Path to Modernization
The Rise of the Communist Party of China
After the Japanese invasion in 1937, the Guomindang retreated. The war was long and exhausting for China. Prices rose 30% per month between 1945 and 1949 which destroyed the lives of ordinary people. Rural China faced two crises. Soil exhaustion, deforestation and floods caused ecological crisis. Socio-economic crisis was caused by exploitative land-tenure systems, indebtedness, primitive technology and poor communications.
The CCP had been founded in 1921, soon after the Russian Revolution. The Russian success had a powerful influence around the world. Russian leaders went on to establish the Comintern or the Third International in March 1918 to help form a world government that would end exploitation. The Comintern and the Soviet Union supported communist parties around the world. They worked within the traditional Marxist understanding the revolution would be brought about by the working class in cities. Its initial appeal was immense but it soon turned into a tool for Soviet interests and was dissolved in 1943.
Mao Zedong (1893-1976): He emerged as a major CCP leader. He took a different path by making the peasants as the base of his revolution. His success made the CCP a powerful political force that finally won against the Guomindang.
Mao Zedong camped in Jiangxi, in the mountains from 1928 to 1938, secure from Guomindang attacks. By using confiscation and redistribution of land, a strong peasant’s council (soviet) was organized. Mao stressed the need for an independent government and army. He supported the emergence of rural women’s associations, promulgated new marriage law that forbade arranged marriages, stopped purchase or sale of marriage contracts and simplified divorce.
The Guomindang blockade of the Communists’ Soviet forced the party to seek another base. This resulted in the Long March (1934-356). Mao and his people covered 6,000 gruelling and difficult miles to Shanxi. They made their new base in Yanan. They further developed their programmes to end warlordism, carry out land reforms and fight foreign imperialism. This helped the CCP in winning a strong social base. During the years of war, the CCP and Guomindang worked together. But after the end of the war, the CCP defeated Guomindang and established themselves in power.
Establishing the New Democracy: 1949-65
The Peoples Republic of China government was established in 1949, which was based on the principles of the ‘New Democracy’. It was an alliance of all social classes. Critical areas of the economy were put under government control. Private enterprise and private ownership of land were gradually ended.
The Great Leap Forward: This movement was launched in 1958. It was a policy towards rapid industrialization in China. People were encouraged to set up steel furnaces in their backyards. People’s communes were started in rural areas. Land would be collectively owned and cultivated in the communes. By 1958, there were over 26,000 communes covering 98% of the farm population.
Mao wanted to create a ‘socialist man’ who would have five loves, viz. fatherland, people, labor, science and public property. Mass organizations were created for farmers, women, students and other groups. But Mao’s objectives and methods did not appeal to everyone in the Party.