Mao’s China 1949-1976 China after 1911 The Revolution of 1911 was intended to create a modern republican form of government in China. Instead, the country broke up into warlord-dominated regions with increasing poverty and violence. The Kuomintang (Nationalist) Party led the revolution, but controlled few areas. Kuomintang Party Sun Yat-sen was the main leader of the 1911 Revolution and the Nationalist Party (KMT). He died in 1925 and was succeeded as leader by Chiang Kai-shek. Chiang cooperated with the Communists for a time, but then massacred them in 1927. Mao Zedong’s Life Mao was born in 1896 as the son of an affluent peasant in Hunan province. After service in a provincial army in the 1911 revolution, Mao attended a teacher’s college. He then attended Beijing University and worked in the library there. Life, 2 Mao was a leader of the Chinese Communist Party since its founding in 1921. While most Chinese Communists believed that urban workers were the group that would be the most important supporters of the revolution, Mao decided that peasants had more revolutionary potential. Land Reform Mao discovered even in the 1920s that the Communists could win the support of the peasants by taking away land from the rich and sharing this with the poor. Mao learned how to get the vast majority of peasants on his side by concentrating the confiscations on a small minority of wealthy farmers. Life, 3 Mao led a Communist area in Jiangxi Province in 1934, but attacks by the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) government army forced them to undergo the “Long March” lasting over a year and covering 3700 miles to a new, safer area to the north in Shanxi Province. Yan’an, 1935-1948 For over a decade, Mao and the Chinese Communist leadership operated from Yan’an in the north of China. Land reform was carried out in Yan’an. During most of this time, the Communists were fighting against both the KMT and the Japanese. The Communists and the KMT competed in terms of which best represented the national interests of China against the Japanese. Yan’an, 2 At the end of the Second World War, the Russians moved into Manchuria against the Japanese and were able to share some weapons with the Chinese Communists. Stalin urged Mao to ally with Chiang Kaishek rather than to fight him. Communist Victory, 1949 Due to corruption and inefficiency among the KMT leadership, the Communists took power in mainland China in October, 1949. The KMT leaders retreated to the island of Taiwan. Now Mao was in charge of the whole country. August, 1949 Trials of landlords During 1949-1951, the Communists held mass trials of landlords and KMT leaders all over the country. Peasants were urged to denounce crimes committed by the former rulers. This tied the peasants who participated to the regime because they were implicated in the deaths of the elite. Accusing the landlord of abusing his tenants Trials, 2 Hundreds of thousands of members of the former elite were put to death in the mass trials of 1949-1951. Their land was then distributed among the poorer peasants. This was the most important revolutionary act in the rural villages of China. Industrialization Between 1949 and 1960, China followed the Russian strategy of industrialization. They built large factories in the cities. Many Russian engineers came to China to assist in this effort. Many of the largest factories in China today were built during this period. Great Leap Forward, 1958-60 In 1958, Mao decided that the Russian strategy of industrial development was not suitable for China. This urban, large-factory system was not having enough of an impact on the mass of the population in the countryside. Mao decided to opt for a unique Chinese method of industrialization. Great Leap Forward, 2 The most mocked aspect of the Great Leap Forward was the backyard steel furnaces. Mao thought that peasants could learn to make steel on a broadly decentralized basis. Most areas of China, however, lacked the ore and fuel for this. Great Leap Forward, 3 Millions of peasants were pulled away from their agricultural tasks in order to engage in industrialization or water conservancy projects. This lack of attention to the crops added to the problem of a serious drought and up to 30 million people died in China during this period. Great Leap Forward, 4 Small villages were done away with, and the peasants were moved to larger towns. Mao attempted to have the peasants live in dormitories – with the separation of husbands and wives. Communal kitchens and nurseries were established. These measures failed. Great Leap Forward, 5 The Russians were insulted that the Chinese were no longer following their advice and pulled out their engineers. Many factories that were being built could not be finished because the Russians had the only plans and because the Russians were to provide the machinery. Sino-Soviet Dispute, 1960 From 1960 onward, China and Russia had a great ideological quarrel. Mao asserted that the world was in a revolutionary situation. Mao expected revolution to come from the poor peasants of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Sino-Soviet Dispute, 2 The Soviet Union was led in 1960 by Nikita Khrushchev and he insisted on the need for “peaceful coexistence” with the West. Khrushchev was against promoting revolution in Third World countries as China wished to do. The Cultural Revolution Between 1961 and 1963, conditions were relatively quiet in China, but in 1964 Mao began pushing a new crusade to transform the culture to make the country more purely communist. Mao attacked traditional Confucian and Buddhist elements in Chinese culture. Cultural Revolution, 2 Any Communist leaders who were not strongly for equality were condemned in this movement. The Cultural Revolution started among students, but it began to affect other sectors of society. Cultural Revolution, 3 Eventually, the military stepped in and sent the students off to work as peasants. Assessing Mao Most people both in China and the West consider that Mao’s leadership was atrocious – particularly the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. However, it is possible that the success of Chinese economic growth since Mao’s death in 1976 owes much to these two movements. Assessing Mao, 2 In spite of the deaths during the Great Leap Forward and the social and economic disruption of the Cultural Revolution, the two movements helped to modernize China both in its rural economy and in its ideology. Both movements helped to give primacy to industry and technology. Assessing Mao, 3 Both movements asserted the power of the common people to make important social changes. The tradition of the Confucian mandarin bureaucrat was buried, and the new leadership of China had to justify their power on the basis of economic growth for the betterment of the people. Assessing Mao, 4 History often has tragic aspects. The deaths due to the famine associated with the Great Leap Forward (and the far smaller numbers of deaths in the Cultural Revolution) were tragic aspects of a broad national transformation. Assessing Mao, 5 Industrializing a huge, impoverished peasant society is a giant task that involves ideological mobilization as well as simply building factories and installing new machinery. China might not have been as advanced as it is today without the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. After Mao From 1975 to 1997, China was led by Deng Xiaoping who welcomed economic reforms in the direction of capitalism. Peasants were allowed to farm on their own and to leave the collective farms. Local governments were permitted to establish industrial companies that functioned like capitalist firms. Deng Xiaoping After Mao, 2 Mao would be turning over in his grave at the foreign investment and the consumer culture that is spreading in China today. However, Mao’s efforts did create a strong, united Chinese state that after Mao’s death was able to make serious reforms to compete in a global economy.