Article 21 of the Common Program
Text
Article 21 of the Common Program

The People's Liberation Army and the people's public security forces shall, in accordance with the principle of unity between the officers and the rank-and-file and between the army and the people, set up a system of political work and shall educate the commanders and rank-and-file of these forces in a revolutionary and patriotic spirit.


Mao Zedong declares in his often quoted statement clearly who is in charge of the army. "Communists do not fight for personal military power (they must in no circumstances do that,…), but they must fight for military power for the Party, for military power for the people…. Every Communist must grasp the truth, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." Our principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party.
Document: 06-11-1938 Mao Zedong "Problems of war and strategy"
In 1951
Zhu De
Zhu De (1886-1976) Commander-in-Chief of the People's Liberation Army (1946-1954)
emphasizes that building a modern army cannot be at the expense of the political consciousness of the troops. "The Chinese People's Liberation Army must build up its various arms, strengthen itself in modern technical equipment, strengthen its combat training and its fighting power so as to undertake the historical task of defending the motherland and opposing imperialist aggression …This requires of the whole army that it continue to conduct profound political training of officers and men, and ceaselessly raise the level of political consciousness of the whole army. The high morale and excellent political quality of the People's Liberation Army are always a basic factor in defeating any enemy.”
Document: 31-07-1951 Zhu De "Speech at Meeting of 24th Anniversary of Formation of PLA"

Political commissar...

The political commissars are responsible for the political consciousness of the soldiers. The basis of this system is laid in the decision of the 6th Party congress of the CCP (June 18-July 11 1928) to establish above the level of regiments a system of political commissars. Their status, composition and influence change throughout the years. The main characteristics of the system remain the same: to political control the PLA, to insure the loyalty to the party, to empower the moral, to enlarge the political consciousness and to enlarge the unity between the soldiers and the officers.
Kondapalli Srikanth (2005). China’s political commissars and commanders: Trends & dynamics. (Working paper 88). Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Singapore. Page 4

People’s War...

Mao Zedong develops the People’s war strategy during the 30’s and 40’s and uses it also during the Korean War. The People’s War is based on the principle that people are more important than weaponry. A shortage in weapons can be compensated with high levels of moral and motivation of the soldiers. Food and wages are important elements to accomplish these high levels, also the relation between soldiers and officers is of importance. The officers have to set a good example. Political indoctrination is another weighty part of the strategy. The prospect of land reform reinforces the loyalty of the locals which is also important.
The number of fighters is crucial in the tactics of People’s War. "Superiority of numbers could come either locally or theaterwide by enlisting not just regular soldiers in a campaign but also the mass of citizenry. In people's war, civilians become replacements for medics, intelligence and security personnel, supply and engineer laborers, or guerrilla fighters. Such a war environment requires a total war commitment of a supporting populace.”
Waller G. Jr. (1984). The inferno of people’s war a historical evaluation of Chinese concepts of national defense. Air University Review, 35,(3). Page 58
The strategy of the People’s war is very simple. “First, in the strategic defensive stage, the enemy is "lured in deep," overextended, and isolated. Then, in the strategic stalemate phase, the Chinese strength of morale and numbers is brought to bear in a guerrilla war of attrition. Finally, through a strategic offensive, enemy strength is reduced to parity and then inferiority, after which a transition to regular warfare occurs to bring about the enemy's defeat.7 It should be noted that guerrilla warfare is but one aspect of the broader concept of people's war.”
Waller G. Jr. (1984). The inferno Page 58
Guerrilla tactics is just a part of People’s war and not a goal on its own. Mao Zedong warns "As the Red Army reaches a higher stage, we must gradually and consciously eliminate [guerrilla features] so as to make the Red Army more centralized, more unified, more disciplined and more thorough in its work--in short, more regular in character. . . . We are now on the eve of a new stage with respect to the Red Army's technical equipment and organization. We must be prepared to go over to the new stage."
Document: December 1936 Mao Zedong "Problems of strategy in China's revolutionary war"
The strategy of People’s War are a success during the war against Japan and during the Civil War. In both wars the party with the most firepower and technology did not win the war. In first instance the People’s war strategy is also a success in Korea, but during the war this strategy seems to have lost his momentum. One reason for its failure is the lack of support of the local Korean people.
The support of the Chinese people for the Korean War is achieved by many propaganda work under the title "Resist America Aid Korea" in which elements such as patriotism and nationalism are applauded and pro US sentiments are rejected. See Article 42.
“In the course of the various movements the whole nation has gradually enhanced its political consciousness and, particularly in the course of the Resist America, Aid Korea Campaign, has greatly elevated its patriotism and internationalism. The whole nation has basically cleared away the worship U.S., fear U.S., and pro-U.S. ideas and established national self-respect” Current Affairs Handbook, No. 17, Sept 1952. p. 93 cited in Richard L. Walker, “China under communism. The first five years” New Haven 1955.

Professionalsm...

In 1952 the PLA makes a shift from emphasis on political awareness towards professionalism. One of the main reasons for abandoning the People's War tactics, is the course of the Korean war. Mao Zedong expresses this change as follows: "The kind of situation that in the past placed emphasis exclusively on political work and neglected staff work must be resolutely changed around (it is correct to emphasize political work, and there should still continue to be this emphasis from now on). In the past some weaker people, people who lacked organizational ability, or even people who had committed some mistakes and did not have a high level of activism, were chosen to work in the commanding organs, and this caused some commanding officers to be reluctant to serve as staff officers or chiefs of staff. This situation must be radically turned around. From now on we must select quality commanders who are rich in organizational and commanding abilities to serve in the commanding organs at all levels, and thus create a new work-style and a new atmosphere in the commanding organs."
Document:10-07-1952 Mao Zedong "Address to the First Graduating Class of the Military Academy"
The influence of SU advisors and methods of training have strongly promoted this change. Their aim is "…transforming itself from the past, purely land force, depending in the main on infantry for fighting, to land, naval, and air forces with various kinds of modern technical equipment and capable of waging coordinated warfare between various arms in resisting invasion."
Document:31-07-1951 Zhu De "Speech at Meeting of 24th Anniversary of Formation of PLA"
At military academies non-military teachers are allowed to give lessons in mathematics and physics. They are recruited from several universities, companies and governmental departments to enhance the level of the military academies. In addition, the SU sends experts necessary to supplement the shortage of capable Chinese teachers.
Zhao Yanghui (2011). The establishment of Chinese military academies & the Soviet aids in 1920s-1950's. Sociology of science and technology, 2, (4). Page 25
To increase the attractiveness of the army for married officers, the RMC decides in July 1953, to allow military officers who have served in the military for more than five years to have their families live together with them and receive limited benefits. In 1952, the RMC has decided that only division-grade and above military officers, aviation crew and college instructors are allowed to take an annual leave once a year. In 1954 all of the unmarried officers who live separately from their parents and married officers who live separately from their spouses, are included.
Clay Marcus (no year). Understanding the “People” of the People’s Liberation Army A Study of Marriage, Family, Housing, and Benefits. Page 41
To improve the level of the PLA. "An appeal was made to the young people with some education to become future officers. They were urged to respond enthusiastically to the call of the fatherland and fill the "posts of glory" that awaited them. And respond they did, for on February 1, 1951 it was reported that some 250,000 had applied for enrollment in officer schools of whom more than fifty percent were Communist Party or Youth League members. This initial group of candidates formed the nucleus of the officer corps for the years to follow. Prior to commissioning, these cadets underwent a course of training of approximately eighteen months duration with the emphasis on political instruction. Upon completion of this training the cadets served six months in the ranks before being commissioned."
Luca A.P. de (1964). Leadership in the Chinese communist army. MA thesis, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Page 85

In later years Mao Zedong will revoke this opinion and will favour political consciousness above professionalism.

Conclusion...

The course of the Korean war forces the PLA to change its strategy and instead of relying on ideology motivation the High Command choses for a more pragmatic and professional approach. The role of the political commissars becomes less important.

Literature Notes Documents...

3. Kondapalli Srikanth (2005). China’s political commissars and commanders: Trends & dynamics. (Working paper 88). Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Singapore. Page 4 Back
4. Waller G. Jr. (1984). The inferno of people’s war a historical evaluation of Chinese concepts of national defense. Air University Review, 35,(3). Page 58 Back
5. Waller G. Jr. (1984). The inferno of people’s war Page 58 Back
7. “In the course of the various movements the whole nation has gradually enhanced its political consciousness and, particularly in the course of the Resist America, Aid Korea Campaign, has greatly elevated its patriotism and internationalism. The whole nation has basically cleared away the worship U.S., fear U.S., and pro-U.S. ideas and established national self-respect” Current Affairs Handbook, No. 17, Sept 1952. p. 93 cited in Richard L. Walker, “China under communism. The first five years” New Haven 1955. Back
10. Zhao Yanghui (2011). The establishment of Chinese military academies & the Soviet aids in 1920s-1950's. Sociology of science and technology, 2, (4). Page 25 Back
11. Clay Marcus (no year). Understanding the “People” of the People’s Liberation Army A Study of Marriage, Family, Housing, and Benefits. Page 41 Back
12. Luca A.P. de (1964). Leadership in the Chinese communist army. MA thesis, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Page 85 Back
Continue to Article 22