During the decade 1949-59, the new government of the People’s Republic of China (in Chinese Chung – hua Jen – min Kung – ho – kuo), established in Beijing on October 1, 1949 under the presidency of Mao Tse-tung, faced the grandiose task of rebuilding the Chinese state that had decades of civil wars, foreign aggressions, lack of central power, inefficient administration, they had reduced to extremes. The task required the mobilization of the entire immense mass of the Chinese population; but although the work of industrialization of the country, desired with ruthless energy by the government, has not finished, the results obtained so far, and especially the prestige achieved in the international field, are such as to make the memory of China of half a century ago faded, a vast but weak country, a real “handful of sand, without form”, according to the definition given by Sun Wen (Sun Yat-sen).
The organization of the state. – The “Political Consultative Conference”, which met in Beijing from 21 to 30 September 1949, approved the “Organic Law of the Central People’s Government” and the “Common Program”; designated Beijing as its capital and elected Mao Tse-tung president of the Republic. Chou En-lai was appointed prime minister and minister of foreign affairs. Power was divided between the Administrative Council of the State, a permanent institution, and the Revolutionary Council of the People, a provisional one. The political-military commissions that controlled the six large administrative units into which China had been divided depended on it.
According to COMPUTERMINUS, this state of affairs could not last and on January 13, 1953 the State Administrative Council appointed a committee, chaired by Mao, with the task of drawing up a draft Constitution and charged another commission, chaired by Chou En-lai, to prepare an electoral bill. The latter was promulgated on 1 March 1953. Shortly after, on 30 June 1953, a general census of the population was carried out, an essential condition for electing the representatives to the National Assembly. This was held for the first time in Beijing on September 15, 1954 with the participation of 1,226 deputies (12% women; 14% belonging to ethnic minorities).
On September 20, 1954 the National Assembly approved the draft Constitution which is inspired by the Constitution of the USSR of 1936. Legislative power resides in the National Assembly, which elects the president and vice-president of the Republic, approves the choice of the president of the Council, made by the President of the Republic, and meets once a year. The most restricted body, which acts in place of the Assembly when it is not convened, is the Standing Committee of the National People’s Assembly: it, together with the President of the Republic, accumulates the functions and powers assigned to the Head of State. Executive power rests with the Council of State, made up of a president, various vice-presidents and a general secretary: the numerous ministries, commissions and various other state bodies depend on it. The Constitution also considers the existence of the National Defense Council, chaired by the President of the Republic, who thus has the command of the armed forces; and the Supreme People’s Court, the highest judicial body of the state.
The Communist Party of China and smaller parties. – In addition to the Communist party, there are other minor parties in China: the Revolutionary Committee of the Kuo Min Tang; the Chinese Democratic League; the Association for Democratic National Construction; the Chinese Association for the Promotion of Democracy; the Democratic Party of Chinese Peasants and Workers; the Chih-kung Party; the Chiu-san Association; the Democratic League for Self-Government of Formosa. Their weight on China’s domestic politics is small.
The Communist Party, founded in 1921, held its VIII National Congress in September 1956 after the foundation of the Republic. On that occasion the new Constitution of the party was approved; the new central committee was elected with 97 effective members and 73 alternate members and the total number of members was announced: 10,730,000. Mao Tse-tung was elected chairman of the committee. The 8th Congress was influenced by the anti-Stalinist campaign waged in Russia and the party’s new Constitution was affected by the desire to “respect internal democracy”; to oppose “commandism, sectarianism, bureaucraticism”. On that occasion Mikoyan, head of the Soviet delegation, noted that “the Chinese comrades know how to find forms and methods that suit China’s needs, while, on the other hand, the contrasts existing between the popular masses and their reactionary enemies are harmful, because they are due to fundamental differences of interests. Subsequently, however, continuing the criticisms that were no longer addressed to the small local leaders but also struck the very high leaders of the party, the tolerant attitude of these changed. On June 9, 1957, a distinction was made between constructive (well-intentioned) and non-constructive (in bad faith) criticisms, intended to undermine the authority of the party; after which a campaign began against those who were most compromised. To avoid the easy criticism of having been somewhat naïve, not having foreseen what would happen once the political life of the country was liberalized, the Chinese leaders preferred to accuse themselves of Machiavellianism by affirming that the whole Hundred Flowers Movement had been a political maneuver to identify the enemies of the people, the ill-intentioned critics, the reactionaries. Numerous intellectuals were thus purged from the posts they held in the party: the main one, among many, was Ting Ling, a writer who had been a member of the party for 26 years, a close friend of Lu Hsün and Mao Tse-tung, widow of a writer shot by the Kuo Min Tang and Stalin prize in 1951. Other measures were taken against leaders of minor parties: Chang Po-chün, Lo Lung-chi and Chang Nai-chi. The CCP has since returned to the hard line, further reaffirming its control over intellectuals. In 1958 the
With the crisis over, the CCP prepared for the changing of the guard in the supreme hierarchies of the state. From 18 to 28 April 1959, the National Assembly was convened in Beijing. On April 27, the election of Liu Shao-chi, vice president of the CCP Central Committee, as president of the Republic was announced; Tung Pi-wu and Sung (Soong) Ching-ling as vice presidents; of Chu Teh as chairman of the Standing Committee of the National Assembly. Chou En-lai was reconfirmed as prime minister. As for Mao Tse-tung, he retains the post of chairman of the Communist Party’s central committee, a post that is given unprecedented prestige in order to convince both domestic and foreign public opinion that he remains the supreme leader of China.
Reform of writing. – Aware of the enormous difficulties represented by ideographic writing, which constitutes an indisputable obstacle to the spread of culture, the government of Beijing has decided to simplify some of the most frequently used ideograms and to replace ideographic writing with alphabetic writing. On January 28, 1956, the Council of State approved a provision relating to the simplification of ideograms, while on February 9 of the same year it published an alphabet project based on Latin script. The new alphabet consists of 30 letters (6 vowels and 24 consonants), of which 5 are newly created. Subsequently these five were abolished, bringing the number of letters to 25. Although ideographic writing still remains the only writing system in China, too, in the programs of the Chinese rulers, it will have to be replaced sooner or later by the new alphabet. For now, street names, newspaper headlines, etc. are written in Latin characters.