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China’s Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries Essay

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Updated: Jun 14th, 2020

Introduction

Mainly, three experiences characterize social-political revolutions. The first is experience relates to the sarcastic conclusion of a state-building project of the former government by enhancing the state power and boosting the bureaucracy. Secondly, external warfare is common due to the existence of conflicting interests. Further, revolutionaries tend to use terror, which is directed at individuals considered as enemies of the new regime.

Notably, the state terror tends to expand to other groups and in extreme extent, consume the revolutionaries. Using the highlighted experiences, this paper reviews the Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries that took part between 1950 and 1953. Notably, the paper is centered on the intricate between state-sponsored terror, state building, and state paternalism during the early years of consolidating the nation – the People’s Republic of China.

Reasons for Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries

Numerous reasons led to the launch of the campaign. For instance, the regime began the campaign in the belief that counterrevolutionaries sabotage and spy in the country. Notably, before the campaign started, there were cases of state property destruction, military resistance, and armed robbery of state granaries, which the government considered as an upsurge of a counterrevolutionary. There were insecurity cases in rural areas of southwestern provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan, and Guangxi.1

The campaign was used as a domestic political tool of rallying popular support behind the country’s new government, assimilating vertical bureaucracy, and increasing the use of coercive instruments towards the new regime’s opposition.2 Again, the campaign was initiated by reports that numerous localities were embracing lenience towards counterrevolutionaries. For instance, between 1949 and 1950 Qingdao, Jian’ou and Nanjing executed seven counterrevolutionaries only.3 Further, some of the verdicts made favored counterrevolutionaries. For instance, Xi’an and Nanjing courts declared a verdict of self-defense on two bandits who had killed a postal clerk and a police officer.

Extend of Terror

Based on government sources, the campaign led to the execution of about 800,000 to 2,000,000 counterrevolutionaries.4 Notably, out of 14,391 counterrevolutionaries sentenced in Shanghai in 1951, only 2,916 received death sentences. In Nanjing, the regime arrested 18,611 counterrevolutionaries in 1951. In Xi’an, the government punished more than 11,000 counterrevolutionaries. In Guangdong, the government executed 28,332 counterrevolutionaries and neutralized about 60,000 of them.5

The extent of campaign terror was extreme than indicated by the numbers. Notably, between 1949 (December) and 1951 (January), 274 counterrevolutionaries were shot in Shanghai even before the campaign got serious.6 Numerous people were questioned, interrogated, registered, and invariably let go. For instance, 3,200 and 246 counterrevolutionaries were registered, questioned, and released in Harbin and Nanjing respectively in 1949. Again, friends, associates, and relatives of accused and sentenced individuals were subjected to uncertainty, lengthy interrogations, public humiliations, and intensive re-education.

Handling Counterrevolutionaries

In handling counterrevolutionaries, the regime preferred handling counterrevolutionaries using the combination of harsh terror, paternalist lenience, local mobilization, and bureaucratic control.7 The handling of counterrevolutionaries differed from one region to another; for instance, Nanjing preferred lenience while Shanghai embraced state sponsored terror.8

Again, different directive showed mixed policies regarding handling counterrevolutionaries. Notably, the “Double Ten Detective” encouraged the use of terror based on severity, but advocated for a proof before sentencing.9 In 1951, the campaign softened leading to the decline of crimes that deserved the death penalty to a range of 10% and 20%. In turn, the government used propaganda work to cause tension between masses and counterrevolutionaries.

Stirring up the Masses

The regime publicized counterrevolutionaries, their crimes, and punishment to warn and struck fear among colleagues and sympathizers. The publicity took place through films, exhibitions, and the participatory spectacle of trials and accusation meetings.10 To the public, the campaign relied on propaganda work and re-education in preparing the public to believe that counterrevolutionary acts were evil and the regime’s approach of execution was appropriate. Most of the campaigns received large crowds. For instance, in 1951, a broadcast from Nanjing showed a large attendance of people at a rally. Cumulatively, 213,000 people attended 25,000 propaganda meetings in Nanjing; 650,000 people attended propaganda meetings in Xi’an; while, 70,000 people attended similar meetings in Guangzhou.

Enhancing State Power through Fear

One primary goal of Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries was to increase and reinforce the bureaucratic state power through the control of Chinese Communist Party. Official documents reiterated the necessity of having strong legal, public and organization security through party committee leadership.11 Most of the police who arrested and interrogated people had Nationalist holdovers’ ranks and files.

The regime extended Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries to enterprises and factories. In 1951 (spring), the administration sent 459 cadres to 255 states and factories to assist in creating committees, suppressing counterrevolutionaries, establishing comprehensive paper trails, taking part in propaganda work, and overseeing indictment meetings.12 Notably, Shanghai Worker’s Federation reported the arrest of 6,077 counterrevolutionaries in enterprises and factories in April 1951. Besides, the regime excluded counterrevolutionaries from registration of labor insurance.13 Other moderate groups considered as threat were included but severely underpaid.

In principle, the property of counterrevolutionaries was given to employ work unit for distribution to the needy and worthy them.14 However, a meeting of 12 police districts in Beijing concluded that relatives of counterrevolutionaries should not be considered as counterrevolutionaries so long as they show cooperation through re-education and attending mass rallies.15 Again, they supported confiscation of counterrevolutionaries’ property.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries that took place between 1950 and 1953 had three objectives. First, the campaign aimed at dismantling the real and probable opposition (social and political) to the new regime. Second, the campaign aimed at strengthening the state-building project using state terror organizations in order to create normative control above local and regional governments. The final objective of the campaign was to marshal popular support from people. Notably, the government pursued these goals by intertwining paternalism and terror.

References

Strauss, Julia C. “Paternalist Terror: The Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries and Regime Consolidation in the People’s Republic of China, 1950 –1953.” Society for Comparative Study of Society and History 44, no. 1 (2002): 80-105.

Footnotes

  1. Julia C. Strauss, “Paternalist Terror: The Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries and Regime Consolidation in the People’s Republic of China, 1950 –1953,” Society for Comparative Study of Society and History 44, no. 1 (2002): 83.
  2. Ibid., 84.
  3. Ibid., 86
  4. Ibid., 87.
  5. Ibid., 88.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid., 89.
  8. Ibid., 91-92.
  9. Ibid., 89.
  10. Ibid., 95.
  11. Ibid., 92.
  12. Ibid., 93.
  13. Ibid., 94.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ibid., 95.
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IvyPanda. "China's Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries." June 14, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/chinas-campaign-to-suppress-counterrevolutionaries/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "China's Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries." June 14, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/chinas-campaign-to-suppress-counterrevolutionaries/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'China's Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries'. 14 June.

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