Communist China: The People’s Republic of China

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Communist China:

The People’s Republic of China

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The establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 began a new period in Chinese history. Communists had risen to power during the 1930s and 1940s by appealing to a large part of the population and by achieving military superiority. The communist government continued to maintain strict control over people’s lives.

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Key Information

Popular support and military power helped the Communists come to power.

The programs of Mao Zedong hurt China economically and violated human rights.

Den Xiaping brought economic reforms but not political reforms to China.

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China’s Geography

China is the largest Asian country and the most populous nation in the world. It is located in eastern Asia. Mountains, deserts, and jungles separate China from neighboring nations.

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With the beginnings of communism, China developed command economies, or government-controlled economies. Government controls were used to boost industrial output.

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Much of China is rural, and a majority of its people were farmers. Large numbers of people were needed to work the land because many farmers used (and still do use) traditional tools.

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Despite large oil and coal deposits in he western part of China, development has proceeded slowly because of the lack of transportation. China’s rivers provide important routes inland from seaports.

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Communists Rise To Power

In the 1930s Mao Zedong emerged as the leader of the Communists. In 1934, Mao and 100,000 of his followers fled the Nationalist forces in what became known as the Long March.

After traveling more than 6,000 miles, Mao set up a base in northern China with about 20,000 survivors of the march. For the next several years the Communists and the Nationalists battled for control. In 1949, Nationalists fled to the island of Taiwan.

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Reasons for Communist Success

Why was Mao Zedong and his communist followers victorious against the nationalists led by Chiang Kai-shek???

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1. Mao won the support of the huge peasant population by promising them land

2. Mao won the support of women by rejecting inequalities of traditional Confucian society

3. Mao’s army made good use of hit-and-run guerrilla warfare

4. Many people thought the Nationalist government was corrupt

5. Some people believed that Nationalists had allowed foreigners to dominate China.

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Civil War

By 1945, there were two Chinese governments. The Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek was based in southern and central China. The United States supported it.

The Communist government under Mao Zedong was based in North China. In 1945, war broke out between the Nationalists and the Communists.

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Many peasants joined Mao’s People’s Liberation Army. They were attracted by the promises of land. By the spring of 1949, the People’s Liberation Army had defeated the Nationalists. Chiang Kai-shek and his followers fled to the island of Taiwan.

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Communism Under Mao

Mao set out to transform China from an agricultural society into a modern industrial nation. Under communism, literacy increased, old landlord and business classes were eliminated, and rural Chinese were provided with health care.

Unfortunately, Mao also established a one-party dictatorship that denied people basic rights and freedoms.

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China was now ruled by the Communist Party and called the People’s Republic of China. In 1955, the government began a program to build a socialist society. Land was taken away from wealthy landlords and given to poor peasants.

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About two-thirds of the peasants received land under the program. Most industry and commerce was nationalized, and most farmers were urged to collectivize. Chinese leaders hoped collective farming would increase the food supply and allow more people to work in industry, but this did not happen.

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The Great Leap Forward

To speed up economic growth, Mao began a radical program known as the Great Leap Forward.

Collective farms were combined into vast communes, each with thirty thousand people who lived and worked together to meet newly imposed government quotas. Peasant resentment of the new system, combined with bad weather, led to the starvation of almost 15 million people. Two years later, the government began to break up the communes.

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Key Ideas

Like other totalitarian governments, the People’s Republic made use of secret police to crush opposition.

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Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

In 1966, Mao launched the Great Proletarian (working class) Cultural Revolution to renew loyalty to communism.

To promote the Cultural Revolution, Red Guards were formed. These revolutionary groups, were sent throughout the country to eliminate the “Four Olds” – old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits.

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A collection of Mao’s ideas were published in a guide called, “The Little Red Book”. Using this book as their guide, the Red Guards destroyed temples, books written by foreigners, and foreign music.

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Vicious attacks were made on individuals who did not support Mao’s plan. Intellectuals and artists with pro-Western ideas and others who did not follow Mao’s plan were attacked. Key groups, such as Communist Party members and military officers, did not share Mao’s desire for permanent revolution. Opposition to Mao began to grow.

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Life in Communist China

The Chinese Party wanted to create a new kind of citizen who would put the society ahead of all other loyalties. To do so, it attacked the old Confucian order, including family loyalty, which Communists felt undermined the state.

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During the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, children were encouraged to spy on their parents and report any criticism of Mao and his policies.

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The Changing Roleof Women

Traditionally, in China, women were treated as inferior to men. In Communist China, however, women gained some rights. Under the new Chinese constitution, women gained some rights.

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Roles Change:

• Women could now take part in politics

• In 1950 a marriage law gave women equality with men

• Clothing changed – people wore only “Mao suits”

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Mao’s ProgramsProgram The Great Leap

ForwardThe CulturalRevolution

Goals Increase farm and factory production

Renew Communist loyalties

Methods •Communes•Production Quotas

Red Guards attack opponents

Results •Program fails•Two years of hunger and low production

•Economy slows•China closes to outside world•People fear arrest•Civil war threatened

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China After Mao

When Mao died in 1976, a group of reformers led by Deng Xiaoping seized power and brought the Cultural Revolution to an end.

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Policies of Deng Xiaoping

Four Modernizations:

• agriculture

• industry

• technology

• national defense

For more than 20 years, China had been isolated from technological advances around the world. Xiapoing worked to change this.

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The government invited foreign investors to China and sent students abroad to study. The government also allowed privatization of agriculture and industry.

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Movement for Democracy

Students who studied in other nations learned about Western society and began to call for a fifth modernization, democracy.

The Communist Party did not allow criticism, and those calling for democracy could be sent to prison.

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Tiananmen SquareIn the 1980s, problems of inflation and corruption erupted in student protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Students wanted to put an end to communism in China.

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Xiaoping ordered tanks and troops into Tiananmen Square to crush the demonstrators. Thousands of protestors were killed.

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Two Chinas

Today, China is the most populous nation in the world. There are two Chinas. The People’s Republic of China is a communist state on the Asian mainland. It has a vast land area and many natural resources.

Taiwan, also called the Republic of China, is a small island that today is one of the Asian Tigers. It has a non-communist government.

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Taiwan: The Other China

Chiang Kai-shek and his followers established a capital at Taipei. The new government built a modern industrialized society, but other political parties were not allowed. After the death of Chiang in 1975, Taiwan began to move slowly toward a representative form of government. Free elections took place in 2002.

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The People’s Republic still considers Taiwan a part of China proper. Efforts to reunite the two Chinas have sometimes led to tension because Taiwan values its independence.

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Return of Hong Kong

In 1842, Britain had gained the island of Hong Kong, off the northern coast of China. During the years that Hong Kong was under British rule, it modernized and became wealthy.

In the 1980s, Britain and China decided that Hong Kong would return to Chinese rule in 1997. China agreed not change Hong Kong’s social or economic system for 50 years and to allow the island a degree of self-rule. The island was turned over to China on July 1, 1997.

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The Communists, under Mao Zedong, rose to power in China after WWII. Their appeal to peasants and to women, their superior army, and lack of support for the Nationalists led to victory for the Communists.

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The communist government severely restricted the rights and freedoms of most Chinese. Later leaders, such as Deng Xiaoping, allowed free market reforms but little political freedom. Violations of human rights in China have often made relations between China and the United States difficult.