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

Article 4 of the Common Program

The inaugural election orchestrated by the CCP occurred in the late 1931 within the Chinese Soviet Republic. This election law delineated voter eligibility by social class, excluding various groups ranging from those deemed to exploit labor to merchants, along with individuals affiliated with the Nationalist Party. Voting was conducted openly with raised hands, and a plurality was requisite for victory. The basis of the 1953 election laws wasn't drawn from the Nationalist system or its pre-1949 voting trials but rather from the Soviet model. The most significant departure from previous Chinese electoral practices in the 1953 system was the adoption of "single-candidate elections," a concept directly borrowed from Soviet election legislation. This innovation, where only one candidate was put forward for each available position, effectively turned elections from a selection process into a mere ratification of candidates already chosen through alternative methods.
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, every citizen of the PRC who has reached the age of 18 shall have the right to elect and to be elected, irrespective of nationality or race, sex, profession, social origin, religious belief, education, property holdings, or length of residence. Women shall have the right to elect and to be elected on equal terms with men. However, The following shall have no right to elect and to be elected: (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 behaviour was beyond doubt.); and, (4) Mentally deficient persons
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.
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.

The elections scheduled for 1954 were postponed due to the unavailability of the national census results. Eventually, when the census revealed a population exceeding 600 million, 323 million individuals received voting cards.
Fig. 4.1: Population Distribution of China in 1953 (Taiwan is excluded)
Wang (2016). Page 9

There is no possibility to vote on different political parties or programs. The electors 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 prevalent disinterest in or misinterpretation of the elections. The involvement and contribution to the "small group discussions" held prior to the voting were lacking, as one account expressed regret that only a handful of activists engaged in conversation during these sessions, while the rest of the participants remained silent. Even, officials in Beijing exhibited a negative attitude despite being associated with "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.

Hill (2019). Page 194 [↩] [Cite]
Hill (2019). Page 197 [↩] [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