The People's Republic of China

1949-1989

During the beginning of Communist leadership, the new government reorganized all aspects of Chinese life. The CCP started a revolution to execute anyone who had been linked to the KMT and carefully censored all ideas that came into the country. The group told citizens that they should look towards the government for leadership rather than at their families. The CCP deprivatized business and made the first five-year plan in 1953. This plan emphasized the expansion of industry with the expense of the goods made.

To create a society in which everyone worked together unselfishly for common goals, the Communists first had to redistribute properties. They did this by sending some of their people to a town and then categorized them based on their wealth. They then organized an association for the peasants in which they were able to list out everything they needed. The government then took all the land and redistributed it to everyone evenly. The next step was land reform, which eliminated all economic inequality. This reorganization made the illiterates rise in society and also increased the number of social services for everyone.

“Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom,” was the slogan for the campaign Mao Zedong launched in 1965. Its purpose was to let the CCP hear the criticisms of the people. Mao started this because he felt that the revolutionary spirit was fading. In the beginning of the campaign, not many people spoke out and the ones who did were very cautious about what they were saying. However, Mao persistently asked them to say all they wanted and when they did, it became too big. In 1957, Mao and his party decided to take back their word and launched the Anti-rightist campaign. In this campaign, hundreds of thousands of educated people lost their jobs and freedom because the things they had said during the Hundred Flowers period was anti-Communist.

Next Mao launched a plan known as the Great Leap Forward. The aim was to help China surpass the industry of Britain in a 15-year period. Through the hard work of the people, Mao believed that China would be able to transform itself from a poor nation into a rich, powerful one. All throughout the country, institutions set up factories in their backyard to increase the rate of production. As workers labored on these projects, they abandoned their home and their farm work. Within a couple of years the Great Leap became a disaster; industrial production dropped and famine occurred.

In mid 1966, Mao launched the Cultural Revolution with goals to destroy all middle class ideas and customs and to rekindle the revolutionary passion of early Chinese communism. Mao also used this revolution to increase his power by removing leaders who opposed him. Students at Beijing University, under Mao’s encouragement, fought against officials who they believed were not revolutionary enough. Liu Shaoqi, a revolutionary who was supposed to succeed Mao, wanted to control the students but Mao stopped him. He turned the students into militant groups known as the Red Guards and because of this, students all over China worshipped Mao, ready to help him whenever it was needed.

In June of 1966, all Chinese schools were closed so that students could join others in spending their time engaging in Red Guard activities. The chief targets of the Red Guards’ demonstrations were the intellects. The CCP’s structure was destroyed by this since many important members such as Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping were removed. During the riots in 1967 and 1968 of the Red Guard, many lives were lost. These rebellions caused the society to turn chaotic until finally in July 1968, the Red Guards were sent back to school.

When the Cultural Revolution began, Mao and his supporters promoted the persecution of educated individuals. They were put in the worst conditions; they were starved, tortured, and imprisoned. Many turned to suicide. Even with this, the CCP reelected Mao in April 1969 as the Chairman. In 1976, the government arrested a group of four revolutionaries, known as the Gang of Four, and charged them for the crimes they committed during the Cultural Revolution. This marked the end of the Cultural Revolution.

Chairman Mao died in 1976, which led to a struggle for power between the moderate and radical leaders of the party. In 1977, Deng Xiaoping became the leader. He had returned to China in 1973 and by 1978, Deng had complete control of the government. He focused on economic growth and promoted the “Four Modernizations”: agriculture, industry, technology and defense. In agriculture, Deng started a system in which families were given land. They were allowed to keep any surplus that they produced. Deng encouraged the establishment of small businesses and he imported technology to help the industry. His policies greatly increased the country's income.

Under Deng, the Chinese government loosened its control, but the government still dominated what was being said about themselves. During the Democracy Wall movement between 1978 and 1979, people placed posters on a wall in Beijing to protest against the injustice. Initially it was used only for criticisms of previous policies, but when the people started voicing their negative opinions about the existing government, the wall was closed down and the people who spoke out were killed.

In 1985 and 1986, there were massive rounds of student protests. On New Year's 1987, students filled Tian An Men Square. The demonstrations ended with the arrests of 24 students. The largest democracy demonstration took place in the spring of 1989.