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

Article 44 of the Common Program

In 1950, three social research institutes within the CAS (see article 43) are formed, archaeology, linguistics, and modern history. The so-called bourgeois social sciences (sociology, anthropology, political science, and law) are partly abolished. The direct and decisive intervention by the state significantly bolstered the institutional prominence of ethnology over anthropology since the establishment of the PRC in 1949. This was further reinforced by state-regulated funding policies, along with the subsequent designation of ethnology as a first-tier discipline, alongside sociology and archaeology. Anthropology, on the other hand, was relegated to a second-tier discipline. In 1953 the Institute of Economics, and in 1954 the Institute of History were established.
As circumstances evolved, certain adjustments were made to the curriculum. For instance, the course originally titled "Foundations of Marxism and Leninism" transitioned into "History of the International Communist Movement," while "History of the Chinese Revolution" was rebranded as "History of the Chinese Communist Party." These courses prominently featured Marxism, Leninism, and Mao Zedong Thought, glorified the cult of personality, and upheld the one-party system. Concurrently, they exhibited strong antagonism towards alternative ideologies and utilized historical materialism to interpret human history, particularly emphasizing the role of class struggle. In doing so, these courses served to legitimize the prevailing ruling system and ideology.
Here, two aspects of social science will be highlighted. The importance of the introduction of the evolution theory and the changing characteristics of historiography. In Article 48, the combination of traditional Chinese medicine and western medicine will be discussed.

Before and after 1949, intellectuals and politicians are trying to ban superstition and replace it with scientific knowledge. One way of reaching this goal is disseminating knowledge about human evolution. The understanding of human nature is considered essential for a materialist understanding of history and social development. "In 1950 and 1951, government officials and scientists produced a profusion of materials designed to familiarize “the masses” with the socialist interpretation of “human origins and development” and with the fossil evidence for human evolution in China. These materials included books written for all levels of education, articles printed in popular science and general-interest magazines, political lectures and cadre classes, exhibits in museums and other arenas, and lectures and slide shows presented in factories and other places of work."
Public health posters

A popular legend of the White-Haired Girl (who fled into the mountains because she wanted to escape a cruel landlord, turned into a ‘ghost’ because her hair and skin turns white.) is changed into an opera. However, in the opera, socialist revolutionaries disregard the sacrifices made by the local villagers to the white-haired girl, dismissing them as mere superstition. Ultimately, they persuade the girl to emerge from hiding, condemn her abuser, and join the others in the struggle for class equality. Rural audiences acquainted with the legends, upon watching the opera, would undoubtedly grasp the underlying message, even if they didn't necessarily concur with it: that a socialist restructuring of society was meant to supplant a mythological one.
As for the SU, Darwin is considered an important scientist and although the PRC followed the ideas of Lysenkoism (see Article 43 ) Darwin’s contribution to science and to materialism was beyond doubt. The promoting of the human evolution theory is also a weapon against religion. God or the Chinese Nuwa (女娲) are replaced with Darwin’s evolution theory and Engels’s theory that labour created humanity. Mao Zedong takes a pragmatic approach "We should run training courses of various kinds, military and political colleges and revolutionary institutes for the intellectuals and educate and remould them while availing ourselves of their services. We should have them study the history of social development, historical materialism and other subjects. We can induce even those who are idealists not to oppose us. Let them say that man was created by God, we say man evolved from the ape. Some intellectuals are advanced in age, they are over seventy, and we should provide for them so long as they support the Party and the People's Government."
By employing science to combat superstition and religion, scientists inadvertently bolstered the state's stance, which deemed certain forms of knowledge worthy of pursuit while advocating for the eradication of others. Ironically, they soon discovered that their own scientific theories were not exempt from scrutiny. Before long, scientists espousing unorthodox theories found themselves subjected to treatment akin to that which they had previously reserved for the most "superstitious" members of society. Schmalzer (2008) observes the contradiction between the criticism of superstition among the masses and Mao Zedong's concept of "learning from the masses". Intellectuals were under pressure to cater to multiple audiences: cadres, political leaders, and fellow scientists, as well as the "great masses of the people." Striking the "correct" balance was not always straightforward, given the competing political agendas and the emphasis on "serving the people."

To create a ‘new’ China, a reinterpretation of the history of China is taking place. First of all, the role of historians has to be defined. In the imperial past, the relation between historiography and state is intense. Historians are ‘servants’ of the state and history is used as the propagating and legitimizing agent of the state. The second model is the state-historian relations in the Soviet Union. Historians educated in the West introduce a third model in which history is separated from politics. Nevertheless, these historians were already deeply entrenched in political ideologies, aiming to align their works with the state's agenda and utilizing historical knowledge as a tool to do so. History served as the cornerstone of legitimacy for the regime, akin to the concept of the 'Mandate of Heaven' in the imperial era, where a new dynasty justified its rule. In the case of the PRC, legitimacy stemmed from their advocacy for the proletariat and rural classes, who had been instrumental in their ascent to power. Any dissenting voices or praise for the previous regime were swiftly dealt with, often resulting in imprisonment or execution under charges of counter-revolutionary activities during the early years of the CCP.
History could only be interpreted according to the accepted materialistic framework and ‘scientific reality’ of Marxism, based on the Soviet expertise. All other views or interpretations would not be tolerated. The most significant distinction between the CCP and the dynasties of the past lies in their respective approaches. In imperial times, a new regime primarily sought the loyalty and services of the literati. However, the CCP not only required loyalty and services but also demanded a complete overhaul of mindset and values. The Propaganda Department of the CCP oversees Chinese historiography. In reality, the Central Committee's Political Studies Department, is much more active and staffed by Chen Boda, with deputies Hu Sheng and Tian Jiaying . All of them have a direct link with Mao Zedong. In 1952, the first book of 12-part research project in the Chinese modern history series is released. It deals with the Boxer Rebellion. In addition, in 1952 the series on the Taiping rebellion is completed. Already in 1953 both series are reprinted.
Despite these publications, "The rarity of publications and the caution of their content can be explained in part, one might think, by fear of reviving disagreements about a past still very close. But there is an explanation probably even more relevant: Mao Zedong's own distrust of a story which he reserved for both writing, political fabrication and rewriting" In 1951 the first volume of four of the selected works of Mao Zedong is published .
The new historiography emphasized nationalism not only based on Han-centrism but on multi-ethnicity. (see article 50) Ethnic minorities are represented as valuable members of the People’s Republic of China, in contrast to the US, which is a nation of racism, social, and economic contradictions. Racial perspectives persisted within the PRC: Despite officially extending the notion of "nation-race" to encompass all "national minorities" residing within the nation's political borders, in practice, it has predominantly focused on the "Han" ethnicity. Much like the racial classifications employed by reformers in the late nineteenth century, "national minorities" are depicted as less developed groups in need of the moral and political leadership of the "Han" in order to progress along the continuum of civilization.
Teaching of history is divided in 2 sectors, Chinese history and world history. The interpretation is according Marxist theory. A new interpretation of the history of China is needed. The emphasis is placed on China's modern history after the Opium War in 1839. The rewritten Chinese history shows that all history is the story of class struggle. Rebels heretofore held in disrepute are now hailed as "people's heroes of revolution" while many respected historical figures are now condemned as "reactionaries" or "tools of feudalism." World history is taught in the light of the world revolution. The information for the latter existed mainly from translated Russian books and articles.
It is not just the history that needs to be reinterpreted but also the perception of art. See also Article 45 "All of New China's people should perceive paintings from a nationalistic perspective, and consider ancient paintings as part of our mother country's great artistic heritage.” , (and using) … class-oppression as a framework to interpret objects as well as events,… to integrate Marxist terminology into their articulation of Chinese cultural heritage." Museum collections are described in a different way. For example, ancient bronze relics are as follows: "Only the extorting classes could use bronze crockery...the repressed and extorted masses used pottery, bamboo, or bone utensils”.118 Student scribbles in the margins of one pen edition repeated, “Shang dynasty had slave mentality, slavery still existed.”"
In May 1949 the CCP Committee to Control Cultural Affairs issued an order "… collect revolutionary documents and artifacts. It focused on two areas: first, all documents related to the Communist Party’s clandestine or openly published newspapers, pictorials, proclamations, slogans, photographs and woodcuts; and secondly, artifacts such as the relics of communist martyrs, flags, official seals and stamps.8 This was the first step towards the eventual establishment of a museum of the Chinese revolution."

Smart (2006). Page 74 [↩] [Cite]
Yang (2002). no page number. [↩] [Cite]
Schmalzer (2007). Page 234 [↩] [Cite]
Schmalzer (2008). Page 58. In 1950 the story is transformed into a movie [↩] [Cite]
Schmalzer (2008). Page 57 [↩] [Cite]
Schmalzer (2008). Page 116 [↩] [Cite]
Ng (2008). Pages 11-13 [↩] [Cite]
Ng (2008). Page 16 [↩] [Cite]
Original text: La rareté des publications et la prudence de leur contenu s’expliquent en partie, on peut le penser, par la crainte de ranimer les désaccords sur un passé encore très proche. Mais il est une explication probablement plus pertinente encore : la méfiance de Mao Zedong lui-même à l’égard d’une histoire dont il se réservait à la fois l’écriture, la fabrication politique et la réécriture." Domenach (2011). Page 9 [↩] [Cite]
Dikötter (1996). No page number [↩] [Cite]
The renowned historian Hu Sheng declared in 1954 that the Taiping Rebellion, the violent anti-foreign Boxer Uprising of 1900 and the anti-Manchu Revolution of 1911 were the ‘three revolutionary climaxes’ that would constitute the basic paradigm or narrative of modern Chinese history." Duara (2008). Page 57 [↩] [Cite]
Lu (2012). Pages 57 and 59 [↩] [Cite]
Lu (2012). Page 59 [↩] [Cite]
Hung (2005). Page 916. "This museum, although inspired by Soviet museums, shall be distinctly Chinese. This future museum would serve as a place both to preserve and to reconstruct an indigenous political memory. ... insisted that a future Chinese revolutionary museum would be unique in its dissemination not only of Marxism but also of “the thought of Mao Zedong.”" Page 919 [↩] [Cite]
Chapter 5 of Common Program