Rebellions and Revolutions: China from the 1800s to the 1980s

By Jack Gray | Go to book overview

14
THE CHINESE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC, 1949-1957

The Earl Years of Communist Rule, 1949-1953

The new Chinese Peo ple's Republic was proclaimed in Tian An Men Square, Beijing, on I October 1949. Mao Zedong from the rostrum announced, ' China has stood up.' It was the nationalist message which most Chinese wanted to hear; to most of his vast audience, socialism in 1949, as in 1919, was first and foremost a means to national revival. The institutions which were created by the conquerors were ostensibly in this spirit. They expressed Mao's view, held since the days of the May Fourth Movement, that the vast majority of the Chinese people could unite behind revolution, and that its only opponents would be the landlords and the handful of businessmen whose fortunes, he believed, depended upon the exercise of foreign economic privilege.

An assembly representing all areas, political organizations, and interest groups except those in direct enmity to the revolution, was called under the title of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. The Conference passed an Organic Law as a temporary constitutional basis for the new regime, and a Common Programme defining its fundamental policies. These two documents were meant to display the acceptance by the nation of Mao's proposals in his two speeches, "On New Democracy" and "On Coalition Government". The essence of what they expressed was that capitalist commerce and industry would be encouraged under socialist controls, while the land would be restored to the peasants to be worked individually for their own profit. These policies were to last 'for some time'. They were at once the fulfilment of Sun Yatsen's democratic revolution and of the Communists' minimum programme.

Mao Zedong was elected Chairman of the Chinese People's Republic, holding this post along with his chairmanship of the Party. A State Administrative Council was elected. While all vital posts were put in the hands of members of the Communist Party, lesser positions were given to members of the various 'third force' parties which had decided to support the Communist Party against the Guomindang.

Potential resistance to the regime was much reduced by the fact that both Taiwan and Hong Kong offered escape routes for the disaffected. Many took with them skills or capital or both, to create (at China's loss) two of the world's most vigorous and efficient new industrial economies. Many moved

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