Asia, Africa And Mideast History

The History of Communism in China

Barnaby Meins's image for:
"The History of Communism in China"
Image by: 

Today, the Communism is still evident in China, but it was not founded in a short period: many Chinese were sacrificed when it was starting to take root. To track down the origins of communism in China is not impossible; it is important for one to understand how certain ideas produced what communist China is today

At the beginning of the 1900s, China was ruled by the Kuomintang (People's National Party), which was lead by Doctor Sun Yatsen. Kuomintang led the overthrow of the Qing dynasty and it was for the first time in China that a non-imperial government was ruling it. Kuomintang principles were based on a society for national freedom, a Democratic government; and the people's livelihood. Ideologies from Karl Marx created the ideology of a classless society where property were owned by the state and not privately. These ideological influences went beyond Europe and reached China. In particular, a librarian at the Beijing University named Mao Zedong started a society in 1918 to study on Marx's ideologies. The ideas gradually, but rapidly, gained popularity as many came to attend the meetings of the society. In 1921, the society members eventually founded the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Sun Yatsen wanted to free China from foreign control and take control of the whole of China. Many of the European powers, like Britain, did not support him. As a result, he had to ask for help from the form USSR, which had a communism government. USSR sent a diplomat named Abram Joffe to help. Sun reorganized his party, which was run on communist lines. More help was sought from the Communist party in USSR.

Chang Kaishek took over Sun Yatsen, who died of cancer on March 1925, as the head of the party. Kuomintang, together with some of the communist leaders, started the Northern Campaign in 1926 to take over some of China's major cities. A Kuomintang army led by Communists conquered Hankow and set up a government there in September 1926. Unfortunately, when the Kuomintang entered Shanghai and Guangzhou, Chang's army exterminated many Communists in the streets. This was mainly due to differences in the ideologies of the communists and the ideology of Kuomintang. Fearing for their safety, the communists escaped to Jiangxi in the Hunan province where the CCP, who was headed by Mao Zedong, was based.

Although the communists was swept away by the Kuomintang, Mao restructure the CCP and aimed to establish an "people's army," which came to be known as the Red army. The army thought of revolting against the Kuomintang using the strategy to dominate over the cities by farmlands.

In September 1931, Japan invaded the Chinese state of Manchuria and established the puppet command of "Manchukuo under Qing's last emperor, Pu Yi. Anti-Japanese were at high in China, but the Kuomintang considered it more important to remove the CCP than resist Japanese invaders. CCP's display of liberation the Chinese from the Japanese won more Chinese over as a result.

By October 1934, Chiang's army to oust the communists caused heavy losses and the CCP were driven into a small area in Jiangxi. On the edge of throwing in the towel, the communists decided to retreat from Jiangxi and march north to Shanxi. This was known as the famous 'Long March'. The march from Jiangxi in October 1934, took a year to complete and covered about 8000 km over hostile landscape.

Along the way, the communists took over the property of landlords and redistributed the land to peasants, while arming the peasants with weapons gotten from the Kuomintang, and left guerrilla groups behind to arrange for attacks on the enemy. Only 20,000 out of the 90,000 communists who began in Jiangxi made it to Shanxi due to, fatigue, sickness, enemy attacks and desertion. However, the 'Long March' showed that the Chinese peasants could attack if they were armed, organised and lead. This brought together many leaders such as Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping, who were to head the CCP after 1949. Mao Zedong was recognized as the supreme leader of the Chinese communist movement.

In 1945, World War II ended with the Allied victory; Chang and Mao signed a treaty to agree on avoiding a civil war and establishing a new independent China in 1946. Unfortunately, the Kuomintang broke the peace and had the intention to crush the CCP. This culminated in the Civil War in July 1946. Although the Chinese welcomed back the army and the government, but they started to gain control over the factories and stores owned. Inflation also resulted from the erroneous issuing of banknotes, causing starvation and dropping productivity. The Chinese began to lose trust for Kuomintang due to their poor credibility.

Kuomintang was prevailing over the CCP in the early years of the civil war, as can be seen in Kuomintang's occupancy of Yan'an, the location of CCP central headquarters, in March 1947. Nonetheless, CCP was able to gain people's support by promoting Land Reform and buying time. While the Chinese started to support the CCP, the Red Army began to retaliate against the Kuomintang scattered in various cities.

Chang resigned as Kuomintang's head in January 1949. Kuomintang refused to accept unconditional surrender in the negotiation for peace. Due to the lack of compromise, the Red Army started to attack major Chinese cities like Shanghai and Nanjing.

In December 1949, the Red Army had occupied every part of main land except Taiwan where Chang fled into with about five hundred thousand followers. So, at the end of 1949, the CCP won the civil war with the support of the Chinese people and the People's Republic of China was established.

In the years following the war, the CCP attempted to set up Marxism in China. The first attempt was the Five-Year Plan, an economic transformation based on the USSR model, but it failed in the agricultural-based China. In 1958, Mao announced "The Great Leap Forward" to represent determinedly the independent path of the CCP with full control of the Party. The radical measures of the plan were devastating and caused internal disputes in the party. Attempts to establish friendly ties with foreign countries also failed and China fell into isolationism.

There was a tide of capitalism overcoming the Chinese population in the 1960s and the CCP tried to stop this by engaging a vast ideological reform which was known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which resulted in many dead in 1976. The rapid decline of Communism was kept in check by the moderate wing of the CCP which took over the country.

Today, the Chinese government continues to reform, liberate and modernize the country with the people's effort. However, there are still problems such as the economic gap between the rich and the poor in the country.

In conclusion, the emergence of communism in China took place in a sequence of erratic incidents, but radical thoughts always followed. Still, it is Communism that caused the disappointed of the Chinese masses and in the end, led to the rise of a more moderate socialist government in China.

More about this author: Barnaby Meins

From Around the Web