Mao and ofther leaders at the founding ceremony for the People Republic of China in 1949

In Beijing, on October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.). For the first time in decades a Chinese government was met with peace, instead of massive military opposition, within its territory. The new leadership was highly disciplined and, having a decade of wartime administrative experience to draw on, was able to embark on a program of national integration and reform. In the first year of Communist administration, moderate social and economic policies were implemented with skill and effectiveness. The leadership realized that the overwhelming and multitudinous task of economic reconstruction and achievement of political and social stability required the goodwill and cooperation of all classes of people. Results were impressive by any standard, and popular support was widespread. [Source: Library of Congress]

According to “Countries of the World and Their Leaders”: The new government assumed control of a people exhausted by two generations of war and social conflict, and an economy ravaged by high inflation and disrupted transportation links. A new political and economic order modeled on the Soviet example was quickly installed. “In the early 1950s, China undertook a massive economic and social reconstruction program. The new leaders gained popular support by curbing inflation, restoring the economy, and rebuilding many war-damaged industrial plants. The CCP's authority reached into almost every aspect of Chinese life. Party control was assured by large, politically loyal security and military forces; a government apparatus responsive to party direction; and the placement of party members into leadership positions in labor, women's, and other mass organizations. [Source: “Countries of the World and Their Leaders “Yearbook 2009, Gale, 2008]

After the proclamation of the People's Republic of China in 1949, China was ruled by the "Eight Immortals," which included Mao at the helm and Zhou Enlai, Liu Shaoqi and Lin Biao. Under Mao, factories were put under central control, land was taken from landlords and redistributed among peasants, and the population was organized into several million work units under pyramidal central control. In 1953, with inflation brought under control and industrial production restored, Mao launched his first five-year plan, which boosted heavy industry but failed to increase farm productivity.The communist takeover of the mainland in 1949 set the scene for building a new society built on a Marxist-Leninist model replete with class struggle and proletarian politics fashioned and directed by the CCP. Once in power, the Communists, who had rebelled against the despotism of the Kuomintang, became despots themselves. Trained as fighters not managers, they became inward-looking, conservative, authoritarian, suspicious of change, corrupt, and suspicious of intellectuals. Repeating a pattern established by the Chinese emperors that preceded him, Mao withdrew China from the international community and the international marketplace. He created a state economy which controlled and owned everything from flower shops to pig farms to munitions factories.

Periods of consolidation and economic development facilitated by President Liu Shaoqi and Premier Zhou were severely altered by disastrous anti-intellectual (such as the Hundred Flowers Campaign, 1957), economic (the Great Leap Forward, 1958-59), and political (the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, 1966-76) experiments directed by Mao and his supporters. During this time, China had broken with the Soviet Union by 1959, fought a border war with India in 1962, and skirmished with Soviet troops in 1969. In 1969 Mao anointed Lin Biao (1908-71), a radical People’s Liberation Army marshal, as his heir apparent, but by 1971 Lin was dead, the result of an airplane crash in Mongolia following an alleged coup attempt against his mentor. Less radical leaders such as Zhou and Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping (1904-97), who had been politically rehabilitated after his disgrace early in the Cultural Revolution, asserted some control, and negotiations were initiated with the United States, ending a generation of extreme animosity toward Washington. China’s per capita income adjusted for inflation was lower in the 1950s than it had been at the end of the Song Dynasty in the 1270s.

In 1950, a year after Communist China was proclaimed, China entered the Korean War (1950–53) on the side of North Korea. In the fall of 1950, China invaded Tibet, which had asserted its independence after the overthrow of the Qing dynasty in 1912, despite formal claims to it by all subsequent Chinese governments. In 1959, the Dalai Lama fled to India during a Tibetan revolt against Chinese rule. Tibet became an autonomous region in 1965. The Nationalists held, in addition to Taiwan, islands in the Taiwan (Formosa) Strait: the Pescadores, Quemoy (near Xiamen), and the Matsu Islands (near Fuzhou). [Source: Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations, Thomson Gale, 2007]

Websites: Communist Party History Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Illustrated History of Communist Party china.org.cn ; Books and Posters Landsberger Communist China Posters ; Everyday Life in Maoist China.org everydaylifeinmaoistchina.org; 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;

Mao Cleans Up China

opium smoking in pre-Mao China

Mao was very successful in cleaning up the decadent mess left by the Western powers. Almost overnight, Shanghai was given a face lift. Chinese ghettos were torn down, hundreds of thousand of opium addicts were forced into cold turkey and child and slave labor were abolished. In Beijing, the splendid medieval wall with its 44 bastions and 16 gates, was torn down in 1952 to ease traffic congestion.

The opium problem was solved with a declaration that anybody found using it or selling it would be put to death. Severe punishments were also dished for prostitution, helping to virtually eradicate venereal disease. Mao clamped down on wife selling by ordering the keeping of marriage records to discourage the practice. It seemed like the only vice the Communists couldn’t eliminate was smoking. Most party leaders were heavy smokers, and no doubt peasants would have smoked more if they could have afforded it.

Instead of sex and drugs, Communists were encouraged to participate in volunteer public works programs and attend self-criticism sessions. Mao also encouraged people to head off to the frontiers of Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiang. "A good comrade, he wrote, "is one who is more eager to go where the difficulties are greater."

Mao thumbed his nose at traditional Chinese culture, undermined traditional scholarship and criticized Confucius for not being a revolutionary.

Order Restored in China

Describing the scene at Nanjing a few months after the Communist takeover, AP reporter Seymore Topping recalled in the New York Times, "Before long, the prices of daily necessities stabilized. Most shops reopened, as did dance halls. Beggars disappeared from the streets. Censorship was imposed on the local newspapers and radio."

"University students, enthusiastic about the new government, gathered in public assemblies to sing songs that commissars had taught them with lines like, 'Reactionaries who exploit the people deserve to be cut into thousands of pieces.”"

"People began grumbling about the new Communist administration. Taxes had risen sharply as the city's commercial life withered. The local press reported of sabotage of Communist offices in the surrounding countryside...Ideological structures on the universities and other spheres of intellectual life tightened. In schools, factories and municipal offices, study groups were formed to discuss Maoist theory and participants were required to confess ideological sins."

Within a relatively short time Mao Zedong and the Communists brought high soaring inflation under control and initiated a more equitable distribution of food. A land-reform program was launched, and police control was tightened. [Source: Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., Columbia University Press]

Early Days of Communist Rule in China

PLA in Lanzhou

Pankaj Mishra wrote in The New Yorker, “Despite the damaging effects of the Korean War and the American trade embargo — China had, by 1956, made remarkable progress in securing social stability, achieving economic growth, and improving living conditions. “

According to Roderick MacFarquhar, a leading historian of Mao’s China, “what Mao accomplished between 1949 and 1956 was in fact the fastest, most extensive, and least damaging socialist revolution carried out in any communist state.” The distinguished expatriate writer Liu Binyan recalled the early nineteen-fifties as a time when “everyone felt good . . . and looked to the future with optimism”; most were eager to do their bit for their country.

The writer Wang Meng said the euphoria of the first days of the People’s Republic were among the dearest of his memories. He said he was elated by the passionate rallies, the parades, the comradely meetings and songs. He marvelled at how, within a week, Beijing cleaned up its gigantic garbage dump, a notorious problem in the old capital. The revolution, he believed, had swept away the degenerate old way of life that trapped his parents and kept China backward. [Source: Jianying Zha, The New Yorker, November 8, 2010]

China’s Transformation After the Communist Takeover

The artist Ai Wei Wei told the New York Review of Books: When a revolution doesn’t have a deep foundation in aesthetics or theory, change is quite easy. The Communist Party’s revolution had no capacity to have anything to do with history because forming a relationship with Chinese history would have been disadvantageous for it. They overturned Chinese culture as it had developed over several thousand years because they changed the system of ownership. [Source: Ian Johnson, New York Review of Books, September 12, 2015]

The writer Liao Yiwu said: I agree with this. The Communist Party used land reform to cut links to all traditions. It wiped out China’s so-called landlord class, and gentry class. From ancient times to the present, why did China have some liberty? It was because the “mountains are high and the emperor far away,” and the gentry class could use this distance to obtain liberty. But the Communist Party thoroughly cut this off through land reform. There was no independent land-owning class anymore.

Ai said: This [erasure of history] has gone on for too long. From the Three Anti [1951] to the Five Anti [1952] campaigns [against communist opponents and perceived social vices], and then to the Anti-Rightist Movement [1957-59], and to the Cultural Revolution [1966-76], the campaigns were repeated, again and again, so that not a blade of grass grows in this soil. Now a bird has taken off and perhaps in its excrement are a few seeds that can slowly start growing. But the organic growth of this environment has been destroyed.

Development of China After the Communist Takeover in 1949

During the first five-year plan (1953–57), agriculture was collectivized and industry was nationalized. With assistance from the Soviet Union, construction of many modern large-scale plants was begun, and railroads were built to link the new industrial complexes of the north and northwest. [Source: Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., Columbia University Press]

Wolfram Eberhard wrote in “A History of China”: “Mainland China developed extremely quickly. The reasons do not seem to lie solely in the form of government, for the pre-conditions for a "takeoff" existed in China as early as the 1920's, if not earlier. That is, the quick development of China could have started forty years ago but was prevented, primarily for political reasons. One of the main pre-conditions for quick development is that a large part of the population is inured to hard and repetitive work. The Chinese farmer was accustomed to such work; he put more time and energy into his land than any other farmer. He and his fellows were the industrial workers of the future: reliable, hard-working, tractable, intelligent. To train them was easy, and absenteeism was never a serious problem, as it is in other developing nations. Another pre-condition is the existence of sufficient trained people to manage industry. Forty years ago China had enough such men to start modernization; foreign assistance would have been necessary in some fields, but only briefly. [Source: “A History of China” by Wolfram Eberhard, 1977, University of California, Berkeley]

right “Another requirement (at least in the period before radio and television) is general literacy. Meaningful statistical data on literacy in China before 1937 are lacking. Some authors remark that before 1800 probably all upper-class sons and most daughters were educated, and that men in the middle and even in the lower classes often had some degree of literacy. In this context "educated" means that these persons could read classical poetry and essays written in literary Chinese, which was not the language of daily conversation. "Literacy," however, might mean only that a person could read and write some 600 characters, enough to conduct a business and to read simple stories. Although newspapers today have a stock of about 6,000 characters, only some 600 characters are commonly used, and a farmer or worker can manage well with a knowledge of about 100 characters. Statements to the effect that in 1935 some 70 per cent of all men and 95 per cent of all women were illiterate must include the last category in these figures. In any case, the literacy program of the Nationalist government had penetrated the countryside and had reached even outlying villages before the Pacific War.

“The transportation system in China before the war was not highly developed, but numerous railroads connecting the main industrial centers did exist, and bus and truck services connected small towns with the larger centers. What were missing in the pre-war years were laws to protect the investor, efficient credit facilities, an insurance system supported by law, and a modern tax structure. In addition, the monetary system was inflation-prone. Although sufficient capital probably could have been mobilized within the country, the available resources either went into foreign banks or were invested in enterprises providing a quick return.

“The failure to capitalize on existing means of development before the War resulted from the chronic unrest caused by warlordism, revolutionaries and foreign invaders, which occupied the energies of the Nationalist government from its establishment to its fall. Once a stable government free from internal troubles arose, national development, whether private or socialist, could proceed at a rapid pace.

“Thus, the development of Communist China is not a miracle, possible only because of its form of government. What is unusual about Communist China is the fact that it is the only nation possessing a highly developed culture of its own to have jettisoned it in favour of a foreign one. What missionaries had dreamed of for centuries and knew they would never accomplish, Mao Zedong achieved; he imposed an ideology created by Europeans and understandable only in the context of Central Europe in the nineteenth century. How long his success will last is uncertain. One school of analysts believes that the friction between Soviet Russia and Communist China indicates that China's communism has become Chinese. These men point out that Communist Chinese practices are often direct continuations of earlier Chinese practices, customs, and attitudes. And they predict that this trend will continue, resulting in a form of socialism or communism distinctly different from that found in any other country. Another school, however, believes that communism precedes "Sinism," and that the regime will slowly eliminate traits which once were typical of China and replace them with institutions developed out of Marxist thinking. In any case, for the present, although the Communist government's aim is to impose communist thought and institutions in the country, typically Chinese traits are still omnipresent.

Early Policies of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)

After China entered the Korean War, the initial moderation in Chinese domestic policies gave way to a massive campaign against the "enemies of the state," actual and potential. These enemies consisted of "war criminals, traitors, bureaucratic capitalists, and counterrevolutionaries." The campaign was combined with party-sponsored trials attended by huge numbers of people. The major targets in this drive were foreigners and Christian missionaries who were branded as United States agents at these mass trials. [Source: Library of Congress]

“The 1951-52 drive against political enemies was accompanied by land reform, which had actually begun under the Agrarian Reform Law of June 28, 1950. The redistribution of land was accelerated, and a class struggle against landlords and wealthy peasants was launched. An ideological reform campaign requiring self-criticisms and public confessions by university faculty members, scientists, and other professional workers was given wide publicity. Artists and writers were soon the objects of similar treatment for failing to heed Mao's dictum that culture and literature must reflect the class interest of the working people, led by the CCP.

“These campaigns were accompanied in 1951 and 1952 by the san fan ("three anti") and wu fan ("five anti") movements. The former was directed ostensibly against the evils of "corruption, waste, and bureaucratism"; its real aim was to eliminate incompetent and politically unreliable public officials and to bring about an efficient, disciplined, and responsive bureaucratic system. The wu fan movement aimed at eliminating recalcitrant and corrupt businessmen and industrialists, who were in effect the targets of the CCP's condemnation of "tax evasion, bribery, cheating in government contracts, thefts of economic intelligence, and stealing of state assets." In the course of this campaign the party claimed to have uncovered a well-organized attempt by businessmen and industrialists to corrupt party and government officials. This charge was enlarged into an assault on the bourgeoisie as a whole. The number of people affected by the various punitive or reform campaigns was estimated in the millions.

Transition to Socialism and China’s First Five-Year Plan (1953-57)

The period of officially designated "transition to socialism" corresponded to China's First Five-Year Plan (1953-57). The period was characterized by efforts to achieve industrialization, collectivization of agriculture, and political centralization. The First Five-Year Plan stressed the development of heavy industry on the Soviet model. Soviet economic and technical assistance was expected to play a significant part in the implementation of the plan, and technical agreements were signed with the Soviets in 1953 and 1954. For the purpose of economic planning, the first modern census was taken in 1953; the population of mainland China was shown to be 583 million, a figure far greater than had been anticipated. [Source: The Library of Congress *]

“Among China's most pressing needs in the early 1950s were food for its burgeoning population, domestic capital for investment, and purchase of Soviet-supplied technology, capital equipment, and military hardware. To satisfy these needs, the government began to collectivize agriculture. Despite internal disagreement as to the speed of collectivization, which at least for the time being was resolved in Mao's favor, preliminary collectivization was 90 percent completed by the end of 1956. In addition, the government nationalized banking, industry, and trade. Private enterprise in mainland China was virtually abolished. *

“Major political developments included the centralization of party and government administration. Elections were held in 1953 for delegates to the First National People's Congress, China's national legislature, which met in 1954. The congress promulgated the state constitution of 1954 and formally elected Mao chairman (or president) of the People's Republic; it elected Liu Shaoqi (1898-1969) chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress; and named Zhou Enlai premier of the new State Council. *

“In the midst of these major governmental changes, and helping to precipitate them, was a power struggle within the CCP leading to the 1954 purge of Political Bureau member Gao Gang and Party Organization Department head Rao Shushi, who were accused of illicitly trying to seize control of the party. *

“The process of national integration also was characterized by improvements in party organization under the administrative direction of the secretary general of the party Deng Xiaoping (who served concurrently as vice premier of the State Council). There was a marked emphasis on recruiting intellectuals, who by 1956 constituted nearly 12 percent of the party's 10.8 million members. Peasant membership had decreased to 69 percent, while there was an increasing number of "experts", who were needed for the party and governmental infrastructures, in the party ranks. *

Land Reform in China Under Mao

left The Communist Party’s greatest legacy arguably has been taking land from wealthy landlords and rich farmers and redistributing it in rural areas among the poorest peasants under the principal of “land of the tiller.” During their struggle to take power, the Communists promised land to the poor. When the Communists came to power they began seizing land from landowners. Land owners that resisted, even those with as little as two thirds of an acre, were often executed.

The peasants didn’t hold on to their land for long. By the late 1950s, private land ownership was eliminated and peasants were given usage rights to the land but not ownership. The land from then on was owned by the state. Peasants were organized into mutual aid teams and lower-level cooperatives and then collectives in the early and mid 1950 and became property-less members of “people’s communes.” Similar scenarios were played in the cities. Rich families who stayed in Shanghai after Communist Revolution were told they had nothing to worry about, but in the end their land and property was expropriated. The Communists also confiscated their art. One Hong Kong art dealer told the New York Times. "The Shanghai museum's best pieces are all from those private collections."

Top down economic plans after independence bore fruit. The national income rose at rate of 8.9 percent a year between 1953 and 1957 but created problems down the road. Giving peasants usage rights rather than ownership paved the way for the seizures of land by local officials and businesses which is taking place today. See Land Seizures, Agriculture, Economics

Democratic Reforms and Anti-Rightist Campaign

Mao voting

Warren Smith of Radio Free Asia wrote: “Democratic Reforms were imposed in Han Chinese areas in the early 1950s. They involved the confiscation of the property and possessions of the capitalist and exploitative classes, along with land redistribution from landlords to peasants. Democratic Reforms were imposed upon central Tibet only after the failed 1959 Tibetan rebellion against Beijing’s rule. [Source: Warren Smith, Radio Free Asia, September 20, 2005 |~|]

“Democratic Reforms were supposed to pave the way for socialist transformation (collectivization and communization) by transferring political power from the exploitative classes to the people. However, in Tibet, Democratic Reforms had the effect of transferring political power from Tibetans to Chinese. Democratic Reforms in Tibet involved the repression of all rebels and class enemies and the redistribution of land to the Tibetan serfs. Primary targets of the campaign were the Tibetan Government, the aristocracy, and the religious establishment, designated by the Chinese as the “Three Pillars of Feudalism.” |~|

“The property and treasury of the Tibetan Government were confiscated by the Chinese state. The lands and possessions of the wealthy landowners were confiscated and redistributed to the poor serfs. Serfs were given title to the land in elaborate ceremonies, only to have their lands confiscated by the government a few years later during communization. The wealth of individual Tibetans was also confiscated, but reportedly much of this found its way into the hands of Chinese officials. |~|

As part of the effort to encourage the participation of intellectuals in the new regime, in mid-1956 there began an official effort to liberalize the political climate. Cultural and intellectual figures were encouraged to speak their minds on the state of CCP rule and programs. Mao personally took the lead in the movement, which was launched under the classical slogan "Let a hundred flowers bloom, let the hundred schools of thought contend." At first the party's repeated invitation to air constructive views freely and openly was met with caution. By mid-1957, however, the movement unexpectedly mounted, bringing denunciation and criticism against the party in general and the excesses of its cadres in particular. Startled and embarrassed, leaders turned on the critics as "bourgeois rightists" and launched the Anti-Rightist Campaign. The Hundred Flowers Campaign, sometimes called the Double Hundred Campaign, apparently had a sobering effect on the CCP leadership. Also DEATH, REPRESSION AND LIFE UNDER MAO

Communist China and Soviet Cooperation

Mao and Stalin in 1949

Wolfram Eberhard wrote in “A History of China”: “Soon after the establishment of the Beijing regime, a pact of friendship and alliance with the Soviet Union was concluded (February 1950), and Soviet specialists and civil and military products poured into China to speed its development. China had to pay for this assistance as well as for the loans it received from Russia, but the application of Russian experience, often involving the duplication of whole factories, was successful. In a few years, China developed its heavy industry, just as Russia had done. It should not be forgotten that Manchuria, as well as other parts of China, had modern heavy industries long before 1949. The Manchurian factories ceased production because, when the Russians invaded Manchuria at the end of the war, they removed the machinery to Russia. [Source: “A History of China” by Wolfram Eberhard, 1977, University of California, Berkeley]

“Russian aid to Communist China continued to 1960. Its termination slowed development briefly but was not disastrous. Russian assistance was a "shot in the arm," as stimulating and about as lasting as American aid to Taiwan or to European countries. The stress laid upon heavy industry, in imitation of Russia, increased China's military strength quickly, but the consumer had to wait for goods which would make his life more enjoyable. One cause of friction in China today concerns the relative desirability of heavy industry versus consumer industry, a problem which arose in Russia after the death of Stalin.

The Soviet aid program of the 1950s was intended to develop China's economy and to organize it along Soviet lines. As part of its First Five-Year Plan (1953-57), China was the recipient of the most comprehensive technology transfer in modern industrial history. The Soviet Union provided aid for 156 major industrial projects concentrated in mining, power generation, and heavy industry. Following the Soviet model of economic development, these were large-scale, capital-intensive projects. By the late 1950s, China had made substantial progress in such fields as electric power, steel production, basic chemicals, and machine tools, as well as in production of military equipment such as artillery, tanks, and jet aircraft. The purpose of the program was to increase China's production of such basic commodities as coal and steel and to teach Chinese workers to operate imported or duplicated Soviet factories. These goals were met and, as a side effect, Soviet standards for materials, engineering practice, and factory management were adopted. In a move whose full costs would not become apparent for twenty-five years, Chinese industry also adopted the Soviet separation of research from production. * [Source: Library of Congress *]

Soviet Influence in the 1950s

After the establishment of the People's Republic in 1949, China reorganized its science establishment along Soviet lines — a system that remained in force until the late 1970s, when China's leaders called for major reforms. The Soviet model is characterized by a bureaucratic rather than a professional principle of organization, the separation of research from production, the establishment of a set of specialized research institutes, and a high priority on applied science and technology, which includes military technology. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Under the Soviet bureaucratic model, leadership was in the hands of nonscientists, who assign research tasks in accordance with a centrally determined plan. The administrators, not the scientists, controlled recruitment and personnel mobility. The primary rewards were administratively controlled salary increases, bonuses, and prizes. Individual scientists, seen as skilled workers and as employees of their institutions, were expected to work as components of collective units. Information was controlled, was expected to flow only through authorized channels, and was often considered proprietary or secret. Scientific achievements was regarded as the result primarily of "external" factors such as the overall economic and political structure of the society, the sheer numbers of personnel, and adequate levels of funding. *

20111031-wikicommons  Boyibo1957.jpg
Bo Yibo, Bo Xilai's father
“Soviet influence also was realized through large-scale personnel exchanges. During the 1950s China sent about 38,000 people to the Soviet Union for training and study. Most of these (28,000) were technicians from key industries, but the total cohort included 7,500 students and 2,500 college and university teachers and postgraduate scientists. The Soviet Union dispatched some 11,000 scientific and technical aid personnel to China. An estimated 850 of these worked in the scientific research sector, about 1,000 in education and public health, and the rest in heavy industry. *

Tense Relations Between Communist China and the Soviet Union

In the winter of 1949-50, Mao was invited to Moscow by Stalin, when the Soviet Union was Communist China's only ally and China was undergoing serious organizing issues,, and then kept waiting for weeks. In the end Mao shouted at a Soviet envoy: “You invited me to Moscow and you do nothing!...Why have I come here to spend whole days just eating, sleeping and s — ing?”

Mike Dash wrote in Smithsonianmag.com: Russian relations with China had long been fractious. The two countries, sharing a border stretching more than 2,000 miles, regularly squabbled over control of Mongolia and Manchuria. In the 1930s, when China was invaded by Japan and simultaneously consumed by civil war between Mao’s communists and the Nationalists led by Chiang Kai-shek, Stalin had forcibly occupied some of the rich Manchurian coal fields. But after Mao’s final victory in 1949, the emergence of a Communist China threatened to upset the balance of power in Asia. United by ideology, it was generally assumed, China and the USSR would dominate, threatening Japan and even India and Iran. The two powers did indeed work together — if not always well — during the Korean War, and by the time Khrushchev came to power there were thousands of Soviet scientists and advisers in China helping Mao. The USSR even promised to share its nuclear secrets. [Source: Mike Dash, Smithsonianmag.com, May 4, 2012

“Behind the scenes, however, relations between the powers were far worse than was generally appreciated. From the Soviet perspective, there was every reason to be suspicious of Mao — who, as the Communist leader of a successful peasant revolution, had achieved something that the Marxist dialectic insisted was not possible. For Mao, the issue was more personal. Invincibly self-confident and acutely aware of his country’s proud history, he “naturally assumed that he was the leading light of communism,” Frank Dittöker writes, “making him the historical pivot around which the universe revolved”–and he bitterly resented the way Stalin treated him as a “caveman Marxist” and dismissed his writings as “feudal.”

“When Mao made his first visit to Moscow after winning control of China, in 1949, he expected to be treated with special favor but was shocked and humiliated to be greeted as just one guest among many who had come to celebrate Stalin’s 70th birthday. Denied more than a brief meeting with the Soviet leader, Mao spent several weeks cooling his heels in a remote dacha outside Moscow where the sole recreational facility was a broken table tennis table. After they did meet, Stalin extorted substantial concessions in return for paltry military aid, and when war broke out in Korea, the USSR insisted that China pay “to the last ruble” for the weapons it required to aid the North Koreans. Mao was left boiling with anger. He wanted revenge. His opportunity arrived eight years later, when Khrushchev made a second state visit to China. See Separate Article MAO'S PERSONALITY CULT, LEADERSHIP AND GOVERNING STYLEfactsanddetails.com

"The results of the talks in 1957 were felt almost immediately. Khrushchev ordered the removal of the USSR’s advisers, overruling aghast colleagues who suggested that they at least be allowed to see out their contracts. In retaliation, on Khrushchev’s next visit to Beijing, in 1959, Taubman relates, there was “no honor guard, no Chinese speeches, not even a microphone for the speech that Khrushchev insisted on giving, complete with accolades for Eisenhower that were sure to rile Mao.” In turn, a Chinese marshal named Chen Yi provoked the Soviets to a fury, prompting Khrushchev to yell: “Don’t you dare spit on us from your marshal’s height. You don’t have enough spit.” By 1966 the two sides were fighting a barely contained border war.

“The Sino-Soviet split was real, and with it came opportunity for the U.S. Kissinger’s ping-pong diplomacy raised the specter of Chinese-American cooperation and pressured the Soviets into cutting back aid to the North Vietnamese at a time when America was desperate to disengage from its war in Southeast Asia. Disengagement, in turn, led quickly to the SALT disarmament talks — and set in motion the long sequence of events that would result in the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1989.

Communist China in Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Korea

In October 1950, Chinese forces intervened in the Korean War to help its fledling ally North Korea. Communist Chinese troops poured across the Manchurian border into North Korea. Large-scale Chinese participation in the war endured until the armistice of July, 1953, after which China emerged as a diplomatic power in Asia. Zhou Enlai became internationally known through his role at the Geneva Conference of 1954 and at the Bandung Conference of 1955. [Source: Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., Columbia University Press] See Separate Article CHINA, THE KOREAN WAR, POWS, SPIES AND THE C.I.A. factsanddetails.com

Wolfram Eberhard wrote in “A History of China”: In 1950, the same year that China entered the Korean War, “China invaded and conquered Tibet. Tibet, under Manchu rule until 1911, had achieved a certain degree of independence thereafter: no republican Chinese regime ever ruled Lhasa. The military conquest of Tibet is regarded by many as an act of Chinese imperialism, or colonialism, as the Tibetans certainly did not want to belong to China or be forced to change their traditional form of government. Having regarded themselves as subjects of the Manchu but not of the Chinese, they rose against the communist rulers in March 1959, but without success. Chinese control of Tibet, involving the construction of numerous roads, airstrips, and military installations, as well as differences concerning the international border, led in 1959 to conflicts with India, a country which had previously sided with the new China in international affairs. Indeed, the borders were uncertain and looked different depending on whether one used Manchu or Indian maps. China's other border problem was with Burma. Early in 1960 the two countries concluded a border agreement which ended disputes dating from British colonial times. [Source: “A History of China” by Wolfram Eberhard, 1977, University of California, Berkeley] See Separate Articles CHINESE TAKEOVER OF TIBET IN THE 1950s factsanddetails.com ; CHINESE REPRESSION IN TIBET IN THE LATE 1950s AND EARLY 1960sfactsanddetails.com

“Very early in its existence Communist China assumed control of Xinjiang, Chinese Central Asia, a large area originally inhabited by Turkish and Mongolian tribes and states, later conquered by the Manchu, and then integrated into China in the early nineteenth century. The communist action was to be expected, although after the Revolution of 1911 Chinese rule over this area had been spotty, and during the Pacific War some Soviet-inspired hope had existed that Xinjiang might gain independence, following the example of Outer Mongolia, another country which had been attached to the Manchu until 1911 and which, with Russian assistance, had gained its independence from China. Xinjiang is of great importance to Communist China as the site of large sources of oil and of atomic industries and testing grounds. The government has stimulated and often forced Chinese immigration into Xinjiang, so that the erstwhile Turkish and Mongolian majorities have become minorities, envious of their ethnic brothers in Soviet Central Asia who enjoy a much higher standard of living and more freedom.

“Inner Mongolia had a brief dream of independence under Japanese protection during the war. But the majority of the population were Chinese, and already before the Pacific War, the country had been divided into three Chinese provinces, of which the Chinese Communists gained control without delay.

“In general, when the Chinese Communists discuss territorial claims, they appear to seek the restoration of borders that China claimed in the eighteenth century. Thus, they make occasional remarks about the Hi area and parts of Eastern Siberia, which the Manchu either lost to the Russians or claimed as their territory. North Vietnam is probably aware that Imperial China exercised political rights over Tongking and Annam (the present-day North and part of South Vietnam). And, treaty or no, the Sino-Burmese question may be reopened one day, for Burma was semi-dependent on China under the Manchu.

Image Sources: 1) Propaganda posters, Landsberger Posters http://www.iisg.nl/~landsberger/; others: Wikicommons and Everyday Life in Maoist China.org everydaylifeinmaoistchina.org

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated August 2021

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