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

In November 1949, the new government founded a special bureau (Kepu) to promote science. This bureau has 4 important goals:
1. To enable labourers to learn scientific production
2. To disseminate knowledge of natural science
3. To cultivate patriotic spirit in promoting inventions from the labourer class
4. To spread knowledge of health and hygiene. The underlying idea of the CCP policy is: "...that science is a collective group activity. A scientific idea is the product of collective social experience, and hence is community property. The success or failure of scientific activity depends upon the way the activity is organized, the society of which it is a part, the way it is led and finally upon the ideological outlook of the scientists."
The setbacks of this top-down project of science dissemination and the bottom-up one of mass science were the lack of funds , the lack of organization and political backing, which undermined mass science. "Mass science was most influential in areas of technology, where workers and peasants had obvious and unproblematic experience to contribute." An other setback to develop mass science is the attitude of scientists, who make science appear more difficult and incomprehensible than it is. The masses can be overwhelmed by the prestige and authority of scientists with a bourgeois background. The top-down project is better organized (in 1950, the All-China Federation of Scientific Societies and the All-China Association for the Dissemination of Scientific and Technical Knowledge are founded) and funded.
To control the teaching materials, new textbooks for elementary and secondary schools have to be published. Especially textbooks on history and geography have to be revised. "The provisional standard elementary school curriculum on world history highlighted the growing strength of the socialist camp, focusing on the inevitable liberation of all colonies that would lead to the obliteration of the aggressively imperialist camp.22 To expound this point, geography textbooks illustrated more clearly the two-camp issue because the subject required the examination of all continents and countries and the authorities demanded an emphasis on current international affairs."

Fig. 47.1 Elementary and secondary schools and total enrollment
Source: Hannum (1999). Page 196
* In 1952, there were 2.55 million students in junior secondary schools; 87.1% of them were in junior secondary schools, 12.69% in junior specialized secondary school. There were 0.58 million students in senior secondary schools; among them 44% were studying in regular senior secondary schools and 56% in specialized secondary schools and technical schools.
Yang (2018). Page 102
Mass organizations like All-China Federation of Labor, the New Democratic Youth League, the Sino-Soviet Friendship Association, the All-China Federation of Democratic Youth, and the All-China Democratic Women's Federation: "...conduct intensive educational and propaganda activities, and in many cases run their own schools and publish magazines and newspapers specifically directed at their memberships. The Sino-Soviet Friendship Association operates mainly on this level, and is actively engaged in promoting Soviet ideology, technique and culture in China. To this end, it organizes lecture tours throughout the country of teams of Soviet experts, artists and intellectuals in various fields;..."
Hannum (1999) remarks "Given the low starting point, nationwide expansion in basic-level educational opportunities in the early years of the PRC was consistent with both ideological concerns about reducing class differences and a more pragmatic orientation toward producing a skilled labor force. However, concerns with the latter issue exerted pressures on policy makers even in the early years. Under conditions of scarce resources, policy makers chose to capitalize on the faster returns expected from building on the existing secondary and tertiary educational infrastructure in urban areas at the expense of implementing a more egalitarian program of educational expansion."
The Ministry of Education provides the state schools with funding, uniform standards, and curricula. In 1951, one-third of all primary and general secondary school teachers were employed by (people run) minban schools, which are mostly to be found in rural areas. " By 1949 more than 90 per cent of Guangdong's 30,000 primary schools were dependent upon lineage support. Publicly-owned primary schools accounted for only 6 per cent, and were confined almost exclusively to urban areas.' Rural school education in pre-1949 Guangdong was thus an overwhelmingly private, lineage-based activity." On 30 December, 1949,
Qian Junrui
Qian Junrui (1908-1985), vice-minister of Education, economist CCP member
stated that, except for some bad private schools which should be taken over, most private schools should be protected. The number of private schools increased rapidly. On 2 August, 1952, the Ministry of Education decided that private schools should be taken over completely.
In the early 1950s, the land reform campaign destroyed the lineage support in Guangdong and no alternative for financing was provided. Existing schools were also undermined by popular fear and mistrust of the new state: rumours spread that children who attended Communist schools renounced their filial obligations, and that workers who volunteered for Communist literacy classes would be press-ganged to liberate Taiwan, or exiled to Hainan if they refused."
Lacking fiscal and organizational capacity, the implementation and enforcement of a uniform national school system was doomed to fail. In 1953, as a result of the first 5 year plan (in which most resources are needed for direct economic development), it is decided that no additional state-run primary schools would be established in rural areas. Villages have the responsibility for their own primary education and have to establish minban schools on a voluntary basis. Funds are accumulated by "voluntary" donations, confiscated goods from the land reform activities, and special taxes and fees. Minban schools are often established in former ancestral halls and temples, without desks or chairs, and there is a shortage of teachers. "While teachers lacked political power, they were also economically vulnerable. The near-total economic dependence of teachers on local communities made them particularly vulnerable to retribution from local power holders, who not only resented the economic costs of supporting local intellectuals but also sought to control the activities of schools"
Peterson (1994) describes the consequences of this policy. "Two kinds of divisions were thereby fostered and reinforced in society: one between city and countryside, and the other within the countryside itself, between economically advantaged regions better able to support educational development, and areas less able." The educational system is splitted into academically oriented state-run schools in the cities and vocationally oriented village-run schools in the countryside.
Yang (2018) remarks "The schools had two tasks, one was to provide entrants for higher schools and the other was to provide labor force for production. Only a small portion of the graduates could enter the higher schools; most graduates would participate in labor production. Millions of new workers with knowledge and political consciousness taking part in socialist industrialization were an important task for socialist construction. To make graduates participate in labor production actively, three measures were taken. Firstly, the educational administrative department should strengthen labor education for students. Secondly, the Communist League should make active propaganda and help to form correct social opinions. Thirdly, excellent graduates who produce brilliant achievements in labor production should be given wide publicity."
Before 1949, tertiary education has been restricted to young men (sometimes women) of privileged backgrounds. A second restriction of accessibility is geographically. Most universities are located on the eastern coast of China. The chart below shows the slow rise in the particpation of sons and daughters of workers and peasants in tertiary education. It displays an indication of rural enrollment although there is no division between worker - peasant enrollment.
Fig. 47.2 Worker-peasant enrollment 1951/1952 and 1952/1953*
Source: Pepper (1996). Page 214
* Students of worker-peasant origin (% of all students)
Guo (2016) remarks "Children from old elite families continued to make up the majority of students at China’s top universities and they were in a better position than their parents to embrace the expectations and opportunities presented by the new regime."

Before 1949, preschool facilities hardly existed and they were only accessible for the rich. In 1950, about 140000 children went to kindergarten, most of them went to private, church-related institutes. After 1949, one important function of kindergartens and preschools is freeing mothers to enter the workforce. Especially, the ACFDW argues that these institutions strengthen the female workforce and productivity. "The Federation helped to expand the number of daycare centers, from the preexisting 147 facilities in 1949 to 15,700 in 1952; women workers increased threefold during that time.18 Among these daycare facilities, 2,738 were factory day-care centers; 4,345 were neighborhoodbased; 148,200 were “busy season” day care centers serving roughly 850,000 children whose mothers were working in the fields in the countryside.""
In 1951, the ministry of education issued temporarily rules for kindergartens "enhance the health of children, develop their intelligence, nourish their moral responsibility, and cultivate their initial aesthetic values so that they can be developed in full. This lays the foundation for their primary school education, and, simultaneously, it eases a mother’s burden of child care, allowing her to participate freely in the new political, economic, cultural, and social life." In the kindergartens, children are learned to praise Mao Zedong and to condemn Chiang Kai-shek in several songs. The special love that Mao Zedong has for children is emphasized.
Mao Zedong loves children

Children's pictures - With labor comes happiness

Special education...

Special schools, mainly for blind and deaf children, are founded by foreign missionaries. In total, there were in 1949 more than 40 special schools for blind and deaf people. In 1951, after the reform of the education system, the special schools are defined as a type of social education, “…rather than as an indispensable part of the public education system.20 By its very nature, social education was an informal form of education in contrast with formal education provided by public schools. Generally speaking, the informal status of special schools had several negative consequences: education for children with disabilities was considered less important, public schools had no obligation to provide education for children with disabilities and they were obliged to study far away from home, and education quality in special schools was inferior to regular education in public schools." 'Useless disabled people' shall learn skills to be no longer a burden to society, and be separated from the rest of society. They can not compete in the examination culture existing in China, in which only excellent students are selected for further study. Teachers are unable to look after disabled children because class sizes vary from 45 to 60 children, so no individual teaching is impossible.

June 1, 1950, the GAC issues the directive on developing spare-time education for workers and staff members. The priority is clearly given to political education (a rudimentary education in the doctrine of “class struggle” and the workers' role in the new society) and literacy classes (a literacy standard of 1,000 characters was to be attained by all workers within 3 to 5 years). The program was coordinated by the trade unions—the mass organization for workers, the Ministry of Labour, and the Ministry of Education.
Qian Junrui stated in May 1950 "In order to cultivate intellectuals from among workers and peasants the sole use of worker-peasant vocational school is insufficient...This kind of student will have left his original work post to devote spare-time to study and and not full-time. The courses in the short-course middle schools for the workers and peasants will be mainly literature and mathematics. 'Outside of this there will be physics, history, geography, biology, and the common sense of hygiene."
The program is financed from the cultural and educational fund which the factory or enterprises contribute to the trade union organization. The guiding principle is "To combine education with politics and to combine education with production." Gao (2004) gives an example "The Hangzhou Normal School (HNS) was an illuminating example of how schedules were restructured. With a mission to train elementary school teachers, the HNS scheduled the following activities for all students: (1) 6–10 hours of agricultural production per week, including growing vegetables, raising poultry, and gardening; (2) industrial work in mechanical, clothing, or shoe factories; (3) voluntary work on weekends and holidays. "
Fig. 47.3 Spare time education(in thousands)
Source: Hawkins (1967). Page 104
Price (2017). No page number

Fig. 47.4 Spare time and full time students 1950-1955
Source: Bruckner (1970). Page 81
As can be seen in the chart above, the number of spare-time students who move on to tertiary education is very low. The percentage rises from 0.3% in 1950 to 5.2% in 1954.
Yang Xiufeng
Yang Xiufeng (1897-1983), vice-minister of Higher Education, member CCP
outlines the problems the program is facing. "inadequate speed in establishing a complete spare-time educational system from primary school through university levels ; no guarantee of study time for workers; inadequate numbers of qualified teachers; low qualifications of the students; lack of funds. 9" In 1953, the Renmin University started with correspondence education and this was later on copied by numerous other universities and colleges throughout China.
In the magazine Chinese Youth Bulletin, a publication of the All China Federation of Democratic Youth, a student of Tsinghua People's University, explains the purpose of his study. "Theory is closely linked up with practice throughout the four years. Take me for example, I am studying metal processing. I will have three stages of practical training in our leading factories for 28 weeks; first, as a technical worker, under the guidance of a foreman; second, as assistant to the head of a workshop in a factory, and third, as assistant to an engineer. Finally, I will be asked make rationalisation proposals. If examinations the university and the factory show they are sound, they will be adopted. "So I am confident when I graduate, I will have had good, practical engineering experience that will qualify me fully for my profession."

Although the CCP had a policy to crush illiteracy, "...there was actually 'very little improvement' in either school-age or adult literacy over the entire thirty-year period between 1949 and 1979, with the literacy rate remaining relatively unchanged at 32 per cent."
Peterson (1991) cites a Fudan University demographer Dai Xingyi, who divided China ...into three model zones in terms of literacy success: Zone A, where illiteracy is minimal, which includes Beijing-Shanghai-Tianjin and Liaoning, and Jilin, Heilongjiang, Guangdong, Hunan; Zone B, the middling or relatively average zone of lesser literacy but considerable cultural richness (Jiangsu, Henan, Shandong, Sichuan, Zhejiang, Shaanxi, Guangxi, Shanxi, Hubei, Anhui, etc.); and Zone C, the western border provinces where literacy education has floundered (Gansu, Qinghai, Tibet, etc.).
There are several reasons for this lack of improvement.
First of all, CCP focuses their efforts on the PLA, because soldiers must have the ability to obey written orders and be ideological equipped.
Secondly, to reach out to the masses, the CCP uses mainly visual (pictorial magazines, cartoons, posters, woodblock prints, and peasant dances) and oral (revolutionary songs, public announcements, and radio) media. "In Mao's approach political mobilization and general communication were more important than general literacy. Large numbers of villagers were brought to political awareness, what might be called political literacy, even though they remained unable to read books, magazines, or newspapers. Talks, songs, plays, and face-to-face persuasion developed from the political network reaching down toward (but not yet reliably into) the village. All of this built on the village tradition of communications, not on the formal school network."
Thirdly, after 1949, the new regime needed cadre not so much for military and political struggle but for complex management and administrative tasks of state-building and planned economic development. Although many resources are made available for the uplift of these cadres, the results were poor. "In many cases, moreover, local authorities proved reluctant to allow village cadres to attend such schools, which were located in county seats, for fear they would seize the opportunity to flee the countryside; that such schools would be regarded merely as a means for upward mobility. Instead, places at the schools were often given to old revolutionaries as a reward, and to those whom local officials believed they could most easily do without.32 Nor were such schools widespread in any case: by the time they were disbanded for lack of success in 1955, there were only eighty-seven in the entire nation, with a combined enrollment of just 51,000. To put these figures in perspective, over the same period the number of state cadres as a whole grew from 720,000 to over 5 million, and the number of Party members increased from 4.5 million to 10.7 million by 1956.33"
One obstacle has to be mentioned, the CCP introduced a whole new set of vocabulary, mostly political terms, like cadre, workers, land reform, republic and elections (See Article 4). These words were necessary to explain the government’s policies. Other words were needed to form slogans, or to introduce military vocabulary to civilian actions.
There is still another reason to be mentioned. The extreme linguistic variation in China. In Guangdong alone, there are 3 main subdialects (Yue, Min, and Hakka) with their own local variations. Not to mention several minority languages.
Source: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection

The first policy statement on worker-peasant education in 1951 stipulates that literacy education is forbidden in areas which has not yet undergone land reform, which in 1950 meant most of China. The revolutionary task of land reform is more important than the battle against illiteracy, which is considered a potential distraction from the main business of political mobilization during land reform and during other political campaigns, like "Resist America and Aid Korea". In those 'newly liberated' areas, there is the potential danger that literacy will empower political resistance against land reform. This prudence provokes as well resistance. "Worried reports from Guangdong in 1951 spoke of illiterate village cadres becoming increasingly resentful of the fact that intellectuals from the old society were rapidly assuming positions of power purely on the basis of their superior educational qualifications. They blamed not necessarily the intellectuals, but the communist party for forsaking its moral obligation and historical debt to peasants." The return of the old elite reinforced the protest against the new regime. Instead of spreading the new ideology, old 'feudal' ideas are promoted.
'Winter schools' or 'seasonal spare-time schools' have as the main subject during lesson political mobilization, literacy is a side issue. Various topics are presented; for example, the Korean War and the "liberation" of Taiwan, opposition to US imperialism, Sino-Soviet friendship, the "general line for the transition to socialism", mutual-aid teams, explaining the new constitution, promoting cooperativization, and popularizing the policy of compulsory grain purchases. The textbooks for political education should be the Common Program. By the end of 1954, the enrollment of spare time primary and secondary schools for workers was 2.9 million.

Fig. 47.5 Particpants literacy classes 1949-1954
Source: Abe (1961). Page 151

In 1953, the government divided the degree of literacy into three levels. The first level for peasants (1000 characters), the second for urban workers (1500 characters), and the third for cadres and factory workers. The latter needed to know 2000 characters, plus have the ability to read simple books and newspapers and write 200-300 character reports. The campaign suffered also like literacy campaigns elsewhere in the world: teacher shortages, 'childishness' of teaching materials, conflicts between school schedules and farm-work cycles, and funding problems.
Literacy is also promoted in "newspaper reading groups, getting school children to teach the adults in their families, night schools, combination of education with women's spinning groups, arrangements for cooperative groups to learn characters during rest periods and meal times, etc., etc....This was social education - education outside of a formal institutional environment, geared to teach all manner of things: politics, literacy, news of what was happening in other parts of China and in the world, accounting, to name just a few."

In 1938, Mao Zedong had radical ideas on reforming the Chinese writing system "In order to hasten the liquidation of illiteracy here we have begun experimenting with Hsin Wen Tzu—Latinized Chinese. It is now used in our Party school, in the Red Academy, in the Red Army, and in a special section of the Red China Daily News. We believe Latinization is a good instrument with which to overcome illiteracy. Chinese characters are so difficult to learn that even the best system of rudimentary characters, or simplified teaching, does not equip the people with a really rich and efficient vocabulary. Sooner or later, we believe, we will have to abandon characters altogether if we are to create a new social culture in which the masses fully participate. We are now widely using Latinization and if we stay here for three years the problem will be solved." As the situation during the war in China became increasingly difficult, the program for Latinization more or less disappeared.
In 1950, Mao Zedong changed his opinion. "Mao Zedong, presumably reflecting a collective decision of the government, ...ordered that reform of the writing system should start with simplification of characters, that writing reform "should not be divorced from reality or make a break with the past," and that the effort to create a new alphabetic system should abandon the previous use of Latin letters and concentrate instead on devising a "national-in-form" set of symbols based on Chinese characters "
One of the reasons Zhou Enlai explains "All those who had received an education, and whose services we absolutely needed to expand education, were firmly attached to the ideograms [sic]. They were already so numerous, and we had so many things to upset, that we have put off the reform until later." In the following years, a Latinization program continued and resulted in 1956 in Pinyin, but this writing system would have only a secondary role (as a means to facilitate the recognition and correct Mandarin pronunciation of characters during literacy training) and that the primary emphasis would still be on simplification of characters. In 1956, the Chinese Script Reform Association published a list of 2236 characters which can be simplified.

Suttmeier (1970). Page 156 [↩] [Cite]
Hannum (1999). Page 193 [↩] [Cite]
Schmalzer (2008). Page 135 [↩] [Cite]
Yu (2013). Page 687.
Yu continues "Owing to the PRC’s pro-Soviet policy, textbooks in the early 1950s presented the world through a Soviet lens. The Chinese texts included many selections praising the superiority of the Soviet system, the amiable personalities of Lenin and Stalin, and the higher development of the socialist economy, culture and sciences. The texts on the US concentrated on the capitalist exploitation of the proletariat, the hardships endured by the working class, the high unemployment rate, the stratification between the rich and the poor, and racism." Page 688 [↩] [Cite]
Bernard (1953). Page 59 [↩] [Cite]
Hannum (1999). Page 195 [↩] [Cite]
Peterson (1994). Page 928 [↩] [Cite]
Peterson (1994). The Struggle for Literacy. Pages 928-929 [↩] [Cite]
Peterson (1997). Page 64 [↩] [Cite]
Peterson (1994). Page 930 [↩] [Cite]
Yang (2018). Page 173 [↩] [Cite]
Guo (2016). Page 31 [↩] [Cite]
Tillman (2013). Page 242. The majority of kindergarten teachers continued to be women [↩] [Cite]
Cited in Hung (2014). Page 845 [↩] [Cite]
Fu (2019). Page 583 [Cite]
"For example, the Qingsheng Elementary School 慶聲小學, a private elementary school for deaf children applied for government aid, when the teachers themselves were working without salary in the absence of missionary funds. But the government deemed the school “unsatisfactory” because they served “only dozens of students” and decided to close the school temporarily." Tillman (2013). Pages 206-207 [↩] [Cite]
Gao (2004). Page 116 [↩] [Cite]
Cited in Hawkins (1967). Page 42 [↩] [Cite]
a People's University Special Correspondent (1952). Page 6 [↩] [Cite]
Peterson (1994b). Page 96 [↩] [Cite]
Peterson (1991). Page 20 [↩] [Cite]
Peterson (1994b). Pages 103-104 [↩] [Cite]
Hayford (1987). Page 164 [↩] [Cite]
Brown (2012) gives some examples "Before entering Tianjin, Huang Jing told the cadres assembled in Shengfang to be polite in their dealings with city residents and to replace the friendly village salutations of “lao xiang” (fellow villager) or “da niang” (auntie) with the more formal “nin hao” (hello). To neglect such niceties would mean a loss of face, Huang said. 4 But even when cadres altered their vocabulary, their strong village accents caused misunderstandings. When two cadres went to a Tianjin neighborhood shortly after the takeover and asked residents for help in finding someone, the city people could not understand the men’s rural patois. Aiming to please, the neighborhood residents assumed that the outsiders were like previous occupying forces and led them to the nearest brothel.5" Brown (2012). Page 17 [↩] [Cite]
Peterson (1991). Page 53 [↩] [Cite]
Yang (2018). Page 102 [↩] [Cite]
Muszynski (1971). Page 57 [↩] [Cite]
Snow (1938, 1944). Page 446 [↩] [Cite]
DeFrancis (1984). Page 257 [↩] [Cite]
DeFrancis (1984). Page 257 [↩] [Cite]

Meetings ....

19-03-1951 - 31-03-1951: First National Conference on Secondary Education

September 1950: First National Conference on Worker-Peasant Education

27-08-1951 - 10-09-1951: Conference of Elementary and Normal Education

20-09-1951 - 28-09-1951: First National Conference on Minority Education

20-11-1951 - 29-11-1951: First National Conference on Workers Peasant Short Course Middle School

February 1953: First National Anti-Illiteracy Work Conference

Chapter 5 of Common Program