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


The organic law of the CPPCC allows the possibility of setting up political consultative conferences in major cities, important areas, and provincial capitals. These political consultative conferences have the right to elect a local government. At the end of 1951, political consultative conferences have gathered to elect local government in 28 provinces, 8 administrative regions, in 154 cities, in 2043 districts, and in 104 districts of minorities. These elections sometimes take place in a very fast time schedule. On December 9, 1949, the PLA marches into Urumqi and 8 days later a new government is elected.
On January 13, 1953, the regime announces that at the end of that year the first election for the National People’s Congress (NPC) will be held. This NPC will be a legislature parliament. See also Article 12 .
On March 1, 1953 the first election law is enacted. It states "..all citizens with the exception of reactionaries and non-people of the People’s Republic over the age of 18 … the right to vote and to be elected to office, regardless of nationality or race, sex, occupation, social status, religious belief, educational level, wealth, or residency,” and further guaranteed that local people’s congresses would be directly elected by the people.4"
A solution has to be found for the Soviet nationals who live in Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Manchuria, and other regions for years but are either not allowed to enter the USSR or not willing to go back. After consultation with Moscow, it is decided they will be treated as Chinese citizens and gradually naturalized. They not only were granted universal suffrage, but during the land reform movement the Soviet nationals were also assigned lands just as Chinese citizens were.

The time schedule is too tighten and the elections are postponed and are held in 1954 because the results of the national census are not yet ready. The census determines the total population of China as more than 600 million. Everybody above the age of 18, and who is allowed to vote, has the right to register.
Fig. 4.1: Population Distribution of China in 1953 (Taiwan is excluded)
Wang (2016). Page 9
Article Five of the electoral law of 1953 specifically excludes the following categories of people from electoral participation: (1) Elements of the landlord class whose status has not yet been changed according to law; (2) Counterrevolutionaries who have been deprived of political rights according to law; (3) Others who have been deprived of political rights according to law (for example all Buddhists unless their organizations were members of the government sponsored Buddhist Association (see Article 5) and their individual political behavior was beyond doubt.); and, (4) Mentally deficient persons.
323 million people receive a voting card. In the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Region (established on September 3, 1952 ), the problem arises about the nationality of Korean population. "In view of the forthcoming local election, it is important to conduct census and registration of voters. It is an urgent matter to resolve the nationality issue of a large number of Koreans in China. But Yanbian in Northeast China and Korea are separated only by a river. The people on both sides “come and go very frequently. It is a very complicated situation.” It makes it very difficult to distinguish between Korean nationals in China and ethnic Koreans with Chinese citizenship. Korea is presently at war and many Koreans hope to acquire Chinese citizenship. If we handle this on the basis of voluntary participation, it might arouse misunderstanding from friendly [North] Korea." The government decided to use October 1, 1949 as the dividing line to assess the nationalities of the Koreans in China.
There is no possibility to vote on different political parties or programs. They have to choose from candidates who are thoroughly screened. The elections are held throughout the year and in spring 1954, 86% of the registered voters on local level have voted by show of hand. The concept of “election” is for many people very confusing.
There is "...a widespread lack of engagement with, or misunderstanding of, the elections.” Attendance and participation in “small group discussions” that preceded the voting were problematic, with one report lamenting that “during meetings, the only people who talked were a few activists; the other voters didn’t say a word.14" Zhang (2014) also notices that cadres in Beijing “had poor attitudes” despite working for “top-level organs of the central government.”

In total, 5½ million members for the local congresses are chosen. The members of the people’s congresses on a higher level are chosen in staged elections and finally the NPC members would be elected. This procedure was too complicated and in the middle of 1954 it is decided to send a list of 1226 delegates to the provincial people’s congresses for approval. In September 1954, the first NPC convenes.
In Article 12 of the common program, the procedure of election will be looked at in greater detail.

Zhang (2014). Page 1073 [↩] [Cite]
Mao (2017). Pages 141-142. He remarks "...most of them declined to be naturalized as Chinese citizens but either claimed they were Soviet nationals or denied publicly that they had Soviet certificates or passports, though they or their family members actually had them." Page 174 [↩] [Cite]
"Northeast Bureau’s Request for Instruction to the Party Center," 24 April 1953 cited in Shen (2014).Page 141 [↩] [Cite]
Zhang (2014). Page 1075-1076. Zhang remarks "Given that many voters had limited education or were illiterate, these themes were transformed by the media into simpler slogans such as “elect good people, be a good master of the country” (xuan hao ren,dang hao jia 选好人, 当好家) and “it’s joyful to be in charge” (dangjia zuozhu xiyangyang 当家作主喜洋洋). Various newspapers, acting troupes and publishing houses also promoted the elections, and created “masters of the country”-themed propaganda art, picture books, lanterns, local operas, stage plays, traditional cross-talk performances (xiangsheng 相声) and traditional talking-singing performances (shuochang 说唱)." Page 1073 [↩] [Cite]

Chapter 1 of Common Program