An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Early Mass Campaigns

Mar 29, 2017 © Ulrich Theobald

The first large nationwide campaign was the Campaign for the Elimination of Counterrevolutionaries (zhenya fan geming yundong 镇压反革命运动) ignited in February 1951. In all branches of the administration, committees for the elimination of counterrevolutionaries were created, and in the ensuing witch-hunt, there were also children denouncing their parents. The arbitrary way in which persons could be incriminated came close to a kind of terror. It threatened "secret agents" and "foreign cultural aggressors", but also former KMT members, leaders of non-left trade unions, journalists, writers, teachers, or collaborators in Western or Japanese firms. Arrested persons were often subjected to mass trials in public, and those condemned to death were executed immediately. The total number of victims is unknown; the authorities speak of 89.000 arrested and 28.000 executed persons (Guillermaz 1979: 22). This first mass campaign was a demonstration of the regime what might happen to any opposition in the future.

The next was the Three-Anti Campaign (sanfan yundong 三反运动). The first one, launched in December 1951 in Manchuria and terminated in April, was a kind of purification campaign to purge the party from corruption, waste, and bureaucratism. It was followed in January 1952 by the Five-Anti Campaign (wufan yundong 五反运动) and targeted bourgeois elements who might corrupt the administration by bribery, tax evasion, fraud in government contracts, embezzlement of state property, and the illegal obtaining of state economic secrets.

Table 1. The Three-Anti and Five-Anti Campaigns
The Three-Anti Campaign (sanfan yundong 三反运动) purged the party from...
corruption (tanwu 贪污)
waste (langfei 浪费)
bureaucratism (guanliao zhuyi 官僚主义)
Five-Anti Campaign (wufan yundong 五反运动) agitated against bourgeois...
bribery (xinghui 行贿)
tax evasion (toushui loushui 偷税漏税)
fraud in government contracts (tougong jianliao 偷工减料)
embezzlement of state property (daopian guojia caizheng 盗骗国家财产)
illegal obtaining of state economic secrets (daoqie guojia jingji qingbao 盗窃国家经济情报)

The campaign, ending in June 1952, was not only a serious blow to eliminate the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie, but yielded the regime important assets that were confiscated and "nationalized".

From the beginning, the CPC's rough treatment of foreign enterprises, the seizure of consular buildings, its refusal to apply to customary international courtesies, the persecution of missionaries, and an overall sympathy for Chiang Kai-shek in most Western countries paved the way for the need to "lean to one side" (yi bian dao 一边倒), i.e. that of the socialist block under the domination of the Soviet Union.

At least, the People’s Liberation Army did not attempt to seize the British crown colony of Hong Kong (Xianggang 香港), which would eventually remain in British hands until 1997.

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