On the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), we send our heartfelt greetings to the people of China, the government of China, the Communist Party of China (CPC), and its general secretary, Comrade Xi Jinping.
The liberation of China was the second-most momentous event of the 20th century, after the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia.
The century of humiliation
In 1800, China accounted for a third of global GDP, a figure that had been reduced to a mere 5 percent by 1949, thanks to China’s encounter with colonialism and imperialism.
The first opium war (1839-42), waged by Britain to force opium addiction onto the Chinese people, marked the beginning of a century of humiliation – a century which is etched on the collective memory of the Chinese people and remembered with great bitterness towards the colonial powers.
China’s defeat in that war was registered in the Treaty of Nanjing, which became the symbol of China’s utter humiliation. The treaty allowed the continuation of the opium trade, made China pay the costs of the war, ceded Hong Kong to Britain (which was used for decades as a drug-running centre), and forced the Chinese emperor to deal directly with the British emissaries.
Further, it provided that any concession made by the Chinese state in the future to any other western power would have immediately to be extended to Britain; and it allowed British merchants to operate in five leading Chinese ports.
The Second Opium War, which started in 1856, ended in the Treat of Tientsin (26 June 1858). The Treaty of Nanjing was followed by 26 humiliating treaties consequent upon a succession of Chinese defeats at the hands of every foreign power China fought against.
Japan colonised Taiwan after its victory in the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-5. Britain added Kowloon to Hong Kong. In 1900, tsarist Russia captured a large part of Manchuria. Germany seized Shandong, the port city of Qingdaq, and the mineral rights of the surrounding province.
These treaties opened up the entire Chinese coast and its navigable rivers to foreign colonial powers on the latter’s terms, which might include imposing their own systems of education and communication, their armed forces, steamship lines, courts, factories, free access and trading rights.
The Chinese people put up resistance and waged a fierce struggle against these foreign powers, as well as against the corrupt and incompetent imperial authorities and feudal warlords. Important landmarks in the Chinese people’s struggle include the Taiping rebellion (1850-64), the Boxer uprising (1899-1901), and the 4 May 1919 popular revolt.
But all of these heroic revolts were crushed cruelly by the authorities, usually with the help of colonialist powers.
The October Revolution brings socialism to the east
Things only began to change with the appearance on the scene of the Communist Party of China, which was founded in 1921 by a few dozen Chinese intellectual communists at its founding congress in Shanghai.
On the eve of the victorious Chinese Revolution, this is how Comrade Mao Zedong delineated the awakening of the Chinese people:
“From the time of China’s defeat in the opium war of 1840, Chinese progressives went through untold hardships in their quest for truth from the western countries …
“Imperialist aggression shattered the fond dreams of the Chinese about learning from the west. It was very odd – why were the teachers always committing aggression against their pupil? The Chinese learned a good deal from the west, but they could not make it work and were never able to realise their ideals.
“Their repeated struggles, including such a country-wide movement as the revolution of 1911, all ended in failure. Day by day, conditions in the country got worse, and life was made impossible.
“Doubts arose, increased and deepened. World War 1 shook the whole globe. The Russians made the October Revolution and created the world’s first socialist state. Under the leadership of Lenin and Stalin, the revolutionary energy of the great proletariat and labouring people of Russia, hitherto latent and unseen by foreigners, suddenly erupted like a volcano, and the Chinese and all mankind began to see the Russians in a new light.
“Then, and only then, did the Chinese enter an entirely new era in their thinking and their life. They found Marxism Leninism, the universally applicable truth, and the face of China began to change.
“It was through the Russians that the Chinese found Marxism. Before the October Revolution, the Chinese were not only ignorant of Lenin and Stalin, they did not even know of Marx and Engels. The salvoes of the October Revolution brought us Marxism Leninism.
“The October Revolution helped progressives in China, as throughout the world, to adopt the proletarian world outlook as the instrument for studying a nation’s destiny and considering anew their own problems. Follow the path of the Russians – that was their conclusion.” (On the people’s democratic dictatorship, in commemoration of the twenty-eighth anniversary of the Communist Party of China, 30 June 1949)
Under the banner of Marxism Leninism, and following the path of the October Revolution, the Chinese people, under the leadership of the CPC, went on to score great victories. However, their path was strewn with unbelievable difficulties and hardship.
Overcoming tremendous obstacles
On 12 April 1927, Chiang Kai-shek, breaking his alliance with the CPC, launched a counter-revolutionary coup, murdered tens of thousands of communists, forcing the latter out of big towns and to move to Jinggangshan to establish the Chinese Soviet Republic in southern Jiangxi in November 1931.
The Red Army there grew into a formidable force of 300,000 – a dress rehearsal for the subsequent decisive Yan’an period in northern Shaanxi province.
From Chiang’s counter-revolutionary coup and the mass murder of communists, Mao Zedong came to two important conclusions. First, that without a People’s army the people have nothing; second, that political power grows from the barrel of a gun.
These two lessons, taught by the Chiang Kai-shek counter-revolutionaries, Mao Zedong and the CPC were never to forget during the entire course of the Chinese people’s struggle for liberation.
Although Japanese imperialism had begun to conquer China in a big way in 1931, Chiang, instead of confronting the imperial Japanese aggressors, was far more concerned with annihilating the communists. With this aim, he launched on 15 October 1934 his second extermination campaign against the CPC and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Thus, with the encirclement of its base area, the PLA, under the leadership of the CPC, began the legendary 6,000-mile Long March – an odyssey unequalled in modern history, marked by ceaseless struggle, heroic sacrifice, self-denial and diligence.
Of the 80,000 men and 35 women at the beginning of the march, only some 10,000 survived. Among the dead or missing were two of Mao’s children and his brother Mao Zetan.
Overcoming unbelievable obstacles, defying Chiang’s attacks, as well as those of the Japanese forces, the PLA succeeded in establishing a base in Yan’an which became the basis for the subsequent nationwide victory of the Chinese Revolution.
By 1937, Japanese imperialism had conquered Shanghai, Nanjing and Canton (Guangzhou).
Following a complicated strategy, the CPC forced Chiang and his Kuomintang (KMT) to conclude an alliance to resist Japan. Thus the agrarian war led by the CPC during 1927-37 was followed by the war of resistance against Japan (1937-45), which by 1941 had conquered northern, central and southern coastal regions, leaving only the remote mountains under the rule of nationalist and CPC forces and committing untold atrocities and massacres in the process.
With the defeat of Japan in 1945, Chiang and the KMT reverted to type and started yet another campaign of extermination against the PLA. Thus began the final phase of the War of Liberation, culminating in the victory of the Chinese Revolution, while Chiang and his much-reduced band of followers fled to Taiwan, claiming to represent China, under the protection of US imperialism.
The people victorious
On 1 October, Chairman Mao Zedong announced from the rostrum in Tiananmen Square the liberation of China with the words “The Chinese people have stood up”, words which electrified the entirety of progressive humanity and were greeted with joy by the masses throughout the world.
In an earlier speech anticipating the impending victory, Mao Zedong had stated:
“This is a victory for the people of all China, and also a victory for the peoples of the whole world. The whole world, except the imperialists and the reactionaries in various countries, is elated and inspired by this great victory of the Chinese people. The struggle of the Chinese people against their own enemies and the struggles of the peoples of the world against their own enemies have the same meaning.” (Address to the preparatory meeting of the new political consultative conference, 15 June 1949)
The victory of the Chinese people came in the same month as the explosion of the atom bomb by the Soviet Union, which broke the monopoly of US imperialism in the field of nuclear weapons – a monopoly which it deployed to intimidate friend and foe alike into doing its bidding.
These two events shook imperialism to its foundations. No longer could the imperialists practise their brigandage in the unbridled way they had done in the past.
At the time of its liberation, life expectancy in China was less than 40 years; a fifth of the land was devoted to opium cultivation; there was hardly any industrial working class outside of Shanghai, Wuhan and Canton; and agriculture accounted for 85 percent of China’s economy.
In other words, China was a pretty benighted place. It was the prediction of imperialism and its ideologues that it would take a minimum of 100 years for her to get onto her feet.
Under the leadership of the CPC, however, the Chinese people were able to defy these predictions. The accomplishments of the Chinese Revolution can be summed up as follows:
1. It put an end to imperialist domination;
2. It freed the Chinese people from millennia of feudal exploitation;
3. It began the process of economic development through planned industrialisation and collectivisation;
4. It gave support to liberation movements in several parts of the world;
5. It published valuable revolutionary literature, especially some of the writings of Josef Stalin, which the Khrushchevite revisionists in the USSR began to suppress in the late 1950s.
Building a new China in the teeth of imperialist hostility
In the face of imperialist hostility, and belying imperialism’s predictions, China has gone from strength to strength. In our view, China owes its major successes to its Marxist-Leninist foundations.
For its part, imperialism has never given up its dream of regime change in China – through peaceful evolution or war.
Mao Zedong was well aware of the difficulties that lay ahead as China advanced along the road of completing the tasks of the People’s Democratic Revolution and thereafter the socialist transformation. Here is how he put it in his historic speech of 30 June 1949:
“The imperialists and their running dogs, the Chinese reactionaries, will not resign themselves to defeat in this land of China. They will continue to gang up against the Chinese people in every possible way.
“For example, they will smuggle their agents into China to sow dissension and make trouble. That is certain; they will never neglect these activities. To take another example, they will incite the Chinese reactionaries, and even throw in their own forces, to blockade China’s ports.
“They will do this as long as it is possible. Furthermore, if they still hanker after adventures, they will send some of their troops to invade and harass China’s frontiers; this, too, is not impossible.
“All this we must take fully into account. Just because we have won victory, we must never relax our vigilance against the frenzied plots for revenge by the imperialists and their running dogs. Whoever relaxes vigilance will disarm himself politically and land himself in a passive position.
“In view of these circumstances, the people all over the country must unite to smash resolutely, thoroughly, wholly and completely every plot against the Chinese people by the imperialists and their running dogs, the Chinese reactionaries.
“China must be independent, China must be liberated, China’s affairs must be decided and run by the Chinese people themselves, and no further interference, not even the slightest, will be tolerated from any imperialist country.”
The trade war currently being waged against China by the US, the troubles in the South China Sea, the attempts to stir up trouble in the areas occupied by minority nationalities, such as Tibet and Xinjian, and now the ongoing events in Hong Kong, are proof enough of the truth of Chairman Mao’s words.
Greeting the Chinese people on the 70th anniversary of their liberation, we wish them success in overcoming their enemies in the future as they have done in the past.