The Turning Point in the History of Communist China


by Jianing YANG

Professor Karen Ray,  Marianopolis College (Winter 2001)


The present communist regime in China was not established overnight: blood was shed at its birth, people have starved in moments of crisis and millions of others were killed in its coming of age. However, it is possible and utterly enlightening to fully understand the history of Communist China, namely to understand the ideologies that shaped certain major steps of its chronology.

At the turn of the 20th century, China was for the first time led by a non-imperial government. The Nationalist Party (Guomindang), thru a nationwide uprising, ousted the Qing dynasty which just left from a century of decay. Meanwhile, Marxist ideologies reached most of Asia and, in 1920; the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was founded. Being still a quite small organization, it first worked in cooperation with the Guomindang, but was eventually shattered as they differed ideologically. Threatened by massive executions, the heads of the CCP fled to Hunan where they joined Mao Zedong, the peasant representative of the Communist Party.

In the 1930s, the Guomindang armies pursued the CCP as they retreated and later engaged in the Long March. Meanwhile, Japan invaded large Chinese territories forcing both parties to form a United Front at the start of World War II. Showing more devotion while defending the country, the communists gained more influence among the Chinese. After the Allied victory, the civil war resurfaced, but this time at the advantage of the CCP. In 1949 after years of struggle, the People's Republic of China was proclaimed while the KMT fled to the island of Taiwan with most of the national treasures.

From 1949 to 1958, the CCP tried to establish socialism in China. The first attempt of the program resulted in the Five-Year Plan, an economic reform partially based on the Soviet model that clearly failed in the chiefly agricultural country that China was. Then, in 1958, with full command of the Party, Mao announced what is known as The Great Leap Forward, symbolizing decisively the independent path of the CCP. However, radical measures of the plan brought a disastrous outcome that led the party into factional disputes.

At the same time, as the internal politics were struggling, China wanted to reorganize its Foreign Policies, but quickly felt into isolationism. Then, in the mid 1960s, witnessing a shift to capitalism in the population, the CCP engaged into a vast thought reform under the name of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. This perhaps represented China's last attempt towards Communism as its great proponents all died during the famous year of 1976. This rapid decline was seized by the moderate wing of the Party which took over the country. Today, these people clearly embody the fall of Communism in China as they are more concerned in modernizing the country than by the means they employ to do so.

In conclusion, the rise of communism in China occurred in a series of unpredictable episodes, but always following the audacity of revolutionary thoughts. Ironically, it is the same radical ideology that led to the disillusion of the masses and ultimately, the emergence of a more moderate socialist government in Red China.



1. The first paragraph is an introduction, it doesn’t give us any facts, but instead it tells us what?


2. When the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) formed it was small and worked with the Nationalist Party (Guomindang), why do you think it did this?


3. The Nationalist Party was trying to eliminate the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), but than China was invaded by Japan during World War II.  Why did they work with each other and what was the outcome after the war?


4. What was the result of Mao’s Great Leap Forward Plan?


5. What was a result of China’s leaders dying and the attempt to push socialism in the 1970’s?


6. Today China has a more moderate socialist government.  How can you tell from what you know about China?