The Common Program of the People's Republic of China 1949-1954

Article 14 of the Common Program

In urban areas, the PLA immediately took over town administration. Provincial or city Military Control Committees had significant authority to implement a range of administrative and criminal punishments. For example, the operational mechanism in Beijing, the capital of the PRC, was outlined in the Organic Law of the Military Control Committee of the PLA in Beijing. This law empowered the Military Control Committee to exercise various exceptional emergency measures, including arresting and executing counter-revolutionaries, taking over public or private facilities, collecting weapons and military equipment from GMD party members and other counter-revolutionaries, protecting the lives and private properties of Chinese citizens and foreigners, seizing or controlling resources to facilitate the establishment of economic order in cities and counties, and organizing the masses to help establish CCP political institutions. In important cities like Beijing, Tianjin, and Shanghai, a military control commission is formed well in advance before the actual takeover, to ease the transition of power. In Shanghai and Nanjing, the commanders of the Third and Fourth Army are head of the military control commission as well as mayor of the town. The military control commission is responsible for the local purge of the GMD administration and the takeover of important economic enterprises. In some big cities and especially in Shanghai, Communist underground cadres had infiltrated various administrative authorities beforehand. For instance, the Shanghai police had been infiltrated by Communist Party cadres. Although they constituted a small fraction among the over fourteen thousand members of the police force, these agents played a crucial role in preparing to transfer control of the city's police stations to the PLA's special personnel.

The most important assignments of this military administration are to maintain order; to restore the daily routine and to make a transition as fast as possible to a civil administration.
The PLA soldiers are expressly instructed to refrain from looting factories, shops, warehouses and other possessions but they have to "Confiscate bureaucrat-capital. All factories, shops, banks and warehouses, all vessels, wharves and railways, all postal, telegraph, electric light, telephone and water supply services, and all farms, livestock farms and other enterprises operated by the reactionary Kuomintang government and the big bureaucrats shall be taken over by the People's Government." Moreover, they were required to cooperate with the local civil administration and police. Arrests by military personnel were restricted to direct offenses against the occupying authority; otherwise, arrests fell under the jurisdiction of the local police. Troops were instructed not to disregard the orders of the municipal police without a valid reason. The PLA has established garrisons in several big cities and strategic positions. "...The garrison commands not only guarded the cities but also served as the primary representatives of the PLA units in the cities. Local party committees and governments relied on garrison commands to communicate and interact with PLA local units. The garrison commands were also responsible for maintaining social order, protecting the Region’s security, guarding key public facilities, responding to emergencies (including riots, insurgencies, and other mass incidents), and conducting disaster-relief and rescue operations."
Fig. 14.1: Structure military command
1950 The military Regions
Enlarge for more information
Source: Guo (2012). Pages 198 and 200

This arrangement redefined the PLA from a mere field army to a comprehensive defense force, with Military Regions established to align with the nation's strategic requirements. The establishment of four levels corresponded with the party authorities at varying hierarchical levels. From October 1950 to December 1954 there were numerous efforts to regularize the structure of military Regions and several were abolished and others created. (See Fig. 14.1 enlarge)
The period of the military administration is limited and in accordance with article 14 of the Common Program. The governments of the major administrative regions serve as the superior organs overseeing all provinces and cities within their respective regions, concurrently acting as commissariats of the central government. Secondly, the administrative authority at the provincial level was curtailed by designating provinces as secondary administrative regions. By 1953, there were a total of 53 provincial-level administrative regions. The structure of these major administrative regions mirrored that of the central government. Under a Regional Committee of the People's Government, there were three subsidiary guidance sub-committees and a commission at the same level, including the Committee of Politics and Law, the Committee of Finance and Economy, and the Committee of Culture and Education, as well as the People's Supervisory Commission. Additionally, there were subdivisions of the People's Supreme Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorates.
Fig. 14.2: 1950-1954 The military Regions

Military control in small cities would last for a period of two weeks to a period of two to three months. In larger cities with more than 100,000 population, the Government decided on the continuance or termination of the military control.

Article 31 of the organic law of the CPG states "…In administrative Regions where military action has been concluded, agrarian reform thoroughly carried out, and people of all circles fully organized, popular elections shall be held, and Regional people's congresses called for the formal election of Regional people's government councils. After the establishing of Regional people's government councils, the Military Administrative Committees shall be wound up Between 1949 and 1954, the number of provincial units were reduced from 51 to 30 (excluding Taiwan). In August 1952, Wannan and Wanbei were merged into Anhui Province; Chuandong, Chuannan Chuanxi, and Chuanbei were merged into Sichuan Province. In November 1952, two border provinces, Chahar and Pingyuan, were dissolved; Subei and Sunan were merged into Jiangsu Province. In June 1954, Liaodong and Liaoxi were merged to become Liaoning Province; Songjiang was merged into Heilongjiang Province.
Fig. 14.3: 1949-1954 Provinces and their Chairmen & CCP Secretaries

In 1949 there were 14 centrally administered municipalities. These included Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Xian, Chongqing, Shenyang, Luda, Anshan, Fushun, Benxi, Harbin, and Changchun.
China 1949 Provincial administration
In June 1954, the number of centrally administered cities was reduced to three (Beijing, Tianjin, and Shanghai). In 1952, the first changes occurred in provincial government leadership in China, parallel with the changes in those of provincial party leadership. A second peak came in 1955.
China 1950 Provincial administration

Once a town's situation stabilizes to some extent, the civil authorities' duties expand. In practice, military representatives were dispatched to nearly every enterprise and government agency, assuming leadership positions within those entities. Subsequently, as the political climate stabilized, many military representatives were officially appointed as Party secretaries or directors within their respective units. Until the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution, former military representatives continued to serve as the predominant cadre in numerous units.
Liu Shaoqi states military control and people’s democracy are not contradicting “These two phases of work have always complemented and strengthened each other. This has been made possible by the fact that our military control is the military control of the people, and that the PLA is the armed force of the people. To our enemies and the reactionaries, military control as exercised by the PLA is merciless and open military dictatorship, but to the people it presages the people's democracy. Far from restraining the people or causing them inconvenience, this sort of military control only protects the people, helps to free the people from the oppression and bondage of old influences, gives the people all kinds of facilities and encourages them to be their own masters by taking their own destiny in their hands and taking care of their own affairs together with the affairs of the nation.”

Maps of the 6 military and administrative Regions

On December 2, 1949, the central government decided to form 6 Regional military and administrative Regions. See Table 15 for CCP regional leaders and Article 16 Introduction . This is an administrative level between the central government in Beijing and the provinces, mainly created to customize the administration slightly to Regional differences and as a transitional measure to move from military rule to civilian rule.
Solinger(1977) mentions some reasons for the establishment of these bureaus "Here it will suffice to note that all these factors -- distrust of the provinces, disparities between different areas, a shortage of cadres, military deployment, an unexpectedly rapid takeover, and a divide-and-rule strategy -- were involved to a certain extent in the decision to split up the country for administrative convenience."
In the Organic Law of these new Regional administrations, the division of labour is stated “Ministries and departments under the Government Administrative Council may deal directly with offices under the Military Administrative Committee only on business management and technical points; where the whole Region is affected, copies of the documents must be sent to the Military Administrative Committee.50
The North China Region, established in 1948, acted de facto as the central government until October 1949. Many of its staff members contributed to the organization of the Central People’s Government. The North China People’s Government had a coalition character, following the united front policy (See Part 1 ) of the CCP. All Regional bureaus were staffed with CCP members and minzhu dangpai. One can argue that the formation of Regional bureaus was a deliberate political design to ensure no Region had sufficient economic potential to challenge the central government. The Regions have no integrated economy, no equal physiographic features and cultures. However, one can also argue that the development and the integration of the Northeast economy was taken as an example for the national economic development. The formation of the Regions mainly came about through the course of the civil war. Keith (1977) observes "...that the CCP leadership did attempt to include as much of "old liberated Region" in the territories of the four MACs (NE, NW, EC and CC) as was geographically possible, in order to provide the vast "newly liberated Regions" with points of reference." The CCP constitution of 1945 already took into account the formation of Regional bureaus. "To facilitate the direction of the work of the provincial and Regional Party organizations, the Central Committee may, according to the needs of circumstances, establish central bureaux and sub-central bureaux, each of which shall have jurisdiction over several provinces or border Regions. The said bureaux shall be appointed by the Central Committee and shall be held responsible to it. Any of the said bureaux may be abolished or merged with any other(s) when its continued existence becomes unnecessary."10"
Fig. 14.5: Top 20 Important leaders of the PRC 1949-1954
All heads of these 6 Regional bureaus have a military background and are also members of the Central People’s Government Council. There is a concentration of power of about 20 men. (See fig. 14.5) They enjoy authority on central, Regional, civil, and military administration matters. The 6 Regions do not possess any autonomy and have merely a mediating function between the center and the province. "However, the fact that military control was paramount in the initial conception of these governments meant that generally speaking each area was made the territory of one of the PLA's five Field Armies. Thus many of the rulers at this level were revolutionary generals used to independent command.” During the period of economic restoration, the Regional bureaus have many responsibilities, but they do not include military, diplomatic and public security work. These are the concern of the CPG. The Regional bureaus played an important role during the land reform campaign. Their task was interpretation, adaption, planning and implementation. However, "Despite repeated emphases in 1949 on the importance of a flexible administrative approach involving the tapping of local creativity and initiative, and the devolution of responsibility within a dual structure of administration, the economic and fiscal crisis of early 1950 was met with a high degree of centralization."
Regional Bureaus 1949-1954

On March 29, 1951, the CPG reconsidered this decision and "… properly transfer certain power and responsibility to local governments under unified leadership, thereby to realize local expediency, would, rather than causing any harm, further consolidate the central leadership through the manifestation of local initiative. … Obviously, this decision is fully in line with the principle of "not only conducive to national reunification, but also conducive to local conditions" as stipulated in Article 16 of the Common Program and the principle of "dividing the fiscal scope between the central and local governments" stipulated in Article 40. The spirit of "adjusting measures to local conditions" is an important feature of this decision."
All 6 regional bureaus are researched, in total 758 persons are identified. 576 are members of the CCP. 262 members have been (once) active either as military personnel or as political commissar in the PLA. 126 are members of Minzhu Dangpai. 311 have studied at universities or military academies (Whampao 17, Baoding 15); 116 have studied in mainland China, 60 have studied in Japan; 42 in the SU; 12 in the UK; 19 in the US, 12 in France, and 12 in Germany. The average age of the members is 45 years, the youngest is 21 Zhu Rongji 朱镕基, the oldest Sa Zhenbing 薩鎮冰 is 90 years old. See Regional bureau members.

Fig. 14.6: North Military and Political Bureau September 26, 1948 till November, 1952
North China Capital Beijing: Hebei, Shanxi, Chahar, Pingyuan, Suiyuan, Beijing, Tianjin.
Population (est.): 67,068,386
60 members of the North Regional Bureau are investigated: 15 members have a PLA background. One member is independent. 24 members have studied on universities of whom 13 abroad. 45% of the members have their origin in the North Region and 86% are CCP members.
Fig. 14.7: North East Military and Political Bureau August 27, 1949 till January 23, 1953
North East, Capital Shenyang:  Liaodong, Liaoxi, Jilin, Songjiang, Heilongjiang, Rehe, Lüshun-Dalian, Shenyang, Benxi, Anshan, and Fushun.
Population (est.): 41,570,678
127 individuals of the North East Regional Bureau are reviewed: 35 have a PLA background, 8 are members of the Minzhu Dangpai. 23 persons have studied abroad. 45% of the members have their origin in the North East Region and 90% are CCP members.
Fig. 14.8: North West Military and Political Bureau January 19, 1950 until January 27, 1953.
North West Capital Xi'an: Shaanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, Xinjiang, and Xi'an.
Population (est.): 23,471,480
107 persons of the North West Regional Bureau are researched: 31 have a PLA background, there are 18 members of the Minzhu Dangpai. 15 persons have studied abroad. 57% of the members have their origin in the North West Region, 43% are from Shaanxi and 52% are CCP members.
Fig. 14.9: East Military and Political Bureau January 27, 1950 until December 2, 1952
East Captial Shanghai: Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Fujian, Shandong, Shanghai, and Nanjing.
Population (est.): 140,928,712
151 members of the East Regional Bureau are explored: 43 have a PLA background. 37 are members of the Minzhu Dangpai. 44 have a PLA background. 32 persons have studied abroad. 58% of the members have their origin in the East Region and 72% are CCP members.
Fig. 14.10: Central South Military and Political Bureau February 5, 1950 -November 5, 1952.
Central South Capital Wuhan: Hubei, Hunan, Henan, Jiangxi, Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hankou.
Population (est.): 136,775,290
175 members of the Central South Regional bureau are researched: 75 have a PLA background. 22 members have studied at Whampao or Baoding military academy. 32 are members of the Minzhu Dangpai. 33 persons have studied abroad, of whom 17 in Japan. 48% of the members have their origin in the Central South Region and 54% are CCP members.
Fig. 14.11: South West Military and Political Bureau June 28, 1950 until March 1953
South West, Capital Chongqing: Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan, Xikang, and Chongqing.
Population (est.):70,634,691
140 members of the South West regional Bureau are researched: 48 persons have a PLA background, 27 are member of Minzhu Dangpai. 22 have studied abroad. 44% of the members have their origin in the South West Region and 69% are CCP members. Only 13% are born in the North China Region and 4% in the North West Region. looking at all six Regions, one can conclude that almost 50% of the members are from the Region where they are stationed. There is overwhelming number of CCP members in all Regions, ranging from 45% in North China to 90% in the North East. Those CCP members occupy the main positions in the region's administration.

On November 15, 1952, the 6 bureaus lost their military function and only their administrative power remains. So,from being “…both local power organs and central agents, they were now merely central agents.” This reduction of power is part of the 5 year-plan. "To meet the new situation and tasks of planned large-scale national economic and cultural construction, shortly to be started in 1953, the CPG should further unify and centralize its leadership over the different phases of work, and the organs of the CPG should be further strengthened. At the same time, the organizations of provincial and municipal people's governments should also be • strengthened in order to increase the responsibility of leadership at the provincial and municipal levels. Consequently, the structure and tasks of people's governments (or MAC's) in administrative Regions should also be changed accordingly."
Furthermore, in 1953, most of the important political and/or military leaders are transferred to Beijing. On March 10, 1953, the redistribution of power goes even further and the Politburo decides: “From now on, all major and important directives, policies, plans, and events in the government work must be reported to the Center for instruction beforehand; only with the Center’s discussion or decision or approval can they be implemented.” In fact, this repeats the decision of February 2, 1941 which “... stipulated that all circular telegrams, declarations and inner-Party directives bearing on the country as a whole must have the prior approval of The role of the CCP increases and Mao Zedong is much more playing the leading role. “From now on, all documents and telegrams sent out in the name of the Central Committee can be dispatched only after I have gone over them, otherwise they are invalid. Please take note."
On June 19, 1954 the CPG decides to abolish the Regional bureaus. "They have been responsible for implementing central policies, implementing people’s democratic governance, conducting various social reform campaigns, restoring the national economy, and Economic construction, cultural construction, and other aspects of work all play a very important role, and they have successfully completed their tasks." The decision continues "Now, the country has entered a period of planned economic construction. The construction of the state-planned economy requires further strengthening of the centralized and unified leadership of the central government. In order for the central government to directly lead the provinces and cities to better understand the following situations, reduce organizational levels, increase work efficiency, and overcome bureaucracy; in order to save cadres, strengthen the needs of the central government and supply factories and mining enterprises, and appropriately strengthen the leadership of the provinces and cities. It is absolutely necessary and timely to abolish administrative agencies at the Regional level."
In his "On the ten major relationships" Mao Zedong comments on the abolishment: "Take our own experience; the system of the greater administrative area instituted in the early days of our People’s Republic was a necessity at that time, and yet it had shortcomings which were later exploited to a certain extent by the anti-Party alliance of Kao Kang and Jao Shu-shih It was subsequently decided to abolish the greater administrative areas and put the various provinces directly under the central authorities; that was a correct decision. But neither was the outcome so satisfactory when matters went to the length of depriving the localities of their necessary independence."

Lu (2016). Pages 114-115 [↩] [Cite]
Wakeman (1995). Page 84 [↩] [Cite]
Steiner (1950b). Page 55 [↩] [Cite]
Guo (2012). Page 259 [↩] [Cite]
Guo (2012). Page 198 [↩] [Cite]
Kin (2009). Page 530.[Cite]
Fairbank (2006) states: "...,the fecund Yangzi delta is divided among the provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Anhui so that the preeminent economic strength of the Region will not be under a single provincial government that might take over the state." Fairbank (2006). Page 11.[Cite]
Table 18 Provinces [↩]
Bo (2010). Page 40 [↩] [Cite]
Wang (1996). Page 4 [↩] [Cite]
Cited in Solinger (1977). Page 33. Inner Mongolia and Tibet were excluded, as they were regulated according to different administrative rules and regulations. [↩] [Cite]
Solinger (1977). Page 29. "For at that time a resolution was passed at a meeting of the Central People's Government Council calling for elections for local people's congresses, and no mention was made of a Regional congress or of a Regional level of administration. Rather, congresses were to be elected for only the hsiang, hsien, province, and municipal levels.67" Page 38
See Meeting [↩] [Cite]
Keith (1977). Page 87 [↩] [Cite]
Cited in Keith (1977). Page 85 [↩] [Cite]
At the beginning of 1953, there were, among the 345 members of the leading organs in the six "Great Administrative Regions", 104 military men, a share of 30.1 percent. If one only counts the CCP members in these organs, the share of the PLA was 36.4 percent.94 Chang (1995). Page 85 [↩] [Cite]
Solinger (1977). Page 33 [↩] [Cite]
Keith (1977). Page 125 [↩] [Cite]
RMRB 5-4-1951: Unified leadership and hierarchical responsibility are the correct guidelines for financial work [↩]
Solinger (1977). Page 35 [↩] [Cite]
15-11-1952 Decision on the Change in Structure and Tasks of People's Governments (or Military and Administrative Commissions) in Administrative Regions
The Regional administrative committees are established
East China Administrative Committee, December 2, 1952;
Central South Administrative Committee , January 21, 1953;
Northeast Administrative Committee, January 23, 1953;
Northwest Administrative Committee, January 27, 1953;
North China Administrative Committee, February 6, 1953;
Southwest Administrative Committee, February 28 1953. [↩]
Cited in Zheng (1997). Page 85 [↩] [Cite]
Decision of the Central People's Government on the abolition of administrative agencies at the Regional level and the merger of several provinces and municipalities. RMRB 20-06-1954 [↩]
Gao Gang-Rao Shushi affair. This incident involved the first major factional struggle and purge in the post-1949 CCP leadership. Gao Gang is the major Party figure in northeast China, Rao Shushi is party leader in Shanghai.
See also 09-03-1954 From the Journal of Ambassador Pavel Yudin: Memorandum of Conversation with Liu Shaoqi and Zhou Enlai
See also Guo (2019). List of persons involved in the affair. Pages 335-340 [↩] [Cite]

Chapter 2 of Common Program