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


Fig. 1.1People's Daily Editorials
A Number indicates the subject was a major theme in the editorial. A number indicates a minor theme in the editorial. Source: Oksenberg (1982).

These main editorials on Administration contain titles as February 4, 1949, Strive for the Establishment of New Democratic Peking, or May 16, 1950 New Constructions in Democratic Regimes in the Big Cities, or February 3, 1953 Resolutely Rectify Coercive Work Style in Postal and Telecommunications Agencies. Judicial editorials are throughout the period the main item, followed by bureaucracy. Editorials on CPPCC and government are scarce.


Under pressure of Stalin Mao Zedong decides to hold elections. These elections are completly manipulated, sometimes violence is used. "From time to time, each district also received reports from the work teams about threats to the electoral process. Alleged offenders were punished at show trials or by specially established “election courts” so that they could serve as negative examples. At the height of the election campaign in Shanghai, eight people were denounced at mass show trials and charged with the crimes of “sabotaging the election” and “counter revolution.” Five of these eight were also accused of murder and received the death penalty, while the remaining three were sentenced to serve prison terms ranging from five to ten years." On local level most candidates were model workers or ordinary people. They were nominated because they were loyal to the nation, active in political campaigns. However, they had no experience exercising power, in discussing issues of national importance, or the capability to represent the needs of the masses to the government.

Article 13...


The role of the CPPCC was during its first five years very limited, and it became even more confined after the establishment of the NPC. Only its role as instrument of the United Front policy stays intact. The role of the Common program has ended after the constitution of 1954 is installed

Article 14...


Overt military control is less, as most of the opponents of the regime are disabled. Under the surface the military keep control in factories, institutions and governance .

Article 15...


In 1949, the CCP established the People’s Republic of China as a ‘people’s democratic dictatorship’ and emphasised the mass line (qunzong lüxian) as complementary to democratic centralism, as an aspect of democracy. "Mao more specifically described the PRC as an amalgam of two types of political power: The “state form” (guoti), which was a “dictatorship of the revolutionary classes of the people”; and the “government form” (zhengti), which was the system of “democratic centralism”. State form represented the social class relations at the basis of the state, and government form was the state organization with which a specific social class builds its strength to defend itself against its enemies. Democratic centralism was thus the government form that the revolutionary classes would utilize in order to secure their position within a state having the form of a people’s dictatorship. A synthesis of these two gives us Mao’s shorthand description of the PRC as a ‘people’s democratic dictatorship’."


The big difference between the old and the new judicial system is the role it plays in society. In the old system legislation was an instrument of the government to maintain order in society. Most civil cases were handled by family councils and guild bosses. The state did not interfere in those affairs.
Under the new rule, legislation has a different role, “… has socialized private property and thus changed the foundation of law. It uses legal instruments as a dynamic means to remold the society and to promote the economy. Party cadres represent the will of the state, which in reality is but a facade for the Party.”
During this period the criminal process served as a blunt instrument of terror. Campaigns, as Zhenfan (see Article 7), Sanfan (see Article 18) and Wufan (see chapter 4) are instruments to crush all sources of political opposition. "In short, the army, the police, and the regular and irregular courts implemented the directive of Chairman Mao to serve as instruments for oppressing the hostile classes and for inflicting "legalized" violence and lesser sanctions upon all those who were deemed to be "reactionaries" and "bad elements."
Having no experience in administering justice in an urban setting. Two ideas about solving the problem were in play. One was to establish a Soviet Union style of legal system, highly professional, hierarchical and largely independent. The other was to establish a revolutionary legal system based on party control, participation of the masses and involvement of nonprofessional personnel. In the period between 1949-1954 we can see a switch from SU style to revolutionary style, however this reversal was not complete.
In both systems, forced labor played an important role as a way of punishment. So did public shame and blame. The reduction or suspension of penalties for crimes committed by an offender who freely confessed or gave information about the crime was provided in almost all criminal laws. "The modern state also monopolized the use of violence and prohibited all other nonstate actors, such as clans and families, from using penal violence. Physical capital (that is, violence) was concentrated in the hands of the nation-state and its agencies."


These campaigns caused economic disruption and caused fear and terror for many.
These campaigns, like many other campaigns has little lasting effect on the attitude of cadres. An Ziwen (director of the CCP's central organization department) points out: “After a mass campaign is over, many flaws and errors assailed during the campaign may re-emerge. They may even re-emerge to a greater degree. Some people self-congratulate themselves for having discovered some patterns from repeated campaigns. They would get prepared before a new campaign began and pretend to be active and honest. Sometimes they could even shed a few drops of tears while making self-criticisms or confessions. Yet no sooner is the campaign over than they would return to their old selves.102 An Ziwen continues “… particularly pinpointed the problem of post-campaign vengeance by officials who had received criticism or denunciation from subordinates, an action known as “zheng ren”(to fix someone) or “chuan xiaoxie” (literally, to give someone tight shoes to wear: i.e. make things hard for someone). This practice became familiar to many Chinese in the many political campaigns that were to follow.103”.


Despite the development of various organs at national and local level where one can complain about the administration and party, the implementation and results remain weak.
Howland concludes " the rights of workers to express demands and to criticize those in power were curtailed in the interests of discipline and a centralism focused on economic development. The Party felt justified to ignore workers’ wishes and desires. Under the leadership of the Soviet Party’s Central Committee, party centralism had evolved into a bureaucratic centralism."

"The Judicial Reform Campaign was a watershed moment for the courts. 701Since 1949, they had figured prominently in a succession of mass campaigns aimed at groups such as landlords, counterrevolutionaries, and corrupt officials, each of which elevated their internal political temperatures and claimed a number of their cadres, but never before had a campaign put the courts themselves in the crosshairs. Outwardly, the campaign began as an attempt to root out corruption and malpractice, but its main thrust was to eliminate legacy personnel, ideas, and practices, and infuse the courts with a new, thoroughly revolutionary identity. Related legal organs such as the police and procuracy also participated, as did law schools."


Zhang (2014). Page 1078 [↩] [Cite]
Howland (2017). Pages 448-449 [↩] [Cite]
Hsiao (1965). Page 1060 [↩] [Cite]
Cohen (1968). Page 10 [↩] [Cite]
Mühlhahn (2009). Page 177 [↩] [Cite]
Mühlhahn (2009). Page 289 [↩] [Cite]
Cited in (2000). Page 54 [↩] [Cite]
Howland (2017). Pages 462-463 [↩] [Cite]
Tiffert (2015). Page 187 [↩] [Cite]

Chapter 2 of Common Program