.

There are a number of excellent serial publications covering Chinese history topics. These include China QuarterlyChinese Studies in History, and Journal of Asian Studies. The Association for Asian Studies’ annual Bibliography of Asian Studies provides the most comprehensive list of monographs, collections of documents, and articles on Chinese history.

Another good source of bibliographic information can be found at Chinese Cultural Studies: Bibliographical Guide.

A more detailed bibliography is given below


Bibliography

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Bedeski, Robert E. “The Evolution of the Modern State in China: Na- tionalist and Communist Continuities,” World Politics, XVII, No. 4, July 1975, 541-68.

Bianco, Lucien. “People’s China: 25 Years. ‘Fu-chiang’ and Red Fer- vor,” Problems of Communism, XIII, September-October 1974, 2-9.

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Butterfield, Fox. “The Pendulum in Peking Swings Far–Both Ways,” New York Times, December 3, 1978, sect- 4, 1-

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Domes, Jurgen (ed.). China after the Cultural Revolution: Politics between Two Party Congresses. (With a contribution by MarieLuise Nath.) Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977.

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Fairbank, John K., Edwin O. Reischauer, and Albert Craig. East Asia: The Modern Transformation. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965.

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Hsu, Immanuel C. Y. The Rise of Modern China. (2d ed.) New York: Oxford University Press, 1975.

Hucker, Charles O. China to 1850: A Short History. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1978.

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Kim, Ilpyong J. The Politics of Chinese Communism: Kiangsi under the Soviets. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974.

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(Various issues of the following periodicals were also used in the preparation of this chapter: Beijing Review [Beijing], March 10, 1978-June 2, 1980; Far Eastern Economic Review [Hong Kong], August 3, 1979-March 17, 1980; Financial Times [London], January 1978-September 1980; Foreign Broadcast Information Service Daily Report: People’s Republic of China [Washington], September 1978-August 1980; joint Publications Research Service: China Report, Political, Sociological and Military Affairs [Washington], January 1979-June 1980; and Washington Post, September ( August 1977 – 1980).

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