The Hardest 27 years of the New China
“The People’s Republic of China and the (Chinese) People’s Central Government are founded today” (Mao). October 1st, 1949, the date marked the birth and reunification of Chinese nation of one of the biggest countries in the world. On, September 9th, 1976, the great chairman Mao died in the end of the Cultural Revolution. These two dates must be laid to every Chinese people’s heart. This period was much worse and difficult than war time of early 1900s for Chinese people. The CCP led Chinese people undergo the hardest and saddest 27 years after the establishment of the New China. The truths of the 27 years have once been distorted and concealed by CCP government. The old generation are always avoiding a proper discussion of this sensitive subject. Tens of thousands of Chinese people died in the Korean War, starved to death during Great Chinese Famine (“as the result of Great Leap Forward”), and were prisoned and persecuted in the Cultural Revolution. I would regard these three events as the most influenced Chinese history during this period since these events blocked New China’s development to a large extent as Chinese people were plunged into an abyss of suffering. However, the achievements made by the CCP in the Land Reform, economic development (The First Five-Year Plan), diplomacy, reunification of minorities and Army Reform should be affirmed.
First, Korean War was Korean civil war in the very beginning when a massive force of North Korean troops crossed the thirty-eighth parallel and invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950. “The Chinese remained muted about the conflict and initially took no decisive action” (Spence, 473). However, as Americans intervene, “Chinese criticisms of the patrol activities of the American Seventh Fleet were angrier and more determined. Zhou Enlai, then, “issued a public statement calling the patrols “armed aggression against the territory of China” (Spence, 473). China eventually got involved in Korean War. Although China claimed that all their troops in Korea were “volunteers” to avoid direct conflict with the U.S., by that time, Chinese causalities had reached between 700,000 and 900,000 according to Spence. The Korean War ended on July 27, 1953, with signing the “Military Armistice Agreement on North Korea”. China’s costs in the success of Korean War were huge. The Chinese “volunteers” troops suffered of inadequate clothing, insufficient food, and little ammunition, fighting against an enemy with overwhelming superiority in air and artillery power. However, the influences of the success of the war were profound. “The courageous but costly charges that the Chinese mounted against well-entrenched enemy emplacements amazed the foreign troops who witnessed them” (Spence, 476). The events of the war were used to reinforce Chinese perceptions of the evils of Western imperialism, and particularly to isolate the United States as China’s prime enemy. China’s success in Korean War also made profound influence on China’s success in its diplomacy later.
In addition, Mao Zedong also emphasized the importance of the success in Korean War. “Since last year we have unfolded three large-scale movements in the country, the movement to resist U.S. aggression and aid Korea, the agrarian reform movement and the movement to suppress counter-revolutionaries, and we have won great victories” (Mao, 1951). He thought that the struggling against U.S. aggression and aiding Korea is as necessary as it is just. I think that the success of Korean War made China a real sovereignty in 1900s.
After making a big success in Korean War, China implemented the First Five-Year Plan, which brought a fine harvest and raised everyone’s hopes. In 1958, the CCP’s acknowledgment of that “the people’s communes are the logical result of the march of events” attributed to “the all-round, continuous leap forward in China’s agricultural production and the ever-rising political consciousness of the 500 million peasants” (Spence, 518). The CCP extremely exaggerated the degree and benefit of people’s communes. People believed that everything should be public and people’s communes were the most efficient organizations/forms in contributing to “proving that Chinese self-reliance could speed the country’s development of a nuclear weapon, and end China’s recurrent fuel shortages” (Spence, 520). All the people in the country were organized to help produce the amount of steel that was needed to attain the goal of surpassing England. A lot of resources were wasted during the Great Leap period.
Furthermore, I would like to mention 1959-1961 Great Chinese Famine event, combining with the influence of the Great Leap Forward. The Great Chinese Famine is also called Three Years of Natural Disasters. This period was a sensitive topic to discuss to every Chinese people. During this period, tens of thousands of Chinese people died of starvation. The rumor of “that people ate each other” was derived from this period. More or less, I think that the Great Leap Forward triggered/caused/influenced the disasters of 1959-1961. The Great Leap Forward blocked the New China’s development seriously.
Finally, I think that the Cultural Revolution launched and led by Chairman Mao between 1966 May and 1976 October, influenced Chinese history most during this period. Chinese history during 1961 to 1966 was almost blank, as far as I learned. China’s achievements during these 5 years were trivial and little except for the success of experiments of nuclear weapons. “But to China’s economic planners, who felt they were getting the country back on its feet, the rhetoric must have sounded tired” (Spence, 534). Although in such terrible situation, the Cultural Revolution, which was used by the Gang of Four, the counterrevolutionary group, broke out in China. The Cultural Revolution includes series of political campaigns, which brought Chinese nation a severe disaster.
According to Spence, “the leaders of the Cultural Revolution called for a comprehensive attack on the “four old” elements within Chinese society—old customs, old habits, old culture, and old thinking” (545). The Red Guards destroyed countless priceless cultural relics, books and antiques, holding the extreme and stupid concepts. The 1980’s census showed that there were one fourth of Chinese population illiterate. The Cultural Revolution blocked the Chinese education development. Most of the universities and schools were forced to be shut down. In addition, a number of intelligent scholars and great politicians were criticized, prisoned and persecuted. 1966s’ China was in chaos. The Cultural Revolution blocked China’s development after the wars to a large extent. It was a disaster for all Chinese people.
Instead of discussing the positive effects made by these three events, they did bring extreme disasters to Chinese people. The Korean War brought Chinese people war again. The Great Leap Forward blocked Chinese economic development. The Cultural Revolution destroyed Chinese cultural and educational development, causing a huge gap in talents, which blocked China’s development in 21st century. These 27 years did make the country back. However, the 27 years also got China valuable experience in blazing a trail of socialism with Chinese characteristics. After the Reform and Opening up in 1978, China is rising in the world.