Article 36 of the Common Program
Article 36 of the Common Program

Communications: Railways and highways shall be swiftly restored and gradually extended. Rivers shall be dredged and water transportation expanded. Postal, telegraphic and telephone services shall be improved and developed.
Various communications facilities shall be built up and civil aviation established step by step according to plan.

"Distribution of transportation networks is in line with the distribution of population and urban areas, denser in the eastern area as compared to western China: This pattern is partly restricted by natural conditions. But it also reflects the demand of economic activities and people. The railway transport network is composed of interconnected trunk lines, branch lines, connection lines, and railroad hubs. It centers at Beijing and the Beijing–Guangzhou Railway and Longhai Railway–Lanzhou–Xinjiang Railway (started in 1952) are the trunk lines. "
Shi Peijun, Xu Wei and Wan Jing’ai (2016). Natural Disaster System in China. Page 20
Source: Comtois Claude (1990). Transport and Territorial Development in China 1949–1985. Page 786

Source: 历史统计:金砖国家历年铁路营业里程比较(1838~2010)
"In fact, in 1949 about 60 per cent of the total 21,800 kilometres of railways (...) of different gauges and types were concentrated in Northeast China and along the coast. More specifically, 53.85 per cent of the provincial capitals had no rail connections with Beijing.4"
Comtois(1990). Transport. Page 784

© Elisabeth Köll (cartographic design: Matthew Sisk, GIF: Peter van Meel).
Chengdu–Chongqing railway or Chengyu railway opened in 1952 and was the first railway to be built after the founding of the People's Republic of China. The Litang–Zhanjiang railway or Lizhan railway was built from 1954 to 1955. Yingtan–Xiamen railway or Yingxia railway was built between 1954 and 1957. The railway was intended to serve the dual purposes of national defense (Taiwan is opposite of Fujian) and regional development. The Lancun−Yantai railway or Lanyan railway was built from 1953 to 1956. The Xiaoshan–Ningbo railway or Xiaoyong railway was dismantled in 1938, rebuilt partly in 1953, and finished in 1959. The Baoji–Chengdu railway or Baocheng railway was built from 1952 to 1954, but was opened in 1958. The Lanzhou−Xinjiang railway or Lanxin railway started in 1952, completed in 1962, and opened in 1966.
During the Civil War, the GMD regime and the Communist troops destroyed large sections of the railroad network. Particularly in the Northeast, almost 4000 miles were demolished. "Because repairs and repair attempts were undone by swift Communist counterattacks, the Nationalist government’s rehabilitation program was successful only south of the Yangzi River, a region without a Communist military presence at the time, where rehabilitation restoring lines damaged by the Japanese could take place without any external interference."
Köll Elisabeth (2019). Railroads and the transformation of China. Page 226 See also Document 17-12-1949 Chen Yun "Telegram to comrade Ma Yinchu"
Like in other sectors of the economy, the GMD and the CCP governments used Japanese engineers and technicians to rebuild and to expand the railroad network. In the first 5-year plan, 2500 miles of new railways are planned. To consolidate the central state power, the integration of interior and/or remote regions with new railroads was a main instrument to achieve this policy. Some of these plans were already made during the GMD administration because they were considered of strategic and economic importance.
Most of these new lines were built with the involvement of SU advisors and former GMD technicians and engineers. Many of the GMD employees were denounced as “counterrevolutionaries” in April 1951. To avoid discontinuity, the railroad administration became heavily connected and integrated in the military defense, and political indoctrination increased. Many demobilized PLA soldiers found work in the construction of railroads. In 1953, a special railroad army corps was founded to work in remote areas.
Kroll (2019) states: "The “outsourcing” of railroad construction to the PLA in many ways was a brilliant move because it allowed a riskier approach for the construction of new lines, while also providing the benefits of the disciplined work ethic of railroad soldiers and the mobility of the military. At the same time, the experiences of former tiedaobing on construction sites also demonstrated that certain issues related to railroad construction, such as negotiating land acquisitions, hiring local labor, and interacting with the local population, were not fundamentally different from the practices employed during the Republican period."
Köll (2019). Railroads. Pages 252-253

Most of the newly undertaken constructions had to be operated in inhospitable and dangerous conditions and environments. Therefore, the railroad workers earned several privileges, like free train tickets, free primary and middle school for their children, and higher wages. The lack of appropriate capital investments (In the 5-year plan transport, postal services, and telecommunications received only 19 percent of the investment funds) was compensated by focusing on the mass mobilization of workers
Traincrew were mostly men, but on October 1, 1951 Li Shi, the first female engine driver graduated.
"In the following year, railroad work units across the country began to employ women in all aspects of railroad- related work, especially in the service sector as train conductors, station personnel, ticket sellers, and administrators." Kroll (2019). Page 250
Except Xinjiang and Tibet, a unified time standard is introduced. This made freight and passenger transport much easier than the five different times zones which existed before October 1949.
There were a huge variety of different locomotive types from the former foreign powers (France, UK, US, Japan and SU) usually in small quantities that had little in common. There was also a large fleet of standardised and very capable engines left by the Japanese. It was only natural that the latter were selected for continued production. Russian engineers gave technical assistance for the construction of locomotives based on SU models. "China made a conscious decision to continue with steam production long after the rest of the world’s locomotive builders had switched to diesel and electric traction. The reason was entirely practical. Traffic was increasing so rapidly that it wouldn’t have been possible to build diesels fast enough given the skills available in the Chinese workforce at the time. Steam locomotives were relatively low-tech and simple, they could be built in large quantities and ran on cheap and readily available coal."
Cotterill Duncan (2021). A Brief History of Standard Gauge Steam in China.
In 1950, locomotives based on US model (Mikado), now renamed as “Jiefang” (JF) were produced with materials that remained on hand after the war. In 1952, the locomotives were built with new parts and mass production began. Thus, it became the major model of freight steam locomotive for main line railways in China in the 1950s.

Comtois remarks there were "...80,768 kilometres of highways at the time of liberation in all of China. Moreover, the highway system was characterized by roads with little or no surfacing and by bridges and ferries of low capacity.5 Clearly, they were planned not to compete with the railways but to supplement them."
Comtois(1990). Transport. Page 784
Maintenance, repair and building had no priority, local authorities had to mobilize workers and raise funds.
See for example Flower John M. (2004). A Road Is Made: Roads, Temples, and Historical Memory in Ya'an County, Sichuan.
Source:CIA (1960) Economic intelligence report. Highway transport in communist China
Most of the highways are located in the eastern coastal provinces. The highway network in Xinjiang was oriented towards the SU. Most roads are intended to provide short-haul connections with railroads and water networks, however, most of them are of poor quality. The expansion of the highway network has economic and strategic objectives. Between 1950- 1958, the number of civilian trucks has increased from 40.000 to 96.000 trucks. Partly domestic produced and partly imported from the SU.

All the major rivers -the Changjiang, the Huang He, the Heilung, the Zhujiang (Pearl) and the Haiho - flow from west to east and empty into the Pacific. The Yalutsangpo and Nukiang rivers in southwest China stream south into the Indian Ocean. The Irtysh River which flows through Sinkiang eventually finds its way to the Arctic Ocean.
Huai river
The rivers in the northern part of China, north of the Huai River and the Chinling Mountains, have a large flow in the summer and a small flow in the winter. They freeze in the winter and are therefore not navigable the year round. Most of these rivers silt up, strong dykes have to contain these rivers otherwise they flood over and shift their course.
The rivers south of this northern part are navigable, they have more or less the same water volume and they don’t freeze in the winter. The Changjiang and its several major tributaries have a navigable length of more than 70,000 kilometres which makes the Changjiang the most important water route in China.
Huang He
The rivers in the southwest are not navigable, because they rush down between towering mountains and narrow gorges. (Nukiang and the Lantsang) Rivers in the northwest flow at irregular intervals and frequently dry up. (the Tarim, the Tsaidam and the Shuleh.)
Many rivers were still in their natural states with a depth of less than one metre. The Da Yunhe (Grand Canal) is of limited use as navigable waterway because of considerable silting and very low water during winter and spring when it is frozen for 5 to 6 months.
There are 3 main harbours situated at the mouth of rivers, Tianjin (Haiho river), Shanghai (Changjiang) and Guangzhou (Zhujiang). These 3 harbours are connected with the hinterland by rivers, railways and airlines. Tianjin serves north China, Inner Mongolia and northwest China and the main maritime gateway to Beijing. During the Chinese Civil War the harbour was damaged and left it unusable by the time of its capture in 1949. On 17 October 1952, it reopened for traffic.
The traffic loss of the Tianjin harbour has been less severe than in Shanghai. The proximity to Beijing and northeast China is the main reason. During the first five-year plan, the Northeast is the spearhead of the development of heavy industry. The port is more specialized in bulk products (coal and minerals). Shanghai serves valleys of Changjiang and Huai river and the southeast coastel provinces. After 1949, the limited international trade hampered the harbour, but river shipping remained busy. The development of river ports along the Yangtze (Chongqing, Wuhan, and Nanjing are of great significance as river hub ports) was important for national transport. Guangzhou serves south China and becomes China’s main maritime hub for international trade. There are bay harbours in Dalian on the Liaodong Peninsula, Qingdao on the Shandong Peninsula and Zhanjiang on the Leizhou Peninsula. Rail connections link them to the hinterland.
Several rivers are used to produce hydropower, only 22 large dams with an installed hydropower of 163 MW2 were in service in 1949. As early as 1919, there were ideas to build a series of large dams in Changjiang to control flood and to generate electric power. The civil war caused the abandonment of all projects. The flood of 1954 accelerates the preparation for a large dam in the Three Gorges. One year later the planning activities started with the help of SU experts.
In 1931 and 1935 floods caused the death of 300,000 people.

"…the 10 largest flood-prone areas in China are the Yangtze River Delta region, the area between Nanchang and Nanjing along the Yangtze River, the middle and lower parts of the Gan River region, the Dongting and Poyang Lake areas in the middle- and lower-Yangtze River basin, the Huai River basin, the piedmont region of the Taihang Mountains, the lower parts of the Hai River and Luan River, the Pearl River Delta, the lower part of the Liao River region, the Sanjiang Plain in Northeast China, the Wei River Plain, and the Sichuan Basin."
Du Juan, Kong Feng, Du Shiqiang, Li Ning, Li Ying and Shi Peijun (2016). Floods in China. Page 149
Between June and September 1954, there were heavy floods, which affected Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi, Anhui and Jiangsu provinces and caused the death of 30,000 people and affected 19 million people. "...the Beijing-Guangzhou railway line was suspended for more than 100 days. It is estimated that the 1954 flood caused more than 10 billion Yuan (about 0.98 billion Euros) of direct losses, and uncountable indirect ones (YWRP,1999)."
López-Pujol Jordi & Marta, Ponseti. (2006). The Three Gorges Dam Project in China: History and Consequences. Page 161
On October 14, 1950 GAC makes the decision to the governance of the Huaihe.
14-10-1950 The decision of the GAC on the governance of the Huaihe River
1954 Flood
While there was a big flood in the central provinces, there is draught in the North.

Postal service is also used as propaganda tool, stamps play an important role. See Stamps

Notes Documents...

Shi Peijun, Xu Wei and Wan Jing’ai (2016). Natural Disaster System in China. Page 20 Back
Comtois(1990). Transport. Page 784 Back
Köll Elisabeth (2019). Railroads and the transformation of China. Page 226. See also 17-12-1949 Chen Yun "Telegram to comrade Ma Yinchu" Back
Köll (2019). Railroads. Pages 252-253 Back
"In the following year, railroad work units across the country began to employ women in all aspects of railroad- related work, especially in the service sector as train conductors, station personnel, ticket sellers, and administrators." Kroll (2019). Page 250 Back
Cotterill Duncan (2021). A Brief History of Standard Gauge Steam in China. Back
Comtois(1990). Transport. Page 784 Back
See for example Flower John M. (2004). A Road Is Made: Roads, Temples, and Historical Memory in Ya'an County, Sichuan. Back
Du Juan, Kong Feng, Du Shiqiang, Li Ning, Li Ying and Shi Peijun (2016). Floods in China. Page 149 Back
López-Pujol Jordi & Marta, Ponseti. (2006). The Three Gorges Dam Project in China: History and Consequences. Page 161 Back