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

Article 18 of the Common Program

Since 1949, the CCP recruited more than 2.5 million new members. This resulted in a total of 4.5 million members in 1950. This growth causes many problems. Liu Shaoqi enumerates these problems in his May Day address "The territory under our control is vast and work in various fields is heavy and complicated. We are short of experienced cadres but have large numbers of new cadres. All this, plus the lack of time for training, has led to many shortcomings and errors in the course of attaining great achievements. We must take an overall view of the question. That is, we should see both the achievements and the shortcomings and errors in our work, both the hard work and the defects on the part of the cadres. Underestimation of any aspect should be avoided. Now people throughout the country are acclaiming our achievements and at the same time demanding that we correct the shortcomings and errors that have already occurred. We should face these shortcomings and errors squarely and correct them. The Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party has decided to conduct criticism and self-criticism13 and to train cadres….After these steps have been taken, we believe our shortcomings and errors will be corrected. The most fatal among our mistakes is that of arbitrarily enforcing orders.
In May 1950, a nationwide rectification campaign starts. Two months later Mao Zedong writes Since the membership of our Party has grown to 4,500,000, we must henceforth follow a prudent policy in expanding the Party organization, be strict in preventing political speculators from gaining Party membership and take proper measures to clear out those already in. We must pay attention to admitting politically conscious workers into the Party in a planned way in order to increase the proportion of workers in the Party organizations. In the old liberated areas, in general Party recruiting in the villages should stop. In the new liberated areas, in general the Party organizations in the villages should not expand until agrarian reform is completed in order to prevent political speculators from worming their way into the Party. The central point of this campaign is ‘commandism’, this is defined as carrying out party or government work by issuing orders without educating, convincing and mobilizing the masses. Teiwes (1978) mentions “intra-elite tensions’ as an important problem the campaign wants to tackle. These tensions are between ‘old’ cadres, ‘new’ cadres and retained personnel. The old cadres joined the CCP when victory was by no means guaranteed. The ‘new’ cadres joined the party when victory was in sight or after the establishment of the PRC. Most of them are students and intellectuals. Retained personnel were officials of the GMD government kept in place after 1949. The ‘old’ cadres felt far superior to the new cadres and retained personnel and they asked for privileges. However, often ‘new’ cadres are chosen for important jobs because of their abilities the ‘old’ cadres lacked. See also Part 8. The emphasis of the campaign is to educate the cadres not to punish them.
In June 1951 Bo Yibo ascertain that after the successful implementation of the Land Reform, many party cadres are stopping their political activities and sometimes even become an obstacle for further reforms. "(They) wanted a rest and laid down, holding that the driving away of the Japanese imperialists and Chiang Kai-shek and the carrying out of agrarian reform were to them a revolutionary success. Hence they become politically vulgar, could not visualize what things to do, and felt contented with a "basket of bread, a pot of sour vegetables and sitting on a k'ang ". They don't bother with such great movements as the suppression of counter-revolutionaries and the Resist-U.S. and Aid-Korea campaign."
Gao Gang is afraid for an environment where members party “…all hire labor and give loans at usurious rates, then the Party will become a rich peasant party. This would mean the complete collapse of the people's regime and the Party organ in the face of attacks launched by the rural bourgeoisie. This, of course, would be intolerable to us.” A majority of the cadres stop their political activities and focus only on the welfare of their own families and after the Land Reform they are more interested in a status quo than in changes towards a socialist transition to reverse this trend in the countryside, the party takes several measures like better training and political campaigns.
Diamant (2014) notices yet a different problem, the rapid succession of political campaigns between 1950-1954: “Miscommunication and misunderstanding about the intentions, goals, and methods of the new state were commonplace. The mismatch between political ambition and the time available to realize dramatic political and social change created the space for improvisation; there was only so much “new” (language, policies, concepts) that people—including officials—could absorb.” and so the cadres chose "...often easier to use established (but sometimes inappropriate) political techniques and language than to risk committing a political mistake."

See Timeline
On November 30, 1951, the CC makes a statement concerning the struggle against corruption, waste, and bureaucratic behaviour in the party, the PLA, and the government. These are the 3 evils (sanfan). The focus within the campaign lies on graft. "We need to have a good clean-up in the whole Party, which will thoroughly uncover all cases of corruption, whether major, medium or minor, and aim the main blows at the most corrupt, while following the policy of educating and remoulding the medium and minor embezzlers so that they will not relapse. Only thus can we check the grave danger of many Party members being corroded by the bourgeoisie, put an end to a situation already foreseen at the Second Plenary Session of the Seventh Central Committee and carry out the principle of combating corrosion then laid down. Be sure to give all this your attention."
This announcement refers to Mao Zedong's opening speech at the 2nd plenum of the 7th party congress on March 5, 1949. He warns “With victory, the people will be grateful to us and the bourgeoisie will come forward to flatter us. It has been proved that the enemy cannot conquer us by force of arms. However, the flattery of the bourgeoisie may conquer the weak-willed in our ranks. There may be some Communists, who were not conquered by enemies with guns and were worthy of the name of heroes for standing up to these enemies, but who cannot withstand sugar-coated bullets; they will be defeated by sugar-coated bullets. We must guard against such a situation…. The comrades must be taught to remain modest, prudent and free from arrogance and rashness in their style of work. The comrades must be taught to preserve the style of plain living and hard struggle."
The party starts the campaign on a big scale and asks the people to join. "..the broad masses, including the democratic parties and also people in all walks of life, should be mobilized , the present struggle should be given wide publicity, the leading cadres should take personal charge and pitch in, and people should be called on to make a clean breast of their own wrongdoing and to report on the guilt of others. In minor cases the guilty should be criticized and educated; in major ones the guilty should be dismissed from office, punished, or sentenced to prison terms (to be reformed through labour), and the worst among them should be shot. The problem can only be solved in these ways."
In his report of June 6, 1950, Deng Xiaoping explains the problem of bureaucratic behaviour "There are two ways of working diligently: one is to perform the work well and accomplish one's tasks by carrying out the policies and maintaining close ties with the masses; the other is to appear busy while actually just ordering people about, thus going against the policies, becoming separated from the masses, not completing any tasks, and damaging the Party's reputation. We should distinguish between these two ways of working diligently, promoting the correct way and opposing the incorrect way. Some of the Party comrades who are guilty of bureaucratism also work very diligently, hence the new expression, ``busy work bureaucratism'"

This campaign makes victims in the lower echelons of the party but also at higher levels. The most important victims are Liu Qingshan and Zhang Zishan and both leading cadres in Tianjin. They are arrested in February 1952 and executed after a quick trial. The majority of Liu and Zhang's offenses revolved around embezzlement and misappropriation of state funds and bank loans, which were primarily invested in office production projects. However, Liu and Zhang executed these projects with exceptional efficiency, soliciting assistance from Tianjin businessmen with questionable backgrounds, dispatching agents on procurement trips to the northeast and Hankou, and offering gifts such as watches, pens, and cash to maintain the satisfaction and silence of colleagues.
These executions are completely in line with Mao Zedong’s remarks "In minor cases the guilty should be criticized and educated; in major ones the guilty should be dismissed from office, punished, or sentenced to prison terms (to be reformed through labour), and the worst among them should be shot. The problem can only be solved in these ways."
Liu Qingshan and Zhang Zishan were so called "big tigers" (a “tiger” is a senior, high-ranking official who uses their position for personal gain). On January 30, 1952, Li Fuchun put forward six criteria for determining the "big tiger":
1. Individuals who embezzle more than 100 million yuan;
2. Individuals who embezzle less than 100 million yuan, but great losses to the country;
3. The organizer and mastermind of a collective embezzlement case of more than 100 million yuan;
4. The embezzlement of more than 50 million yuan, with a serious nature, such as deducting relief food, embezzling donations to resist the United States and Aid Korea;
5. Those who colluded to steal economic information, or used their positions to enrich themselves, causing the country to lose more than 100 million yuan;
6. Those who concealed state property at all levels or failed to report bureaucratic capital, which was worth more than 100 million yuan.
"Although the quota set in January 1952 called for the arrest of 500 tigers, Gao cabled Mao Zedong on 6 February informing the Central Committee that in the Northeast an astounding 4,000 large tigers had been caught and a further 25,000 medium and small sized tigers arrested.72 Three days later, Mao congratulated Gao Gang on his efforts, stating that “of the six Regional governments, the Northeast People’s Government was in first place.”73 But even though Mao explicitly stated that the Northeast should serve as a model for China’s other Regions, he acknowledged that similar high numbers of arrests might not be attainable elsewhere.74"

This campaign and the Wufan campaign Article 30 have severe economic and personal consequences. On February 22, 1952, Deng Xiaoping informs Mao Zedong the consequences of the Sanfan campaign: a 50% reduction in tax income and a rising amount of unemployment. In Shanghai, a 1951 audit by the city tax bureau found that out of 9,100 businesses investigated, 81 percent had committed tax evasion.

Fig. 18.1 Statistics of the Sanfan

Fig. 18.2 Penalties Sanfan crimes
Source: Lü (2000). Table 2.1, Page 56 Table 2.2, Page 57

On March 2, 1952, the party decides to lower the punishments. "… cadres guilty of corruption involving sums under one million yuan (100 yuan of the new currency) would not be considered corrupt elements and would not be liable to administrative disciplinary action if the circumstances of the crime were not serious and the crimes were admitted. Even in cases involving sums over 100 million yuan (10,000 new yuan) criminal punishment could be avoided with a frank confession and the restitution of the money. Lack of experience and incompetence are identified as the primary causes of these crimes. Consequently, due to the large number of individuals affected by this aspect of the campaign, the Party Center implemented a retroactive policy mandating leniency towards leaders whose projects failed or underperformed, particularly if it was their first or second such failure in their career. The distinction between criminal activities, lack of experience, or incompetence, and what was termed as "bureaucratism" became exceedingly blurred.
Sanfan demonstrations

On March 15, 1952, Mao Zedong puts Liu Shaoqi in charge of the campaign. “By then, the campaign had gone terribly wrong, and Mao had decided to end it quickly. Liu was left to deal with the aftermath while Mao retreated to the “second line”. Neither the army nor even the Chinese Volunteers Army (CVA) in Korea escaped the campaign. Mao stated, “According to my estimate, among the one million Volunteers [in Korea] you may catch a few hundred tigers, and you should strive to reach this target.” However, on February 17, 1952, the campaign stopped in Korea because it jeopardized directly the struggle. It appears to be hard to differentiate between political and military leaders in the CVA, this problem arises also in the 6 Regional bureaus where many cadres have civil as well military functions.
On March 5, 1952, Mao Zedong also decided not to expand the campaign to the rural areas. "By this time, millions of people in military and civilian posts had become targets of Mao’s campaign. The political upheaval then paralyzed the entire state system. Mao’s increasingly intense pressure trickled down, causing a nation-wide tiger-hunt. In the process, psychological and physical torture became wide spread, driving many to suicide, self-mutilation, or desertion."
At the end of the campaign, almost 4 million cadres within the government and the party are screened. About 31% (1.23 million) are found guilty of smaller crimes. On October 5, 1952, the sanfan officially ends. Mao Zedong continues to struggle against bureaucratic behaviour "..combat bureaucratism in our leadership organs at all levels and among our leading cadres. At present among a good number of the basic-level organizations and basic-level cadres, serious commandism and breaches of law and discipline are occurring.2 The occurrence and breeding of such phenomena cannot be separated from the bureaucratism in our leadership organs and among our leading cadres. Take, for instance, the organs at the level of the Center; a good number of leading cadres in a good number of ministries and departments are still satisfied with merely sitting in the government offices writing decisions and issuing directives, paying attention only to arranging and assigning work but not paying attention to going down to the lower levels to get an understanding of conditions and to inspect the work.
In March 19, 1953, the Wuduo campaign is launched against too many meetings, too many tasks, too many organizations, concurrent posts, and official documents and forms. Greater emphasis was placed on intensive training for basic-level cadres to enhance their leadership abilities and work methodologies. Work teams at higher levels were directed not only to ensure implementation but primarily to educate local cadres in suitable skills, refraining from treating them merely as messengers. Training programs for village cadres were intensified. The village party branch was encouraged to master the skills of division of labor (fen kung), enabling the branch secretary to delegate tasks to the expanding network of cadres and activists, thereby broadening political participation and involvement in policy implementation.
In many places, the mediation teams, which were introduced after the 2nd Judicial work conference (see Article 17.), are abolished during the Wuduo campaign because they are seen as superfluous or ineffective. Mao Zedong is well aware, bureaucracy will be hard to tackle, and he calls the party to be open-minded to critics from the public. He wants the people to write letters to the party. See Article 19.

Teiwes (1978). Pages 73-75 [↩] [Cite]
Bo Yibo, "Strengthen the Party's Political Work in the Countryside," RMRB, 29 June 1951 [↩]
Gao Kang, "Overcome the Corrosion of Bourgeois Ideology; Oppose the Rightist Trend in the Party," RMRB, 24 January 1952 [↩]
Diamant (2014). Pages 85, 89-90 [↩] [Cite]
November 1951 - March 1952 Mao Zedong " On the struggle against the "three evils" and the "five evils" See RMRB 08-01-1952 "The Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference held a meeting. Vice Chairman Zhou Enlai made an important report calling on people from the business community to actively participate in the struggle against corruption and waste to reform themselves." on 05-01-1952 [↩]
Brown (2008). Page 60. RMRB 06-01-1952 "The party organization should learn from the corruption incident of Liu Qingshan and Zhang Zishan"
 30-11-1951 Central Committee Transmits Report on Investigation and Handling of the Corruption Case of Liu Qingshan and Zhang Zishan by the North China Bureau [↩] [Cite]
RMRB 12-03-1952 "Certain Regulations of the Central Economy Inspection Commission on Handling Corruption, Waste and Overcoming Bureaucratic Errors" [↩]
(2000). Pages 60-62 [↩] [Cite]
Dikötter (1997). Page 154 [↩] [Cite]
Sheng (2006). Page 29 [↩] [Cite]
Sheng (2006). Page 27 [↩] [Cite]
Sheng (2006). Page 33 [↩] [Cite]
Sheng (2006). Pages 39-40 [↩] [Cite]
For more details: (2000). [↩] [Cite]
 19-03-1953 Mao Zedong "Resolve the Problem of the 'Five Excesses'"
In the winter of 1952, two reports from the Shandong Branch and the Northwest Bureau of the CCP were submitted to the CC successively stated that the previous "three antis" campaign had achieved remarkable results, but there were still obvious problems in the style of formalism, bureaucracy, and commandism in the county and township grassroots organizations. On the surface, the work was advancing step by step, but In fact, it failed to effectively alleviate the practical difficulties of the masses. Mao Zedong personally drafted the "Instructions". [↩]
Lewis (1950). Page 265 [↩] [Cite]

Chapter 2 of Common Program