Introduction to the Common Program of the People's Republic of China

In September 1949, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and other political parties and social organization (Minzhu Dangpai) approved the Common Program. The Minzhu Dangpai are in the eyes of the CCP the representatives of the 'national bourgeoisie' and their support is very much needed in the realization of the Common Program.
This study about the Common Program treats this program not only as a sort of constitution but also as an agenda for the development and future of China. "...the constitution is not a document announcing the highest moral value or values, and not necessarily a set of normative principles, but the important practice of governing a state. A constitution is not a set of moral values, but a general guide of national political practice. Whether such a political practice is of constitutional importance depends not upon what is right but upon whether it is important in shaping a country’s political power structure and allocation of political power.14 "
Zhu Suli (2003). ‘Federalism’ in Contemporary China – A Reflection on the Allocation of Power between Central and Local Government. Singapore Journal of International & Comparative Law 7. Pages 7-8
It is a kind of blueprint for regime change, state building and transition. The regime change is the result of the end of the Civil War. A war between the Guomindang (GMD) and the CCP. The CCP, the victor of this civil war, wants to build an new kind of state based on communist principles and Mao Zedong's thoughts. The common program is an instrument in a period of transition from the old feudal regime to a socialist state.
Although Mao Zedong's thoughts are leading in the PRC, this does not mean that in the first years of the people’s republic, Mao Zedong was in full control. "The picture of Mao sitting in the midst of a policy-making apparatus from which all decisions flowed and where every major action was centralized through him is replaced … by something much messier and less cohesive – an apparatus which often did not have the right technical experience or expertise to be able to deal easily with the huge problems of an economy that was still pre-industrial, a lack of adequate social and educational infrastructure, and a governance which was only just restarting. Rather than a clean break pre-and post-1949, a more granular historic view shows that far into the 1950s the new government in Beijing had real challenges asserting its authority over territory in China."
Brown Kerry (2015). The Maoists and Modern China. Page 5
In this study, 1949 is also not seen as a major division in the development of China. A development, which in no way was a direct path to communism. "These were changes of major import. In their impact on the lives of hundreds of millions of Chinese people, they were without question revolutionary. But, although brought about by the Communists and certainly viewed by Mao and his colleagues as part of their revolutionary program, they did not really constitute a 'Communist' revolution in any substantive sense. ..in the years after 1949 China experienced not just one revolution but a number of different revolutions, partly overlapping and partly in conflict with one another."
Cohen Paul A. (2003). Reflections on a watershed date: the 1949 divide in Chinese history. In Wasserstrom Jeffrey N. (ed) Twentieth-century China. New Approaches. Page 30. The CCP continuously emphasizes the differences between the bad old society that existed before 1949 and the good new society that came into being after 1949.

The Common Program contains the guiding principles and philosophy for the new state. It is a compromise between CCP and the Minzhu Dangpai. This cooperation between the CCP and the Minzhu Dangpai is unique in the communist world. It resulted in the overthrow of the GMD regime and the creation of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
One of the main instruments of realizing this 'new' China is the mass campaign. These political, economic, and social campaigns are the means to win the support of the people, to destroy the enemies of the new regime, and to attain the goals of the Common Program.
Other campaigns are: Peace Signature Campaign 1950
Christian Reform Movement (Three-Self Renovation) 1950
National Patriotic Donation Campaign (For the Korean people) 1951
Production Increase and Austerity Campaign (For the Korean War) 1951
Learn from the Advanced Experience of the SU 1952
Struggle against Bureaucratism, Commandism, and Unlawful Acts (Includes the Five Too Many: Tasks, meetings, documents, organizations, and concurrent cadre posts) 1953
Campaign to Increase Production and Economize 1953
Technical Renovation Movement 1953
Oppose Bourgeois Individualism, Liberalism, Sectarianism, Dispersionism, Conceit, and Parochialism in the Party 1954
Anti-Pest Campaign 1954
Oksenberg Michel and Henderson Gail (1982). Research guide to Peoples Daily editorials, 1949-1975. Page 86
Both the GMD regime and the CCP regime made use of mass mobilization, "… the mobilization was carried out in a top-down fashion. Although the CCP highlighted the mass-line, the masses were mobilized around the agenda set by state elites."
Zha Wen (2015). Individual Choice and State-Led Nationalist Mobilization in China Self-interested Patriots. Page 11

Main Campaigns in the People's Republic of China 1949-1959

In 1950, after the establishment of a new government, this collaboration comes under pressure. The main reason of this conflict lies in the ideas of the CCP concerning the relation between state and Party. "In a document issued in September 1942, which laid out the two principles concerning the Party—state relations that largely constituted the CCP's answers to the similar problems in the post-1949 period:
1. The Party committee is the highest leading organ, and it should exercise a unified leadership over all the other organizations, including government, army, and mass organizations.
2. The Party leadership means that the Party should decide on policies, but not directly interfere in, or take care of, every matter that is within the jurisdiction of the government.57"
Zheng Shiping (1997). Party vs. State in Post-1949 China The Institutional Dilemma. Cambridge university press. Pages 38-39

A second reason is the change in acceptance of the bourgeois. From being an 'ally' changes into being an 'enemy'. This change in attitude is largely attributable to the orthodox Marxist theory in which the bourgeoisie is the enemy of the 'people'. The CCP sees the experiences in the Soviet Union, where the bourgeoisie is eliminated, as a role model. The 1954 constitution did reject the possibility of the co-existence of capitalism and socialism in the long run.
On 15 June 1953, Mao Zedong preluded to the end of the policy of the ‘New Democracy’ (see Part 9), which is the basis of the Common Program. He states "They fail to realize there is a change in the character of the revolution and they go on pushing their “New Democracy” instead of socialist transformation. This will lead to Right deviationist mistakes. Take our agriculture for instance, the socialist road is the only road for it. The Party’s central task in the rural areas is to develop the mutual-aid and co-operative movement and constantly raise productivity in agriculture. …The period of transition is full of contradictions and struggles. Our present revolutionary struggle is even more profound than the revolutionary armed struggle of the past. It is a revolution that will bury the capitalist system and all other systems of exploitation once and for all. The idea, “Firmly establish the new-democratic social order”, goes against the realities of our struggle and hinders the progress of the socialist cause."
See document 15-06-1953


The acceptance of a new constitution in September 1954 marks the end of the Common Program. Changes in political and economic goals already undermine the Common Program almost from the beginning. The purpose of this study is to show the results and the failures of the Common Program.

Image 01
Road to Common Program:
This is an introduction to the history of China between 1911 and 1949 and deals with the founding of the CPPCC, the making of the Common Program, and the formation of a new government.
Part 1: China 1911-1949
Part 2 : The civil war
Part 3: Cooperation CCP and Minzhu Dangpai
Part 4 : Collaboration CCP with Minzhu Dangpai
Part 5 : The role of Soviet Union
Part 6 : 2nd plenum of the 7th CC CCP
Part 7 : The Preparatory Conference June 1949
Part 8 : The prelude to the 1st CPPCC
Part 9 : Characteristic of politicians
Part 10 : The CPPCC conference
Part 11 : Decisions of the Plenum
Part 12 : The government
Part 13 : Recruitment
Image 02
Common Program
This item gives a description of the Common Program and its consequences for the development of the People's Republic of China.
The 60 articles of the Common Program are highlighted in 7 chapters.
Chapter 1: General principles
Chapter 2: Organs of state power
Chapter 3: Army
Chapter 4: Economy
Chapter 5: Education, Culture and Health
Chapter 6: Nationalities
Chapter 7: Foreign policy
Image 03
Reference is divided in 6 sections:
Bibliography: This item leads to indexes of consulted and cited books and articles.
Chronology: A timeline from 1949-1954. It shows the most important political, economic, social, cultural events in the People's Republic of China.
Documents: This item leads to indexes of documents, speeches, tables and charts, which are used in this study.
Glossary: Explanations of several abbreviations
Maps: Several maps of the People's Republic of China in the period 1949-1954 are shown
Meetings: This item leads to indexes of imported meetings of the CCP, the government, and mass organizations.
Image 04
Database is divided in 6 sections:
CPPCC members: Database of the delegates of the first CPPCC.
CPPCC members images: Images of the delegates of the first CPPCC as a group and as an individual.
Nat. Com. members: Database of the members of the standing committee of the first CPPCC.
Members 7th CC: Database of the members of the Central Committee of the CCP.
Members of the CPGC: Database of the members of the Central People's Government Council.
Revolutionary Military Commission : Database of the members of the Revolutionary Military Commission / Central Military Commission
Image 05
Propaganda is divided in 3 sections
Posters Movies : Posters of movies made in the People's Republic of China in the period 1949-1954
Propaganda Posters : Propaganda posters of People's Republic of China in the period 1949-1954, also nianhua (New Year pictures) and propaganda prints are displayed.
Stamps and Banknotes : Stamps and Banknotes of People's Republic of China in the period 1949-1954

Literature....
Zhu Suli (2003). ‘Federalism’ in Contemporary China – A Reflection on the Allocation of Power between Central and Local Government. Singapore Journal of International & Comparative Law 7. Pages 7-8 [↩]
Brown Kerry (2015). The Maoists and Modern China. Page 5 [↩]
Cohen Paul A. (2003). Reflections on a watershed date: the 1949 divide in Chinese history. In Wasserstrom Jeffrey N. (ed) Twentieth-century China. New Approaches. Page 30. The CCP continuously emphasizes the differences between the bad old society that existed before 1949 and the good new society that came into being after 1949. [↩]
Other campaigns are: Peace Signature Campaign 1950
Christian Reform Movement (Three-Self Renovation) 1950
National Patriotic Donation Campaign (For the Korean people) 1951
Production Increase and Austerity Campaign (For the Korean War) 1951
Learn from the Advanced Experience of the SU 1952
Struggle against Bureaucratism, Commandism, and Unlawful Acts (Includes the Five Too Many: Tasks, meetings, documents, organizations, and concurrent cadre posts) 1953
Campaign to Increase Production and Economize 1953
Technical Renovation Movement 1953
Oppose Bourgeois Individualism, Liberalism, Sectarianism, Dispersionism, Conceit, and Parochialism in the Party 1954
Anti-Pest Campaign 1954
Oksenberg Michel and Henderson Gail (1982). Research guide to Peoples Daily editorials, 1949-1975. Page 86 [↩]
Zha Wen (2015). Individual Choice and State-Led Nationalist Mobilization in China Self-interested Patriots. Page 11 [↩]
Zheng Shiping (1997). Party vs. State in Post-1949 China The Institutional Dilemma. Cambridge University Press. Pages 38-39 [↩]


© Peter van Meel
Last update: November 2021