In September 1949, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) reached a consensus with other political parties and social organizations, collectively known as the Minzhu Dangpai, on the approval of the
This study approaches the Common Program not only as a constitutional document but also as a comprehensive roadmap for the development and future trajectory of China. It recognizes that a constitution is more than a proclamation of moral values or normative principles; rather, it is a fundamental practice of governing a state. A constitution serves as a guiding framework for national political practice, shaping the power structure and allocation of political authority within a country. Its importance lies not solely in what is morally right, but in its capacity to influence the political dynamics and power distribution within a nation. In the context of China, the Common Program represents a blueprint for regime change, state-building, and transition. The end of the Civil War between the Guomindang (GMD) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) marked the victory of the CCP, which sought to establish a new type of state based on communist principles and the ideology of Mao Zedong. The Common Program emerged as a crucial instrument during this period of transition, guiding the shift from the old feudal regime towards a socialist state. It aimed to present the new ruling authorities in China as moderately transformative and politically inclusive by affirming citizen freedoms of speech and thought.
Despite Mao Zedong's prominent influence in the People's Republic of China (PRC), it is important to recognize that during the initial years of the republic, Mao did not have absolute control. "...,Mao Zedong, through the course of the revolution, had accumulated a great deal of prestige and symbolic capital within the CCP. But Mao was not universally known in 1949, and thus for those who were not aware of him (say, a villager in South China), Mao lacked prestige; his symbolic capital was still dependent on its recognition by others. Over time, of course, Mao’s prestige was produced, accumulated, and recognized across the countryside" The conventional image of Mao as the central figure making all policy decisions and orchestrating every major action does not accurately reflect the reality of the time. Instead, the early years of the PRC were characterized by a more chaotic and less cohesive policymaking apparatus. The government often lacked the necessary technical expertise to effectively address the immense challenges of an economy that was still predominantly pre-industrial, inadequate social and educational infrastructure, and a governance system that was only just being rebuilt. Rather than a clear-cut divide between pre- and post-1949, a closer examination reveals that well into the 1950s, the new government in Beijing faced significant obstacles in asserting its authority over the entirety of Chinese territory.
The Common Program serves as a repository of guiding principles and philosophical underpinnings for the newly established state, drawing partially from influential works such as "On New Democracy," "On Coalition Government," and "On the People's Democratic Dictatorship." It represents a compromise reached between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Minzhu Dangpai, a unique collaboration within the communist world. This partnership resulted in the overthrow of the Guomindang (GMD) regime and the formation of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Notably, the terms "socialism" and "communism" are absent from the Common Program. Zhou Enlai emphasized the unwavering certainty regarding the future course of development ".., but that its validity should be explained, publicized and especially, proved to the entire people through practice…,we do not deny it, … in the economic section of the programme, it is already specified that we will make sure to advance along this course." Both the GMD regime and the CCP regime made use of mass mobilization, "… the mobilization was carried out in a top-down fashion. Although the CCP highlighted the mass-line, the masses were mobilized around the agenda set by state elites."
The CCP possessed substantial mobilizing power, with party branches established at various administrative levels, in urban and rural areas, work units, and schools. The dense network of grassroots party organizations provided a robust organizational infrastructure for political mobilization. The central party relied on local cadres to disseminate propaganda on collectivization, persuade and register households, calculate compensations, and carry out measures such as the confiscation or purchase of peasant properties.
Following the establishment of the new government in 1950, the collaboration between the CCP and other political parties and social organizations came under strain. This conflict primarily stemmed from the CCP's perspectives on the relationship between the state and the Party. The CCP's stance on this matter can be traced back to a document issued in September 1942, which outlined two key principles regarding Party-state relations that subsequently shaped the CCP's approach in the post-1949 era:
1. The Party committee is the highest leading organ, and it should exercise a unified leadership over all the other organizations, including government, army, and mass organizations.
2. The Party leadership means that the Party should decide on policies, but not directly interfere in, or take care of, every matter that is within the jurisdiction of the government.57"
A second factor contributing to the conflict was a shift in the CCP's perception of the bourgeoisie. Initially considered as an "ally," their status changed to that of an "enemy." This change in attitude can be attributed to the influence of orthodox Marxist theory, which regards the bourgeoisie as the enemy of the "people." The CCP looked to the Soviet Union's experience, where the bourgeoisie was eliminated, as a model to follow.
The 1954 constitution did reject the possibility of the co-existence of capitalism and socialism in the long run. On June 15, 1953, Mao Zedong preluded to the end of the policy of the ‘New Democracy’, which is the basis of the Common Program. He states "They fail to realize there is a change in the character of the revolution and they go on pushing their “New Democracy” instead of socialist transformation. This will lead to Right deviationist mistakes. Take our agriculture for instance, the socialist road is the only road for it. The Party’s central task in the rural areas is to develop the mutual-aid and co-operative movement and constantly raise productivity in agriculture. …The period of transition is full of contradictions and struggles. Our present revolutionary struggle is even more profound than the revolutionary armed struggle of the past. It is a revolution that will bury the capitalist system and all other systems of exploitation once and for all. The idea, “Firmly establish the new-democratic social order”, goes against the realities of our struggle and hinders the progress of the socialist cause."
The adoption of a new constitution in September 1954 signifies the conclusion of the Common Program, which was gradually undermined by evolving political and economic objectives right from its inception. This study aims to examine both the achievements and shortcomings of the Common Program, shedding light on its outcomes and challenges.
Road to Common Program:
This is an introduction to the history of China between 1911 and 1949 and deals with the founding of the CPPCC, the making of the Common Program, and the formation of a new government.
This item gives a description of the Common Program and its consequences for the development of the People's Republic of China.
The 60 articles of the Common Program are highlighted in 7 chapters.
is divided in 6 sections:
is divided in 6 sections:
is divided in 3 sections
24-04-1945 Mao Zedong "On coalition government"
30-06-1949 Mao Zedong "On the people’s democratic dictatorship"
Peace Signature Campaign 1950
Christian Reform Movement (Three-Self Renovation) 1950
National Patriotic Donation Campaign (For the Korean people) 1951
Production Increase and Austerity Campaign (For the Korean War) 1951
Learn from the Advanced Experience of the SU 1952
Struggle against Bureaucratism, Commandism, and Unlawful Acts (Includes the Five Too Many: Tasks, meetings, documents, organizations, and concurrent cadre posts) 1953
Campaign to Increase Production and Economize 1953
Technical Renovation Movement 1953
Oppose Bourgeois Individualism, Liberalism, Sectarianism, Dispersionism, Conceit, and Parochialism in the Party 1954
Anti-Pest Campaign 1954
Oksenberg (1982). Page 86
"Stalin recommended to the Chinese that they pursue a long-term, moderate approach to socialist transition, which was in sharp contrast to the policies of radical socialist transformation that he adopted in 1929. Chairman Mao did not overtly question Stalin’s cautious recommendations but in fact he wanted to pursue a more radical agenda. His burning ambition was to accelerate the transition to socialism, a quest that characterized his outlook from the late 1940s to the collapse of the Great Leap Forward (GLF, 1958–62). 7 Even before the formal establishment of the state, he had asked Stalin whether he would agree to an accelerated transition, but Stalin discouraged him. Mao formally accepted Stalin’s views but sought to circumvent them.8" Bernstein (2017). Page 198
© Peter van Meel
Last update: July 2023