Analyse the conditions and the methods used which helped in the rise to power of Mao Mao’s rise to power was as a result of favourable conditions resulting from both the failures of the Nationalist party (GMD) and the various successes of the Communist party (CCP). Before Mao was able to consolidate his power over China in 1949, he first had to become solitary leader of the CCP party; which he accomplished through his ideology, policies and leadership qualities. The Long March began Mao’s ascent into power, with his leadership throughout the retreat gaining him the support of many of the party members.
The March’s physical scale gave it a political significance and Mao’ choice of route and vindication of judgement meant he arrived at Yanan in 1935 as the leading figure within the party. He appealed to those within the party, for example he would give his only food to those who needed it, insisting that they eat it. At the end of the March, Mao had a created a brotherhood of the 20,000 men that had survived from the initial 100,000 who had set out on the retreat. Once Mao had become leader of the party, he still had to overcome the standing GMD government, with the various failures of the GMD aiding Mao in his rise to power.
To begin with, while the GMD controlled more territory than the CCP, with most of the population being under their control, their control in many areas was not complete as they had failed to remove warlords in some areas. Thus an agreement was made with warlords that they could control their own area whilst GMD controlled the central government, which weakened their ability to mobilise the whole nation in support of their struggle against the CCP. The GMD also failed to improve factory conditions despite the laws in place, and there was no improvement in peasant poverty, with the peasants contributing to the majority of the population.
There were also strikes in Shanghai on 28th September 1947, with half the city paralysed. They were not economically motivated, but instead protests against the GMD and the secret police, showing their lack of support within the big cities. The use of secret police is an example of the corrupt nature of the GMD government. Chiang’s regime relied on the ruthlessness of secret police removing opposition and the financial backing of wealthy businessman and landlords, and he spent too much time looking after the nterest of such individuals, instead of concentrating on the welfare of the people, in particular he was negligent of the peasantry. In order to maintain the one-party state Chiang assassinated political opponents, and tortured and executed CCP members without trial. Local officials abused their power to enrich themselves by taking bribes and extorting money from the locals and tax failed to reach the central government therefore forced to borrow and fell into debt, creating hyperinflation.
On 15th May 1947 prices doubled in two weeks and riots spread to the countryside. The government printed money, devaluating the currency as inflation hit 3,000% in February 1947, with figures estimating tens of thousands of percent in 1948 and 1949. The government attempted to buy off workers with higher wages as they striked, but this only pushed prices higher. People would rush to shops as soon as they received their wage as prices rose each day. In the summer of 1948 a new currency, the gold yuan, was used and there was rationing of foods and other basic commodities.
However, this was too little too late and in 1949 an economic collapse occurred. Paper money worthless and bartering became norm, meaning that less tax was taken in and the government could less afford to repay their debt. Chiang did not act decisively to stamp out corruption or to remove incompetent officials, showing his inability to lead and make important decisions in areas which we destroying the credibility of the party. Whilst he was hardworking and ruthless, he could not delegate power to subordinates and his decisions were often impractical and contradictory.
Furthermore, he was a poor judge of character, trusted those he liked too easily and he was more concerned about connections and loyalty not ability. The US took note of his weaknesses. Foreign support was a major asset to the GMD, with the US giving $3 billion in aid to GMD, to combat the CCP forces, as well as arms for WWII under a lend-lease scheme, meaning they had to pay it back with low, or even no interest. They also supplied 55,000 military advisors to GMD. Foreign support came at a cost.
However, dependence on foreign support undermined Chiang’s claim to be true defender of the nation’s interests. At the same time his allies grew increasingly critical of his style of government and his personal failings. Failure of the government to deliver on ‘nationalism’, ‘democracy’ and ‘people’s livelihood’ (the three principles of GMD) saw much of their support, which they attracted in 1920s and 1930s, ebb away. Their failure to defend national interests, had created a doctorial and not a democratic, and had done little to improve the livelihood of the people.
Mao’s strength and superior methods allowed to him to exploit the weaknesses of the GMD government. Mao believed that a permanent, two-stage revolution derived from the peasants was a key aspect. Thus the support of the peasants was crucial success to any political party and Mao’s strategy for winning their support was discipline and land reform. He believed rent reduction must be the result of mass struggle, not a favour from the government and the policy of his party was to reduce rent and not to confiscate land.
In 1946 when the civil war began, the CCP returned to their more radical policy of confiscation of large estates in their ‘land to the tillers’ programme (ie the party reverted to class struggle and began to move away from the United Front policies pursued earlier), showing Mao’s flexibility as a leader, this is also shown when he changes from guerrilla tactics to more traditional tactics in the civil war. There was fear of revenge by landlords if the GMD recaptured control of an area, which also pushed the peasants towards supporting the CCP.
The peasants formed the majority of the population and by gaining their support Mao formed a strong support base. In order to take government the CCP needed to take over the cities, although they had limited support there. Although CCP had infiltrated trade unions in industrial cities such as Shanghai they were unable to use this to undermine the GMD by organising strikes. Mao orchestrated campaigns form his base in Yanan, and it was here that in 1947 he transformed the People’s Liberation army into a more conventional army, increasing its strength with peasant supporters.
In 1946 the various CCP armies united into the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Mao gave them three main rules; obey all orders, don’t take a single needle or piece of thread from the masses and turn in everything captured with 8 other points for attention such as being polite and paying for any damage. This further brought in peasant support for the CCP party. He believed the PLA had a vital role in spreading CCP ideology in areas they occupied as well as the promise that ‘the army and the people are one’.
The CCP forces were truly patriotic in the eyes of many in contrast with GMD who associated with the US forces. Despite seeming so polite, if they met resistance they could be as ruthless as the GMD. CCP established base areas in the mountains and fought a campaign of surprise attacks against the enemy’s weaker points meaning their defences were not stretched, and they could take over areas one step at a time. This meant they were efficient in dealing with opposition, whereas the GMD forces spread too thinly and their supply lines were too long, leaving them prone to Guerrilla tactics.
When they captured cities they were adept at attracting support though the use of newspapers, film and radio Furthermore, there was little or no corruption within the CCP ranks, with officials effective in preventing crime, controlling distribution of scarce food supplies and using a fair tax system in Harbin. The ultimate trigger in Mao’s rise to power was his victory in the Civil war which lasted from 1946 to 1949. There were five main phases to the campaign, with the first being the struggle for Manchuria, the most industrially advanced region.
In 1946 Mao held Manchuria, and he said that ‘of we hold Manchuria, our victory will be guaranteed’ and events proved him right. The retaining of Manchuria raised questions about Chiang’s leadership. In 1947 Chiang captured Yanan, the CCP base, however they had retreated and it meant that he GMD had overstretched their troops. BY late 1947 the GMD had lost north-eastern China and from then on Mao changed his tactics to a more direct strategy, showing his flexibility as a military leader and commander.
From then on Mao attacked individual areas of Manchuria to guarantee a slow but successive stronghold of the region, and on 16 January 1949 the CCP captured Beijing, with the GMD forces surrendering. Mao’s flexibility and nationalistic attitude further allowed him to overcome the provisional GMD government, led by Chiang-Kai Shek, which failed to defend national interests. With his idea of democratic centralism and a peasant revolution, Mao drew in support from the majority of the population, undermining the GMD forced. Success in the Civil war finally allowed him to have complete control of China.