With the recent hostilities shown to India, China’s aggressive policies have a history of communist regime engaged in conflict with several ideologies. We explore the history of today’s China, primarily how it became a People’s Republic.
Crux of the Matter
Early Chinese History
China was under the rule of the Qing dynasty from 1644. In 1894, the first Sino-Japanese war occurred over dominance in Korea. The war ended in a defeat for China, and Taiwan acceding to Japan.
In 1899-1900, the Boxer Rebellion was started, where the secret society under the name of ‘Boxer’ started to remove and kill foreigners in China. The retaliation of the Western nations further diminished the Chinese economy. Consequently, in 1912, the Xinhai revolution occurred where the Qing dynasty was removed and the Republic of China (ROC) was established. The revolutionary Sun Yat-sen became the first President.
1920s: The CPC Emerges
The Communist Party of China (CPC) was established in 1921, with the party initially adhering to Marxism-Leninism. The party was formed after the May Fourth movement, with mass protests following the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. In the treaty, territories of China annexed by Germany were handed over to Japan, which incensed the Chinese.
In 1924, the CPC formed an alliance with the Kuomintang (KMT), or the Nationalist Party of China. However, the situation became precarious as the KMT President Chiang Kai-Shek ordered the massacre of CPC workers after which they went underground.
Civil War And Establishment of People’s Republic of China
In 1931, a civil war broke out between the Red Army (armed forces of the CPC) and the Nationalist Party. The condition of China further deteriorated as Japan invaded in 1937 in the background of World War II.
In 1949, the civil war ended with the Communist Party of China emerging victorious, and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was established. Chiang Kai-Shek and his soldiers escaped to Taiwan where they established their rule. Until 1971, the Republic of China (ROC) was accepted by the United Nations as a Chinese representative, after which it started recognizing the People’s Republic of China as the official representative.
In 1949, Mao Zedong became the Chairman of the CPC and the ruler of China. His method was different from the initial ideology of Marxism-Leninism, which created a branch of the Marxist ideology known as Maoism.
The Great Leap Forward
Mao initiated the Great Leap Forward in 1958, with the aim of changing China from an agrarian society to a communist and self-sufficient industrial nation. The move shifted people into communes, changed the farming techniques, and forced people to produce steel in their backyards. At the same time, Mao also ran the Four Pests Campaign which sought to kill rats, flies, mosquitoes, and sparrows as they spread diseases or ate the crops. The government even declared birds as “public animals of capitalism”.
The Leap Forward failed disastrously as the agricultural output was damaged severely while the steel production proved futile. With the step being combined with disasters like floods, 20-48 million people died, with the majority of the deaths occurring due to starvation.
The Cultural Revolution was initiated by Mao in 1966. The movement aimed to “crush” people living the “capitalist” mode of life and to ‘re-educate’ people in Maoism. Initially, schools and places of religious worship were closed down to be restructured. However, the movement turned violent as the Red Guards, comprising of students, started killing intellectuals, opposition members, and anyone deemed “capitalist”.
The movement ended in 1976 with the death of Mao, with more than 2 million deaths reported.
Deng Xiaoping of the CPC took the lead after the death of Mao in 1976. He decreased the authoritarianism of the government and removed the restrictions imposed on the market. His adding of the ‘free market’ to the communist nation created ‘market socialism’ for China, which has decreased the poverty rate from 90% in 1981 to 2% in 2013. Deng also made peace with Japan to a certain extent and implemented the ‘1 child’ policy to control the population explosion in China. He also imposed the limit of 2 consecutive terms for Presidency, which was recently modified by the current President Xi Jinping.
- Chiang Kai-shek was a Chinese nationalist politician, revolutionary and military leader who served as the leader of the Republic of China. Chiang was the longest-serving non-royal ruler of China who held the post for 46 years.
- The Qin dynasty was the first dynasty of Imperial China, lasting from 221 to 206 BC. The dynasty was founded by Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of Qin.
- The Qing dynasty was the last imperial dynasty of China. It was established in 1636 and ruled China proper from 1644 to 1912. It was preceded by the Ming dynasty and succeeded by the Republic of China. It was the fifth largest empire in world history in terms of territorial size.