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B10: China under Mao Zedong, 1949-59

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B10: China under Mao Zedong, 1949-59

How did Mao create a Communist State?

  • From October 1949 Mao was the undisputed leader of The People’s Republic of China.

  • In China, it was the Communist Party that really mattered. It took all of the decisions, while the government simply enforced them.

  • China immediately became a one party state. Anyone who showed any opposition to communism was labelled a counter-revolutionary or an imperialist.

  • To avoid accusations, Chinese increasingly tried to prove their loyalty by accusing others. This produced an atmosphere of suspicion and revenge.

  • Mao believed that the strength of the Party lay with the peasants in the countryside. He set out to destroy any remaining support for the GMD in the cities and ordered massacres of suspects.

  • All traditional Chinese religions, as well as other world religions were attacked. Maoist slogans began to appear on walls all over China for the first time.

  • The Chinese people were accustomed to being told what to do and followed Mao’s orders almost without question.

  • Mao realised that he had to offer the Chinese people something in return for their loyalty. In particular, he had to reward the peasants.

How was Land reform introduced?

  • This began with an attack on landlords. Landlords were forced to give up their property, which was then redistributed among the peasants.

  • Many landlords were then tried by village courts and often executed. Reform took no account of the size or value of the holding.

  • Mao wanted peasants to be aware that he was acting in their interests and that real changes were being made. So reform had to be a major issue.

  • Tenant farmers were given title deeds to their land and landless peasants were given plots. This gave hundreds of millions of peasants a stake in China for the first time and made them even more loyal to Mao.

How was society changed in Communist China?

  • Mao made real efforts to improve the lives of the Chinese people. Unemployment fell dramatically and insurance was introduced.

  • But urban workers had no right to choose where they worked and were assigned jobs by state labour offices.

  • Residence permits prevented people moving, and it was virtually impossible for peasants to move to the cities.

  • An eight-hour, six-day working week was introduced. Workers received one week paid holiday a year and up to three weeks 'family visiting' holiday.

  • Retirement was introduced at 50-55 for women and 55-60 for men.

  • Pensions, a health services and education were provided. Education became a right and was made compulsory. Housing, water, electricity and other services were all subsidised.

How did Mao change the status of women?

  • Equality of the sexes in education, employment and pay was made law and women were given the right to own property for the first time.

  • Divorce was allowed in China for the first time. Maternity benefits were introduced in 1951, including feeding time and nurseries in government run businesses.

Why was the First Five Plan begun?

  • The civil war had resulted in inflation and famine.

  • The population was rising rapidly and production needed to be increased.

  • How successful was Mao?

  • By 1952, inflation was down from 1000% to 15%.

  • Public expenditure had been reduced and taxes on city dwellers had been increased.

  • The First Five Year Plan was aimed at rapid industrial growth, which would enable China to develop quickly. The main areas of concentration were coal, steel and petro-chemicals.

  • Economic growth ran at 9% per annum during the five years. National expenditure rose from 6,810 million yuan in 1952 to 29,020 million yuan in 1957.

  • The success of the First Five Year Plan was to some extent due to the presence of 10,000 advisers from Soviet Russia. These were almost the last examples of Soviet influence in China.

  • Mao believed that Chinese communism should be based on agricultural communes and not on the urban workers.

Why did Mao start The Hundred Flowers?

  • The First Five Year Plan created huge problems. The increase in the numbers of city dwellers meant that food and housing were in very short supply.

  • Mao allowed public discussion of the plan. In May 1956 Lu Dungyi, the propaganda chief of the CCP issued the slogan 'Let a hundred flowers bloom and a thousand schools of thought contend’.

  • Mao seemed to be calling for a great debate on the Five Year Plan. Mao also seems to have heard that local CCP officials had been accused of acting heavy-handedly and wanted to hear other opinions.

  • But there is also evidence that Mao’s ideas were becoming less popular in China. To Mao, changes such as this may suggested a weakening of his position in China.

  • An alternative view of the Hundred Flowers is that Mao was simply encouraging his opponents to speak out so that he could identify them and deal with them.

What were the results of The Hundred Flowers?

  • Many people openly criticised the Plan, especially university lecturers, artists, writers and teachers. Even Mao himself was included.

  • Some leading figures in the CCP were purged. Altogether about 500,000 people were removed.

Why was Collectivisation introduced?

  • The population of China's cities had grown, but food supplies had not matched the increase.

  • Mao’s solution was to bring peasants under central control. He ordered the creation of 25,000 Communes.

  • Life in the Communes was strictly regimented. Peasants were ordered to live communally in dormitories, eat in mess halls and tear down their own houses

  • All individual plots of land were confiscated by the Commune and peasants were also ordered to farm according to instructions and not according to their own experience.

  • The ideas of the Soviet scientist Trofim Lysenko were adopted. He had put forward fraudulent theories, which did great harm to farming.

  • The results of Collectivisation were disastrous. In 1958 China produced 200 million tonnes of grain and 4.3 million tonnes of meat, but by 1960 the figures were 143.5

  • million tonnes of wheat and 1.3 million tonnes of meat.

  • The falls in production led to a major famine and about 30,000,000 Chinese died. Even Mao had to admit that Collectivisation was a failure, but he reacted by accusing officials of incompetence.

What was the Great Leap Forward?

  • The Great Leap Forward was an attempt to turn China into an industrial superpower within fifteen years by using the massive manpower of the country.

  • Workers who had migrated to towns during the First Five Year Plan were sent back to their communes to work.

  • The fundamental idea behind the Great Leap Forward was that industrial development could be achieved through the individual efforts of the ordinary Chinese people.

  • The Great Leap Forward would reinforce the rural community and avoid the creation of a class of ‘experts’, which Mao so distrusted.

  • All over China people began to set up backyard blast furnaces and produce steel, which was often unusable.

  • Peasants neglected their crops that went to ruin. All over China the harvest was left to rot and this made the famine brought about by Collectivisation all the worse.

Why did the Great Leap Forward fail?

  • The peasants did not know what they were doing.

  • Mao was afraid that if he allowed the creation of a class of experts he would lose control of the revolution.

  • Mao’s personal pride and paranoia was allowed take precedence over common-sense and as many as 30,000,000 Chinese died of starvation as a result

  • National income fell by 29% and inflation rose from 0.2% to 16.2%.

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