The Common Program of the People's Republic of China 1949-1954

Introduction to the Common Program

In September 1949, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) reached a consensus with other political parties and social organizations, collectively known as the Minzhu Dangpai, on the approval of the Common Program. Within the framework of the CCP's perspective, the Minzhu Dangpai were considered representatives of the "national bourgeoisie," and their support was deemed crucial for the successful implementation of the Common Program.

This study approaches the Common Program not only as a constitutional document but also as a comprehensive roadmap for the development and future trajectory of China. It recognizes that a constitution is more than a proclamation of moral values or normative principles; rather, it is a fundamental practice of governing a state. A constitution serves as a guiding framework for national political practice, shaping the power structure and allocation of political authority within a country. Its importance lies not solely in what is morally right, but in its capacity to influence the political dynamics and power distribution within a nation.
In the context of China, the Common Program represents a blueprint for regime change, state-building, and transition. The end of the Civil War between the Guomindang (GMD) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) marked the victory of the CCP, which sought to establish a new type of state based on communist principles and the ideology of Mao Zedong. The Common Program emerged as a crucial instrument during this period of transition, guiding the shift from the old feudal regime towards a socialist state. It aimed to present the new ruling authorities in China as moderately transformative and politically inclusive by affirming citizen freedoms of speech and thought.

Despite Mao Zedong's prominent influence in the People's Republic of China (PRC), it is important to recognize that during the initial years of the republic, Mao did not have absolute control. The conventional image of Mao as the central figure making all policy decisions and orchestrating every major action does not accurately reflect the reality of the time. Instead, the early years of the PRC were characterized by a more chaotic and less cohesive policymaking apparatus. The government often lacked the necessary technical expertise to effectively address the immense challenges of an economy that was still predominantly pre-industrial, inadequate social and educational infrastructure, and a governance system that was only just being rebuilt. Rather than a clear-cut divide between pre- and post-1949, a closer examination reveals that well into the 1950s, the new government in Beijing faced significant obstacles in asserting its authority over the entirety of Chinese territory.
This study also challenges the notion that 1949 marked a definitive break or a direct path to communism in China's development. While the transformative changes implemented by the CCP had a profound impact on the lives of millions of Chinese people and were regarded by Mao Zedong and his colleagues as integral to their revolutionary agenda, they did not constitute a comprehensive "Communist" revolution in the truest sense. Instead, the years following 1949 witnessed multiple distinct revolutions in China, some overlapping and others conflicting with each other. These revolutions encompassed a range of social, economic, and political transformations, shaping the country's trajectory in diverse ways.

The Common Program serves as a repository of guiding principles and philosophical underpinnings for the newly established state, drawing partially from influential works such as "On New Democracy," "On Coalition Government," and "On the People's Democratic Dictatorship." It represents a compromise reached between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Minzhu Dangpai, a unique collaboration within the communist world. The Common Program outlines two systems for organizing state power: a standard system and a transitional one. This partnership resulted in the overthrow of the Guomindang (GMD) regime and the formation of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Notably, the terms "socialism" and "communism" are absent from the Common Program.
Zhou Enlai emphasized the unwavering certainty regarding the future course of development ".., but that its validity should be explained, publicized and especially, proved to the entire people through practice…,we do not deny it, … in the economic section of the programme, it is already specified that we will make sure to advance along this course."
A primary instrument for realizing the vision of the "new" China is the implementation of mass campaigns. These political, economic, and social campaigns are the means to win the support of the people, to destroy the enemies of the new regime, and to achieve the objectives of the Common Program.
Both the GMD regime and the CCP regime made use of mass mobilization, "… the mobilization was carried out in a top-down fashion. Although the CCP highlighted the mass-line, the masses were mobilized around the agenda set by state elites."
The CCP holds a crucial role within the state system, and despite the separation of the Party and state as distinct entities, distinguishing their roles can be challenging. The term 'Party-state' is most apt in conveying their inseparability. The Party's organizational influence extends throughout the governmental process. The CCP possess substantial mobilizing power, with party branches established at various administrative levels, in urban and rural areas, work units, and schools. The relationship between the government and society underwent significant changes after 1949. With shifts in social systems and ideologies, and the adoption of totalitarianism, Chinese society became highly politicized. Political systems defined basic units for managing public affairs. Private charity organizations and foundations, along with business associations that regulated industry operations and economic development, disappeared. During this period, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), All-China Youth Federation (ACYF), All-China Democratic Women’s Federation (ACDWF), Chinese Academic Association, and All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce (ACFIC) acted as political organizations, serving as bridges between the government and the people.
The dense network of grassroots party organizations provided a robust organizational infrastructure for political mobilization. The central party relied on local cadres to disseminate propaganda on collectivization, persuade and register households, calculate compensations, and carry out measures such as the confiscation or purchase of peasant properties. From the early days of the PRC's establishment, provincial and local governments played a significant role not only in implementing national policies variably but also in decision-making, influenced by the CCP’s guerrilla experience. In the Taihang Base Area (a CCP stronghold in Shanxi) in 1939, the CCP established experimental counties to test social and economic policies, using successes and difficulties to refine campaigns. This approach led to the principle of “Do the best according to local conditions,” which became standard in CCP campaigns. Local experiments were encouraged to help the CCP center reformulate ideas, with successes and failures widely publicized.
In the 1950s, this local involvement became institutionalized, particularly through land reform and the promotion of local experiments as national models. Local leaders influenced national policy by showcasing successful experiments, while central leaders selected examples aligning with their policy views. A major turning point came during the Soviet-style First Five-Year Plan (1952-57), when the CCP decided to abandon this over-centralized model, despite internal differences over the speed and strategy of the new development approach, highlighting a divide between gradualist planners and politically adventurous leaders like Mao Zedong. Regimes can employ locally-embedded agents, recruited from and serving within their native regions, or they can deploy centrally-appointed agents, sent to local posts without prior connections to the area. Centrally-appointed agents typically adhere more closely to central political directives but may lack familiarity with local governance conditions. In contrast, locally-embedded agents are better adapted to local conditions but may be more susceptible to local influences, leading to potential disobedience. While this study will concentrate on the state administration and its economic role, it is essential to acknowledge the Party's pervasive influence within that system.
Luo (2022) overlooking the Land reform campaign concludes the most successful results in redistributing land during reform efforts occur in counties characterized as 'hybrid.' These counties have the ability to employ individuals who possess both a deep understanding of local contexts and prior experience in central administration. When it comes to achieving effective policy outcomes in land reform campaigns, relying solely on locally-embedded agents or centrally-deployed agents is insufficient. This is because locally-embedded agents may face issues related to disobedience, while centrally-deployed agents may struggle due to unfamiliarity with the local dynamics.
Interestingly, despite the shortcomings of both types of agents, the CCP regime exhibits a higher level of intolerance towards disobedience displayed by locally-embedded agents rather than the ineffectiveness of centrally-deployed agents. This preference stems from the perceived threat posed by the former to grassroots political stability.

Main Campaigns in the People's Republic of China 1949-1959
From 1949 to 1953, there were three overlapping campaigns known as the “Three Great Campaigns for State-building”: the Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries (See Article 7) , the Land Reform (See Article 27) and the Movement to Resist America and Aid Korea (See Article 54)

Following the establishment of the new government in 1950, the collaboration between the CCP and other political parties and social organizations came under strain. This conflict primarily stemmed from the CCP's perspectives on the relationship between the state and the Party. The CCP's stance on this matter can be traced back to a document issued in September 1942, which outlined two key principles regarding Party-state relations that subsequently shaped the CCP's approach in the post-1949 era:
1. The Party committee is the highest leading organ, and it should exercise a unified leadership over all the other organizations, including government, army, and mass organizations.
2. The Party leadership means that the Party should decide on policies, but not directly interfere in, or take care of, every matter that is within the jurisdiction of the government.57"

A second factor contributing to the conflict was a shift in the CCP's perception of the bourgeoisie. Initially considered as an "ally," their status changed to that of an "enemy." This change in attitude can be attributed to the influence of orthodox Marxist theory, which regards the bourgeoisie as the enemy of the "people." The CCP looked to the Soviet Union's experience, where the bourgeoisie was eliminated, as a model to follow.

The 1954 constitution did reject the possibility of the co-existence of capitalism and socialism in the long run. On June 15, 1953, Mao Zedong preluded to the end of the policy of the ‘New Democracy’, which is the basis of the Common Program. He states "They fail to realize there is a change in the character of the revolution and they go on pushing their “New Democracy” instead of socialist transformation. This will lead to Right deviationist mistakes. Take our agriculture for instance, the socialist road is the only road for it. The Party’s central task in the rural areas is to develop the mutual-aid and co-operative movement and constantly raise productivity in agriculture. …The period of transition is full of contradictions and struggles. Our present revolutionary struggle is even more profound than the revolutionary armed struggle of the past. It is a revolution that will bury the capitalist system and all other systems of exploitation once and for all. The idea, “Firmly establish the new-democratic social order”, goes against the realities of our struggle and hinders the progress of the socialist cause."
The adoption of a new constitution in September 1954 signifies the conclusion of the Common Program, which was gradually undermined by evolving political and economic objectives right from its inception. This study aims to examine both the achievements and shortcomings of the Common Program, shedding light on its outcomes and challenges.
Road to Common Program
This is an introduction to the history of China between 1911 and 1949 and deals with the founding of the CPPCC, the making of the Common Program, and the formation of a new government.
Part 1: China 1911-1949
Part 2 : The first steps to establish cooperation between the CCP and other political parties
Part 3: Collaboration between the CCP and the Minzhu Dangpai
Part 4 : Creating a political consultative conference
Part 5 : Second plenum of the 7th Central Committee of the CCP
Part 6 : The CPPCC conference of September 21, 1949 –September 30, 1949
Part 7 : The formation of the government in 1949
Part 8 : Complaints about recruitment
Common Program
This item gives a description of the Common Program and its consequences for the development of the People's Republic of China.
The 60 articles of the Common Program are highlighted in 7 chapters.
Chapter 1: General principles
Chapter 2: Organs of state power
Chapter 3: Army
Chapter 4: Economy
Chapter 5: Education, Culture and Health
Chapter 6: Nationalities
Chapter 7: Foreign policy
This section is divided in 6 sections:
Bibliography: This item leads to indexes of consulted and cited books and articles.
Chronology: A timeline from 1949-1954. It shows the most important political, economic, social, cultural events in the People's Republic of China.
Documents: This item leads to indexes of documents, speeches, tables and charts, which are used in this study.
Glossary: Explanations of several abbreviations
Maps: Several maps of the People's Republic of China in the period 1949-1954 are shown
Meetings: This item leads to indexes of imported meetings of the CCP, the government, and mass organizations.
Posters Movies : Posters of movies made in the PRC in the period 1949-1954
is divided in 6 sections:
CPPCC members: Database of the delegates of the first CPPCC.
CPPCC members images: Images of the delegates of the first CPPCC as a group and as an individual.
Nat. Com. members: Database of the members of the standing committee of the first CPPCC.
Members 7th CC: Database of the members of the Central Committee of the CCP.
Members of the CPGC: Database of the members of the Central People's Government Council.
Revolutionary Military Commission : Database of the members of the Revolutionary Military Commission / Central Military Commission
is divided in 2 sections
Propaganda Posters : Propaganda posters of PRC in the period 1949-1954, also nianhua (New Year pictures) and propaganda prints are displayed.
Stamps and Banknotes : Stamps and Banknotes of PRC in the period 1949-1954

In this study only the Minzhu Dangpai which approved the Common program are described. See Kung (1994). Pages 482-484 for details. Fung states the literature to date has failed to provide a satisfactory definition of the term. [↩] [Cite]
Zhu (2003). Pages 7-8 [↩] [Cite]
Sibayan (2013). Page 83 [↩] [Cite]
Brown (2015). Page 5 [↩] [Cite]
Cohen (2003). Page 30. The CCP continuously emphasizes the differences between the bad old society that existed before 1949 and the good new society that came into being after 1949.[Cite]
Li (2019) states the CCP’s “Additional Levy on Large Households” had been modelled on the Nationalist Government’s “Large Households’ Grain Donation Movement”, and the Communist “Rent Reduction and Deposit Refunding Movement” likewise continued the Sino(GMD)-American Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction “Rent Reduction Movement” in Chongqing in 1948. Pages 128-129 [↩] [Cite]
Other campaigns are:
Peace Signature Campaign July 1950
Christian Reform Movement (Three-Self Renovation) July 1950
National Patriotic Donation Campaign (For the Korean people) 1951
Production Increase and Austerity Campaign (For the Korean War) 1951
Learn from the Advanced Experience of the SU 1952
Struggle against Bureaucratism, Commandism, and Unlawful Acts (Includes the Five Too Many: Tasks, meetings, documents, organizations, and concurrent cadre posts) March 1953
Campaign to Increase Production and Economize 1953
Technical Renovation Movement 1953
Oppose Bourgeois Individualism, Liberalism, Sectarianism, Dispersionism, Conceit, and Parochialism in the Party 1954
Anti-Pest Campaign 1954
Oksenberg (1982). Page 86 [↩] [Cite]
Zha (2015). Page 11 [Cite]
"...movements are run to: (1)implement existing policy; (2) emulate advanced experience; (3) introduce and popularize a new policy; (4) correct deviations from important public norms; (5) rectify leadership malpractices among responsible cadres or organizations; (6) purge from office individuals whose political opposition is excessive; and (7) effect enduring changes in both in dividual attitudes and social institutions which will contribute to the growth of a collective spirit and support the construction of socialism." Bennett Page 46 [Cite] [↩] [Cite]
Yu (2019). Page 3 [↩] [Cite]
Goodman (2023). Page 13 [↩] [Cite]
Liu (2006). Pages 10-11 [Cite]
Park (2015) states in the 1950s, "mass organization" not only served as a conduit for conveying the intentions of state power, i.e., government policy, but also assumed more intricate responsibilities. These included conveying extensive demands and opinions to the state, proactively maintaining public order, and voluntarily delivering various urban services to residents. The Communist regime relied on mass organizations to carry out fundamental governance at the grassroots level within urban society through the voluntary engagement of the community. Page 4 [↩] [Cite]
Luo (2022). Page 9 [↩] [Cite]
Luo (2022). Page 12
he states "...the land reform campaigns (can be seen) as a moment of nascent state capacity and state-building, and as an inaugural litmus test for the CCP regime to consolidate its ruling legitimacy." Page 78 [↩] [Cite]
Zheng (1997). Pages 38-39 [↩] [Cite]
15-06-1953 Mao Zedong Refute right deviationist views that depart from the general line
"Stalin recommended to the Chinese that they pursue a long-term, moderate approach to socialist transition, which was in sharp contrast to the policies of radical socialist transformation that he adopted in 1929. Chairman Mao did not overtly question Stalin’s cautious recommendations but in fact he wanted to pursue a more radical agenda. His burning ambition was to accelerate the transition to socialism, a quest that characterized his outlook from the late 1940s to the collapse of the Great Leap Forward (GLF, 1958–62). 7 Even before the formal establishment of the state, he had asked Stalin whether he would agree to an accelerated transition, but Stalin discouraged him. Mao formally accepted Stalin’s views but sought to circumvent them.8" Bernstein (2017). Page 198 [↩] [Cite]