COMMUNISTS TAKE OVER CHINA
Mao proclaiming the establishment
of the People's Republic of China
onOctober, 1, 1949 On October 1, 1949, Mao proclaimed the birth of the People's Republic of China — with the statement “The central government of the People’s republic of China is established!” — before a crowd of 500,000 to 1 million people at Tiananmen Square.
Mao delivered his speech from the Gate of Eternal Peace, the entrance to Forbidden City, a symbol of ancient power purposely chosen to declare a new China. Before the speech Mao munched on apples in the former waiting room of the emperors. During the speech Mao stood before a huge portrait of himself. "Stand up, those who refuse to be slaves!...The 475 million people of China have now stood up," he said in an apparent response to Napoleon's famous quote, "When China wakes the world will be sorry."When Mao and the Communists took over China in 1949, after decades of civil war and Japanese occupation, the country was in terrible shape. Roads, railways, farms and factories where in a shocking state of disrepair and treasury was bankrupt after its entire gold reserves were taken away to Taiwan by the Nationalists.
Wolfram Eberhard wrote in “A History of China”: “t the end of World War II, when the Kuomintang (Nationalist) government “took over the administration, it lacked popular support in the areas liberated from the Japanese. Farmers who had been given land by the communists, or who had been promised it, were afraid that their former landlords, whether they had remained to collaborate with the Japanese or had fled to West China, would regain control of the land. Workers hoped for new social legislation and rights. Businessmen and industrialists were faced with destroyed factories, worn-out or antiquated equipment, and an unchecked inflation which induced them to shift their accounts into foreign banks or to favour short-term gains rather than long-term investments. As in all countries which have suffered from a long war and an occupation, the youth believed that the old regime had been to blame, and saw promise and hope on the political left. And, finally, the Nationalist soldiers, most of whom had been separated for years from their homes and families, were not willing to fight other Chinese in the civil war now well under way; they wanted to go home and start a new life. The communists, however, were now well organized militarily and well equipped with arms surrendered by the Japanese to the Soviet armies as well as with arms and ammunition sold to them by KMT soldiers; moreover, they were constantly strengthened by deserters from the KMT. The civil war witnessed a steady retreat by the KMT armies, which resisted only sporadically. By the end of 1948, most of mainland China was in the hands of the communists, who established their new capital in Beijing.
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 ;
Liu Shaoqi and Zhou Enlai in 1939 Books: "The Penguin History of Modern China" by Jonathan Fenby. "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); "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. 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.
The state-produced film Founding of a Republic was produced in 2009 to celebrate 60 years of the People's Republic of China and Communist Party rule. It was a big hit. The cast worked for free.
Kuomintang and Communists During World War II
Even though the the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) nominally formed a united front to oppose the Japanese invaders in 1937. The struggle between the two parties, which started in 1927, continued openly and hidden from view through the 14-year long Japanese occupation of China (1931-45), The war between the two parties resumed after the Japanese defeat in 1945. By 1949, the CCP occupied most of the country and established the People’s Republic of China the same year. Meanwhile, Chiang Kai-shek fled with the remnants of the KMT government and military forces to Taiwan, where he proclaimed Taipei to be China's “provisional capital” and vowed to retake the Chinese mainland. Taiwan still calls itself the “Republic of China.” [Source: Eleanor Stanford, Countries and Their Cultures, Gale Group Inc., 2001]
Chiang Kai-shek's army offered no resistance against the Japanese after Japan entered Manchuria in 1931. Out of disgrace he resigned as head of the nation but continued on as head of the army. In 1933, he made peace with Japan and attempted to unify China.In a tactic intended to halt the southward movement of Japanese soldiers from Manchuria before World War II, Chiang Kai-shek ordered his soldiers to breach the levees of the Yellow River and purposely divert its flow. At least 200,000, maybe millions, died, millions more were made homeless and the Japanese advanced anyway.When Japan invaded the coast of Japan in 1937, China was not able to drive the Japanese out but they were able to keep most of the Chinese interior out of Japanese hands.
In 1942, Chiang was named the Allied commander in China.The American General Joseph Stillwell, commander of the Allied forces in the China-Burma-India theater, was particularly unimpressed with Chiang Kai-shek. He referred to Chinese general as a "Peanut" and called him "an unbalanced man with little education...arbitrary and stubborn." In regard to the corrupt and inefficient Kuomintang army he wrote: "The crux of it, they just don't want to get ready to fight...the Chinese government was a structure based on fear and favor." He also compared the fascist ideals of the Nationalist party with those of the Nazi party in Germany.
Chiang Kai-shek's military effort against Japan, as weak it was, won him support from the United States, Britain and even the Soviet Union. Western money and aid didn't seem to make the Kuomintang stronger it just seemed t make them more corrupt and out of touch with Chinese peasantry. A Kuomintang alliance with wealthy landlords didn't win them any support among the peasantry either. There was mass starvation in the 1940s as corrupt Kuomintang officials siphoned off foreign aid.
During the war Mao described his efforts as "70 percent self-expansion, 20 percent temporization and 10 percent fighting the Japanese.” Gen. Stillwell had a higher opinion of the Communists than the Nationalists. "Somehow," General Stillwell wrote, "we must get arms to the Communists, who will fight." The Communists were recruited directly by American forces during a mission to Mao's guerilla base in Yenan on July 23, 1944. A museum devoted to General Stillwell in Chongqing has a picture of an American pilot rescued by the Communists posing next to Mao Zedong.
Communist efforts won the support of the Chinese peasantry, which made up 90 percent of the population of China. By the end of the war, the Communists had recruited nearly a million troops and emerged as a much more powerful force than they were before the war.
Intentional flooding of the Yellow River by the Kuomintang in 1938
At Yalta in February 1945, Stalin demanded that the Soviet Union be given Mongolia and Manchuria in return for cooperation with an Allied invasion of Japan. Stalin also signed a treaty with Chiang Kai-shek that gave Soviet support to the Kuomintang not the Communists. After the war in Europe was finished in May 1945, Soviet forces moved against the Japanese in Manchuria. The Soviet Union declared war on Japan two days after the Hiroshima bomb was dropped. In a massive offensive that began the next day on August 9, Soviet forces moved into Manchuria and occupied it and southern Sakhalin and the Kuril islands. The Japanese occupation of China ended with Japan's total surrender after the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
Communist Revolution After World War II
At the end of World War II China was mess. The "united front" union of the Kuomintang and the Communists evaporated overnight and Kuomintang forces, the Red Army and the Russians positioned themselves to quickly claim territory occupied by the Japanese. Even though Chiang Kai-shek ordered the Red Army to remain at its positions in central China the Communists began moving into Manchuria, picking up Japanese weapons (including tanks) as it went. The Russians stripped the northern Chinese cities they occupied of their Japanese weapons and industrial machinery.
When the Russians left in March 1946, they allowed the Chinese Communists to move into areas of Manchuria they occupied and claim these areas and weapons that the Russians possessed. This allowed the Chinese Communists to take over key industrial areas in the north and greatly improve their arsenal.
According to the Columbia Encyclopedia: ““The end of the Japanese threat and the abolition of extraterritoriality did not bring peace to the country. The hostility between the Chinese Nationalists and the Communists flared into full-scale war as both raced to occupy the territories evacuated by the Japanese. The United States, alarmed at the prospect of a Communist success in China, arranged through ambassadors Patrick J. Hurley and George C. Marshall for conferences between Chiang and the Communist leader Mao Zedong, but these proved unsuccessful. [Source: Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., Columbia University Press]
When the Russians withdrew from Manchuria, which they had occupied in accordance with agreements reached at the Yalta Conference, they turned the Japanese military equipment in that area over to the Chinese Communists, giving them a strong foothold in what was then the industrial core of China. Complete Communist control of Manchuria was realized with the capture of Shenyang (Mukden) in November 1948. Elsewhere in the country, Chiang's Nationalists, supplied by U.S. arms, were generally successful until 1947, when the Communists gained the upper hand.
“Sweeping inflation, increased police repression, and continual famine weakened public confidence in the Nationalist government, and much of the population came to at least passively support the Communists. Beijing fell to the Communists without a fight in January 1949, followed (April –January., 1949) by the major cities of Nanjing, Hankou, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chongqing. In August 1949, when little Nationalist resistance remained, the U.S. Dept. of State announced that no further aid would be given to Chiang's government. The Communists, from their capital at Beijing, proclaimed a central people's government on October 1, 1949. The seat of the Nationalist government was moved to Taiwan in December 1949.
History of the People's Liberation Army (PLA)
The People's Liberation Army (PLA) traces its origins to the August 1, 1927, Nanchang Uprising in which Guomindang troops led by Chinese Communist Party leaders Zhu De and Zhou Enlai rebelled following the dissolution of the first Guomindang-Chinese Communist Party united front earlier that year. The survivors of that and other abortive communist insurrections, including the Autumn Harvest Uprising led by Mao Zedong, fled to the Jinggang Mountains along the border of Hunan and Jiangxi provinces. Joining forces under the leadership of Mao and Zhu, this collection of communists, bandits, Guomindang deserters, and impoverished peasants became the First Workers' and Peasants' Army, or Red Army — the military arm of the Chinese Communist Party. [Source: Library of Congress *]
“Using the guerrilla tactics that would later make Mao Zedong internationally famous as a military strategist, the Red Army survived several encirclement and suppression campaigns by superior Guomindang forces. But party internal politics forced the Red Army temporarily to abandon guerrilla warfare and resulted in the epic Long March of 1934-35. The Red Army's exploits during the Long March became legendary and remain a potent symbol of the spirit and prowess of the Red Army and its successor, the PLA. During that period, Mao's political power and his strategy of guerrilla warfare gained ascendancy in the party and the Red Army. *
“In 1937 the Red Army joined in a second united front with the Guomindang against the invading Japanese army. Although nominally cooperating with the Guomindang, the Chinese Communist Party used the Red Army to expand its influence while leading the anti-Japanese resistance in north China. By the end of the war, the Red Army numbered approximately 1 million and was backed by a militia of 2 million. Although the Red Army fought several conventional battles against the Japanese (and Guomindang troops), guerrilla operations were the primary mode of warfare. *
“In the civil war following Japan's defeat in World War II, the Red Army, newly renamed the People's Liberation Army, again used the principles of people's war in following a policy of strategic withdrawal, waging a war of attrition, and abandoning cities and communication lines to the well-armed, numerically superior Guomindang forces (see Return to Civil War , ch. 1). In 1947 the PLA launched a counteroffensive during a brief strategic stalemate. By the next summer, the PLA had entered the strategic offensive stage, using conventional warfare as the Guomindang forces went on the defensive and then collapsed rapidly on the mainland in 1949. By 1950 the PLA had seized Hainan Island and Tibet. *
When the PLA became a national armed force in 1949, it was an unwieldy, 5-million-strong peasant army. In 1950 the PLA included 10,000 troops in the Air Force (founded in 1949) and 60,000 in the Navy (founded in 1950). China also claimed a militia of 5.5 million. At that time, demobilization of ill-trained or politically unreliable troops began, resulting in the reduction of military strength to 2.8 million in 1953.*
Zhu De was one of the greatest military leaders of communist forces in the 1940s. General Ye Jianying was a key figure during the civil war against the nationalists.
Maoist Military Tactics
Mao's military thought grew out of the Red Army's experiences in the late 1930s and early 1940s and formed the basis for the "people's war" concept, which became the doctrine of the Red Army and the PLA. In developing his thought, Mao drew on the works of the Chinese military strategist Sun Zi (fourth century B.C.) and Soviet and other theorists, as well as on the lore of peasant uprisings, such as the stories found in the classical novel Shuihu Zhuan (Water Margin) and the stories of the Taiping Rebellion.
‘Synthesizing these influences with lessons learned from the Red Army's successes and failures, Mao created a comprehensive politico-military doctrine for waging revolutionary warfare. People's war incorporated political, economic, and psychological measures with protracted military struggle against a superior foe. As a military doctrine, people's war emphasized the mobilization of the populace to support regular and guerrilla forces; the primacy of men over weapons, with superior motivation compensating for inferior technology; and the three progressive phases of protracted warfare- -strategic defensive, strategic stalemate, and strategic offensive.
“During the first stage, enemy forces were "lured in deep" into one's own territory to overextend, disperse, and isolate them. The Red Army established base areas from which to harass the enemy, but these bases and other territory could be abandoned to preserve Red Army forces. In the second phase, superior numbers and morale were applied to wear down the enemy in a war of attrition in which guerrilla operations predominated. During the final phase, Red Army forces made the transition to regular warfare as the enemy was reduced to parity and eventually defeated.
Kuomintang After World War II
At the end of the World War II support for the Kuomintang was melting away. The Chiang Kai-shek government became ravaged by corruption and fiscal ineptitude, printing up money so quickly and aggressively the value of the yuan plummeted to several million to the dollar. While Kuomintang soldiers were reduced to begging because they had not been paid Chiang Kai-shek lived quite comfortably and members of his family and inner circle fought over money siphoned off from foreign aid, mostly from the United States.
More than $3 billion was appropriated by Washington to China during World War II. Most of the money was transmitted through accounts controlled by Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s brother, then the foreign minister of China. U.S. President Harry Truman later wrote: “They’re thieves, every damn one of them. They stole $750 million out of the billions we sent to Chiang. They stole it, and it’s invested in real estate down in Sao Paulo and some right here in New York.”
During the war American diplomats found military supplies sent by the United States to China being sold on the black market. During the famine in 1946, the Kuomintang took food donated from United Nations famine relief and sold on the black market.
Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party After World War II
Through the mediatory influence of the United States a military truce was arranged in January 1946, but battles between Nationalists and Communists soon resumed. Realizing that American efforts short of large-scale armed intervention could not stop the war, the United States withdrew the American mission, headed by General George C. Marshall, in early 1947. The civil war, in which the United States aided the Nationalists with massive economic loans but no military support, became more widespread. Battles raged not only for territories but also for the allegiance of cross sections of the population. [Source: The Library of Congress *]
Belatedly, the Nationalist government sought to enlist popular support through internal reforms. The effort was in vain, however, because of the rampant corruption in government and the accompanying political and economic chaos. By late 1948 the Nationalist position was bleak. The demoralized and undisciplined Nationalist troops proved no match for the People's Liberation Army (PLA). The Communists were well established in the north and northeast. Although the Nationalists had an advantage in numbers of men and weapons, controlled a much larger territory and population than their adversaries, and enjoyed considerable international support, they were exhausted by the long war with Japan and the attendant internal responsibilities. *
“In January 1949 Beiping was taken by the Communists without a fight, and its name changed back to Beijing. Between April and November, major cities passed from Kuomintang to Communist control with minimal resistance. In most cases the surrounding countryside and small towns had come under Communist influence long before the cities. After Chiang Kai-shek and a few hundred thousand Nationalist troops fled from the mainland to the island of Taiwan, there remained only isolated pockets of resistance. In December 1949 Chiang proclaimed Taipei, Taiwan, the temporary capital of China. *
Communist and Kuomintang Positioning and Morale After World War II
At the end of the World War II the Kuomintang controlled most of southern China and the Communist controlled most of north and central China.
American planes and boats helped transport Kuomintang soldiers northward so that they could claim land occupied by the Japanese and keep it out of the hands of the Russians and Chinese Communists. As 53,000 American Marines were taking up positions around Beijing to protect the coal mines and railways there, a force of 100,000 Communist regulars along with a peasant army with hundreds of thousands of members and a million supporters began moving eastward.
Mao was much more effective at capturing the imagination of ordinary Chinese than Chiang Kai-shek. Within two years after World War II the Red Army grew from 100,000 regulars to a fighting force of 1½ million combat troops and four million supporters. The Kuomintang army at this time had three million troops and Soviet- and American-made weapons. By 1948 the Communist possessed just as many weapons and troops as the Nationalists.
Communist and Kuomintang Fighting After World War II
With the disappearance of the Japanese threat in 1945, Mao's Communists began fighting directly with the Chiang's Nationalists. In November 1945, the Red Army and the Kuomintang, supplied by the Americans with weapons, fought a major battle in Manchuria.
After 1946, the Kuomintang controlled the important Chinese cities but the Communists held the countryside, where they enlarged their army with Manchurian troops, former Kuomintang soldiers and peasants attracted by promises of land-reform.
Three important battles lead by Lin Biao were fought in Manchuria and northern China in 1948 and 1949. In the first battle the Kuomintang lost 500,000 people and in the second the Communist took 327,000 prisoners. The third and decisive Communist victory near Tianjin in January 1949 coaxed 500,000 Kuomintang troops to switch sides and forced the Kuomintang army to retreat southward.
Samuel Hui wrote in the Want China Times, After World War II a Kuomintang soldier named Yao “was given a new task as Chiang prepared to resume his bitter fight against Mao's Communists now that the Japanese were out of the way. His unit was first incorporated into the 124th Division of the Kuomintang Army with a new mission to fight the Communists. However, officers who had collaborated with the Japanese were never fully trusted. To the surprise of Yao and the other officers, their unit was ordered to be disbanded by the first day of Chinese New Year in 1946. "I believe that enemy spies had infiltrated the Kuomintang government because we were all strongly anti-Communist," Yao said. "It was the biggest mistake of the central government not to mobilize us into the war against the People's Liberation Army, and this is truly the reason they lost mainland China."[Source: Samuel Hui, Want China Times, July 7, 2013 ||||]
“Because of their experience fighting Communist forces from behind enemy lines and their strong belief in traditional Chinese culture, guerilla units composed of local militias and the puppet army units were much more willing to fight Mao and the Communists than the regular Nationalist soldiers, who despite being more numerous were generally poorly equipped and were often conscripts. If the central government had been willing to mobilize former guerilla fighters in the Chinese Civil War, Yao said he and his comrades would have been able to win a people's war against the Communists since they too represented the proletariat and had the morale and belief that the regulars did not. ||||
Everyday Life at the End of the War
On two photographs taken in 1948 in the northeastern city of Changchun, Feng Keli wrote in Sixth Tone: One is of a hand-painted movie poster, while the other is of a drummer performing onstage in a bar. By the late 1940s, the civil war between the Communists and the Kuomintang was coming to a ferocious conclusion. Changchun was surrounded by hundreds of thousands of Communist soldiers; in the city, tens of thousands of garrisoned KMT soldiers were losing contact with the outside world, residents were subject to constant curfews and spot checks, and famine was looming.
“People in Changchun couldn’t escape the rumble of distant mortar fire. But this didn’t stop them from, say, screening the latest Hollywood blockbusters, or listening to a local jazz band. Before the drummer took to the stage, he still wore a favorite Western-style suit, still slicked back his black hair, still immersed himself totally in keeping time with his fellow musicians. His kit is a little too simple, consisting only of a bass drum, snare, and hi-hat. Yet compared with the distant thunder of army gunfire, his rat-a-tat rhythms belonged to civilians in the streets, reminding them that a different life — a peaceful life — was still possible. [Source: Feng Keli, Sixth Tone, May 3, 2018]
Communists Take Over Beijing
Until the Communist takeover Beijing was known as Beiping (“Northern Peace”). The capital of China was in Nanjing (Nanking).
The Communists began their offensive to take Beijing in Tianjin in January 1949. They were prepared for a six-month siege to take Tianjin but captured te city on just 29 hours. The PLA spent Chinese New Year in Tianjin. By the time the Lantern Festival began 15 days later the Communists had taken up positions outside if Beijing.
The Communist took up positions around Beijing with 144 large artillery guns, which including 36 had been captured from the American-supported forces and 76 captured from the Japanese. Jia Ke, a soldier that took part in the takeover of Beijing, told the Times of London, “The local people were so terrified when they saw us arriving with our artillery that they fled into Beijing because they thought it would be safer. But after a month with no fighting many came back to check on their homes...When they saw the huge guns they decide to stay. They thought to themselves, “If there’s a battle, then we don’t want to be in the city on the other end of firing from such big guns. People had never seen such equipment and they were pretty impressed.”
The Kuomintang gave up Beijing for the most part without a fight. They abandoned the city after Kuomintang commander Fu Zuoyi worked out an agreement with the Communists, following weeks of negotiations that were helped along by the fact that Fu’s daughter was a member of the Communist Party and both sides wanted to save their skins and prevent historical Beijing from being destroyed in street-to-street battles to take the city.
Jia Ke told the Times of London, “You could say the surrender was almost an anti-climax, because I had been waiting outside Beijing for weeks before we finally entered...It was very strange. We basically simply changed over the security guards inside the city. The soldiers of the Nationalists sat on one side of the road and our PLA men sat opposite. And then they swapped places.”
The formal handover took place on February 3, 1949. Jia Ke said, “I remember that none of the city’s residents were interested in the Nationalists. Everyone crowded around our boys as they sat quietly on the ground. They wanted to get a good look at us. They were very curious. I felt very proud.”
Communists take the Kuomintang Capital of Nanjing
By the late 1940s, the Nationalists were surrounded. Many Kuomintang members abandoned Chiang's army and joined the communists. In April 1949, Nanjing, the Kuomintang capital, fell to the communists; other cities followed, Describing the scene in Nanjing In April 1949, as the Communists attacked, AP reporter Seymore Topping recalled in the New York Times, "Communists troops swarmed across the Yangtze...As looters ravaged the city and time bombs left behind by the Nationalist exploded at key installations, apprehensive diplomats huddled behind their barricades....At the airfield, frenzied Nationalist officials and the wealthy fought to get aboard the planes out...I watched in disbelief as a Nationalist general shouted orders to load his piano and other furniture aboard a military plane. Mayor Teng Chieh, trying to escape with a car loaded with 300 million yuan from the city's treasury, was beaten by his chauffeur and bodyguards, and his legs broken."
"Calm was not restored until Communist troops, welcomed by banner-waving university students, completed the takeover of the city...By noon, thousands of Communist troops in the yellow-brown uniforms and flat peaked caps sat in orderly lines along the sidewalks, listening to talks by political commissars and singing revolutionary songs."
In poem describing an attack on Nanjing, Mao wrote:
"Over Chungsan swept a storm, headlong
Our mighty army, a million strong, has crossed the
The city, a tiger crouching, a dragon curling,
outshines its ancient glories;
In heroic triumph heaven and earth have been overturned."
Communists Enter Shanghai
As the Communists approached Shanghai inflation rose so high that traders at the Shanghai stock market left piles of near worthless currency on the floor because "there was too much to lock up."
When the Liberation army arrived in Shanghai in their baggy green uniforms, one observer said, "They were extremely young and very polite, cooking rice in big pots." At the opulent Cathay hotel peasant soldiers, who had never been exposed to modern technology, washed rice in the toilets, played with the elevators and dumped fire wood and tied up their mules in the lobby.
After the Communists took over Shanghai, the cafes and dance halls were quickly closed down. People were afraid to wear jewelry and be fingered as bourgeois — although gold served as the underground currency. Beijing was spared because the general commanding the Nationalist troops surrendered to the Communists.
Chiang Kai-shek's Retreat
In October 1949, after Mao proclaimed the birth of the People's Republic of China, the Nationalists were driven from Canton. In December a Communist victory in the Battle at Huaihai in Hunan forced the Nationalists flee to Taiwan. Chiang Kai-shek. hired coolies to help haul China's entire gold reserves and most of its valuable art to Taiwan (See Palace Museum, Art). The Kuomintang navy and air force and two million mainland soldiers and refugees also fled to Taiwan.
The U.S. supported Chiang's claim to rule all of China and Truman ordered a naval blockade of Taiwan to prevent an attack from the mainland Communist forces. Mao asked Stalin for 200 warplanes to support an invasion of Taiwan but the Soviet dictator refused to help his Communist ally.
No peace agreement or armistice was ever signed between the Communist Chinese government and the Kuomingtan government of Taiwan. In 1949, the defeated remnants of Chiang Kai-shek's defeated Kuomintang army still on the mainland retreated to the mountains along the Chinese-Burmese border and tried to organize attacks against the Red Army. To raise money the Kuomintang encouraged peasant farmers to raise opium, which the Chinese nationalist sold for huge profits. This was the beginning of the Golden Triangle opium and heroin trade.
In 1949, hundreds of thousands of defeated Kuomintang soldiers fled to Taiwan with their families and settled down in juan cuns, military dependents' villages. More than 1 million people resettled in juan cuns, with the oldest village still existing at the foot of Taiwan's Taipei 101 Tower. Houses were often poorly constructed in haste, with straw roofs and mud and bamboo walls. As time went by, many of the villages were demolished and replaced by high rises. To this day, approximately 200 villages remain from an original 800-odd settlements. [Source: Du Guodong, Global Times, February 21, 2010]
Establishment of the People's Republic of China
On October 1, 1949, the People's Republic of China was formally established, with its national capital at Beijing. "The Chinese people have stood up!" declared Mao as he announced the creation of a "people's democratic dictatorship." The people were defined as a coalition of four social classes: the workers, the peasants, the petite bourgeoisie, and the national-capitalists. The four classes were to be led by the CCP, as the vanguard of the working class. At that time the CCP claimed a membership of 4.5 million, of which members of peasant origin accounted for nearly 90 percent. The party was under Mao's chairmanship, and the government was headed by Zhou Enlai (1898-1976) as premier of the State Administrative Council (the predecessor of the State Council). [Source: The Library of Congress *]
The Soviet Union recognized the People's Republic on October 2, 1949. Earlier in the year, Mao had proclaimed his policy of "leaning to one side" as a commitment to the socialist bloc. In February 1950, after months of hard bargaining, China and the Soviet Union signed the Treaty of Friendship, Alliance, and Mutual Assistance, valid until 1980. The pact also was intended to counter Japan or any power's joining Japan for the purpose of aggression. *
Not long after the new Communist government was recognized by the USSR it was recognized by Great Britain, India, and other nations. According to the Columbia Encyclopedia: Recognition was, however, refused by the United States, which maintained close ties with Taiwan. By April 1950, the last pockets of Nationalist resistance were cleaned out, and all of mainland China was secure for the Communists. [Source: Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., Columbia University Press]
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. *
Image Sources: 1) October 1, 1949, Ohio State University; 2) Communist troops, wikipedia; 4) Communist troops enter Shanghai, Britanica; others, Wiki Commons ; YouTube
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