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The People's Republic of China (1949 - )

After the War of Resistance against Japan (1937-45), the conflict between the KMT and the CCP intensified and soon developed into a full-scale civil war. Different factions of political power were sharply divided. After three years of rivalry struggle, the political power led by the CCP eventually crushed the KMT forces and forced the Republic of China to remove to Taiwan. On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong, the Chairman of the CCP, proclaimed at the Tian'anmen Square in Beijing the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC).

The People's Republic of China achieved the first national reunification after the fall of the last dynasty in Chinese history. It ushered in an era of reform and modernisation.

Upon founding the new republic, the CCP proceeded to mop up the remnants of the KMT's military forces, confiscate bureaucratic capitals, launch the "Three-Antis" (corruption, waste and bureaucratism) and the "Five-Antis" (bribery, tax evasion, fraud, theft of government property and leakage of state secrets) campaigns as well as carry out land reform. The period between 1949-52 was one of stabilisation and consolidation of power for the CCP. Party membership was expanded and mass organisation together with populace mobilisation were carried out, with state and party organisation extended to village level. Thought reform of intellectuals and Party control of the arts were, at the same time, implemented.

The first steps toward modernisation taken were in social and economic reform. With regard to the former, a marriage law based on the equality of women was instituted and a comprehensive language reform together with programs for mass literacy were put into effect. The latter was realised in price stabilisation, recovery of production to prewar levels, land reform (confiscation and redistribution of land) and extensive nationalisation of industry, banking and commerce.

In the area of foreign affairs, the signing of the Treaty of Friendship and Alliance with Soviet Union marked the beginning of the PRC's most important diplomatic relationship for a decade. The Soviet Union not only assisted in the PRC's industrialisation program, but also contributed to its education in foreign culture. The PRC's entry into the War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea clearly charted out its general political line. By the end of 1952, its Central Government proclaimed the Party's General Line for the transition period from the New Democratic society to a Socialist society.

The next five years (1953-1957) marked the transition from ad hoc reform to planned industrialisation. It started with the proclamation of constitution and the meeting of the First National People's Congress, which was followed by the first purge within top levels of the CCP and the adoption of a foreign policy of moderation to initiate "an epoch of good feelings among nations."

The First Five-year Plan for economic development (1953-1957), inspired by the Soviet model, emphasised the development of heavy industry and co-operativisation of agriculture, which was regarded as the principle source of capital investment for industry and led to a remarkable economic advancement.

The brief period of freedom of expression (the Hundred Flowers Bloom Period, 1956-57), when outspoken criticisms of Communist rule could be heard, was extraordinary since the founding of the PRC - Chinese intellectuals were better treated, greater latitude in work allowed and under much lesser ideological pressure. It was also the time when Mao Zedong published his doctrine of non-antagonistic contradictions in society (1957) and his assertion of shift in world balance of power in favour of the Communist bloc ("east wind prevails over west wind", 1957).

The Great Leap Forward (1958-60) was a headlong rush into industrialisation which, owing to lack of planning and coordination and to natural disasters, resulted in disruption of economy. Measures such as the establishment of people's communes through amalgamation of agricultural producers' cooperatives and the decentralisation of authority in industry failed to remedy the damage in economic construction brought about by the Anti-Rightist campaign which was the repercussions of the "Hundred Flowers Bloom".

In addition to national economy problems, civil strife such as the 1959 Revolt in Tibet and worsening of Sino-Soviet relations because of ideological differences (due to the impact of de-Stalinisation in Russia) and conflicts of national interest forced the PRC to reset its General Line.

With the "left-deviation" error remedied in 1961, the PRC entered into a period of recovery and moderate development (1961-66). Priorities in economic planning and development (agriculture, light industry, heavy industry) were reversed; communes were further divided into smaller units. The national economy gradually recovered. With regard to foreign affairs, the PRC's widening rift with the Soviet Union led it to start trading with the West and establish relations with Third World countries. Its border clashes with India (1962), its first atomic bomb test (1964) and its involvement in the War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Vietnam resulted in slowing down its economic growth and increasing the role of army in political affairs.

In May 1966, Mao Zedong, dissatisfied with widespread loss of revolutionary spirit and routinism of bureaucracy and alerted by the power struggles within the CCP as well as by the frustrations and tensions within society, launched the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution which lasted for ten years.

The damage and loss brought about by the Revolution to the CCP, the PRC and its people were unprecedented. It caused the decline of authority of the CCP - top Party leaders such as Liu Shaoqi fell out of power; Party leaders assaulted by Red Guards. After Lin Biao's rise in power, the role of the People's Liberation Army and the Revolutionary Committees became increasingly politically important.

Before the end of the Revolution, the PRC had experienced a brief period of diplomatic success after the fall of Lin Biao (1971), in particular, its entrance to the United Nations and the thaw in US-China relations, which was symbolised by President Nixon's trip to China in 1972.

The year 1976 marked the end of an era with the death of its founders, Premier Zhou Enlai on January 8th and Chairman Mao Zedong on September 9th. Hua Guofeng who was named by Mao his successor immediately assumed the chairmanship of both the CCP and the Central Military Commission and ordered the arrest of the "Gang of Four" (Jiang Qing, Zhang Chunqiao, Wang Hongwen and Yao Wenyuan) on October 6th, bringing the Revolution to the end. Soon after Deng Xiaoping's return to the CCP centre stage, Hua Guofeng stepped down. In December 1978, Deng Xiaoping, the leader of the CCP, convened the Third Session of the Eleventh National People's Congress, which consented to have the Party slogan of "take class struggle as the key link" dropped and the Party's focus shifted to economic construction. This ushered in a period of rigorous domestic reform, open external politics, rapid economic growth and high-yield technological development.

The early 1980's witnessed a period of stabilisation and development. General Secretary Hu Yaobang's efforts in redressing cases mishandled during the Revolution helped lessening much of the people's resentment. Towards the late 1980's, a campaign against "bourgeois liberalisation" (1987) was launched. On April 15th 1989, the death of Hu Yaobang sparked off a series of student demonstrations for democracy and against bureaucratic corruption, which led to a countrywide student mass protest which lasted from late April for more than a month until June 4th when the incident was finally ended. The national economy was at its bottom then. The PRC under the new leadership of Jiang Zemin soon picked up its pace in social and economic development. By 1999, the PRC's total annual production value amounted to RMB$82054 hundred million, with people's living standard raised, national power enhanced and international status elevated.

(Authored by Gao Shufen, Chinese Chief Editor of China Tibetology Publishing House; translated by Xu Fangfu, Associate Professor of English, Petroleum University)

Republic of China (1911-1949, on mainland)
People's Republic of China (1949-)
pre-1895 Taiwan
Japanese Colonized Taiwan (1895-1945)
Taiwan, Republic of China (1945-)
History of the first series of RMB (1947-1955)
History of the second series of RMB (1955-1964)
History of the third series of RMB (1962-1987)
History of the fourth series of RMB (1987-1999)
History of the fifth series of RMB (1999-)
Monetary History of Taiwan, Part 1 (-1945)
Monetary History of Taiwan, Part 2 (1945-)
Story of the Old TWD
Monetary History of Hong Kong (1859-)
Monetary History of Macau (1905-)
History and Monetary History of Tachen Islands (1950-1955)

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