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‘Mao’s consolidation of power between 1949 and 1953 was entirely dependent upon terror and repression.’

Throughout the years 1949 and 1953 Mao continuously used methods of terror and repression, they were key weapons in the CPC’s struggle to control the population of China after the formation of the People’s Republic in 1949. At the beginning Mao pursued a relatively cautious policy in order to broaden and maintain a coalition of support. However, by 1950 it soon became clear that his main aim was to eliminate all potential threats to his political party and as said by Chang and Halliday, in “Mao, the unknown story” Mao wanted to ‘scare people away from touching state money’ and ‘to instill fear’ to the whole nation to prevent them from challenging him or his government. He completely terrorized the population into submission by making them witnesses of brutal violence in public executions. Additionally he indoctrinated young people into believing certain things as a way of gaining respect, through systems such as the PLA in 1950.The PLA rapidly became the largest army in the world, with approximately five million men under its command and 41% of the total state budget being spent on it. Not only were its troops well trained in warfare but they also had a role in the countryside, which was to pass on the Communist ideology that they had been indoctrinated to their fellow Chinese citizens. Essentially the PLA were held up as role models for others to emulate. They also were put to work on public works projects, such as the building new developments and rebuilding roads or railways that had been damaged in the wars.The ‘machinery’ of repression used by the State included propaganda campaigns to shame the chosen targets, the list of these targets varied from those who appeared to be a threat to the CCP or were linked in any way to a member of the GMD, these posters included large doses of dictatic politicized art which were produced to inoculate the peasantry against the temptations of feudalism and capitalism that Mao saw re-emerging in the countryside.The police and courts were replaced by Communist Party committees and the number of imprisonments and executions increased dramatically. A major act of terror and repression was the suppression of counter revolutionaries campaign in October 1950, it lasted for over a year and involved 28,332 executions in just Guangdong alone. All of these executions were carried out in public to increase the impact. Mao’s supposed reason behind such horrific deaths was that ‘if we are weak and indecisive and excessively indulgent of evil people, it will bring disaster’ (From Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung). This hardly showed any sign of concern for most of the population and he most definitely went further than either Stalin or Hitler in terms of publically showing all of his crimes. Furthermore, a large number of forced labour camps (lao-gai) were set up with advice from Russian experts. Chang estimated that as many as 27 million people were either executed, committed suicide or worked to death in such harsh environment. Mao at this point had quite obviously began to exert control over the entire population.The Communists now had complete control in all aspects of life, including the State bureaucracy. People who had been fully indoctrinated in Party ideology and methods were known as cadres and were given leading roles at a local level in administration and political education. This meant that in reality, ordinary people had minimal opportunity for involvement in decision making. However, there were benefits for these cadres, in return for such loyalty on behalf on the cadres the Party provided for its members under a system which became known as the ‘iron rice-bowl’, this meant that the were given a guaranteed income for life and employment.And by the summer of 1951, all Chinese citizens above the age of 15 were forced to acquire official residence permits from the police in order to obtain permission if they wanted to move to a different area. This meant that every citizen came under the scrutiny of their fellow neighbours and they were encouraged to inform on each other.Mao’s targets then expanded in late 1951 in an attempt to prevent corruption, waste and obstructionist bureaucracy. It was known as The Three Antis campaign.Similar to the earlier campaigns mass meetings were held, at which officials and managers were denounced, leading to the eventual humiliation of those found guilty. Mao wanted not only external discipline but also total subjection of all thoughts, Party members would be forced to self-criticism and face group pressure when attempting to ‘rectify’ their errors of thought.Just shortly after the Three-Antis campaign began, Mao ordered for a further called the ‘Five-Antis’. The offences were ‘bribery, tax evasion, cheating, pilfering state property and stealing economic information’. This in particularly was aimed at businessmen, however, it is clear when looking at the number of suicides during these campaigns of 200,000-300,000 that Mao’s aim to ‘scare and brutalize’ the population had gone too far.By May 1953, at the end of both campaigns he had quite clearly accomplished what he had set out to do, people simply had no other option than to support the survival of the Communist regime. Although Mao may have helped in cracking down on crime and vice in cities, I can only feel that he was extremely hypocritical. For he tried to solve a problem which he later only went on to worsen. The horrendous acts of terror and repression completely disregarded the needs of his population, Mao had gained power not by people choosing to out of choice but simply because they had no other option. For had they gone against the Mao Zedong thought, they would have been killed.

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