China Before and After Communist Revolution-CSS General Knowledge
Mao Zedong & the Communist revolution
Mao Zedong is most famous for being the leader of the Chinese revolution and the founding father of the modern Chinese state the People’s Republic of China founded in 1949. In most western countries such as the USA, UK , Canada and Australia, Mao Zedong is depicted as a mindless dictator who killed tens of millions of people for seemingly no particular reason other than ‘power corrupts’ or simple incompetence . Lesser known to most people in the English speaking world is how the Chinese view Mao Zedong. The Chinese view of Mao is an image of a 20th century slavery abolitionist, a giant of anti-colonialism with 23 years of guerrilla warfare experience to his name, the most accomplished fighter for women’s rights in all of human history, the leader who united all of China, a champion of racial equality, a working class hero who defeated poverty on an unprecedented scale and challenged the world’s mightiest empires head on in war and came out victorious. With this said is it really no wonder that Mao Zedong is China’s most popular historic leader? (CSS General Knowledge)
China before the revolution
Before the Chinese Communists came into power the Chinese people lived very different lives. China was an underdeveloped country which was split up and divided by numerous warlords, tribes, and hereditary landlord dynasties all fighting among each other for power and wealth. The average lifespan of a Chinese person was mid 40’s and hospitals were a luxury mostly reserved for the wealthy. Illiteracy was common and remote tribes practiced slavery. Some areas of China were so backwards and underdeveloped that people conducted headhunting rituals where they would kill people and put their heads in baskets outside their villages because they believed it would make the crops grow. Women were treated as property and were kept out of education, many were even bought and sold as slaves under the guise of ‘domestic servants’.
It can be very easy to poke holes in China’s modern day human rights record but to to get an idea of how China changed after the Communists came to power, let’s first look at China before the Communists won the revolution.
So how did the Communists change China?
Before the communists came to power in China women were not considered as equals, particularly in South China women were bought and sold as slaves under the guise of “domestic servants”. These women bought and sold into slavery were known as “mui-tsai” which means “little sister”. It was very rare for a women to receive an education before the communist revolution because at this time in Chinese history women were usually sent to their husband’s household after marriage so to pay to educate a woman would be seen as not benefiting the family paying for the education. Many peasant could not afford to keep their daughter due to poverty and so would sell her to become a “mui-tsai” so that the rest of the family could survive. American feminist author Agnes Smedley who took part in the Chinese revolution wrote extensively on the mui-tsai in her German language writings.
Because of the crushing oppression of women in traditional Chinese society it is not surprising that so many women joined the Communist revolutionaries to rebel against the system which oppressed them. Unlike most armies in the 20th century the Chinese Red Army communist rebels had a very high number of women in their ranks. This is because unlike most people at this time the communists believed that men and women were equals and were therefore capable of doing everything a man can such as fighting in a revolution.
Landlord and warlord dynasties
The Chinese countryside was controlled by various local leaders who had the wealth and prestige needed to build an army. These people were the warlords which dominated most of the Chinese countryside and made life a living nightmare for the peasants who just wanted to get on with their lives without having to fear being attacked and pillaged by said warlords. Communists and nationalists alike made many deals with warlords and fought battle against warlords when it was necessary but soon after the communists came to power the warlords were defeated and their armies dissolved and disbanded. The nationalist KMT government of China joined forces with the Chinese Communist Party in 1926 to fight against warlords and end the warlord era in a military campaign known as the Northern Expedition which lasted from 1926 to 1928. During this expedition however the KMT turned against the Communist Party in an event called the ‘Shanghai Massacre’ in 1927 which destroyed over half of the Communist forces and forced the remaining communists to flee into remote areas of the countryside.
Slavery and Headhunting
In many isolated areas of the Chinese countryside there were lands where Chinese ethnic minorities had cultural practices such as slavery and headhunting, both of which were practices that were actively discouraged and slowly phased out soon after the communists came into power. The most famous of the slave owning people were the Norsu clans who lived in isolated mountains in south China and kidnapped ethnic Han Chinese people and took them into the mountains as slaves. The abolition and phasing out of slavery in these areas was documented by British journalist and explorer Alan Winnington in his book titled “The Slaves of the Cool Mountains: Travels Among the Head-hunters and Slave-owners of South-West China”. Alan Winnington met and spoke with freed slaves,slave masters, and Norsu nobles in 1956 at a time when slavery was close to coming to a complete end and recorded the abolition of slavery. He was also able to meet hundreds of freed slaves and interview Norsu nobles and slave masters. Winnington was also able to interview Wa tribes people near the Chinese-Burma border east of the Salween River. These people practiced head hunting because they believed it would make crops grow.
Today in modern China practices such as headhunting are no longer practiced and slavery is a crime which carries a prison sentence. Human trafficking is still a problem in China as well as many other countries but it is bitterly fought against by the Chinese authorities.
Like most countries in the 19th and 20th century China fell prey to colonialism. Many ports in China were treated as colonial assets by empires such as France, Britain, and Germany. The KMT party which ruled China before the communists had sent so many troops west to fight against communist guerrillas that it left eastern China undefended which allowed Japanese imperial troops to colonise large portions of China during the 1930’s. To fight the Japanese fascist threat the Communists made a deal with a warlord to have KMT leader Chang Kai-shek kidnapped and forced to enter an anti-Japanese alliance with the Communists. The Communists then fought a guerrilla war to kick the Japanese fascists out of China up until Japan was defeated at the end of World War 2. Today China is a sovereign state with no foreign powers dominating its politics, land, and harbors.
One of the largest contributions that the Communists have made to CHinese society is in the field of poverty reduction. Before the Communists came to power the life expectancy of the average Chinese person was barely 40 but today it has risen to over 70. According to statistics by the the World Bankthe life expectancy of Chinese people rose sharply after the Great Leap Forward in the 1960’s which was an economic move to collectivize China’s backwards agriculture and to modernise its production. The results were a rise in life expectancy, less dependence on agriculture for the economy, and the ability for the country to divert more resources towards other areas of improvement such as art, defense and science.
As this article has demonstrated the difference in the quality of life for Chinese people has risen exponentially under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. It is easy to poke holes in some aspects of modern Chinese society but it is impossible to argue that life was better for the majority of Chinese people before the Communists came into power.