Concubinage, women married to a man but were not his legal wives, and inferior to his legal wife in status and treatment, was common because, according to Confucius, filial piety (great respect for one's parents) was a paramount virtue, and the cardinal sin was not to have (male) heirs and end the family line. Having multiple wives guaranteed one a male heir, thus fulfilling filial piety. Marriages were arranged by parents because they involved property and the perpetuation of the lineage, and so they were too serious a matter to be left to young people themselves.
Historically, women did not go to school and a few lucky ones would learn how to read and write from their brothers or fathers. Confucius, who believed female obedience to men was one of the three cardinal principles of a society (the other two were obedience from minister to emperor, and son's obedience to father), decided the most obedient women were illiterate; hence, women were not educated in literacy. My own late grandmother, who was born in 1905, did not read a single word until after the Communist takeover in 1949, when the Communists started a popularizing literacy movement. She was ultimately able to write my mother in broken Chinese.
Also, starting in the 700s, it became fashionable to practice foot binding, what some historians determined was inspired by ancient Persian dances and first practiced on upper class Chinese women, especially concubines to the emperor. Women would have their feet bound with three to four feet cloth to arrest the development of the feet. The practice soon spread to lower class Chinese women. From then on, the chief criterion of women's beauty in China became how small a girl's feet were. Girls' feet were bound starting from when they were two or three years old, and every day for the rest of their lives their feet had to remain bound (except for letting the feet rest during the night) so that they would not grow. A traditional Chinese saying, "three inches of golden lotus," referred to both the size and the shape, and the value, of small female feet. Although my grandmother never had her feet bound, when I was growing up in China I remember seeing little old ladies with their triangular shaped bound feet hobbling in the streets. This practice was implemented in society and encouraged by Chinese rulers to keep women restricted to home.
14. The triumph of the Communists over the Nationalists in China.
The Chinese Communist Party was established in 1921. Between 1923 and 1927 it allied with the Nationalist Party and launched a joint attack against the warlords. The two parties split in April 1927, when Chiang Kai-shek, successor to Sun Yat-sen as head of the Nationalist Party, decided his party was strong enough to stand alone without the Communists. Even though the political party system was the product of modern democratic politics from the West, it was used as a tool to organize and rationalize a new regime. Chinese Communists turned underground and moved to and established a base in rural southeast China. Guerrilla warfare became the norm. The Nationalists became the government in 1928, after which they concentrated their force on exterminating the Chinese Communists, forcing the latter to launch a "Long March" away from their base in southeast China to northwestern China via the southwest, crossing marshes, snow-covered mountains, and the Tibetan plateau, from Oct.1934-Oct.1935, arriving finally in Yanan. The Communist force was decimated from around 30,000 after the initial battles in October 1934 to just mere thousands by October 1935. They walked an average of 17 miles per day, had constant combat with the Nationalist troops that chased after them, and were often faced with an insufficiency of food and clothing. Many people were wearing straw sandals when they scaled snow covered mountains in southwestern China, and when they came to the last bit of food, they even boiled leather belts and leather shoes for food .It was during the Long March that Mao Zedong established his indisputable leadership within the Communist Party. By 1935, those previously higher than Mao in the Communist Party leadership were all demoted because they adhered to the Soviet policies of regular warfare, which led to heavy Communist losses in battles with the Nationalist troops that far outnumbered the Communist ones. The triumph of Mao in the Communist leadership set the tone for future Communist policies in the war years: the Communists were to practice guerrilla warfare in the face of enemies that far outnumbered them, be they the Nationalists or later, the Japanese. Second, the Communists were to rely on the farmers for support, instead of the industrial workers according to classical Marxism, because in China farmers far outnumbered industrial workers and were a more popular base of support.
The War Against Japan and the Chinese Civil War (1937-1949)
In Yanan the Communists rebuilt their force. Meanwhile, the Japanese were aggressively progressing in China in the name of protecting their citizens and properties in China. In September 1931, Japan occupied Chinese Manchuria, beginning what is called in Japanese history the Fifteen Year War, which would see Japan take up much of China from 1937-45, expand into southeast Asia starting from July 1941, engage the U.S. in various battles in the southern Pacific, and finally surrender. In China, 1927 to 1949 saw one war of foreign (Japanese) invasion, formally termed the Eight Year War (1937-45), and two civil wars between the Chinese Communists and Nationalists (1927-36, 1945-49).
In the face of Japanese invasion of China, the United States condemned Japan and extended financial support to China, primarily under a category called "Lend-Lease," a term coined to refer initially to Americans lending and leasing used battleships to Britain during the Battle of Britain (1940-41) in World War II. The Lend-Lease program was extended to many other countries under the invasion of the Axis Powers, including China. Eventually, all the money and goods lent during the war became free gifts from the U.S. to these embattled countries. The Nationalist government heavily lobbied the U.S. for support. In 1942, Madame Chiang Kai-shek herself toured the U.S., lobbied the U.S. congress, and promoted the United China Relief. The "China Lobby" still exists as a term today to refer to the lobbyists for Taiwan--where the Nationalists left for in 1949--in the U.S. Congress.
Wartime China’s financial dependence on the U.S. (over $3.8 billion in goods and cash, 1937-45) was a new source for Chiang Kai-shek’s revenue and perhaps as much as $1 billion of it went into private pockets. In addition to corruption, power struggles plagued the various factions within the Nationalist government, although much of the struggle was never made public in the Chinese or American newspapers. Government corruption, plus inflation in China (1939, 83%, 1940, 124%, 1942, 235%), made American money, when exchanged at the official rate of 1:20, almost worthless ($17 million in 1942 to the United China Relief).
Although the Nationalist government temporarily allied with the Communists in 1936 (Chang Hsueh-liang, former general from Manchuria who lost his home to the Japanese in 1931, captured Chiang Kai-shek in 1936 and forced him to ally with the Communists to form a "United Front" against Japanese invasion), Chiang never sincerely wanted to ally with the Communists and to share power. As soon as the war against Japan came to an end, civil war broke out in 1945. The Communists exercised primarily guerrilla warfare to tie down the main forces of the Nationalists, and focused on land reform in the countryside to win over the hearts of the peasants. After much of northwestern China was taken by them, the Communists moved east into the cities and waged several major battles against the Nationalists, finally forcing the latter to back down and flee to Taiwan in several phases between 1948-1950. On Oct.1, 1949, Communist leader Mao Zedong pronounced the establishment of the People's Republic of China in Beijing, ending Nationalist rule on mainland China. From then on, Taiwan came to be called the Republic of China.
Although the relationship between the U.S. and Communist China deteriorated in 1950 after the onset of the Korean War, it is interesting that there were moments during WWII when some members of the U.S. government advocated that the U.S. abandon support to Chiang Kai-shek and switch to the Communists. Those who criticized the Chiang Kai-shek regime for its corruption included the so-called “China hands" in the U.S. Foreign Service: John Service, John Davies, and reporter Theodore White. The U.S. general sent to assist Chiang Kai-shek after U.S. declared war on Japan, Joe Stilwell, had a very sore relationship with Chiang. In 1945, the U.S. sent a so-called "Dixie Mission" to Yenan, Shaanxi Province, center of Communist occupied areas, to teach them how to use U.S. weapons and considered whether to ally with the Communists. Although Nationalist corruption had little impact on president Franklin Roosevelt’s policy toward China because of wartime need, it influenced Truman’s decision not to send Chiang any new support after the war was over. There were, of course, supporters of Chiang's regime in the U.S., one prominent one being Henry Luce, founder of Time and Life.
In the second half of 1945, because of U.S. concern of the possible alliance between the Chinese Communists and the Soviet Union, they decided to support Chiang's regime despite his corruption. The hostile Stillwell was replaced by the Chiang-friendly Wedemeyer. Still, the U.S. wanted to help negotiate between the Communists and the Nationalists. Patrick Hurley, the man chosen to do the job, however, was hostile to the Communists and had no diplomatic experience. He failed to persuade the two sides to avoid a civil war.
After 1949, some members of the U.S.State Department used Truman’s policy to argue that China was “lost” because of the failure of the U.S. to militarily intervene in the Chinese civil war. One reason Truman did not intervene was because he disliked Chiang Kai-shek personally. The Truman administration did not finalize on its policy toward Communist China until the Korean War (1950-1953) broke out and the Chinese sent troops across the Yalu River separating China and Korea. China believed the U.S. wanted to use Korea as a springboard to overtake Communist China. As the war went on, and the U.S. tightened its relationship with Taiwan, it strengthened the Chinese belief that the U.S. conspired against Communist China and wanted to help restore the Nationalist regime in China. All this also influenced domestic Communist Chinese policies.
15. The Establishment of the People’s Republic of China (Oct.1, 1949)
Twenty years after the Chinese Communists were forced underground by the Nationalists in 1927, a series of events helped the former to regain their balance and augment their influence over China, finally taking over the government in 1949. One explanation for it was the Anti-Japanese War (1937-1945), which constituted part of the Pacific phase of World War II. Because of its small size, the Communists were largely engaged with the Japanese forces through guerrilla warfare, while the Nationalist government troops bore the major burden of the war and suffered heavy attrition. Communist close alliance with the rural population where they fought the guerrilla wars, including policies such as land redistribution, led to warm acceptance of the Communists in the Chinese countryside. Mao Zedong’s theory on alliance with the farmers, raised in 1926, was now tested true and became mainstream Communist policy. By the end of the war in August 1945, the Chinese Communists expanded its force and became very influential in northern China.
Also throughout the war and after, Communists impressed many as the upright and disciplined party that worked for national well-being, while the Nationalist government, although bearing the full brunt of the war, also exposed itself as a very corrupt regime, eventually leading even the Truman administration to doubt if it wanted to supposed the Chiang Kai-shek government. Its development during the war against Japan and the Nationalist regime’s corruption both contributed to the triumph of the Communists in 1949.
After 1949, China became Communist. The Communists, with their vision for a completely new society, sought to achieve their goals more through mass political movements than solid economic changes. They often treated economic policies as bourgeois and identified them with practices of capitalist countries. Conflict within the Communist Party also contributed to the intensity of these political movements, including movements to spread Land Reform policies and to publicize new rules and regulations, such as the Marriage Law; rectification movements of intellectuals; campaigns to weed out corruption, bureaucratism and petty crime; and movements to boost popular support for the new regime, in particular in the cities. All the people were mobilized to help reconstruct the country in whatever manner possible, including (recently) demobilized soldiers. The Anti-Rightist campaign of 1957 labeled many critical of the Chinese Communist Party as Rightists and either demoted them or sent them to labor camps. The Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) was a large scale campaign to transform the Chinese culture uproot it from both traditional Chinese and bourgeois influences. Communists came from a diverse range of backgrounds, with the leaders often, though not always, coming from a middle-class and more educated background, and the rank-and-file coming from a rural or poverty-stricken background. From the beginning, there was a rift between Communists with bourgeois backgrounds and those with proletariat/peasant backgrounds. This rift was at the root of several major political movements in Communist China, including the Anti-Rightist Movement (1957) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).
Besides internal conflicts within the Chinese Communist Party, hostility from Western countries, especially the United States, also contributed to the radicalization of Chinese politics. The Korean War (1950-1953) led to a severe deterioration of relations between Communist China and the free world led by the United States. Chinese Communists decided the United States wanted to invade China via Korea, or via Taiwan because the U.S. government was committed to fully supporting Chiang Kai-shek's regime in Taiwan after the Korean War broke out. Therefore anything that resembled Western culture or politics and economy would be denounced, including love and private family life.
16. Women in Communist China
Communism seemed to usher in a new society for China, and, in many ways, it actually did. Communism abolished polygamy (which was first abolished by the republican government in 1912, but the reform was never completely carried out). Communism also established gender equality and legitimated free love and marriage (in contrast to arranged marriages) in its 1950 Marriage Law, leading to a 50 percent divorce rate in rural marriages in the first few years of the law's implementation. Communism upheld high principles and sought to overcome traditional Confucian social relationships, including its byproduct nepotism and other forms of corruption. But within Communism there were many unresolved problems. Gender equality did not lead to a respect for women. The supremacy of communism and revolution led to a de-emphasis of the family.
Communist China emphasized gender equality, but this emphasis was to make the two sexes more united in the building of socialism. Therefore, gender was not emphasized and from the story of Jung Chang's mother, one can see that her role as a woman was subsumed under her role as a Communist. She was expected to obey Communist rules. Love and marriage were also secondary to revolution. Another consequence of the emphasis on gender equality in China was that many educated women came to look down upon household chores and child rearing. Work came first, and household duties second.
Because the Communist Party came first, like gender differences, everything was subsumed under the guidelines of the Communists, including permission to get married, and with whom. The family and its needs were subordinate to the needs of the revolution.
This Communist deemphasis on women’s gender was inherited from the early 20th century New Culture Movement, when the emancipation of women was first raised by men, not to show respect to women and their gender, but to prevent the “waste” of laying half of the population illiterate and mentally and professionally disabled, in order to achieve national strength and prosperity. The category of women, like that of class, has long been exploited by the hegemonic discourse of the state of China, one that posits the equality between men and women by depriving the latter of their differences (and not the other way around!). In the emancipatory discourse of the state, which always subsumes women under the nationalist agenda, women's liberation means little more than equal opportunity to participate in public labor. The image of the liberated daughter and the figure of the strong female Party leader celebrated in the literature of socialist realism are invented for the purpose of abolishing the patriarchal discriminatory construction of gender, but they end up denying difference to women.
Thus even though Mao's slogan "Women hold half of the sky," became extremely popular, most women worked, and women did almost every kind of job that men did, this seeming equality also denied women the right they deserved: to be considered women and different from men.
Also despite the rhetoric of gender equality, the reality, especially in the countryside, was the continued gender distinction and inequality between the two sexes. Communism purportedly was to establish a completely new society based on new universal principles. Born during the New Culture Movement in the 1920s, Chinese Communism bore the imprint of this movement and its iconoclastic attack on Confucian learning and Chinese tradition.
17. Political Movements from the 1950s to the 1970s
The Communist call for equality could not overcome the deep-seated mistrust and lack of communication between the urban/educated and rural/illiterate Communists. Reflected at a higher level, the question was, what goals should Communist policies should reflect---a technocratic focus on economic development, or a continuous emphasis on political revolutions and mass mobilization? In the face of foreign threat (e.g., the Korean War, 1950-53, and the possible U.S. invasion of China via Taiwan and north Korea), Chinese Communists who advocated continuous revolutions often triumphed over dissenting colleagues who argued for a technocratic approach that focused on the urban areas and on economic/industrial development. A significant number of Chinese Communists leaders resorted to the traditional strategies of mass political mobilization, which they had used in the 1940s and early 1950s. During the 1940s, the Communists used this form of mass mobilization to conduct land redistribution: in villages where large wealthy landlords existed, they would conduct mass meetings where poor peasants were asked to go up one by one to empty their grievances against the landlord, e.g. charging high interest rates on loans, high rents on tenant farmers, etc. These "mass criticism" meetings were followed by the confiscation and redistribution of the landlord's land. Many poor peasants joined the Communist Party after such land redistribution to protect their newly acquired land. After the Communist takeover, similar mass movements were conducted such as the ones mentioned in the links below:
Early Political Campaigns
The Anti-rightist campaign
The Great Leap Forward (1958)
Cultural Revolution Campaigns
Many of these campaigns sought to build unity in the new Communist republic through a definition of who were the "people" and who were the "enemies of the people." The “people” included those of good class background: poor and middle class peasants, workers, soldiers---hence the massive social classification movement in the early years of Communist takeover. Meanwhile, those expressing criticism against Communist practices were labeled “counter-revolutionaries” or some other names. In 1957, party leader Mao Zedong wanted to sound out the opinions of the intellectuals about the Communist Party. When the criticism was much more extensive than he anticipated, he decided to muffle these critics by labeling them "rightists." Historically, left was associated with radicalism and right with conservatism, so the label "rightist" implied ultra-conservatism in a radical socialist society. Rightists were often thrown into prison or sent to labor camps. These political movements mobilized the masses to conform to the party line and enabled the party to implement its programs with little opposition. It was against the background of these political movements that the Chinese government completed its land collectivization movement and collectivization movement of factories and companies in the cities in the 1950s.
By 1958 almost all private ownership of land, factories, and other companies was eliminated in China. The Great Leap Forward, another political movement in 1958, was an attempt to leap ahead of the capitalist countries in industrial output. It was disastrous because it tried to use simple mass mobilization techniques to achieve high industrial and agricultural output that were achieved through highly developed technologies in Western countries. For instance, to increase steel output, every household was asked to donate their iron pots and pans to where they worked, and their employers, be it a hospital, school, or factory, all built their own backyard furnaces to make steel. Understandably, the steel made in such a way was of low quality and useless. No one dared to criticize this Communist policy and there was much fraud in reporting industrial and agricultural achievements. In the countryside, decisions to dramatically increase agricultural produce led to much fraudulent reporting of agricultural output. One false newspaper report had a baby sitting on top of wheat stalks in a wheat field, indicating the wheat stalks were so thickly grown that they could hold up a baby. When the frauds finally came to light it was too late: instead of the dramatic increase in agricultural output as the propaganda had it, Chinese granaries were all emptied in 1958. A drought that started in 1959 added to the catastrophe and led to three years of famine, which resulted in the deaths of between 25 and 30 million people.
The most thorough and fierce struggle between the technocrats and radical revolutionaries within the Communist Party was carried out in the form of the Cultural Revolution (CR, 1966-76). The CR was begun as a way to purge the technocrats from the party, and Chairman Mao Zedong of the Communist Party again used the strategy of mass mobilization, in the form of Red Guards, Tiananmen Square parades, mass criticism meetings, and parades of the "bad elements". It started with Mao’s article “Bombing the headquarters [of the feudal and bourgeois members in society]” in 1966. Mao interviewed high school students dissatisfied with the college examination system and told them that “rebellion [against their teachers] was justified.” Mao ruled that high school and college entrance examinations and the whole Chinese educational system were in the hands of the technocrats and needed to be reformed, first through the criticism of school teachers, and then their leaders and their leaders’ leaders, which would ultimately get at the technocrats at the top of the government. Therefore following the criticism of school teachers, the second wave of the Cultural Revolution was labeling all those in the Communist leadership who advocated a technocratic approach as “