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

During the founding years of the People's Republic of China (PRC) from 1949 to the mid-1950s, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) played several crucial roles: The PLA played a pivotal role in consolidating the CCP control over the country. It helped secure the CCP's dominance and authority in areas it had newly gained control over. It was responsible for safeguarding China's sovereignty and territorial integrity and played a significant role in repelling foreign incursions and interventions during the early years, particularly in conflicts like the Korean War.
The PLA was instrumental in maintaining domestic stability by suppressing counterrevolutionaries and ensuring that the CCP's rule was unchallenged. Beyond its military role, the PLA was involved in various aspects of economic development. It contributed to infrastructure projects, especially in remote areas, and played a role in agricultural and industrial reforms. The PLA was used to implement land reforms and social transformations in rural areas. It helped distribute land to peasants and played a role in promoting the communist ideology among the population. It often played a role in disaster relief and emergency response efforts. Its disciplined and organized structure made it a valuable resource in responding to natural disasters and other crises. PLA members were actively indoctrinated with communist ideology, and they were expected to be loyal to the CCP's leadership. This political education was an essential aspect of the PLA's role in the early PRC. In summary, during the founding years of the PRC, the PLA served as not only the country's military but also as a key instrument in shaping the political, economic, and social landscape of China. Its actions were crucial in ensuring the CCP's authority, defending the nation, and implementing the party's transformative policies.

Fig. 3.1 People's Daily Editorials
A Red Number indicates the subject was a major theme in the editorial. A Black Number indicates a minor theme in the editorial. Source: Oksenberg (1982).
The reorganization of the PLA results in a more integrated army. Mao Zedong partly undermines this unification by creating a special unit under his direct control.

Alongside military training, the CCP implemented a strong emphasis on political education within the PLA. Soldiers were indoctrinated with communist ideology to ensure their loyalty to the party. This ideological training became a hallmark of the Chinese military. However, 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.

The PLA, PLAAF and PLAN rely heavily on SU support in training of personnel as well on receiving and buying SU equipment. The PLA looked to the Soviet Union as a model for military modernization. Soviet advisors, equipment, and training played a significant role in upgrading the capabilities of the Chinese military. This period saw the adoption of Soviet-style military organization, tactics, and equipment. During the Korean War, the Chinese Army was able to regroup on a large scale. The following Chinese units were completely re-equipped or reorganized along the lines of the Soviet Army: 56 out of 106 army divisions, 6 tank divisions and an independent tank regiment, 101 (37 centimeter) anti-aircraft gun battalions, 5 field gun divisions and 1 city garrison gun division, 4 searchlight regiments, 9 radar regiments and independent radar battalions, 28 engineer battalions, and 10 divisions of railway corps, signal corps, and anti-chemical warfare corps. By early 1954, China had 28 air force divisions, 5 independent flight regiments, and 3000 plus aircraft, which either had been gifts or had been purchased from the USSR. However, the Chinese navy was not very well developed due to limited funds and technical problems....The military equipment provided by the Soviets was not up to date or advanced, and some of it consisted of US lend-lease surplus goods and materials left over from World War II. The outbreak of the Korean War had a profound impact on the PLA's development. China's involvement in the conflict highlighted both the strengths and weaknesses of the Chinese military. It underscored the need for further modernization and training while also demonstrating the PLA's determination to defend Chinese interests. It is only after 1954 they become less dependent on the SU.

In Chinese society the status of soldiers is traditionally low. In 1950 when a system of classification is introduced the soldiers receive the highest status of good-class origins: See Article 7 This does not mean people look up to them.
“By discharging them the PLA “separated the bones from the meat,” a union official claimed. According to an investigation by the cadre section of a Shanghai firm, all veterans were said to have “physical or political history problems or else were purged by their units.”
Although the veterans have a different image of themselves “At the ideological level they tended to believe the honorific things said about them in the official media and often displayed an arrogant sense of political superiority (gongchen zijude jiaoao) towards civilian cadres and masses.”

Shen (2020). Page 143 [↩] [Cite]
There were six basic categories, listed in descending order of political status: (1) Long March veterans; (2) anti-Japanese war veterans; (3) " Liberation struggle " veterans from the 1945-49 Civil War; (4) " new veterans " who were in fact " uprising personnel" … from the Guomindang army; (5) Korean war volunteers; (6) ordinary conscripts under the new draft system: " White (1980). Pages 190-191 [↩] [Cite]
Diamant (2006). Page 25. PLA women who had served during the Korean war, were ostracized as were most Chinese POWs when they returned home. [↩] [Cite]
White (1980). Page 199
He remarks “Ordinary ex-servicemen who were Party members tended to look down on their civilian comrades, particularly in the countryside. They were quick to criticize civilian cadres, moreover, because their political prestige gave them " the right to speak out" (fayanquan), made them " bold in making criticisms, bold in raising opinions," and freed them from the fear of being accused of being " backward " or " making [political] mistakes." White (1980). Page 201 [↩] [Cite]
Even in the parades there was no place for them. Hung (2007). Page 149 Note 4 [↩] [Cite]

Chapter 3 of Common Program