The People’s Republic of China
China since 1945

Mao inaugurating the People's Republic of China atop the Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tiananmen)
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Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong bobblehead figures
The Nationalists & the Communists
Although China was one of the victors in World War II, conditions in war-ravaged China did not noticeably improve after Japan’s defeat. Instead, the catastrophic inflation, corruption, and black marketeering that had begun during the World War only worsened, while the off-again, on-again civil war between the Chinese Nationalists and Communists entered its final phase. In the first months after the war, the U.S. ambassador did succeed in bringing Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek together for face-to-face negotiations. It was reportedly Mao’s first ride in an airplane. The American hope was to prevent full-scale civil war and promote democracy in China. For that purpose, in late 1945 President Truman appointed one of America’s most distinguished military leaders and statesmen, General George C. Marshall (1880-1959), as a special envoy to China. General Marshall remained in China for a little over a year (December 1945-January 1947), and on his departure, he was able to express cautious optimism that a new Chinese constitution, and democratic elections scheduled for late 1947, might hold.
 
Mao and Chiang toasting
 
But General Marshall also expressed concern that efforts at reaching a peace settlement were being frustrated by extremists on both sides. In fact, the bitter antagonism between the Chinese Nationalists and Communists ultimately proved too deep to sustain the uneasy truce. The problems of postwar China in general, moreover, were proving stubbornly intractable. ... The Nationalist armies were initially larger and better equipped than the Communist Red Army (later known as the Peoples Liberation Army), but the Nationalists fought a static defensive war and were outmaneuvered and defeated unit by unit. In the process, huge amounts of men and material were captured by the Communists. As the Communist offensive began to accelerate in 1948, the last senior American advisor to Chiang Kai-shek’s military even complained that “the Communists had more of our equipment than the Nationalists did.” Mao Zedong was fond of joking that Chiang Kai-shek “was our supply officer.” ...
 
Map of Chinese Civil War, 1945
 
Chiang Kai-shek retreated to the island of Taiwan (where the Republic of China at least nominally survives to the present day), and on October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong stood on Tiananmen — the old Gate of Heavenly Peace rather than the new Tiananmen Square, which did not yet exist — and proclaimed the establishment of a new country, called the People’s Republic of China (PRC). (HEA, 359-60)
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The First Five-Year Plan
1953-1957

Mao with a map of China (charting the first Five-Year Plan)
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The Hundred Flowers Movement
1957

Let a hundred flowers bloom in a blaze of color
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The Anti-Rightist Campaign
1958

Anti-Rightist Campaign: urban man and woman doing farmwork
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The Great Leap Forward
1958-1961

Image of workers miraculously riding on the waves with a caption reading "Ride the wind & brave the waves; everyone has miraculous abilities"
 
Painting of an idealized commune
 
Women working with "backyard furnaces" in the background
 
Kids standing on wheat (propaganda photo)
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The Cultural Revolution
1966-1976
Cultural Revolution Poster
 
Civil War in the Chinese Communist Party
At present, the people of the whole nation, in a soaring revolutionary spirit that manifests their boundless love for the Party and Chairman Mao and their inveterate hatred for the sinister anti-Party, anti-socialist gang, are making a vigorous and great cultural revolution; they are struggling to thoroughly smash the attacks of the reactionary sinister gang, in defense of the Partys Central Committee and Chairman Mao. ...
 
Cultural Revolution Poster of a Red Guard smashing the heads of Liu Xiaoqi and Deng Xiaoping with the words "Revolutionary Rebels Unite:! Completely smash the capitalist class and the reactionary line of Liu and Deng"
 
All revolutionary intellectuals, now is the time to go into battle! Let us unite, holding high the great red banner of Mao Zedong Thought, unite around the Party’s Central Committee and Chairman Mao and break down all the various controls and plots of the revisionists; resolutely, thoroughly, totally, and completely wipe out all ghosts and monsters and all Khrushchevian counterrevolutionary revisionists, and carry the socialist revolution through to the end.
 
          Defend the Party’s Central Committee!
          Defend Mao Zedong Thought!
          Defend the dictatorship of the proletariat! (Sources of Chinese Tradition, vol. 2, 477)
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Chairman Mao as a sun shining over the people with the words "Advance victoriously while following Chairman Mao's revolutionary line in literature and the arts"

The Cult of Mao

Click for video of the Loyalty Dance
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Click for video of Mao's Golden Mangoes
 
Copy of the Little Red Book

Image of Red Guard smashing objects with the words "Smash the Old World to Create a New World"
 
The list of accusations grew longer by the day: hooligans and bad eggs, filthy rich peasants and son-of-a-bitch landlords, bloodsucking capitalists and neo-bourgeoisie, historical counterrevolutionaries and active counterrevolutionaries, rightists and ultra-rightists, alien class elements and degenerate elements, reactionaries and opportunists, counterrevolutionary revisionists, imperialist running dogs, and spies. Students stood in the roles of prosecutor, judge, and police. No defense was allowed. Any teacher who protested was certainly a liar.
 
Party members on the way to a major struggle session
 
The indignities escalated as well. Some students shaved or cut teachers hair into curious patterns. The most popular style was the yin-yang cut, which featured a full head of hair on one side and a clean-shaven scalp on the other. Some said this style represented Chairman Maos theory of the “unity of opposites.” It made me think of the punishments of ancient China, which included shaving the head, tattooing the face, cutting off the nose or feet, castration, and dismemberment by five horse-drawn carts. (Sources of Chinese Tradition, vol. 2, 478-9)
 
Struggle Session during the Cultural Revolution
 
 
"Chairman Meow" Poster (a charicature of a Chairm Mao poster with Mao replaced by a cat (since Mao's name sounds like the Chinese word for "cat")
People's Republic of China emblem