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

On May 1, 1948, Mao Zedong makes the first move to create a new political conference with other political parties and persons. The Central Committee (CC) issues an invitation in their slogan of the May 1 celebration. “Every democratic party and group, every people’s organization and social dignitary should (join together to) promptly convene a (new) Political Consultative Conference (PPC) to discuss and then convoke a people’s representative congress that will turn establish a democratic coalition government”. Already in October 1947, the PLA issues a manifesto declaring: “Unite the workers, peasants, soldiers, students, and commercial elements, all oppressed classes, all people's organizations, all democratic parties and groups, all national minorities, overseas Chinese everywhere and other patriotic elements — unite to organize a national united front to strike down the dictatorial government of Chiang Kai-shek and establish a democratic coalition government.” December 1947, Mao ads to this statement "this united front must also be under the firm leadership of the Chinese Communist Party." This appeal resulted sometimes in friction in some political parties. For example, some members of the Reform Faction (RF) of the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) were more oriented toward the CCP and supported on their own initiative the CCP declaration of May 1, 1948. This resulted in the purge of anti-CCP members. Members of others parties asked to participate in the CPPCC. Their request was denied. The RF was dissolved in September 1949 and Sha Yankai and Wang Shimin joined the CDL and visited the CPPCC. On July 4, 1949 Liu Shaoqi remarks in his report to Stalin "all these parties and groups were entirely unable to submit a list of their representatives to take part in the PCS (consultative congress) since there are quarrels among them. Lists of their representatives could only be drawn up when the CCP stated its opinion to them about the candidacies. However, in each democratic party and group there are several leaders who have some influence among the popular masses, thanks to their having engaged in political activity in China for a long time. Their party organizations are held together only in these leaders. There are three categories of people in each party and group: rightists, leftists, and centrists." Once prominent leftist or centrist leaders were integrated into the CPPCC, the significance of the Minzhu Dangpai, as organizational structures diminished. In contrast, the Jiu San, which never exceeded a hundred members before 1949, was included in the CPPCC, representing university teachers and scientists. Its inclusion in the list of participating groups in June 1949 illustrates how the CPPCC welcomed small organizations like the Jiu San or the Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League. These groups expanded into organizational strongholds after the founding of the PRC, enabling them to reach specific segments of the Chinese elites.

The response on the May 1st appeal is "overwhelming". Particularly from political leaders who have fled to Hong Kong after 1948 when Jiang Jieshi decided to forbid several political parties. Several responders had little political influence.
Barnett (1963) predicts "the alliance of these splinter groups in Hong Kong with the Communist Party lifted the names of their leaders from relative obscurity to prominence in the seething rumor markets of present-day China. … It is probable, therefore, that some time next year (1949) press dispatches and other reports of developments in China will contain the names of many political parties, groups, and leaders in China that heretofore have been virtually unknown, even to many people within their own country." These politicians had nowhere to go but to the communists to realize their ideals or they had to retreat into passivity. Not only politicians are positive, about 50% of the students are in favour of forming a coalition government.
The first talks between the CCP and the Minzhu Dangpai take place in the Northeast in August 1948, which is under the control of the PLA. Many of these political refugees in Hong Kong reach Harbin by boat and by crossing the border with North Korea. The communist spy Pan hannian is responsible for the transport of at least 350 sympathizers from Hong Kong to areas in the north controlled by the communists. They are eager to leave Hong Kong because the secret police of the GMD is persecuting them even in Hong Kong. Once the group arrived in Dalian, Zhou Enlai personally arranged a fine hotel, a banquet, and even a new set of clothes against the harsh Northern winter. During their stay in the Northeast, several representatives of the Minzhu Dangpai made a tour around the cities and rural areas which are ruled by the communists. "Having learned first-hand about the conditions –the successes and the problems- facing leaders in the liberated areas, the democrats were at last ready to join the CCP to begin their work of nation-building in earnest".
The secret meeting in Harbin (November 25, 1948) with members of the Minzhu Dangpai, like Shen Junru, Li Jishen and Zhang Bojun and on the CCP side with Gao Gang and Li Fuchun ends in the decision to establish a preparatory Committee to form a political consultative conference. The following statements are made:
(1) the new CPPCC preparatory committee is composed of representatives of the Communist Party of China and 23 units including democratic parties, people's organizations and non-party democrats who support the "May 1 slogan";
(2) The affairs of the preparatory meeting are responsible for inviting representatives of all parties participating in the new CPPCC, drafting meeting documents and convening formal meetings;
(3) The organization regulations of the preparatory meeting are recommended to be drafted by the CCP and sent to all parties for review. After approval, they will be formally adopted by the preparatory meeting.
(4) Decisions on the nature and tasks of the new CPPCC:
(a) The scope of participation of the new CPPCC is composed of representatives of various democratic parties, people's organizations and non-partisan democrats who oppose U.S. imperialist aggression, the reactionary rule of the Guomindang, and the oppression of feudalism and bureaucratic capital. All reactionary parties and reactionary elements must be excluded and not allowed to participate;
(b) The new CPPCC will be held in 1949, and the specific time and place will be decided by the preparatory committee;
(c) The main issues that should be discussed and realized at the CPPCC meeting are the formulation of a common program and the establishment of a coalition government. Chang (1952) states: "…only those parties, associations, and non-partisan leaders who openly opposed American imperialism, reactionary Kuomintang rule, feudalism, and bureaucratic capitalism, would be admitted as members, and that all reactionary parties or members who worked with the Nanking Government would be ipso facto debarred." Before and during these negotiations the Minzhu Dangpai try to make some major changes in the program. "Foreseeing the coming transformations, Luo Longji, Zhang Lan and Huang Yanpei propose in October to Wu Han before his departure to communist area .... (Note 23) They propose to the Communist Party's establishment of an assembly system (yihuizhidu); a balanced foreign policy (Xiehe waijiao zhengce) that would maintain relations with the USSR and the United States; the ability of the Democratic League of leaving the coalition government and become an opposition party (Yedang); Finally, to avoid double affiliations of members of the League"
Rudolph (2021) observes prominent intellectuals such as Zhang Bojun (1895-1969) and Shen Junru possessed a valuable reserve of social and cultural capital, allowing them to effectively engage with social groups that were beyond the Communists' typical reach. In 1948, the writings of Li Jishen, Shen Junru, and Zhang Bojun exemplified how these political thinkers strategically reframed the proposals for a new consultative conference, appealing more to the Republican elites than the anti-capitalist or anti-bureaucracy slogans advocated by the CCP.
These intellectuals embraced the notion of a new consultative conference as the sole remaining path toward establishing a democratic, peaceful, and united "New China." They portrayed anyone who opposed their cause as reactionary individuals working against the best interests of the people. Their persuasive efforts aimed to bridge the gap between different political factions and garner support for their vision of a new China.

Shortly hereafter, the negotiators of the CCP and the Minzhu Dangpai decide to draft a provisional program of action. One of the main clauses is this program is the right of the Minzhu Dangpai to decide not to sign the definitive agreement or to withdraw from the preparatory committee.
In reality, the Minzhu Dangpai do not have real power to make this kind of demand. This provision contradicted the Leninist principle of democratic centralism, where the minority is obliged to abide by the decisions of the majority. While the acknowledgment of the right to withdraw was granted to democratic factions, in reality, withdrawal would have rendered the minority effectively marginalized from the political sphere, rendering it merely symbolic. The finalization of the Common Program marked the initial phase in the establishment of the civil state and coalition government. This limitation is not an obstacle for the Minzhu Dangpai, the proposal to form a coalition government is a big step forward. The GMD never wanted to constitute such a government. "…the very word coalition meant that there was a place in it for them from the beginning. This was legitimacy that they had never been accorded by the Nationalists".
Mao Zedong

However, not only the Minzhu Dangpai wins in this situation, also the CCP has a lot to win. The CCP considers these parties "… of great symbolic and practical importance. In China they were conduits to the "middle elements", the great mass of people between the CCP and GMD"
The Democratic League emerged as a crucial ally sought by the CCP. With its independent nature and diverse membership, including students, businessmen, and intellectuals, it served as a valuable resource for the Communists in their pursuit of the ultimate goal: a socialist revolution of the urban proletariat.
The CCP not only invited the Zhi Gong Party as representatives of the Overseas Chinese but also individual delegates from overseas to participate directly in the united front, and as a separate constituency in its own right. The author of the New Year message (1949) of the CCP make a statement about joining the revolutionary cause. "We hold that the Chinese people's revolutionary camp must be expanded and must embrace all who are willing to join the revolutionary cause at the present stage. The Chinese people's revolution needs a main force and also needs allies, for an army without allies cannot defeat the enemy"

On January 10, 1949, the Huai Huai campaign of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) ends in a total defeat of the GMD army. In November 1948, the CCP started the campaign to push through from the Northeast of China to the Southwest in the direction of Shanghai. The PLA is able to mobilize more than 5 million peasants to fight against the GMD. The prospect of owing their own piece of land after victory is the trump card of the CCP. The consequences of this victory are that Tianjin and later on Beijing fall in the hands of the PLA. Fu zuoyi , the GMD governor of Beijing, decides to negotiate with Lin Biao to arrive at a peaceful regime change. On January 31, 1949, the PLA marched peacefully into Beijing. People celebrated the Chinese New Year (the year of the Heavenly Ox) and the arrival of the troops. Beijing becomes the headquarters of the government and the CCP.
Triumphal march of PLA

On January 14, 1949, Mao Zedong proposes 8 points to use as a basis for negotiation with the GMD government. On April 1, 1949, Zhou Enlai leads formal peace talks with GMD representatives in Beijing. On April 15, 1949, the GMD rejects the proposals of the CCP, and 6 days later the CCP takes the decision to cross the Chang Jiang. and to start an attack to conquer south China. The push forward is very successful and at May 3, Hangzhou is in the hands of the PLA, on May 16, Wuhan, on May 22, Nanchang, and on May 25, Shanghai. Jiang Jieshi decides to flee to Taiwan but later on, returns to Chongqing. On November 29, 1949, he leaves the mainland and settles in Taiwan.

Triumphal march of PLA

Moreover, in other Regions of China, the PLA is able to drive back and to eliminate GMD troops. In July 1949, the PLA won in Hunan, Jiangxi and in August in Lanzhou. The next month, Gansu and Qinghai fall in the hands of the communists. The GMD troops that are still fighting are geographically spread across the south, the southwest, and Taiwan. They are no longer capable to coordinate their actions. Most of the generals of the GMD no longer possess the political will and the military power to withstand the PLA forces. Many of them defect to the PLA, along with them the remains of their soldiers. Mao Zedong states: "In the future, there will probably be many more war prisoners [coming from] our capture of the cities. Thus, in every district and every troop, the training of war prisoners must be well organized. In principle, no prisoner will be let go. Most of them will be filled into our troops and some will participate in the production in the rear front. The human resources for our troops to defeat Jiang mainly come from prisoners; this must be brought home to the whole party.51"
Obtaining political allegiance from former soldiers in the GMD army involved a strategic approach by Women Federation cadres, leveraging gendered differences in political loyalty. They encouraged women to influence the men in their households. Grassroots cadres mobilized women to communicate with their families, urging husbands and sons to abandon secrecy, confess any wrongdoing to the government, and surrender their firearms. Additionally, cadres enlisted women to reveal which families possessed guns.
Table 1 shows the military strength of the PLA and the GMD in September 1949.

map of civil war February 1949
Civil war situation February 1949

map of civil war October 1949
Civil war situation on October 1949

map of civil war December 1949
Civil war situation on December 1949
A Soviet Embassy Counselor writes about the actions of the GMD troops which did not surrender. "The retreating Nationalist Army left a landscape of destruction: bombed dams; tens of thousands of hectares of ruined fields; missing or bombed railway locomotives and carriages; ruined electric generating plants and warehouses; ruined transportation, telegraph and radio- communication equipment; and sunken ships. When the Nationalists abandoned Shanghai, they destroyed the international wireless station, blew up the main workshops at the Jiangnan Shipyard and the petroleum tanks at the Jiangwan airport, and scuttled four oil tankers and ten ferries. When they fled Wuxi, the Nationalist forces set fire to more than 1,000 trucks carrying industrial equipment from Shanghai. Of the more than 100 railway bridges between Wuhan and Guangzhou, more than 90 were bombed out. At Hankou, the Nationalists destroyed more than 30 ships and bombed out all the rail bridges linking the three Wuhan cities. 3"

Lutze (2007). Page 158 [↩] [Cite]
Ivanov (1992). Page [↩] [Cite]
Rudolph (2021). Page 295 [↩] [Cite]
Barnett (1963). Page 83 and Page 85 [↩] [Cite]
Pepper (1971). Page 734 [↩] [Cite]
Lutze (2007). Page 184. [Cite]
Guo (2017) remarks "Invited to Xibaipo and later to Shenyang and Beijing were also a number of women activists (leaders Li Dequan, Cao Mengjun, Xu Guangping and Li Wenyi), whose political support was equally important for the Party to showcase its achievements in the area of “women’s liberation”. Guo (2017). Page 51 [↩] [Cite]
See for details Qin (2005). No page number [↩] [Cite]
Chang (1952). Page 261 [↩] [Cite]
See also 10-10-1948 Mao Zedong “On the September meeting –circular of the central committee of the communist party of China” [↩]
Vidal (2008). Page 50.[Cite]
"Huang Yanpei, who was neither a Nationalist nor a Communist but a liberal educationalist who tried to bridge the gap between the government and the Communists. Huang shared the widely held view that the only hope for China was "...;to chart a middle course, weaving a path between the Scylla of the GMD and the Charybdis of the CCP" (Curran,1992: 86). After his mediating efforts had failed, Huang withdrew from politics, returned to academia, but eventually chose to side with the Communists." Fung (1994). Page 491 [↩] [Cite]
Original text: "Pressentant les transformations à venir, Luo Longji, Zhang Lan et Huang Yanpei remettent en octobre leurs propositions à Wu Han avant son départ en zone communiste….(note 23) Ils proposent au parti communiste l’instauration d’un système d’assemblée (yihuizhidu ) ; une politique étrangère équilibrée (xiehe waijiao zhengce ) qui permettrait le maintien de relations avec l’URSS et les États-Unis ; la possibilité pour la Ligue démocratique de quitter le gouvernement de coalition et de devenir un parti d’opposition (yedang ); enfin d’éviter les doubles affiliations des membres de la Ligue."[↩]
Mazur (1997). Page 58 [↩] [Cite]
Mazur (1997). Page 59 [↩] [Cite]
See also Wong (1993). Page 472 [↩] [Cite]
Groot (2004). Page xviii [↩] [Cite]
Grad (2001). Page 43 [↩] [Cite]
"even as the CCP CC began to invite delegates to prepare for a new PCC, it sought the direct participation of certain huaqiao (overseas Chinese) notables, and in this, the CCP proved to be remarkably successful.12 Indeed, the CCP was able to—very publicly—win one of the most famous of the huaqiao (Chen Jiageng/Tan Kah Kee) over to the cause of the New Democracy." "In a CCP CC directive sent to its Hong Kong and Shanghai branches, Chen Qiyou and Situ Meitang were listed as Zhigong Party delegates, and separate from the huaqiao invitees, Tan Kah Kee, Feng Yufang, and Wang Renshu." Lim (2016). Page 46 and note 12 [↩] [Cite]
During his secret mission (January, February 1949), Mikoyan proposes: "I should note that Stalin told me before my departure that one should take along a specialist in secret bugging devices, because he assumed that the Americans before they leave Beijing, will leave a spy network, and will have secret bugging devices in the buildings occupied by the government, and everything that will be said at the meetings will be known to them. In order to prevent this from taking place, he sent with me two specialists in uncovering the presence of bugging devices, and also disguised time bombs. A few days after the talks began I introduced our specialists Levkin and Podovinnikov. Mao Zedong was very glad, thanked Stalin, saying that in terms of uncovering bugging devices they had no experience whatsoever. Just about that time Beijing was liberated, so then I offered that before the government moves to Beijing, our specialists would go to Beijing and check all the offices, which were to be taken over by the government, from the point of view of presence of bugging devices" 04-09-1958 Anastas Mikoyan’s Recollections of his Trip to China [↩]
Cited in Westad (2003). Page 201.[Cite] The PLA did not dare release them to wander the country-side as unemployed bandits. Table 1. Organisation and strength of the GMD Army and PLA September 1949 [↩]
Hershatter (2011). Page 75 [↩] [Cite]
Cited in Shen (2012b). Page 89 [↩] [Cite]

Road to Common Program