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Communism in the 20th Century China Essay

When imperialist powers gained rule over the people of China, most Chinese became landless peasants and labourers. The people of China became desperate due to starvation, diseases and poverty. The situation was so severe that some families sold their children in response to the lack of food.

A large number of Chinese had to work as salves both within and outside China. The struggle towards a communist China involved both the peasants and intellectuals.

Around 1918, Li Dazhao established a Marxist study group at Beijing University. Furthermore, Li engaged in the publication of articles analyzing Marxist concepts, which gained a national wide audience. The successful revolution in Russia served to increase confidence among Chinese reformists concerning a Marxist model of revolution.

However, unlike in the Russian case, the largest percentage of China’s population composed of peasants (Eberhard 1977, p.333). In this regard, Dazhao modified the Marxist model employed by Russian communists by presenting claims that China’s exploitation by foreigners placed all the Chinese under the category of an exploited mass.

Furthermore, Dazhao claimed that the liberation of peasants was the only way through which China could attain emancipation. The movement of young Marxists into China’s countryside resulted largely from Dazhao’s influence.

Qu Qiubai, a member of the Marxist group, played a central role in organizing China’s peasants in accordance to the aspects of communism.

Although the Nationalist regime considered communism as a threat and imposed censors on materials that related to Marxism, intellectuals devised means of writing about Marxist ideologies to escape the censors. The publication of these materials helped to prepare the people of China for communism.

China’s intellectuals participated in protests such as the Movement of 1919 to express their dissatisfaction concerning the privileges attached to foreigners, and to demand reforms in China’s social and political system.

This movement largely involved students, professors and workers. Marxism gained favour among intellectuals who perceived socialism as the solution to the numerous problems caused by capitalistic ideologies.

The changing attitude among Chinese towards the leadership served as an opportunity for Zedong to rise into power. Historians consider Mao to have played a central role concerning the rise of a communism in China.

Mao attached considerable importance to the philosophies of Marxism and integrated them into his leadership policies (Dirlik 2005, p.76). Karl Max’s ideologies described a society in which no one individual owned property, but instead all property belonged to the state.

To liberate themselves from oppressive and exploitative leadership, most of the Chinese embarked on active participation in radical groups and political activism. In addition, China was facing invasion from the Japanese and the Chinese people needed a vehicle to facilitate resistance.

Communists put up resistance against the Japanese forces unlike the Nationalist forces that allowed the Japanese took control of all ports in China. This led to the shortage of crucial supplies to various parts of the country.

The Nationalists created the notion that a Western-backed invasion was the only solution concerning the conquest of Japan. On the other hand, the communists employed the guerrilla tactics, which gave them control over the countryside.

Although the Japanese remained in control of the cities, the people of China started to view the communists as the probable force behind China’s liberation. Although after the war the Nationalist government took over administrative roles, it was unpopular in the areas liberated from the Japanese forces by the communists.

While the Nationalists introduced exploitative and corrupt leadership, communists promoted productivity and minimized labour agitation. In this regard, communism became popular in the cities controlled by communists, and among urban groups whose view concerning socialism was changing.

Furthermore, Nationalists proved incapable of controlling inflation, but communists demonstrated the ability to eliminate corruption and stabilizing the country (Lawrance 1998, p.8).

The policies adopted by communists promoted their success in the quest for a communist China. The communists’ objective to minimize rents and interests gained widespread acceptance as it addressed the plights of the poor who were the majority.

Land belonged to a few landowners who controlled the larger part of the population comprising of peasants. According to the communists, the landowners were an obstacle to the modernization of China. The communists’ land reform policies led to the transfer of land from landowners to peasants.

Land reform policies facilitated the mobilization of guerrilla forces as they addressed issues affecting a large percentage of China’s population. For example, the 1947 Land Law brought about the transfer of land ownership to village associations that oversaw the redistribution of land to peasants.

However, the peasants were afraid that the Nationalist government policies would allow former landowners to regain control of the land currently under the ownership of peasants (Zarrow 2005, p.325).

After the war, the people of China wanted a new regime that would rebuild the country. They attributed China’s desolate state to the Nationalist government. The Nationalist government faced a weakening military force as most of its soldiers withdrew from the force to avoid fighting fellow Chinese in the civil war that was underway.

The communists, on the other hand, had better military organization and equipments because of the weapons surrendered by the Japanese. In addition, they bought arms form KMT soldiers (Brandt et al. 2008, p.73). The KMT had become considerably weak in terms of arms and manpower.

Thus, the communist armies encountered minimal resistance from the KMT during the civil war. Towards the end of 1948, communists had taken over most of the mainland China.

In the attempt to improve China’s economy, Mao undertook various projects such as the Great Leap Forward. Mao considered that China’s development depended primarily on the growth of two sectors (Draguhn 2002, p.124). These were the industrial sector and agricultural sector.

Mao believed that both sectors had to grow in tandem to achieve optimal economic growth in China. In this regard, he introduced policies that led to the grouping of the Chinese into communes. Communes not only promoted improved production, but also created a correlation between agriculture, labour and industrial needs.

The main objective of setting up communes was to create a system that could function independently from any form government interference. Individuals in any particular commune were supposed to give up the ownership of property such as tools and animals and transfer it to the commune.

A commune controlled the lives of its members in various aspects. Schools operated in a manner that ensured all adults could work. The provision of healthcare in communes ensured that families continued to work instead of having to spend time looking after sick members.

The establishment of communes led to the development of various production plants such as steel furnaces. In addition, it helped to narrow the gap between the city dwellers and rural folks, workers and peasants, and men and women.

Despite the prospects of revolutionizing China, communes face immense political interference, which disrupted their normal functioning. In addition, most production processes focused on the volume of output rather than the quality of products.

Considering the large nature of communes, the management of various tasks was considerably difficult. Towards the end of 1959, Mao admitted that the Great Leap Forward was a failure and resigned from the post of the head of state (Schurmann 1968, p.195).

After the failure of the Great Leap Forward, Mao withdrew from active rule and left the day-to-day running of China under fellow party members Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping. Mao’s vision of a communist China entailed discarding the previously held concepts regarding economic and social growth.

Running China on a communism platform would facilitate the realization of a society that is free from classes and any form of oppression or exploitation.

CPP face challenges in promoting communism due to disagreements among party leaders. Some leaders, in their endeavour to liberate China, adopted policies that promoted capitalism. The realization that capitalism posed a significant threat to China’s prospects of communism encourages Mao to launch the Proletarian Culture revolution.

This was one of the most extensive revolutions in China’s history (Saich & Ven 1995, p.34). A large number of China’s population participated in the debate regarding taking responsibility for their own fate. Students launched demonstrations concerning oppressive educational and political authority.

Conservative leaders faced numerous criticisms for workers. The Cultural Revolution had significant effects in various aspects of China’s leadership. Sectors such the health care and educational sectors witnessed considerable changes.

The rights of minority groups gained recognition unlike the case before the revolution. Various economic and social aspects changed in consideration of a better China.

A large number of the movements advocated for communism and thus promoted its integration in China. One of these revolutionary movements, under Mao’s leadership rose into power at around 1949. As the leader of the Chinese Communist Party, Mao took over the role of organizing social classes to fit the aspect of a communist China.

Mao’s policies advocated for the liberation of the underprivileged and oppressed Chinese. In this regard, he attracted a lot of support from the local Chinese people.

Considering that the largest proportion of China constituted of poor farmers, Mao enjoyed considerable support. Some of Mao’s policies included land reforms through the redistribution of land to peasants.

Mao was an active member of the society for studying Marxism established by Dazhao. However, although Mao considerably supported the Marxists-Leninist theory, he reinterpreted it to address the needs of the people of China and their culture.

He wanted his ideologies and political commitment to take the perspective of the Chinese people so that anyone could easily interpret his message of a communist China. In this regard, Mao discarded the Marxist ideologies concerning economic development as he felt that it was not an important consideration concerning the transformation of China (Lin 1994, p.94).

According to Mao, it was the people’s commitment to revolution rather than economic forces, which determined the course of a particular society. In addition, whereas Lenin advocated for the withering away of the state, Mao promoted the intensification of state power.

He promoted the indoctrination of peasants and thus was able to create a national culture using traditional and cultural forms. This approach allowed him to use the large number of peasants as a platform for promoting his communist ideologies and launch a revolution.

Mao insisted on the need for the people of China to appreciate the inheritance from their ancestors. Thus, they were required to protect it at all cost from foreign invasion. He was able to create to convince a large of number of people on the applicability of Marxist ideologies concerning tackling the menace of imperialist powers and various problems affecting the Chinese people.

Furthermore, sinification allowed Mao to integrate his guerrilla experiences into the national politics (Schwarcz 1986, p.234).

The society for studying Marxism gained considerable popularity and its meetings witnessed large numbers of attendants. Later the society’s members formed the Chinese Communist Party.

CCP constituted of a military wing known as the Red Army which was crucial concerning CCP‘s leadership and the protection of communism ideologies as it faced opposition from capitalists (Dirlik 1989, p.300).

CCP, under Mao’s leadership, participated in numerous armed struggles against imperialist rule and eventually seized power in 1949. This led to the establishment of an entirely socialist government. Under socialism, news laws prohibited forced labour and other forms of injustices witnessed during the imperialist rule.

Socialism introduced the concept that everyone should participate in transforming China. Although Mao succeeded in controlling anarchy and establishing some form of equality in China, his perspective regarding communism had negative effects in sectors such as education.

In this regard, China faced several difficulties concerning competition at the global level. The country suffered considerable isolation and rarely participated in trade and commerce at the international level.


Brandt, C., Schwartz, B. I., & Fairbank, J. K. 2008, A documentary history of Chinese communism, Harvard University Press: Cambridge.

Dirlik, A. 1989, The origins of Chinese Communism, Oxford University Press: New York.

Dirlik, A. 2005, Marxism in the Chinese revolution, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers: Lanham, Md

Draguhn, W. 2002, China’s communist revolutions: fifty years of the People’s Republic of China, Routledge Curzon: London.

Eberhard, W. 1977, A history of China, University of California Press: Berkeley.

Lawrance, A. 1998, China under communism, Routledge: London.

Lin, Z. 1994, The Chinese and their future: Beijing, Taipei, and Hong Kong, AEI Press: Washington, D.C.

Saich, T., & Ven, H. J. 1995, New perspectives on the Chinese Communist revolution, M.E. Sharpe: Armonk, N.Y.

Schurmann, F. 1968, Ideology and organization in Communist China,: University of California Press: Berkeley.

Schwarcz, V.1986, The Chinese enlightenment: intellectuals and the legacy of the May Fourth movement of 1919, University of California Press: Berkeley.

Zarrow, P. G. 2005, China in war and revolution, 1895-1949, Routledge: London.

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