All state organs of the People's Republic of China must enforce a revolutionary working-style, embodying honesty, simplicity and service to the people: They must severely punish corruption, forbid extravagance and oppose the bureaucratic working-style which alienates the masses of the people.
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."
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.
“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
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 bulk of Liu and Zhang’s crimes involved embezzling and misappropriating state funds and bank loans, most
of which were then invested in office production projects. But Liu and Zhang did office production too well,
enlisting the help of Tianjin businesspeople who had shady pasts, sending agents on purchasing trips to the
northeast and to Hankou, and giving gifts of watches, pens, and cash to keep colleagues happy and quiet."
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.
Inexperience and incompetence are seen as the main reason for the crimes and therefore
"Because so many were targeted under this part of the campaign, the Party Center issued a retroactive policy
requiring that those leaders whose projects failed or did not do well should be treated leniently if it was
the first or second such failure in their career. The line between criminal acts, inexperience, or incompetence,
and so-called bureaucratism was so blurred…"
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.
“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.
"More intensive efforts were undertaken to train the basic-level cadres and improve their leadership skills
and work methods.3 Higher-level work teams were instructed not merely to press for implementation but above
all to teach local cadres appropriate skills, and to stop treating them as errand boys. Village cadre training
programmes were stepped up. Emphasis was placed on mastery by the village party branch of skills of the
division of labour (fen kung\ which would enable the branch secretary to allocate tasks to the growing
substructure of cadres and activists, thus broadening the base of political participation and involvement
in policy implementation.4" 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.
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". [↩]