CHINA – CIVIL WAR and COMMUNIST REVOLUTION
The Qing dynasty was overthrown in 1911, ending over 3000 years of imperial rule. A reformer named Sun Yat-sen was elected president of a Chinese republic in 1912.
By 1916, China was in chaos.
The Warlord Era ensued, the country ruled by competing military leaders. In the 1920s, Sun Yat-sen set out to unite the fragmented nation, entering into an alliance with the Communist Party of China (CPC).
In 1925, CHIANG KAI-SHEK seized control of the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party or KMT) and succeeded in bringing most of south and central China under its rule.
Chiang then secured the allegiance of the warlords in the North. In 1927, Chiang turned on and chased the communist CPC armies from their bases in southern/eastern China.
CPC forces escaped on the Long March to China’s desolate northwest, where they established a guerrilla base and reorganized under new leader MAO Zedong. .
The bitter struggle between the Nationalist KMT and Communist CPC continued through the 14-year long Japanese occupation of various parts of the country (1931–1945).
The two Chinese parties formed a united front against the Japanese.
Following the defeat of Japan in 1945, the civil war between the KMT and the CPC resumed.
By 1949, the communist CPC had established control over most of the country.
Chiang Kai-shek and his Chinese “nationalists” retreated to the island of TAIWAN.
On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the People’s Republic of China. (a.k.a. “Communist China” or “Red China”)
Mao sought to destroy China’s “feudal” past.
Mao’s first goal was extensive land reforms. The Agrarian Reform Law of 1950 redistributed farmland from landlords to poor peasants.
Mao used class struggle and the peasant masses as his power base. All against Mao’s policies were convicted and branded enemies of the state. Massive campaigns and show trials were conducted against war criminals, “traitors” and capitalists. Foreigners and Christian missionaries were accused of being agents of Western and U.S. “imperialism” and exploitation.
Efforts were made to MODERNIZE China with rapid industrialization and economic growth. The First Five-Year Plan (1953-58) was based on a Soviet-style centrally controlled economy. The government began the collectivization (state ownership &control) of agriculture, nationalized banking, industry and trade. Private enterprise was abolished.
Mao initiated the GREAT LEAP FORWARD in 1958. This attempt at rapid modernization was a radical experiment in “communal” living. Large dormitories took the place of traditional nuclear family housing. Each commune was planned as a self-supporting community for agriculture, small-scale local industry, schooling, marketing, administration and local security.
State controlled cooperative farms were supposed to achieve higher production than small individual farms.
The result was economic disaster and massive famines.
Crops rotted unharvested. An estimated 20-28 MILLION DIED, due to poor state planning and “social engineering”.
Mao began the CULTURAL REVOLUTION in 1966 to impose mass conformity and rid China of “old elements”.
Motivated by power struggles within the Party, Mao wanted to remove all those people who are against his “totalitarian” control.
Party purges and “reeducation” resulted in the imprisonment or execution of those who held views contrary to Mao.
RED GUARDS TERROR anyone they suspected were against Mao. Daily life required shouting slogans and reciting Mao quotations from the “RED BOOK”.
Supporters of Mao state China’s unity and sovereignty was re-established.
The development of industry, healthcare, and education raised the standard of living for the average Chinese.
They also claimed Mao “jumpstarted” China’s development, creating a “clean slate” on which later economic progress could be built. Critics of Mao’s regime assert that Mao’s campaigns were economically and humanly disastrous, leading to over 70 MILLION DEATHS during Mao’s rule.
China had supported communist North Korea against South Korean/U.S./United Nations forces during the Korean War (1950-53). Initially allies, a dispute between China and Soviet Union developed in the late 1950s.
In 1972, Mao met U.S. President Richard Nixon to establish formal relations with their former Cold War rivals. The PRC was admitted to the United Nations in place of Nationalist Taiwan.
The issue of Taiwanese “independence” and the communist “One China” policy could lead to future conflict.
A power struggle followed MAO’s DEATH in 1976.
DENG Xiaoping became the leader of China from 1978 to 1992, leading the country to significant economic reforms. The Communist Party loosened or “liberalized” government economic controls.
China transitioned from a state planned economy to a mixed “private” economy with an increasingly “free market” capitalist system. Urban workers and farmers took advantage of opportunities to establish industries and diversify crops.
Reforms led to the rapid development of the consumer and export sectors of the economy, the creation of an urban middle class, higher living standards, consumer spending, life expectancy, literacy rate, and total grain output.
A modern and “globalized” China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.
However, liberal forces began to protest against Deng’s and the Communist Party’s authoritarian leadership.
In 1989, students protested for several months in TIANAMEN SQUARE, speaking out against corruption and for political reform, including democratic rights and freedom of speech.
The government eventually sent in tanks and soldiers to forcibly clear the square. This event was widely reported and brought worldwide condemnation.
“Human rights” are still an “issue” – the death penalty, the one-child policy, the status of Tibet, no freedom of press, the lack of an independent judiciary, rule of law and rights for workers, the absence of independent labor unions, discrimination against rural workers and ethnic minorities and religious repression.
In the 1990s, economic growth pulled an estimated 150 million peasants out of poverty. China developed into the world’s second largest economy. (passing Japan)
Critics of the economic reforms claimed they caused wealth disparity, environmental pollution, rampant corruption and often unwelcome cultural influences.
Wealth disparity between urban and rural areas, East and West prompted government programs to “develop the West”.
Will China develop into the “dominant” nation in Asia and the world?
Or will a nation of 1.5 BILLION people be unable to solve internal “issues”?