Counter revolution aries, Campaign against (1950-1953)
A three-year nationwide Campaign against the Counterrevolutionaries ( or Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries) (zhenfan yundong) by the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to identify and eliminate the resistance and opposition to the new regime of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP, or the Communist Party of China). Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung) (1893-1976), chairman of the CCP and president of the PRC, justified and supported this suppression, stating that the Guomindang (GMD, or Kuomintang, KMT; the Chinese Nationalist Party) had left many bandits, spies, and officers behind, who had been conducting guerrilla warfare, sabotage, and spreading rumors against the new government since it was founded on October l, 1949.
By 1950, the new regime realized the necessity of stamping out any resistance. The officers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), who took over the cities from the GMD during the Chinese Civil War in 1946-1949, were apparently insecure in this new social environment. The Municipal Military Administration of Chongqing (Chungking), a large city in southwestern Sichuan (Szechwan) Province, for example, had to enforce “martial law” from January to May 1950 because of endless riots, serious looting, and organized insurgents in that city. During these months, the city’s military administration employed radical policies such as dissolving the GMD and other political organizations, outlawing all religious groups, and confiscating banks, enterprises, and properties of the “bureaucratic capitalists” ( or the former GMD government-owned properties, guanliao zhichan) in Chongqing. The city’s military authorities next removed the “bad elements” permanently from the city by jailing 7,400 former GMD officials and soldiers and executing 361 of them. The city’s military administration then disarmed the population. The suppression worked well, as the military administration gained control of the city in the summer of 1950.
In his report to the Third Plenary of the CCP Seventh Central Committee on June 6, 1950, Mao recommended Chongqing’s suppression efforts, though with some leniency. On July 23, the PRC’s State Council and Supreme Court issued a joint instruction to start the Campaign against the Counterrevolutionaries in the cities. The mass movement targeted three layers of counterrevolutionaries, who were, by the official definition, enemies to the society, to the government, and to the party. The government reported that there were 600,000 spies, 600,000 core members of anti-CCP organizations, and 2 million armed remnants of the GMD and bandits on the mainland.
With the outbreak of the Korean War in June and China’s intervention in Korea in October 1950, the Campaign against the Counterrevolutionaries escalated into a nationwide movement. On October 10, the Central Committee of the CCP issued a new instruction for the movement. Criteria of punishable crimes and sentences were clarified and were noticeably harsher against former GMD officers and soldiers. The PRC government needed to secure the homeland when it fought the armed forces of the United States and the United Nations Forces (UNF) in a foreign land. The death penalty would be meted out not only to assassins and saboteurs but also to their accomplices. The CCP eradicated any resistance in an effort to consolidate control and order. The party also disarmed the local masses of their weapons and ammunition that had once been used during the long years of warlord and guerrilla fighting in the Anti-Japanese War (1937-1945) and the Chinese Civil War.
The campaign then became swift and decisive in December, as thousands of suspected enemies of the revolution were rounded up, tried-sometimes on extremely limited evidence-and arbitrarily sentenced; according to Mao, around 1.27 million were incarcerated and 800,000 were executed in 1950-1951. On February 22, 1951, the central government of the PRC issued detailed punishments against the counterrevolutionaries. On May 10-16, the Central Committee of the CCP held another meeting to review the efforts and results of the campaign. The leadership believed that the campaign was necessary and should continue.
During the campaign, many of the accused did not have a lawyer, hearing, or even trial before they were sentenced or executed. Through a massive peasant movement in the rural areas, landlords and rich peasants as a social class were eliminated through the campaign that shocked much of the rural population, most of whom were unaware of the wrath of the revolutionary state.By the summer of 1953, when the Korean War Armistice was signed on July 23, the Campaign against the Counterrevolutionaries ended. The CCP Party Center utilized the campaign to cement Communist control over China’s state and society. The Chinese leaders had constructed a Soviet-style institution that put severe limits on individual freedoms, such as movement, employment, and economic activities.
Dr. Xiaobing Li
See also: Anti-Japanese War; China, People’s Republic of; Chinese Civil War; Chinese Communist Party; Chinese Intervention in the Korean War; Guerrilla Warfare; Guomindang; Korean War; Korean War Armistice Agreement; Mao Zedong; People’s Liberation Army; Soviet Union; Warlord Period.
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Li, Xiaobing. Civil Liberties in China. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2010.
Meisner, Maurice. Mao’s China: A History of the People’s Republic. New York: Free Press, 1977.
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Westad, Odd Ame. Decisive Encounters: The Chinese Civil War, 1946-1950. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003.