In “Serve the People” (September 8, 1944), Mao Zedong wrote: "Our Communist Party and the Eighth Route and New Fourth Armies led by our Party are battalions of the revolution. These battalions of ours are wholly dedicated to the liberation of the people and work entirely in the people's interests. Comrade Chang Szu-teh was in the ranks of these battalions. [Source: “Selected Readings of Mao Zedong” (Beijing Foreign Language Press, 1971); Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ]

“All men must die, but death can vary in its significance. The ancient Chinese writer Sima Qian said, "Though death befalls all men alike, it may be weightier than Mount Tai or lighter than a feather." [1] To die for the people is weightier than Mount Tai, but to work for the fascists and die for the exploiters and oppressors is lighter than a feather. Comrade Chang Szu-teh died for the people, and his death is indeed weightier than Mount Tai. [Source: 1 Sima Qian, the famous Chinese historian of the 2nd century B.C., was the author of the Historical Records. The quotation comes from his "Reply to Ren Shaoqing's Letter".]

“If we have shortcomings, we are not afraid to have them pointed out and criticized, because we serve the people. Anyone, no matter who, may point out our shortcomings. If he is right, we will correct them. If what he proposes will benefit the people, we will act upon it. The idea of "better troops and simpler administration" was put forward by Mr. Li Tingming, [2] who is not a Communist. He made a good suggestion which is of benefit to the people, and we have adopted it. If, in the interests of the people, we persist in doing what is right and correct what is wrong, our ranks will surely thrive. [2, Li Ting-ming, an enlightened landlord of northern Shaanxi Province, was at one time elected Vice-Chairman of the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region Government]

“We hail from all corners of the country and have joined together for a common revolutionary objective. And we need the vast majority of the people with us on the road to this objective. Today, we already lead base areas with a population of 91 million [3] but this is not enough; to liberate the whole nation more are needed. In times of difficulty we must not lose sight of our achievements, must see the bright future and must pluck up our courage. The Chinese people are suffering; it is our duty to save them and we must exert ourselves in struggle. Wherever there is struggle there is sacrifice, and death is a common occurrence. But we have the interests of the people and the sufferings of the great majority at heart, and when we die for the people it is a worthy death. Nevertheless, we should do our best to avoid unnecessary sacrifices. Our cadres must show concern for every soldier, and all people in the revolutionary ranks must care for each other, must love and help each other. [3, This was the total population of the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region and all other Liberated Areas in northern, central and southern China.]

“From now on, when anyone in our ranks who has done some useful work dies, be he soldier or cook, we should have a funeral ceremony and a memorial meeting in his honor. This should become the rule. And it should be introduced among the people as well. When someone dies in a village, let a memorial meeting be held. In this way we express our mourning for the dead and unite all the people."

Websites: Communist Party History Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Illustrated History of Communist Party china.org.cn ; Books and Posters Landsberger Communist China Posters ; People’s Republic of China: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; China Essay Series mtholyoke.edu ; Everyday Life in Maoist China.org everydaylifeinmaoistchina.org; The Long March: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Paul Noll site paulnoll.com ; Chinese Government Account of Events chinadaily.com; Long March Remembered china.org.cn ; Long March map china.org.cn Mao Zedong Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Mao Internet Library marx2mao.com ; Paul Noll Mao site paulnoll.com/China/Mao ; Mao Quotations art-bin.com; Marxist.org marxists.org ; New York Times topics.nytimes.com; Early 20th Century China : John Fairbank Memorial Chinese History Virtual Library cnd.org/fairbank offers links to sites related to modern Chinese history (Qing, Republic, PRC) and has good pictures; Sun Yat-sen Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; May 4th Movement Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Chiang Kai-shek Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; New York Times Obituary Madame Chiang Kai-shek Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Chinese History: Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization depts.washington.edu ; Chaos Group of University of Maryland chaos.umd.edu/history/toc ; WWW VL: History China vlib.iue.it/history/asia ; 3) Wikipedia article on the History of China Wikipedia ;

Books: "The Penguin History of Modern China" by Jonathan Fenby. "Red Star Over China" by Edgar Snow; "The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-Shek and the Struggle for Modern China" by Jay Taylor, former U.S. foreign service officer; "Cambridge History of China" multiple volumes (Cambridge University Press); "The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China" by Julia Lovell (Picador, 2011); ""China: A New History" by John K. Fairbank; "In Search of Modern China" by Jonathan D. Spence; “China in the 21st Century” by Jeffrey Wasserstrom; “The Oxford Illustrated History of Modern China” edited by Jeffrey Wasserstrom covers the period from 1550 to the present day. "Mao; the Untold Story" by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday (Knopf. 2005). Jung Chang, author of "Wild Swans", and her husband John Halliday, a British historian, portrays Mao as villain on the level of Hitler and Stalin. The book was read by U.S. President George Bush and embraced by the American right as a condemnation of Communism. It characterizes Mao as cruel, materialistic, self-centered and a leader who used terror with the aim of ruling the world. There is also a Mao biography by Jonathon Spence. Also check out "Mao's New World: Political Culture in the Early People's Republic" by Chang-tai Hung (Cornell University Press, 2011) and "The Private Life of Chairman Mao" by Dr. Li Zhisui (1994). "Fanshen" by William Hinton is the classic account of rural revolution during the communist-led civil war in the late 1940s. "China Witness, Voices from a Silent Generation" by Xinran (Pantheon Books, 2009) is collection of oral histories from Chinese who survived the Mao period. Long March books include "The Long March" by Edmund Jocelyn and Andree McEwen (2006) and "The Long March" by Sun Shuyun, based in accounts from 40 of 500 participants that were still alive in 2005.

“Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains” by Mao Zedong

Mao in 1935 during the Long March

In “The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains (June 11, 1945) Mao Zedong wrote: "We have had a very successful congress. We have done three things. First, we have decided on the line of our Party, which is boldly to mobilize the masses and expand the people's forces so that, under the leadership of our Party, they will defeat the Japanese aggressors, liberate the whole people and build a new democratic China. [Source: “Selected Readings of Mao Zedong” (Beijing Foreign Language Press, 1971); Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ]

“Our aim in propagating the line of the congress is to build up the confidence of the whole Party and the entire people in the certain triumph of the revolution....We must also arouse the political consciousness of the entire people so that they may willingly and gladly fight together with us for victory. We should fire the whole people with the conviction that China belongs not to the reactionaries but to the Chinese people. There is an ancient Chinese fable called "The Foolish Old Man who Removed the Mountains." It tells of an old man who lived in northern China long, long ago and was known as the Foolish Old Man of North Mountain. His house faced south and beyond his doorway stood the two great peaks, Taihang and Wangwu, obstructing the way. With great determination, he led his sons in digging up these mountains hoe in hand.

“Another greybeard, known as the Wise Old Man, saw them and said derisively, "How silly of you to do this! It is quite impossible for you to dig up these two huge mountains." The Foolish Old Man replied, "When I die my sons will carry on; when they die, there will be my grandsons and then their sons and grandsons, and so on to infinity. High as they are, the mountains cannot grow any higher and with every bit we dig, they will be that much lower. Why can't we clear them anyway?" Having refuted the Wise Old Man's wrong view, he went on digging every day, unshaken in his conviction. God was moved by this, and he sent down two angels, who carried the mountains away on their backs. Today, two big mountains lie like a dead weight on the Chinese people. One is imperialism, the other is feudalism. The Chinese Communist Party has long made up its mind to dig them up. We must persevere and work unceasingly, and we too, will touch God's heart. Our God is none other than the masses of the Chinese people. If they stand up and dig together with us, why can't these mountains be cleared away?"”

"The Dictatorship of the People's Democracy: On Leaning to One Side” by Mao Zedong

an air-brushed Mao gives a speech

According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “In July 1949 the Chinese Communist Party was on the verge of pushing Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces completely out of mainland China. Victory was all but assured. Mao Zedong and the other Communist Party leaders were thinking forward to the tremendous task ahead of them: stabilizing the country, restoring production, and establishing a new socialist state and economy. On July 1, 1949, Mao spoke on the occasion of the twenty-eighth anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. He took the opportunity to reflect on the tasks that lay ahead and the approach that the Party would take in resolving China’s problems and establishing the new socialist system. In the following excerpt from that speech on “The Dictatorship of the People’s Democracy,” Mao discusses “leaning to one side.” [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ]

In his speech “The Dictatorship of the People’s Democracy” given in July 1, 1949 Mao Zedong said: “You are leaning to one side.” Exactly. The forty years’ experience of Sun Yat-sen and the twenty eight years’ experience of the Communist Party have taught us to lean to one side and we are firmly convinced that in order to win victory and consolidate it we must lean to one side of socialism. Sitting on the fence will not do, nor is there a third road. “Victory is possible even without international help.” [Source:“Sources of Chinese Tradition: From 1600 Through the Twentieth Century”, compiled by Wm. Theodore de Bary and Richard Lufrano, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 452-453; Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ]

“This is a mistaken idea. In the epoch in which imperialism exists, it is impossible for a genuine people’s revolution to win victory in any country without various forms of help from the international revolutionary forces, and even if victory were won, it could not be consolidated. This was the case with the victory and consolidation of the Great October Revolution as Stalin told us long ago. This was also the case with the overthrow of the three imperialist powers in World War II and the establishment of the people’s democracies. And this is also the case with the present and the future of People’s China.”

Mao Zedong on Being a Communist in China (1937-1938)

Mao with children in Yan'an

According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “Entering the Chinese Communist Party was, and still is, a difficult process. Applicants are expected to fulfill political, moral, educational and professional criteria, which have, of course, varied (sometimes considerably) over the tumultuous course of the Party’s history. The following quotations represent Party Chairman Mao Zedong’s perspective on being a Communist. [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ]

In “The Tasks of the Chinese Communist Party in the Period of Resistance to Japan,” May 3, 1937, Mao Zedong said: “Communists should be the most far-sighted, the most self-sacrificing, the most resolute, and the least prejudiced in sizing up situations, and should rely on the majority of the masses and win their support.” [Source: “The Little Red Book: Quotations From Chairman Mao” (Beijing Foreign Languages Press, 1972 \^]

In the “The Role of the Chinese Communist Party in the National War,” October, 1938, Mao said: “At no time and in no circumstances should a Communist place his personal interests first; he should subordinate them to the interests of the nation and of the masses. Hence, selfishness slacking, corruption, seeking the limelight, and so on, are most contemptible, while selflessness working with all one’s energy, whole.hearted devotion to public duty, and quiet hard work will command respect.” \^\

In the same book, Mao said: “Communists should set an example in being practical as well as far-sighted. For only by being practical can they fulfill the appointed tasks, and only far-sightedness can prevent them from losing their bearings in the march forward.” \^\

How to Be a Good Communist (1939) by Li Shaoqi

According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “Liu Shaoqi (1898-1969) attended the University of the Toilers of the East in Moscow, where he became a member of the Communist Party. He returned to China in 1922 and was one of Mao Zedong’s early supporters. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, he was active in economic programs and was President of the PRC from 1959 to 1968. When Mao’s “Great Leap Forward,” begun in 1958, led to widespread famine in the early 1960s, Liu moved to oppose Mao’s policies. By 1968, Mao had removed Liu from his Party positions and Liu disappeared. After Mao’s death, Liu’s fate became known: He had been incarcerated and died of untreated diabetes and pneumonia in 1969.” [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ]

Li Shaoqi and Mao at the founding ceremony of the People's Republic of China

In “How to Be a Good Communist” (1939), Li Shaoqi wrote:“A good Communist Party member is one who combines the great and lofty ideals of Communism with practical work and the spirit of searching for the truth from concrete facts. What is the most fundamental and common duty of us Communist Party members? As everybody knows, it is to establish Communism, to transform the present world into a Communist world. Is a Communist world good or not? We all know that it is very good. In such a world there will be no exploiters, oppressors, landlords, capitalists, imperialists, or fascists. There will be no oppressed and exploited people, no darkness, ignorance backwardness, etc. In such a society all human beings will become unselfish and intelligent Communists with a high level of culture and technique. The spirit of mutual assistance and mutual love will prevail among mankind. There will be no such irrational things as mutual deception, mutual antagonism, mutual slaughter and war, etc. Such a society will, of course, be the best, the most beautiful, and the most advanced society in the history of mankind. Who will say that such a society is not good? At all times and on all questions, a Communist Party member should take into account the interests of the Party as a whole, and place the Party’s interests above his personal problems and interests. It is the highest principle of our Party members that the Party’s interests are supreme.

“A Communist Party member should possess all the greatest and noblest virtues of mankind. He should also possess the strict and clear.cut standpoint of the Party and of the proletariat (that is, Party spirit and class character). Our ethics are great precisely because they are the ethics of Communism and of the proletariat. Such ethics are not built upon the backward basis of safeguarding the interest of individuals or a small number of exploiters. They are built, on the contrary, upon the progressive basis of the interests of the proletariat, of the ultimate emancipation of mankind as a whole, of saving the world from destruction and of building a happy and beautiful Communist world.”

Chan Koonchung Imagining a Non-Communist China

Didi Kirsten Tatlow wrote in New York Times, “We’re in Beijing — no, Beiping — Dec. 10, 1979. It’s year two of the presidency of Chiang Ching-kuo, son of Chiang Kai-shek. China has been an American ally since Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang, or Nationalist, forces defeated Mao’s Communists in the civil war that ended in 1949. The Chinese capital is still Nanjing. The Dalai Lama remains in Lhasa. Hong Kong is a British colonial backwater. China is prosperous. [Source: Didi Kirsten Tatlow, New York Times, November 1, 2015 |]

“It’s also repressive. Opposition parties are at most decorative; human rights advocates are hunted down. But in the 30 years since the war, after which the Communists scattered abroad, many to the Soviet Union, China has followed a path that diverges sharply from the history we know today. No class struggle, no purge of landlords, no Anti-Rightist campaign against intellectuals, no Great Leap Forward or the catastrophic famine that followed, no Cultural Revolution. The progress achieved in education and civil society under the Nationalists from 1911 to 1949 has continued. |

“Welcome to Chan Koonchung’s alternative history novel, “The Second Year of Jianfeng,” recently published in Chinese in Hong Kong. (It is not yet been translated into English.) Jianfeng was the courtesy name for Chiang Ching-kuo, which Mr. Chan imagines as the name for his rule. In an interview, Mr. Chan addressed the central question of his book: What if China had not gone Communist? Q. Could things have been different? A. The Chinese Communist Party insists that “history has chosen the C.C.P.,” and without the party, there would be no strong and prosperous new China. I want to show the possibility that China could have become strong and prosperous much, much earlier. |

“History is not “determined” and is not as inevitable as Communist dogma would like us to believe. The first 30 years of Communist rule under Mao Zedong, before Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms, were a total waste of time, an unnecessary historical detour with an unspeakably immense humanitarian cost.|

Q. Would China have been better off if the Nationalists had won the civil war? A. China would definitely have been a nicer place. It would still have had things that were wrong, but much less than what actually happened. Such as, there wouldn’t have been a Cultural Revolution.There are some things the Nationalists would have done worse. For example, they were more tied to the triads. But I think that by 1979 the Nationalists would have achieved something very similar to what the Communists are achieving now, 37 years later, but with more equality in society. |

Q. How difficult was it for you to construct an alternative history for China? A. I thought it would be very difficult, but it turned out much easier than I thought. It took less than a year to write, though I spent a lot of time preparing for it. I had to think, how would the Kuomintang have ruled? For that I had to think about the Taiwan elite as it was.I picked several real people to tell the story. One was Zhang Dongsun [a philosopher and democrat who declined to take sides between the Communist and Nationalists and died in prison in Beijing in 1973]. I took the actual words they said and put them into different contexts. |

Q. How did you envision the alternative reality? A. I wasn’t aiming to make a utopia out of China. But maybe because of the success in Taiwan, I can say that they would have done something similar to that.Of course, the U.S. and China would have been allies from the very start. The coastal cities of China would have boomed from 1949 on, because the U.S. was the big economy at the time so whoever could export to the U.S. had a boom. In Taiwan after 1949, the Kuomintang did carry out land reform, so I speculated that they would also have done that in China. It was very successful in Taiwan, and the reason is it was nonviolent and cooperative. Landlords were made shareholders in state-owned companies and given loans. They turned into capitalists and promoted industry. Industrialization took off after that. If they had done something similar in China, it would have been great. The Communists did it differently. They used class struggle and killed off the old owners.There would still have been a Korean War, because Kim Il-sung was very ambitious and believed he could conquer South Korea in a few days. |

“Q. How would Chinese culture have fared? A. In 1968 [in the book, the novelist] Lao She becomes the first Chinese writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, while in real life he was pushed to commit suicide [in 1966] during the Cultural Revolution. Old temples, antiques and historic sites might simply have been neglected, instead of willfully destroyed by the Red Guards, as happened in reality. Q. Are alternative history novels demanding on the reader? A. I didn’t explain a lot. I depended on my readers’ understanding of Chinese contemporary history to make comparisons and to enjoy reading between the lines.” |

Image Sources:Wikimedia Commons,

Text Sources: Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu

Last updated November 2016

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