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

In September 1949, when the People's Republic of China was officially proclaimed, the nation found itself grappling with the consequences of nearly 35 years of turmoil. This period included the civil war, followed by Japanese occupation, and then another phase of civil conflict. Many lives were lost during this tumultuous era, countless individuals became refugees, and social bonds were fractured. The economy had been on a downward spiral for several years, with the primary culprits being the civil war, extensive infrastructure damage, rampant corruption, and soaring inflation rates. Faced with these challenges, the new government had the daunting task of both reviving the economy and restoring faith in the political system.
To achieve this, the Common Program was introduced as an endeavor to garner support from various quarters in order to realize a 'New' China. This vision hinged on collaboration between the Minzhu Dangpai, the working class, and farmers, with the ultimate objective being the gradual implementation of socialism.
Chapter one of the Common Program comprises a blend of articles. Articles 8, 9, and 10 serve as preliminary introductions and are explored in greater detail in subsequent chapters.

The period following China's revolutionary upheaval in 1949 saw a significant transformation in the social class landscape, as outlined in the Common Program. This blueprint defined the constituents of the people's democratic dictatorship, including industrial laborers, farmers, the small bourgeoisie, and the national bourgeoisie, collectively termed 'the people.' The success of socialist aspirations relied on fostering robust cooperation between farmers and laborers, who formed the backbone of this framework. However, the emergence of the petty bourgeoisie as a widely recognized class category introduced challenges, as they were perceived to harbour political and moral deficiencies detrimental to nation-building and socialist endeavours.
Stalin advised Mao Zedong to engage the national bourgeoisie in cooperation against imperialism, encouraging their trading activities both domestically and internationally. Despite being part of 'the people,' the small and national bourgeoisie were also viewed as exploiters. Rong Yiren, among others, exemplified the benefits reaped by national bourgeoisie individuals through moderate politics, unlike other merchants who fled. Mao Zedong's call during the 3rd plenum of the party congress emphasized rallying the petty and national bourgeoisie under working-class leadership. Within two and half years after the establishment of the new government the national bourgeoisie is no longer part of this definition. In here lies the base for the worsening of the relationship between the CCP and the Minzhu Dangpai and it makes the realization of the Common Program even more difficult.
The enemies of 'the people,' including landowners, GMD members, and bureaucratic capitalists, were explicitly excluded from 'the people' and faced oppression. Mao Zedong's vision of the people's democratic dictatorship entailed democracy for 'the people' and dictatorship for their enemies. Despite socio-economic reforms, dissent persisted, with labor disputes and protests reflecting the delicate balance between order maintenance and grievance redressal. The CCP's response oscillated between concessions and crackdowns, acknowledging the complexity of navigating dissent amidst ongoing reforms.

Fig. 1.1 People's Daily Editorials on Unification
A Red Number indicates the subject was a major theme in the editorial. A Black Number indicates a minor theme in the editorial. Source: Oksenberg (1982).
The pledge to unite all of China under communist rule has been achieved to a large extent. Mongolia's independence is an established fact and the conquest of Taiwan has become impossible, partly due to the Korean War and the US military backup of Taiwan. When looking at the editorials about unification in the RMRB (Fig. 1.1.), it is obvious that the subject of Taiwan is the most important item.
Both Tibet and Xinjiang are not easily 'pacified', revolts occur frequently. Tibetans manage to gain international attention for their cause. Uighurs are much less successful in this.
Elleman (2010) states "The final return of the Manchurian railway concessions in 1952 symbolized the long-awaited national reunification of most of the contiguous territory of China proper.17 After almost sixty years of constant imperialist intrusions, ... China was finally able to reclaim its lost territory in Manchuria. The Changchun Railway’s return was an important step, transferred to China without payment in December 1952, with all additional railway property returned within the year, and then followed in 1955 by the transfer of Port Arthur and Dalian." See for details Article 36

The new regime arrested energetically to the destruction of feudal and imperial remnants. In other articles this destruction is described in detail.

Elections for the National People's Congress are regularly postponed and finally hold in September 1954. On local and national level, the candidates are pre-selected. See also Article 12

All organizations which are not under control of the CCP are dismantled or put under supervision of the party. It is for the first time in Chinese history Buddhists, Daoists, Protestants, or Muslims are been united in their own China-wide organizations. The firm grip the CCP gets over the 5 religions causes great difficulties within the religious communities. Some of them want to hold on to the situation pre 1949 and others want to cooperate with the new regime.
In 1949, in Beijing, there are more than 60 churches and organizations with a religious background. In 1959 all organizations with a foreign background have disappeared and only 4 ‘official’ churches remain. In Shanghai the situation is even more severe. In 1949 there are 2000 churches in 1959 only 15 remain.
The communist revolution in 1949 marked the beginning of a new period characterized by cultural uniformity. Confucianism was condemned, and religious practices were prohibited by the government. Local cultural expressions such as music, opera, handicrafts, and others were repurposed to propagate the communist ideology's universal principles. Any behavior diverging from centrally prescribed economic and cultural guidelines was met with zero tolerance.
Sects are viewed as counterrevolutionary groups and face greater persecution compared to religious followers. Despite the crackdown effectively weakening sects organizationally, it did not completely eradicate their influence. Instead, during the 1950s and early 1960s, they displayed a remarkable ability to sporadically revive.
It can be argued that instead of conventional religions, a cult centered around Mao Zedong emerged. This phenomenon began as early as the 1920s, coinciding with the transformation of the CCP into a highly disciplined and deeply hierarchical organization. Consequently, the directives issued by the Party Central assumed an almost sacred status; opposing them ceased to be merely a form of dissent and became tantamount to heresy. In the anthem "The East is Red," composed around the time of Mao's assumption of the party chairmanship in 1945, Mao is celebrated as a "great savior" and "trailblazer" who harbors affection for the people. The sun, which would later become one of the most frequently employed symbols for Mao, is depicted as representative of both the man himself and the party. See also Article 42
Buddhism, Taoism, and Islam have to get rid of their feudal characteristics, Protestantism and Roman Catholicism should disrupt their overseas connections and purge imperialist influences. All churches have to purge reactionary leaders and to support the new government. "In general, however, the united front policy in the 1950s stressed the desirability of materialists (weiwu lunzhe) and idealists (weixin lunzhe) working together to build socialist China, rather than the incompatibility of religion and socialism.21"
The Hukou system limits the mobility of almost everyone in the rural areas and also the urban dwellers are limited in their migration possibilities. The great divide between rural and urban areas is the consequence of the Hukou system.

Fig. 1.2 People's Daily Editorials on Women

A Red Number indicates the subject was a major theme in the editorial. A Black Number indicates a minor theme in the editorial. Source: Oksenberg (1982).
The editorials show the emphasis on the marriage law campaign and the position of women in society. The new law improves the position of the women, the number of female students increases gradually.
Fig. 1.3 The total number of female college students in China 1947-1954
Source: Research Institute of All China Women's Federation. 1991. Page 168
*10 thousand
"In 1952, fewer than 600,000 women were employed at state-owned enterprises (SOE), while over 40% of those who were registered and willing to work could not find jobs."
The existing social order must not be disturbed too much because this will interfere with the development of the economy. The CCP considers the military, economic, and political reforms more important than the emancipation of women. The marriage law is never intended to free woman as an individual person. The CCP sees women as a unified mass with a single set of interests based on gender. The same applies for men. The liberation of the women is a common goal under the leadership of the CCP.
Kang (2017) concludes: "The CCP’s early commitment to enlightening the Chinese peasants through anti-superstition and women’s liberation was now sidelined by its revolutionary mission to lead a class war under Mao." The party defines the rules because they are the vanguard and the voice of the people. The instrument for the liberation of women is the ACFDW, this organization acts in the interest of women. "It was very rare for even the highest ranking ACWF leaders to criticize the link between women and the home. So entwined were women and the family that in addition to protecting the interests of women, the ACWF was charged with the protection of children’s welfare.46"
The ACFDW achieves some minor issues, including paid maternity leave, and active and passive voting rights for women. The party criticizes male chauvinism among labourers, but equally “bourgeois” feminism is treated as a plot to divide the working class along gender lines. The slow economic development throughout the 50’s weakens the position of women.

Fig. 1.4 People's Daily Editorials on Campaigns
A Red Number indicates the subject was a major theme in the editorial. A Black Number indicates a minor theme in the editorial. Source: Oksenberg (1982).
The focus of the editorials is mainly on the suppression of counterrevolutionaries and sanfan (see Article 18 ). From 1950 till the end of 1952, about 2.5 million people are arrested and one third of them are executed. 1.2 million were “placed under the supervision of the masses.” The influence of the campaign is gigantic "... for each individual brought in for questioning, there were probably several times more (family, friends, and associates) who felt that they had reason to worry. Such numbers are hard to quantify, but the total of those who were either imprisoned, subjected to state pressure, intimidated, or reasonably concerned about their status must have been many times more than the 800,000-2,000,000 executed during the course of the campaign."
Lu (2016) describes the impact on communities "The large-scale arrests and mass executions have successfully achieved the purposes of mobilizing the mass to eradicate enemies of the state, with the general public been stirred up by the fanatic atmosphere of the political movement. Local citizens have shown an evident despise or even resent towards those counter-revolutionaries. In some districts, villages were reluctant to allow the bodies of executed counter-revolutionaries to be buried in the village. Family members of executed counter-revolutionaries refused to wear morning for their relatives.143" The campaign is conducted for full public purposes, to involve as many people as possible and to warn against counterrevolutionary activities by fear and terror. During the campaign cadres, were sent to factories to supervise, to make propaganda, and to guide internal accusation meetings. After the campaign ended in 1953, those internal security organizations remained and became compulsory in all work units.
Brown (2010) states "...terror should be part of our conceptual vocabulary for the early years of Communist rule, regional variation and differences in timing complicate the picture. “Honeymoon” might be an appropriate label for north Chinese villages in 1950-51. However, “terror” is probably a better descriptor for the same period in large cities and other areas that had recently come under Communist control like south China,..."

In 1949, Mao Zedong decides to join the SU camp and accepts the guiding role of the SU in the anti-imperialistic struggle. In this struggle, there is made a division between East Europe, under the guide of the SU and Asia under the guidance of the People's Republic of China. Both countries try to strengthen their influence in India.
The Geneva Conference is the first international podium of the People's Republic of China. It is an opportunity to break through China's isolation. Contacts are made with France and the United Kingdom. The Geneva conference on Korea is a failure, the conference on Indochina is more or less a success in the eyes of the Chinese leaders. Laos and Cambodia stay neutral, no intervention from the US in Indochina, and a growing prestige as a protagonist of the Afro-Asian opposition against imperialism.

Horowitz (2015). No Page [↩] [Cite]
Elleman (2010). Page 200 [↩] [Cite]
Leung (1999). Page 4 [↩] [Cite]
Eng (2002). Page 1268 [↩] [Cite]
Smith (2008). Page 279 [↩] [Cite]
Klein (2014). Pages 62-63. The first 2 couplets are: The east is red; the sun is rising. From China, appears Mao Zedong. He strives for the people's happiness, Hurrah, he is the people's great saviour!
Chairman Mao loves the people, He is our guide to building a new China Hurrah, lead us forward! [↩] [Cite]
Chen Jinlong cited in Smith (2015). Pages 80-81 [↩] [Cite]
See Evans (1998). [↩] [Cite]
Sun (2011). Page 130 [↩] [Cite]
Kang (2017). Page 95 [↩] [Cite]
"'Women-work' historically included mobilizing women to accomplish tasks for the CCP revolution and addressing issues concerning women's interests, welfare, and equal rights. Both components were seen as complementary to each other and crucial for engaging women in a political process for women's liberation. Women-work, however, was subordinate to the Party's "central work"-never becoming a Party priority. The tension between women work and the Party's central work has been a constant reality for communist women in charge of women-work,..." Wang (2005). Page 521.[Cite]
Guo (2017) observes that the United Front work after 1949 becomes less important "Despite the high political status given to them within the (ACFDW), doubts and fears soon arose among those bourgeois women activists hailing from the KMT-controlled areas:...complained about the dominant CCP women leaders who demanded that she (Li Wenyi) take on a heavy workload, but who eventually took the credit for her work....And as the CCP further launched a series of campaigns and movements in the 1950s, during which surveillance reports, denunciation letters and the so-called “heart-to-heart” talks (jiaoxin 交心) became the main channel of communication between (ACFDW) members and the Party, the space for Chinese women activists’ spontaneous and independent political activism was, instead of reopened, finally closed. " Guo (2017).Page 54 [↩] [Cite]
Johns (2010).Page 18 [↩] [Cite]
Strauss (2002). Page 89 [↩] [Cite]
Lu (2016). Page 138 [↩] [Cite]
See (2007) Reactions to Suppression of Counterrevolution in Tianjin (1951). Pages 25-53 [↩] [Cite]
Brown (2010). No page number [↩] [Cite]

Chapter 1 of Common Program