“A drama begins with a prologue but the prologue is not the climax. The Chinese Revolution is great – but the road after the revolution will be longer, the work greater and more arduous.”
Mao Zedong, 1949
Mao Zedong declares the establishment of The People’s Republic of China on 1 October 1949. Photo Credit: History Today.
China had been embroiled in a Civil war intermittently between 1927 and 1949. The two sides, the Nationalist Party of China, and the Communist Party of China, fought each other for control of the nation, but put aside their differences (for the most part) during the Second Sino-Japanese War between 1937-1945 to resist the Japanese occupation of their nation.
Once the Japanese surrendered in 1945, fighting resumed between the two sides. Thousands of North Koreans fought in the People’s Liberation Army, the name of the communist forces of China. Additionally, the North Koreans also sent thousands of railway cars worth of supplies to help the Communist cause in China. This support would not be forgotten by Mao in the future. Nor would the US support of the Nationalists forces during the civil war.
By 1949, the Nationalist Forces had fled to the island of Taiwan, with the Communist forces controlling the mainland. On 30 September 1949 Mao Zedong was elected the Chairman of the Central People’s Government. All major facets of Chinese society transformed to control under the Communist Party. The Party declared an end to imperialism in the nation, and transforming it from an agricultural economy to an industrial one.
The next day, 1 October 1949, from the Gate of Heavenly Peace in Tiananmen Square, Mao Zedong formally declared the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. 250,000 people gathered to hear the new leader speak of the changes to come. The landed gentry and landlords of the nation would have their lands taken and redistributed to the peasant class. This drastically reduced economic inequality. In addition to this redistribution, millions of former landlords and land holders were executed, with their lands being given to the former landless peasants. To Mao and the Communist, class struggle could be solved worldwide with socialism.
With the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, communist North Korea had an ideologically similar northern neighbor. Additionally, Communist China had a communist buffer state between their border and American allied South Korea. These relationships would create a situation that in about a year would have dire consequences for all the parties involved. Thousands of Korean veterans of the People’s Liberation Army were sent back to Korea, and these veterans would play a crucial role in the North Korean Army.
The Chinese forces that would be sent to fight in Korea in the fall and winter of 1950 would include thousands of captured Nationalists pressed into communist service. These Chinese soldiers had been sent to the infamous Communist “reeducation camps”, and preached to about the class struggle that the Communist ideology would “fix”. Whether or not the reeducation stuck or not was up to the individual former Nationalist. What wasn’t up to the individual was crossing the Yalu river into North Korea in October 1950 to fight the UN forces closing in on the Chinese border. But that is a blog to be written in the future.
First raising of the Chinese national flag during the celebration of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China on 1 October 1949.