In 1949, Mao Zedong declared the People’s Republic of China after the communists won the civil war against the nationalists, promising a fresh start, however China was a broken country following the Japanese and Civil Wars, which meant the new government inherited severe problems, the worst of which include hyperinflation, complete lack of industry, heavy food shortages, which was exacerbated by steep population increases. During the first eight years of power, Mao’s regime tackled the economy remarkably, stemming inflation and introducing the first 5-year plan. Furthermore political control began to take form – although the methods of control were debatably unethical – and social initiatives were taken to improve, among other things, illiteracy, women’s rights and crime. Despite the albeit tough methods used by Mao, the PRC did a remarkable job of transforming China in the given circumstances, and therefore changed it for the better in the years 1949-57.
As can be expected with any major political takeover, the establishment of the People’s Republic of China brought about a variety of political changes, many of which were very positive in developing the country. First and foremost, China was finally unified under one ruling national government, which was considerably more stable than the nationalist and warlord periods. Despite initial resistance to joining the PRC from border regions such as Tibet and Xinjiang, these rebellions where quickly quashed by the military force of the CCP, which asserted control over the entirety of China and also unified the country under communist rule. This was definite progress, and was reinforced by an organised political hierarchy centralised from Beijing, with four party officials governing each of the 6 regions of China, recognising Mao Zedong as the official leader. This stability and planning was a marked improvement on the chaos of the warlord era and the nationalist government, and was reasonably peaceful in comparison to the suffering of the civil and Japanese wars. Further control of the population was implemented with the registration of every individual, through job permits (danwei), accommodation certificates (hukou) and most importantly a dossier of each person’s details (dangan). Mao also attempted to reform political corruption with the three ‘anti-movements’ against waste, corruption and inefficiency, which was a step to legitimacy after the corruption of the GMD and their involvement with the green gang and other illicit dealings. The three (and later 5) ‘anti-movements’ aimed to improve the party and root out commercially corrupted relations with the private sector, which was a change towards the communist ideals of the CCP. Furthermore there was a mass mobilisation and political involvement on a national scale following the establishment of the PRC, with a surge in the Communist Youth League, the Women Federation, and the peasant institutions set up in rural areas, which show the change in political interest and an embracing of the new regime. Overall there was a huge political upheaval involving careful organisation, which undoubtedly was a step up from the previous political uncertainty in the years prior to 1949.
Progress also arose in the economic condition of China, most notably the success of the first Five Year Plan, but also the early land reforms and later attempts at collectivisation, the control of inflation and currency, as well as the negotiation of aid from Russia. Despite the early continuity with the economy and tolerance to capitalists, rich peasants and even landlords, the UN intervention in the Korean war threatened communism and by extension China, leading to a drastic communist progression in the economy. The Agrarian Reform Law of 1950 and other land reforms redistributed land to the peasants and formed peasant representative bodies for many villages, following communist ideologies. Foreign relations with Russia improved as a communist ally and...
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