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

According to this Common Program article general elections are to be held on a short term to form a National People’s Congress (NPC). Prior to this general election, there will be elections on local level and a national census. The census started on June 30, 1953 and the results were published on November 1, 1954
Fig. 12.1 Results of the national census
Source: Wikipedia
Until then local RCAC have to fulfil the tasks of the local people’s congresses. On July 31, 1949, the CC issued an instruction on the election of RCAC. In this order is stipulated “within two or at most three months after the liberation, cities with more than thirty thousand population should promptly hold a conference of representatives from various sectors. This is an important method for the Party and government to maintain close ties with the people.”

On December 4, 1949, the central government promulgated the regulations for the RCAC and states that the ultimate approval of the founding of these RCACs lies in Beijing. "Qualifications for representatives of the Provincial People’s Congresses: All people who oppose imperialism, feudalism, bureaucratic capitalism, support the common program, and have reached the age of 18, except those suffering from mental illness and deprivation of public power, regardless of ethnicity, class, gender, faith can be elected as a representative." In this elections mayor, vice mayors, and other officials are elected.
"The primary responsibilities of the township government were: (1) carrying out decisions and orders issued by the higher governmental authorities; (2) implementing decisions made by the township people’s congress and approved by the provincial government; (3) managing and supervising work of various sections of the township government; and (4) conveying the township people’s will and opinions to higher authorities and making recommendations concerning township affairs to higher governmental authorities."
In the interim period between the abolition of the military administration and the elections for the provincial and national NPC’s, the RCACs have to take over the administration. Mao Zedong remarks "We must endeavour to make a success of the conferences of people from all circles so that people from every walk of life can unite in a common effort. All matters of importance to the people's governments should be submitted to these conferences for discussion and decision. Representatives at these conferences must have the right to express their views fully; any attempt to hinder such expression is wrong.”
In reality, the participants and voters do not enjoy much freedom. The list of candidates is made up of exactly the number of candidates to be chosen. There is no competition. The CCP controls the founding of the RCACs.
The party top decides to forbid elections in Shanghai for the position of mayor and vice mayor because as the newspaper Jiefang Ribao comments "It has to be admitted that, in nature, this conference is still not of the type of people's conference as approved by the Central Government for Peking.... As a result of the absence of certain objective conditions -the organizational power and the political consciousness of the masses are not yet up to the required standard-this conference can only follow in the footsteps of the first [Shanghai conference, . . . and] not yet assume powers similar to those of the Second People's Conference in Peking .... This conference ... is rather an inevitable extension and development of the first.... Given further time for development, this conference shall naturally assume the character of the people's conference convened in Peking.” A year later, the situation has improved and the RCAC elects the military commander Chen Yi as mayor.

In his speech of February 28, 1951, Liu Shaoqi explains the methods of election in Beijing. “Eighty-three per cent of the Representatives of the Peoples' Congress are elected by the people; seventeen per cent are invited after agreement with the various circles; three per cent are nominated by the Government. All the representatives are not elected in the same way. Some of them are elected by the voters' assemblies, which make use of the factories, industrial enterprises, and colleges as units. The representatives of the peasants in suburbs, of business men, industrialists, youth, and women, and the regional representatives, are elected by the electors' assemblies, which exercise the right of voting for the people at large."
The voting is regulated by secret ballot which takes place only in colleges, where the voters are all literate and are experienced in voting. Elsewhere, the voting takes place by a show of hands after the list of candidates has been discussed. “The electoral wards were marked out by the City Consultative Council. Big industrial plants and higher educational establishments with several thousand voters were each to elect three delegates. Smaller plants and institutions were allowed one or two delegates, while plants or institutions which had few voters were united for the election of a common delegate. The city districts elected two delegates or more, depending on the size of their population. The electoral commissions were set up in mills and factories, institutions and educational establishments one month before the conference was due to meet.(…)In all, 61 per cent of the delegates to the third Peking all-sections conference were elected by indirect ballot and 22 per cent by direct ballot; 3 per cent were appointed by the city government, and 14 per cent were invited.”
Liu Shaoqi states secret and direct elections are only possible if everyone can write and read. He posits “…in the big cities should have three sessions annually; in the medium-sized and small cities, four sessions; in a province, one session; in a district, two sessions. The Peoples' Congress in villages should meet as often as it is stipulated in the laws.”
Chang (1956) remarks “It is stated that the elections up to 1953 of 13,63 7,000 people's representatives to the All-Circle Representative Conferences at all levels, with approximately 75 per cent of the representatives from the worker and peasant classes, marked the consolidation of the political leadership of the proletariat."
Zhou Enlai wrote in the magazine “People’s China” of October 1950 the remark: "...a few cities and counties" had convened People's Congresses; all other cities, and 1,707 counties, had organized Representative Conferences of All Circles; and "most" administrative villages had established one or the other."
At the end of 1950, in 20 provinces and 7 other administrative units and in the cities Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Nanjing, the first meeting or more of the RCAC are convened. In August 1949, the northeast region, which has been under CCP administration for a longer period, has even elected a people’s government: “…commanders begun to relinquish authority to civil party cadres, in part because many units under Lin Piao’s fourth field army and Nieh Jung-chen’s North China field army had been moved south to reinforce continuing military operations.”
In the rural districts the CCP has decided “.. two thirds of the membership should be "elected" from "farm workers, poor peasants and new middle peasants," while one-third of the membership was to be "elected" from "old middle peasants and other working elements."
Deng Xiaoping does not agree with these quotas “On March 6, 1950, regarding the case that among 196 representatives in a county conference, there were 133 peasant representatives, 19 worker representatives, and government representatives for the half of the remaining 44 quotas, he (Deng Xiaoping) criticized at the enlarged meeting of CPC East Sichuan committee that, this conference could not be called as representatives of the people from all walks of life, but peasants’ conference only, which certainly could not unite the masses and differentiate the enemy.”
The founding of RCACs in the rural areas runs into problems, mainly in south China. In the province of Guangxi only 28 Xians out of 70 in total have elected a RCAC. The party not always succeeds in controlling these RCACs completely
"…profiteers representing various trades first combined and promoted one of their group to serve as a local Business Federation manager and as the standing-committee member of the local all-circles people’s representative conference. Later they bribed the chief of a tax affairs bureau and used his influence to acquire the position of business-section head in the xian people’s government."
Zhou Enlai writes in the above mentioned article also about the function of the RCAC "uniting various strata, parties, groups and nationalities among the people, and enabling both the government to hear the opinions of the people and the people to understand and supervise the work of the government.”
In other words, the RCACs are advisory meetings. The majority of the delegates in these RCAC are members of the mass organizations. (See Table 10) The same organizations which are represented in the CPPCC. The RCACs are also used in the persecution of counterrevolutionaries. RCACs or enlarged RCACs organize mass rallies against counterrevolutionaries. For example on March 24, 1951 in Beijing, March 29 in Tianjin, April 29 in Shanghai and Wuhan.
Representative Conferences of All Circles

On January 13, 1953, Mao Zedong announces the time is ripe to hold general elections for the NPC and to formulate a constitution. Mao Zedong orders the other politburo members to read a list of compulsory readings and constantly intervenes in the formulation of the constitution. "...its drafting was personally directed by Mao Zedong and the CCP’s highest leaders, though some noncommunist figures also played pivotal roles in its formulation and subsequent exegeses. All of these figures were veterans of the constitutional controversies of the Republican era; and the intellectual and political currents of that time—complete with their contradictions, tensions, concerns, and priorities—inextricably shaped the enterprise."
Mao Zedong states: "…military activities on the mainland have already ended, land reform has already been basically accomplished, and people from all walks of life have become organized. Therefore, the conditions are now ripe for convening, according to the stipulation of the Common Program of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the National People's Congress and people's congresses at each local level."
Only shortly before, Mao Zedong had a different opinion. In October 1952, Liu Shaoqi hands over a letter from Mao Zedong to Stalin, in which Mao Zedong proposes to postpone the elections and the formation of a National People’s Congress until after China has basically entered socialism. (On September 24, 1952, Mao Zedong has proposed to enter the transition period. See Meeting) Stalin disagrees. (see below) Mao Zedong concedes.
"In mid-1954, Chinese engaged in a wide-ranging deliberation about political and social rights, the obligations of citizenship, state symbols, political institutions and ideology. Many asked penetrating and frequently prescient questions about law, citizenship, class and political power, and offered provocative suggestions for revision."
The big difference between the Common Program and the constitution of 1954 is: “Under the Common Program, the co-existence of both capitalism and socialism was tacitly acknowledged by the CCP. It is in this sense that, compare to the Common Program, the 1954 constitution is more ideologically orientated, for it laid down a socialist state building trajectory in the next ten to twenty years....the 1954 constitution did explicitly reject the possibility of the co-existence of capitalism and socialism in the long run”
Diamant remarks "The reassuring language in the preamble to the Common Program, such as the CCP’s interest in “uniting all democratic classes”, disappeared, while many politically threatening terms were added to describe the socialist transition: the “rich peasant” rural economy would gradually be “eliminated” (xiaomie 消灭); the state reserved the right to “expropriate” (zhengyong 征用) private property. Rights were expanded upon."
According to article 6 of the Organic Law of the CPPCC, a plenary session of the CPPCC shall be summoned once every three years by the National Committee. The CCP is reluctant to hold such a plenary session or to hold an election for the NPC. The party takes the decision to postpone the elections. In October 1952, during
Liu Shaoqi’s visit, he informs Stalin of this delay. Stalin is strongly against this decision. "Stalin restated his position and buttressed it with several points. First, the government of the PRC had not been elected. This allowed its enemies to question its legitimacy, and to accuse it of being nothing more than a selfproclaimed, military dictatorship. Second, the country had no official constitution. The Common Program offered little consolation here since its legitimacy and the legitimacy of all PRC law were clouded by their origin in the equally unelected CPPCC. Third, the multi-party coalition government established by the Common Program presented a grave security risk to the CCP. Many members of the minor parties had close ties to foreign countries, especially the United States and United Kingdom, and could spy on behalf of those hostile powers. Stalin argued that the CCP could solve these problems and deny its enemies propaganda points simply by holding an election in 1954, which it would surely dominate thanks to its deep reservoir of popular support and experience with mass mobilization.” Back in China, Liu Shaoqi convinces Mao Zedong and on December 24, 1952, the meeting of the permanent committee of the CPPCC decides to hold elections. The CCP and the mingzhu dangpai adopt a list of candidates. A committee screens the candidates and in doubt the CCP takes the final decision. The number of candidates does not exceed the number of seats in the NPC.
Hill (2017) states "...the Nationalist elections of 1937 and 1947. In those elections, the state had a preferred outcome, although it did not prohibit (or even fully control) opposition and competition. The party’s new system, by contrast, virtually guaranteed a particular outcome in each election. It did not hide its dominance of the election process, but rather embraced it and publicized it as a new form of democracy— a logical conclusion, given the goal of voting. To make this system work, the communist government mobilized an enormous number of people from party organ izations and the general public. No previous system of election preparation had been so thorough." In addition Hill (2017) remarks "The election and the propaganda campaign that preceded it were, despite pronouncements from the government, intimately linked to the climate of pervasive political violence that characterized the early years of the People’s Republic. Although the election was ostensibly not intended as a mass political campaign that targeted “enemies,” it is not surprising that many saw it as exactly that."
The election of the NPC is an indirect election, the members of the provincial people’s congresses chose the members of the NPC. Deng Xiaoping explains this procedure by saying “… because most people were unfamiliar with national policies and the names of state leaders, subjecting top Party and government functionaries to a popular vote was impossible.”
In reality, even this procedure is not followed. On July 5, 1954, the national committee of the CPPCC approved a list of candidates. The provincial people’s congresses chose almost unanimous these ‘authorized ‘candidates. "Due to the full democratic consultations before the voting, the votes garnered by the elected deputies were very concentrated: 9 received 100 per cent of the votes (539 votes); 19 received one vote less than the full vote; 3 received 2 less; 2 received 3 less; while even the lowest one received only 4 less than the full vote. Even greater uniformity was shown in the election of 46 deputies to the National People's Congress by the Kwangtung Provincial People's Congress: 'The result of the voting showed that there was no invalid vote. All the 46 elected deputies were returned on from 99 to 100 per cent of the votes cast.”

Fig. 12.2 Provincial representation at the National People's Congress 1954
Source: Nelson (1982). Page 169
* Population in thousands.

This article 12 of the Common Program states that the All-China People’s Congress (NPC) is the supreme organ of state power. In reality the power is vested in the CCP. "According to a decision made in 1949 by the CCP Central Committee, the party committees, instead of government agencies, were the highest decision making bodies in all work units, and decisions made by these committees must be obeyed and carried out unconditionally by all government agencies, military units, and mass organizations. This arrangement was at first meant to be a temporary measure to facilitate the command of the revolutionary forces. However, after taking over power, the unified leadership was imposed on all aspects of the society, and was frequently strengthened under the influence of the party radicals. Party committees were established in every governmental organization. Party secretaries held ultimate power.36"

02-12-1949 General Rules for the Organization of the Provincial People's Congress. Most delegates are from social, cultural and functional organization. [↩]
Yang (2003). Page 41 [↩] [Cite]
Cited in Steiner (1950b). Page 53 [↩] [Cite]
Kovalyov (1953). Page 6 [↩] [Cite]
Chang (1956). Page 523 [↩] [Cite]
Cited in Barnett (1951). Page 77 [↩] [Cite]
Whitson (1973). Page 521 [↩] [Cite]
Steiner (1950b). Page 52 [↩] [Cite]
Cited in Wu (2015). Page 97 [↩] [Cite]
Moseley (1973). Page 39 [↩] [Cite]
See Moseley On page 53 et seq. he descripes the founding of the RCAC in Nanjing. [↩] [Cite]
Solinger (1984). Page 147. [Cite]
"...negativity and resistance caused some elections to slip out of the Party’s control. In one early voting district (in Shanghai), for example, all three of the officially-nominated candidates failed to earn half of the vote and thus were not elected." Zhang (2014). Page 1077 [↩] [Cite]
Cited in Barnett (1951). Page 77 [↩] [Cite]
Mao Zedong states: "1) the 1936 Stalin Constitution and Stalin’s Report; 2) the 1918 Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic Constitution (read Volume One of the Collected Materials on the Constitution and Electoral Law edited by the Government Office); 3) the Romanian, Polish, East German, and Czechoslovakian Constitutions (read the Collected Constitutions of the People’s Democracies published by the People’s Press. The various national constitutions collected in this volume are similar with minor variations. Select the Romanian and Polish Constitutions as relatively new examples, select the German and Czechoslovakian Constitutions as relatively detailed examples with minor points of difference. If you have time, read the others); 4) the 1913 Tiantan Draft Constitution, the 1923 Cao Kun Constitution, the 1947 Chiang Kai-shek Constitution (read Volume Three of the Collected Materials on the Constitution and Electoral Law. These represent three models: a ministerial system, a federalist system, and a presidential dictatorship.); 5) the 1946 French Constitution (read Volume Four of the Collected Materials on the Constitution and Electoral Law. This represents a comparatively progressive and complete capitalist ministerial system constitution). Please inform me of your opinion." Cited in Tiffert (2009). Page 67 [↩] [Cite]
Tiffert (2009). Page 62 [↩] [Cite]
Li (2001). Page 41 [↩] [Cite]
Diamant (2015). Page 1. [Cite] The proposals for a constitution are published in the People’s Daily, on June 15, 1954. During the following three months approximately 150 million people from all around the country participated in a national discussion of the proposals. The drafting commission gathered 1,160,000 questions and opinions during the nationwide discussion.
See 14-06-1954 30th meeting CPGC and speech Mao Zedong [↩]
Hu (2014). Pages 12-13. This constitution was to a considerable extent modeled on the 1936 Constitution of the SU [↩] [Cite]
Diamant (2015). Pages 11-12 [↩] [Cite]
Tiffert (2009). Page 13. [Cite]
Stalin repeats his arguments, made in July 1949 during the visit of Liu Shaoqi. "Stalin therefore suggested that the Chinese comrades should ensure that they achieved a majority in general elections and formed a one-party government. He advised them to hold the elections in 1954 and to link them to the promulgation of a new constitution, which would have to replace the proposed “Common Program.” This constitution should not be socialist in nature, but should reflect existing social conditions. Both of these, the elections and a new constitution, were also necessary to counteract accusations “by the enemy” that the Communists had come to power by military means in China and lacked legitimacy." Heinzig (2004). Pages 224-225 [↩] [Cite]
Hill (2019). Page 197 [↩] [Cite] [Cite]
Hill (2019). Page 203 [↩] [Cite]
Gluckstein (1957). Page 347 [↩] [Cite]
Guo (2003). Page 9 [↩] [Cite]

General rules governing the organization of the conference of provincial people’s representatives of all circles. Passed Dec. 2, 1949; promulgated Dec. 4,1949.
General rules governing the organization of the conference of municipal people’s representatives of all circles. Passed Dec. 2, 1949; promulgated Dec. 4,1949.
General rules governing the organization of the conference of hsien people’s representatives of all circles. Passed Dec. 2, 1949; promulgated Dec. 4,1949.
General rules governing the organization of the conference of ch‘ü people’s representatives of all circles in large cities and municipalities. Passed Nov. 3, 1950; promulgated Nov. 13, 1950.
General rules governing the organization of the ch‘ü people’s governments in large cities and municipalities. Passed Nov. 3, 1950; promulgated Nov. 13,1950.
General rules governing the organization of the conference of ch‘ü people’s representatives of all circles. Passed Dec. 8, 1950; promulgated Dec. 30,1950.
General rules governing the organization of the conference of hsiang (or administrative ts'un) people’s representatives of all circles. Passed Dec. 8, 1950; promulgated Dec. 30, 1950.
General rules governing the organization of the ch‘ü people’s governments and ch‘ü administrative offices. Passed Dec. 8, 1950; promulgated Dec. 30,1950.
General rules governing the organization of the hsiang (or adminis¬trative ts‘un) people’s governments. Passed Dec. 8, 1950; promulgated Dec. 30, 1950.
Directive of the Government Administration Council regarding the convening of conferences of ch‘ü people’s representatives of all circles in cities with a population of more than one hundred thousand. Apr.24, 1951.
General rules governing the organization of the consultative committees of the conferences of provincial and municipal people’s repre¬sentatives of all circles. Passed Aug. 3, 1951; approved Aug. 16,1951; promulgated Aug. 18,1951.
Decision of the Government Administration Council regarding the relations among the local consultative committees at all levels. Passed Aug. 51 promulgated Aug. 18, 1951.
Opinions regarding the work of the consultative committees of the conferences of provincial and municipal people’s representatives of all circles. Passed July 19, 1951; issued Sept. 6, 1951
Notification by the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference regarding the exercising of the functions and powers of its local committees by the consultative committees of the conferences of provincial and municipal people’s representatives of all circles. Oct. 17,1951.

Chapter 2 of Common Program