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

Six different groups can be distinguished to ameliorate the cadre shortage. They were (1) existing cadres generally known as "old cadres," (2) young high school or college graduates, (3) activists from mass movements such as land reform (most of them came from the worker and peasant classes), (4) old nonparty intellectuals who were scattered throughout the society, (5) demobilized PLA men, and (6) selected officials from the former Nationalist government. The latter ones are re-educated. In Beijing, there are three institutions involved in these attempts to alter their attitudes. The soviet experts who helped at these programs were not satisfied with the ‘soft’ approach of these former GMD officials and were not convinced they really had changed their attitude and behaviour. The CCP also tries to solve the shortage problem of capable officials by starting a training program for students on special training facilities. In the spring and summer of 1949, almost 50.000 students have followed a training to serve as civil officials in south China.
These fresh cadres lacked systematic political education and had not endured the hardships of revolutionary warfare. City leaders anticipated that these newly appointed officials, along with the southbound cadres, would constitute the majority of government institutions, with the retained GMD employees making up less than 30 percent. However, in reality, CCP cadres formed the majority only in the Bureaus of Public Security (80 percent) and Finance (60.2 percent), while in departments such as Health, Education, Labor, Public Projects, Industry and Commerce, and Internal Affairs, they represented the minority (19–36 percent). There is a big difference between the party cadres of north China and south China. Mainly the northern party cadres are illiterate and have a rural background. The cadres of the south, namely, from Guangdong, are from the city and have had an education. However, as the CCP extended its influence into Guangdong after 1949, there was a gradual reversal in the educational composition of the party. The lower ranks started to be filled with illiterate activists. Simultaneously, the indigenous leadership comprising intellectuals and students who had joined the party during the Japanese occupation was purged in the early 1950s. Many of its prominent members were subsequently replaced by northern cadres who exhibited greater loyalty to the party center.
At the local administration level, the CCP faces significant challenges in identifying capable individuals. There is an ongoing process of unknown upward mobility, with laborers and peasants attaining economic or political positions that would have been unattainable under the GMD regime or the previous imperial rule. Many of these individuals lack the qualifications for their roles, with their social background being their primary credential.As the civil war neared its conclusion and land reform initiatives concluded, numerous CCP cadres found themselves confronting uncertainty. They struggled to address emerging issues among the rural populace, hesitated to adhere to party regulations, and no longer perceived personal benefits from continued party service. The allure of the revolutionary cause waned, and some cadres questioned the rationale for enduring further hardships when there were limited gains to be obtained. The possibility of relocation to southern regions or conscription into the military instilled fear and anxiety among some cadres, leading to the renouncement of their party membership or deep depression. These complex circumstances fostered a sense of disillusionment among certain CCP cadres during this period.
The method to keep non-communist and ex-GMD party cadres on their jobs is, in the eyes of many CCP members, a big mistake and not justified. Many peasants saw becoming a state cadre in mutual aid teams or cooperatives (see Article 29 ) as a way out of the hardship of being a farmer. "...acquiring a government job meant he could be part of the state payroll system and say farewell to the harsh living style as a peasant. Each month he would receive a fixed salary that was enough to feed the family;...Encountering such a tempting and rare opportunity, rural party members, village model laborers and activists were eager to take advantage of it." To achieve these jobs, farmers were prepared to inflate production figures to call attention to themselves with CCP county cadres of even cadres at a higher level.
"Worried reports from Guangdong in 1951 spoke of illiterate village cadres becoming increasingly resentful of the fact that intellectuals from the old society were rapidly assuming positions of power purely on the basis of their superior educational qualifications. They blamed not necessarily the intellectuals, but the communist party for forsaking its moral obligation and historical debt to peasants." There are also problems with recruitment in other areas. For example, there is a shortage of performers who are capable of working for propaganda teams. "Performers were picked up randomly from the streets, … They even recruited two teenage girls and an old woman who had juggled plates on the street. ... Another cadre brought in a former singing girl from a brothel […] They all were counted as formal cadres who benefitted from our supply system (in-kind payment system) However, such a propaganda team was too costly and the performance of rural ballads was not welcomed in the ‘foreign’ port city (Qingdao)"
Mao Zedong has to explain these tactics to his old party members: "... Don't think you deserve preferential treatment because of your achievements in war. You must know that one democratic personage is possibly worth an army. By winning one Li Jishen over to our side, we probably saved the lives of twenty or thirty thousand comrades and won the military victory one or two years ahead of time .... Now we will simply do it this way; this is also the only way we can do it, whether you approve of it or not."
Li Jishen ,Fu Zuoyi , Chen Mingren , Wei Lihuang Cheng Qian , ,Tang Shengzhi were some of the former GMD generals who got high positions in the new regime. There are complaints about "…ex-Kuomintang officials, who were trying to be more Communist than the Communist, were very much worse than any of the regular Communist." Not all GMD cadres are lucky. Many of them are imprisoned and sent to Fushun re-education camp in Liaoning or executed in 1950 or 1951. For example, the generals Gan Qingchi, Gong Xianxiang and Gan Fang. Others are put under house arrest and several of them committed suicide, for example Chen Guang. Middle to low-ranking GMD officers, special agents, and foot soldiers were the one suffered the most. CCP considered them untrustworthy. Most of them were executed in the "Zhen Fan" period from 1950 - 1951. In the period of 1950-1954, about 400 GMD generals decease several of them in a natural way, some of them during battle and a couple of them as communist spies. The rest of them die in the hands of the PLA. See the table below which indicates death rate of GMD generals during the period of 1950-1954.

Fig. 8.1 Death rate GMD generals during the period of 1950-1954
For example: On December 12, 1950, in Yuanling, a public trial was organized for tens of thousands of people and a meeting was held to execute Wang Yuanhua, Pan Zhuangfei, and Zhou Zhenhuan. They were all 3 GMD regiment commander and had received "life safety guarantee"

Chen Yun writes in a letter to his nephew that "You must remember that communists have only the same rights as common people do under the laws of the state, and, moreover, they should be exemplary in observing these laws the activities of members of a revolutionary party should have the sole purpose of serving the people: there must be no thoughts of reward." On November 8, 1949, Chen Yun talks to party cadres about contradictions between the old and the new cadres "The crux of the matter is the relations between veteran and new cadres. The "new" cadres are afraid the “old" cadres don’t trust them, and the "old" cadres, for their part, are afraid the newcomers may not be very reliable." Further on he tells them "Veteran comrades should not judge east China by the standards of northeast China of a few years back, and comrades from east China should not cling to old attitudes about the Northeast."
Despite, these words of Chen Yun "…cadres benefitted from all kinds of advantages, both symbolic and substantial, dosed out according to their rank (twenty-six of them, or even thirty if we include the lowliest servants of the state)… that the first rows of theater seats were always reserved for Communists,… admittance to the Beijing Hospital was reserved for families in ranks one to seven, that elite schools were reserved for children of high-ranking cadres, that only the children of Party members and members of the Communist Youth League could ever study abroad, and so on, and so on."
A common complaint echoed in reports was dissatisfaction arising from food shortages, which sharply contrasted with the situation experienced by central leaders. In Beijing, akin to other communist capitals, exclusive stores were designated to serve the leadership. These stores exclusively stocked premium-grade meat, enabling high-ranking cadres and their families to procure unlimited quantities of pork. In fact, two such specialized stores in Beijing alone contributed to 16 percent of the capital's pork consumption. Even in the laogai camps, for anyone with a skill or the required professional know-how got ‘easier tasks’. In 1954, in western Qinghai province, the people holding such jobs were Communists who had “made mistakes” and were treated as first-class prisoners.
In U's (2012) analysis, it is revealed that the ruling regime of the time provided a remarkable array of privileges to a select group of individuals outside the CCP. This exclusive category consisted of leaders from minor political parties, esteemed intellectuals, and prominent figures who had collaborated with the CCP in toppling the GMD government. These individuals enjoyed various advantages, including direct access to state leaders and influential assemblies, access to confidential policy information and participation in debates, prestigious appointments, government-funded travel and accommodation, and other perks. The extensive deference, honours, and authority bestowed upon these elites, coupled with the knowledge, connections, and resources they gained through their involvement in the united front, often fostered a personal, intellectual, and even emotional affinity towards the regime. However, it is important to note that not all aspects of the united front were viewed favourably by these elites, as they also experienced burdensome or punitive measures such as political re-education and wealth deprivation.

According to historical analysis, the social background of individuals seeking employment within the party played a significant role in the selection process. Urban members were given preferential treatment compared to those with predominantly rural experiences. The primary source of potential political cadres stemmed from worker and peasant activists who were deemed politically reliable due to their recruitment from the most impoverished sectors, which had benefited greatly from the Communist revolution. However, their lack of formal education posed a challenge. Nevertheless, the regime justified their advancement into cadre positions by highlighting their extensive practical experience and steadfast class perspective, which enabled them to quickly grasp administrative practices once in office. This particular group predominantly filled entry-level positions, often serving in their hometowns or Regions. Their career trajectory typically involved first engaging as activists in mass movements, followed by party membership, and ultimately assuming leadership roles within newly established party-state institutions. In 1949, 13% of the administrators are members of the CCP. The decision made during the CCP March (1949) Plenum in which the emphasis of the revolution has shifted from the rural areas to the city causes many problems. "Far from embracing its rural revolutionary past, in 1949 the party criticized rural characteristics and work methods and preferred people with urban expertise over what it called “purely village-born cadres. Throughout the 1950s party doctrine still mandated that cities would lead villages."
After the revolution's triumph in 1949, the millions of peasants who had enlisted in the revolutionary army emerged as the primary pool of cadres for the state bureaucracy. Having inhabited and thrived in urban administrative hubs, they've forged personal connections while upholding social bonds with their rural kin. These connections serve as a conduit for rural residents to seek access to opportunities and resources beyond their local spheres. The substantial influx of rural laborers into the urban workforce during the 1950s further solidified the social networks linking urban and rural domains.
In Tianjin problems arise between cadres from different backgrounds. "Officials from villages who had served the revolution in the countryside clashed with young urban cadres and other underground party members from Tianjin." The shift from rural to urban 'leadership results' in a gradual change of CCP’s focus on the working class and less on the peasantry. The CCP considers itself as the political party of the Chinese working class; the advanced and organized force of the working class. However even in 1951 the majority of the party members are peasants. North China, which has served as a major communist base during the civil war and where the party therefore has long been entrenched in the countryside, about 1,500,000 of its 1,800,000 members in that Region (as of mid-1951) are of peasant origin. Peng Zhen states in 1951: "a political party of the working class may overlook the social composition of its membership; that it may neglect to fully utilize all possible conditions to improve its social composition, that is, to increase the proportion of workers among its membership." and Thomas (1953) concludes: "It is clear that party leaders will continue to be uncomfortable as long as this disparity between theory end reality continues."

On Hainan conflicts arise between communist guerrilla leaders and the newly arrived communist cadres. "By 1951, a flood of “southbound cadres” arrived on Hainan to replace local cadres, whose local connections allegedly made them too soft on the island’s landlords and big capitalists. Mutual resentment grew between the old revolutionaries of the Hainan Column and the newly arrived southbound cadres. Many of the new cadres were young urban intellectuals or even students, sent into towns and villages to overturn the local order."
The conflicts that occurred in Hainan possessed a historical backdrop, as explained by Murray (2011). The Hainan Communists were deeply committed to the cause of national revolution, and their struggle had ingrained them within the very fabric of the island. Throughout much of their arduous journey, the mainland Communists were unable to provide significant support, prompting the Hainan Column to forge an alliance with the indigenous Li population of the island. This alliance proved vital in enabling their survival within the rugged southern interior of Hainan. However, when the mainland Communist leadership issued orders in 1946 for the Hainan Column to abandon the island and relocate their forces to Shandong in the north or Vietnam in the southeast, the Hainan command staunchly rejected these directives, deeming them impossible to execute. With deep respect, they respectfully refused to comply with the orders, citing the unique circumstances and challenges they faced on the island. See also Article 2
Brown (2012) observes the situation in Tianjin "In interactions between rural cadres (rucheng or jinshi renyuan), underground party members (dixia dangyuan), and retained bureaucrats (liuyong renyuan), many rural officials, although numerically superior, were first embarrassed and then shunted aside as urban work progressed in Tianjin."
The distribution of the goods seized, houses, cars, etc. also brings a lot of uneasiness "...the distribution was not egalitarian. City leaders moved to villas at the lakeshore; district leaders got big houses downtown; and cars, special meals, servants, and other privileges were exclusively available to the top leaders. But the living conditions of most southbound cadres were worse than those of the old employees who had been retained. In addition, many formal occasions required that superiors and subordinates keep a polite distance. Despite the liberation, the old urban elite continued their normal lives, which were unjustifiably luxurious in the eyes of the peasant cadres."
The cadres staying behind in the rural Regions "…felt neglected and undervalued, resulting in a morale crisis of considerable proportions and accentuating tendencies towards passivity and withdrawal." Certain cadres have been accused of establishing "independent kingdoms" wherein they reject the authority and oversight of the party center. One notable example is Huang Yifeng. The notion of being entitled to special privileges based on past contributions was not limited to Huang Yifeng alone, as it permeated throughout his exaggerated self-perception. The lenient treatment of his case during its initial stages can be attributed to the misplaced trust placed by higher authorities in a cadre with a long history of revolutionary service. Furthermore, the persistence of these attitudes is evident in the sympathy exhibited by some cadres towards Huang Yifeng, even after he faced extensive criticism. The emergence of sentiments like "it is going too far that an important cadre is purged as a result of a student's criticism" reflects the deeply ingrained notions of status and special privilege. This highlights how deeply entrenched these beliefs were within the cadre ranks. The tendency, especially among veteran revolutionaries, to perceive such status and privilege as inherent rights became a significant source of tension among different segments of the elite in the early post-liberation period.
In his "On inner party struggle" Liu Shaoqi gives several examples of so-called "unprincipled struggle within the party" and he gives 5 reasons why they exist. "First, the theoretical level of our comrades within the Party is in general very low and their experiences in many respects are not yet sufficient...." "Second, there are many petty-bourgeois elements in the Party..." "Third, the democratic life within the Party is abnormal. The style of discussing questions mutually and objectively among the comrades has not yet been established... " "Fourth, opportunists have smuggled themselves into the Party and certain opportunistic psychology exists in the minds of part of our comrades. To show how well they have been "bolshevized," they often try deliberately to be "Left," thinking that "Left" is better than Right. Or they attack others so as to raise their own prestige." and "Fifth, Trotskyite traitors and counter-revolutionary elements have smuggled themselves into the Party, and they seek to undermine the Party by taking advantage of inner-Party struggle."
According to Straus (2002), discontent with the "genuine" cadres can be attributed to another factor. Activists and lower-level cadres within the CCP experienced a sense of confusion and disappointment during the period of 1949-1950 regarding the perceived failures of the revolutionary regime. The new government deliberately incorporated individuals from various backgrounds, including former GMD government bureaucrats, capitalists, and intellectuals, who were seen as "backward in political consciousness" and deemed undeserving of status and rewards in the new order, if not actively counterrevolutionary. As the emphasis shifted from radical transformation and class struggle towards a more orderly transition and economic stabilization, the lower-level "regular cadres" (yiban ganbu) who were overlooked for promotions grew resentful. They found themselves working closely with, and at times receiving orders from, officials from the previous regime whom they considered to be counterrevolutionary. This proximity and perceived collaboration with individuals they deemed unworthy led to a sense of frustration among the rank and file lower-level cadres, further exacerbating their discontent. Cadres also resented the privileges intellectuals received "For cadres, who had undeniably lacked the opportunities afforded many urban, middle-class intellectuals, the national government’s plans to rehabilitate most intellectuals must have felt like a betrayal of its egalitarian objectives. Evidence suggests that intellectuals tended, despite their issues, to enjoy better standards of living than most workers."
To minimize these conflicts, the CCP uses the possibilities of some articles from the Common Program. Particularly, Article 7: the suppression of all counter-revolutionary activities and Article 18 which gives options to punish corruption, forbid extravagance, and oppose the bureaucratic working-style which alienates the masses of the people.

Lee (1991). Pages 49-50 [↩] [Cite]
Stiffler (2007). Page 296 [↩] [Cite]
Galula (1964). Page 65. [Cite]
"In the early 1950s Chinese leaders tried to improve the cultural and technical standards of the existing cadre corps by setting up an "intensive middle-school program specially designed for the workers and peasant cadres" as well as cadre training institutes. China had about 347 cadre training institutes —34 managed by central organs and 313 by provincial and municipal governments" Lee (1991). Page 68 [↩] [Cite]
Gao (2004). Page 102 [↩] [Cite]
Peterson (1991). Page 60 [↩] [Cite]
Hou (2008). Page 56 [↩] [Cite]
Peterson (1991). Page 53 [↩] [Cite]
Hou (2008). Page 106 [↩] [Cite]
Zhao (2014). Page 169 [↩] [Cite]
Kau (1986). Page 53 [↩] [Cite]
Dimitrov (2023). Page 147 [↩] [Cite]
Bianco (2018). Page 272 [↩] [Cite]
U (2012). Page 34. "The Party also arranged tours, banquets and evening entertainment...leaders of minor parties and other notables enjoyed élite treatment at the PRC founding ceremony." Page 36 [↩] [Cite]
Lee (1991). Page 53 [↩] [Cite]
Lee (1991). Page 59 [Cite]
"The shortage of managers in the major cities, where the Communists faced novel problems, was especially blatant. In Beijing there were about two Communists for every thousand inhabitants, in Guangzhou one for fourteen thousand. Necessity knows no law, and Mao, the person who incarnated the revolutionaries’ antibureaucratic sentiment, had no compunction about using the administrative personnel from the old regime (as occurred in the Soviet Union). He rapidly hired a multitude of activist workers and peasants, but backed them up with an educated minority from less perfect social backgrounds. Between October 1949, the date the regime was founded, and September 1952, the ranks of cadres swelled from 720,000 to 3.3 million." Page 171 [↩] [Cite]
Brown (2012). Page 17 [Cite]
"As early as September 1948, the Central Committee had called a Politburo meeting to discuss the question of preparing enough cadres to administer the country after the complete takeover of power. The meeting estimated, on the basis of past experience, that somewhere around 53,000 cadres were needed to staff the party committees at the central, Regional, prefecture, county, and district levels as well as lead the large cities in newly liberated areas in 1948 and 1949. The Central Committee recognized that, based on these estimates, enough cadres for the whole country should be readied. On October 28, 1948, it passed a 'Resolution on Preparing 53,000 Cadres.'" (1988) Pages 34-35 [↩] [Cite]
Lin (2004). Page 70 [↩] [Cite]
Brown (2012). Page 17 [↩] [Cite]
Cited in Thomas (1953). Page 72 [↩] [Cite]
Murray (2011). Page 5 [↩] [Cite]
Murray (2011). Page 4. [Cite] Murray also notices "A relatively high proportion of the Hainan fighting force was women, and they were expected to return to their homes and start families. This was hard to take, especially considering the self-proclaimed progressive New Democracy and professed gender parity of the Communist regime in Beijing, notably in the Marriage Law of 1950. The fighting women of Hainan protested the order to go from being Communist spies, soldiers, and field doctors one day, to housewives the next." Murray (2017). Page 164 [↩] [Cite]
Brown (2012). Page 17. He continues "Poor coordination between rural takeover cadres and underground party members led to problems of mistrust and mistaken identity, which disappointed urban agents who felt that their sacrifices under Nationalist repression had not been properly recognized." Page 18 [↩] [Cite]
Gao (2004). Page 103-104 [Cite]
Leighton (2014) gives an example of how higher CCP cadres lived in Shanghai. Gu Zhun (1915-1974) a veteran member CCP. He was an intermediary between the party and technical experts, and revolutionary and bourgeois Shanghai. "Gu Zhun had relocated with family in tow to a Western garden-style house on Yuyuan Road that had belonged to the national Ministry of Finance. Ample grounds accommodated a front lawn for tennis and a separate two-story carriage house in the rear. Though they did share the estate with two other families, Gu Zhun took the best part. The couple had their own bedroom and his mother and children had theirs together, with two small rooms left for staff, as well as a large reception area for guests, who might also be seen on a spacious balcony. The perquisites of Gu Zhun’s position were considerable. A ration-based salary system for cadres provided not only for him but his wife, mother, and children, who were tended by two nannies. Gu Zhun had even more minders: a chauffeur to drive a reserved black Chrylser Plymouth, a gatekeeper to guard the house, three secretaries for aid, and even two bodyguards and an actual watchdog to protect him." Page 125 Gu Zhun writes " This kind of luxurious living reached the level of old Shanghai’s big capitalists or great officials.”15" Page 126 [↩] [Cite]
Bernstein (1968). Page 8 [↩] [Cite]
Teiwes (1993). Page 98. [Cite]
See also for The Huang Yifeng Affair (from Beijing Daily, 21 August, 2006) cited See also RMRB 03-12-1951 "Chaos in Shanghai East China Transportation College" [↩]
Liu Shaoqi(1952). On inner party struggle. Page 29-38. Although this is a lecture delivered on July 2, 1941 at the party school for Central China, it still is of importance after 1949 since it is published in 1950.
02-07-1941 Liu Shaoqi "On inner party struggle" [↩]
Strauss (2002). Page 85 [↩] [Cite]
Yeager (2021). Page 181 [↩] [Cite]
Road to Common Program