In the years after World War II, a power struggle was going on in China between two political parties. They were the Nationalists and the Communists.
Who Won the Battle for Power in China?
Back in 1928, Chiang Kai-Shek and his Nationalist Party hade come to power. Some members of the Nationalist Party believed in Communism. The Communists felt that Chiang showed favor to rich landowners and businesspeople. So the Communists broke away from the Nationalists. In 1927, they took over the city of Shanghai.
Chiang expelled (removed) the Communists from the Nationalist Party. A struggle began between the Chinese Nationalists and Chinese Communists. Stalin and the Soviet Union supported the Communists. Stalin encouraged them to win the support of China’s factory workers.
However, China’s strength did not lie in the city workers. It lay in the farm peasants. A man named Mao Zedong, who had been born a peasant, turned to the peasants for support.
During World War II, the Communists helped defend the peasants of northern China against the Japanese. Mao and the Communists won the peasants’ loyalty.
After the war, the Communists and the Nationalists continued their struggle for China. There were four years of civil war. The Nationalists had better supplies and a larger army. However, they no longer had the support of the people. Many nationalist leaders were corrupt. They wanted to become rich themselves while the Chinese people went hungry. The Communists divided land and food fairly among the people. In this way, they received the peasants’ support.
By 1948, the war had turned in favor of the Communists. Chiang Kai-Shek and the Nationalists decided it was time to get out. They left mainland China to live in Taiwan. In 1949, mainland China was taken over by Mao Zedong and the Communists. They called their nation the People’s Republic of China.
The Soviet Union was quick to recognize the new government. So were many other nations. Yet the United States refused to recognize the Communist government.
The United States recognized the Nationalist government in Taiwan and supported it. Taiwan, calling itself the Republic of China, kept China’s seat in the United Nations. In 1971, mainland China replaced Taiwan in the United Nations. In 1972, U.S. president Richard Nixon made an eight-day visit to the People’s Republic. In 1979, the United States recognized the People’s Republic of China, or mainland China, as the only legal government of China. However, the United States continued many unofficial contacts with Taiwan.
What Was Life Like Under Communist Rule?
More than one-fifth of the population of the world lives in China! Producing enough food to feed more than 1.25 billion people is no simple matter. The Communists knew they had to solve that problem. They took land away from rich farmers. They set up huge farm communes. A commune is a group of people working closely together, often sharing property and tasks. The peasants had to work on these communes. Sometimes as many as 10,000 people worked on a single commune. In addition, the government took over industries, built new factories, and trained workers.
The Communists insisted on the support and loyalty of all the people. Workers had to attend meetings where they read aloud from Mao Zedong’s writings. They talked about how Mao’s ideas could make them better citizens of a better China.
What Was the Cultural Revolution?
Mao and the Communists worried that people might prefer the Old China to the New China. They held meetings to teach people to think the Communist way. Enemies of Communism were punished. They were brainwashed, or forced to accept the Communist way of thought.
For a while Mao’s harsh policies worked. However, China’s economy declined for a time. From 1965 to 1969, Mao called his policies a “Cultural Revolution.” The Cultural Revolution was supposed to build loyalty for the Communists. Young students, called “Red Guards,” became soldiers for Communism. They helped Mao carry out his policies.
Farm production fell. China closed its doors to visitors from the rest of the world. The Chinese leaders wanted to make sure that no anti-Communist ideas could filter in.
After Mao’s death in 1976, trade relations between China and the rest of the world improved. Under Deng Xiaoping and other leaders, China went through a period of modernization. In other words, they worked to make China more up-to-date and modern.
Deng was willing to give the Chinese more economic freedom. However, he was not willing to grant political freedom. In the spring of 1989, hundreds of thousands of students gathered in Tiananmen Square in Beijing to demand democracy. The demonstration was crushed by the army, as tanks rolled through the square. Since then, China and the West have disagreed over China’s treatment of protesters and others in the country. China had a fast-growing economy in the 1990s. China has allowed people to own businesses and trade with the West. In 2000, the U.S. Congress voted to give Chna permanent normal trade relations. Many people in the United States still worried about the lack of freedom and human rights in China.
How Did Hong Kong Come Under Chinese Rule?
China had to give Hong Long to Britain in 1842. This was a part of the treaty that ended the Opium War. Britain got the mainland peninsula of Kowloon, a mainland region called the New Territories, and 230 small islands in the South China Sea. These areas became known as Hong Kong. Hong Kong lies of the southeastern coast of China.
After the Communist revolution in China, the population of Hong Kong grew rapidly. This is because people fled there from China. It became an important manufacturing and business center.
China and Britain signed an agreement in 1984. In it, Britain agreed to give up control of Hong Kong in 1997. This agreement stated that Hong Kong would become a protected region. It would also remain a free port. Britain returned Hong Kong to China on July 1, 1997.
Independence High School
Global History Regents
Unit 4: The 20th Century Since 1945
CW 4-6: Communist China
1. What did the Communists do to gain the support and loyalty of their people?
2. Why did Mao Zedong create the “Red Guards?”
3. Why did China have to give Hong Kong to Britain in 1842? How did China get it back?
Write the letter of the answer that correctly completes each sentence.
4. The political parties that struggled for power after World War II were the ____ and the Communists.