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China is a gigantic country and historians can study and trace their civilisations as far back as five thousand years ago. The Manchu emperors had ruled China since 1644. At the end of the nineteenth century and leading up to the twentieth century the emperor of China, Guangxu, was dominated by his aunt, the empress Ci xii. For forty years she ruled for her nephew.
China entered the twentieth century on a wave of reactionary terror, as the loose affiliation of north-east Chinese Secret Society groups known as the “Boxers” began a protracted attempt to destroy all Chinese Christian converts, and the missionaries who preached to them. Openly encouraged by a number of conservative officials, most of them from ruling Manchu minority, which had controlled the Chinese government since the seventeenth century, the Boxers entered Peking in mid 1900 and laid siege. In the meantime, pro Boxer generals and their followers in Shanxi and other northern provinces had conducted a brutal round-up and massacre of missionary families and their converts. By the terms of the vindictive Treaty Settlement that followed, several senior pro-Boxer Quing dynasty officials were executed, pro-Boxer areas were penalised, and the Chinese government was compelled to promise to pay a colossal ï¿½67 000000 for the lives and property destroyed. The Chinese felt the foreigner had exploited them and their country. For years therefore that Chinese peasants lived in dire poverty and under the rule of cruel dictatorship.
In 1908 empress, Ci xi died, her successor was her nephew, a three year old boy named Pu Yi. His uncle, Prince Chun was given the power to rule on his behalf. In 1911 a group of nationalist rebels, headed by a man called Sun Yat Sen led a rebellion against the government. Fifteen of the eighteen provinces had joined the revolution. In February of 1912 Yuan Shih-Kai was made president and Prince Chun and the Emperor Pu Yi was forced to abdicate, as he was not in control of the army. He remained president until his death in 1916. Chaos ensued and the Chinese government effectively collapsed.
In 1921 a huge political revolution occurred, whereby the formation of the Chinese communist party (CCP) took place. Sun Yat Sen died of cancer in 1925 and the leader of the nationalist party fell to Chaing Kai-Shek. Co-operation between the Guomingdang and the Communists enabled them to extend control over large areas previously owned by war lords. The communists and nationalists split and conspired against each other, resulting in the government calling itself “Jiangxi Soviet”. By 1930-34 the nationalists led by Chisng-Kai-Shek mounted five extermination campaigns against the communist party. By October the communists escaped and began to march westwards. This was the famous “long march” over snow covered mountains, through the swamps of central China and finally into the isolated province, which was reached by October 1935.
The emergence of Mao Zedong into the leadership echelons of the Chinese Party occurred thus. He was then known as Chairman Mao, the leader of the communist party. Mao,(1893 – 1979), is today known as “A great man in China’s history”. He later established the people’s Republic and the communist rule in China; he headed the CCP and government until his death. His influence diminished with failure of his 1958 – 60 Great Leap Forward, but he emerged dominant again during the 1966 – 69 Cultural Revolution. Mao adapted communism to Chinese conditions as set out in the little red book.
In 1945 the Japanese defeat at the hands of the USA, which resulted in a civil war between the Chinese Communist party and the nationalist party. Four years later the communists finally won the war and Mao Zedong proclaimed the People’s Republic of China. The nationalists (GMD) and their leader Chiang Kai- Shek were forced out of China to the Island of Formosa.
In 1949, Mao Zedong, shortly after coming to power, was reported to have said,
“Of all the things in the world, people are the most precious. Under the leadership of the communist party, as long as there are people, every kind of miracle can be performed.” After he made this statement he declared the people’s republic of China. Mao travelled to Moscow for talks with the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, to ask for financial help. They formed the Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance which provided China with financial help.
Whilst the help was appreciated it was described by Mao as ‘like getting meat out of the mouth of a tiger’. The Treaty provided ten thousand engineers and planning experts to help develop China’s economy, but much of the $300 million of aid was to be spread over five years and was mostly in the form of credits rather than cash. Part of Mao’s plan was that of Land Reform: to develop the agricultural base of the country. All the landed estates were divided and distributed to the peasants. A local government was elected who redistributed the land, a communist group of local of local leaders was produced, who spearheaded future change. The reform was achieved with little bloodshed and on the whole benefited the poor. Basically the communist party offered fair taxes, fair distribution of wealth.
Mao, in 1953, went on to devise the first five year plan with the help of Russian advisers. This plan centred on industrial development (1953-1957)- steal, coal, machinery and the like-700 new production plants in central China and Manchuria were developed. Light industry- such as cotton-making and food processing-was neglected in favour of heavy industry. The achievements of the first five year plan was published (refer to table below) and would seem to prove that the plan was successful, however the data could have been biased to keep the people of China happy. Many numbers of workers in the towns and cities meant more mouths to feed.
The Five Year Plan also aimed to increase food output from China’s farms by turning them into co-operatives. The Agarian Reform Law of 1950 gave land to about 300 million peasants, About half of whom were able to farm their land by themselves. The rest, whose fields were too small or who did not own farming tools banded together in mutual-aid teams, sharing equipment and animals. The government recognised that farms that were too small could not be farmed efficiently, and therefore could not produce the amount of food needed for the five year plan. Also they were afraid that the land owning peasants would become a new class in society, concerned with only making profits for themselves thereby going against the communist belief.