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

This article of the Common Program deals with the old treaties and agreements between China and foreign countries. It mentions no criteria indicating which preexisting agreements were to retain their validity. Mao Zedong has definite ideas about the elimination of the unequal treaties: “The Chinese people welcome the steps taken by many foreign governments in renouncing their unequal treaties and concluding new, equal treaties with China. However, we maintain that the conclusion of equal treaties does not in itself mean that China has actually won genuine equality. Genuine and actual equality is never the gift of foreign governments, but must be won mainly by the Chinese people through their own efforts, and the way to win it is to build a new-democratic China politically, economically and culturally; otherwise there will be only nominal and not actual independence and equality. That is to say, China can never win genuine independence and equality by following the present policy of the Kuomintang government.” See Table 11

All treaties of the GMD government will be examined but also the ones of the Empire. February 1, 1947, the CCP reveals the criteria for review of the treaties: disadvantageous loans, special rights for trade, shipping, and other special economic, military, and judicial rights for foreign countries.
Shen (2015) notices "The Common Programme did not make specific mention of border treaties, indicating that China’s new leadership had not yet recognised their particular importance in international law. Indeed, during the early years of the PRC, the leadership often seemed curiously vague in its approach to managing China’s borders. In the early 1950s, because of the lack of clarity over many existing borders and the leadership’s preoccupation with the Korean War, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) tried, where possible, to postpone resolving border disputes with China’s neighbours."

Beijing is eager to negotiate the Treaty of Nanjing of August 29, 1848. This treaty between the Empire and the UK regulates the existence of free trade ports in Guangzhou, Xiamen, Fuzhou, Ningbo, and Shanghai and the status of Hong Kong as a crown colony.
During the 1930’s and 1940’s, these unequal treaties have become a symbol “It is mythic, rather, in the sense that the fact of belief is more important than what actually occurred. The story of National Humiliation is constantly told and retold in Chinese schools, in the mass media, and in countless mandatory study sessions attended by Chinese citizens….The myth of National Humiliation stands at the center of the political culture of the People’s Republic of China.”

Remarkable is the attitude of the new government towards
Hong Kong
Hong Kong 1842-1898
. The base of the foreign affairs policy is the struggle against imperialism and the restoration of China’s dignity. After Guangzhou (October 12, 1949) fell into the hands of the PLA, the common opinion was that the next step would be Hong Kong. In November 1948, Qiao Guanhua, the CCP spokesman in Hong Kong, told the local newspaper the PLA has no intention to overtake the city but wants to solve the problem in a diplomatic way. The reasons for this behavior are pure pragmatic. Articlse 55, 56, and article 26 of the Common Program give this possibility. The rapid reconstruction of the Chinese economy has priority and this means to be able to trade with capitalist countries. On March 5, 1949, during the plenum of the CCP, Mao Zedong justified this policy; “For this reason and because China's economy is still backward, there will be need, for a fairly long period after the victory of the revolution, to make use of the positive qualities of urban and rural private capitalism as far as possible, in the interest of developing the national economy… This is not only unavoidable but also economically necessary. But the existence and expansion of capitalism in China will not be unrestricted and uncurbed as in the capitalist countries.” He continues with the remark China should trade with socialist and capitalist countries. Stalin approves this method.
Hong Kong is essential as a transit port for primary goods. The city is the only free trade port between Shanghai and Singapore and it is the only possibility to buy materials the SU can’t deliver. Even during the GMD regime, Hong Kong is an important trading partner for the PLA areas in the north of China. During the blockade of Shanghai in June 1949, Hong Kong was of significative importance. Yet this status quo of Hong Kong and Macao evokes protests. Neither the PRC government nor any other Chinese government since the Revolution of 1911 have recognised the validity of the Hong Kong treaties. November 18, 1949, students and workers demand the annexation of Macao.
Many Overseas Chinese use the banking facilities in Hong Kong to transfer money to their families on the mainland. These remittances are an important source of income for families and the state. See (Article 58) About the same considerations apply to the situation of Macao. August 28, 1949, the CCP establishes the Nam Kwong trading company to facilitate the trade between China and Macao. On November 9, 1949, a CCP spokesman states: “The People’s Liberation Army is not an occupation force; therefore, the position of neighbouring Macau shall be fully respected. We hope also that the Macau Government will respect the PLA. (…) We have not sent troops to the border region between Macau and China or to the neutral zone between Portugal and China. This demonstrates clearly that the PLA troops stationed in Zhongshan district respect absolutely the behaviour of the Government of our neighbouring territory”. Zhou Enlai confirmed this status quo of Macao during his visit to Stalin in September 1952.

May 18, 1951, the UN imposes a trade embargo against the People's Republic of China because of their role in the Korea War, See (Article 54). The role of free trade ports Hong Kong and Macao becomes of even greater importance. Hong Kong and Macao are between 1950 and 1953 after the SU, the most important trade partners.

Yang (2005) states “The most important of all the unjust treaties bequeathed by the old to the New China was the August 1945 Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Alliance. According to the treaty, China was forced to renounce its sovereignty over Outer Mongolia by acceding to the latter’s independence, concede the Soviet Union Port Lüshun in NE as a naval base, and run jointly with the Soviet Union the Changchun Railway which stretched between Manchuria and Dalian”
These privileges of the SU are an obstacle for a good relation with the SU. Particularly the mingzhu dangpai are opposed and also the cultural elite. For example,
Chen Yinque
Chen Yinque 陳寅恪 (1890- 1969) Chinese historian, linguist, orientalist, politician, and writer
regarded the policy of “leaning to one side” as losing cultural independence of China. Therefore the CCP has to renegotiate the treaty of 1945. During the first meeting between Mao Zedong, and Stalin, the first mentioned immediately declares he wants a new treaty and he wants economic aid. Stalin is in favor of continuation of the 1945 treaty and to keep the management of the Zhongchang Lu (Chinese Changchun Railroad KChZhD). Stalin considers this supervision as a vital aspect of his strategy to have an ice-free harbor in the Pacific.
Mao Zedong is not in a hurry to solve this problem. “The present situation with regard to KChZhD and Port Arthur corresponds well with Chinese interests, as the Chinese forces are inadequate to effectively fight against imperialist aggression. In addition, KChZhD is a training school for the preparation of Chinese cadres in railroad and industry.”
Mao Zedong has more urgent issues he wants to solve in a new treaty. “The new treaty must include the questions of political, economic, cultural and military cooperation. Of most importance will be the question of economic cooperation.”
After almost two months of negotiations, both parties signed a new treaty on February 14, 1950. The SU will provide a $300 million loan during 5 years and this sum has to be paid back before December 31, 1963. The interest rate is 1%. Compared with Poland, this is not a good deal. This country receives $450 million without interest. In a secret protocol, the stationing of SU troops in Northeast China is regulated. They will leave the country before the end of 1952.
A "supplementary agreement" deals with. “Rights to concessions will not be granted to foreigners either on the territory of the Far Eastern Territory and Central Asian Republics of the USSR or on the territory of Manchuria and Sinkiang of the Chinese People's Republic and the activity of industrial, financial, trade, and other enterprises, institutions, societies, and organizations with the participation in direct or indirect form of the capital of third countries or citizens of these countries will not be permitted.” By August 1952, the Chinese government had naturalized around 3,000 aliens from India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and deported a few who refused to become Chinese citizens.
Yet another secret protocol regulates the position of Russian personnel who are working in China. There are about 150.000 soldiers and civil workers from the SU working in the People's Republic of China. They are not subject to Chinese jurisdiction but to SU. The SU experts live in special quarters. This situation is more or less to be compared with the old foreign concessions in Shanghai before 1949.
Especially the public agreement on the Sino-Soviet Petroleum Co., Ltd. in Sinkiang; the Sino-Soviet Agreement on the Sino-Soviet Non-Ferrous and Rare Metals Co., Ltd. in Sinkiang; and Sino-Soviet Agreement on the Sino-Soviet Civil Aviation Co., Ltd. of March 27, 1950 evokes a large resistance from Chinese students. Zhou Enlai expresses their grievances as follows: “why doesn’t the Soviet Union give us machinery, [and] can’t we exploit [Xinjiang’s oil and metals] ourselves? Why do [we] want to run [the companies] jointly? Share profits?”
Zhou Enlai does not answer this rhetorical question. Mao Zedong is very concerned about the public reaction to the treaties and he personally regulates the press releases. ", is essential to adhere to the position adopted by the Xinhua News Agency's editorial. No inappropriate opinions should be allowed."
After the death of Stalin on March 5, 1953, the relationship between the SU and the PRC improves. The new SU leaders improve the status of the PRC above all other People’s Democratic Republics. On March 9, 1953, Zhou Enlai is chosen from the mass of foreign political leaders to stand alongside the members of the Soviet Party Presidium. The new leaders are eager to please the Chinese leaders. " As far as the Russians were concerned it was because with the departure of Stalin his successors needed very much stronger, political, support from their Chinese comrades for the purpose, of maintaining the leadership in the communist world. In the first place, Mao, Zedong was now senior to them in terms of years and revolutionary- experience. And in many respects, the Chinese Communist Party was, one of the most powerful parties with about 10 million- members."

In February 1949, Mao Zedong accepted the independence of Outer Mongolia in a meeting with the SU politburo member Mikoyan. Shen Zhihua (2012b) cites a recount by Mikoyan in a 1960s-era report to the CPSU Central Committee, Stalin’s message to Mao was that, "The leaders of Outer Mongolia support the unification of all the Mongolian regions of China with Outer Mongolia to form an independent and united Mongolian state. The Soviet government does not agree with this plan, since it means taking a number of regions from China, although this plan does not threaten the interests of the Soviet Union. We do not think that Outer Mongolia would agree to surrender its independence in favor of autonomy within the Chinese state, even if all the Mongolian regions are united in one autonomous entity." On January 3, 1950, Mao Zedong once more recognized the status of Mongolia. The independence of Mongolia remains a difficult to digest event for the Chinese. (See Article 2).

See for a short history of Xinjiang Article 2.
On March 27, 1950, the SU and the People's Republic of China concluded the negotiations on joint ventures in Xinjiang. They are in fact a continuation of the discussion between the GMD government and the SU in July 1949. The military situation of the GMD in Xinjiang deteriorated rapidly, so no conclusion was reached. These agreements originate from the additional agreement of February 14, 1950 (see above). Two joint ventures exploit the oil, gas and non-ferro metals in Xinjiang. The 3rd will set up civil aviation.
Peng Dehuai and Deng Liqun, both administrators of the region, have pressed Mao Zedong to restore the trade between SU and Xinjiang as soon as possible. Han (2010) notes ...,Xinjiang received lots of aid and technological support from the Soviet Union. In return, the Soviet Union was allowed continual access to Xinjiang‘s oil and mineral resources.22At this stage, many of the previous ETR (East Turkestan Republic) officials and other pro-Soviet elements were tolerated in general.

The Chinese press emphasizes that in the joint ventures “the two shareholders own the same number of shares and enjoy equal rights in any of such corporation.”
However, protests start “…bringing in Soviet capital did not go down well with a large portion of the intellectual public. In cities such as Beijing and Nanjing, vast multitudes of students launched demonstrations in opposition to the act." The government had to publicize a pamphlet of 82 pages titled Handbook on China-Soviet Economic Cooperation in April 1950. The RMRB has several articles which praise the agreements (for example, April 4, April 5, and April 23, 1950).
After the death of Stalin, Mao Zedong was eager to end the joint structure of the companies. Khrushchev was also eager to do China a favour. During Khrushchev visit in September/ October 1954, he declares the abolishment of the joint ventures at the beginning of 1955. Mao (2017) notices "For the purpose of developing industry in Xinjiang, the Sino-Soviet cooperation should have lasted longer so that the Chinese side would be better prepared technically. However, too eager to relieve the pressure from the nationalists, the CCP believed that showing self-sufficiency of the Chinese government was more important than gaining aid from the Soviet side."

Sino-Soviet Companies

During the Qing dynasty and the GMD period, several countries have invested in railways and other infrastructural projects. These investments are often financed with loans. Article 3 of the Common Program states “The People's Republic of China must abolish the prerogatives of imperialist countries in China. It must confiscate the bureaucratic capital and put it into the possession of the people's state.”
“…in renouncing the debts of its predecessors, the PRC was merely following the example of several other revolutionary regimes that came to power in the twentieth century.17 Renunciation was also a practical and understandable course for a new government emerging from years of war and civil strife with considerable debts and little or no foreign exchange.”
The new regime considers “... her legitimacy is derived from both state succession and state continuity.… (the regime) does not seem to adhere strictly to the Soviet theory that states which undergo fundamental social revolutions are not the same legal persons as those which they replace. The difference may be due to the CPR's desire to inherit China's seat in the Security Council of the United Nations and sovereign rights over Taiwan, etc.”

“… Where China's vital rights are involved, such as representation in the United Nations, the CPR has insisted that the treaties concluded in the name of China by the Kuomintang government before 1949 have devolved upon it by dint of its take-over of the mainland; (b) The same attitude applies to "executed" or "dispositive" treaties signed by Kuomintang as well as earlier Chinese governments (such as those relating to boundary).” Hsiung (1972). Page 240.
The PRC recognizes the multilateral treaties on "Prohibiting chemical and bacteriological warfare 1925" and the "Geneva Conventions". The PRC also recognized the "Cairo Declaration 1943" and "Potsdam Proclamation 1945". [↩] [Cite]
Shen (2015). Page 95. and he continues: "With regards to border treaties previously signed by the Nationalists, the new regime neither explicitly endorsed nor rejected such past agreements. Where it had inherited disputes from the Nationalists, it advocated a temporary preservation of the status quo. At the same time, however, the Central Committee ordered relevant departments to conduct research into border conflicts in the interests of resolving them in the future." [↩] [Cite]
During  the  nineteenth  century,  the  Qing  state  faced  several intrusions: Opium  Wars (1839-1842) (1856-1860),  the  Sino-French  War  (1883-1885)  in  the  south,  the  Sino-Japanese  War  (1894-1895) in the east. [↩]
Garver (1993). Pages 7-8.[Cite] After 1945 China is a member of the Security Council of the UN.
See also Scott (2008). [↩] [Cite]
Stalin reaffirms this idea in a cable to Chen Yun. “..., the Russian communists, are in favor of the Chinese communists not pushing away the national bourgeoisie but drawing them to cooperation as a force capable of helping in the struggle against the imperialists. Therefore [we] advise to encourage the trading activities of the national bourgeoisie both inside of China and on the outside, let’s say trade with Hong Kong and with other foreign capitalists. The Chinese communists must decide for themselves which goods to buy and which to sell.” 26-04-1949 Stalin cable to Kovalev [↩]
Moisés (2008). Page 230. [Cite]
"By 1952...border skirmishes not just in Hong Kong but also in Portuguese Macau, where the presence of an estimated 100,000 Nationalist operatives and sympathizers heightened tensions and provoked violent clashes within Macau and on the border.34 ..., tensions decreased, thanks in part an agreement by the PRC to sell Macau necessary supplies such as fresh vegetables and rice in return for “strategic materials” otherwise embargoed by the United Nations." Steele (2016). Page 99 [↩] [Cite]
"Around 5,000 tons of goods flowed through the porous borders of Hong Kong and Macao into the PRC each month." Pang (2011). Page 37 [↩] [Cite]
Yang (2005). Page 2. [Cite] The treaty is signed on August 14, 1945.
Fairbank (2006) notices " part of the Yalta agreement of February 1945, President Roosevelt had already tried to settle China’s fate by arranging with Stalin for a Chinese–Soviet treaty between the Nationalists and the USSR. The terms were that the Soviets would recognize and deal only with the Nationalist Government of China, while the Nationalists in turn acknowledged the Russian recovery of their former imperialist rights in the Northeast along the railways. Stalin promised to withdraw Soviet troops within three months from the Japanese surrender. As it turned out, this would be November 15, 1945, and thus the CCP would have a three-month period in which to infiltrate the Northeast as best they could in competition with the Nationalists, who would be transported by the Americans. Since the Nationalists saw that the CCP even on foot was beating them into the Northeast, they asked the Soviets to stay longer, and Soviet troops did not depart until May 1946..." Fairbank (2006). Page 329 [↩] [Cite]
22-01-1950 Conversation between Stalin and Mao Zedong in Moscow See also 01-10-1931 Sinkiang—USSR provincial government agreement, with four annexes The PRC leaders publicly refrained from classifying the 1858 Aigun Treaty and the 1860 Peking Treaty by which Russia acquired a large portion of Chinese territory outside the present Chinese Manchuria as unequal treaties. [↩]
On 23-11-1953 Sino-North Korean Economic and Cultural Cooperation Agreement is signed. "Quite possibly to show its moral superiority over the Soviet Union, China announced in 1953 that it would forgive North Korea all the loans (...)—which was remarkable considering they were financed with Soviet concessional loans that China itself had to repay." Rudyak (2021). No Pagenumber[Cite]
RMRB: 24-11-1953. "Negotiation Communiqué of the Delegation of the Government of the People's Republic of China and the Government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea." The Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China is particularly concerned about the economic recovery of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea after its war-torn situation. In view of the huge expenditure of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the cause of healing the wounds of war and restoring the national economy, the Government of the People's Republic of China, in the period ending December 31, 2003, all supplies and expenses of the Government of the People's Republic of China to assist the DPRK will be donated to the Government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea free of charge. At the same time, in order to further aid the DPRK, the government of the People's Republic of China has decided to allocate an additional RMB 8 trillion yuan within the four years from 1954 to 1957 and donate it to the government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea free of charge as a means of restoring its national economy. [↩]
Butler (2007). Page 600 [↩] [Cite]
"In contrast, all other foreign consulates—the U.S., Britain, India, and Pakistan—had either preemptively closed prior to the arrival of the PLA or been forced out by the CCP by 1953. The three Soviet consulates operating under the PRC provided excess opportunity for the Soviet Union to report on events in Xinjiang, closely monitor Soviet interests in the province, and to lobby for special rights and privileges for Soviet nationals (Suqiao) in Xinjiang province. Interestingly, these consulates were not subordinate to the Soviet embassy in Beijing, acting under guidance sent directly from Moscow” Kraus (2010). Page 159 [↩] [Cite]
Goncharov (1993). Pages 125-126. [Cite] In general, those who worked in administrative, government, or military sectors were called advisers, those who worked in factories and mines were called experts, and those who worked in schools were 'professors' or 'teachers'. [↩]
"...the news of the Sino-Soviet signing of the two joint slack company agreements involving Xinjiang petroleum and nonferrous metals has caused a very great commotion among Beijing students. They are suspicious that the two agreements might harm China’s sovereignty. Many Youth League members are raising doubts and difficult questions for discussion. They have asked for an explanation, Some even have cursed Soviet aggression and the traitorous People's Government while others preferred to tear up their Youth League membership than submit to the will of the People’s Government” Liu Shaoqi cited in Reardon (2015). Pages 50-51 [↩] [Cite]
Kraus (2010). Page 152.[Cite]
Mao (2017) remarks "On December 16, 1949, when Mao Zedong arrived at the North train station in Moscow, he was welcomed by the No. 2 Soviet leader but not Stalin himself. This was viewed by some Chinese nationalists as a sign that the USSR had not treated the Chinese leader with respect and dignity. The surveillance report revealed that “many were surprised that Stalin had not been to the station to meet Mao in person.” Mao’s journey to Moscow was viewed as something similar to a vassal state to pay a tribute to the Suzerain state, and thus “violated the dignity of the country.” 139" Mao (2017). Page 76.[Cite] Many Chinese people felt that the CCP was a Soviet puppet.
See also 08-12-1949 Threats to the political independence and territorial integrity of China and to the peace of the Far East, resulting from Soviet violations of the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Alliance of 14 August 1945, and from Soviet violations of the Charter of the United Nations [↩]
14-02-1950 Mao Cable from Moscow re Revisions in the Editorial A New Epoch in Sino-Soviet Friendship and Cooperation.
Li (2018) cites the Central Propaganda Department with special instructions on how to handle questions from the rank and file. "The propaganda for the treaty should emphasize the important parts and focus on the overall history of Sino-Soviet relations, the benefits of the treaty to China and its contrast with various unequal treaties. Commentaries in publications should not be based on isolated interpretations of a single word or sentence in the treaty, nor should speculations be made about the reasons for certain special terms. So far some newspapers have answered a few specific questions such as why the Chinese Eastern Railway and the port of Lushun won’t be returned to China until the end of 1952. This is not appropriate for the following reasons. First, such isolated explanations will only mislead readers to dig into unnecessary details while neglecting the full picture. Second, because such questions concern bilateral diplomatic policies, superficial and partial explanations should not be published in writing. Given the fact that questions concerning the terms of the treaty have been raised from all over the country, it is better to mention them in passing in general explanations. Except for purely technical questions, no specific answers should be publicized." 16 Li (2018). Pages 30-31 [↩] [Cite]
Zhu (1991). Pages 28-29 [↩] [Cite]
Shen (2012b). Page 72 [↩] [Cite]
The SU shipbuilding facilities in Dairen become a joint venture in 1951 [↩]
“in order to solve the difficulties encountered in Xinjiang and to build up Xinjiang, I believe it is necessary to have vigorous Soviet assistance.” He also explained that the Chinese, with limited resources and expertise, would simply be unable to solve Xinjiang’s economic problems alone.” Peng Dehuai cited in Kraus (2010). Page 144 [↩] [Cite]
Han (2010). Page 82 [↩] [Cite]
“A Welcome to Sino-Soviet Economic Cooperation That Is Conducive to the Economic Reconstruction in China,” RMRB, 5 April 1950 [↩]
Yang (2005). Page 10 [↩] [Cite]
Mao (2017). Page 85.[Cite]
Kraus (2010) ads "Conscious that in 1950 many Chinese students had predicted that the Soviets would violate Chinese sovereignty, the editorial adopted the dubious tone that the termination of Sino-Soviet joint ventures was the result of Chinese technicians having “gained sufficient experience to administer them on our own.”"
Kraus (2010). Page 136 [↩] [Cite]
Feinerman (2007). Page 197 [↩] [Cite]
Hsiung (1972). Page 359 [↩] [Cite]

Chapter 7 of Common Program