China Mao Zedong in the 1960s

State building

After the communists won the battlefield, Mao Zedong proclaimed the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949. Immediately the communists began to shape a socialist state according to their ideas. Their interventions in the state, economy and society changed life in China to a previously unknown extent.

The People’s Republic, initially administered by the military, was handed over to the civil administration when a new constitution came into force in 1954. In addition to building the administrative structures, the CCP vehemently pushed for a radical reorganization of Chinese society. Landowners were to be expropriated, counterrevolutionaries destroyed and corrupt officials removed from the party and administrative apparatus. To achieve these goals, the CCP initiated numerous nationwide mass campaigns in which Chinese citizens were actively involved. Some of these mass campaigns – such as land reform or the campaign against counterrevolutionaries – were very violent and killed hundreds of thousands of Chinese.

In parallel to the restructuring of the company, an economic system based on common property and planned economy was established. In the countryside, landowners were expropriated and disenfranchised. Their land was distributed to poor farmers. Little by little, all private peasant businesses were brought together in agricultural production cooperatives until the entire agriculture of China was collectivized in the mid-1950’s. In the cities, private entrepreneurs were intimidated and urged to give up their businesses. Thus industrial production was transferred into the hands of the state and the collective.

At the same time, with the help of Soviet advisors, the state planning commission was set up, which was responsible for drawing up the five-year plans. In addition to the planned economy, the Soviet Union also provided the People’s Republic of China with loans with which the rapid development of a heavy industry was advanced.

The economic performance of the first years of the reconstruction was quite impressive. Overall, economic growth of 8.9% was achieved. However, the proportions of this growth were unevenly distributed. Industrial growth, supported by massive investments, jumped to 18.9%. The economic output of the agricultural economy was much too low at 4.5%.

Hundred Flower Movement and Big Leap

According to cheeroutdoor, many Chinese were not satisfied with their new situation. The peasants participated in the collectivization only half-heartedly, corruption and taking advantage of the ranks of the CCP were rampant, and urban unemployment was high. In the second half of the 1950’s, Mao Zedong’s Chinese leadership was therefore increasingly concerned about internal stability. In addition, Khrushchev had initiated de-Stalinization in the Soviet Union in early 1956, which had led to uprising movements like in Poland and Hungary. China wanted to avoid this at all costs.

Mao therefore decided on an unusual measure in the spring of 1957. Under the slogan “Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools compete with each other”, intellectuals were allowed to express political criticism openly (Hundred Flowers Movement). However, this led to severe public criticism of the CCP, so that in mid-1957 the leadership reversed the campaign and classified those who criticized it as deviants. As a result, the majority of China’s intellectuals were politically silenced, demoted or arrested by the party.

A new level of political and economic destabilization was brought about by a revolutionary change in agricultural policy in 1958, which went down in history under the name ” The Great Leap Forward “. An unsuccessful combination of hypercollectivization (“ people’s communes ”), steel production in rural micro-enterprises and a non-functional statistical and reporting system led to the greatest famine ever caused by human error in world history. The number of starvation deaths in rural areas of China is estimated at 15-40 million.

In addition to the human tragedy and the collapse of the entire Chinese economy, the Great Leap also led to deep rifts in the party leadership. Defense Minister Peng Dehuai was dismissed as early as 1959 for criticizing Mao’s strategy. In 1962, Prime Minister Liu Shaoqi finally initiated a policy of consolidation, in which Mao no longer had a share due to the failure of his campaign. As a result, Mao apparently withdrew from daily politics.

The cultural revolution

The last ten years of Mao Zedong’s era were shaped by his efforts to regain his position of political power. A power struggle ensued which shook the entire political system to its very foundations and traumatized large parts of Chinese society.

Since Mao could no longer be sure of the support of all parts of the party in the mid-1960’s, he called on the youth of China, with the help of left-wing radical forces close to him (including his wife Jiang Qing), to renounce their old teachers, revisionist politicians and old customs To renounce and fight customs and habits. Thrilled millions joined by high school students and students as Rote Garden in this new movement. A small red book with Mao quotes, also known as the Mao Bible, served as an ideological basis. The cultural revolution led during the years 1966-69 to the complete standstill of the education system, the disempowerment of the ruling elite, the destruction of the administrative structures that had been built up since 1949 and chaos and violence on the streets of China’s cities. It did not end until Mao Zedong’s death on September 9, 1976.

China Mao Zedong in the 1960s