The armed forces of the People's Republic of China shall, during peace time, systematically take part in agricultural and industrial
production in order to assist in national construction work, provided their military duties are not thereby hampered.
China has a long history of a complex system of wholly or partly self-sufficiency for the army. During the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) a system of 3 types was created: civilian farming land, dedicated military farming land, and joint military – civilian farming land. The armies received only limited financial support of the government. In this way the administration was able to limit the tax burden. The military played an essential role in controlling and developing the agriculture.
The Red Army (PLA) in the 1920’s and 30’s had to feed, clothe and arm itself because the supporters of the CCP were unable to finance the army. Mao Zedong
"…regarded self-sufficiency as not only an essential means of survival for the Red Army but also politically virtuous as the military would not be a burden in the civilian population….(they) had to show that they were fundamentally different from the Nationalist regime, whose armies had a reputation for looting and exploitation of the local population."
Production work after 1949...
After 1949, the PLA played an important role in the rebuilding of the economy. It handed over more than 30 of its own factories and dozens of captured GMD factories and workshops. However, even after the transfer of infrastructure facilities, the PLA retained control of many factories and farms to ensure the tradition of self-sufficiency.
On February 8, 1949, Mao Zedong calls the PLA to pay more attention to production work.
“…the time has come for us to set ourselves the task of turning the army into a working force. If we do not now set
ourselves this task and resolve to perform it, we shall be making an extremely big mistake.”
The focus is to learn tasks to take on urban administration.
“ In urban work they should learn how to be good at dealing with the imperialists and Kuomintang reactionaries,
good at dealing with the bourgeoisie, good at leading the workers and organizing trade unions, good at mobilizing and
organizing the youth, good at uniting with and training cadres in the new Liberated Areas, good at managing industry
and commerce, good at running schools, newspapers, news agencies and broadcasting stations, good at handling foreign
affairs, good at handling problems relating to the democratic parties and people's organizations, good at adjusting
the relations between the cities and the rural areas and solving the problems of food, coal and other daily necessities and good at handling monetary and financial problems. In short, all urban problems, with which in the past our army cadres and fighters were unfamiliar, should from now on be shouldered by them.”
PLA production Teams
On December 5, 1949, Mao Zedong elaborates these plans on participation in production and construction.
“we must undertake the work of construction in all areas of [our] economy, our culture, and [our] national defense.
The state's revenue is inadequate, but its expenditure is huge. This is the one major difficulty we are facing today.
The way to overcome this kind of difficulty is first to have the entire people, under the leadership of the Central
People's Government, restore and develop production step by step; and as for the People's Liberation Army, it must
assume the responsibility for a set [share] of the task of production. Only by doing this can it join the people of
the entire country in overcoming this difficulty.”
PLA production Teams
The participation of the army in production is not a temporary measure. The emphasis is on increasing prosperity.
So, Mao Zedong continues:
“the categories of [such] production should stay within the confines of agriculture, animal husbandry, fishery,
water conservation projects, handicraft industries, and transportation projects which [the army] is capable of
undertaking. Commercial undertakings are forbidden. The leading organs of the army [unit] should carry out
investigations and studies [for production] based on the conditions of the places where they are stationed…” In the treatment of Article 25, we see how demobilised soldiers also are used for production work.Chapter 4 will also deal with this.